Military News

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mullen: DOD Must Help Solve Federal Debt Crisis

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – The Defense Department has to be part of the solution for the country’s debt crisis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen has called the federal debt “the biggest single threat to national security.”

It is simple math, the admiral told a Government Executive Magazine leadership forum at the National Press Club. “The worse the financial situation is in the country, the greater the likelihood that resources for national security will go down,” he said.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Defense Department budget has almost doubled. Having this ready spigot of money “hasn’t forced us to make the hard choices,” Mullen said.

“It hasn’t forced us to prioritize,” he explained. “It hasn’t forced us to do the analysis. And it hasn’t forced us to limit ourselves and get to a point or deciding, in a very turbulent world, what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.”

Defense spending needs to be on the table, the chairman said, noting that it is his job to articulate national security requirements. The country is in a particularly difficult situation, he said, in regard to Air Force modernization.

“We are running out of life in those assets that we bought in the ’80s during the Reagan administration,” he said.

The national security environment is changing, Mullen said, and often changes. The chairman told the audience that four months ago, he would not have predicted that he would be concerned about Japan and Libya. But now a NATO operation is under way to protect the Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, and an earthquake and tsunami disaster sent almost 20,000 U.S. service members and 18 ships to the coast of Japan to assist in the aftermath.

“The demands continue,” he said. “We’ve got to be measured about what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.”

The chairman said he is worried about ill-advised personnel cuts “hollowing out” the military.

“However we get to our future, it must be whole,” he said. “We talk about cuts in personnel. When I was head of the Navy, personnel was 60 percent of my budget every year. I need every single person I have, but I don’t need one more.”

Although eliminating force structure can save a lot of money, Mullen said, the country must evaluate that against overall requirements.

Health care costs for the Defense Department, Mullen said, are another concern. In fiscal 2001, health care costs were $19 billion. Today, those costs are pegged at $51 billion, and they are projected to rise to $64 billion in 2015.

“That’s not sustainable,” he said. “We all have to sharpen our pencils and make sure that every dollar we spend is spent well. We need to be good stewards of the dollars the American taxpayers give us, and we’re going to have to do the hard work to get that right.”

VFA-11 Holds Aerial Change of Command

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter D. Melkus, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- The "Red Rippers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 held an airborne change of command ceremony above the deployed aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) April 27.

Cmdr. Daniel J. Sullivan IV relieved Cmdr. Randy Stearns as VFA 11 commanding officer.

Sullivan and Stearns both flew in F/A-18F Super Hornets assigned to VFA-11 as they read their orders, with Stearns giving the final flight lead to Sullivan as they flew over Enterprise.

Sullivan, who joined the Red Rippers as an executive officer (XO) in March 2010, will be the 76th CO of the Navy's oldest continuously active fighter squadron, which was commissioned in 1927 as VF-5S.

Serving as the commanding officer of one of the Navy's oldest and most storied squadrons may seem like a daunting task, but it is one Sullivan enthusiastically accepts.

"It is a wonderful and humbling feeling of anticipation to be the 76th Red Ripper CO," said Sullivan. "I am very proud to be a Red Ripper. This is such a wonderful organization of which to be a part, and it is a privilege to work alongside each and every VFA-11 Sailor."

When it comes to leading the nearly 250-Sailor-strong Red Ripper squadron toward future successes, Sullivan said he is excited to take on the challenge.

"My goal is to exceed the already high standards that are expected from Red Ripper Sailors, chiefs and officers on a daily basis," said Sullivan. "Through our hard work and team focus, we will always strive to accomplish our mission while fostering a positive command culture that develops future Navy leaders."

Sullivan praised the efforts put forth by all Red Ripper Sailors and their families back home to make the first half of their deployment aboard Enterprise a successful one.

"I have never worked with a more dedicated and professional team of men and women, and every day I grow more proud of their accomplishments," said Sullivan. "Our loved ones also play a huge role in the success of this squadron by giving us their continued support from the home front each and every day. All of these factors put together are what allow us to continue to accomplish the mission."

Stearns, who also joined VFA-11 as an XO in November 2008, departs the squadron for his next assignment as a training and readiness officer for Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

"This has been the most rewarding tour I've ever been a part of in the Navy thanks to the tremendous support from my family, friends and shipmates along the way," said Stearns. "The Red Rippers and their families will always be in my thoughts, and I look forward to reading about all the great things the Rippers will be doing in the future."

Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing 1 are in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting close-air support for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Panetta Would Bring Decades of Service to Pentagon

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, President Barack Obama’s choice as the next secretary of defense, would bring to the job more than 40 years of government service that has traversed local and federal government and the legislative and executive branches.

Like soon-to-retire Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, also a former CIA director, Panetta served briefly in the military. He served as an Army intelligence officer from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal.

After his discharge, the Monterey, Calif., native and son of Italian immigrants set the stage for his long government career by working as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senate minority whip Tom Kuchel of California. In 1969, he was appointed as director of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights in President Richard M. Nixon’s administration.

Panetta, a graduate of Santa Clara Law School, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years and chaired the House Budget Committee from 1989 to 1993.

Panetta left Congress in 1993 to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget in President Bill Clinton’s administration, where he took a leading role in balancing the federal budget that led, briefly, to budget surpluses. He served as Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997.

Panetta and his wife, Sylvia, founded the nonpartisan Panetta Institute for Public Policy in 1997 at California State University, Monterey Bay. The institute provides a range of opportunities for studying government -- awarding master’s degrees, hosting research fellows and sponsoring congressional internships. Sylvia Panetta serves as the institute’s director.

The institute’s Leon E. Panetta Archive offers a resource for scholars interested in the workings of Congress, federal agencies, and local government, based on Panetta’s personal papers from four decades of work.

Panetta has served on numerous boards and commissions, including some related to the military. He co-chaired California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Council on Base Support and Retention, and in 2006 served on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan national commission seeking a new course for the war in Iraq.

Panetta, appointed as CIA director in 2009, is 72. The Panettas have three grown sons.

If confirmed by the Senate to serve as secretary of defense, he would take office July 1.

HURREX/Citadel Gale 2011 Tests Readiness, Prepares Fleet

From Naval Air Station Key West Public Affairs

KEY WEST, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Key West began its participation in Hurricane Exercise (HURREX)/Citadel Gale 2011 April 25, in an effort to ensure installation readiness in the event of a hurricane.

The annual U.S. Fleet Forces and Commander, Navy Installation Command exercise helps prepare commands for the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. It prepares the Navy to respond to extreme weather threats to U.S. coastal regions, and to maintain the ability to deploy forces even under the most adverse weather conditions.

This year's exercise involves two simulated storm systems developing and intensifying to hurricane strength, threatening the Caribbean Islands, and the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast regions.

All Navy commands in those regions, ashore and afloat, in port and underway, participate by reviewing and exercising heavy weather instructions and procedures and accounted for Sailors and Navy families in the affected regions through the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS).

Naval Air Station Key West Emergency Manager Steve McBride said that while Key West was spared a direct hit from a hurricane during the exercise, it took the opportunity to to exercise its local sheltering plans.

"Depending on the intensity and track of a hurricane, the commanding officer can order low-lying Navy housing areas to local shelters," McBride said. "We've made some changes to the sheltering procedures and we got to exercise those procedures during this year's HURREX/Citadel Gale."

McBride said the main change to their local sheltering plans, is how they determine who is sheltered where.

"In the past, each command and department had their own assignment, now it's based on their residence in Navy housing," he said. "Knowing where to shelter is a key component of preparations, so we are trying to get word out to all the residents in housing what the procedures are."

For base personnel that don't live in housing, local shelters can be found at Key West High School and Sugarloaf School, or if a shelter on base is needed, McBride can assist in assigning one. He can be reached at 293-2001 or 797-1210.

NAS Key West Instruction 3440.1B, the Tropical Cyclone and Destructive Weather Plan, provides all the necessary instructions to base personnel in the event of a hurricane. Information can also be found at NAS' website, www.cnic.navy.mil/keywest, and in the annual hurricane issue of the "Southernmost Flyer," on stands June 3.

With hurricane season just around the corner, NAS Key West Executive Officer Cmdr. Michael Giardino stressed that not only should the base be prepared, families must have a plan as well.

"It is a priority to ensure our families are informed of the resources available to them and have a plan in the event of a disaster," said Giardino. "The Navy uses the NFAAS to account for Sailors and Navy families, as well as to identify disaster-related needs of Navy families. Sailors and their families should ensure their information is up to date in NFAAS, if they haven't already."

