Military News

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Friday, July 08, 2011

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta is traveling.

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

Lynn to Step Down as Deputy Defense Secretary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2011 – Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III will step down later this year to return to private life, Pentagon officials announced today.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta asked Lynn to remain in office until a successor is nominated and confirmed, officials said, and that’s expected to happen by autumn.

“Bill Lynn has provided outstanding advice and counsel to this department and to the nation over the course of his long career,” Panetta said in a Pentagon news release. “I will rely on his experience and expertise during this transition period. His service will be greatly missed.”

Lynn has been the face of the Pentagon’s cyber defense policy. He has worked within the department to strengthen DOD’s defense posture and put in place policies, procedures and techniques to safeguard data on the information superhighway. He worked closely with military officials to establish the U.S. Cyber Command – a four-star headquarters based at Fort Meade, Md.

Lynn also has worked with close allies such as Britain, Australia and Canada to ensure all nations work together to protect military information. He stressed the importance of cybersecurity to NATO, and the alliance adapted a roadmap to protect vital secrets during its summit last year.

Lynn also concentrated on DOD’s space and operational energy policies and the department’s Quadrennial Defense Review. In addition, he was instrumental in the process that led to award of the Air Force aerial tanker contract.

“It has been a rare privilege to serve in the Department of Defense during such a challenging time,” the deputy secretary said. “And it has been an honor to serve alongside an outstanding group of civilian and military members who every day demonstrate the value to this nation of their unwavering commitment and dedicated service.”

Lynn’s impending departure is the latest in a series of changes in Pentagon leadership. Panetta took over from retired Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last week. Marine Corps Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright is scheduled to step down as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff next month, and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will complete his four-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the end of September.

President Barack Obama must nominate Lynn’s successor. The Senate Armed Services Committee would hold a confirmation hearing, and the full Senate would vote on confirmation.

President Calls for Balanced Defense Spending Cuts

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2011 – Though he is committed to cutting the Defense Department budget as part of the overall reduction in the federal deficit, U.S.security and strategic needs must drive the effort, President Barack Obama said yesterday in his first Twitter town hall meeting.

Obama said he conducted the meeting to find out what the public thinks about how to reduce the federal deficit, what costs should be cut and which investments should be kept.

Responding to suggestions for cuts in the defense budget, the president said that is not an easy task.

“We can’t simply lop off 25 percent off the defense budget overnight,” he said. “We have to think about all the obligations we have to our troops who are in the field, and making sure they’re properly equipped and safe.” The need to replace outdated military equipment is another budget consideration, the president added.

“We’ve ended the war in Iraq, our combat mission there, and all our troops are slated to be out by the end of this year,” Obama said. And as Afghan forces take more responsibility for their country’s security, he added, U.S. forces will draw down there as well. But drawing down forces and beginning a new phase in Afghanistan must be done “fairly gradually,” he said.

Obama said that while decisions to cut defense spending will be tough, a reduction requires a balanced approach, as with any government program, to shrink the overall federal budget.

“Those who say that we can’t cut military at all haven’t spent a lot of time looking at military budgets,” he added.

However, the president said, the reductions must take place with the nation’s security in mind.

“One of the things that we have to do is make sure that we do it in a thoughtful way that’s guided by our security and our strategic needs,” he said. “And I think we can accomplish that.”

Navy Re-opens Norfolk Powder Coating Facility

By Susan Lawson, Navy Regional Maintenance Center Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy officially re-opened the Norfolk Ship Support Activity's powder coating facility on board Norfolk Naval Station July 1, re-establishing the capability to apply corrosion-resistant, powder-based paint to shipboard equipment on Norfolk-based ships.

Originally closed in the mid-90s when the Norfolk Regional Repair Center was moved to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the powder coating facility was re-established to make corrosion control capabilities more accessible to surface ships.

The facility is one of a number of maintenance facilities the Navy is re-establishing and re-manning, in an effort to improve intermediate level surface ship maintenance support.

