By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Robert Guerra, USS Leyte Gulf Public Affairs
USS LEYTE GULF, At sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) are taking part in specialized training designed to bolster the ships security force while underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility May 29.
Twenty-four Sailors from various departments on the ship are currently undergoing a Security Reaction Force-Basic (SRF-B)training class to learn protection fundamentals including Operational Risk Management (ORM), firearm safety, Anti-Terrorism Force Protection (ATFP), watch standing and the Use of Force continuum.
This is the third SRF-B class that the command has offered in its efforts to build upon the current ATFP manning. The class uses a "walk, crawl, run" approach with emphasis on self defense fundamentals and procedural awareness.
"Every operation, both on and off duty, requires some degree of decision making," said Chief Fire Controlman Nathan Rose, SRF-B course instructor. "ORM helps individuals manage that risk and enhances operational capability. Ship's security forces must make tough, complex decisions in a matter of minutes. It's necessary to anticipate and manage risk by planning because the acceptance of risk does not equate to the willingness to gamble."
Once Sailors master the principles of ORM, they move forward in classroom training to also learn about weapons capabilities and the varying degrees of force that may be used in given situations. During the second week of training, Sailors begin the practical implementation of self defense and tactical movement techniques.
"Training in non-lethal weapon capabilities provide the lesser means that can be considered prior to using deadly force," said Chief Master-at-Arms Donald Rollins, SRF-B course instructor. "Non-lethal weapon training provides a wider range of options that augment, but do not replace, traditional means of deadly force. It's vital to use only the proportional force necessary to eliminate the threat."
The course will come to completion when all Sailors participating in the training undergo Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), commonly known as pepper spray, that irritates the eyes while Sailors practice fighting against an aggressor.
"OC is an additional non-lethal option in the spectrum of the use of force continuum," said Rose. "Sailors are exposed to OC in order to build their confidence in the event they are cross-contaminated during an incident. It gives them the confidence to know they can fight through it."
Sailors who successfully complete the basic course aboard the ship will be qualified to continue their training with an additional two-week advanced course upon return to homeport.
Leyte Gulf is deployed as part of Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in support of maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Following a line from the Warrior Ethos - "I will never leave a fallen comrade" - senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders visited a handful of their Soldiers in the Warriors in Transition program at Fort Knox, Ky., May 25.
The Wisconsin Army National Guard currently has 35 Soldiers in the Warriors in Transition program. Eight are assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Knox, intended for injured or wounded Soldiers who require at least six months of complex medical management. The remaining 27 Soldiers are participating in the Community Based Warrior Transition Unit, which allows wounded or injured Soldiers to receive medical treatment from health care providers near their home. Soldiers remain on active duty status while in the program.
The Warrior Transition program is designed to provide a vast array of services, but no system is foolproof - any number of variables can impact a Soldier's progress, impeding his or her return to productive service as a Soldier, or as a veteran in the community. A member of the Wisconsin Guard command visits the Guardsmen quarterly to check on their recovery and ensure their needs are being met. The visits are, in part, one way to ensure their Soldiers are satisfactorily engaged in the transition from injured to recovered.
"We're here to support you," state Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper told the six Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers present at the May 25 meeting. "We want you to know that we still really care about you."
"We're busy in the state, and we're busy overseas," said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "But in the midst of all that, we want you to know that you are not forgotten - you are not lost to the Wisconsin Army National Guard."
Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, agreed.
"Sometimes we can miss the obvious," he said. "It's important to me that you know your mission has not diminished - it's just changed. Your mission is to get well."
Dunbar invited the Soldiers to speak their minds about their time in the Warrior Transition program. Given the opportunity, many chose to air their frustrations. Some remarked about their extended stay - one Soldier had been at Fort Knox since June of 2009, and another since December of that year. Others raised concerns about the post transportation system and its impact on their ability to keep medical appointments. Inconsistent flow of information and perceptions about case managers and Warrior Transition staff were also raised. One Soldier said the only change he would like to see is a greater opportunity for family members to visit for extended periods of time, and others acknowledged the strain their stay at Fort Knox has put on relationships.
"These are some serious issues," Dunbar acknowledged. "I believe the Army and Fort Knox have our best interests at heart, but that doesn't mean these aren't real issues and we all have to continue to work together to resolve issues."
