Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, August 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.

Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, commanding general for Regional Command East, will brief the media live from Afghanistan at 10:30 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to provide an update on current operations.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

Face of Defense: Airman Honors Vets Via Baseball

By Jose T. Garza III
502nd Air Base Wing

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Aug. 24, 2011 – Air Force Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc said the opportunity to honor U.S. veterans and meet with baseball heroes during a near month-long journey from New Orleans to ground zero in New York City earlier this year was an experience he’ll never forget.

LeBlanc, an instructor assigned to the 331st Training Squadron here, was selected as one of several military ambassadors for the "Heroes of the Diamond" club, a national team chartered with promoting goodwill and military awareness through the sport of baseball.

"It was truly a privilege," LeBlanc said about playing on the HOD team. "I was given the freedom to play baseball, and it was an honor to represent the Air Force. I know what the flag means to me and what it represents. I'm proud to be wearing the red, white and blue."

Team members began their tour Jan. 1 from New Orleans. They traveled to Philadelphia and several other cities, where they displayed the ground zero flag to thousands of Americans, including service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Though LeBlanc since has returned to his instructor duty, the team continues its journey across the United States. It’s scheduled to arrive at its final destination in New York on Sept. 11, officials said. There, at the site of the former World Trade Center towers, the flag will be presented and permanently displayed.

As a military ambassador for the HOD, LeBlanc met several baseball legends at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., including Pete Rose, Ozzie Smith and Yogi Berra.

"Meeting Yogi Berra was one of the coolest times ever," LeBlanc said. "He is a baseball legend, and it is not every day you get to shake the hand of a baseball legend."

The tour also provided opportunities to meet with military veterans, and families of the fallen from the 9/11 attacks, LeBlanc said. Hearing their stories, he said, made him realize how fortunate he is.

"I always tell my wife and kids that I love them," LeBlanc said. "Life is too precious to let it go to waste."

LeBlanc said he was proud to be wearing the red, white and blue on his chest as part of his HOD baseball uniform. Every player on the team, he added, wears a number that represents a historic day or figure in American history.

"I wear No. 21, which represents the Tomb of the Unknowns [at Arlington National Cemetery]," LeBlanc said.

Cutting the trip short and returning home before this year’s 9/11 observance in New York City was difficult, he said, but duty called and airmen must place service before self, he added.

USS New Orleans Completes Predeployment Exercise, Returns to San Diego

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dominique Pineiro, Naval Surface Forces Public Affairs

USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea (NNS) -- USS New Orleans (LPD 18) returned to its homeport in San Diego Aug. 22 following a two week predeployment exercise off the coast of Southern California.

New Orleans, along with embarked Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), completed Amphibious Squadron-MEU Integrated Training (PMINT) as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group for deployment later this year.

Cmdr. Dennis Jacko, New Orleans commanding officer, said the exercise enhanced interoperability between the Sailors and Marines by helping form a blue-green team.

"PMINT is the first step of operational integrated training with the Navy and Marine assets that will compose the Amphibious Readiness Group," Jacko said. "Although this is the first step, I think that the detailed planning and extensive coordination that was completed previously enabled the Makin Island ARG to perform at an advanced level from the start."

New Orleans hosted daily deck landing qualifications for helicopters assigned to the 11th MEU's Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 268, launched Landing Craft Air Cushion and amphibious assault vehicles with embarked Marines from its well deck and performed an underway replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202).

"I'm really looking forward to this deployment," said Marine Cpl. Kurtis Fuchser, who last deployed to Afghanistan's Helmand province. "The food's going to be better and I'm looking forward to seeing different countries. It's also going to be a different experience working with Navy personnel, not just corpsmen."

In addition to performing its scheduled tasks, New Orleans also responded to a distress call leading to the recovery of more than 1,800 pounds of alleged contraband and the capture of three suspected drug runners.

"The crew of New Orleans did a fantastic job of changing missions quickly, arriving on scene, and rapidly getting our boats in the water to render assistance," Jacko said. "Coordinating our efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard was seamless, and resulted not only in the rescue of stranded personnel at sea, but the recovery of a substantial amount of dangerous drugs headed to the United States."

PMINT is the first stage of training where more than 1,800 Sailors from New Orleans, USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) integrated with more than 1,600 Marines from the 11th MEU in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

New Orleans is a San Antonio-class transport dock ship designed and built to fight. Its war-fighting capabilities include a state-of-the-art command and control suite, substantially increased vehicle lift capacity, a large flight deck, and advanced ship survivability features that enhance its ability to operate in the unforgiving littoral environment.

NAVSAFECEN Urges Sailors, Marines, Families Prepare Early for Hurricane Irene

By April Phillips, Naval Safety Center Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN) advised East Coast Sailors, Marines and their families Aug. 24 to prepare for contact by Hurricane Irene.

"Sailors, Marines, and their families are our greatest resource," said NAVSAFECEN Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Dominick Torchia. "It is important for them to be informed so they're able to take care of themselves and each other. Early preparation is the key to success."

The time to prepare is well in advance of a storm, he said. NAVSAFECEN recommends simple operational risk management to get ready, with steps including:

* Move or secure any objects that could become airborne during high winds; Bring inside any outdoor furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants, and anything else that can be picked up by the wind. If there is time, move furniture, electronics and other valuables to the highest level of your home.

* Communicate with chain-of-command and family members often to ensure that everyone knows what to do and when.

* Fuel vehicles in case it is necessary to evacuate the area.

* Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings if not instructed by officials to turn off utilities. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.

* Review evacuation plans. Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter and ask for the community preparedness plan. Plan an evacuation route that will take you 20-50 miles inland.

If an evacuation is necessary:

* Take small valuables and papers but travel light.

* Take cash, credit cards, and copies of important papers, including bank accounts, insurance and household records.

* Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded
road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car and climb to higher ground.

* Bring pets with you or ensure that they are well-cared for with food and water in a safe place.

While current projections have Hurricane Irene making landfall somewhere on the coast of the Carolinas Aug. 27, no one is certain of the exact path.

"Predictions about when and where hurricanes will make landfall are just that - predictions. They are not exact science, so it's better to be prepared for a storm that doesn't hit than the reverse," Torchia said. "Make sure the whole family is involved in disaster planning, and that everyone knows the emergency contact numbers."

Torchia added that it's also a good idea to ensure the family hurricane kit is fully-stocked now, rather than waiting until store shelves are bare.

"Shop early for water and non-perishable food supplies because they sell out fast when a storm is approaching. The best idea is to keep a hurricane preparedness kit ready to go all season long," he said.