Thursday, August 25, 2011

Entertainment Industry Honors Navy Psychologist For Excellence in Combat Operational Stress Control

From U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (NNS) -- A Navy medical professional received the Voice Award Aug. 24 at Paramount Studios for her efforts in building awareness about the impact of trauma on service members and their families.

Heidi Kraft, Ph.D., a leading clinical psychologist and consultant for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), was honored at the 2011 Voice Awards for her achievement in successful educational efforts for Navy Medicine.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee and NBC's "Parenthood" star Peter Krause and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Now in its sixth year, the Voice Awards convenes representatives from the entertainment industry and the behavioral health community for an evening of education and awareness about the societal contributions of people living with behavioral health problems. This year's event emphasized awareness about the impact of trauma and the significant effects it can have on individuals, families, friends, and communities across the country.

Kraft, a former Navy psychologist, supports the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps' combat stress control outreach programs. In that capacity, she speaks to more than 50 groups each year. The audiences range from active duty leaders to healthcare providers to veterans and community support groups and also include deployed active duty audiences in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany, Japan, and Cuba. Kraft has spoken to more than 27,000 people about how to cope with stress and build resiliency skills over the past three years.

"I am deeply honored to have been nominated for SAMHSA's The Voice award," said Kraft. "I learned that my nomination came from a clinician and a group of her combat trauma patients who heard me speak at a VA event last year. Knowing this makes it all even more special, as obviously my combat veteran patients mean the world to me."

Kraft said she was very happy and honored to represent those who have provided medical and psychological care and treatment for combat trauma, both in the war zone and at home. She said she was also pleased to see SAMHSA put special focus on trauma at this year's award. Additionally, she expressed her hope that this event in Hollywood will be one of many going forward which continue to fight the stigma against seeking help for combat trauma that combat veterans and their families face today.

"They have all heard Navy Medicine's message of the importance of recognizing and battling stigma regarding seeking mental health treatment for combat trauma, and the vital need to care for one another in this time of ongoing war," said Kraft.

Kraft earned her degree in clinical psychology from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and completed an internship in medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center. She joined the Navy during her internship and served nine years on active duty as both a flight and clinical psychologist. In February 2004, she deployed to Iraq for seven months with a Marine Corps surgical company. Her book "Rule Number Two" is a memoir of that experience.

The Voice Awards are a collaborative effort among the entertainment industry and the behavioral health community including the Ad Council; American Academy of Physician Assistants; American Counseling Association; American Psychiatric Foundation; American Psychiatric Nurses Association; American Psychological Association; The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors; The Creative Coalition; Mental Health America; Mental Health Media Partnership; National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Directors; National Association of Social Workers; National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors; National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare; Project Return Peer Support Network; RTI International; Talk Therapy TV; and the Writers Guild of America West.

Navy Medicine is a global healthcare network of 63,000 Navy medical personnel around the world who provide high quality health care to more than one million eligible beneficiaries. Navy Medicine personnel deploy with Sailors and Marines worldwide, providing critical mission support aboard ship, in the air, under the sea and on the battlefield.

Thousands of National Guard members converging on Milwaukee

More than 3,000 Army and Air National Guard officers and enlisted members from across the United States will begin arriving in Milwaukee today (Aug. 25) for the 133rd National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) General Conference and Exhibition, held at the Frontier Airlines Center and hosted by the Wisconsin National Guard.

"It is an honor and a privilege to welcome our fellow Guard members to Milwaukee," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin. "This conference offers a great opportunity to learn from each other, renew old friendships and start new ones."

NGAUS is a non-partisan professional association representing nearly 45,000 current and former Army and Air National Guard officers. It is dedicated to engaging Congress with the goal of obtaining better equipment, standardized training and a more combat-ready force.

The conference kicks off Friday with a special Freedom Ride beginning at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Approximately 100 National Guard officers will ride personal and rented motorcycles from the museum to Holy Hill and back.

The business agenda begins Saturday (Aug. 27). Featured speakers include:

An MATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle) seemingly stands watch over the Frontier Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee, site of the 133rd National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) General Conference and Exhibition. Military vehicles were part of a static display alongside the Frontier Airlines Center. Wisconsin National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson 

•Gov. Scott Walker, Saturday, at 12:30 p.m.
•Gen. Craig R. McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
•Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command, Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
•Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sunday at 11:15 a.m.
•U.S. Rep Tim Walz, co-chairman of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, Monday at 11 a.m.