According to Maj. Gregory Majewski, executive officer for the Warrior Transition battalion at Fort Knox, the Warrior Transition program is not intended to be a hospice where the chief goal is relieving discomfort. The environment is modeled after a traditional Army "line" unit, with Army procedures and professional cadre providing a structured setting that allows a Soldier to focus on healing. Each Soldier is assigned a primary care manager, nurse case manager and squad leader to coordinate their care with other medical professionals.
"Our main focus and mission is to support the warfighter and the war effort," he said. "The rules are simple - go to formations for accountability. Make your appointments - that's a big deal because missed appointments cost us money. Do [physical training] within the limits of your profile. You're going to do some kind of job."
For example, Spc. Ryan Mantz, a member of Detachment 1, 32nd Military Police Company in Oconomowoc - who has spent nearly two years at Fort Knox - performs mail clerk duties for the Warrior Transition program.
"Engagement is crucial," Majewski continued. "Those that are engaged do the best, are the least stressed out, are the happiest."
Some of the additional opportunities available to Warrior Transition Soldiers at Fort Knox include job fairs, college courses, internships, and volunteer positions at the Veterans Administration hospital in Louisville.
Stopper said that the Warrior Transition system may never be perfect, but that Soldiers should not give up hope. Majewski agreed.
"This is a good program," he said, "and it's not going away. The Army is doing the best it can to take care of these guys."
By Mass Communication Specialist First Class Brian S. Finney
MOBILE, Ala. (NNS) -- The Navy welcomed guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) into the fleet during a commissioning ceremony in Mobile, Ala., June 4.
The newest Arleigh Burke-class ship, the 60th of its class, is named in honor of the late Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence, a highly-decorated Naval aviator and Vietname prisoner of war.
Lawrence began his naval career as an academic scholar and athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he later returned to occupy the Chair of Naval Leadership after retiring from active duty, Feb. 1, 1986.
His aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam in June 1967 and he was held captive until March 1973. His dedication and perseverance during that period inspired the ship to claim the motto, "Never Give In."
"[Lawrence] and many others were heroes among heroes by leading a resistance of our prisoners in Vietnam," said Adm. James Winnefeld, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and Commander, United States Northern Command. "Indeed we should recognize those men that are with us today because consistent with our ship's motto, they never gave in."
"I assure you we will be ready," said Cmdr. Tom Williams, commanding officer, USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110). "Whatever challenge may be ahead for this crew, we have set a good course and the only course I will accept is toward excellence."
An audience of more than 3,000 attended the ceremony, held at the Alabama State Docks. The crowd consisted of family and friends of USS William P. Lawrence crew members, a host of U.S. military veterans and many others associated with the Lawrence family.
The ship was christened by three women important to Lawrence, his widow, Diane Wilcox Lawrence, and daughters, Dr. Laurie Macpherson Lawrence and U.S. Navy Capt. (ret.) Wendy B. Lawrence, the ship's sponsor.
The ceremony concluded when the Lawrence family said, bring our ship to life!" The Sailors then manned the rails.
"I look at this as a spring board to much greater things, it's my first command and I couldn't be happier," said Sonar Technician Seaman Apprentice Scott Peterson. "I am very proud to be a part of the most technologically advanced warship in the world."
During the ship's brief stop in Mobile, the crew of William P. Lawrence was heartily welcomed by the local community. The city's minor league baseball team hosted a Navy night, during which Williams threw the first pitch. Crew members also donated many service hours to Habitat for Humanities community relations projects.
"The Sailors on this ship has taken [Lawrence's] spirit and his character to heart and they're the real secret to making this the best ship in the fleet, said Williams. "We're named for a modern naval hero who was known as the Sailor's Admiral, and he really took care of people.”
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Monique K. Hilley, Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- With the release Naval Administrative Message 174/11 May 31, Sailors now have additional resources and information to help make Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves more manageable and easier to tranistion.
Upon receipt of PCS orders, service members and their families face many challenges that come with relocating to a new duty station. During the period from late spring to early fall, which tends to be the busiest time of year for PCS moves, the stress can heighten as availability becomes limited at schools, child care facilities, moving companies and prospective employment opportunities.
The Relocation Assistance Program, offered by the Fleet and Family Support Center, is intended to make the relocation process less stressful through proper planning and an array of services which they provide.
"Whether this is your first move or your last, the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) offers Relocation Assistance with pre-move workshops and seminars, one-on-one relocation counseling and much more," said Rise Ruhl, Military Readiness Section lead for Commander, Navy Installations Command Family Readiness Division (CNIC N91) of the Fleet and Family Readiness Program (CNIC N9).
