Military News

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, June 02, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

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

This Day in Naval History - June 01

From Navy News Service

1813 - HMS Shannon captures USS Chesapeake, Capt. James Lawrence during the War of 1812. As the mortally wounded Lawrence was carried below, he ordered, "Tell the men to fire faster! Don't give up the ship!" These words would live on in naval history. Oliver Hazard Perry honored his dead friend Lawrence when he had the motto sewn onto the private battle flag flown during the Battle of Lake Erie, Sept. 10, 1813.
1871 - Rear Adm. Rodgers lands in Korea with a party of Sailors and Marines and captures five forts to secure protection for U.S. citizens after Americans were fired upon and murdered.
1914 - General Order 99 prohibits alcohol aboard naval vessels, or at navy yards or stations.
1915 - First contract for lighter-than-air craft for Navy.
1939 - Director of the Naval Research Laboratory, Capt. Hollis M. Cooley, proposes research in atomic energy for future use in nuclear powered submarine.
1944 - ZP-14 Airships complete first crossing of Atlantic by non-rigid lighter-than-air aircraft.
1954 - First test of steam catapult from USS Hancock (CV/CVA 19).

Face of Defense: Marine, Canine Make a Good Team

By Marine Corp Cpl. Jenn Calaway
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Public Affairs

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., June 1, 2011 – Two Marine Corps members, one somewhat hairy for a Marine, work together to make this military base safe for its workers and residents.

Military working dog handler Cpl. Angelo Melendez said he enjoys working with Rocky, his German shepherd partner.

“That’s a good boy, Rocky,” cooed Melendez, as he gave Rocky a good petting.

Rocky barked and playfully licked at his handler.

“He likes it when you talk to him like a baby,” Melendez said of his canine partner.

Rocky is a bomb-sniffing, Improvised Explosive Device detecting, attack dog capable of vehicle extractions and patrolling the base, Melendez said. In conjunction with Marines from the Provost Marshal’s Office here, he said, Rocky helps to ensure the safety of Camp Pendleton’s workers and residents by providing security and sniffing out dangers.

“Some people work with machinery or with a computer, but this is a living, breathing tool we use,” "Melendez said. “There’s no other job like it in the Marine Corps. I really can’t explain the feeling I get when I come to work and actually work with my dog … it’s a privilege."

In order to complete the mission successfully, dog and handler must work together and their bond must be unbreakable. Handlers generally spend between 8 to 14 hours-a-day training with one another.

Rocky “sees me in the morning and knows it’s game time,” Melendez said. “His ears go back, his tail starts to wag, he starts running and spinning around in his kennel, and he starts whining because all he wants to do is come out and play with daddy.”

Most new handlers begin work with an experienced dog who knows the commands and the job in general, Melendez said. However, he said, Rocky came to him straight out of military dog-training school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“When you have a new dog and a new owner there is bound to be tension in the beginning,” Melendez said. “But we’re both laid back; he can lay down right next to me and just relax, and that’s one of the things that will build the bond between dog and handler.”

Handlers learn to love their dogs, Melendez said.

“If you can’t,” he added, “then this job is definitely not for you.”

Officer Brandon Owens, chief trainer for the K-9 unit and a civilian police officer on Camp Pendleton, said he’d watched Melendez and Rocky grow and develop as a team from the beginning.

“He has an exceptional relationship with Rocky,” Owens said of Melendez. “Rocky doesn’t only listen to him because he has to, he does it because he wants to, and that goes a long way. That’s a key thing we look for in a dog/handler relationship."

“HUT!” Melendez shouts and Rocky instantly stops in his tracks and heels to his “daddy’s” side -- making him not only man’s best friend but a Marine’s best friend, as well.

USS Thach Conducts Flight Operations with Chilean Navy

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Stuart Phillips, Southern Seas 2011 Public Affairs

USS THACH, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) conducted flight operations with a Chilean navy helicopter during the Southern Seas 2011 transit of the Strait of Magellan, May 28.

