Military News

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Jersey Base Realizes Joint Benefits

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., July 15, 2011 – With two months left for the Defense Department to comply with the 2005 base realignment and closure plan, a related initiative -- joint basing -- already is paying off through closer interservice collaboration and the promise of future cost savings, officials here reported.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was part of the first phase of the plan that consolidated 26 military installations around the country into 12 joint bases. The concept was designed to generate efficiencies, reduce redundancy, and ultimately, save taxpayer dollars.

“I think this joint base initiative is great,” said Army Col. Joseph Poth, the deputy commander here who helped to plan and execute the merger. “The logic is, if we can train together, if we can fight together, why can’t we run a base together?”

Joint basing brought big changes here when three installations -- McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst -- merged on Oct. 1, 2009, to become the Defense Department’s only tri-service base.

It was part of the first wave of joint-base consolidations. Also during Phase 1, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek and Fort Story in Virginia merged to form Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek. Fort Myer and the Marine Corps’ Henderson Hall in Virginia formed Joint Base Myer. Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and Naval Air Facility Washington, D.C., became Joint Base Andrews.

And thousands of miles away in the Pacific, Navy Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base formed Joint Region Marianas.

As McGuire, Dix and Lakehurst formed one giant base that stretches 20 miles east to west and encompasses 60 square miles of southern New Jersey flatlands and forests, each retained its operational identity and mission, Poth explained.

The Air Force, the lead service here, continues to provide global mobility and expeditionary combat support with its C-17 Globemaster III, KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. The Army conducts soldier training and pre- and post-mobilization activities. The Navy designs and tests aircraft carrier catapult and arresting gear and other naval air support equipment.

Joint basing offers the three services the opportunity to share some of the costs of supporting these operations, said Air Force Col. John Wood, who took command of the joint base June 24.

In his new role, Wood has command and control of the 87th Air Base Wing and support responsibility for more than 80 tenant organizations referred to here as “mission partners.”

Arriving at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Wood was no stranger to joint basing. He helped Charleston Air Force Base and Naval Weapons Station Charleston merge to form Joint Base Charleston, S.C., as part of the second wave of joint-basing consolidations.

Other installations included in the Phase 2 mergers were the Navy’s Anacostia Annex and Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, which formed Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii became Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson in Alaska formed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Lackland Air Force Base, Randolph Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, formed Joint Base San Antonio. Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis in Virginia became Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

Wood said watching how Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and other first-phase installations handled the transition helped smooth the way at Charleston. Now, as commander of the tri-service base in New Jersey, he said he plans to continue fine-tuning the process by emphasizing teamwork, communication and inclusion.

To help in promoting these principles in his command structure, Wood recently welcomed Navy Capt. Andrew Butterfield as a second deputy commander to provide a Navy perspective to his command team.

Operating with two deputies in his organizational structure -- one Army and one Navy -- is a new concept, Wood acknowledged. “It’s different than the doctrine I have grown up with, but it has a lot of advantages and potential,” he said.

Much of the potential of joint basing will come in savings on contracts for services such ground maintenance and snow removal, Wood said. In addition, the joint base’s contracting workforce can operate more efficiently -- and presumably, more cost-effectively -- by awarding and managing a single contract for each service, rather than three.

“As we combine things, it is common sense to assume that we are going to have savings here, so we will continue down that path,” Poth said.

Wood said he is looking forward to seeing those cost savings, but that he knows they won’t be realized fully until contracts already in place expire and can be renegotiated. Meanwhile, he added, he plans to continue looking across the joint base structure to identify other ways to streamline operations and make them more efficient.

Wood and his leadership team say they are already seeing some of the other benefits of joint basing. The gates that once divided the installations are gone, enabling airmen, soldiers, sailors -- as well as Marines and Coast Guard members who have activities here -- to move freely around the joint base.

As they do so, they interact regularly, sharing everything from training facilities to housing, dining halls and morale, welfare and recreation activities.

Air Force Brig. Gen. William Bender, commander of the Air Force Expeditionary Center here, said that pays off in mission readiness.