The services provided through advanced web-based technology and personalized assistance can help military families with challenges such as finding affordable housing, reputable schools, employment opportunities, child care and pet care. The Navy's Relocation Assistance Program can also provide service members and their families with information about local programs and community activities long after their move is complete.
"The personal contact at the FFSC affords individuals and families one stop shopping for all their moving needs," said Ruhl.
By calling or visiting a local FFSC, service members are able to receive one-stop assistance with information about the new duty station including cost of living, housing availability, medical care and treatment facilities, schools, spouse employment, opportunities and cultural adaptation training for overseas duty assignments. Service members can also log on to the Navy Fleet and Family Program website at www.ffsp.navy.mil, and select relocation assistance.
The services and information provided to Sailors reduce relocation costs, ease administrative burdens, promote quality of life and ultimately enhance mission readiness, making it a win-win situation for both the military families and the Navy.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Arif Patani, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
SAN CLEMENTE ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- Navy Reserve Sailors from Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadrons (MSRON) 1 and 11 commenced the field training exercise "Shark Tank 2011" on San Clemente Island, Calif., June 2.
A total of 13 Navy Reserve detachments from Texas and California are participating in the month-long exercise, which focuses on multi-phase, squadron-level expeditionary training and certifications.
"The great thing about Shark Tank is obviously the skills you gain here," said Lt. Richard Vallejos, an operations officer for the exercise. "You take a guy like me who is a Surface Warfare Officer and put me on the bridge of a ship, I know exactly what I'm doing. But by taking part in Shark Tank, I learn a whole new set of skills and will be ready for the expeditionary environments I will come across while deployed with MSRON."
According to exercise planners, Shark Tank is still in its infancy and its primary goal is to establish continuity among MSRON commands.
"Our goal is to setup a schoolhouse," said Lt. Dustin Burton, the Shark Tank 2011 training officer. "We want to create a place where we can teach and have Sailors learn the basic skills required to perform in various expeditionary environments.
"First aid, weapons training, small boat operations, communication skills - these are just a few things we are going to work on this month," added Burton.
Approximately 175 Sailors, coming from a various Navy backgrounds, will take part in this year's exercise.
For many new to the expeditionary warfare community, Shark Tank will serve as a first look into the world of expeditionary skills.
"Shark Tank really gives you a look at the big picture," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Angel Ortiz. "You get to learn the basics, but you also see how these things apply in the real world."
Ortiz said that the experience gained during the exercise is not only for the military.
"These skills can be transferred right into the civilian world and I think you grow as both a professional and as a person," said Ortiz.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., June 4, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama lauded the graduating seniors of Quantico Middle/High School here last night for their strength, resilience and maturity as they came of age in military families during a time of war.
“I think that all of you are incredibly special,” Obama told the class of 36 students, who greeted the first lady with a standing ovation and a resounding cheer at their commencement.
The class included nine students from Defense Department high schools in Japan who left with their families in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March. Obama praised the students for so readily accepting the Japan-based students into their midst. But that show of kindness and compassion, and the strength and grace of the incoming students, doesn’t surprise her one bit, she added, as they’re qualities she’s seen in just about every military kid she’s met.
These qualities are hard won, but will serve them well throughout their lives, the first lady told the military teens.
Growing up in military families, the seniors faced more challenges and had more experiences in their first 18 years than most people have in a lifetime, Obama said. They each moved, on average, more than six times, with one student tallying up a total of 18 moves in the same number of years.
And many have dealt with a parent’s deployments, and the associated worry and fear, the first lady noted. But these challenges also have equipped them with a “resilience and sturdiness of spirit” that will prepare them for life’s setbacks and hardships, she added.
“A bad grade on a test, a bad day at work, that’s not going to knock you off your game,” Obama said, “because from a very young age, you all have been dealing with the big stuff, and that’s given you perspective.”
Military life not only has shaped their character, but also has broadened their minds, Obama said. As with most military children, the students here have lived across the country and the world, immersing themselves in new communities and cultures. This will serve them well in the future, she noted, as modern technology and the rise of a global economy increase the likelihood they’ll be exposed to a people of different cultures and backgrounds in their careers.
“You already have a skill set that so many employers are seeking,” the first lady said, “one that will position you for success both in the career you choose and the life you build for yourself with your family.”
