Military News

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Monday, July 25, 2011

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

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen delivers remarks at 12:15 p.m. EDT at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.  Media interested in attending may contact the FPC at 202-567-7121.  The event will be carried live on the Pentagon Channel and streaming live at pentagonchannel.mil.

Obama Commends Military for Handling of Law’s Repeal

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

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 – The 1993 law that has banned gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military “undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” President Barack Obama said today in announcing he has certified that the armed forces are ready for its repeal.

Repeal of the law takes effect Sept. 20, when a 60-day waiting period mandated by the repeal legislation runs out.

“In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met,” the president said in a statement.

Obama commended the military for adjusting to the repeal process in a transparent and professional manner, leading to certification by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the services are ready for the change.

“As commander in chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness,” he said.


“Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal,” Obama said.

As of Sept. 20, the president added, service members no longer will be forced to hide who they are to serve the country.

“Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian,” he said.

Obama also lauded Defense Department leaders for their handling of the repeal.

“I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war,” he said. “I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.”

Obama also praised the resilience of the nation’s men and women in uniform for their ability to adapt to change.

“Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families -- like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes -- will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans,” he said.

Panetta Takes Formal Oath as 23rd Defense Secretary

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

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 – Leon E. Panetta took the oath of office as the nation’s 23rd secretary of defense in a Pentagon ceremony today.

Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath in a formal ceremony three weeks after Panetta officially took office in a private July 1 ceremony.

“I want to first begin by thanking the president for placing his trust and his confidence in me,” Panetta said. “I am truly humbled by the responsibility and the opportunity that has been given to me at this great moment in time.”

Panetta vowed to continue working with Congress to strengthen the Defense Department’s mission.

“I’d like to express my deep gratitude to the members of Congress that are here today,” he said. “I pledge to all of you that I will continue to work closely with members of both of those great chambers on [Capitol] Hill and that I will continue to work with both political parties.

“I can’t do this job without you,” Panetta continued. “It’s that simple. I really believe that Congress has to be a full partner in the department’s mission of protecting America.”

Panetta thanked the military’s leadership for its support, especially Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the services’ uniformed and civilian leaders.

“Chairman Mike Mullen, who has become a dear friend, I thank you for your leadership, and I thank you for your continuing guidance as I take on this challenge,” Panetta said. “And I also want to express my deepest thanks to the outstanding service chiefs and service secretaries for their guidance, for their counsel, and for their support.”

In particular, the secretary said, he appreciates the leaders’ insights into the needs of the men and women who serve on the front lines, and their families.

The defense secretary also expressed his gratitude for his own family’s constant support during his career.

“My family has been tolerant beyond all measure during 40 years of public service,” Panetta said. “And above all, I want to thank Sylvia, who is here today. My three sons [and] my six grandchildren have been a great source of pride for Sylvia and me. And I am so grateful for their continuing love and support.

“That’s the story of my family,” he added. “And the story of my family tells you a lot about what America means to me and to all of us.”

Panetta expressed his confidence in the U.S. military.

“I believe there is no better guarantor of our security, and ultimately, our freedom, than the strength of America’s armed forces,” he said. “This is a time of historic challenge -- for this department, and for our country. And change will only accelerate the challenges we face.”

Panetta spoke of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, which occurred just a few hundred yards from today’s ceremony.

“That day, the nation suddenly understood that we had to confront a new and uncertain period of conflict,” he said. “Unlike the Cold War, we now face a multitude of security challenges [and] dangers that are spread across the globe.

“These threats are daunting, to be sure,” he continued. “But these past few years have also shown the world that America, with our strong intelligence and military capabilities, is up to that challenge. We will not back down when our homeland is threatened. We will do whatever it takes to defend this country.”

Panetta saved his strongest words of resolve for enemies of the United States and its interests.

“No one attacks the United States of America and gets away with it,” he said. “We have been relentless in the efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and al-Qaida’s extremist affiliates. … I believe that we are within reach of achieving a strategic defeat of al-Qaida. But to do that we have to continue to put pressure on them where ever they are. And if we continue that commitment, then ultimately, we will succeed.”

Panetta reaffirmed his commitment to taking care of service members and their families, calling it his most important responsibility.

