Military News

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mullen: Troops, Families Must Remain ‘Front and Center’

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2011 – Although the military is in a time of unprecedented change, from budget constraints to the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, caring for troops and their families must remain a constant, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today during an all-hands call on U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, South Korea.

“We can buy a lot of neat stuff and go operate in a lot of places, [but] the No. 1 priority for me are people and our families,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the service members. “No matter where we go or what we buy, in the end, the heart of what we are is you.”

Change is happening at a pace he’s never seen before, the chairman noted. “We’ve moved beyond any kind of steady state … across the board, whether you’re talking about education or promotion or operation or equipment.”

The chairman touched on the more immediate changes occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military is on track to move out of Iraq by the end of the year, he said, and in Afghanistan, 33,000 troops will withdraw from the country by September 2012.

The nation has made “extraordinary” progress in Afghanistan, he noted, particularly in regard to building up the Afghan security forces, both army and police.

That effort has entailed challenges, he acknowledged. Still, more than 300,000 Afghan security forces will be in place by the end of the fiscal year in September, the chairman said, and another 50,000 will be added over the next year or so.

As a result, even though 33,000 U.S. troops will withdraw along with some percentage of allied forces, more forces will be in the fight in 2012 than before, Mullen noted. “That really is our ticket home,” he said. “They have to take over their own security; they have to lead.”

Mullen also discussed changes within the services and in how they operate. “We’re much more ‘joint’ than we used to be, and we need to stay that way,” he said.

Services also have increased “dwell time” -- the time troops spend at home between deployments. The military is moving toward a point where members will be at home at least twice as long as they’re deployed, the chairman said.

Some units will continue to operate on a 1-to-1 ratio, he acknowledged, with one year deployed to every year home. But overall, dwell times will be increasing in the next couple of years in the Army and Marine Corps, he said, which are the most stressed forces.

Turning to budget matters, Mullen noted that the military’s future strength will rely on present constraint. “We’re all going to have to tighten our belts for a period of time to sustain this military, to be the military that we must be for the future, to sustain the health of this all-volunteer force. Making sure we keep our force, our people, front and center as we move through these challenges, is very critical.”

The chairman thanked the troops for their service. Noting that he’s been serving since the Vietnam era, he said today’s military in the history of the country, and arguably, the world.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you out here and what our troops are doing around the world,” he said.

Their families, too, deserve the nation’s gratitude, Mullen said.

“Family support has obviously always been critical,” he said. “We can’t do it without it. But it’s better now than it’s ever been, and comes at a time when it needs to be better than it has ever been because of the stress you’re under -- the number of deployments, the wars we’ve been in and the challenges that will continue to be out there.”

The military has invested resources, time and effort in family programs and must continue to sustain that, he said.

Mullen also urged the troops to mentor those who will succeed them and to look out for each other, particularly regarding post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault and suicide.

“Leaders have to make a difference here,” he said. “We have to take steps, significant steps, to make sure we can get ahead of those problems. In the end we have to make sure we take care of each other in these challenging times.”

As for his own possible successor, Mullen said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is a perfect match to succeed him. President Barack Obama has nominated Dempsey to take Mullen’s place as chairman after he retires in September.

“Dempsey is an extraordinarily well-qualified leader to take this position,” he said. “He’s a combat leader, great with people, and understands … the challenges that are associated not just with the Army, but from the standpoint of all the services.”

Mullen also fielded questions from the troops on retention, recruiting and career progression.

Fresh off a trip to China, Mullen was in South Korea for the U.S. Forces Korea change of command.

Bethesda Leadership Talks with Residents About Upcoming Integration

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dion Dawson, National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs

BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The commanding officer and barracks staff at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) held a town hall meeting July 13 to inform residents about how the upcoming integration with Walter Reed Army Medical Center will affect them.

"To prepare for the integration, we have consolidated the rooms," said Chief Culinary Specialist Sarmaine Johnson, Command Senior Enlisted Leader for NSAB. "We are also continuing to ensure basic functions of the rooms are in order."

The mission of the meeting was to inform residents of provisions offered in the wounded warrior barracks and to answer questions from permanent residents.

"There will be some things offered in the wounded warrior barracks that won't be offered in the permanent party barracks," said Johnson.

For example, each suite in tranquility hall will have a washer and dryer and each room will include a computer.

"The reasoning for all of this has to be understood. We don't want any building to feel slighted because of the services offered," said Johnson. "There needs to be some sort of unit cohesion that takes place to continue the success of the integration."

