Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Bataan Sailors, Marines Stay Connected with United Through Reading

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elijah G. Leinaar, USS Bataan Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) officially kicked of the ship's United Through Reading (UTR) program with Bataan's executive officer recording a reading session for his daughter, May 3.

Capt. Erik Ross, along with other Sailors and Marines aboard Bataan, have been signing up and filling each available recording session to help them stay connected with their loved ones back home throughout the ship's current deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.

"UTR is a very successful program that has an established track record of being very meaningful to service members over the years," said Cmdr. Steven Souders, USS Bataan command chaplain. "One of the fundamental joys of parenting is being able to read a book with your children. When we are separated for deployment that joy doesn't have to end."

UTR was founded by the Family Literacy Foundation and has enabled thousands of deployed service members to read and record stories to their friends and family members, regardless of location. The reading is recorded directly to DVD and sent home to offer the recipient a few moments with their deployed love one.

"It's important for the crew to have the opportunity to stay connected with their families back home during deployments; UTR certainly helps with that," said Ross. "I enjoy being able to take some time and read to my kids as if I were home, and I know they enjoy being able pop in the DVD and spend time with dad—even if it's just a few minutes."

The program was designed to boost family morale and to help children and parents better cope with deployments.

"Staying in touch is so important, and this program does that," said Ship's Serviceman 1st Class (SW) Jose Gotay, a UTR participant. "I think my son will go up to our TV and hug it, and my daughter will pat my head on the TV and tell me it's alright."

Work rarely stops while underway, so having a chance to get away from the day-to-day requirements and spend some time dedicated to family can be a stress reliever.

"My children have the knowledge that even though I am far away from home, they're always in my thoughts, and they are always worth spending time with," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class(SW) Lunar Odhiambo, USS Bataan UTR program coordinator. "UTR provides a meaningful opportunity for a powerful emotional connection that helps relieve the stress of separation by having a deployed parent."

There is no limit on how many times service members can participate during a deployment.

"I actually started recording myself reading before we got underway, so my kids will know … even though I may be anywhere in the world, that daddy still loves them," said Gotay.

Bataan's program has flourished during the last several deployments and is expected to continue to be a popular resource for Sailors, Marines and their families. UTR will continue for as long as the ship is deployed.

To find out more about United Through Reading, visit

Navy Supports Earth Week on Guam

By Anna-Victoria Crisostomo, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas Public Affairs

GUAM (NNS) -- Volunteers from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 participated in a day-long cleanup effort to support events in recognition of Earth Week on Guam April 30.

The volunteers kicked off the day by cleaning up Tanguisson Beach and Park in Dededo. They collected 60 bags of trash that had once scattered the shoreline and Tanguisson park facility, and were able to separate bags of glass and plastic for recycling.

According to Paul Wenninger, NAVFAC Marianas natural resources specialist and coordinator of the event, volunteers removed more than 400 bags of trash from the Tanguisson area in the past three years.

"The Navy's very involved with helping the public and doing volunteer work, and this is an opportunity for us to clean a beach that has public access," Wenninger said. "We like to come out and go to a public beach and do a cleanup that can benefit the whole island."

Gunner's Mate 1st Class (EXW) Ronald Sherman, EODMU 5, said everyone should have a hand in preserving Guam's natural treasures.

"It's very important that we're out here at the beaches or where people hang out," Sherman said. "If you don't take care of the beaches then it's going to be overran by trash."

Wenninger agreed wholeheartedly with Sherman.

"We should take pride in our island," Wenninger said. "This is the Navy's way of giving back to the community."

Military representatives also participated in the Guahan (GWAH-hawn), or Guam, Earth Festival at the Governor Joseph Flores Beach Park in Tumon on the same day. Alongside government of Guam entities including the Guam Energy Office and Guam Environmental Protection Agency, Joint Region Marianas (JRM), NBG, and Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) energy managers promoted conservation, energy efficiency, and wildlife preservation and protection. They also passed out environmental-friendly, reusable shoulder bags, pens, pencils, and other items with conservation messages.

"Joint Region Marianas wants to support our sister villages and Guam in showing our support for an island sustainability concept – a 'one Guam concept' – and saving energy," said Kevin Evans, JRM energy manager. "We're all one community here. So, pardon the cliche, no one's an island. We have to work together, and we're all in this together."

Personnel from the Andersen AFB environmental team promoted the base's recycling program and Natural Resources Conservation Office. Barbara Torres, Andersen Environmental Team Pollution Prevention Program environmental protection specialist, said her team was there to give Guam residents a look at environmental measures being taken aboard Andersen AFB.