Mullen Discusses Personnel Pluses, Concerns

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – Calling personnel issues his greatest comfort and greatest concern, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today praised U.S. service members for the way they’ve adapted over a decade of war.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told attendees at a Government Executive Magazine leadership briefing that while he is most proud of the flexibility and adaptability of American military forces, he also is concerned that America is losing touch with its military.

The experience in Iraq illustrates the adaptability of American service members, Mullen said, noting that when he took office in 2007, the U.S. surge into Iraq was under way and the levels of violence in the country were high and looked to be going higher.

“I was there last week, and it is like night and day,” Mullen said. “There has truly been an extraordinary shift and change and the creation of an opportunity for 26 million people that just didn’t exist. That came at a great price, and that [this has occurred] is a reflection of our military’s ability to adapt and change from the classic conventional force to what I call the best counterinsurgency force in the world.”

After 10 years of war and the multiple deployments that has entailed, the American military continues to learn and adapt, Mullen said.

A well-known strength of the U.S. military is that it’s an all-volunteer, professional force, the chairman said. But less well known is that it’s also a weakness, because only a small percentage of the nation’s population has a first-hand military connection.

“I do worry about the connection we have with the American people,” the chairman said. “We’re less than 1 percent of the population, we come from fewer and fewer places, and I worry about the things we don’t do any more.”

The base realignment and closure process has shuttered many facilities, Mullen said, and that means service members no longer live in many neighborhoods around the country where they once were part of the fabric.

“We’re not in the churches, coaching the teams, going to the schools,” he said. “So the relationship or understanding [of the military] is often created by what’s in the media.”

The military footprint in the country will not change, the chairman said. “But America’s military must stay connected with the American people,” he added. “If we wake up one day and find out that we’re disconnected or almost disconnected, I think that’s a bad outcome for the country.”

The National Guard and other reserve components are great avenues for connections, he said. These service members are in every part of the country and can explain the military to the greater population. Mullen said the military needs to use this avenue to better communicate with America.

The American people respect the military and want to reach out to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Mullen said, but often are confused about how to do so. The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and local communities must work together to ease service members’ transition to civilian communities when they leave the military, the nation’s top military officer said.

If they do, he added, the communities certainly will get more than they give.

“I say this generation is ‘wired to serve,’” he said. “They are in their mid-20s, and they’ve seen some very difficult times in some cases. But they offer great potential for our country, and with a little investment, … they’ll take off and provide decades of service.”

Americans also need to reach out to those wounded in the wars and the families of those killed, Mullen said, noting that these families lost their lifelines to the military when their spouses died. The military needs to embrace these families, he said, and so do America’s communities.

Finally, the chairman repeated a message he has emphasized consistently and repeatedly about the need for the military to remain apolitical. The U.S. military always is under civilian control, and uniformed members “need to be absolutely neutral,” Mullen said.

“We serve the civilian leadership,” he said, “and we need to be very mindful of that and how we speak about it and engage, whether we are active or reserves.”

Service Members Treated to Celebrity Chef Luncheon During Fleet Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Mavis A. Tillman, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Iwo Jima (LHD7) Sailors and distinguished guests were treated to a luncheon on board the ship while it was in port for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, April 27.

Coral Ridge Country Club Executive Chef Udo Mueller and his staff treated the crew and guests as part of the annual fleet week Celebrity Chef Luncheon. The event features several local chefs who show off the best in South Florida cuisine while giving Navy culinary specialists and ships' crew the opportunity to experience new dishes.

"This is my fourth year participating in this event, and my first time on a ship this size with a big enough kitchen to prepare a whole banquet," said Mueller, who also expressed his amazement at how much food is prepared each day for the crew.

This year's signature dish was Belizean Lobster Salad, Duet of Chilean Seabass, and Braised Beef with Whipped Potatoes.

"We are in Florida, so I chose a tropical kind of food," said Mueller.

Culinary specialists and food service attendants (FSA) worked closely with Mueller and his staff of two sous chefs and two service attendants throughout the meal preparation and presentation, down to garnishing each plate of food and synchronizing service.

