Monday, June 06, 2011

George Washington Begins Sea Trials

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Erin Devenberg, USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, at sea (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) returned to sea, departing her forward-operating port of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka to commence Sea Trials, June 5.

"Sea trials are where we put the past six months of maintenance to the test," said the ship's Commanding Officer, Capt. David Lausman. "The crew worked extremely hard to make this warship the best in the Navy and I have no doubt our Sea Trials will be a success."

Since December of last year, George Washington's crew completed approximately 20,000 maintenance jobs totaling more than 500,000 man hours of work.

"Sea Trials validate work has been completed properly and that systems are fully operational to meet mission requirements," said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Serveas, George Washington's nuclear power limited duty officer (SWO).

Within the first hour of pulling out of port, George Washington's Air department was in the Sea Trials spotlight running drills after drill looking for the smallest deficiency.

On the flight deck and in the hangar bay, the ship's Countermeasure Wash Down Systems was tested. With a mixture of sea water and Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF), the Countermeasure Wash Down System is used to remove chemical, radiological, and biological contaminants from the surface of the ship in the event of an attack.

"This sea trial period is mostly for topside work; combat systems, aircraft catapults, recovery systems, damage control systems," said Serveas. "These systems are being tested during this underway period because they could not be tested in port due to various limitations and restrictions."

Among the many systems being checked is the ship's arresting gear for incoming aircraft. If it's not operating properly, the result could be disastrous. But just as important as equipment, the crew is also getting additional training during Sea Trials.

"We have to anticipate the weight of an aircraft when it lands so that we can set the arresting gear for each aircraft's own weight," said Interior Communication Electrician Fireman Suzy Laughing from Ganado, Ariz. "It's to ensure the right amount of pressure as the aircraft lands to prevent any damage to the plane or injury to the crew."

"We are returning to sea with numerous upgrades to our capability, but it's our crew, the men and women who serve aboard this mighty warship; they are our real secret weapon. They are what make George Washington special," said Lausman.

George Washington's mission is to ensure security and stability in the Western Pacific and to be in position to work with our allies and regional partners to respond to any crisis across the operational spectrum as directed.

U.S. Army Bloggers Roundtable: Staff Sgt. Eddie Peoples

The U.S. Army hosted a Bloggers Roundtable on Monday, June 6, 2011 EDT, featuring Staff Sgt. Eddie Peoples, a heroic service member who recently foiled a bank robbery. While visiting family members in Sarasota, Fla., on leave, Staff Sgt. Eddie Peoples from the 386th Movement Control Team, detained a suspect who had allegedly just committed a bank robbery and held him until the police arrived. On the afternoon of May 31, Peoples and his two children stopped at a local bank in Sarasota. While he was there with his children, the suspect who has been charged with armed robbery and is being detained by local authorities, entered the bank, demanded money from bank employees and left with an undetermined amount of cash.

Peoples, who watched the whole situation transpire, said he knew he could not stand by. Staff Sgt. Peoples took matters into his own hands and single-handled taking down the bank robber. It was these selfless actions in the face of danger that resulted in a commendation medal from The Sarasota Police Department. Take advantage of an opportunity to talk to Staff Sgt. Peoples, a ten-year Army Veteran, about his deployments and current duties with the 386th Movement Control Team, 14th Transportation Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, stationed in Vicenza, Italy.

Submarine Group 7 Changes Command

By Lt. Lara Bollinger, Submarine Group 7 Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Submarine Group Seven held a change of command ceremony on board Fleet Activities Yokosuka June 6.

During the ceremony, ceremony Capt., and rear admiral-select, Phillip G. Sawyer relieved Rear Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Jr. as commander of CSG 7, who also assumed responsibility as commander of Task Forces 74 and 54.

Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk, commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet, was the honored guest and key speaker during the ceremony.

In his speech, Van Buskirk commended Thomas for a job well-done in his capacities as CSG 7, CTF 74 and 54.