One of the primary missions of the barracks staff is to support the junior enlisted personnel living in the bachelor enlisted quarters (BEQ), providing leadership and supporting their endeavors.

"It's very important that we give 100 percent and show the hard work and care we put forth every day. Right now, we are in the process of assigning the rooms to the staff that's coming over from Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), so that when they arrive, they can give us their name, collect their room key and go to their new room," Johnson said.

BEQ staff members have noted the satisfied residents stopping by the help desk frequently with compliments.

"I love the barracks. Whenever I have a problem, whether it's with my room or with anything else in the building, I am taken care of every time with quality service and respect," said Hospitalman Joey Gant. "I can sleep better at night because I know now that this is my home."

Medal of Honor Recipient Joins Fellow Heroes in ‘Hall’

By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2011 – The second living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon today.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry, who was awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday by President Barack Obama, was inducted into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony hosted by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

“This is really a great privilege for me, as one of my first acts as Secretary of Defense, to be able to honor a great American hero,” Panetta said. “I've had a long career in this town. I've worked in a number of capacities, but I can't tell you what a great honor it is for me personally to honor someone like Sergeant Petry, an Army Ranger, whose historic actions saved the lives of other soldiers.”

“I often say that the greatest test of life is whether you make a difference,” he continued. “Someone who saves the lives of others makes a difference, and that's what you did.”

The defense secretary talked about Petry’s heroic efforts and commended Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, for the ongoing efforts of his troops.

“Most Americans can't imagine the kind of life [and] death decisions Sergeant Petry had to face that day in Paktika [province]. These are the burdens that confront the men and women in uniform serving in harm's way every day,” Panetta said.

“A member of the U.S. Army's storied 75th Ranger Regiment, Sergeant Petry's actions speak to the extraordinary accomplishments of the special operations forces that have been at the center of the fight this past decade,” Panetta continued.

“Admiral Olson … I can't tell you how important they've been to our ability to take on the mission that we've been assigned, particularly to dismantle, disrupt, and ultimately defeat al-Qaida. It was a special forces team that we employed on that attack on the compound that held [Osama] bin Laden,” he said.

Panetta led the group of senior military officials in welcoming Petry into the Hall of Heroes during a the unveiling of his name on a plaque.

“Today, Leroy Petry's name joins the hallowed ranks of other Medal of Honor recipients listed on this wall. He is truly a representative of a new generation of Americans who have answered the call during almost a decade of war,” Panetta said.

“In paying tribute to him,” Panetta said, “we also celebrate a generation that is fighting for a better life, a better America, and a better world.”

Petry expressed his gratitude as he stood before some of his fellow rangers, four other Medal of Honor recipients and a slew of senior military leadership.

“I’m humbled by this ceremony, your words, and your presence. I particularly want to thank my wife, Ashley, [and] our children … it was their love and support that kept me going on this journey,” Petry said.

“And I would like to thank my fellow rangers … the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed over 3,500 days since the start of the war on terrorism. During that time, 55 of my fellow ranger brothers have been killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

Petry passionately implored the nation to remember his fellow service members who gave their lives for their country.

“As you have recognized me today, I ask that you continue to pay tribute and never forget those rangers and all other men and women of the armed services that have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

“Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers. It has been my honor to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with all servicemembers, defending our nation for almost 12 years. And I look forward to my continued service with you,” Petry said. “Thank you and rangers lead the way.”

Other senior military leaders spoke during the induction, praising Petry for his selfless actions.

“Sergeant Petry joins a small, elite group of American warriors who hold our nation’s highest military honor. Thank you so much for being here and your continued service as well,” Army Secretary John McHugh said.

Army Chief of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey described the Petry family as “all-Americans” as he spoke of Petry’s service.

“This is an all-American family. They are tight, they love each other, they are supportive of each other, [and] they could not be more polite and courteous,” he said.

“When I think about the Hall of Heroes, I’m struck by how fortunate we are as a country to have generation after generation [of] men and women like Sergeant First Class Petry,” Dempsey said. “He represents the best of our nation and today we honor his valor, unbending.”

Olson, the SOCOM commander, spoke directly to Petry, on behalf of the Special Forces community to which they both belong.

“Leroy, you epitomize the spirit and ethos of our nation’s most intrepid warriors,” he said. “On behalf of a grateful and respectful special operations community, I salute you.”

Mullen Seeks Multilateral Deterrence Against North Korea

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2011 – Crediting South Korean leaders for their “poise and calm” in the face of last year’s provocations from North Korea, the top U.S. military leader today warned North Korea to expect “a very strong response” to a future attack.