Events are subject to change based on real world mission demands, such as the response to Hurricane Irene. Most speakers will address the conference theme, The National Guard: Right for America, or any of a number of military and homeland security issues affecting the Guard.

The conference also includes a large trade show featuring an exhibition of Guard-related products and services of nearly 400 companies and organizations.

Face of Defense: Chaplain Ministers to Many Faiths

By Marine Corps Cpl. Kenneth Jasik
1st Marine Logistics Group

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Aug. 25, 2011 – Navy Chaplain (Capt.) Michael A. Mikstay was just a small boy when he first heard the calling to become a priest.

“I began to be interested in priesthood in second grade,” said Mikstay, a Canton, Ohio, native who serves here as the head chaplain of the 1st Marine Logistics Group. “I went to Catholic school, and I saw the priests very involved in the lives of people.

“At that point, I thought that would be a wonderful thing to do,” he continued, “and I believe as I got older, that calling and attraction got stronger and was affirmed by numerous people.”

Mikstay, now 56, realized his dream, and served as a civilian priest for several years, until the first Gulf War.

“I had been a priest in the town of Poland, Ohio, and we had a number of parishioners whose family members were being activated in reserve and Guard units,” Mikstay said. “It became a very difficult time, so I felt a need to respond to the crisis that the nation and the world was experiencing.”

Mikstay, then 37, joined the Navy’s Chaplain Corps in 1992. He was too late for Operation Desert Storm, but he found himself in the middle of a different fight just a few months later.

“My first unit was with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit -- we went to Somalia,” he said. “Six months out of chaplain’s school, in downtown Mogadishu, I found myself praying, ‘Oh God, what did I do?’”

In Somalia, Mikstay traveled between his ship and forward operating bases in the region to provide services, along with religious and spiritual guidance and counseling.

“I had a whole lot of opportunity to get around,” Mikstay said. “I went around with all aspects of the MEU.” In addition to providing religious services, Mikstay said, he helped to distribute food and water to residents of Somalia.

After service with the 24th MEU and Somalia, Mikstay served with 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Serving in the military has helped his growth as a priest, Mikstay said.

“[My service in Somalia] set the stage for my life in the military,” he explained. “Being at the MEU level was a great experience, and it allowed me to be involved in many of the operations that the Marine Corps is involved in.

“Civilian ministry and military ministry are different in many ways,” he continued. “Civilian ministry is geared toward a denomination, church or parish. Military chaplains serve people of all faiths.”

Mikstay may be a Catholic priest, but as a Navy chaplain he facilitates religious services for troops of all beliefs.

“When you get down to it, the primary reason we have military chaplains in any of the services is because our nation is adamant about the fact that we provide for the free exercise of religion,” Mikstay said. “It’s one of our constitutional rights to be able to exercise our religion, and chaplains are here to guarantee that, regardless of what faith you believe in, or even if you have no faith whatsoever.”

Mikstay said becoming a Navy chaplain is a calling, much like the priesthood, noting he enjoys sharing his experiences.

“It’s a response to your faith,” he said. “At this point, I’ve been promoted to a position that is supervisory, so I now have an opportunity to pass on to younger chaplains and [religious program specialists] my experiences and knowledge.”

Hospital Consolidation Going Smoothly, Commander Says

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2011 – As the largest-ever realignment of military health care facilities nears culmination, the commander of the task force executing the effort is pleased with how it has gone.

“The process has gone extraordinarily smoothly,” Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) John M. Mateczun said yesterday during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical was created in 2007 to oversee a base realignment and closure law mandate to close Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, and to consolidate care at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and a new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.

The consolidated facility in Bethesda will be called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Patient consolidation has occurred throughout most of August, and will conclude in the coming days with the transport of Walter Reed’s remaining inpatients – about 50 people – to Bethesda, Mateczun said, adding that he does not anticipate problems with the seven-mile ambulance transports.

The national capital region has “more experience than anywhere else in the country,” he noted, receiving patients at least three times per week on flights from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The hospitals will sequence the departure and arrival of patients, the admiral said, so as not to overwhelm any one ward. Each patient will travel in an ambulance with his or her team of care providers, as well as family members if there is room, he said.