"Robert has taken all of these difficult jobs and made them look easy," Van Buskirk said. "With the largest area of operations of any in the submarine force, and responsibility for some of the most challenging and sensitive operations our nation's military conducts anywhere, Robert Thomas has excelled in leading his people to tremendous success."

Under Thomas' command CTF 74 and 54 achieved operational success of more than 30 submarine deployments and 45 special submarine missions. As the theater anti-submarine warfare commander for Seventh Fleet, Thomas brought tactical and operational expertise to bear across multiple warfare areas.

Through his leadership during Operation Tomodachi, CSG 7 enabled U.S. operations in an unprecedented radiological environment. Thomas' engagement with important regional allies greatly advanced the combined warfighting capability of the U.S. Navy and allied naval submarine forces.

Thomas expressed his gratitude to his counterparts and mentors in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces, and the Sailors, civilians, and families who are a part of what he fondly calls the "tribe".

"Thanks to the tribe - the 200 members of the CTF 74, 54, and Submarine Group Seven command. Our Sailors, our civilians, our families…what you do in the common defense of Japan, and for security in Asia is just not to be beat," Thomas said.

He stated that this change of command ceremony represents renewal.

"[Rear Adm.-select] Sawyer takes command, so we have the renewal of a fresh start today for CTF 74. It's also the renewal of the bright future that we have with our partnership; the U.S. Navy and the Kai Jo Jie Tei. And it's a renewal of the enduring friendships, as I see so many members of the Yokosuka community [here today] as we start out [Sawyer's] command tour," Thomas said.

Thomas will report as vice director for operations, on the joint staff in the Pentagon.

Sawyer, a 1983 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, recently served as vice commander, Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command since July 2010.

Pacific Partnership Representatives Attend Women's Empowerment Conference

By Airman 1st Class Haleigh Greer, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (NNS) -- Three women from the Pacific Partnership 2011 team attended the Pacific Women's Empowerment Initiative held in Port Moresby, May 31, to support the movement for women's rights in the South Pacific.

The forum allowed female delegates from 12 different countries in the region to discuss women's issues in their respective countries. Over the course of 5 hours, the delegates talked about the challenges women face in their home nations.

"It was important for Pacific Partnership representatives to attend the conference to better understand female leaders' priorities," said Lt. Cmdr. Jennie Goldsmith, Pacific Partnership 2011 judge advocate general. "Each delegate provided a country synopsis that included their most pressing concerns. The conference was designed, at least in part, to give women of the region a voice, and it was a privilege to listen. Also, we were able to establish relationships that we may be able to build on."

Goldsmith was able to identify with the women who are striving for a better life in this region of the world.

"I really enjoyed the conference. I was impressed and inspired by the women there. I loved the different perspectives and hearing them discuss moving forward without losing the things that define them, like their community relationships. I was also moved by the needs and inspired to support in any way possible. I am eager to add some of their pressing concerns to our lessons learned and feedback for future Pacific Partnership missions," Goldsmith said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited women leaders of Papua New Guinea in November 2010, and saw a need for the United States' involvement concerning these issues.

The Pacific Women's Empowerment Initiative was founded that month with the help of U.S. government aid to allow the delegates to speak freely about reoccurring challenges presented to women in their societies.

"I want you to know that the United States will be your partner in these efforts to raise the status of women in your home countries, because we know that no society or economy can thrive unless women are given the tools they need to participate fully and contribute their energy, their vision and their talent," said Clinton.

Delegates from Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Fiji were in attendance for this conference. And while these women are from different island nations, they experience similar issues.

Some of the discussion topics were domestic violence, gender equality, education, high partum mortality rates, and teenage pregnancy.

According to the organizers, the intent of the conference is establishing a productive dialogue to resolve those challenges through open discourse and public awareness.

"I am very pleased to have this policy dialogue, and I am very conscious of the fact that we can't achieve much in terms of concrete things in such a diverse region. But we can achieve much in terms of sharing, networking, learning about good experiences and good practices else where, and comparing where we all are in terms of our progress towards our millennium goals," said the Minister for Community Development in Papua New Guinea, Honorable Dame Carol Kidu.

