Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quad Cities Navy Week Sailors Help Habitat for Humanity

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Navy Operational Support Center Rock Island and Navy Recruiting District, Minneapolis, volunteered to help build a home during Quad Cities Navy Week 2011, as part of a Habitat for Humanity project in Rock Island, Ill., June 21.

The volunteers, which also included U.S. Army Soldiers, installed insulation and sheets of drywall to the interior rooms of the two-story, three-bedroom home being built in the west end of Rock Island.

"An event like today focuses us inward, and it makes me think of the contributions our Navy makes and the partnerships it has with the local communities," said Rear Adm. Tilghman D. Payne, commander, Navy Region Midwest.

This was the 71st home built by Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities since 1993, said Kristin Crafton, director for the nonprofit organization. Habitat for Humanity offers their homes without interest rates to families who qualify, and then help work on the house with 250 hours of 'sweat-equity.'

Ed and Judy Connelly, project manager of the new home the Sailors and Soldiers assisted with, have built 13 homes since 1993. This is the first time the Navy and Army have participated together as one force to assist Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities, according to Judy Connelly.

"We appreciate everything the Navy Sailors and Army Soldiers are doing to help us help people," she said. "This is truly a win-win situation for everyone involved."

Wisconsin Guard taking the lead on resilience training

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

The Wisconsin Army National Guard is helping the U.S. Army's efforts to teach its Soldiers to cope with significant issues rather than bury those issues in an emotional minefield.

The National Guard Resilience University, located in the Wisconsin Military Academy at Fort McCoy, Wis., began offering five-day resilience training assistant (RTA) courses June 6. The first 10-day Master Resiliency Trainer (MRT) course will be offered July 18.

Resilience is described as a person's ability to bounce back from a setback, and is based on that person's perception of the setback and attitude about correcting it. When the Army was developing its master resiliency training program in 2009, Gen. George Casey, Jr. - then Army chief of staff - said the purpose was to bring mental fitness up to the same level as physical fitness.

"In this era of persistent conflict, we've found that the vast majority of Soldiers deploying have a positive growth experience because they're exposed to something very difficult and they succeed," Casey said, adding that the goal was to ensure all Soldiers have the skills to grow and succeed.

According to Lt. Col. Andrew Ratzlaff, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 426th Regional Training Institute at WMA, Wisconsin National Guard master resilience trainers taught the RTA course in April to more than 200 students in San Diego as a run-through for launching the National Guard Resilience University.

"That training was the catalyst to push us forward," Ratzlaff said, noting that the journey to offer resiliency certification courses in Wisconsin began two years ago. "It's been a long, long road, but it's been worth the effort."

The school is open to National Guard, Army Reserve, active Army and military civilians. Ratzlaff expects to see all components take advantage of the National Guard Resilience University to meet Army goals. The 60-person master resilience trainer class will be offered once a month from July 2011 through September 2012. The class will be offered twice a month beginning October 2012.

Master resilience training is also offered at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where the concept was originally developed, and at Victory University at Fort Jackson, S.C. Mobile training teams also provide instruction across the country.

The National Guard Bureau has assigned Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Cope of the North Carolina Army National Guard to be the lead instructor for resilience courses at the National Guard Resilience University. Maj. Sylvia Lopez, the Wisconsin Army National Guard's most advanced resilience trainer, is currently pursuing a Level 4 rating and will assist in course instruction. All master resilience trainers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard will help teach resilience classes in the coming months.

Ratzlaff said the two recent RTA courses went very well, based on feedback from students.

"If I had to grade it, it would be an A-minus," he said. "I was really pleased, considering it was our first attempt."

While the National Guard Resilience University will provide additional skill identifiers to its master resilience graduates, Ratzlaff emphasized that the skills those trainers will bring back to their units will benefit all Soldiers.

"It really gives the Soldier a skill set and tools to deal with everyday stressors of life," he said. "It's not just about deployed Soldiers - it's the everyday Soldier. These skills can be used once the uniform comes off - it applies everywhere."

Sgt. 1st Class Donald Grundy, a career counselor for the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery and the 32nd Military Police Company - as well as a Level 2 resilience facilitator working toward Level 3 - agreed.

