Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, July 07, 2011

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivers remarks at 2 p.m. EDT at the Safety Excellence Awards at the Navy Memorial, Washington, D.C.  Media interested in attending should contact Capt. Pamela Kunze, SECNAV public affairs officer at 703-697-7491.

This Day in Naval History - July 06

From the Navy News Service

1747 - Birth of John Paul Jones at Arbigland, Scotland.
1898 - Armed Auxiliary Dixie captures Spanish Three Bells, Pilgrim and Greeman Castle.
1908 - Cmdr. Robert Peary sails in Roosevelt from New York to explore Arctic.
1911 - First naval aviation base established at Annapolis, Md.
1920 - Test and first use of radio compass in aircraft off Norfolk, Va.
1943 - Night Battle of Kula Gulf results in loss of two Japanese destroyers and USS Helena (CL 50).
1976 - First women enter U.S. Naval Academy.

Court Orders Halt to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Enforcement

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2011 – The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the government to stop enforcing the terms of the law that prevents openly gay service members from being in the military.

The Defense Department will comply and is informing commands worldwide of the court’s order, Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said.

The court lifted a stay put in place Nov. 1. DOD and Justice Department lawyers are studying the ruling.

The stay was put in place after 9th Circuit Judge Virginia Phillips ruled the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was unconstitutional. The case went to a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals, which released its ruling today.

Since the court issued the stay in November, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed repeal of the 1993 law. “In the meantime, implementation of the DADT repeal voted by the Congress and signed into law by the president last December is proceeding smoothly, is well under way, and certification is just weeks away,” Lapan said.

The repeal act calls for training the force and for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense to certify to the president that the conditions for repeal are met.

Family Housing Contributes to Green Future on Guantanamo

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joe Koerber, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Family housing at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began sending utility consumption data reports to service members, contractors and civilians residing in Guantanamo's 18 neighborhoods, June 13 through July 6.

The reports were disseminated in an effort to help Guantanamo Bay become more energy efficient by showing residents the amount of energy consumed at home.

The utility consumption data reports are mock electricity and water bills that highlight the cost of a unit's electricity at Guantanamo, which is four times more expensive than in the U.S.

"In the states, electricity costs about 10 cents per kilowatt hour," said Rudy Sammons, NS Guantanamo Bay family housing director. "Here in Guantanamo Bay, energy costs 42 cents per kilowatt hour. It is substantially higher here."

The utility consumption data reports will help base officials set a baseline for residents' household energy consumption, which cumulatively costs the base more than $9 million per month, said Sammons.

Because Guantanamo Bay does not use local resources from its host country, any energy resources needed to support base residents must be shipped by barge from the U.S.

According to Navy Region Southeast's 2011-2013 Energy Strategy, approximately 91 percent of fuel used in the southeast region is used at Guantanamo Bay.

NS Guantanamo Bay's Public Works Department has taken steps toward increasing the efficiency of its energy production. In addition to these steps, there are several projects planned that will save energy, such as replacing halogen lights with light-emitting diode lights and powering its new gym facilities with a solar array.

Along with these operational changes, a culture of conservation must be created among Guantanamo's residents, said Capt. Kirk R. Hibbert, NS Guantanamo Bay commanding officer and chairman of Navy Region Southeast's Team II Energy Council.

"You cannot start saving electricity and water until you know what you have been spending," said Hibbert. "With every kilowatt hour we consume here on the base, there is an associated fuel and transportation cost."

Rising fuel prices resulted in a higher cost for supporting residents and operations on Guantanamo Bay; approximately $4 million more per year, according to Hibbert, whose priority is curbing that number by making base residents more aware of their consumption.

"Help us move toward a mindset and a culture of conservation as we start to move toward these national goals," said Hibbert.

Eisenhower Completes Flight Deck Certification

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zach Martin, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Atlantic Ocean (NNS) -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 Sailors completed carrier flight deck certification, July 6.

The CVW 7 squadrons to take part in Dwight D. Eisenhower's flight deck certification were the "Rawhides" of Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 40, the "Rampagers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83, the "Wildcats" of VFA 131, the "Pukin' Dogs" of VFA 143, the "Jolly Rogers" of VFA 103, the "Bluetails" of Aircraft Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 and the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 5.