The U.S. will continue to donate money and resources to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Coalition for Change, Vital Voices, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, so the foundation for progress towards gender equality in the South Pacific can be established.

"Here, we are getting ready to fund a mentoring program for young girls, target age 11 to 18, so they will begin to develop role model skills and work with women who are successful in Papua New Guinea, and so they can learn how to make better choices in life and also aspire to greatness," said U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands, Teddy Taylor. "Another major program we are also going to have in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea is the training of women to learn how to effectively participate in the political process."

The Pacific Partnership mission this year included similar discussion groups in Tonga, which discussed issues like women's health, teenage pregnancy, and the increased rate of Type II diabetes among women.

Since the first mission in 2006, Pacific Partnership has visited 15 countries, treated more than 230,000 patients and built over 150 engineering projects. During this year's mission, the Pacific Partnership team has treated more than 21,000 patients, participated in thousands of contact hours of formal subject matter expert exchanges, and built classrooms and water catchment systems in all three of its mission ports.

To date, Pacific Partnership has completed missions in Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea and will continue to Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Navy, Guam Community Remember the Battle of Midway

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

SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Service members and special guests gathered at the World War II Memorial Park on board U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) June 3 to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

NBG Commanding Officer Capt. Richard Wood opened the ceremony by reminding those in attendance that NBG would be the first naval base in the world to celebrate the anniversary that day because Guam is where "America's day begins." Wood also spoke of the significance of the event site and of Guam's role during the war.

"We are here today in commemoration of an incredible battle that took place 69 years ago on June 3, 1942," he said. "It was the turning point of the war in the Pacific and it is appropriate that we commemorate the battle and remember the sacrifices at sea made by many men who perished at Midway because it is an essential chapter in our naval heritage. Guam knows these chapters in the history of our Navy because Guam was caught right in the middle of the Great War. Today we are sitting in a park dedicated to those American servicemen and to the Chamorros who lost their lives on Guam and in the same war."

After his opening remarks, Wood called on Joint Region Marianas (JRM) Commander Rear Adm. Paul Bushong, who spoke about the key events leading up to the Battle of Midway.

He credited the strong hearts of America's service members as the driving force behind America's win at Midway.

"The actions taken by the individual Sailors who fought in this battle – the strength of their character and firmness of their resolve – is why this battle is significant in our history and why we commemorate it today," he said. "The Battle of Midway is the ultimate statement of our Navy ethos and character. This battle had many heroes."

Following his remarks, Bushong joined JRM Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Paul Kingsbury and special guest Manuel Diaz to place a wreath in honor of those who fought at Midway at the foot of the park's World War II monument.

Diaz is a local World War II veteran who was serving aboard USS West Virginia (BB 48) at Pearl Harbor during the attack by the Japanese Dec. 7, 1941. NBG Command Master Chief (SW/AW/SCW) John Lawry said he was glad Diaz was a part of the event.

"It's always our honor to host a World War II vet, especially somebody that survived Pearl Harbor," he said. "Having him here has made it even more poignant and purposeful for us because he lived that and I can't even imagine what he went through at a time of war in that era."

After the wreath was in place, the 721st U.S. Army Band, of the Guam Army National Guard, played "The Marines' Hymn" and "Anchors Aweigh" as service members stood for the songs.

After the ceremony, Japan Consul General of Guam Yoshiyuki Kimura said he was grateful for the chance to be a part of the event. Kimura also reflected on how the world has changed since the war.

"The Battle of Midway became a very critical turning point in the Pacific War and since then the course of the war changed," he said. "No matter what happened in that sea at that time, [the Japanese have] changed and we are different from that. [Japan and America] are friends now."

Kimura illustrated this sentiment by citing the recent efforts made by the United States in support of Operation Tomodachi. He took the opportunity to thank U.S. service members and the Guam community for their help and friendship.

Lawry said the event was a huge success and reflected on the importance of remembering the sacrifices of the past.

"As years go on, it's very easy to forget those that came before us and the Battle of Midway changed the world," he said.