“Like my good friend and predecessor, Bob Gates, I will be a tireless advocate for [service members] and their families,” he said. “We owe it to them to make sure that they have what they need to accomplish their mission, but to also support their families back home.”

Mindful of the challenges ahead, Panetta thanked the military for its service to the nation.

“Thank you for your support,” he said. “May God bless the men and women who are out there serving us, but most importantly, may God bless the United States of America.”

New Seabee Museum Features Navy Deep Sea Submersible Display

By Darrell E. Waller,Naval Facilities Engineering Command Public Affairs

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- Navy ocean engineers have delivered a treasured piece of naval history to the new Seabee Museum July 22, just in time for its official opening.

The Naval Experimental Manned Observatory (NEMO), a deep submergence vehicle created in the 1970s by the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL, a forerunner to today's Naval Facilities Engineering Command/Engineering Service Center) and the Southwest Research Institute, will be among the many featured exhibits at the new museum.

The Seabee Museum's gala coincides with the "Seabee Days" event this weekend at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC). Thousands of local residents are expected to come out for a wide variety of free activities, including demonstrations of Seabee construction skills, displays of military construction equipment, weapons, and field camp construction.

"The NEMO exhibit is one of our proudest accomplishments and is fondly remembered years after its last deployment," said Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center Commanding Officer, Capt. Paz B. Gomez. "The unique, spherical construction of NEMO gave its occupants unfettered underwater vision while allowing Navy engineers and technicians to comfortably observe undersea construction without having to don bulky diving gear. It was an innovative system years ahead of its time that advanced ocean construction and demonstrated the effectiveness and limits of acrylic pressure hulls."

NEMO was one of four Navy Deep Submergence Vehicles (designated "DSV-3") within the Navy's "Man-in-the-Sea" Program during the 1970s. She carried one certified pilot and one observer and was fitted with a life support system that allowed its occupants to stay safely submerged for up to three days.

Unlike bathyspheres of the time, NEMO was not tethered to the surface, it was a true free-swimming submersible with its own thrusters and ballast system. NEMO measured 78 inches wide, with a height of 110 inches. She weighed 8,000 pounds in open air and was capable of taking a payload of up to 450 pounds down to a depth of 600 feet. NEMO also had the distinction of being the first deep submergence vehicle to test and demonstrate a spherical pressure hull made entirely out of acrylic. The properties of such a hull were largely unknown in the 1970s and the NCEL was tasked with analyzing, testing and designing the NEMO platform.

Three identical hulls were constructed in machine shops at Naval Air Station Point Mugu by bonding 12 pentagon sections. One hull became known as NEMO; a second was used for fatigue testing; the third was tested for failure by pressurizing it in a NCEL hyperbaric test chamber to a collapse depth of 4,150 feet.

During its naval service, NEMO made several hundred dives in the Bahamas and off the Channel Islands in California. The sphere's deepest recorded dive was officially recorded at 614 feet.

Seabees Depart for Field Training Exercise

By Chief Mass Communication Specalist Yan Kennon, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 Air Detachment departed Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport July 21, for Operation Bearing Duel aboard Joint Training Facility Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The scheduled three week evolution will test the battalion's capability to survive independently in the field. Upon successful completion of the field training exercise (FTX), NMCB 7 will become the Atlantic Fleet Seabees' Independent Unit Ready for Tasking.

"The FTX is the culminating exercise of the Battalion's training thus far in homeport," said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Shinka, NMCB 7 operations officer. "Our Seabees have been busy with classes, unit-level training, and specialty organization, and other certification exercises. We have succeeded magnificently in our mission so far and are motivated for more of the same on FTX. I am very proud of what NMCB 7 has accomplished."

Operation Bearing Duel takes place in various phases, to include Receipt, Staging, Onward-Movement and Integration (RSO&I); Operations (Field Training Exercise), Sustainment (Final Evaluation Problem), and Retrograde phases.

The FTX will allow the battalion to hone its skills in various areas, with assistance and guidance from 20th Seabee Readiness Group (SRG). This evolution will afford the battalion the opportunity to assess its operational and administrative strong points, as well as areas of improvement. After tactical feedback from the supporting SRG, and the application of correctional measures, the battalion will enter the Final Evaluation Problem (FEB) portion of the exercise, a graded evolution, which if successfully executed, will certify the battalion for deployment.