"For the recycling side, we just wanted to share with people what we do at Andersen; how we recycle in the offices and at the homes, and how from that recycling, how it goes to the facility and it gets recycled either on island or off island," she said.

To learn more about conservation measures, contact your installation energy manager.

Air Guard Assists Critical-care Evacuations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, May 3, 2011 – Minutes after takeoff here, Air Force Col. (Dr.) Charles Chappuis jumped to his feet aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to check on Army Spc. Adam Castagna, one of three critical patients under his care being transported to the United States for advanced medical care.

Chappuis is the surgeon for a three-person Air National Guard air transport team deployed to Ramstein to treat critically wounded and ill patients flown from the combat theater.

Castagna was among 24 patients aboard the April 29 aeromedical evacuation flight to Joint Base Andrews, Md. Seven patients were in critical condition, requiring two critical-care teams –- in this case, an Air National Guard team and an active duty team –- to monitor them continually during the eight-hour flight.

Eleven days earlier, 14 days shy of his 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment’s redeployment to Vilseck, Germany, Castagna had been on a patrol in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. An enemy attack on his platoon, and the explosion that ensued resulted in the wounding of his right eye and liver which ultimately cost 37-year-old Castagna his spleen, his younger brother, Mike, explained.

In past conflicts, patients with wounds as severe as Castagna’s never could have been transported so early in their recovery. But the critical care air transport teams have changed all that, said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang, trauma director at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The teams not only speed up the process of moving patients to increasingly more advanced care closer to their loved ones, but also free up hospital space needed for newer battlefield casualties.

“We can’t hold everybody at Bagram [Airfield in Afghanistan], and we can’t hold everybody until they are well at Landstuhl,” Chappuis said. “We have to keep them moving, because there are more coming. And if we don’t move them, then we reach our chokepoint. So our goal is to progressively move them until they are back in the United States.”

With every patient move, he said, the goal is to provide “not only first-class care, but a step up in the advancement of care.”

The critical-care teams work closely with primary-care and trauma teams to ensure patients’ movement through that continuum of care is as safe and smooth as possible. “We get them to as good as we can get them before they get on the aircraft” to minimize, and ideally, eliminate complications, Chappuis said.

With about 750 pounds of high-tech medical equipment that essentially turns an aircraft into an airborne intensive-care unit, the teams ensure there’s no lapse in patient care during transport.

“Our environment has been described as a flying ICU, and I think we provide the equivalent high-tech medicine that you would get if you were in an ICU in Washington, D.C.,” Chappuis said. “We have all the drugs and all the equipment to monitor the patients. And I think the proof of that is our success rates are so good.”

In January, the Air Guard readopted the critical-care transport team mission, which it had phased out about six years ago, bringing welcomed support to active-duty and Air Force Reserve teams that had been conducting the mission, along with a wealth of civilian trauma-care experience.

Chappuis, for example, has 30 years of surgical experience under his belt. When not in uniform with the Louisiana Air National Guard, he works as a professor of clinical surgery at Louisiana State University School of Medicine and as chief of surgery at the University Medical Center in Lafayette, La.

In addition to being a Kentucky Air Guardsman, Air Force Lt. David Worley, the team’s critical care nurse, works in his civilian capacity as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse at a hospital in Louisville, Ky. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Howard, from the North Carolina Air National Guard, works as a respiratory therapist for the team, and also as a civilian at Carolinas Medical Center Pineville near Charlotte, N.C.

“From a Guard standpoint, we bring a tremendous amount of experience from the civilian world,” Chappuis said. “We do this almost every day at home, and it brings a tremendous amount of medical experience to the fight.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Kathleen Flarity, commander of aeromedical evacuation at Bagram, called incorporating the Air Guard into critical care teams “a great idea.” The biggest plus, she said, is the wealth of clinical experience the Guardsmen bring to the mission.

“They are phenomenal –- really smart, talented people,” she said.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Napolean Gifford, an active-duty respiratory therapist with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, said he’s happy to work side by side with experienced Guard critical-care teams.

“It really helps, because they bring a lot of trauma experience from working at large trauma centers,” said Gifford, a Douglas, Ga., native.

With a steady load of patients being transported from the combat theater to Landstuhl and on to Andrews, Fang welcomed the expanded the pool of military professionals qualified to conduct critical-care air transport missions, noting that the number of people with their experience is limited, and the training experience in the Guard broadens the pool of people qualified to serve on the teams.