Other embarked squadrons, including from CVW 3, were the "Bulls" of VFA 37, the "Gunslingers" of VFA 105, the "Swordsmen" of VFA 32, the "Blue Blasters" of VFA 34, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, and the "Seahawks" of VAW 126.

The squadrons' arrival marked the first flight operations since Dwight D. Eisenhower returned from its 2010 deployment to the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Louis Decesare, CVW 3 senior enlisted advisor, brought four squadrons including 84 officers and enlisted personnel aboard to assist with the deck certification and to certify their pilots.

"We were thoroughly impressed with the services we received onboard Dwight D. Eisenhower," said Decesare. "We were glad to help with the certification because everyone on Dwight D. Eisenhower bent over backwards to help us during our stay."

Dwight D. Eisenhower's crew, along with the embarked squadrons, helped qualify more than 150 pilots; accumulating more than 670 flight hours and logging more than 930 touch-and-go's, aircraft launches and arrested landings. The ship also completed more than 170 internal graded exercises to finish the final certification.

The ship's underway period arrived after completing a nine-month planned incremental availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va.

"I know everyone will continue to work hard and strive for excellence," said Capt. Marcus Hitchcock, Dwight D. Eisenhower's commanding officer.

As part of the ship's final assessment for carrier qualifications, flight deck certifications are required for the ship to deploy and successfully complete the aircraft carrier's mission overseas. Evaluators from Naval Air Forces Atlantic came aboard to review and evaluate the ship's ability to perform flight operations safely. The review included tests on the arresting gear systems used for aircraft recovery as well as catapult systems that launch aircraft.

The certification also included a full survey of the ship's flight deck personnel. Dwight D. Eisenhower's air department Sailors were assessed on their ability to maintain a fully operational flight deck and respond to simulated mishaps.

"I cannot express how proud I am of all [the crew] accomplished and continue to accomplish," Hitchcock said.

My Private War: Liberated Body, Captive Mind: A World War II POW's Journey

Norman Bussel “was born in Memphis, Tenn. and currently lives in Mohegan Lake, N.Y. During World War II, he served as a radio operator/gunner on a B-17 bomber. Flying out of Rattlesden, England on April 29, 1944, he was shot down over Berlin with four of his crew losing their lives. He was interned in Stalag Luft IV, at Grosstychow near the Baltic Sea. In February 1945, as Russian troops advanced, he was among the POWs the Germans moved by boxcar to a camp at Nuremberg to avoid liberation. As American forces closed in on Nuremberg, he was then moved to Moosburg, in Bavaria, and ultimately liberated by General Patton's tank corps on April 29, 1945.

Returning home, he attended Memphis State University on the GI Bill and then joined the family supermarket business. In 1965, he entered the publishing field, becoming an Editor at Progressive Grocer Magazine and was later promoted to Profit Center Manager. Later, he joined Supermarket Business magazine as Research Director. In 1980, he and his wife, Melanie, founded Melnor Publishing, Inc., providing the drug store industry with marketing information. Now retired, he has been active for more than 20 years in the Hudson Valley Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War (AXPOW) serving as Trustee, Adjutant and Commander. He has served in the N.Y. State Department of AXPOW as member of the Finance Committee and as delegate to national conventions. He also has held positions in the National organization as Public Relations Director and as committee member. Elected as a Director on the board of the AXPOW Service Foundation in March 2000, he was named Vice President in September 2000 and elected President in 2003. He was also Editor of the Foundation TIMES newspaper. He retired from the Foundation in 2007 to concentrate on his writing.” Norman Bussel is the author of My Private War: Liberated Body, Captive Mind: A World War II POW's Journey.

One Reader of My Private War: Liberated Body, Captive Mind: A World War II POW's Journey said, “Norman Bussel had been a nineteen year old on a B-17 over Germany in 1944, when his plane was shot down. He was a POW for about 13 months. The memoir is about his wartime experiences and his subsequent decades-long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It sounded very interesting, so I ordered his book from amazon, and read his absorbing and emotional tale. In the first chapter, Mr. Bussel describes being shot down; he parachuted out through the bomb bay, and was the last crewman to get off the plane alive. Four of his fellow ten man crew died. The first two-thirds of this 300 page memoir describes his joining the Army Air Force, his training, and then his experiences as a POW. I found it really quite riveting.