“The north should not mistake their restraint as a lack of resolve, nor should they interpret it as a willingness to accept continued attacks … unchallenged,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a media roundtable in the South Korean capital of Seoul.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has made clear that his country won’t tolerate more attacks like the sinking of the South Korean navy ship Cheonan in March 2010 that killed 46 sailors or the artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island in November that killed four, including two South Korean Marines, Mullen said.

The United States and its South Korean counterparts are working with a “sense of urgency” on plans to deter more provocations, he said.

“The threat remains real,” the chairman told reporters. “North Korea shows no sign of relenting in pursuit of its nuclear capabilities, and I am not convinced that they will not provoke again.

“The only thing that is predictable about North Korea is their unpredictability,” he added.

The chairman, in Seoul for the U.S. Forces Korea change-of-command ceremony, emphasized the United States’ commitment to South Korea and the strength of the South Korean-U.S alliance.

“This alliance is firm,” he said. “There may have been a change of command here today, but nothing has changed about the United States’ military resolve and readiness.”

But Mullen, who arrived in South Korea after visiting China, said standing up to North Korea isn’t the responsibility of just South Korea and the United States. He emphasized the need for strong, multilateral cooperation to deter North Korean aggression, calling specifically on China and Japan to become leaders in that effort.

“I believe a measured, multilateral approach is needed, not just now, but … for a long time into the future,” he said. “We all stand to gain from a stable peninsula.”

Mullen said his meetings here focused on maintaining that readiness. “We reaffirmed a long-term view that ensures what we do in the near term is guided by the Strategic Alliance 2015 framework and also on full-spectrum capabilities,” he said.

The Strategic Alliance 2015 agreement provides a set of initiatives designed to shape the U.S.-South Korean alliance for the future, including the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean forces to South Korea.

Despite budgetary challenges, Mullen said, the United States will maintain its commitments to South Korea and its other friends and allies throughout Asia and the Pacific.

“These budget times will require difficult decisions, but I am very comfortable that we will stay committed to these alliances and that we will continue to pursue capabilities and relationships [that] focus on a stable Pacific and Asia,” he said.

“This is a vital region and we have been here a long time,” the chairman added. “We will continue to be here for a long time.”

Wisconsin Guard engineers help build community relationships

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

For the 829th Engineer Company - a Wisconsin Army National Guard unit based in Chippewa Falls with subordinate units in Richland Center and Ashland - this annual training is all about getting back to basics and giving back to the community.

The company is working in successive rotations from June 4 through July 25 to build a new concession stand for the Ashland School District's Oredocker Stadium at Weikal Field. As a vertical construction unit, Soldiers in the 832nd are trained as carpenters, masons, plumbers and electricians - the very skills needed for this project.

The stadium itself was renovated a few years ago, but the concession stand - a 30-year-old temporary structure - remained inadequate. The new cinder-block structure will include a ticket window and public restrooms.

A fund-raising effort by the Oredocker Foundation provided the materials, but not the labor. The foundation approached the Guard unit in Ashland about constructing the stand and, after the paperwork was properly processed, the project received a green light.

"We obviously couldn't get the job done without the National Guard," said John McFaul, president of the non-profit Oredocker Foundation. "They've just been outstanding."

"It was a perfect scenario for us," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Wensel, the company training non-commissioned officer and readiness non-commissioned officer for the detachment. "The material was already paid for. This is probably the cheapest annual training the Wisconsin National Guard has had."

Soldiers are lodging at the Ashland armory during their annual training, so other than Soldier pay, the only real cost to the National Guard is meals.

Capt. Darin Beschta, commander of the 829th, said the project offered a unique training opportunity for the 829th as well as the 824th Engineer Detachment, a Richland Center-based unit specializing in concrete.

"Due to deployment, pre-mobilization and post-mobilization requirements and lack of building materials, neither unit has conducted quality [military occupational skill] training in over two years," Beschta said in the project memo. "The training offered by this project will provide both units the opportunity to begin the process of becoming proficient at the squad and platoon level tasks necessary for future deployment as a construction asset.

Beschta said the project provided a real-world opportunity to accomplish required training such as engineer company operations, general construction operations, and provide concrete for construction.

Dr. Fred Tidstrom, vice-president of the Oredocker Foundation, said the project seemed to meet the needs of each organization.

"It's a symbolic public/private partnership between the National Guard and the Oredocker Foundation," he said. "It shows what you can do when people share the same vision."

Tidstrom said that in-kind donations and the National Guard labor brought the costs of a $150,000 project down to about $30,000.