While the move has gone smoothly, Mateczun said, it comes at a critical time for patients. The task force issued letters about the realignment early this year and set up a hotline for people to ask questions during the transition.

“This is a disruptive time in their lives, and I’m very sorry we had to bring more disruption,” the admiral said. “But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it will be better for them.”

Any reservations patients or their families have had about the move generally dissolve as they walk into the new facilities, Mateczun said. “It’s been very gratifying for us to watch them and their reactions as they move in,” he said.

The new hospitals and clinics represent the covenant the services have with wounded warriors to provide them with the best possible care, the admiral said. “There is a new paradigm for not just providing acute care, but for therapeutic care, as well,” he said.

The new facilities go beyond federal requirements for disability standards, providing a specialized environment for wounded warriors and their families, Mateczun said. “We like to say they are ‘wounded warrior compliant,’” he said.

The facilities are wheelchair- and prosthetic-ready, the admiral said, and inpatient suites are designed so wounded warriors may live with family members and gain independence by doing daily tasks such as cooking and laundry. “It’s a new model for the military,” he said.

The Fort Belvoir hospital, Mateczun said, is leading the nation in what is known as “evidence-based designs,” or “smart rooms,” that give patients a monitor to see when someone enters their room, along with the person’s name and title, as well as more control of temperature, lighting and television. Also, providers will be able to access a patient’s electronic health record in their room in coordination with the patient, he said.

“We need to make sure that patient care is our No. 1 priority,” he said, “and we also need to take care of the staff and make sure that they stay.”

The task force has done just that, Mateczun said, because the realignment law guaranteed placement for Walter Reed’s 2,200 employees at either Bethesda or Fort Belvoir. “They stuck with us, and we are very grateful we are able to keep them all,” he said.

In planning the moves, Mateczun said, the task force also created efficiencies through interoperability, buying the same equipment for the facilities and allowing for the same maintenance contracts.

“It’s more than world-class care,” he said. “It’s world-class service. Our end goal is to try to reach an integrated system of patient care when the patient needs it, and where they need it.”

Engineering Rating Roadmaps Update With Rank-recommended Certifications

By Ed Barker, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Learning and Development Roadmaps (LaDRs) for engineering ratings feature rank-recommended certification information via Navy Credentialing Opportunities Online (Navy COOL) with the latest updates posted to Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) Aug. 22.

Updated by the Naval Education and Training Command's Center for Naval Engineering, the engineering rating LaDR updates provide the latest Sailor development information and include the linkage of rank-recommended certification information via Navy COOL and the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP).

According to the USMAP website, while earning certifications shows supervisors that Sailors are working to improve themselves while in the service, these certifications are also valuable when people leave the service and apply for civilian positions.

"As we get feedback from the fleet and the individual communities make calibrations, LaDRs will reflect the updates and remain the ultimate career reference tool," said Tom Smith, enlisted education coordinator for the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC). "By adding rank-recommended indications to the Navy COOL functionality, Sailors only see the certifications that apply to them."

LaDRs are fleet-focused products that provide guidance to Sailors along a learning and development continuum specific to each rating. These online guides explain in detail what each Sailor needs to succeed at specific points in their career, including information about certifications that can help Sailors demonstrate their professional competency. The most significant change this year is the embedding of certifications and apprenticeships into the appropriate rank category for each rating.

"In addition to breaking out the Navy COOL certifications by rank, we also outlined the required and available warfare qualifications for each of the engineering ratings," said Master Chief Hull Technician (SW) Ronnie Merriman, Center for Naval Engineering staff leading chief petty officer. "[Enlisted] Surface Warfare [Specialist] is a required warfare qualification, but other pins are available depending on where a Sailor is stationed. Additional qualifications help to make a more well-rounded Sailor."

Certifications listed on the Navy COOL website with a "Navy bucks" icon match 80 percent or greater of what a Sailor either learns or performs in their rating, and have also been approved for payment or reimbursement through the Navy's Credentials Program Office. Rank icons were instituted earlier this year and will appear as each rating's LaDR is updated on NKO.

"The engineering ratings will see their certifications associated with a rank icon with the next Navy COOL Web update by the first week of September," said Keith Boring, Navy COOL program manager. "We don't want a Sailor attempting a certification that they are not qualified or prepared for, and the rank icon helps zero-in on what's appropriate for their rank and rating."