There are 25 short chapters, and chapter nine, describing his bailing out and capture in Germany is aptly entitled "Germany: A Descent into Hell". As he was in his parachute descending he wisely tossed away his dogtag, which had the letter "H" for his religion. He is Jewish. Bussel was then nearly lynched by German farmers, before being picked up by soldiers. The treatment of POW's in Germany was beyond brutal. Denied medical care, denied food, denied warm clothes, along with witnessing the murder of some prisoners. And a few beatings thrown in for good measure. Bussel lost 65 pounds during his imprisonment, weighing only a bit more then 100 pounds when the camp was finally liberated by the American army.

The last one third of the book deals with Bussel's post-war career and struggle with PTSD. His alcohol problem, quickness to anger, claustrophobia, a failed first marriage. Mr. Bussel seems to have turned a corner in 1980 when he, without counseling, gave up alcohol and stopped smoking, and shortly afterwards began to go to counseling sessions at the Montrose NY, VA hospital. Chapter 21 is entitled "POW's Healing POWs" as Bussel discusses what a revelation it was for him to meet other POW's who shared many of his same problems.

Norman Bussel had a career as a writer, and editor, but ultimately working with POW organizations became his avocation. For example, he became president of the American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation. It took Mr. Bussel years to write his memoir; it sat unfinished in his computer for years. After his granddaughter read the manuscript and urged him to complete it, "My Private War" was published last year. Norman Bussel is in his mid-eighties now.”

Navy Medicine Launches New Blog on DODLive

From U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy Medicine announced the launch of its new blog July 5, designed to facilitate a unique and constructive two-way dialogue between Navy Medicine and its stakeholders, including service members and their families.

"My hope is that this open forum will serve to inform and generate lively discussion all across our enterprise and around the world," said Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Navy surgeon general, and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED).

Navy Medicine is committed to delivering meaningful and current information on its global operations while garnering feedback from the medical community and those Navy Medicine serves.

Blog topics will include Navy Medicine's support of global operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, stories about the courage and sacrifice of Navy Medicine, noteworthy research and development, and discussion items relevant to BUMED and Navy Medicine.

"With the spirit of commitment and service in mind, let us begin the discussion of how we can best meet our current and future challenges," said Robinson. "I encourage all readers and bloggers, no matter their rank, position, or location, to provide constructive feedback on our goals and policies, because a good idea knows no rank."

The Navy Medicine blog is available at:

Navy Medicine is a global health care network of 63,000 Navy medical personnel around the world who provide high quality health care to more than one million eligible beneficiaries. Navy Medicine personnel deploy with Sailors and Marines worldwide, providing critical mission support aboard ship, in the air, under the sea and on the battlefield. For more information visit

White House Reverses Policy on Suicide Condolence Letters

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2011 – President Barack Obama and Defense Department officials will send condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide in a war zone.

The change is in keeping with administration efforts to remove the stigma of mental health treatment, an administration official said on background.

The president last year ordered a review of the long-held policy of not sending condolence letters to the next of kin of those who commit suicide in war zones. White House officials yesterday announced the policy change allowing for condolence letters to be sent. The president made his decision after consulting with the defense secretary and members of the military chain of command.

“As commander in chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war - seen and unseen,” Obama said in a statement released this morning. “Since taking office, I’ve been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I’ve worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.”

Defense leaders will follow the president’s lead. “The administration will now send condolence letters to families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom and other combat operations,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan said.

“This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely,” Obama said in his statement. “They didn’t die because they were weak. And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change.”

U.S. service members have borne an incredible burden of war, Obama said. “We need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation,” he said.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has long favored sending condolence letters to the next of kin of those who committed suicide, a Joint Staff official said on background.

Other military leaders also spoke in favor of the decision, including Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli. In a blog posting on the White House site, the general said the greatest regret of his military career was not recognizing the sacrifice of a soldier in Iraq.