"I like to say that we should 'take these skill sets home first,'" he explained. "That is, we should apply them in our own life, then take it to the people we interact with. I feel I am better equipped now to deal with adversity and to seek what is good in our lives, and focus less on the negative that seems to try and work its way in."
Master Sgt. Peter Hansen, also a Level 2 facilitator, said he uses the skills he learned every day.

"One of the greatest tools I have received is the knowledge that an event does not cause me to react - it's my thoughts about the event that control my emotions and reactions," Hansen said. "I look for 'thinking traps' - knowing these thinking traps exist makes my decision-making process much more accurate."

Sara Poquette, a Wisconsin Army National Guard veteran and Yellow Ribbon Support Specialist, attended the June 13-17 RTA course and said resilience should be taught at every level.

"I have learned so much," she said. "These tools are so useful and relatable in our personal and professional lives. It allows us to ensure our service members can take care of themselves from the inside out."

Ratzlaff noted that many senior Wisconsin National Guard members will be on hand when the first MRT course begins in July.

"It shows that Wisconsin continues to lead the nation in trying to help our Soldiers," he said. "That's what we do."

Senate Confirms Panetta as Defense Secretary

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 – The U.S. Senate voted unanimously this evening to confirm Leon E. Panetta as the next secretary of defense.

Panetta received broad bipartisan support following his June 9 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he said his foremost mission as defense secretary would be to protect the United States and ensure it has the “best-trained, the best-equipped and the strongest military in the world.”

President Barack Obama nominated him earlier this year to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Panetta, who currently serves as CIA director, is a former Congressman from California who has worked in government for four decades, including as President Bill Clinton’s budget director.

Obama has nominated Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, to replace Panetta as CIA director.

Panetta’s confirmation comes one day ahead of the president’s scheduled address to the nation to outline his plans to drawdown U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

In his hearing before the Senate committee, Panetta called Gates “one of the greatest secretaries of defense in our nation’s history” and said he would carry on Gates’ initiatives.

Face of Defense: Airman Honors Father With Bronze Star

By Air Force Capt. George Tobias
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., June 21, 2011 – An Air Force Space Command chief master sergeant used the occasion of her retirement ceremony here to take care of one last troop -- her father, who was presented with the Bronze Star Medal he earned four decades ago.

Chief Master Sgt. Nancy Geisler, a contracting superintendent and area manager for the command, recognized her father, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Porter at her June 13 retirement ceremony. Geisler coordinated with the Army to present Porter with the medal he earned for service in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 with the 4th Infantry Division, currently located at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo.

For Geisler it was important to recognize her father's service.

"My father told me while I was young that he had received a Bronze Star," she said. "So I kept that in the back of my mind, and with my upcoming retirement I wanted to present a shadow box to my father of his Bronze Star and his citation, but he told me that the Army never presented him his Bronze Star."

Geisler then decided that at her retirement ceremony, her father should be presented his Bronze Star medal. While they had the orders that showed Porter earned the medal, no records of the citation could be found.

This prompted the 4th ID to regenerate the citation, allowing Army Col. Timothy Coffin, deputy commander of Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Strategic Command, to present it and the Bronze Star to Porter.

"Now is the time to make history right," Coffin said as he presented the medal.

Service members today enjoy great support from the nation, but "that was not the case back in 1969 and 1970 during the period of time that Sgt. 1st Class Porter was in Vietnam,” Coffin said.

"The 4th ID is still today overseas serving in Afghanistan, serving in combat operations," he said. "We have young soldiers today doing the same things that, 41 years later, Sergeant Porter has been recognized for."

Geisler also commented on the disparity of support that today’s service members enjoy, as compared to their predecessors who’d served in Vietnam.

"It is very rewarding to me to see that he finally got recognized for his service," Geisler said of her father’s award.

Geisler said her father was very pleased when he heard he would be presented his Bronze Star.

"He said he was so proud and told all his friends where he lives that the Army finally did him right," she said.

U.S. Army Ground Liaison Officers Embark Reagan

From Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Three U.S. Army Ground Liaison Officers (GLO) recently joined the Ronald Reagan Strike Group (RRSG) in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to help coordinate air and ground support for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), June 17.