Commanders are required to ensure distribution of LaDRs to every enlisted paygrade at all commands. This can be accomplished through Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) at After accessing the NKO home page, select the Career Management tab, navigate along the blue side banner and select the Enlisted Learning and Development (LaDR) hyperlink. According to Chief of Naval Operations instruction (OPNAVINST) 1500.77, the LaDRs are required to be used during Career Development Boards.

Additional information about LaDRs is detailed in NAVADMIN 258-10, available through the Naval Personnel Command Web site at:

George Washington Returns to Yokosuka

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman, USS George Washington (CVN 73) Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- After 74 days at sea and logging more than 25,000 nautical miles across the western Pacific, the Navy's only full-time, forward-deployed, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) returned to its forward-operating port of Yokosuka, Japan, Aug. 25.

While underway, George Washington conducted training, participated in exercises and represented the U.S. by hosting distinguished visitors from nearly a half-dozen different nations, including Japan, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

"Our mission is to help ensure security and stability across the western Pacific, and we stand the watch day and night while we are at sea," said George Washington Commanding Officer Capt. David Lausman. "Our crew has worked very hard during this patrol so we're excited to come home for a reunion with our families and friends."

While George Washington has only been underway for three months, the ship's return to Yokosuka reunites families who have been apart for nearly seven months. Many families were evacuated before the ship pulled out and only just recently returned to Japan.

"Our crew has been booking trips around Japan like crazy," said Rebekah McKoy, George Washington's Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "I think they're really excited to finally get to spend some time together and celebrate their reunion."

Following the completion of carrier qualifications, George Washington began its most recent patrol June 12, heading south through the Sunda Strait en route to Australia for the biannual exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.

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

Off the coast of Australia, aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 launched off the bow as the U.S. and Australia trained together to improve both nation's combat readiness and interoperability. In addition to George Washington, 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian personnel participated in Talisman Sabre.

"Talisman Sabre [allowed] the U.S. and Australian navies to work together to train and validate in a joint warfighting environment," said Capt. John Schultz, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15. "[We were able to] conduct interoperability by [sharing tactics and procedures], making sure they were all fleshed out and ready to go."

At the end of the exercise, George Washington hosted U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich for a tour of the ship and an opportunity to speak with George Washington Sailors about the importance of the U.S. alliance with Australia.

"If you look at our relationship, it began with a visit from the Great White Fleet [in 1908] and has been built upon since then just from our commitment to the security and prosperity of the Pacific," said Bleich.

After 57 days at sea, the carrier made its first port visit; a five day stop in Laem Chabang, Thailand. While there, the ship hosted 500 local dignitaries during a reception in the hangar bay, participated in a dozen community service projects and coordinated public tours for nearly 1,000 people. Among those taking a tour of the ship was George Washington's first royal visitor, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, a member of Thailand's royal family.

"I am always thrilled to have people tour our ship; It's a great opportunity for them to meet our crew and learn about what we do," said Lausman. "People may be impressed with the ship, but the ship is just 100,000 tons of steel. Our Sailors are our real secret weapon."

Second Fleet Sets Sortie Condition Alpha in Preparation for Hurricane

From U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet ordered all U.S. Navy ships in the Hampton Roads, Va., area to set Sortie Condition Alpha Aug. 24.

Ships will make final preparations overnight in anticipation of getting underway early Aug. 25.

The setting of Sortie Condition Alpha does not mean the actual sortie is inevitable.

Should overnight weather forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm, the sortie condition may be downgraded.

Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, said that the decision to sortie the ships from Hampton Roads is based on Hurricane Irene's current track that indicates the storm will produce at least 50 knots of wind and a five to seven foot storm surge, which meets the criteria for getting the fleet underway to avoid storm damage.

"Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway," said Holloway. "The forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge is too great to keep the ships in port. There is a much greater potential of not only the ships being damaged, but also the pier infrastructure. Having the ships underway also makes them ready and available to respond to any national tasking, including any needed disaster response efforts in the local area after the storm has passed."

Foul weather preparations start with Sortie Condition Charlie, with ships prepared to get underway in 48 hours. At Sortie Condition Bravo, ships must be prepared to get underway within 24 hours. Sortie Condition Alpha indicates the execution of the sortie.