Chiarelli commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. “I lost 169 soldiers during that year-long deployment,” he wrote in the blog. “However, the monument we erected at Fort Hood, Texas, in memoriam lists 168 names. I approved the request of others not to include the name of the one soldier who committed suicide. I deeply regret my decision.”

Service members are tired and stretched, Chiarelli said. “The persistent high operational tempo of this war, the terrible things some have seen or experienced in combat, have undoubtedly taken a toll on them,” he said. “Many are struggling with the ‘invisible wounds’ of this war, including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. Any attempt to characterize these individuals as somehow weaker than others is simply misguided.”

Even with leaders’ emphasis on getting mental health help, a stigma persists, Chiarelli said. “We remain committed to raising awareness, helping individuals increase their resiliency while ensuring they have access to the right support services and resources,” he said. “That said, if we hope to truly have an impact, we must continue to do everything we can to eliminate the stigma.”

The president’s decision acknowledges that the service rendered by these individuals, as well as the service and sacrifices made by their family, deserve the same recognition given to those men and women who die as a result of enemy action, Chiarelli said.

“Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan nearly a decade ago, over 6,000 men and women have paid the ultimate price for freedom,” he said. “Every day we have honored those fallen in combat. Now, in accordance with our commander in chief, we will honor all those who have fallen in service to our great nation.”

Spend Summer Aboard IKE

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rob Rupp, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- Thirty-seven 1st and 2nd Class Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and Reserve Officer Training (ROTC) programs around the country arrived aboard Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 29, as part of their officer commissioning programs.

During their month-long stay on board the carrier the midshipmen are trying to learn as much as possible about the Navy, their future jobs and the responsibilities of a commissioned officer in the Navy.

The second class midshipmen are participating in the enlisted appreciation portion of the training and are required to sleep in enlisted berthing and eat on the enlisted mess decks.

"It is amazing how this many people from all walks of life, on the same ship, can work together for one goal," said Midshipman 2nd Class Tyler Lutz, a student attending the University of Maryland.

The first class midshipmen are participating in the officer cruise and are tasked with learning leadership skills. They are allowed to sleep in staterooms and eat in the wardrooms.

"I really enjoy talking to the Sailors," said Midshipman 1st Class Mary Coyne, a student attending the University of Notre Dame. "These cruises play a big role in who we are and how we lead."

Lt. Cmdr. Brock Miller, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower training officer, provided the midshipmen with personal qualification standards (PQS) to help familiarize them with the ship and other naval information.

"I have a lot of experience with midshipmen," said Miller. "Not only was I once a midshipman, I have also taught midshipmen in college."

Miller's other responsibilities include coordinating events for them to participate in, arranging their berthing and assigning them running mates.

Running mates are either chief petty officers or junior officers who take the midshipmen under their wing to mentor and teach them different aspects of their job.

After graduation, the midshipmen will become commissioned officers in the Navy. They will be expected to lead first-year Sailors, as well as 20-year veterans.

"I can't expect to lead someone I don't know," said Midshipman 2nd Class Ross Hertzler, a student attending the University of South Carolina. "This experience has really opened my eyes to life in the Navy."

"Training on board a carrier is significant for the midshipmen," said USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Command Master Chief (CMC) Gregg Snaza. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for future commissioned officers."

Lutz said Snaza inspired him to want to be in the Navy even more.

"My charge to the crew of IKE is to embrace the midshipmen," said Snaza. "Don't make them be spectators, involve them so they can learn."

NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Celebrates Emerging Leaders

By Tom Kreidel, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Mid-Atlantic held a ceremony to celebrate the graduation of 30 of its employees from the Emerging Leadership Program (ELP) at the command's headquarters on board Naval Station Norfolk, July 1.

This was the second class to graduate from the program.

"This is truly a win-win situation," said Capt. Paul Odenthal, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic executive officer. "This investment in each of you is one that will come back to us tenfold thanks to what you've learned in this class, along with how you will use these new skills throughout the organization."

The ELP was developed in partnership with the Graduate School to afford NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic employees the chance to participate in a leadership program sponsored by the command. The Graduate School was founded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.

The school has approximately 200,000 participants per year. Its stated mission is to "develop people and to make government more efficient and effective by offering a wide variety of classes and programs, ranging from government-based specialties such as governmental accounting and auditing, human capital management and acquisition to foreign languages, economics, leadership and landscape design."