Army GLOs work with the RRSG team to provide ground commanders the effective air support they need.

Army Maj. Brendan McShea, assigned to 4th Battlefield Coordination Det. (BCD) explained the importance of the GLO team being aboard the ship.

"We are here because we get the ground concept," said McShea. "We coordinate with the ground commanders and interpret their needs, then pass that along to the pilots."

GLOs are experienced soldiers, who have previously served on the ground in the designated combat zone. They have first-hand experience working in a hostile environment, giving them a unique perspective to help guide the missions.

"When I'm aboard this aircraft carrier, I am the link between the air wing and the ground forces," said Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Palumbo, assigned to 1st BCD. "When they leave, it's important for the air crews to have situational awareness of the area.

A primary element GLOs bring to the table is flexibility of how the air support is employed. They help field the request that come from the ground commander and coordinate with the RRSG team to coordinate the best course of action.

"Realistically, the battlefield is fluid," said Palumbo, a veteran of four combat deployments. "We work with the Carrier Intelligence Center (CVIC) to produce a product, trimming it down to the essential issues. We give the pilots the best info we can in order to get the best results."

Not only are the GLOs necessary to interpret the scenario, they often help interpret.

"The fact is, the Army and Navy don't always speak the same language," said Palumbo. "Different words, different meanings—even different acronyms. Ground Commanders appreciate having someone who speaks their language and knows where they are coming from, which all helps the success of the mission."

GLOs are typically deployed for a year at a time, half of which is usually spent aboard aircraft carriers. Regardless of where they are working, the end goal is always the same.

"I know our teamwork brings benefits directly to the battlefield," said McShea. "At the end of the day, we hope to make everything go well for the guys in the line of fire."

Ronald Reagan CSG is comprised of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, which includes guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88). Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 includes the "Black Knights" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, the "Argonauts" of VFA-147, the "Blue Diamonds" of VFA-146, the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 and the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.

New Director of Naval Intelligence Tours Intel Training

By Lt. j.g. Sergio Wooden, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy's new Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (DCNO) for Information Dominance got a firsthand look at the Navy's intelligence training in Virginia Beach, Va., June 8.

Vice Adm. Kendall Card received a briefing from Capt. Donald Darnell Jr., commanding officer for the Center for Naval Intelligence (CENNAVINTEL) and the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center (NMITC). They also discussed training, career continuums, the future of the intelligence community and its role in information dominance.

After the briefing, Card toured the NMITC facilities, as well as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Counterintelligence-Human Intelligence (CI/HUMINT) training complex, located at Naval Air Station Oceana's Dam Neck Annex. While there he received a detailed briefing on Navy and Marine Corps training and toured the mock third-world village used to provide realism to the course.

"It was an honor and privilege to host the new DNI. We were able to talk to him about our training, future initiatives and introduce him to many of our world-class instructors," remarked Darnell.

The Center for Naval Intelligence (CENNAVINTEL) develops and delivers training for Naval intelligence professionals who support maritime, expeditionary and joint forces world-wide. CENNAVINTEL and its component commands, Navy and Marine Intelligence Training Command (NMITC) and Fleet Intelligence Training Command (FITC), develop and deliver basic and advanced intelligence training, intelligence systems and technologies.

Fuerzas Comando Promotes Special Ops Skills

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 – Elite commandos from 19 countries are participating this week in Fuerzas Comando 2011, a demanding counterterrorism and special operations skills competition sponsored by U.S. Southern Command to promote military-to-military relationships, increased interoperability and improved regional security.

The competitors, from throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, are taking part in the eighth annual competition that kicked off June 15 and continues through June 23 in Ilopango, El Salvador, said Air Force Maj. Brett Phillips, the lead Fuerzas Comando planner for U.S. Special Operations Command South.

The El Salvadoran military is hosting this year’s exercise, with participants from Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and the United States.

The competition consists of sniper, assault, physical fitness, strength and endurance events that challenge commandos psychologically as well as physically, Phillips said.