“One of those benefits is the ability to rapidly and effectively integrate into joint environments when we deploy or when we are assigned to support missions both stateside and abroad,” he said. “Because we have the benefit of living and working in an integrated environment, we naturally ‘learn the language’ of our service counterparts and we learn what the other services bring to the fight, wherever that fight may be.”

But getting to that point wasn’t without its challenges, Poth conceded.

He remembered the angst some experienced during the transition and the town hall meetings the leadership regularly held to allay fears and clear up misconceptions.

To Poth’s surprise, some of the workers who took the merger the hardest were long-time Army and Navy civilian employees with strong loyalties to their services.

Installation leaders, led at the time by Air Force Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the first joint base commander, planned an elaborate and all-inclusive ceremony to officially stand up the joint base. Members of Congress, local mayors and current and past commanders from the three installations participated as a joint color guard marched, a tri-service team sang the national anthem and a band played a medley of the military service songs.

“As we mark this day, we want to welcome the newest members of our joint base team,” Poth said during the ceremony, recognizing the role the different services contribute to national defense with their active and reserve components and civilian workforces.

“Today is a day long in coming,” Poth said. “Together, we all join forces to become America’s premier joint warfighting base, capable of projecting air, land or sea power worldwide.”

Civilian employees from Fort Dix and Lakehurst formed up on the flight line, where each was inducted into the Department of the Air Force and presented an Air Force pin. After the ceremony, they returned to their work stations to find a letter from Grosso, personally welcoming them to the Air Force and the joint team.

Looking back over the consolidation during a Defense Department joint basing program management review conference in February, Grosso discussed the challenges of integrating support structures, but also the benefits of bringing the separate military cultures together at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

“You cannot calculate the takeaway from your military members living together and training together,” she said during the forum in Washington. “It’s a benefit you just can’t quantify.”

Enterprise Carrier Strike Group Returns to Norfolk

From USS Enterprise Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- More than 5,500 Sailors and Marines serving in the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) arrived in Norfolk July 15, returning from a six-month deployment supporting operations in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea.

USS Enterprise (CVN 65), along with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) returned to Naval Station Norfolk.

While deployed, Enterprise Strike Group served in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, conducting missions from counter-piracy and counter-terrorism to Operation Odyssey Dawn, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

Enterprise and CVW-1 flew more than 1,450 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation New Dawn in Iraq. Enterprise and the strike group ships also disrupted nine piracy attempts, resulting in the capture of 75 suspected pirates and the detention of 18 more.

"The ships of this strike group have done it all," said Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, commander, CSG 12. "Simultaneous combat deployments to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility showed what these great Americans can do. They have earned a hero's welcome here in Norfolk."

The carrier, commanded by Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, traveled nearly 60,000 miles after leaving Norfolk Jan. 13 to support theater security cooperation and maritime security cooperation efforts while deployed.

"Everything about this deployment has been unique," said Mewbourne. "Our Sailors and Marines flexed to perform every mission asked of them to their highest ability, often with great innovation, and always with unqualified success. The crew answered their nation's call with courage and grit, and I share in their tremendous pride of all we accomplished."

Enterprise CSG is comprised of CSG 12, Enterprise, CVW-1, DESRON 2, Leyte Gulf, Barry, Bulkeley, and USS Mason (DDG 87). The squadrons of CVW-1 embarked in Enterprise are Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 "Red Rippers," VFA-136 "Knighthawks," VFA-211 "Fighting Checkmates," Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 "Thunderbolts," Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 "Screwtops," Carrier Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 137 "Rooks," Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 "Rawhides," and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 11 "Dragonslayers."

Mason is scheduled to return to Norfolk later this month.

Pacific Partnership Completes Final Phase of Mission, Departs Federated States of Micronesia

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs

POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (NNS) -- Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP11) team departed the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), completing the fifth and final phase of the mission, July 14.

Amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7), had arrived in FSM 12 days prior with representatives from four of the U.S. service branches, and with members from the partner nations of Australia, Canada, Spain, and Malaysia. Medical officers from the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) also provided support at multiple medical civic action projects in FSM.