Odenthal challenged the graduates to help recruit the next ELP class by seeking out co-workers they think would benefit from the class and letting them know what they've learned over the last several months.

"Now that you've graduated, this isn't the end, it's just the beginning," he added.

According to Lori Bowen, who coordinates the program for NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Community Management, the program last approximately six months with three, one-week sessions held at the command's headquarters. Students also perform assignments on their own, as part of the program.

Bowen said the program covers team building, communication, conflict management, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal skills and customer service. She said by the third period of onsite instruction, there is a noticeable use of these skills in how the students interact with each other and their instructors.

"They really come away with a better understanding of themselves and the organization," Bowen said. "While we can't guarantee them exactly where taking this course will lead them, we can guarantee it will give them many tools in their toolbox to help them succeed."

The students in the course also say their participation was integral in their development.

"The fact that we have ELP shows that NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic really values me as an employee," said Charles Gray, a 2011 graduate. "It really makes me want to work harder, since they've invested so much in me.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command: The Facilities and Expeditionary Combat Systems Command NAVFAC is the Systems Command that delivers and maintains quality, sustainable facilities, acquires and manages capabilities for the Navy's expeditionary combat forces, provides contingency engineering response, and enables energy security and environmental stewardship. Additional updates and information about NAVFAC can be found on Facebook at and on Twitter at

NPC Reminds Sailors to Register Dependents in DEERS, Keep Enrollments Current

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrea Smithluedke, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy Personnel Command (NPC) reminded Sailors July 5 to enroll new spouses in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

In addition to marriage, Sailors must update DEERS within 60 days of any other life-changing event such as divorce, birth of a child or adoption and death of a dependant. Failure to do so could result in breaks in eligibility for family members.

"DEERS is an automated information system which maintains critical data on service members and dependents, that is used to determine eligibility for military benefits and entitlements," said Kathy Wardlaw, records management and benefits division director, NPC.

DEERS maintains more than 23 million personnel-and-benefits records for active-duty, Reservists, retired military, DOD contractors and civil service personnel and their families.

The system is also responsible for producing DOD identification (ID) cards, including common access cards, and supports delivery of medical, dental, educational and life insurance benefits.

Previously, DEERS could be accessed though the myDODbenefits Portal on the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) Web site. The online system has been upgraded and can now be accessed through the website milConnect. Sponsors and eligible beneficiaries can still access DEERS through the DMDC website under 'Beneficiaries' or users can go directly to the new milConnect website,

Sponsors, spouses and eligible beneficiaries over 18 years old are able to perform the following functions on milConnect: update contact information in DEERS instantly, view current health care eligibility, manage TRICARE enrollments, locate the nearest military ID card issuing facility, view personnel information, transfer post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to eligible family members, update civilian employment information, view Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) information, obtain proof of insurance if currently in a TRICARE-managed program, find answers to frequently asked questions about health care eligibility and more.

"Most Sailors assume that changing their Record of Emergency Data (Page 2) will automatically update their DEERS status, but they are two separate data systems," said Wardlaw. "The Page 2 is a Navy data input into the Navy personnel system and DEERS is the official DOD repository for family member information."

Contact information in DEERS can be updated online, in-person, by phone, fax or mail. Two secure online options are either the new milConnect website or TRICARE Beneficiary Web Enrollment Web site. Both are available to people who have an active Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS)-issued myPay personal identification number.

For those who would like to update their DEERS information in person, the Real-time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site locator online allows service members and beneficiaries to locate RAPIDS site nearest to them. More than 900 RAPIDS sites in 23 different countries use DEERS data to provide ID cards or related personnel support to eligible persons.

Beneficiaries can call the DMDC support office at 800-538-9552 to update addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Changes can also be faxed to 831-655-8317, or mailed to DMDC Support Office, 400 Gigling Road, Seaside, CA 93955-6771. Any other questions regarding DEERS can be directed to the NPC Customer Service Center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC.

Wisconsin National Guard supports Rhythm and Booms

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

The Wisconsin National Guard had a blast helping tens of thousands of people celebrate Independence Day weekend during the 19th annual Rhythm and Booms celebration at Madison's Warner Park July 2.