Military kids also possess a sense of service -- to their families, their communities and their nation -- that’s inspiring, Obama said. They log hundreds of hours volunteering, serving as coaches, tutoring other students, picking up trash and working with organizations such as the Red Cross and Toys for Tots. And many move on to a life of military service.
“Service is the air that you breathe,” she said. “It’s how you were raised, and it’s the example you’re setting for others.”
Obama acknowledged the sacrifices military children are called on to make. They live with the reality of war, knowing that at any moment, their parent could be deployed halfway around the world. And when this happens, they must quickly adjust, she said, stepping up to help out at home, juggling activities and schoolwork, even while worried beyond measure.
“We know you’re sacrificing,” the first lady said, “but yet you’re an important part of the greater whole.” Military children understand that their parent is part of something far bigger than themselves, she said, and that their parent’s service keeps every American safe.
“You really are the greatest,” Obama told the seniors. “Your families know that. Our military leaders know that. I know that. My husband knows that. And we want every single American to know it as well.”
The first lady encouraged the seniors to share stories about their “extraordinary lives” with all they meet, “because, graduates, you all are an inspiration, you all are role models, not just for other military kids, but for all kids, for all adults, for all Americans who want to see what patriotism and sacrifice and service to country really look like.”
Obama also praised the students’ military parents, who carried out missions around the globe, yet still found time for bedtime stories over the phone and video chats. And their spouses ran households and juggled careers in the face of multiple deployments and moves.
“I have to tell you that as a mother, as a first lady and as an American, I am blown away by your strength,” she said. “I am inspired by your sacrifice. And I know that our graduates are so grateful for your unwavering love and support.”
Following her remarks, Obama helped to present the students’ diplomas. The first lady gave each senior a hug and posed for a picture as family and friends cheered in the crowd. She laughed and cheered them on too before stepping out to greet the military families in the audience.
Quantico senior Ashtyn Morgan was in tears as she left the auditorium, calling them “tears of joy.” The night was overwhelming, she said, between seeing the first lady and having her father, Marine Corps Master Sgt. Daniel Morgan, at her graduation despite five previous deployments.
Their presence “means the world to me,” she said.
Alexa Remington Lazar, a senior from Nile C. Kinnick High School in Japan, said she’s still in shock that the first lady attended her graduation. “I got to hug the first lady,” she said, still in her white cap and gown. “It was surreal.”
Lazar’s father, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chuck Lazar, arrived from Japan two days ago. He had stayed behind after his family left to help with humanitarian efforts there. Lazar was thrilled to be at his daughter’s graduation and the fact that the first lady was there, he said, “was icing on the cake.”
By Bob Krekorian, Naval Station Newport Public Affairs
NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Four Sailors and the commanding officer of USS Rhode Island's (SSBN 740) Blue Crew visited an after school program for at-risk elementary school students June 2 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport, R.I.
"If you're not good at math, science and English, keep working at it," Cmdr. Doug Adams, commanding officer, Rhode Island's Blue Crew, told the 12 students at the center.
The students asked several questions about a submarine's physical features and characteristics. Crew members described their daily routine and job responsibilities aboard the submarine while underway.
Machinist's Mate 1st Class Joshua Bailey of Baton Rouge, La.; Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jason Gregory of Scottsboro, Ala.; Lt.j.g. Jordan Mack, communications and quality assurance officer, of Little Rock, Ark.; and Command Master Chief Jeff Bottoms, chief of the boat, of Ft. Hood, Texas; visited the center with their commanding officer.
The visit, sponsored by "Friends of the USS Rhode Island," was organized by the submarine's sponsor, Kati Machtley.
"This is an opportunity for another group of school children in Rhode Island to learn about life aboard a submarine and meet some crew members," said Machtley. "We wanted the crew members to talk to underprivileged children about doing homework, staying in school and the importance of graduating high school."
"This was a great opportunity to talk to the kids about the benefits of a good education and working hard in school," said Gregory.
"Our summer program is based on literacy and the sciences so this was a good experience for them," said Sally Swistak, the center's child care program director.
Crew members also visited Portsmouth Middle School in Portsmouth, R.I., and spoke with fifth grade students. The students wrote letters to both the Blue and Gold Crews throughout the past eight years.
Rhode Island was commissioned July 9, 1993, at the Naval Education and Training Center in Newport, R.I.