"Operating in the summer months at Camp Shelby, while in full battle dress, is a very demanding task," said Chief Construction Electrician Erik Dries, NMCB 7 safety officer. "Heat stress presents the largest obstacle for our Seabees in his environment. Our training, throughout this homeport period, has prepared us for this very moment, and our goal is to ensure that we take the necessary precautions to mitigate and safety concerns while meeting the many challenges of this exercise. No matter how many projects or scenarios we complete successfully during FTX and FEP, personnel safety is paramount."

Comprised of 89 highly-skilled Seabees, and often referred to as the 'Tip of the Spear', the battalion's Air Detachment's primary mission is to move in advance of the battalion's mainbody, secure and occupy forward operating base (FOB) objectives, prior to the battalion's mainbody move execution. A Seabee battalion's air detachment must be able to deploy within 48 hours of receiving orders, and remain self-sufficient for 30 days; a unique capability that allows a Seabee battalion to respond to our nation's call when needed.

The Seabees of NMCB 7 will use this training and experience from FTX as a mental and physical preparation tool for its upcoming scheduled deployment to U.S. Forces Central Command area of operations (AOR).

NMCB 7 is one of the original ten Seabee battalions authorized by the chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks in 1942.

Face of Defense: Recruiter Saves Life on Dallas Freeway

By Len Butler
Dallas Recruiting Station

DENTON, Texas, July 22, 2011 – When Army Staff Sgt. Marcus A. Stone saw cars suddenly braking and swerving ahead of him on Interstate 35 East in Dallas, he knew something bad had just happened on the freeway he was driving on. In the minutes that followed, Stone pulled a victim from a burning vehicle.

Those actions that December day prompted Stone’s commanding officer to nominate him for the Noncommissioned Officers Association of the United States of America Military Vanguard Award, presented annually to recognize acts of heroism.

Stone, 28, was driving an applicant through the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch to the Denton recruiting station when he saw the accident. Moving to the high-occupancy-vehicle lane, he got around the stopped cars and was able to see several vehicles had been involved in an accident, with one of them emitting flames and leaking gasoline.

“I was in the HOV lane and I saw the [burning] car facing oncoming traffic,” Stone said. “I got out of my [government car] to go see if everyone was all right, and that’s when I noticed the flames underneath the car. Then I noticed the dripping fluid, and I realized that sooner or later, that car was going to blow up.”

Stone said the first thing he wanted to do was get all the motorists involved away from the immediate area. Some of the motorists refused, preferring to stay with their cars or not wanting to move their cars to safety until police arrived.

“I told them, ‘Look, this is what’s going on over there,’” he said. “Once they realized there could be more damage to their cars if the flames got out of control, in addition to their own personal safety, they started moving.”

Stone said that’s when he noticed that a passenger was in the burning car. The driver had come out, but he could see that the passenger wasn’t moving.

“The first thing I thought of, was why this guy was not making an effort to get out of the car,” he said. “I ran back to my [car] to get the fire extinguisher, and when I turned around to go back I heard a loud ‘whoosh,’ and the fire had spread to engulf the front of the car as well as underneath it.”

Stone ran back to the burning car and the helpless man inside. Flames kept him from going around to the passenger side of the car, so he had to reach in the car and grab the man from the driver’s side.

In spite of the danger, Stone said, all he wanted to do was help the victim.

“The passenger was somewhat conscious, but it was obvious he was traumatized from the accident and had a possible head injury,” Stone said. “I knew he needed to get out of that car, whether he was going to help me or not. I certainly couldn’t just allow him to burn in there.”

With flames all around the car, Stone grabbed the man by his arm and pulled him out. Another motorist came to Stone’s aid and helped to pull the victim to safety. Almost immediately after Stone pulled the victim out of the burning vehicle, the car was engulfed in the flames. Moments later, the fire department and police arrived.

Stone learned later from the investigating police officer on the scene that the victim was in good condition at a hospital and was expected to recover.

Officer Susan Sharp, who was the investigating officer that day for the Farmers Branch Police Department, said Stone gave responders his recruiter business card and left the scene. Only after she compiled the statements from witnesses and drivers involved in the accident, who referred to Stone as “that Army guy,” did she realize how crucial a role Stone played, she said.