The flight operation was completed successfully as the Chilean pilots flying the Dauphin AS-365N2 landed safely aboard Thach to fly a Chilean officer home on emergency leave.

The officer was temporarily assigned to Thach to assist in the transit of the Strait of Magellan. The passage gave sailors from both nations an opportunity to learn about ship handling, confined navigation, and communication.

Thach and USS Boone (FFG 28) are conducting operations with the Chilean navy for six weeks, culminating in the Chilean hosted Pacific phase of UNITAS 2011.

"The Chilean officers' knowledge of the waterway is unparalleled," said Lt. Cmdr. Rob Speight, USS Boone executive officer. "The Strait of Magellan was a highlight of my career and working with these professional officers gave my crew an opportunity to learn from and appreciate the skills of other navies"

The flight operation illustrated the ability of Thach's crew and the Chilean navy to adapt to new situations while continuing to perform professionally.

"It made me feel good that the training our Sailors have received has been put to good use," said Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Tim Lovelady, USS Thach helicopter control officer. "The operation went like any other helicopter we would land."

Thach and Boone took eight Chilean navy sailors aboard for the transit from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Puerto Monnt, Chile. Thach also has a Chilean officer assigned as a member of the crew for one year.

"We had a need, and both navies put forth efforts to meet that need," said Chilean Lt. j.g. Pablo Berg, assigned to Thach. "The interoperation between our navies enabled us to achieve a common goal. Our navies have different ways of doing things, but we were able to minimize our differences, and we showed that we can operate together."

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. FOURTH Fleet (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.

NEXCOM Efforts Support Navy Marine Corps Relief Society

By Kristine M. Sturkie, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (NNS) -- The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) donated $202,467 to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society on behalf of its customers and vendor partners, June 1.

"The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society is a very important resource for our military families," said Rear Adm. (Sel) Glenn C. Robillard, Commander, NEXCOM. "As an organization that has been serving our Sailors and Marines for over 106 years, we were proud to be able to partner with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and contribute money for their programs. The benefit ticket program allowed customers to help the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society as well as realize an even better savings at their NEX. It was a win-win for both of them."

Beginning in March, 42 of the NEXs sold NMCRS benefit sale tickets to customers for $5 each. The ticket entitled customers to specific discounts for a one-time purchase on either April 11 or 12. These benefit tickets and other fund raising activities within NEX stores raised a total of $158,028.

NEXCOM's vending program also contributed to the NMCRS fund drive. With the help of its vendor partners, NEXCOM vending donated $44,439. Proceeds are provided through the NEX sale of products through NEX vending machines located around the world.

"We are deeply grateful for the sustained and most generous financial support provided by the Navy Exchange Service Command over the years," said Rear Adm. Jan Gaudio, U. S. Navy, retired, Executive Vice President of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. "This commitment to supporting Sailors, Marines and their families in times of financial need follows the long tradition of caring for our own.

During 2010, the Society provided nearly $50 million to meet the financial needs of nearly 100,000 clients. That equates to assisting nearly one in every five Sailors and Marines last year, providing more relief to more clients than any time since 1993 when the size of our Navy and Marine Corps was significantly larger. The most important message I can convey to Navy and Marine Corps families is that the Society is here to serve you. Think of the Society as your first resource when you have any unexpected financial emergency."

Wisconsin National Guard unit honored for deployment excellence

By Sgt. Tyler Lasure
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Tomah-based Headquarters Company of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 732nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion was recognized as the runner-up in the Chief of Staff of the Army's Deployment Excellence Awards during a ceremony earlier this month.

The 732nd took second place in the National Guard small deploying unit category. The unit deployed to Iraq in 2009 and was in charge of eight companies - approximately 1,280 Soldiers - located at 13 contingency operating bases throughout southern Iraq. Their mission also consisted of running the second-largest supply support activity and ammunition supply point in country.

The DEA is a part of the Chief of Staff's Combined Logistics Excellence Awards, a program that awards achievement in the areas of maintenance, supply operations, and deployment.

