Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guard Works to Protect City from Flood

By Army Sgt. Michael L. Owens
241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

NEW ORLEANS, May 11, 2011 – Soldiers of the Louisiana National Guard’s 769th Engineer Battalion are constructing sand-filled basket barriers in Morgan City, located about 70 miles west of here, as a precautionary measure against the rising Mississippi River.

About 15 soldiers assigned to the 927th and 928th Sapper Engineer Companies are adding three feet of height to a levee using Hesco baskets to help protect residential areas near Lake Palourde from flooding that could occur if the Morganza Spillway is opened later this week.

“Flood waters may top the levee, so we are adding three more feet to the top of the levee in an attempt to keep water out of this residential neighborhood,” said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Samson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the mission.

The soldiers have constructed about 650 yards of Hesco, and about 60 percent of the barriers were filled with sand. The mission is to construct a total of 10,000 feet in the Morgan City area.

Most of the Guard members have experience with Hesco baskets due to miles of constructed barriers in Grand Isle and Cameron Parish in support of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response last year.

“These guys are moving fast,” Samson said. “This is a lot of work for a 15-man team, but they are working hard and the experiences they have are showing in their progress.”

Army Spc. Thomas J. Mahfouz, a combat engineer with the 928th, is from the Morgan City area and was upbeat about this mission.

“This is what being a citizen-soldier all is about,” Mahfouz said. “This is where I am from, and this mission gives me a chance to help save my hometown.”

Malawi Exercise Supports U.S.-African Partnerships

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

LILONGWE, Malawi, May 11, 2011 – A U.S. and Malawi Defense Force humanitarian medical exercise being conducted here is enhancing the partners’ medical capabilities and their ability to work together in response to a future crisis or emergency response, the commander of the National Guard element providing command and control for the operation reported.

The exercise, MEDREACH 11, kicked off May 3 and continues through May 16. It brings together about 100 U.S. and 300 Malawi troops. The exercise includes classroom instruction, field training, and civic assistance activities, to include medical and dental outreach programs in specific areas of Lilongwe.

Malawi is a landlocked country located in southeast Africa. Lilongwe is the capital city.

The goal of the exercise is for the two militaries to learn from each other as they forge close partnerships that benefit both nations, as well as the broader region, explained Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pratt, commander of the Illinois National Guard’s 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

“This is a great operation for us,” Pratt said. “We are learning from each other, and we are both stronger because of that.”

The impact of MEDREACH 11 goes beyond patients treated and friendships formed, said Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Adams, exercise planner for U.S. Africa Command. The exercise, he said, is part of Africom’s engagement in Africa that’s aimed at strengthening partnerships and partner capacity.

The ultimate goal, Adams explained, is to help African nations better support the African Union’s Regional Standby Force concept so they can respond together in times of crises -- providing humanitarian assistance and disaster response, deploying peacekeeping forces or responding to a regional threat.

“One of the far-reaching goals of Africom, in general, is to aid the Africans in dealing with African challenges,” Adams said.

The best way to accomplish that, he said, is through a robust exercise program built on strong military-to-military relationships. MEDREACH 11, led by U.S. Army Africa, is among 16 Africom exercises conducted this fiscal year alone.

Many, like MEDREACH, he said, have a medical focus.

The U.S. military has a long history of medical engagement in Africa, Adams explained. For nearly a decade, he said, U.S. European Command conducted medical exercises in Africa, deploying teams of doctors, dentists and support personnel to provide joint-combined medical training and humanitarian assistance.

The standup of Africom has changed the focus of the exercise program, Adams said, noting the goal now is to strengthen relationships already formed while helping host nations’ militaries build professionalism and capability.

Adams said medical clinics and civic-action programs remain key pieces of the exercise planning.

“But our major focus is on increasing the capabilities and our interoperability with the [African] medical forces that will be deployed for future operations,” he said.

Africom is striving to promote more regional military cooperation, Adams said, so African nations are better prepared to respond together to a regional crisis.

MEDREACH 11 is a bilateral exercise, he said, with observers from Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho expected to participate.