“Had Sergeant Stone not extricated [the victim], he would have burned to death within a minute or two,” Sharp said. “Stone didn't just save a life. He was the difference between a group of bystanders seeing a man rescued by one of America's heroic soldiers, versus seeing the man die a horrific death, burning right before their eyes.”

Stone, an Iraq combat veteran, said his Army training played a crucial role in his actions in saving the man that day. The Iraq experience, he explained, helped in that he was much calmer because he had already had enough pressure-packed situations in Iraq.

“It just comes down to being at the right place at the right time,” he said. “I’m just glad that somebody was able to continue their life, and I’m thankful that I was able to help someone in that capacity.”

First Lady Joins Navy Veteran on ‘Extreme Makeover’

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., July 22, 2011 – With First Lady Michelle Obama at her side and hundreds of volunteers and well-wishers cheering behind her, Navy veteran Barbara Marshall and her family faced a giant bus emblazoned with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” parked right in front of their home here yesterday.

“Move that bus! Move that bus!” the crowd chanted with increasing fervor, momentarily forgetting the scorching heat.

The bus pulled off, and Marshall’s jaw dropped as she caught her first glimpse of the new Jubilee House, built courtesy of the ABC reality show. Tears flowed as she took in the two-story, 5,000-square-foot house that would serve as a home not only for her family, but also for the countless homeless female veterans she’s dedicated her life to helping.

The first lady and the show’s star designer, Ty Pennington, leaned in close to catch Marshall’s first impression of the new house, but her words were lost among the crowd’s cheers.

A highlight of the experience, the first lady said later, was “watching the faces of the families as they saw their beautiful new home for the first time.”

After 15 years of Navy service and a growing passion for helping fellow veterans, Marshall used her own resources to establish the Steps-N-Stages Jubilee House while still maintaining a separate residence for her own family. The center offers shelter, support and services such as mentoring and life coaching to homeless female veterans. At any given time, Marshall housed up to three veterans and their families in the small, 1,500-square-foot house.

Once “Extreme Makeover” producers caught wind of Marshall’s dedication, they knew it was time she had the additional space and resources she needed to carry out her personal mission.

“Barbara Marshall is my personal hero,” said Diane Korman, an “Extreme Makeover” producer. “She saw there was a problem with homeless female veterans, and wanted to do something about it to help women get back on their feet.”

Fresh off travels to promote her “Joining Forces” military support campaign, Obama said she felt compelled to appear on the reality show after hearing of Marshall’s selfless service to others. Marshall is a powerful example of how veterans are continuing to serve even when they’re no longer in uniform, she told American Forces Press Service yesterday.

“The fact that this woman has opened her home -- which she didn’t have much -- to other women who are struggling, is just a powerful statement of the courage and the strength that our veterans show,” she said.

This episode, the first lady said, is a perfect way to highlight a military family’s efforts “and also give them something back, something more than they could have imagined, because they deserve it.”

“Extreme Makeover” designer Sabrina Soto called Marshall an “angel from heaven” for her dedication to homeless veterans.

“It’s not just about the women living here, it’s about all the women veterans who will be helped in the future because of this build,” she said. “The fact that we’re going to give her double the space and more resources is amazing.”

The new Jubilee House is a sprawling log-cabin style home with a front porch and second-story deck. Soto pointed out a few of the home’s interior features, including a resource center with multiple computers and a dining hall. “It will help [veterans and their families] to be more comfortable in the space and to feel grounded, and I think that’s what a lot of these ladies are missing,” she said.

The other heroes of this build, Korman noted, are the volunteers. More than 3,000 military and civilian volunteers from the local community pitched in around the clock to build the house in a week. After the Marshall family -- and several female veterans and their families she supported -- were whisked away for a dream vacation at Disney World, volunteers braved the relentless heat, which topped out at over 100 degrees, to sweep, shovel, move rocks and carry out countless other tasks as instructed.

A day earlier, volunteer Cheryl Monette was out front shoveling, covered in dirt and sweat. She had worked two or three shifts a day since the build started and stayed on until the end.

“It’s a wonderful positive to help the military,” she said. “My husband just retired after 26 years, so for me to be able to give back as a military spouse is awesome.”

Equally soaked fellow volunteer Sharon Davis said she’d done everything from passing out water to driving “gators” to the dumpsters. “It’s amazing just to know what little part we play,” she said. “There’s nothing better than to give to someone who needs it.”