"They are looking for units that have deployed and redeployed to a theater of operation and done so in a manner that exceeded the standards," said Maj. Mike Yount, the battalion's support operations officer during the deployment.

The goal is to share and adapt the processes and standard operating procedures used by the top units with other units throughout the areas of operations.

"The DEA is intended to find practices in both training and logistics to be shared with other units based on pre-deployment, deployment, deployment activities, and redeployment," said Lt. Col. John Blaha, commander of the 732nd during the deployment.

One of the reasons the 732nd was recognized is that the unit spent less than 30 days at the mobilization site, Blaha said. The short mobilization allowed the unit to spend almost 11 months in Iraq.

The award is a two-phase process. "You put in a packet and it goes up to be reviewed," Yount explained. "If you are chosen, then they send a team to the armory to see the different products on hand that made the unit successful."

The unit's ability to work cohesively, focus and move toward a common goal helped the unit take runner-up, Blaha said. The honor of being recognized is not lost on the unit.

"It's very prestigious," Yount said. "It's for the unit, not the individual - as a unit, every person was responsible for the award."

"It is a great honor for the members of the 732nd," Blaha added. "It shows their pride, work ethic and commitment to excellence."

"It is good to see the Wisconsin Army National Guard get recognition for what we always do," Yount said.

Missouri Sailors Assist Tornado Victims

By Lt. Jennifer Cragg, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs Officer

Groton, Conn. (NNS) -- Eight USS Missouri (SSN 780) Sailors departed their homeport in Groton, Conn., for Joplin, Mo., June 1, to assist with recovery efforts following a tornado that tour through city last month.

The eight Sailors elected to take voluntary leave for one week to assist victims and with cleanup efforts in Joplin.

"The real story here is simply Americans helping Americans," said Cmdr. Timothy Rexrode, USS Missouri commanding officer. "I am so proud of our Sailors, and I continue to find inspiration every day in the commitment of these young men to serve their nation; making a difference in the lives of others. The efforts of these Sailors are consistent with what we see in these type of events. Our Sailors are everyday people taking time away from work and spending their summer vacation budgets to help out where they can."

Sailors participating in this relief effort include Lt. j.g. Joe Innerst; Lt. j.g. Ryan Sullivan; Chief Yeoman (SS) Mike Shea; Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) C.J. Kohlhofer; Chief Culinary Specialist (SS) Andy Scott; Electronics Technician 1st Class (SS) Jason Fenley; Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (SS/DV) Travis Fitzgerald, and Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (SS) Pat Patterson.

The Missouri Sailors will be volunteering with Americorps, the American Red Cross, and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, who are providing the Sailors with opportunities to assist with ongoing volunteer efforts.

"Our crew's affiliation with the state of Missouri and its people is quite strong, and we prize that affinity in the tradition of our ship's motto, 'United We Stand,'" said Rexrode.

In a sign of solidarity, Rexrode and his crew sent their prayers and condolences to the people of Missouri, May 22

The Missouri crew consists of about 134 officers and enlisted personnel. Missouri is the fifth Navy ship to be named in honor of the people of the "Show Me State."

We don’t have to be clinical experts to know how to help each other

By Staff Sgt. Dana Cowell
Suicide Prevention Program Manager, Wisconsin National Guard
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs– June 1, 2011

“I know everything I am, from a daughter to a smoker, but most importantly I know I am a spiritual being having a human experience.”

These were the closing words given by one of four brave individuals who stood up to share their stories of recovery at The Rave in La Crosse in , May 2.  May was Mental Health Awareness Month and on May 2, The Rave — short for “Recovery Avenue,” a private mental health service provider — set aside two hours to allow people to come in and talk to others about what it is like to live each day with a variety of mental health issues.

In his opening remarks, the director of The Rave asked the audience if we could think of anyone who, when in a moment of crisis, screamed out, “Help, I need a mental health provider!” Most audience members shook their heads or just smiled and laughed. He went on to say that, regardless of the crisis, it should be no mystery that what helps us the most is each other. By baring their souls and talking about their problems, people can continue to heal and those around them can get a better understanding of “daily survivors” of mental health issues.