Developing the clinic skills and abilities for critical-care transport teams takes years, Chappuis explained. Beyond the traditional critical-care skill sets, it requires about five weeks of highly specialized training.

The training culminates with a demanding two-week Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills, or C-STARS, training at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, where simulation that replicates realistic scenarios subjects trainees to the most extreme rigors they’ll face in critical-care transport.

“It is kind of like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Chappuis said. “There is somebody in the back room controlling the computer and videotaping everything, and then there is another person in the room actually watching you. And you are graded every time you go through the simulation.”

Successful completion of C-STARS is required before deploying for CCAT duty. “By the time you complete the course, you have demonstrated if you can cut it or not,” Chappuis said. “If you don’t make the cut at C-STARS, then you don’t deploy.”

While the teams are trained and equipped to treat the most severe medical complications in the most challenging in-flight situations, Fang said, the goal is to ensure a calm, controlled airborne experience.

“They are almost like the firemen,” he said of the critical-care teams. “You want them on the plane if the patient has problems, but ideally, it is a standard ICU shift. And in most ICU shifts, you don’t see people running around like crazy. You have it calm, and there is a plan, and you take care of the patient.”

Mike Castagna praised the care the transport team and every other military medical professional has provided since his brother was wounded. “The care he has gotten every step of the way has been exceptional,” he said. “It has far exceeded anything I have ever seen in a civilian hospital.”

Castagna’s movement through his continuum of care hasn’t been without its roller-coaster moments. He received initial care at the Kandahar Airfield Hospital, then the Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram before making the seven-hour aeromedical evacuation flight her to get treatment at Landstuhl. During that flight, one of Castagna’s arteries burst, and a critical-care transport team immediately put him on life support, his brother said.

Castagna’s entire family and his fiancĂ©e flew to Germany to be with him, fearing the worst. But accompanying his brother during the flight to Andrews, Castagna marveled at his progress since the live-saving intervention.

“Literally, in a day and a half, he went from being on life support to talking with us,” he said.

Guardsmen say the chance to make a difference for wounded warriors like Castagna makes then want to be part of the all-volunteer mission. “Nobody called us up and said, ‘Hey, it is your turn,’” Chappuis said.

Howard, at Ramstein for a six-month deployment, said he jumped at the critical-care air transport opportunity as soon as the Air Guard adopted the mission. “It’s satisfying,” he said. “For me, it was a way to give back.”

“The opportunity to come here and help kids get home is a great opportunity for me, and that is why I chose to do it,” agreed Worley. “It’s a very good mission. It’s what we would want for our own families.”

That’s exactly what Chappuis said he tells his wife when he explains why he volunteered.

“I have grown children. If it was one of my children, I would want the absolute best care for them to make these multiple flights from Afghanistan or Iraq back to the United States,” he said. “And if that is my desire for my children, I should be ready to pony up and do it myself.”

Mrs. Mullen Spotlights Family Issues in New Blog

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 – Building resilience and providing long-term support are keys to strengthening military families and better equipping them to weather the frequent, multiple deployments so prevalent in this decade of war, the wife of the nation’s top military officer said.

“We’ve never asked a generation of families to do what this one has done,” Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We need to make sure they know we care about them, we care about their service, and we will be with them for the long haul.”

This message of assistance and support is one Mullen is working to pass on to as many service members, veterans and their families she can reach -– whether it’s on a trip across the nation with her husband, a tweet sent out on Twitter or, in her most recent social media venture, a blog.

Through her new “Family Forum” blog, Mullen plans to write on a wide range of family-related topics, including resilience, veteran and spouse employment and education, and psychological health and well-being. She also will pass on the latest information regarding support programs and resources.

“I have a number of ideas I think will span a lot of issues,” she said.

Her first post, “Family Forum: Supporting Military Families Year Round,” will be featured today on American Forces Press Service’s Family Matters Blog.

Along the way, Mullen hopes to elicit comments from family members to gain an even greater insight into the challenges they face, building on knowledge she acquired first-hand as a Navy wife and from speaking with military families around the world.

Mullen was a young Navy spouse when she first decided to advocate on families’ behalf. Thirty years ago, she recalled, her husband was assigned to serve as the executive officer of a ship. The families of the ship’s sailors were dealing with a significant number of challenges and she decided to step in to help.

“I realized at that moment that there are challenges and difficulties that I may not realize, that I may not be experiencing, but someone else is,” Mullen said. That experience set her on a family-support journey that continues today.