It’s always a race to the finish, said Chip Smith, president and owner of Blue Ridge Cabins, the builder of the home. But despite the hard work, Smith added, he knew his company had to get involved as soon as he heard Marshall’s story.

“She came back and identified a need, used her own money, didn’t ask for anything from anybody, and started making a difference in the lives of a lot of homeless female veterans,” he said. “Just to see someone take that initiative is inspirational for all of us. We knew we had to do something to help.”

Seemingly overnight, the house transformed from a dirt and gravel-filled expanse crawling with hundreds of volunteers to a spotless red-shingled home, complete with glossy white rocking chairs swaying on the sprawling front porch and brightly colored flowers sprouting across the lawn.

Many of the volunteers who had earlier been working on the home turned out for the “reveal,” their blue “Extreme Makeover” shirts standing out in the crowd. Marshall’s neighbors crowded onto shaded porches to see their friend gain a new home and to catch a glimpse of the first lady.

Marshall’s next-door neighbor, Caroline Chambers, could have stayed at a hotel, courtesy of the show, but opted to stay in her home and watch the action. A VIP tent was parked on her front lawn and her grass was trampled into the dirt, but she didn’t mind any of it, she said.

“I didn’t want to miss it,” she said. Earlier in the week, Chambers tried to gauge what her neighbor’s reaction would be upon seeing the house. “She may faint,” she said. “I almost did when I saw the house.”

Another well-wisher, Valeria Hasan, also turned out to watch construction. The house is a “wonderful blessing,” she said, for the family and for homeless veterans.

“You wouldn’t believe there are really homeless vets,” she said. “They served in the war, protected us, and ended up homeless. You never know what situation you’re going to end up in.”

Families like the Marshalls exist all over the country, the first lady noted, and “it’s our responsibility to step up and make sure they get the support they need.”

Not everyone can build a home in a week, she said, but everyone can do something.

“Home Edition stepped up,” she said, “by taking care of these families and doing it in a huge, magnificent way.”

The episode featuring the Marshall family is slated to air on ABC on Oct. 21.

Without the right gear, motorcycles are donor-cycles

Tech Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

When the weather is hot and humid, it’s mighty tempting to skip the helmet, leather jacket, boots and tough denim jeans when riding your motorcycle.

But hot weather does not reduce your risk of serious injury or death, even if the asphalt is becoming soft as pudding. Soldiers and Airmen are our most valuable resource — it’s important to us that you are safe and healthy. Motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of accidental deaths in the National Guard. The right protective equipment can help. Here is a story of one of our Guard members who learned the importance of proper equipment.

As a child, I couldn’t keep my eyes off motorcycles. They looked cool, sounded cool and I knew I would own one someday. That childhood dream happened in 2006. I took all the classes the military required me to, registered my license and purchased my first sport bike.

I never thought I’d actually get into an accident. But that scary night happened one April evening in North Carolina while stationed at Pope Air Force Base. I donned all my gear, fired up my bike and cruised off. I decided to take a little bit longer of a drive than usual and headed down an unfamiliar road.

When I got to the top of a hill there was a sharp right turn. There were no signs indicating a sharp turn like this and with the sun down, and up against a heavily forested tree line, I could barely make out the turn in time.

Instead of trying to maneuver the turn like I was trained to do, I frantically clenched my brakes hoping to stop in time. I could not. I split the curve in half, cutting straight across the oncoming lane and my bike darted down a steep embankment at the apex of the curve.

Thrown from my motorcycle, I tumbled about 40 yards. I remember hitting my head three or four times – seeing red stars each time – before coming to rest on my hands and knees. It all happened so fast. Gasping for breath, I reached in my pocket for my cell phone and noticed holes in my gloves. It took me three attempts to dial for help as my hands were shaking so badly I kept pressing the wrong numbers.

I made the call and managed to get to my feet. There were no headlights beaming, no engine purring. It was silence and the moonlight. I felt scared and alone. As I gingerly walked over to my bike, I saw the damage. My motorcycle had bounced off two trees, breaking the sub frame clear off and the entire front mount, which holds the speedometer, headlights, etcetera.

I walked away with a fractured left wrist, a small puncture wound in my right thigh and cuts on my nose from where the visor on my helmet snapped in half.