Among this year’s events is a timed 18.8-kilometer forced march, with six-man teams from each country carrying 30-pound rucksacks and rifles, and a series of sniper competitions that include target acquisition, range estimation and night shooting events.

The competitive events wrap up today, to be followed with a combined airborne operation tomorrow and exchange of wings before the closing ceremony.

While special operators test out their tactical skills, a concurrent senior-leader seminar is providing a strategic-level focus to security challenges and possible solutions. Twenty-four nations have sent a senior special operations officer, typically the brigade-level commander of the country’s commando team, and a ministerial-level policymaker associated with the country’s counterterrorism policies, procedures and strategies, to participate in the two-day distinguished visitor program, Phillips said.

“That’s when they talk about the regional counterterrorism projects and programs that are in place, they talk about trans-national threats, they talk about illicit trafficking and how to combat that,” he said. “That is where you are addressing those strategic-level thought processes and objectives.”

Phillips called this two-part approach key to fostering relationships throughout the ranks that pay off in closer regional cooperation, enhanced mutual trust and increased military interoperability as it advances the counter-terrorism training and readiness of participating special operations forces.

“It’s the strategic level, with the commanders and strategic thinkers from that country, all the way down to the tactical level, where the teams that go and break down the doors and go save people, or, depending upon their requirement, they eliminate a threat,” he said.

There’s another dimension to Fuerzas Comando as well. As commandos compete and their leaders convene, staff members from each participating country are operating as a combined staff, providing administrative, logistical, medical, communications and other support.

This, Phillips explained, gives the staffs experience they would need to work together during a real-world contingency.

While Fuerzas Comando has sparked some healthy competition among participants, “the camaraderie and the fraternity between these teams from all these different countries has been just exceptional,” he said.

When the commandos aren’t competing, they share their operational experiences and ideas with other teams and compare different tactics, techniques and procedures. This promotes cooperation and learning, along with a better understanding of how different countries’ militaries operate, Phillips said.

It also lays a foundation for relationships, he said, that could have a big payoff in the future as commandos advance to increasingly responsible positions within their respective militaries.

“Now, if there is a conflict,” he added, “it is a lot more likely that the conflict will be resolved between two chiefs of staff who know each other, who have had a relationship on a personal side as well as professional, and they can resolve their problems in a more practical manner than resorting to armed conflict.”

Phillips said he’s seen past competitors who’d risen through the ranks return to Fuerzas Comando as senior military commanders or government officials to participate in the strategic-level distinguished visitor forum.

“That’s our dream that we are seeing realized,” Phillips said. “These younger team leads from years ago are now growing in rank and position and soon will be able to pick up the phone and talk to Juan or Jose or Jorge or whoever that they competed against 10, 15 years ago as a team member,” and bring the benefit of shared operational expertise to strategic-level conversations.

Phillips said he’s also encouraged by the growth of the Fuerzas Comando, which began in 2004 with 13 countries.

“It just grows and gets better every year,” he said.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II, commander of Special Operations Command South, thanked participants during the opening ceremonies at El Salvador’s Special Counterterrorism Command special operations center for the dedication they have brought to the competition and to regional security.

“You represent the world’s finest warriors, sacrificing daily to defend and protect the freedom and security of the citizens of the Western Hemisphere,” the admiral told the participants.

Navy Admiral Tours John Deere Factory during Quad Cities Navy Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Gallagher, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

DAVENPORT, Iowa (NNS) -- Commander, Strike Force Training Pacific, toured the John Deere Davenport Works facility June 17, as part of Quad Cities Navy Week 2011.

Rear Adm. Thomas Cropper, commander Strike Force Training Pacific; was giving a brief introduction to the facility by management, followed by a tractor-driven audio tour of the production floor featuring the many facets of John Deere equipment. The tour spanned the length of four separate buildings and included previews of the construction of the company's latest equipment.

The Navy participates in many outreach events at Navy Weeks, including interacting with local corporate leaders to talk about what their Navy does for them. Cropper, a longtime fan of the company, said he was excited to get the chance to tour the factory.

"They've taken their corporate culture, from the president on down to the work floor and reinforced it," said Cropper. "Everything you see is a good lesson and reassertion of what we do in the Navy."