This past decade of war in particular, with its frequent and lengthy deployments, has presented challenges that will resonate for years to come, she said.

Dwell time, which is the time at home between deployments, is still a “very significant problem,” Mullen noted.

“I know services are working hard to increase the dwell time, but it’s still not where it needs to be,” she said. “Service members, particularly in a unit with multiple deployments, have been gone for a significant amount of the last 10 years. Families need to have a true reintegration of the family unit.”

Military spouses also need access to stigma-free psychological health care, Mullen said. “The symptoms they’re experiencing, it’s affecting them and affecting their children, and they need to get help,” she said. “We don’t know what the cumulative effects of these deployments will be on these families.

“We’ve been at war for 10 years and we have a generation of children who have known only war, only worry and fear,” she added.

Mullen also touched on spouse employment. Spouses often have trouble transferring licenses and certifications between states. States need to work together to decrease the barriers they face, she said.

Mullen praised recent efforts to assist with these and other challenges, citing the White House’s new “Joining Forces” military family-support campaign. This national initiative aims to raise awareness of military families and then call on Americans to step up and support them.

She also highlighted her husband’s “Conversation with the Country,” an initiative to raise awareness in American communities about the value of veterans and their families.

Mullen said she hopes these efforts will continue to grow over time, and that communities will reach out to military families -– whether active duty, Guard, Reserve or veteran -– in their neighborhoods, schools and jobs to ensure they receive the support they need and deserve.

“Military families are in communities across the nation,” she said. “We just need to try and find out who they are, thank them for their service and then find out what we can do as a community to support them.”

Survivors Call bin Laden’s Death ‘Bittersweet’

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 – When Wendy Duffman first heard that Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida’s leader and the mastermind behind 9/11, was dead, she felt a sense of elation, then relief.

Her brother, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott Eric Duffman, died four years ago in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan -- a war launched in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks. And as an American Airlines flight attendant in 2001, she lost friends and colleagues on the planes that crashed into the Pentagon and Twin Towers, and onto a field in Pennsylvania.

“I woke up for the first time in four years feeling like my brother didn’t die in vain,” Duffman said.

The news of bin Laden’s death May 1 set off an emotional chain reaction across the nation. As the president prepared to brief the nation, hundreds of people gathered in front of the White House to celebrate the news and display their patriotism, waving American flags and singing the national anthem. Since then, social media networks have lit up with celebratory comments.

The reaction has been somewhat more subdued among surviving family members who lost a loved one on 9/11 or in the subsequent and related wars.

While elated at bin Laden’s death, Duffman said, she feels it’s a “small victory.”

“I don’t want people to forget there are others like bin Laden,” she said. “The war isn’t over. We still have troops in harm’s way.”

Many survivors have mixed emotions about the news, said Ami Neiberger-Miller, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a support group for survivors of fallen military loved ones.

Neiberger-Miller noted that some people have talked of a sense of closure because of bin Laden's demise. Yet, “there’s not a sense of real closure; you can’t have closure from something like this,” she said.

Lisa Dolan understands that firsthand. Her husband, Navy Capt. Bob Dolan, was killed in the Pentagon on 9/11 when Flight 77 struck the building.

The news of bin Laden’s death seemed surreal at first, Dolan said, then bittersweet.

“Nothing will bring back my husband and the almost 3,000 men, women and children that were killed on Sept. 11, 2011,” she said. “Is there some vindication in the death of bin Laden? Maybe. However, I do feel incredibly proud of our military. They have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.”

Dolan’s son, Beau, was at college -– he’s a freshman at Notre Dame -- when he heard the news. At first he felt “dumbstruck,” he said. Then, “I started to realize how great it was, [and] the feeling of being dumbstruck transformed into sheer excitement.

“I couldn’t believe that it was finally over,” he said. “There seemed to be a chapter that had been finally finished in my life.”

In a display of unity, scores of students ran up and down the campus “quad” chanting “USA” and singing patriotic songs, he recalled.

“It really was an awesome experience and display of love for the country,” he said.

Dolan’s daughter, Rebecca, is coupling her excitement with caution.

“I’ve always had it in my mind that Osama bin Laden … might always be there looming,” she said. “I’m excited to think that there is one fewer terrorist out there. I also feel that there is still work to be done -- that bin Laden’s death does not signal the end of terrorism as we know it.”
Trish Lawton also is concerned about the repercussions of bin Laden’s death. “It’s a little scary,” she said. “How many groups are going to want to avenge his death? How is that going to affect our normal day-to-day life? It brings me to wonder what lies ahead.”