The new powder coating facility will use a variety of powder coatings, depending on the type of parts or equipment requiring protection. The coatings are comprised of plastic powders and other durable materials, which, when sprayed or applied, contain materials that immediately bond to the surfaces of parts being repaired.

"With corrosion a relentless adversary, this new powder coating shop will help reduce maintenance costs and provide a much needed asset for our surface ships," said Commander, U.S. Navy Surface Forces, Atlantic, Rear Adm. Dave Thomas. "We've waited 16 years to get our intermediate maintenance facilities back on line and I'm delighted we're growing these capabilities, one step at a time."

Powder coatings can provide maximum protection to ships' components because they are applied in a very controlled manner using more optimal layers of thickness where needed, as opposed to paint, which is applied at a thickness that cannot be greatly varied. Powder coating, unlike a standard painted surface, is much harder and durable application that resists corrosion for a longer period of time.

Old paint is sandblasted from parts in a special booth prior to being given a fresh coating in the powder-coat spray booth. They are then placed in bake-on ovens to seal the powder coatings.

"By using powder coating, Sailors are able to reduce surface ship corrosion on a great variety of parts throughout an entire ship. Powder coating works especially well for the environments our ships face at sea. The coatings are weather resistant, making parts more anti-corrosive than other coverings, and they are environmentally friendly," said Norfolk Ship Support Activity production manager Ronnie Saunders.

Air Force Pilot Missing from Vietnam War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Maj. Richard G. Elzinga of Shedd, Ore., will be buried on July 8 in Arlington National Cemetery.  On March 26, 1970, Elzinga and his co-pilot went missing when their O-1G Birddog aircraft failed to return to base from a familiarization flight over Laos.  Fifteen minutes after the last radio contact, a communication and visual search showed no sign of the men or their aircraft.  Search and rescue missions continued for two days with no results.

Between 1994 and 2009, joint U.S.-Lao People’s Democratic Republic teams led by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, analyzed leads, interviewed villagers and surveyed possible crash site locations.  During several joint field surveys, teams recovered human remains, aircraft wreckage, and crew-related equipment.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA -- which matched that of his aunt and cousin -- in the identification of Elzinga’s remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.

USS Germantown Arrives In Australia, Begins Talisman Sabre 2011

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Johnie Hickmon, USS Germantown Public Affairs

TOWNSVILLE, Australia (NNS) -- USS Germantown (LSD 42) and embarked Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Townsville, Australia, for a port visit July 7.

The visit also marks the beginning of Talisman Sabre 2011 (TS11), a bilateral command post and field training exercise designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces.

During the port visit, the crew will have the opportunity to not only shop and participate in several Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities, but lend a helping hand to the local community. The ship's first class petty officer association will sponsor a community relations project at the Cancer Institute and Endeavor, where Sailors and Marines will do yard maintenance and interact with individuals there.

For many Sailors and Marines, this will be their first visit to Australia. Pfc. Christopher Dutzer said he has always wanted to visit Australia and is excited about the visit.

"I'm looking forward to enjoying the sites," he said. "I've had friends who have visited Townsville, and they told me the people are very friendly. I think this will be a unique experience."

For others, this will the first time they've visited Australia in a few years. Culinary Specialist 2nd Class(SW) Caesar Ulsano said he last visited Australia four years ago and is looking forward to the friendly hospitality provided by the locals.

"I had a real good time the last time I visited," he said. "I'm looking forward to making new friends and enjoying the country."

In addition to the 31st MEU, units from Air Craft Unit 5 are embarked aboard Germantown for the exercise. They offer three landing craft air cushions, 15 amphibious assault vehicles, three 7-ton vehicles and several Humvees to support the mission.

Germantown departed Sasebo, Japan, June 24 for TS11. The ship was commissioned Feb. 8, 1986, and is capable of carrying more than 721 Sailors and Marines. It is 610 feet long and can travel at speeds up to 20 knots.

USS George Washington Crew Safely Navigates Through Sunda Strait

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman, USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard forward-deployed, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) successfully navigated the ship through the Sunda Strait July 6.

The strait links the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean.