Those that stood up and told their stories ran the gamut of backgrounds, from an 18-year-old African American male who was abused as a young child to a 50-year-old white female who started life as a child from a wealthy family and ended up spending most of her life in and out of hospitals and homeless shelters. After listening to all of the stories, something that stood out the most was that mental health issues do not discriminate. They have the power to grab hold of anyone at any time — yet, despite this fact, all of those that shared stated that they refused to let their illness define them. They refused to give up their mind, body, or their soul to mental illness and that with help they would learn to cope and survive one day at a time.

As someone who does not have any sort of medical background, I continue to be impressed with the underlying message I have taken away from many conferences and meetings — the power of genuine human connection has the ability to make all the difference in the world to someone who may be struggling just to get through everyday life.

Helping someone heal doesn’t require a doctor or any sort of medical counseling — anyone can listen. Anyone can refer someone else to a supportive resource. Anyone can give another person a reassuring hug or handshake.

If everyone would be more accepting, more tolerable of others, then maybe anyone who finds them self struggling may find the ability to heal by simply reaching out to the person next to them. Making a genuine human connection to another human being, the effect could be endless — so take the time to make one.

Do you have any stories of recovery — or daily survival with mental health issues — that might help someone who thinks they are all alone?

Bataan Underway Following Successful Palermo Port Visit

From USS Bataan Public Affairs

PALERMO, Italy (NNS) -- More than 2,500 Sailors and embarked Marines aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) departed Palermo, Italy, May 31 following a successful four-day port visit.

The crew had the opportunity to sightsee and experience the city's hospitality and culture through tours and excursions in Palermo and around the Sicilian Island.

"The people of Palermo welcomed the crew with open arms," said Capt. Steve Koehler, Bataan's commanding officer. "Many of our Sailors and Marines joined the Navy to see the world, and a city like Palermo with everything it has to offer, is exactly what they had in mind. After more than two months at sea, it was an ideal first stop during our current deployment."

A host of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tours provided the crew an opportunity to expand their appreciation for the local Italian culture. Sailors and Marines enjoyed walking tours throughout the city and guided tours of Agrigento, Taormina and San Vito Lo Capo, and an event that also included a wine tasting in one of the region's vineyards.

"I'm getting to meet new people and see places I have never been before," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Juan Perdomoramirez, who visited Taormina. "It was exciting seeing all of the beautiful scenery, taking pictures and touring the city. This is something the crew will get to share with their friends and family."

Bataan's Sailors and Marines also cheered on the local Palermo soccer team during their Italian Cup matchup against Inter Milan, an event played in Rome but broadcast to thousands in the Palermo city center.

Palermo lost the match, but the crew left with souvenirs and lasting memories of the population's passion for the sport.

"The way the fans were cheering was like a sport of its own," said Lance Cpl. Stephan Hammond, a member of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) who watched the game. "It was awesome to see how much pride the city of Palermo has in their soccer team. I'll never forget it."

Bataan is the command ship of the Bataan Amphibious Ready (ARG) group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

Army Chief Discusses Future of Training

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey has put a lot of thought into ways to take the lessons learned during more than nine years of war and apply them to the military’s training and education programs.

Dempsey, who spent two years commanding U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command before taking his current post in mid-April, knew it wouldn’t be easy to replicate the complexity of the operational environment in the classroom or at home station.

“We cannot expect to capture the imagination of combat-seasoned forces that have been in some of the most complex environments imaginable for almost a decade by sitting them in a classroom and bludgeoning them with PowerPoint slides,” he wrote earlier this year in a five-part series in Army magazine about the Army’s “Campaign of Learning.”

“We must make the ‘scrimmage’ as hard as the ‘game’ in both the institutional schoolhouse and at home station,” Dempsey wrote.

Speaking in February at the Association of the U.S Army’s Winter Symposium and Exposition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dempsey offered a glimpse of what’s likely ahead for military leaders.