"It is important for us to get this kind of opportunity to learn the hands-on tricks of the trade, get some new recipes, and see the talents the chef and his staff showcase," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Kevin Sutton.

"Lunch was amazing," said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class (AW/SW) Claudia Conger. "Everyone at our table was so impressed by the presentation, atmosphere and setting of the event."

The chef, his staff, and distinguished luncheon guests were offered tours of the ship after the meal by Capt. Thomas Chassee, USS Iwo Jima commanding officer.

"Leaving the club house to another location for an event is always nice, but hearing it's on board a United States naval ship was exciting; nothing will ever top that," said J.J. Sehlke, Coral Ridge Country Club managing partner.

Other local celebrity chefs also prepared luncheons for fleet week service members.

More than one hundred and fifty guests and crew members from guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), fast-attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760), Iwo Jima and U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale were honored through the annual fleet week event.

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration showcases the men and women of the sea services. It also highlights the capabilities of the ships, submarines, SEABEES, Riverine units, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard. Fort Lauderdale honors these men and women through public events and recognition.

For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit the Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Center's Navy NewsStand page at https://navcms.news.navy.mil/local/nrse/.

Media outlets interested in covering Fleet Week events should contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

DOD, USDA Announce Family Support Partnership

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

CHICAGO, April 28, 2011 – The Defense and Agriculture departments formally recognized a 25-year working relationship yesterday as well as a budding partnership aimed at improving military families’ lives.
 
Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and policy, and Cathie E. Woteki, USDA’s chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics, signed a proclamation in recognition of the DOD and USDA Extension-Military Partnership during the opening session of their joint 2011 Family Resilience Conference here.

“This exciting, growing partnership between our two departments provides us with the opportunity to work more closely with family, child and youth researchers and community-capacity building experts,” Gordon said. “They’ve studied and developed some of America’s most promising practices for strengthening communities –- the same communities where our military members and their families live.”

The partnership grew out of a common desire to extend support to military families where they work and live, explained Cathann A. Kress, senior program analyst for the Pentagon’s office of military community and family policy. The partnership, she said, aims to strengthen community capacity in support of military families, increase professional and workforce development opportunities for those working with military families, and expand and strengthen family, child care and youth development programs.

It also will encourage both agencies to develop and deliver new and innovative means to better serve all Americans in the communities where they reside, she added.

The Agriculture Department brings extensive community-level expertise to the table, Kress noted, through its Cooperative Extension Program and its youth counterpart, the 4-H Club. The extension program, which is in every U.S. state and territory, extends land-grant universities’ knowledge and research to communities, and in turn, passes back community issues to the universities to help in shaping studies and initiatives.

DOD has much to offer as well, Gordon said, citing a few of the department’s ongoing efforts to care for families nationwide. DOD school liaisons, for instance, work directly with school administrators, teachers and parents to facilitate a learning environment that’s responsive to the emotional needs of military children “who shoulder their own burdens in the face of frequent moves and deployments,” he said.

At the state level, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is helping to remove barriers created by frequent school transfers, he said. So far, he added, 36 states serving 88 percent of the 1.1 million school-age military children have agreed to a common set of guidelines regarding transfers.

Gordon also cited a program that’s expanding child care capacity for National Guard and Reserve families and active-duty members who are geographically dispersed or unable to access child care programs on a military installation.

This partnership is based on a 25-year relationship between the two departments that has expanded substantially in the past three years, Kress noted, citing a few success stories that have occurred in recent years.

One example, she said, is the Penn State Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness, which serves as a repository for military family-related programs. People seeking a program can visit the Clearinghouse website to check its effectiveness, and then make a decision based on evidence-based information posted there.

Another program is offered through Ohio State University. The Virtual Child Development Lab School program offers online training to providers at military child development centers. The lab school in Ohio, which is run by students, is considered one of the most cutting-edge child care centers in the nation. In return, university students gain knowledge about the unique needs of military families, Kress said.

Additionally, Purdue University’s Military Extension Internship program recruits college students pursuing child development degrees and places them in military centers around the world. Seven of these interns now are employed by the Defense Department.

These and other initiatives are “just at the top of a very large iceberg,” Gordon said. “Our coordinated efforts are important not only to our military families, but to all citizens in our local communities.”