"There is a lot that can go wrong during this evolution. The narrowest point in the straits is just two miles wide and the water is only 18 meters deep," said Cmdr. Wes McCall, George Washington's navigator. "If the ship's keel was sitting on the sea floor right now, the mast would be sticking out of the waters - it's that shallow."

To assist George Washington, ships from the Australian and Indonesian navies escorted the carrier through the tricky waterway.

The Sunda Strait, which separates Java from Sumatra, is also busy with hundreds of smaller commercial ships moving commerce around the globe.

"The trickiest part is contact avoidance, making sure that we all get through here safely. That's the only thing on my mind right now," said McCall.

To mitigate that danger, George Washington's lookouts were out in full force, armed with binoculars and sound powered phones to instantly report any hazards.

"We had our work cut out for us today," said Chief Quartermaster (SW/EXW) Jarrod Collins of George Washington's Navigation Department. "For transits like this, it sometimes takes a couple of days to prepare - sometimes a couple of weeks. We research the area we're traveling through, make sure we are aware of the restrictions and that we are adhering to them."

While it is easy to be swept away by the beauty of the clear blue water and passing islands, the crew of George Washington was reminded that the Sunda Strait is also a graveyard for U.S. and Allied Sailors from World War II. In 1942, cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) and HMAS Perth (D 29) were sunk in the Sunda Strait by Imperial Japanese forces.

"All the waters of the 7th Fleet area of responsibility are steeped in history," said Capt. David Lausman, George Washington's commanding officer. "Our crew gains valuable insight, professionalism and understanding in all waters that we navigate."

The average age of the crew aboard George Washington is just 26 years old. To successfully navigate a massive 1,092 foot-long carrier for nearly 12 hours through a busy and tricky waterway is a credit to the skill of these young Sailors.

"We have some young quartermasters aboard, as well as Sailors who have only been doing the job for a few months. To see them navigating these waters is very impressive," said McCall. "These guys are the best that we have, and I'm very proud of them."

George Washington returned to patrolling the waters of the Western Pacific June 12 after departing the ship's forward operating base of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. There are more than 5,500 Sailors, from George Washington and Carrier Air Wing 5, on board the ship.

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.

Eisenhower Named As 2010 SECNAV Safety Award Winner

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Marshall, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) was awarded the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Safety Excellence Award in the large deck combatant category at an award presentation at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Naval Heritage Center Theater in Washington, D.C., July 7, 2011.

The Department of the Navy Safety Excellence Awards were established in 2002 by the Honorable Gordon R. England to personally recognize Navy and Marine Corps commands that demonstrate extraordinary excellence by sustained mission success with simultaneous exemplary safety performance.

All award recipients of the award are presented with the SECNAV's distinctive white-and-green safety flag, which they are entitled to fly for one year.

"Our uses of operational risk management (ORM) during the 2010 deployment and our time in the shipyard is what got us here," said Commander Thomas F. Stanley, Dwight D. Eisenhower's safety officer. "Training, fixing problems on the spot and being knowledgeable about the risks kept IKE safe."

According to SECNAV Ray Mabus, safety and risk management are intrinsic to Dwight D. Eisenhower to effectively prepare for and complete her mission, whether at home or deployed in harm's way.

"Your safety accomplishments are proof-positive of your mission first, safety always command culture and your commitment to each other, to safety excellence, to the nation, and to the advent of the department of the Navy as a world class safety organization," Mabus said in a message announcing the awards.

Sailors aboard Dwight D. Eisenhower have been in a post incremental availability period since September of last year, but that has not stopped Sailors from catching the attention of SECNAV Mabus.

"We set a standard this past year and hopefully USS Dwight D. Eisenhower's safety continues to improve," said Stanley.

Game Day at the Brain Fitness Center

By Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications

The veteran walks onto the playing field - game face on. But there’s no standard athletic equipment here, no bats, no balls, no clubs. Instead, the equipment is a chair and a computer.

Like physical competitive play, speed, accuracy, agility and strategic thinking will be tested. Unlike physical play however, only the mind, not the body, will be put through the paces.