Lawton learned of bin Laden’s death yesterday morning, while getting her two sons ready for school. Her husband, Marine Capt. Garret Lawton, was killed in 2008 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The boys were ages 4 and 6 at the time of their father’s death, she said.

“I know that my late husband would have been elated that our servicemembers had a successful mission,” she said.

As for her sons, “Maybe they will feel some sort of peace that their dad played a part in eventually making today possible,” she said, close to tears.

While emotions seem to be running the gamut from elation to caution, Miller has traced a common thread of patriotism among survivors. Many people within the survivor community have changed their social networking profile picture to a patriotic symbol or to a picture of their lost loved one, she said.

Miller changed her Facebook profile picture to a picture of her brother’s tombstone. Army Spc. Christopher Neiberger was killed Aug. 6, 2007, in Baghdad.

“I would hope I would never celebrate the death of another human being, but I do feel that justice was served,” she said of bin Laden’s death. “I’m very proud of my brother and the military and all of those people who have given so much.

“It’s a momentous day for a lot of people,” she said.

Continuing Promise 2011 Arrives in Peru

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Tretter, Continuing Promise 2011 Public Affairs

PAITA, Peru (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Paita, Peru, for her second stop of Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11) April 30.

Following Comfort's initial humanitarian assistance visit in Kingston, Jamaica, the ship's crew of military and non-governmental organization doctors and nurses now face more diverse conditions and a language barrier in a different country, continent and hemisphere.

"One of the things we need to be aware of is every country we go to, you want to look at life from the perspective of patients that we're seeing," said Capt. William Todd, director for surgical services. "We need to take the time out from the job that we're doing here to try and enjoy their life from their perspective; and it only takes a couple of minutes per patient to do that."

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

Comfort's hospital, the Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), is configured with specialized medical teams of military and civilian health care providers. These caregivers provide a range of services ashore, as well as on board the ship for approximately 250 patients.

Combined with the overall medical screenings comes regional and area-specific ailments that team Comfort can expect to encounter while in Peru.

"It's really the diseases of poverty that we see here; like everywhere else," said Capt. Gregory Martin, who spent three years stationed at a Navy lab in Lima, Peru. "There's a lot of chronic skin disease, mild malnutrition, infection diseases, respiratory ailments … it's also so hot and sunny here that a lot of people develop pterygium, an eye condition common among peoples living near the equator."

Helping to bridge the language barrier between CP11 staff and patients is a team of 12 U.S. Air Force and Navy linguists, who are serving as interpreters for the final eight countries of the mission.

Along with providing translators for the variety of medical and civil service teams, the linguists have translated medical documents and command information packets, and have welcomed Peruvian dignitaries, doctors and media.

"Translating a document takes time, it's not just five or ten minutes, it takes hours," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Manuel Guzman.

Aside from medical capabilities, U.S. Navy Seabees and Marines from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 26 will continue CP11's work during civic engineering projects where they will revamp and repair schools throughout the community.

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 to Christen Guided Missile Destroyer Michael Murphy

The Navy will christen the newest guided-missile destroyer, Michael Murphy, Saturday, May 7, 2011, during a 10 a.m. EDT ceremony at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine.   The new destroyer honors Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan June 28, 2005.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead will deliver the ceremony's principal address.  Maureen Murphy will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her late son.  In accordance with Navy tradition, she will break a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow to formally christen the ship.

Murphy led a four-man team tasked with finding a key Taliban leader in the mountainous terrain near Asadabad, Afghanistan, when they came under fire from a much larger enemy force with superior tactical position.  Mortally wounded while exposing himself to enemy fire, Murphy knowingly left his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters. While being shot at repeatedly, Murphy calmly provided his unit’s location and requested immediate support for his element.  He returned to his cover position to continue the fight until finally succumbing to his wounds.

Designated DDG 112, Michael Murphy, the 62nd Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection.  Michael Murphy will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and will contain a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Cmdr. Thomas E. Shultz, a native of El Cajon, Calif., is the prospective commanding officer of the ship and will lead the crew of 279 officers and enlisted personnel.  The 9,200-ton Michael Murphy is being built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works.  The ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet.  Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots. 