“The challenge we face is that we have to get ready for an Army that will have a potentially insatiable demand to train and to expand the aperture away from strictly [counterinsurgery] to hybrid threats, full-spectrum operations, maneuver training and all the things that we know can atrophy over time,” the general told the audience.

Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his Army chief confirmation hearing in March that his challenge is to build on a decade of battlefield experience that’s proven the Army to be a courageous, resilient, resolute, inquisitive and adaptable force.

“Our challenge will be that these young men and women have had capabilities, authorities and responsibilities as captains that I didn't have as a two-star general -- and I'm not exaggerating a bit when I say that,” he told the panel. “And so continuing their development, … from that point, that much higher entry level than I had, is our challenge.”

Dempsey said troops simply won’t accept a return to the pre-conflict way of training. “If we were a rubber band and have been stretched over the last 10 years, we can't let ourselves simply contract back to our previous shape, because they won't stand for that,” he said.

Making training as challenging as possible to ensure readiness, despite what’s expected to be an era of reduced resourcing, is the goal behind the new Army Training Concept. Introduced in the Army’s 2010 Posture Statement, it provides the vision of the way ahead for the 2012-2020 modular force.

The idea, Dempsey wrote in Army Magazine, is “to make training more rigorous and relevant by leveraging technology to create challenging training environments for our leaders.”

The concept strikes a balance between operational and institutional training requirements and offers different ways to train beyond 2012 that will maintain current capabilities while producing the next generation of agile, ready forces.

A centerpiece of the Army Training Concept is Tradoc’s “Training Brain.” This blend of capabilities, systems, networks and data repositories directly from the Joint Training Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Operations Integration Center puts soldiers smack in the middle of realistic operational environments.

It “allows us to pull [a] stream of real-world data from current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, declassify it, and use it to build realistic scenarios to support training throughout the Army,” Dempsey wrote.

In addition, the Army is using the Training Brain to create videos based on recent battles and operations to make them accessible on the Army Training Network. “Soldiers can use this as a tool to facilitate their own learning, whether they’re in a schoolhouse environment, conducting home-station training or even deployed,” Dempsey wrote.

Meanwhile, the general said, Training Brain is helping the Army evolve massive, multiplayer online role-playing games. These provide a forum for soldiers and leaders to interact and collaborate using common scenarios in a virtual environment -- not only with soldiers within their own units, but across the Army.

“This enables us to provide realistic and relevant training and learning opportunities at the point of need,” Dempsey said, while making training student- rather than instructor-centric.

Dempsey shared the contents of an email he had received from a Tradoc schoolhouse. Captains attending a career course had organized voluntarily into teams so they could compete against one another in an online role-playing game based on a relevant training scenario. The officers, he said, began giving up their lunch periods, coming in early and staying late so they could continue their training experience on their own time.

“This Army training captures the imagination, challenges the participants and allows them to adapt the material to facilitate their learning needs,” Dempsey said. It’s “a far cry from the death-by-PowerPoint approach with which many of us are all too familiar.”

Dempsey offered assurance that Army training will never lose sight of the fundamentals of “move, shoot and communicate.” But looking toward the future, he said, leader-development programs must produce leaders who are inquisitive, creative and adaptable.

“It should be clear to all after more than nine years of conflict that the development of adaptive leaders who are comfortable operating in ambiguity and complexity will increasingly be our competitive advantage against future threats to our nation,” he said.

With that in mind, Dempsey said he makes a series of promises to students in pre-command courses who are preparing to become battalion and brigade commanders and command sergeants major.

“I promise them that the future security environment will never play out exactly the way we’ve envisioned. History confirms this,” he said. “I promise that we will not provide the optimal organizational design nor perfectly design the equipment that they will need when they enter into a future mission. History -- especially recent events -- confirms this as well, although we do our best not to get it too wrong.

“And I promise that the guidance they receive from ‘higher headquarters’ will always come a little later than needed,” he said. “We would be ill-advised to think that we will do much better than our predecessors in that regard.