Four M119A2 towed 105-mm howitzers were on hand for hourly reports, as well as to play a role in the fireworks finale, courtesy of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery, headquartered in Wisconsin Rapids with subordinate units in Marshfield and Stevens Point. This is the first year the Wisconsin National Guard has not used ceremonial, or "salute," 105-mm howitzers for the event.

This was the first Rhythm and Booms event for Spc. Christopher Kau of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery in Stevens Point.

"The powder canisters are a little different than the [high explosive] rounds - a lot more smoke," he said, referring to the standard howitzer round fired in training and combat missions. Inert dummy rounds were on display for the public to see between hourly cannon reports.

1st Sgt. James Ward, a National Guard field artillery subject matter expert taking part in his sixth Rhythm and Booms, said he keeps coming back because he wants to see the event continue.

"We get different Soldiers to work this every year," he explained. "Keeping some continuity is important."

Ward also "conducts" the firing line during the closing of Peter Illytch Tchaikowski's "1812 Overture," played as the grand finale to what is billed as the largest fireworks show in the Midwest. Playing music as a student provided the ability to read a musical score, which is how he directs the cannons to fire in time with the composition.

But musical performances and military missions both require rehearsals, which Ward and his crew took seriously hours before the fireworks began. As the overture swelled through small speakers, Ward cued each cannon.

"Oh, you've got to be a little bit faster," he chided one cannon crew. "There are five shots in this passage - you're the first and the fifth."

The Wisconsin Army National Guard's UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter proved as popular among visitors as the cannons. Crowds thronged the aircraft shortly after it landed and powered down at Warner Park. The helicopter's crew was on hand for much of the afternoon to answer questions as children took a closer look inside the passenger section of the aircraft.

The U.S. Army's Golden Knights parachute team returned for a second year to Rhythm and Booms, performing day and night skydives from 12,500 feet overhead. Following the daylight jump, Golden Knights members coached children how to properly roll the parachutes. The Black Hawk ferried the Golden Knights back to the airport between jumps.

The Wisconsin Air National Guard's F-16 Falcons were not on hand nearly as long as the cannons or the helicopter, but their presence was certainly memorable enough. Four Falcons roared overhead in the twilight as the National Anthem reached the words "o'er the land of the free," prompting a thunderous ovation from the multitudes attending the event.

Ward admitted to one other reason he keeps coming back to support Rhythm and Booms.

"You can't get a better view of the fireworks than right there where the howitzers are," he said.

Family Matters Blog: Army Reserve Spouse Tackles Finances

By Nancy French
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2011 – Guest blogger Nancy French and her husband, Army Reserve Capt. David French, are recognized bloggers and book authors.

When my husband, David, was deployed with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to Iraq, I’d never balanced my checkbook. I was what you might call a bystander to our financial lives after embarrassing David enough — the last straw was when I bounced our tithe check — to start handling our money exclusively. If adults had superlatives, I’d be voted, “Most Likely to Get My Electricity Turned Off,”

When David left for the war, however, it seemed less frivolous and more dire. Women would say, in hushed tones, “You should know more about your finances,” they would say, “in case something happens.”

Something happening was meant to induce fearful visions of the bank seizing my car because I couldn’t figure out where to send our monthly check if David couldn’t assist me. Before deployment, I felt invincible and full of life, not bothering to plan for the worst or, to be honest, even think of it. But before David left, we filled out some basic Army forms that ridded me of any of this false security.

In case something happened, David made a box of important documents that would guide me through our finances. In case something happened, he created a will and taught me about our insurance policies. In case something happened, our friends in Boston agreed to travel with me out of the country, and my neighbors agreed to watch the kids.

It sobered me. When David drove off that Saturday morning to begin his journey to Iraq, I feared for his safety and he feared he’d return home to a house with a yellow ribbon on the porch and a foreclosed sign in the yard — an all-too-common occurrence.

Soldiers give power of attorney to their parents or girlfriends and return to realize their “loved ones” have bought new satellite televisions, pick-up trucks, and — in one case I heard of — plastic surgery. Wives, who already feel deserted, feel entitled to live it up while their husband is gone, or, in my case, lack the know-how to keep things afloat.