Assistant Navy Secretary Tours Energy, Waste Facilities on Guantanamo

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Leona Mynes

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations, and Environment), the Honorable Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, visited Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 26-27.

Pfannenstiel toured NS Guantanamo Bay's energy production and waste management facilities to better understand how the isolated base creates its own electricity and water without help from local resources.

"This is a unique base and it's hard to understand it from afar," said Pfannenstiel. "I have come to Guantanamo Bay to better understand the mission, and to learn about the facilities and how the Secretariat can help advance energy initiatives here."

Pfannenstiel learned about Guantanamo's energy and water production at the reverse osmosis water plant, electricity production at the power plant, renewable energy sources atop John Paul Jones Hill where four, 242-foot tall wind turbines are located and waste management and removal facilities at the base land fill.

"The Navy recognizes that we have a national need to wean ourselves from imported oil products," said Pfannenstiel. "Guantanamo Bay offers a lot of interesting ways to implement renewable energy sources and I want to make sure that the energy efforts being made here are supported."

Guantanamo's efforts began in 2004 when the wind turbines were constructed, marking the beginning of its quest toward a greener future.

Guantanamo could potentially become the example for how the average American town relies solely on 'green' technology and renewable energy sources, said Pfannenstiel.

"[Guantanamo] could be a model for what can be done—but we cannot be indifferent to cost; we must advocate for what is [fiscally responsible]" said Pfannenstiel. "Energy is expensive here in Guantanamo, which makes [implementing] green technology and renewable energy sources much more cost effective here."

Some of the steps Guantanamo could take toward becoming the model for an American 'green' city include replacing diesel with eco-friendly bio-fuels and continuing the construction of solar arrays and use of wind power, said Pfannenstiel.

"Another [renewable energy source] the Navy is looking at is waste-to-energy conversion," said Pfannenstiel. "Waste-to-energy is ideal for military bases in general, especially islands."

The people on Guantanamo are mission-focused, driven and committed to the base's success, said Pfannenstiel.

"I expect that I'll be back," said Pfannenstiel.

Sailors, Marines Learn Laughter May be Best Medicine in Preventing Combat Stress

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines learned how humor can help prevent combat stress issues at the 2011 Navy and Marine Corps Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) Conference in San Diego, April 27.

The second day of the four-day conference emphasized different methods to deal with stress and featured guest appearances from the National Cartoonist Society and representatives from The Humor Project, Inc.

"There are a whole variety of ways stress can be prevented using humor," said Dr. Joel Goodman, Humor Project founder and director. "Steve Allen said nothing is quite as funny as the unintended humor of reality. So, a homework assignment would be, for five minutes a day, to make believe you're Steve Allen, looking for humor in reality.

"A second tip would be to have a childlike perspective; look at the world through the eyes of an eight-year-old and see if you can reframe that adult mess of stress with a childlike perspective," added Goodman."

Another method Goodman mentioned was trying to see a situation the same way a person's favorite cartoonist or comedian would see it.

Some of those favorite cartoonists were actually part of the conference lecture as well. Members of the National Cartoonist Society addressed the conference about the impact of humor on stress.

"We've heard doctors say humor actually helps the healing process," said Jeff Bacon, cartoonist for the "Broadside" comic published in Navy Times. "I've heard people say 'that's the first time I've seen that person smile since they've been here.'"

The cartoonists held an exhibition of their renowned artwork, where they drew cartoons and caricatures for Sailors and Marines at the conference.

While in town, the group also spent time visiting service members at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).

"That's why I appreciate the cartoonists being here, because they're making an effort to get a new perspective on what it's like to be in the military and go overseas and fight," said Ensign Meghan Malone, conference attendee and nurse at NMCSD.

The cartoonists were grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with service members.

"We felt that this is something we should do for the troops," said Bacon. "It's hard to describe, but when you're a cartoonist, and you're in your room by yourself drawing cartoons, you don't get out and experience a lot of things, sometimes. So, for us to be able to go out on a ship, or go out to Iraq, or Walter Reed or Brook Army Medical Center and shake the hands of what we call 'real people,' it means something to us."

After the cartoonists' presentation, Goodman concluded the lecture by thanking military members for their service and reminded them humor is a gift they need to give each other and their families.

With all the deployments and challenges a military family will face, they need humor to keep themselves close, said Goodman.