The next day, I crossed paths with my wing commander, who asked about the cuts on my face. I explained to him what had happened and he said, “I’ll bet you’ll think about wearing your helmet next time.”

It was then I envisioned what would’ve happened had I actually NOT been wearing my helmet … or all my other gear, for that matter. Without the right equipment I just may have left behind all of my family and friends, my son and every other childhood dream I made growing up.

Mistakes and accidents can and will happen. Please wear your personal protective gear – for yourself and for everyone else.

It’s not just a good idea – it’s also a requirement if you’re in the National Guard. According to TAG Policy Memorandum 27, the following personal protective equipment is required when operating or riding a motorcycle or moped:

•A helmet meeting DOT standards that fastens under the chin
•Impact or shatter-resistant goggles, wrap-around glasses or full-face shield properly attached to the helmet must meet or exceed ANSI Safety Code Z87.1 for impact and shatter resistance. A windshield alone is not proper eye protection
•Sturdy footwear, leather boots or over-the-ankle shoes
•A long-sleeved shirt or jacket, long trousers and full-fingered gloves or mittens designed for use on a motorcycle
•A brightly colored outer upper garment during the day and a reflective upper garment during the night. Military uniforms do not meet these standards. The outer garment shall be clearly visible and not covered
•During off-road operations, operators and riders must use additional PPE such as knee and shin guards and padded full-fingered gloves
It’s important to maintain a valid driver’s license issued by your state of residence. You also must successfully complete a motorcycle safety class sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) or an MSF-based motorcycle rider safety course.

What about you? Care to share any instances where proper equipment came in handy during your motorcycle ride – or would have, if you’d been wearing it?

MCPON Wraps Up European Visit

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Abraham Essenmacher

STUTTGART, Germany (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) wrapped up his eight-day European trip July 19, by having a luncheon with senior enlisted leaders and an all hands call with Sailors in Stuttgart, Germany.

MCPON(SS/SW) Rick D. West visited various remote commands and spoke to Sailors in London, Brussels and Germany during his visit.

"The Sailors I've met and spoke with are accomplishing great things while away from home in hard to reach places," said West. "They are representing our U.S. forces with great ambassadorship!"

While in Brussels, MCPON visited with Sailors from the Navy Element of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and following the all hands call, he joined them for a cookout.

"Having an informal get together with Sailors in a remote area is important and is a great way to reach across and communicate with our Navy's greatest assets … our Sailors," said West.

MCPON also traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, to talk with Sailors attached to joint services.

"I was excited over the fact that MCPON West came to visit us here in Europe, and his presence here let me know that we are not lost Sailors, we do have a voice and he is there to listen," said Yeoman 2nd Class Joy T. Paetzold. "MCPON urged all Sailors to strive for their best no matter what the odds. He said he understood the current changes in the economy had influenced the Navy's shift in retention, but encouraged us to keep professional and educational growth a part of our daily routine in order to expand opportunities for future career options."

"The Sailors stationed across Europe are working in critical positions in order to continue operations, helping to ensure our Navy continues to be a global force for good, so I feel we owe it to them to make sure they are getting attention from leadership too," said West.

During MCPON's visit with Sailors, they had the chance to ask him questions and get frank responses from the top. Questions ranged from future physical training uniforms to Perform-To-Serve and manning levels.

"I learned from MCPON's visit that Navy policies and programs are continuously being reviewed and he was straight to the point regarding the high retention and low attrition within the Navy," said Interior Telecommunications Specialist 1st Class (SW) Karen Williams.

"When we as leaders take on board what Sailors' needs are, and the challenges they're facing, it's important for us to give those items honest responses, and they deserve that," said West.

MCPON will return to Washington where he will provide information from his Fleet engagements to senior leaders to help improve Navy operations. Fleet engagements are intended to provide senior leadership with a frontline assessment of Sailors and what they are doing in the Fleet.

U.S. Navy, Partner Nations Complete Pacific Partnership

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class R. David Valdez, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP11) mission arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7) July 22.

The arrival of the ship marks the end of the mission for the representatives from the last partner nations aboard the ship including Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Spain, the Pacific Partnership Band, and many of the military personnel assigned to Pacific Partnership.