Tom Grossjean, building and grounds director for the Ashland School District, praised the approximately 120 Soldiers working on the project.

"I've worked closely with [the Soldiers,]" he said. "I'm very pleased - they're great folks to work with. I'd love to do another project with them."

Grossjean noted that the Soldiers readily identify issues during construction and quickly devise solutions to keep the project on schedule.

"There's a lot of qualified folks there," he said.

Wensel said that Soldiers in the unit were enjoying the project.

"They're telling me, 'Hey, we're actually doing our mission,'" he said. During their last deployment from 2009-2010, members of the 829th Engineer Company performed detainee operations.

Approximately 30 members of the 829th were recognized for their efforts at the Oredocker Foundation's annual "Breakfast of Champions" event June 25.

Face of Defense: Airborne Soldier Tells Army Story

By Christine June
U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, Harrisburg, Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 14, 2011 – Jumping into a two-hour airborne class of his own design, Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Joseph Tremblay shares his experiences as a soldier with rapid-fire command and enthusiasm.

“Check body position, toe to toe, heel to heel, knees off to the rear, elbows in tight -- 45-degree angle -- hands on the side of your reserve -- pretend you have one -- chin on your chest, eyes open,” drilled Tremblay to 114 future soldiers in April and 15 Civil Air Patrol cadets in June.

An infantryman in the Army for 10 years, Tremblay is almost halfway through his tour as a recruiter at the Harrisburg Opportunity Center, which covers an area of 954 square miles and is home to almost 260,000 people. His previous assignment was as an instructor for almost two years at the three-week U.S. Army Airborne School -- widely known as Jump School – held at Fort Benning, Ga.

“He has found a way to relate to teenagers and young adults, and their parents by doing something he loves,” said Staff Sgt. James Slough, the Harrisburg Opportunity Center commander. “Teaching these airborne classes helps him to gain exposure for the Army in the community.”

Tremblay -- a jumpmaster awarded the senior parachutist badge and who has 42 jumps -- developed hands-on training sessions for the public that can be as long as two hours or as short as 45 minutes. He said he was able to do this by condensing the information taught at Ground Week -- the airborne school’s first week -- to give youths a basic knowledge of airborne operations.

“You are going to be learning how to properly wear a parachute harness and land without injuring yourself,” Tremblay explained at the two training sessions he has conducted so far in the Harrisburg community.

Imagination replaced having a mock door of a C-130 or C-17 aircraft like at the school, but Tremblay’s students didn’t have to pretend to have parachute harnesses. Borrowing from local Army units, Tremblay ensured each student had one. He also borrowed a full parachute ensemble for one student to wear as an example for the class.

Civil Air Patrol Cadet Master Sgt. Joseph Dempsey, 17, was chosen to put on the full gear during the airborne training held June 29 at the 193rd Special Operations Wing’s Pennsylvania Air National Guard base here.

“It was by far one of the best things I have done in CAP so far,” said Dempsey, who has been involved with the all-volunteer organization for about five years.

Working together in teams of two, Tremblay’s students helped each other with the parachute harnesses. As he gave instructions on how to put those on, Tremblay and fellow recruiters, who also are airborne soldiers, would double-check to ensure students were properly adjusting the straps on their harnesses.

“I was blown away by the training,” said Army Capt. Ryan Greenawalt, the commander of the Harrisburg Recruiting Company, who witnessed the session Tremblay gave to the CAP cadets. “You can tell he loves being an airborne soldier, and the cadets were glued to every word.”

Students kept these harnesses on throughout the basic airborne class that touched on the five points of performance: proper exit, check body position and count; check canopy and gain canopy control; keep a sharp lookout during your entire descent; prepare to land; and land.

“Airborne! What are you looking for?” Tremblay asked when teaching the second point of performance, check canopy and gain canopy control.

“Holes, rips, tears, blown sections, gores and broken section lines,” the classes answered in unison after repeating it probably about 20 times in the past five minutes.

Tremblay, who joined the Army at age 19, said that infantryman was the only thing he saw himself doing.

“I just like being in a combat job,” said Tremblay, who has been deployed to Iraq twice. “Both times, [my infantry units] established a patrol base in the local communities, so I was able to live with them, learn their culture and eat their food.”

Tremblay said he teaches airborne classes to the community “to give people a little bit of exposure to the Army and that we have all kinds of different options and programs.”

Then, he smiled and added, “I can talk airborne all day long.”