The PP11 team engaged in medical, dental, veterinary, engineering, and community service civic action projects in all four states of the FSM - Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap. Nearly 6,200 Micronesians received treatment at the medical sites.

"PP11 marks another chapter in demonstrating the enduring commitment of the United States to the people of FSM," said U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia Peter A. Prahar. "The work that was done by more than 700 doctors, nurses, engineers, and veterinarians from the United States, along with partners from Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Canada, and Spain who are participating in Pacific Partnership 2011, has left an everlasting impact on every state of FSM."

Sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, PP11 is aimed at improving quality of life for the residents of FSM and all host nations while enhancing interoperability between host and partner nations' militaries and non-governmental organizations.

FSM has been a Pacific Partnership mission port three out of six years since the mission began in 2006, but this is the first time that the team has completed projects in all four states of FSM.

In addition to seeing 6,207 medical and dental patients, the medical contingent filled 5,820 prescriptions, gave out 4,229 pairs of glasses, and cared for 244 animals all at 11 medical, dental and veterinary civic action projects spanning across all four states of FSM.

The medical team also participated in multiple subject matter exchanges with local nurses and doctors sharing medical expertise and experiences that will improve the quality of healthcare throughout FSM.

"We were able to deploy our very diverse group of medical experts to every state in the country to maximize our efforts in providing aid to the people," said Cmdr. Michael Smith, director of medical operations for Pacific Partnership. "In this way, we are able to maximize our efforts to work with FSM and provide sustainable solutions to their health care needs."

The engineering team, comprised of U.S. Navy Seabees and Australian Sappers, completed six engineering projects including four major renovations of school facilities.

Service members also had the chance to continue interaction with the people of FSM through community service projects.

The men and women participating in PP11 engaged in 13 community service projects, nine of which were sporting events, and helped deliver 67 pallets of donated items, including toiletries, school supplies, toys and sporting equipment. Those items were provided by Project Handclasp and other charitable organizations.

This year, Pacific Partnership has completed its mission in Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and now FSM. Cleveland is currently headed toward Pearl Harbor for a scheduled port visit and the end of the 2011 mission.

During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 241,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries.

A commander’s thoughts on loss

By Lt. Col. Leland Ward
Commander, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry
Wisconsin Army National Guard

I cannot imagine a worse experience than the following — the phone rings and the voice at the other end, both professional and sad, says: “Sir, I have a serious incident report.”

You brace yourself hoping for anything less than loss of life, but hope is not an option. Your mind clears to collect the necessary information and take all the proper actions. Once you address the details, your mind begins to assess the loss and determine what you can do to prevent future loss.

Leaders all know that influencing beyond our span of control is a critical skill. We also know that identifying the correct problem is the first step to problem solving. This brief message addresses what we know as well as some novel concepts to share with service members and leaders on the subject. The point is to maintain dialog on the critical issue of learning how to prevent unnecessary loss.

We know that the rate of loss in the Wisconsin National Guard has increased since 1991. Tracking non-duty deaths has heightened our awareness of this critical issue. Given the dynamics and make-up of the average service member, statistic projections would indicate that our service members are at slightly higher risk than their peers are in the civilian sector. We know that the military has established programs and made counseling available at a record level, yet despite these great efforts, our loss continues to grow.

Consider, if you will, the following concepts — first, our deployed and non-deployed service members, regardless of their exposure to violent acts of war, operate at significant stress levels and often maintain extended periods of hyper-vigilance. This extended exposure to adrenaline — a highly addictive and dangerous biochemical — may create long-term issues including thrill seeking behaviors and depression once the service member returns to the relative safety of the home environment. Second, the rule-based environment of the military, left unsupported by an equal development of self-preservation skills, may lead service members to less self-control when outside the military structure.

Therefore, let us discuss ways and means to help service members understand and overcome the addiction to adrenalin. Let us also take every opportunity to teach and develop a sixth sense of safety, reinforcing the natural instinct for self-preservation. Rules are important, but rules alone will not keep our service members safe in every environment and situation.

What are you doing to stop these senseless losses?