“What I promise, however -- and this, too, is confirmed by our history is that it is always the leaders on point who are able to take what we give them, adapt to the environment in which they are placed and accomplish the mission,” Dempsey continued. “Leader development becomes job No. 1.”

(This the second article in a series about how the Defense Department and military services plan to maintain combat effectiveness and readiness as the current operational tempo begins to decline.)

Gates: U.S. Remains Committed to Ties With Asia

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, June 1, 2011 – There will be no “slackening” of U.S. commitment to Asia, even as the nation goes through tough financial times, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here yesterday.

The secretary stopped in Hawaii on his way to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where he will deliver the message that America is committed to Asia at that annual gathering of regional defense leaders.

“We are a Pacific nation. We will remain a Pacific nation,” Gates said during a short news conference on the docks alongside the USS Missouri. “We will remain engaged and continue relationships with friends, partners, allies in Asia.”

The secretary also commented on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s strident expression of outrage over civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The secretary said he didn’t know the specifics of an incident in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that caused Karzai’s outburst, but noted that “this is a continuing challenge we face in the war that we fight in Afghanistan.” A joint Afghan and coalition investigation, he added, will get to the bottom of the incident.

“I think the joint investigations of these incidents when they happen are important so we can mutually figure out what happened and what, if anything, went wrong,” he said.

Gates also pointed out that the Taliban have no regard for civilian lives and have been responsible for roughly 80 percent of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan. They are not even seeking to shield themselves in civilian communities, he added, but are actively using improvised explosive devices to kill men, women and children.

“The Afghan people have put up with 30 years of war, and I think President Karzai is reflecting the pain and suffering that the Afghan people have endured,” he said. “At the same time, he and the Afghan people recognize that we are their ally, we are their friend, and we are trying to develop the capability to protect themselves so that the Afghan people can see an end to the problem.”

Gates received a tour of the USS Missouri during his short stay here. He previously had visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The Japanese sunk the Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor that sparked U.S. involvement in World War II. The Missouri, moored about 100 meters from the memorial, was where the Japanese surrendered to the allies Sept. 2, 1945, to end the war.

“Visiting this ship and looking at the memorial to the USS Arizona the day after Memorial Day serves as a reminder of all those who served and made the supreme sacrifice for our country,” Gates said.

USS Iwo Jima Sunset Parade Demonstrates Navy Professionalism to New Yorkers

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Travis J. Kuykendall
USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) hosted the 24th annual Fleet Week New York Sunset Parade May 29.

Adm. John Harvey, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Rear Adm. Ted Branch, commander, Naval Air Forces Command; and, many other distinguished visitors from the New York Metro-area were in attendance to watch special performances and evening colors on Iwo Jima's flight deck.

"The Sunset Parade is steeped in the age-old naval tradition of flying the National Ensign when a ship is in port," said Capt. Grady Banister, Iwo Jima's executive officer. "Twice a day, at 8 o'clock in the morning and at sunset, the formal acts of morning and evening colors are carried out."

The Sunset Parade included performances by U.S. Marine Corps Band New Orleans, U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team, and the Leatherneck Pipe and Drum Band from Paramus, N.J.

"New York was once a big Navy town and has always maintained a rich maritime heritage," said Branch. "Even though the Navy no longer has a permanent presence in the Big Apple, I can assure [you] that our Sailors still love to visit and this is a great liberty port."

The Sunset Parade has become a tradition during Fleet Week New York, as a culminating reception for guests to socialize with service men and women the evening before Memorial Day.

"I can think of no better way of celebrating Memorial Day weekend than with the people of New York City," said Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski, commander, Carrier Strike Group Ten. "Together with our Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen [we] remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."

Approximately 3,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are participated in this year's Fleet Week New York. Fleet Week has been New York City's celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the capabilities of today's maritime services.

For more news from USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd7/.