After returning from the factory, Cropper met with John Deere executives to discuss the Navy's mission and how it protects America's shipping lanes. Cropper was well-received by the management and employees at the facility and extended the Navy's message that it fights on the water, under the water and over the water to protect the investments companies make in their products.

"It is an absolute honor to be hosting the Navy and Rear Adm. Cropper here at Davenport Works," said Mike Mack, president of Worldwide Forestry and Construction for John Deere. "You can't imagine the positive effects it has on our employees to have the Navy here."

George Washington Begins CART II

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

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- The Afloat Training Group (ATG), Commander Task Force (CTF) 70, and Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) began drills aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) for the ship's annual Command Assessment Readiness and Training (CART) II, June 21.

The ATG group, flown in from San Diego and Norfolk, evaluates evolutions such as general quarters, toxic gas drills, hangar bay fire drills, fuel station drills, combat systems drills and man overboard drills during the five-day evaluation.

"CART is important because it tests our ability to ensure the readiness of the ship in case of any emergencies," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Dennis Robinson, ATG San Diego. "It's important that the crew knows how to respond. It's all about training."

Before the inspectors arrived on board the ship, which is now underway in the Western Pacific, George Washington Sailors were preparing themselves with numerous drill scenarios in addition to their usual watches and duties. The ship's training officer said this demonstrates the pride the crew has in their ship and their jobs in the Navy.

"The crew has been working really hard lately to meet the expectations of the assessment," said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Russell, USS George Washington training officer. "We are looking for all that hard work to pay off big time."

Unlike carriers based in the United States which can take up to a month to complete CART, the assessment aboard George Washington is done in less than one week. This is due to the ship's hectic schedule resulting from being a full time, forward deployed carrier. For the crew, this means long hours and long days.

"It has been hectic, but we've been improving with each training evolution," said Electrician's Mate 2nd Class (SW/AW) Carlo Hugo, from Pittsburg, Calif. "The crew is motivated from briefing to de-briefing. Everybody is doing great."

Following CART is the ship's Final Evaluation Period (FEP) in which 20 ATG instructors will join the crew and evaluate each department and division's performance. FEP takes place in July when ATG, CTF-70, and CNAF will determine if the ship is ready to continue with the training cycle.

"It has been a big improvement from last year, at this point we have passed every drill," said Capt. Kenneth Reynard, USS George Washington executive officer. "The motivation of all of the Sailors has been outstanding. They are sponges, soaking up knowledge, eager to know how they did and want to know how they can improve."

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.

Live from Annual Training – Staying in touch, even in Fort McCoy’s wilderness

By Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde
32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team

As I left my home on Friday afternoon prior to annual training, my wife reminded me how, many years ago, I would leave for two weeks of training and she would not hear from me for at least 10 days. For many years, prior to cell phones, Soldiers would deploy to the field and the first time that we would be able to call home was after we got out of the field. Of course, once you were able to call home, you then had to find a pay phone and then wait your turn in line that was usually 10 to 12 Soldiers deep. We even had to set time limits on how much time a Soldier could spend on the phone so that we all had a chance to call home.

Yes, the good old days had their challenges.
Today’s Soldier has the ability to call home as much as they can as long as they meet their daily training requirement. On the newer phones with texting and Internet capability, Soldiers in the field can stay in contact with their families, check their Facebook accounts, check on the weather and catch up with the latest news of their favorite sports team. Or even blog about annual training.

But how do they recharge their phones, you may ask?

Many of the weapons ranges at Fort McCoy have electric outlets that allow the Soldier to plug in their phones and recharge them. Other Soldiers bring solar panels to annual training to charge their favorite device. Some of these solar charging devices are small and they are great for re-charging a personnel cell phone.  Then there is a noncommissioned officer in the 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery that actually brought a solar panel that is 4 feet by 2 feet. This is the industrial-size personal charger. The cool thing about the devices is that it can be folded in to the size of an iPad. That is convenient. Not only is this NCO charging his phone, but also the phones of his entire section. This NCO understands what Soldier caring is all about.

How has AT changed for you?

(blogging from Fort McCoy, Wis., at annual training)