"This departure is a bittersweet precursor to our arrival in San Diego; our final stop," said PP11 Mission Commander Capt. Jesse Wilson, commander, Destroyer Squadron 23. "Over the course of four months, the men and women of the diverse countries, non-governmental organizations and all branches of the U.S. military that make up the Pacific Partnership 2011 team have bonded to change many lives for the better in the Pacific region, and we are all looking forward to our return and reunion with loved ones."

Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance initiative which provides medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and agricultural civic action programs throughout Southeast Asia and the South Pacific to promote interoperability between host nations and partner nations. Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pacific Partnership promotes sustainable improvements in the quality of life for the citizens of host nations while improving the partner nations' collective ability to respond to a natural disaster.

This year, Pacific Partnership completed mission ports in Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the Federated States of Micronesia. During the course of those visits, the medical contingent treated 38,696 patients at medical civic action projects (MEDCAPs) and dental civic action projects (DENCAPs).

"The MEDCAP is the basis for most HA/DR operations," said Capt. Steven Gaeble, officer in charge of the PP11 medical contingent. "This is one of those areas where our host nations are going to seek out the opportunity to achieve interoperability and exchange information because there may be a more efficient way to treat malaria, dengue or a host of other tropical illnesses that the partner nations don't deal with on a regular basis."

Optometry services were also popular, as they accounted for nearly 12,000 of the total patients seen at the MEDCAPs.

Ambassador Judith Fergin, the U.S. ambassador to Timor-Leste, said the spirit of Pacific Partnership was expressed by "an elderly man in Iliomar, exclaiming 'solok!' (happy) when gazing through his first-ever pair of eyeglasses."

The DENCAPs treated more than 3,300 patients this year, and the team of dentists, hygienists and technicians from Australia, Canada, France and the U.S. had the opportunity to work with local dental professionals and get more people treated than the host nations' infrastructures would normally allow.

"When we arrive for our mission ports we have the ability to treat as many patients in six days as the local doctors can treat in six months," said Cmdr. Arthur Green, officer in charge of dental services for PP11. "That's largely because we're dividing the workload for the local dentists by a factor of at least ten, considering the number of dental professionals we have working with us."

Due to the subsistence farming that is a way of life in the five island nations, animals are not just pets. In many cases, they are a source of food, security, and even work. The PP11 veterinary team, a combination of volunteers from World Vets, Vets Without Borders, and the Australian and U.S. armies provided treatment to more than 800 animals at veterinary civic action projects (VETCAP).

"As a civilian veterinarian, I tend to work with people's pets, while the military veterinarians tend to work with military working animals," said Dr. Lydia Tong, a veterinarian volunteer from World Vets. "However, working with Pacific Partnership, I've had the opportunity to provide assistance to people who rely on their animals for survival as well as companionship."

While the MEDCAPs, DENCAPs and VETCAPs were visible examples of PP11's joint and multinational mission, the engineering civic action projects also left lasting reminders of Pacific Partnership's impact in the region, much like the buildings left behind by U.S. Navy Seabees and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from World War II.

"Working with Australian, New Zealand and host national engineers was a unique opportunity," said Lt. Michael Sardone, officer in charge of engineering services for PP11. "Our Seabees arrived on station up to a month before the main body of the mission to build new school buildings and water catchment systems that the local populations will be able to use and maintain for generations."

The PP11 engineering team worked on three community centers, 14 primary schools, one remote clinic, one Hospital, one evacuation center/gymnasium, one water distribution hub with three water catchment tanks and one athletic field.

The PP11 team, which included the crew of the Cleveland, also delivered 257 pallets of donated materials including toys, crutches, wheelchairs, toiletries, and school supplies at 58 community service projects throughout the course of the mission.

"The volunteers, military personnel, and even folks back home who have given what they have to people who need it half a world away, remind me that Pacific Partnership brings out the best in people," said Lt. Phillip Ridley, PP11 chaplain. "And to think that this mission has been doing meaningful things for six years straight. It's a testament to what nations and institutions can do for people when they work together."

During the past six years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational and preventive medicine services to more than 250,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries.

Now that the operational portion of the mission is over, the PP11 team will stop in Hawaii for an opportunity to debrief, say farewell to some shipmates and bring some new shipmates aboard for a Tiger Cruise to San Diego, giving some family and friends a taste of life aboard the U.S. Navy's third oldest ship in the Fleet. The deployment will end in San Diego, when Cleveland and its crew return to their home port.