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at 703-697-5342.  Additional information on Arleigh Burke class destroyers is available online at

May - A Month of Appreciation and Remembrance

By Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

 America's support means so much to our military. In fact, as I travel the world to visit our men and women in uniform, what they want to know most is, "Are the American people still with us?"
I tell them that you are.

May is set aside as Military Appreciation Month to offer each of us the opportunity to recognize, honor, and show support for all who wear and have worn the uniform, along with the incredible families who serve alongside them.

Throughout the month, communities across the country will host events and activities at baseball games, auto races, concerts, parades and more to celebrate our troops and their families.

We will specifically recognize the extraordinary contributions and dedication of military wives and husbands on Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 6, followed by Armed Forces Day on the 21st and culminating with Memorial Day weekend at the end of the month and the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. on the 30th.

Each of these days has a distinct and well-deserved focus. But they all share in common real human stories of sacrifice and service. Through these personal stories, we can hear the testimonies of those -- present and past -- who have given so much of themselves, including those who have given all.

We must never forget these men and women nor their families -- particularly our wounded warriors and the families of the fallen, whose lives and dreams have been forever changed by the sacrifice of their loved one.

As we enjoy everything that May has to offer and march towards the joys of summer, we can each reach out to show support in various ways, to listen to their special stories and to offer a simple "thanks for your service."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff and I salute our military and their families this month and every month, and just as importantly, we thank each of you for taking the time to show your support and care for those who do so much to take care of us.

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

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

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivers remarks at 9 a.m. EDT at the Jane’s Energy, Environment, Defense and Security Conference in Alexandria, Va.  Media interested in attending should contact Capt. Beci Brenton at 703-697-7491.

Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) Clifford L. Stanley; Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert F. Hale; Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs) Dennis M. McCarthy; and Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and Director of Tricare Management Activity Jonathan Woodson testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the active, guard, reserve, and civilian personnel programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal 2012 and the future years defense program at 2 p.m. EDT in room SR-222, Russell Senate Office Building.

Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) James N. Miller Jr. and Commander, U.S. Strategic Command Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on implementation of the New START Treaty and plans for future reductions in nuclear warheads and delivery systems post-New START Treaty at 2:30 p.m. EDT in room SR-232A, Russell Senate Office Building.

A National Capital Region flyover of Arlington National Cemetery occurs at 1:50 p.m. EDT with four F/A-18’s.

This Day in Naval History - May 03

By the Navy News Service

1861 - USS Surprise captures Confederate privateer Savannah.
1898 - Marines land at Cavite, Philippines, and raise U.S. flag.
1949 - First Navy firing of a high altitude Viking rocket at White Sands, NM.

Parents Help Children Prepare for Deployments

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
Defense Media Activity

SAN ANTONIO, May 2, 2011 – When Erin Hirvela was 2, her parents, Air Force Master Sgts. Gus and Danielle Hirvela, enlisted Sesame Street’s Elmo to help their daughter understand why her daddy was going away for a while.

For service members and their families, preparing for an upcoming deployment is another of the many challenges unique to military life.

“When parents are having a conversation about their deployment with their child, they should be as genuine as they can, but filter their communication to the degree that’s appropriate for the age of their child,” said Kristy Hagar, a child psychologist who has been working with children, adolescents, and young adults for 18 years.

“Children can get upset, because their lives were stable and predictable, and now with a parent or both parents leaving, there’s going to be change,” Hagar said. “Children are going to deal with change in their lives no matter what, so anything you can do proactively ahead of time where kids can feel like they are involved and they are being asked to help prepare for this shift, helps in the long run.”

The Hirvelas prepared for Erin’s first deployment experience with a Sesame Street DVD they picked up at the base library.

“It was the one where Elmo explained the military and deployments,” Danielle said. “One of the sayings they use in the video that stood out to us was that Mommy and Daddy are ‘helping people.’”

Today, both Hirvelas are deployed, and they said they still use that saying from the video to help 6-year-old Erin understand why they left.

“When Gus left, we told Erin that Daddy had to go help people, and that he would be home before she knew,” she said. “We tried to keep a positive spin on everything. So when we discussed Mommy leaving and Aunt Gail coming, we mentioned how she was going to ‘party like a rock star’ and be a huge help for [her little brother] Jacob.”

The level of honesty and the method of communication depend a lot on what the parent feels comfortable with, but they also need to recognize how they present themselves, Hagar said.

Children can pick up on their parent’s emotions and stress, even when the parent is saying everything is going to be fine, she said. The children are looking at the parent and thinking, ‘Well, they are saying that they are fine, but I’m getting vibes that they feel nervous.’