One day, I was driving in my car and came across Nashville financial guru Dave Ramsey’s talk show.

“I give you the same advice your grandmother would’ve given you, except I keep my teeth in,” he said, describing his old-fashioned money advice. It got my attention.

To get started, he advised something called a debt-snowball. This is when you list all your debts from the smallest to the largest and pay the little debts first. Theoretically, if you can get over the shock of seeing all our debts in a list, it’ll give you immediate emotional gratification of getting rid of one naggingly small debt at a time. Then, you take the money you would’ve paid on it the next month and pay on your second debt. By the time the final debts are reached, the extra amount of cash you have to pay them off will grow quickly, just as a snowball rolls downhill and gathers momentum.

It sounded good, simple and understandable. So, I sat down and decided to look at our numbers for the first time. I felt like a child who had scraped her knee, afraid to assess the damage.

“Complete Lists of Debts” I wrote on a page of a notebook I’d ambitiously titled “A New Leaf.” David had given me carte blanche and power of attorney, realizing he couldn’t monitor both al-Qaida and my checking account, so I decided to keep this whole adventure a secret. I wrote down each item of debt, which represented anywhere from just a few to several thousand dollars. Revealing the wound was painful, each item causing me to physically wince — Sallie Mae (David’s Harvard loans); Plato (I-didn’t-even-get-a-degree loan); Land Rover (overpriced, gas-guzzling loan); Saab (car that might or might not have a gear shift loan), American Express (new laptop); and Visa (too many dinners out).

To start the snowball rolling, Dave Ramsey suggested having a yard sale or selling something of value. In seeing it all laid bare like that, I got a lump in my throat, took a deep breath, and did what any red-blooded American girl would do. I put David’s Land Rover up for sale.

After all, he was in Iraq. He wasn’t using it.

The next night, I was standing in my driveway accepting payment in cash from some guys in Nashville. When they drove away, they took my garage door opener, my Prince CD, and an enormous financial headache with them.

I hadn’t thought this all through. David would eventually return and need a vehicle, but I planned on being filthy rich by that time. Now? I got out a marker and wrote down the amount of my monthly Land Rover payment and designated it for next month’s American Express bill.

And so it began, a snowflake of an idea turning into a snowball of momentum. Over the course of the year, I got two extra jobs, planted trees in our otherwise pretty dull front yard, asked my neighbor to help me plant flowers, and generally tried to make our home a better place upon his return. (I did have extra time, since I didn’t have to shave my legs for the whole year.)

Whether I would succeed in my effort was yet to be seen. But there was something intoxicating about making something happen, rather than sitting around and fearing that somewhere, across the world in some sandy wasteland, something might.

Oak Hill Sailors Celebrate the 4th of July in Boston

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin, Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

BOSTON, Mass. (NNS) -- Several Sailors from USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) participated in Boston Harborfest's 4th of July parade to celebrate Harborfest's 30th anniversary, July 4.

During opening remarks, the Honorable Thomas Menino, Boston's mayor, welcomed Boston residents and Oak Hill Sailors.

"Our celebration of this day is dedicated to this city's rich, historic past and to the fine men and women who serve unselfishly to preserve this history," said Menino.

For some Oak Hill Sailors, this was their first time participating in a 4th of July parade in Boston.

"This is my first time here, so for me to be able to participate in a parade of this size where most of the city was watching us march down their streets was such an amazing sight to behold," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class (SW) Gerardo Kosonoy.

At the close of the parade, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by Oak Hill's Sailor of the Quarter, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class (SW/AW) Joseph McClelland, at the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.

"To be able to recite the Pledge before the city of Boston and my fellow shipmates, was one of the biggest honors anyone could ever have," said McClelland, a native of Erie, Pa. "This is a day I hope to share with my family as we celebrate our own 4th of July's as the years go by."

Cmdr. David Bauer, Oak Hill commanding officer, was proud that his Sailors were able to be a part of Boston's history.

"This is a significant event in which Boston celebrates our country being 235 years old," said Bauer. "For Oak Hill to be present for such an important event in the history of our country is a blessing. The Sailors left an impact through our interaction with the community and we are truly thankful for having this opportunity."