Pacific Partnership Builds Understanding through Soccer Competes in Papua New Guinea

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Farrington, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs

LAE, Papua New Guinea (NNS) -- The Pacific Partnership soccer team played an exhibition match against a Lae, Papua New Guinean team May 29, giving Sailors the chance to strengthen relationships during Pacific Partnership 2011.

A crowd of more than 5,000 locals were in attendance to see the two teams play, what's often called, the world's most popular sport.

Lt. j.g. Kristen Laraway, an alternate on the All-Navy Women's Soccer team, and the only woman on the 17-person team, was inspired by the crowd.

"Having that many people come out to cheer us on was an unreal experience," Laraway said. "The crowd's energy inspired both teams to come out and give it their all."

The first half of the game was competitive, but with two minutes left before the half, a member of the Papua New Guinean team made a fast move for the goal and scored.

Going into the second half, the two teams battled back and forth for control. The Pacific Partnership team went on to score two goals, followed by one of the New Guineans scoring a goal.

With the game tied at 2-2 and two minutes remaining, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ricardo Cisneros scored the winning goal, sending the crowd into an uproar.

"It felt great to score the game winning shot in front of such an electrifying crowd," said Cisneros. "The other team gave us a great game. It's definitely one I will never forget."

Following the post-game custom of most competitive sporting events, the teams shook hands and congratulated each other on a great match.

"Winning or losing the game wasn't the point of coming out here to play," said Laraway. "It was about coming together with the residents of Lae and bonding through sport."

Developing relationships and the bonds of friendship are two of the ways the Pacific Partnership mission enhances interoperability. Cultural exchange through sports, music, and tours are key elements of that mission objective.

Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian aid initiative sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, aimed at improving interoperability between host and partner nations. Now in its sixth year, Pacific Partnership 2011 will continue to Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia following their mission in Papua New Guinea.

"The Pacific Partnership mission has given us the chance to provide medical, dental and engineering projects to the people of Lae, but it also gives us the opportunity to get out and socialize with them on a personal level," said Laraway.

During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 220,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 16 countries.

Guard, Reserve Employers Earn Top Defense Department Honor

From an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve News Release

ARLINGTON, Va., May 31, 2011 – Fifteen employers have been chosen to receive the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in recognition of the support they provide to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Officials at Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, announced the 15 recipients of the department’s highest recognition for employers today, noting that they stood out from a field of 4,049 nominations submitted by Guard and Reserve service members or their families.

The 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recipients are:

-- 3M Company, St. Paul, Minn.;
-- Ameren Missouri, St. Louis, Mo.;
-- Burt County Sheriff’s Office, Tekamah, Neb.;
-- CSX Transportation, Jacksonville, Fla.;
-- Electrical Contractors Inc., Omaha, Neb.;
-- Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich.;
-- Hanson Professional Services Inc., Springfield, Ill.;
-- Integrity Applications Inc., Chantilly, Va.;
-- Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Ana, Calif.;
-- Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa;
-- Qwest Communications, Denver, Colo., acquired by CenturyLink Inc., Monroe, La.;
-- St. John’s Lutheran Church, Yankton, S.D.;
-- State Employees’ Credit Union, Raleigh, N.C.;
-- Town of Gilbert, Ariz.; and
-- Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, Calif.

Freedom Award recipients distinguish themselves by going to extraordinary lengths to support their military employees, officials said. These employers exceed what is required by law, putting into place formal and informal initiatives that include providing the difference between military and civilian salary during deployments, continuing full benefits, sending care packages and providing personal support to the families of employees called away from home.

"To stand out among the many thousands of employers who firmly support our citizen-warriors is a testament to the remarkable efforts of these 15 recipients," said Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. "On behalf of the Department of Defense, I congratulate the 2011 honorees and thank them for serving as outstanding partners in our nation's defense."

On behalf of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a selection board made up of senior DOD officials, business leaders and prior awardees selected the 15 recipients. The 2011 honorees will be recognized in Washington, D.C., at the 16th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony on Sept. 22.

The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve. ESGR advocates relevant initiatives, recognizes outstanding support, increases awareness of applicable laws, and resolves conflict between service members and employers.