This is tough stuff with a formidable opponent: the brain. This particular veteran has a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and he’s about to voluntarily spend repeated, small chunks of time playing games with his mind.

The setting is the Brain Fitness Center. It’s a small room with a half-dozen computers running programs that sound and look like video games. Veterans and active-duty service members who have difficulty remembering things, trouble focusing or paying attention – all possible cognitive symptoms of TBI – “play” with shapes, pictures, sounds, paired associations, speech patterns, puzzles and a host of programs to stimulate visual processing, critical thinking, language, calculation and other brain functions that can challenge veterans with TBI.

The games are meant to be fun and entertaining ways to stimulate the brain. On some days, however, the games can be as grueling as any physical workout.

Housed inside the Military Advanced Training Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Brain Fitness Center is one program the Defense Department is using to help veterans with TBI. The center is part of the Walter Reed TBI program, which incorporates more than 12 different components to address this multifaceted injury with a broad spectrum of symptoms and disabilities.

The computerized brain training program is meant to supplement traditional rehabilitative therapies. “This is a complex issue,” said Dr. Louis French, a neuropsychologist and clinical site director for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a component center of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE). ‘‘We must have multiple interventions,” he said.

The center has a library of products, some developed in a clinical setting and others that come from the commercial market. Access to the products comes by appointment at the center, take-home software, web-based technology and hand-held devices, all of which allow service members and veterans to train wherever they have a computer and an Internet connection.

Though many users say they’ve found help and improvement with these products, brain training remains experimental. Kathleen Sullivan, speech pathologist and director of the Brain Fitness Center, says research shows that the brain can continue to learn and become stronger at any age. But the research is still out on definitive claims of success in treating TBI.

Michael Merzenich is a neuroscientist and co-founder of Posit Science, which makes one of the brain training programs used at Walter Reed and other military and veterans’ hospitals. He admits that although brain training programs have not been scientifically tested on brains, let alone injured brains, he believes they are helping. “[It] doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be in the tip-top shape they were in before they went over to Afghanistan,” he says, “but most of the people can be substantially better.”

New website offers Guard members greater access to benefits information

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

It's 2 a.m. on a sleepless night, and you want to check the status of a Veterans Administration disability claim related to your last deployment. A new one-stop website means you won't have to wait for the start of the workday to get the information you are looking for.

eBenefits - a VA web portal developed by the 2007 President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors - provides National Guard members and all veterans access to a catalog of direct links to information on services ranging from VA claims to education benefits and life insurance.

Jeffrey Unger, transition assistance advisor with the Wisconsin National Guard, enrolled in eBenefits in January.

"One of the things I like is it allows you, in the privacy and security of your own home, to get access to anything in the Veterans Benefits Administration," he said.

"It's a tool for personal information organization," said Vernell Hill, the National Guard Bureau Interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System senior access control manager. "The sooner you get in and get up to date, the easier it is for everything to fall into line, especially in the event something unforeseen happens and your family needs information."

Hill said Guard members can sign up using one of four methods: with their common access card, through myPay, a defense enrollment eligibility reporting system real-time automated personnel identification system terminal, or go directly to the closest VA center for face-to-face assistance.

Service members with a common access card (CAC) will be directed to obtain an eBenefits logon either upon enlistment, reenlistment or by 2013, according to Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

"The DS [DOD Self-Service Logon] is a secure, self-service logon ID that allows beneficiaries affiliated with the DOD or the VA access to several websites using a single username and password," Stanley said. "DS Logon will allow all service members and veterans secure access through the eBenefits web portal to benefits information specifically tailored to their needs, for the lifetime of their affiliation with the DOD or VA."

Hill recommended that Guard members who are still part of the uniformed service use their common access cards to enter the system since it is easier.

"CAC registration is especially critical for our wounded warriors, since it may be more difficult to travel to a RAPIDS or VA site," he said.

Unger said that eBenefits will soon be even more useful to National Guard members. He noticed that the site linked mostly to the VBA or state veterans affairs departments. Based on his suggestion, the NGB will cooperate with the VA to quickly incorporate transition assistance advisor information for each state, as well as other veterans services provided by state National Guard organizations.