A goal for the COSC conference is for leaders at all levels to learn new ways to strengthen the force of the Navy and Marine Corps, along with recognizing stress injuries and effective ways to deal with them.

For more information on The Humor Project and ways to conquer stress, visit www.humorproject.com.

National Guard members to benefit from changes to military pay system

Accessing individual military financial information has just gotten easier for Wisconsin Soldiers and Airmen.

The online pay account management system "myPay," operated by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for all U.S. military personnel and many federal civilian employees, will launch enhancements Saturday, April 30.

Lt. Col. Rene Emond, a financial manager for Wisconsin's United States Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO), said changes to myPay can benefit every service member. "Customers can suggest improvements and it looks like DFAS has taken them up on that," Emond said. "Obviously it's a good thing."

myPay allows many of the six million payroll customers of DFAS to access pay information, retrieve tax forms and update such items as direct deposit account numbers, allotments and tax withholding amounts.

The new upgrade will reduce the number of steps required to login to myPay and make the virtual keyboard - a unique security feature designed to protect usernames and passwords - optional.

"The easier you can make the Soldier's process to access this information, the more frequently they will most likely use it," Emond said.

The new login procedures are similar to those of banks and other financial services. Users will simply enter their Login ID and password on the home page and click once to accept the user agreement for access to their accounts.

Though it is easier, the new login procedure still meets security requirements in private industry worldwide. Security features include encryption to protect sensitive information, firewalls, and intrusion detection software to block outsiders from accessing accounts.

For enhanced security, myPay users still have the option of using the virtual keyboard, which provides extra protection against identity thieves who may use keystroke-logging software. myPay will be unavailable from 7 a.m. to noon April 30 as the upgrades are implemented. Users should plan on accessing their Leave and Earning Statements prior to the upgrade period.

Prior to designing the upgrade, DFAS reviewed customer feedback received through phone calls, Facebook and e-mail. The upgrade is the first of a series of enhancements myPay is planning to make this year. All are based on customer feedback.

Emond summarized the significance of the changes for service members: "What's the two things you don't mess with? Their pay and their food."

Kearsarge and Bataan Amphibious Ready Groups Complete Turnover

From Kearsarge and Bataan ARG Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, Mediterranean Sea (NNS) -- The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Group (MEU) relieved the Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU of their duties in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) April 27.

The Bataan ARG has assumed responsibilities as Commander, Task Force 62 and will conduct maritime security operations and provide support as required for coalition forces assigned to Operation Unified Protector.

"I am proud of the great work the Sailors and Marines of the Kearsarge ARG/26th MEU team have done," said Capt. Peter Pagano, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4. "Regardless of the mission they were assigned, they accomplished it with integrity, professionalism, and dedication."

"This MEU has been in positions of tremendous responsibility and each time delivered nothing less than what they were asked to give," said Col. Mark J. Desens, commanding officer 26th MEU. "I am very proud to have served with the Marines, Sailors and civilians of this MEU and our Navy-Marine Corps team. This deployment has been the highlight of my operational career."

During the past eight months in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet AORs the Kearsarge ARG /26th MEU team conducted a wide range of missions, ranging from the delivery of over 3 million pounds of supplies to Pakistan after a devastating summer flood to the safe relocation of 335 displaced personnel from Tunisia to Egypt.

The Kearsarge ARG was actively involved in the initial phases of Operation Odyssey Dawn, with AV-8B Harriers assigned to 26th MEU flying multiple sorties in support of the no-fly zone established by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. As the mission transitioned to NATO-led Operation Unified Protector, Sailors and Marines remained on station and ready to render assistance.

"The Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU's performance in the 5th and 6th Fleet AORs has been nothing short of outstanding," said Capt. Steve Yoder, commander, Amphibious Squadron 6. "I have complete confidence that our Sailors and Marines assigned to the Bataan ARG and 22nd MEU will continue this tradition of excellence, and that they will remain vigilant, flexible, and ready to execute the full range of amphibious operations."

The BATARG and 22nd MEU deployed three months ahead of their original schedule to relieve the Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU. The blue-green team conducted a wide range of integrated training over the last several weeks to be able to arrive on station and immediately provide the combatant commander with a versatile sea-based force that can be tailored to a variety of missions.