That can be more destructive and more anxiety-provoking in children than being able to model your feelings and saying, “You know what? I’m kind of scared, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to be as safe as I can be, and I’m going to be with all of the airmen, and we are going to do our best over there,” Hagar said.

“Come up with things that make them at ease and at peace as well,” she added.

Letting children know that they can talk about their fears and worries when preparing for a deployment helps them prepare for stressful situations in the future, Hagar said. Children can learn from that open dialogue, she added, because it sets up a problem-solving modeland helps them think, ‘Well, I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to do this and this, and this is what I’m thinking, and this is what helps me feel better.’

Danielle said they told Erin about the upcoming deployments as soon as they knew.

“We talked about it a lot, but like most kids, it didn’t really sink in until it got closer to the day he and I both left,” she said. “Each situation is different, and each kid is different, but the thing that has worked for us is being honest and putting a positive spin on everything as best as we could. I couldn’t wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I had to be strong, hoping Erin would see that and do the same.”

For younger kids, around ages 5 and below, parents sometimes have to play a role, Hagar said. For example, she explained, if you and your child both see a large dog, you would just have to react calmly and soothe the child, versus running away screaming, because you don’t want to set that example for that child. The same applies to deployments, she added, and recognizing how you present yourself and how you deal with your worries and fears sets an example for the child to follow.

School-age children ages 5 through 12 have a greater awareness of a parent being gone, Hagar said. They are involved in a lot more activities, and sometimes that tends to serve as a reminder: ‘Oh, Dad’s not going to be here to see my soccer game.’ Maintaining proactive strategies to stay connected can make the separation easier on children, she said.

Maybe Dad couldn’t come to the soccer game, she explained, but you all can plan to film it and send it to him, she said. She recommended asking children how they want to stay connected, or let them pick out the pictures to send, noting that getting them involved gives them responsibility in collaborating as a family on how to solve the issue of Mom or Dad not being there.

Older children, ages 12 and older, may be less likely to reach out to a parent or caregiver to talk about an upcoming deployment, Hagar said.

“Because of adolescence and all the things that go along with adolescence, it’s also not uncommon for children in this age group to not want to talk,” she said. “Sitting them down to talk about their feelings may not be an effective strategy, but let them know if they have any questions about the deployment, they should let you know, and leave it at that.

“You’re opening a door for dialogue and letting them know if they want to talk, they can, and if they want to ask questions, they can,” she continued, “so they know the deployment is not some ‘elephant in the room’ that no one can talk about. A lot of teenagers will say, ‘No, I’m fine,’ but at least the door is open.”

Some older children may have a greater understanding and can recognize where their parent may be going and the danger that’s involved, as opposed to a younger child, who just realizes that Mom or Dad isn’t there to tuck them in at night, Hagar said.

Parents of children of different age groups need to prepare and adapt their filter for each child, she added, reflecting on what their child potentially could ask them and how they are going to respond.

Information on helping children deal with deployments is available at the Military OneSource website.

Denver Navy Week 2011 Commences

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Susan Hammond, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

DENVER (NNS) -- Denver Navy Week 2011 officially began with the reading of a proclamation on the steps of Colorado's capitol building May 2.

Colorado's President of the Senate, Brandon C. Shaffer, speaking on behalf of Gov. John Hickenlooper, read the proclamation.

"It is my great honor to read Gov. Hickenlooper's proclamation of Navy Week in Colorado," said Shaffer. "As a former lieutenant in the Navy and a surface warfare officer, I am proud of the Navy Sailors from Colorado serving at home and abroad in defense of our nation."

The Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO), Navy Recruiting District (NRD) Denver and Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Denver are joining forces this week, along with the Navy Parachute Team "The Leap Frogs" and Navy Band Northwest, to provide opportunities for citizens to meet Sailors and learn about the Navy's capabilities.

Denver Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks being held across America in 2011, and Denver's Navy Week is designed to give the people of Colorado an up-close look at the men and women of the U.S. Navy.

The week began with Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, giving demonstrations in the tanks at the Denver Aquarium. The Navy Rock Band "Passage" will also perform at several area schools. Denver Navy Week culminates with Navy participation in the Cinco de Mayo Parade and Festival May 7. The parade will be followed by two performances by the Leap Frogs, in Civic Center Park, in downtown Denver.

The week-long schedule of events also includes civic, corporate and educational engagements by Vice Adm. Kevin M. McCoy, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy's ships and submarines, and their combat systems.