Services Deliver ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Input

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2011 – All of the services and combatant commands have provided their input to the Defense Department in advance of the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that bans gays from serving openly in the military, a Pentagon spokesman said here today.

The input includes progress on training of the force, the regulatory aspects of the change in the law and other aspects, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said.

“Ultimately, it’s for the services to provide their input to the secretary about whether their services are prepared for repeal to take place,” Lapan said.

No requirement exists for 100 percent of the force to receive training prior to repeal, the colonel said. “It is more in the nature of giving the input where all the services are in the training and whether they’ve reached a point where they believe they are ready to move forward,” he explained.

The department actually is trying to follow two laws, Lapan said. The first is the original law passed in 1993. Its provisions were to remain in effect until repeal. The second law calls for repeal to take effect after certification that the services are ready.

However, a court in California ruled that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is unconstitutional. The U.S. government asked for a stay, and a three-panel court of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay. On July 6, the court vacated the stay and gave the department 10 days to stop enforcing the provisions of the old law.

“We have two laws: the law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ that a court injunction has stopped us from enforcing, but we also have a law that requires us to certify that the force is ready for repeal,” Lapan said. “And we are trying to comply with both.”

Since then, Defense Department officials have been speaking with Justice Department lawyers about the next steps. In the meantime, the department continues to abide by the repeal law, and that is what the input from the services represents, Lapan said.

The services have provided the input, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense will make their decision when to certify to the president that DOD is ready to move forward with repeal.

Lapan would not hazard a guess when the decision will land on the president’s desk.

Community Helps Fort Belvoir Hospital Train for Safe Move

By Jacqueline Leeker, DeWitt Health Care Network Public Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (NNS) -- More than 700 community participants and medical personnel are testing the capabilities of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital July 14, in preparation to begin treating patients in the new facility next month.

Staff members from DeWitt Army Community Hospital, incoming staff from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and more than 100 local volunteers are involved in a "Day in the Life" exercise designed to test inpatient and outpatient processes and medical equipment.

"We are testing and stressing the systems in the new hospital to ensure it is ready to receive patients in the first day of operations," said Col. Kathleen Ford, deputy commander for nursing.

The Day in the Life exercise is designed to provide realistic scenarios for staff members to navigate through; therefore, it's a critical piece of the transition process in order "for us to 'hit the ground running' on our first patient day," said Cmdr. Scott Johnson, DeWitt ACH director of transition.

More than 50 scenarios will be executed in the new hospital throughout the day. The exercises consist of patient scenarios that involve staff from every discipline performing every role.

"On the surface, this exercise is about testing the new equipment and providing an opportunity for staff members to become familiar with their new workspaces," Johnson said. "More importantly, though, this allows us to ensure that our patients, our valued beneficiaries are able to receive world-class health care in a safe and comfortable healing environment."

In addition to testing equipment and preparing staff, the exercise offers various visitors an opportunity to further develop plans to transition their own personnel and facilities. Visitors from other locations, including non-military health care personnel, will observe the exercise with the intent to refine their own transition plans and processes.

"We had the opportunity to observe day in the life exercises and hospital moves at Rockingham Hospital in West Virginia and UCLA's medical center," Ford said. "We understood the plan and concept better after observing a hospital move, and will be giving other hospitals the same opportunity."

In addition to today's day in the life exercise, transition planners will hold at least one more day in the life exercise to further test and refine processes. The second day in the life event will incorporate an additional 55 scenarios, Ford said.

"Some of the scenarios will be repeated from today. The ones that we tested, but felt needed to be improved and repeated," she explained.

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, July 14, 2011

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta has no public or media events on his schedule.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn will announce the Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace (DSOC) at 1 p.m. EDT at the National Defense University, Marshall Hall, (Building 62, Room 155), Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.  He will be joined by Gen. James E. Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  A media availability will immediately follow the DSOC announcement.  Journalists wishing to attend this event should contact Dave Thomas at 202-685-3140.  Media must arrive between 11 a.m. and noon to have sufficient time to set up.  Proof of affiliation and drivers license are also required for gate access.  Those driving should enter the gate on 2nd Street S.W. to allow time for a vehicle security search.  Pedestrians should enter at 4th and P Street S.W.

This Day in Naval History - July 13

From the Navy News Service

1863 - USS Wyoming battled Japanese warlord's forces.
1939 - Appointment of Rear Adm. Richard Byrd as commanding officer of 1939-1941 Antarctic Expedition.
1943 - During Battle of Kolombangara in Solomon Islands, U.S. lost USS Gwin (DD 433), while Japanese lost light cruiser Jintsu.