"The Marines and Sailors of 22nd MEU have completed the turnover with 26th MEU and are prepared to execute operations in support of Operation Unified Protector and other missions that may be assigned," said Col. Eric Steidl, commanding officer 22nd MEU. "As a Marine Air Ground Task Force, 22nd MEU is capable of responding to a wide array of contingencies ranging from humanitarian assistance to combat operations. As we wish our fellow warriors from 26th MEU farewell, we stand ready to assume the mission as an amphibious force in readiness."

"We talk a lot on Bataan about being on time and ready for tasking," said Capt. Steve Koehler, commanding officer of USS Bataan (LHD 5). "This ship's job is to put the MEU and PHIBRON in a position to conduct the nation's tasking. We are certainly ready for that and proud to have the watch here in the Mediterranean Sea."

The Kearsarge ARG is led by commander, Amphibious Squadron 4, and is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 51). Embarked detachments include Fleet Surgical Team 6, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Assault Craft Unit 4 and Beach Master Unit 2.

The Bataan ARG includes PHIBRON-6, with detachments from Naval Beach Group Two (CNBG) 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Fleet Surgical Team Six (FST) 8, Helicopter Squadron Twenty Two (HSC) 28, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2 and ACU-4. ARG ships include the Norfolk-based Bataan, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story, Va.

The 22nd MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force comprised of the Command Element, Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, and Combat Logistics Battalion 22.

NAVSUP Workshop Promotes Mental Health

By David Rea, NAVSUP Corporate Communications

MECHANICSBURG, Penn. (NNS) -- Navy civilian employees and Sailors attended a Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP)-sponsored mental health workshop, April 26.

Ruth Hope Woodlen provided attendees with an overview of mental health in America, an anxiety and depression checklist, and simple tools to improve their mental wellbeing.

"Mental health – good or bad – everyone has it," said Woodlen, executive director for the Mental Health Association of the Capital Region, Inc. "Mental health is our ability to cope with changes in life, engage in meaningful activities and maintain fulfilling relationships with others."

Woodlen said Americans do not talk about mental health very often because of a fear of being labeled as mentally ill, or having a mental disorder. Most Americans, she said, grow up with the image of those with mental illness as being "lost souls who are wandering the streets talking to themselves."

According to Woodlen, one out of four adult Americans over the age of 18 will experience a diagnosable mental health problem in any given year.

"The sad part is that less than a third will ever get, or even ask, for any help," Woodlen said. "Yet it has been proven that people living with serious mental illness can die 25 years earlier than those who do get treatment."

Woodlen provided attendees with symptoms that can indicate a mental health disorder, illness or problem.

"The good news in all this is, it's okay to get help. Recovery is possible, and it's never too late to talk about mental health," she explained. "If one does begin to experience symptoms - get help. Go to your family physician, be honest with what you are feeling and thinking, and know that you are not alone.

The workshop, held in support of the 2011 Wellness Program Plan, developed as part of the effort to support the NAVSUP Wellness strategic initiative, which promotes health and wellness across NAVSUP. Each month follows a Department of Defense-assigned wellness theme.

NAVSUP's primary mission is to provide U.S. naval forces with quality supplies and services. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Penn., and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for quality of life issues for our naval forces, including food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.

DOD Issues Purple Heart Standards for Brain Injury

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – U.S. service members have long been eligible to receive the Purple Heart Medal for the signature wounds of the current wars -– mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions -– but now there is more clarity on how medical criteria for the award are applied, Defense Department officials said yesterday.

The criteria for the Purple Heart award state that the injury must have been caused by enemy action or in action against the enemy and has to be of a degree requiring treatment by a medical officer.

But it may be difficult to determine when a mild traumatic brain injury or a concussive injury that does not result in a loss of consciousness is severe enough to require treatment by a medical officer. “This is why we created this baseline standard,” DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.

DOD allows the award of the Purple Heart even if a service member was not treated by a medical officer, as long as a medical officer certifies that the injury would have required treatment by a medical officer had one been available.

DOD officials said that as the science of traumatic brain injuries becomes better understood, guidance for award of the medal will evolve.

“The services are not able to speculate as to how many service members may have received a mild TBI or concussion but did not seek or receive medical treatment,” Lainez said. “Therefore, each military department will establish its retroactive review procedures in the near future to ensure deserving service members are appropriately recognized.” Retroactive reviews would cover injuries suffered since Sept. 11, 2001, she added.