"We like to take the Navy on the road and talk about America's Away Team," said McCoy. "We want to tell how we're maintaining maritime security, doing humanitarian assistance, as well as participating in combat operations all around the world."

Also speaking throughout the week are Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, Rear Adm. William E. Shannon III; Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, Rear Adm. Herman A. Shelanski; and Medical Corps, Fleet Surgeon, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Rear Adm. William M. Roberts.

Interactive displays such as the Navy Suburban, a wrapped Navy-themed media center on wheels equipped with video games, and the Navy Simulator, where passengers board a craft that moves in sync with live-action video imagery, will provide additional entertainment during Navy Week events at a variety of locations.

Ombudsmen Key to Wounded Warrior Support

By Zona T. Lewis, Navy Safe Harbor Public Affairs

CHICAGO (NNS) -- Navy Safe Harbor representatives briefed Coast Guard transition/relocation managers, ombudsman coordinators, and ombudsmen during the U.S. Coast Guard's pre-conference meeting prior to the 2011 DoD/USDA Family Resilience Conference in Chicago, April 19.

Safe Harbor serves as a wounded warrior support program for the Navy and Coast Guard. Attendees were briefed on Navy Safe Harbor's role in providing non-medical support to seriously wounded, ill, and injured Coast Guardsmen.

"Since April of 2009, when the Coast Guard signed a memorandum of agreement with the Navy, Navy Safe Harbor has been the lead organization for providing non-medical support to seriously wounded, ill, and injured Coast Guardsmen," said Kelly Dempsey, Navy Safe Harbor family program coordinator.

The agreement reflects both services' commitment to providing the best care possible for Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and their families.

However; Dempsey said the enrollment numbers for the Coast Guard could be higher if more people knew about the program.

"I contribute the low enrollment numbers of Coast Guardsmen to the lack of awareness about the program," said Dempsey. "Navy Safe Harbor is still a relatively new program, and we are working to spread the word that we are here to support not only seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors, but also Coast Guardsmen with their non-medical support needs."

Currently, 31 Coast Guardsmen are enrolled in the program, compared to 640 enrolled Sailors. An additional 15 Coast Guardsmen have been provided non-medical support assistance that did not qualify for enrollment.

When Dempsey asked how many people in the room were familiar with Navy Safe Harbor, only four of the more than 20 attendees raised their hands.

"Navy Safe Harbor is a valuable resource that many Coast Guard members are not aware of," said Christine DeGraw, U.S. Coast Guard ombudsman program manager.

DeGraw said she sees the role of the Coast Guard ombudsman as being pivotal to connecting ill and injured Coast Guardsmen in their commands with Navy Safe Harbor support and resources.

"During the 'Year of the Coast Guard Family' it is more important than ever that we continue to create awareness about existing and new programs and services available to our families," said DeGraw. "Ombudsmen are a vital link in that communication chain."

A Coast Guard ombudsman, just as a Navy ombudsman, serves as a link between the service member's command and the families of the command.

Lynette Fuge, Coast Guard ombudsman for Port Security Unit 313 in Everett, Wash., said she immediately thought of two service members in her husband's reserve unit that may be eligible for Navy Safe Harbor enrollment and support. One service member has been diagnosed with a serious illness that impacts his work schedule, and the other was injured while on deployment to Kuwait.

"It is hard enough to navigate the system when you are just taking your child in for a check-up," said Fuge. "It is another thing entirely when your spouse has a major illness or injury."

Dempsey agreed that navigating the waters of recovery following a serious illness or injury often is overwhelming and exhausting for a service member and his or her family.

"Questions about pay and benefits, bedside travel, child care, and employability muddy the waters of the recovery process," said Dempsey. "While providing bedside care for their loved-ones, families often don't have the resources or time to manage these concerns."

She said it is important that ombudsmen know that Navy Safe Harbor exists and how to refer potential enrollees and their families.

Ombudsmen can make referrals to the Coast Guard Health, Safety, and Work Life office in Norfolk, Va., or contact Navy Safe Harbor through its 24/7 toll free line at (877) 746-8563, or by e-mail at

Navy Safe Harbor's goal is to return Sailors and Coast Guardsmen to duty, and when not possible, work collaboratively with federal agencies including the VA and the Department of Labor and state and local organizations to ensure successful reintegration of service members back into their communities.

"Navy Safe Harbor support does not end at the door of a medical treatment facility," said Dempsey. "The key to the program's success is providing service members and their families with a lifetime of care and support."