"This will provide direct access to a knowledgeable, in-state resource who will walk the transition process with them," Unger explained, "building their self-esteem and letting them know they are not the first, they won't be the last, and they are not alone in this process."

Tech. Sgt. John Orrell of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report.

Before Boots Hit the Ground: Preparation Tips for the Deploying Service Member

By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications

For July’s Performance Optimization Month, we’ll be posting pre-deployment tips for service members, families, providers and members of the reserve components in a four-part blog series. Our “Before Boots Hit the Ground” series will feature resources from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) and its component centers.

When Real Warrior Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall deployed for the second time, she had a wealth of knowledge on the prevention and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after seeking help with her own psychological concerns during her first tour.

“When I went back to Iraq, I felt that I had adequate coping skills for PTSD,” she said. “Seeking help is a sign of strength.”

Now Pearsall is involved in programs that teach service members resilience tactics and how to prepare for and cope with potential psychological health concerns on the battlefield.

DCoE and its component centers offer tools and resources that can be used to help service members as they prepare for deployment.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress offers the resource “Dealing with the Effects of Trauma — A Self Help Guide.” The guide contains strategies on preventing psychological health concerns and lists signs and symptoms one should be aware of when self-assessing health on the battlefield.

Militaryonesource.com connects service members in all phases of deployment with face-to-face, telephone or online counseling with trained psychological health professionals, as well as readiness guides for all services.

The Deployment Health Clinical Center features a pre-deployment support resource, pre-deployment health assessment, fact-sheets on mental health readiness and links to resources and websites that can help a service member prepare for an upcoming tour.

With new mobile phone applications developed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, deployed service members can track their emotions and practice coping techniques from the palms of their hands. Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management application for iPhone that teaches users diaphragmatic breathing exercises that are proven to help with psychological resilience and management of concerns. The T2 Mood Tracker application, available for both iPhone and Android phones, allows users to self-monitor their emotional experience during their deployment, providing a record of their moods to detect changes that might need reaching out to a deployed health provider.

In their “Before Deployment” section, Real Warriors Campaign offers tips on developing psychological resilience, such as maintaining healthy sleeping habits while deployed, relaxation techniques and taking advantage of service-specific deployment trainings.

Real Warriors also features video profiles of service members and veterans discussing their journeys with psychological concerns while deployed—an experience that Pearsall found very beneficial in her outreach to other service members.

“I found that by sharing my story and my experiences, I can help others deal with theirs,” she said.

Medal of Honor Recipient Inducted Into Hall of Heroes

The U.S. Army will induct Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes in a July 13 ceremony at 2 p.m.

General Martin E. Dempsey, the 37th Army Chief of Staff, will add Petry’s name to the distinguished roster in the Hall of Heroes, the Defense Department's permanent display of record for all recipients of the Medal of Honor.  Also serving as the official party for the ceremony are the Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, commander U.S. Special Operations Command Admiral Eric T. Olson and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

Immediately following the ceremony members of the media are invited to a press conference with Sgt. 1st Class Petry in the Pentagon Press Briefing room (2E973) for a question and answer session.  Interested media should contact Army public affairs at 703-697-5662 or 703-693-5084 no later than Friday, July 8.

Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will need to enter either the Metro Entrance or the River Entrance and will require a Pentagon escort.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event, have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.

The President will present the Medal of Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Petry in a White House ceremony on Tuesday, July 12 in recognition of his valor during Operation Enduring Freedom.  Interested media should contact White House Office of Media Affairs at 202-456-6238.

Visit:  http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/  for more information on the Medal of Honor.

NOTE:  For Pentagon media escort please RSVP to:
Mr. Troy Rolan at 703-697-5662 / troy.rolan@conus.army.mll, LTC Laurel Devine at 703-693-5084 / laurel.hubred@conus.army.mil or Mr. Wayne Hall at 703-697-2163 / wayne.v.hall@us.army.mil

 *Broadcast equipment/news setup no later than 1:30 p.m.