The Marine Corps has issued clarifying guidance to ensure commanders in the field understand when the Purple Heart is appropriate for concussions.

Army officials are preparing to issue their guidance and ask soldiers to wait until submission requirements are published through command channels and on the Human Resources Command website at http://www.hrc.army.mil before submitting or resubmitting nominations for the Purple Heart Medal for concussion injuries.

Once the Army publishes its requirements, officials said, soldiers should resubmit requests through their chains of command.

Army veterans should resubmit to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at: Commander, USA HRC, ATTN: Awards and Decorations Branch (AHRC-PDP-A), 1600 Spearhead Division Ave., Fort Knox, KY 40122. Vets also can call 1-888-276-9472 or email hrc.tagd.awards@conus.army.mil.

Fleet Week Port Everglades Sailors Compete in Basketball Tournament

From Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (NNS) -- Sailors from four forward-deployed U.S. Navy ships in Port Everglades, Fla., participated in a friendly inter-ship basketball tournament at Ft. Lauderdale's Holiday Park, for the largest U.S. Navy community outreach in South Florida, April 27.

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sponsored tournament created an opportunity for Sailors to socialize as well as compete. Teams in the tournament, including participants from amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), competed in the side-to-side, double elimination full court tournament.

Despite the intensity of the full-court match, Iwo Jima Sailor and basketball team member Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW/AW) Maryam Gaskins said the tournament wasn't about winning.

"It's about camaraderie; we're coming out here to play basketball," she said. "It's about everybody here competing, getting together and having fun."

A variety of community outreach events are historically part of what Fleet Week Port Everglades encompasses. Gaskins, a first-time visitor to the area and the event, said the reception she's enjoyed has been unparalleled.

"I've never been here for fleet week and it's awesome," she said. "Everybody has been so friendly; they've been really good to the Sailors."

Other MWR sports and recreation events available to Sailors during Fleet Week Port Everglades include the Fleet Week Golf Tournament April 28, local tours at Sawgrass Recreation Park or on a glass bottom boat to snorkle, a deep sea fishing trip and free shuttle buses to the Sawgrass Mills Mall.

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration of the sea services honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides the sea services an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels.

For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit the Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Center's Navy NewsStand page at https://navcms.news.navy.mil/local/nrse/.
Media outlets interested in covering Fleet Week events should contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

Obama to Nominate Panetta to Succeed Gates

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2011 – President Barack Obama intends to nominate CIA Director Leon E. Panetta as the next defense secretary, a senior administration official said today, speaking on background in advance of Obama's formal announcement, which is expected tomorrow.

If confirmed by the Senate, Panetta will replace Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who will leave office June 30, the official said. Gates was sworn in Dec. 18, 2006, as the 22nd secretary of defense. Gates is the only defense secretary in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president.

International Security Assistance Force Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus will retire from the service, and the president will nominate him to replace Panetta, the official said.

The president also intends to nominate veteran diplomat Ryan C. Crocker as the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, the current deputy at U.S. Central Command, to succeed Petraeus at ISAF, the official said.

“This is the culmination of a multimonth process to find nominees for these important positions,” the senior administration official said.

The president believes these choices put in place the “strongest possible team” to execute U.S.strategies and policies, the official said. This was important to Obama, he added, as the president looked at the way the nominees would interact and work together as a team.

The transition is being done in a way to provide a seamless transition, the official said. “There will be no gaps, no disruption, in execution of policy,” he added.

Obama has selected a very experienced team, the official said.

“That’s consistent with the position the president has taken with respect to his national security team: strong figures who work together and respect each other,” he said.

Panetta “brings all the necessary qualities to be a superb secretary of defense,” the official said. Panetta has had four decades of public service, starting as an Army second lieutenant in 1964. He served as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, as a member of Congress from California, and as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Crocker is one of the nation’s most respected diplomats, the official said. He has served as ambassador to Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. He is the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Petraeus is one of the pre-eminent military leaders in the world, the official said. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974 and commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as commander of Multinational Force Iraq, then as commander of U.S. Central Command, until he took his current job.

Allen is expected to take command in Afghanistan in September, the official said. He is a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served as the Marine commander in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.