“Our future goal is to have it truly be a multilateral, cooperative exercise,” Adams said. “By proving our goodwill and showing the benefit of working with Africom, we hope to encourage more cooperation from the others at the same time.”

For example, he said, the Natural Fire exercise series in eastern Africa has brought together militaries from regional neighbors and the United States to focus on humanitarian and civic assistance, disaster relief and security.

“That involves many partners from the eastern African region, not just one,” Adams said. “And when we get that more truly established in other regions as well, that will be our big goal.”

Additional multilateral exercises are in the discussion or planning stages, he said. Such multilateral military-to-military engagement, he added, will posture African nations to better provide for their own security and crisis response.

The African Standby Force was stood up to be an international, continental African military force envisioned to deploy during times of crisis in Africa under the direction of the African Union. All five African regions -- north, south, east, west and central -- are in the process of establishing regional brigades to support the concept.

The success of this concept in supporting a secure, stable environment that prevents violent extremism from taking root affects far more than the African continent, Adams said.

“A secure Africa improves security worldwide,” he said. “By improving regional stability, we help to build the militaries and the governments that can prevent these [terrorist] sanctuaries from being created, and in the bigger scheme, reduce the effectiveness of the enemies who would do harm to us from those bases of insecurity.”

Savannah Navy League Adopts USS Alaska

From Commander, Submarine Group 10 Public Affairs

KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- USS Alaska (SSBN 732) hosted an adoption ceremony for the Savannah Navy League as the organization officially recognized their adoption of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine May 7.

Cmdr. Kevin Byrne, Alaska (Blue) commanding officer, said he hopes the relationship between the boat and Savannah Navy League strengthens as the two get to know each other better over time.

"[The adoption] allows us, when we go to sea, to know that there are people back shore-side supporting our families when we really can't be there because the ship is out; unable to communicate," said Byrne.

Bob Gephart, Savannah Navy League president, said the organization was looking for a Navy vessel to adopt and Alaska was first to answer the call.

"Savannah Navy League chose to sponsor – our term is 'adopt' – USS Alaska in order to increase our support of U.S. Navy personnel," said Gephart. "We have very little [U.S. Navy) presence in Savannah, so we devote lots of resources to support USCG units here, which we thoroughly enjoy. But we were looking for an opportunity to work with Navy personnel, too.

"We hope that our relationship will include opportunities for us to participate in recognition ceremonies for outstanding Sailors - Sailor of the Quarter, Sailor of the Year, and similar awards for Blue Jackets," Gephart continued. "We would like to award these Sailors a book from the Navy Reading List and a U.S. Savings Bond, if appropriate. We also would like to offer support to the boat's ombudsman."

One of the league's hopes was realized as Gephart awarded the Sailor of the quarter and the junior Sailor of the quarter with a book and a U.S. Savings Bond, which was the second time the Savannah-based organization held such an honor with Alaska.

USS Alaska (SSBN 732) is the fourth U.S. Navy ship named for the 49th state.

Flags lowered to half-staff in Wisconsin Thursday for Army Staff Sergeant Matthew Hermanson

Date: May 11, 2011

Flags at Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities across the state will fly at half-staff Thursday (May 12) in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Hermanson of Appleton, Wis., who lost his life while serving his country in Afghanistan. The Guard will render these honors in accordance with an executive order issued by Gov. Scott Walker.


Relating to a Proclamation that the Flag of the United States and the Flag of the State of Wisconsin be Flown at Half-Staff as a Mark of Respect for Staff Sergeant Matthew D. Hermanson of the United States Army Who Lost His Life While Serving His Country During Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan

WHEREAS, on April 28, 2011, Staff Sergeant Matthew D. Hermanson, a member of 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, Louisiana, United States Army, died while serving his country in Afghanistan; and

WHEREAS, Staff Sergeant Matthew D. Hermanson provided faithful and honorable service to the people of the State of Wisconsin and the people of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the people of Wisconsin mourn the death of Staff Sergeant Matthew D. Hermanson; and

WHEREAS, a memorial service will be held for Staff Sergeant Matthew D. Hermanson on May 12, 2011;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, SCOTT WALKER, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me by Federal and State law, do hereby order that the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Wisconsin shall be flown at half-staff at all buildings, grounds, and military installations of the State of Wisconsin equipped with such flags beginning at sunrise on Thursday, May 12, 2011, and ending at sunset on that date.


All Wisconsin state government facilities are covered by the governor’s order and a 2007 amendment to the U.S. Flag Code now requires all federal facilities in Wisconsin to comply. Other government agencies, businesses and private residences with flagpoles may also honor Staff Sgt. Matthew Hermanson by lowering their U.S. and Wisconsin state flags to half-staff during the daylight hours on May12.

USFF/CNIC Complete HURREX Citadel Gale 2011

From Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) completed HURREX/Citadel Gale 2011, May 3.

The annual Hurricane Preparedness Exercise is designed to prepare the Navy to respond to weather threats to U.S. coastal regions, and to maintain the ability to deploy forces even under the most adverse weather conditions.

"HURREX/Citadel Gale 11 provided a focused Shore Response Training Plan event to afloat and shore-based commands using simulated hurricane threat scenarios," said Randy Morgan, CNIC Training and Readiness.

"Exercising preparation and responses to natural disaster scenarios enhances our readiness to deal with weather threats to U.S. coastal regions and our ability to deploy forces in adverse weather conditions. During times of natural disaster, we are committed to working with local authorities. We remain committed to the safety, security and accountability of our Sailors and Navy family members during natural disasters such as hurricanes."

The objectives of this exercise included improving awareness of:

• the Navy's capabilities to protect personnel and family members, and to support requests from civil authorities when responding to threats of a natural disaster

• the actions the Navy is taking in responding to the threat of natural disaster, and

• the necessity of updating Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) information prior to natural disasters.

HURREX/Citadel Gale 2011 involved two simulated storm systems developing and intensifying to hurricane strength, threatening Naval District Washington, Caribbean Islands, East Coast, and Gulf Coast regions. The exercise was carried out April 25 through May 3.

Navy Fleet units and personnel in Navy District Washington, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, and Navy Region Southeast participated in the exercise. HURREX/ Citadel Gale 2011 included reviewing and exercising heavy weather instructions, procedures and accounting for Navy personnel and their family members in the affected region through the NFAAS system.

Conversion Opportunities for ERB Eligible Sailors

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- In an effort to provide conversion opportunities ahead of the Enlisted Retention Board, NAVADMIN 160/11 was released May 9, to waive some standard conversion requirements and provide Sailors with the guidelines for submitting applications.

The goal of the ERB is to re-balance manning in 31 overmanned ratings, improve advancement rates, and increase Perform to Serve (PTS) opportunity.

"Leadership respects and values the service of our Sailors," explained Rear Admiral Tony Kurta, head of personnel policy. "By providing increased opportunity to convert to undermanned rates, our goal is to keep high performing Sailors in the Navy while increasing competition and advancement opportunity in those overmanned ratings."

As part of Navy efforts to increase conversion opportunities for ERB eligible applicants, some of the waived conversion requirements include:
- Years of Service: Personnel with greater than 12 years of service will be considered
for conversion.
- Paygrade: All personnel, regardless of paygrade, will be considered for conversion.
- Personnel who are more than 12 months from their rotation date will be considered
for conversion.
- Minimum activity tour requirements are waived.
- Personnel in receipt of PCS orders will be considered for conversion.
- Existing obligated service requirements incurred as a result of reenlistment, training,
or other programs are waived.

Sailors who desire a conversion will need to submit, by June 15, a NAVPERS 1306/7 signed by their commanding officer or officer in charge (OIC), a signed memorandum prioritizing conversion requests, copies of all evaluations for the previous three years, a PRIMS print-out showing PFA scores for the previous four years, a print out of FleetRIDE qualification to the rating(s) they are applying for and any additional documents required for their targeted conversion ratings.

To learn more about the ERB, including eligibility requirements, read NAVADMIN 129/11 on Navy Personnel Commands website at,

To learn more about the conversion opportunities available, to include a list of the eligible undermanned ratings, read NAVADMIN 160/11 at