A variety of information is available in support of family readiness during hurricane season including:

- Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System,, which provides a standardized method for the Navy to account, manage and monitor the recovery process for personnel and their families affected and/or scattered by a wide-spread catastrophic event.

- State of Virginia Emergency Management,, which has many resources for planning and preparing emergency kits, developing evacuation plans and addressing specific special needs for children, the elderly and others.
- Virginia Department of Transportation Hurricane Evacuation Guide,, which provides more detailed information for preparing for a hurricane, hurricane evacuation and public shelters in Virginia.

- Red Cross Hurricane Preparedness Guide,, which provides general overview of tips and guidelines for hurricane preparedness.

- Prepare Hampton Roads website,, which provides valuable tips for preparing for high winds and evacuation.

Note: Media desiring more information about this event should contact the U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs Office at (757) 443-9850 (x47122 or x47127). Media wishing to cover the departure of Hampton Roads ships should plan on meeting at the Tour and Information Office on Hampton Blvd. Aug. 25 at 7:00 a.m. Advance notification is required for access to the naval station.

Routine Interactions Build U.S-India Defense Relations

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2011 – The U.S.-India defense relationship is a natural partnership created by shared interests and values and driven by increasingly routine day-to-day interactions, a senior Defense Department official said here today.

Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, spoke to an audience at the New America Foundation.

Day-to-day successes that lay the groundwork for the U.S.-India defense relationship are rarely in the spotlight, Scher said, “but they are an important factor in driving our relationship forward and helping us understand each other.”

The U.S.-India relationship is a priority for the Obama administration and the Defense Department, Scher said, one that President Barack Obama has called a defining partnership of the 21st century. In recent years, he added, high-level visits have cemented the commitment of both nations to the bilateral relationship.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the United States in 2009, and Obama traveled to India in 2010. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s July attendance at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue was her second trip there as secretary of state.

“India is a major regional and global power,” Scher said. “We view our relationship with India as a partnership of equals -- two nation states with a commonality of security interests in the Indian Ocean region and beyond.”

Scher said the most important thing the United States is doing in its defense relationship with India is building mutual trust and understanding that will help to ensure that common values and interests can translate into common approaches.

Three key areas in the U.S.-India defense relationship are people-to-people ties, military engagement and defense sales, the deputy assistant secretary of defense said.

Examples of people-to-people ties include attendance by service members from both nations at U.S. and Indian military educational institutions, Scher said.

“In 2010, we had nearly 100 members of the Indian armed services at military schools or courses in the United States,” he said. “These educational interactions are fantastic opportunities to share perspectives, understand cultural mindsets and simply become friends with colleagues.”

All three of the Indian military’s current service chiefs went to school in the United States during their careers, Scher noted.

“Air Marshal [Norman Anil Kumar] Browne graduated from the Air Command and Staff College, he said. “General [Vijay Kumar] Singh is a graduate of both the U.S. Army Ranger School and the U.S. Army War College. And Adm. [Nirmal Kumar] Verma is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College.”

In the United States, Scher added, retired Navy Adm. Walter L. Doran attended the Indian Defense Service Staff College in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, India, in 1979. There, he formed a close relationship with Indian colleagues who included former Indian Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Arun Prakash and Adm. Sureesh Mehta.

“This has real-world implications,” Scher said. “During his 10 years as admiral of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Doran’s personal relationship with Admiral Prakash proved instrumental in initiating coordination between the U.S. and Indian response efforts to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.”

The U.S. Naval Postgraduate School recently formalized a memorandum of understanding with India’s Defense Institute of Advanced Technology, he added.

“This September,” Scher told the group, “they will jointly conduct a defeating-terrorism workshop that will bring together senior leaders from both sides, including the director general of India’s Defense Research Development Organization and the [U.S.] chief of naval research to discuss ways to leverage research capabilities to contribute to the defeat of terrorism.”

A similar workshop on cybersecurity is planned for the near future, he said.

In January, the executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory visited India with a team of Air Force scientists, Scher said. They returned to the United States with proposals for further discussions in 18 new technological areas, including nanomaterials, roadside-bomb detection and high-temperature super alloys.

“Several of these will likely lead to agreements for the exchange of technical information or collaborative research projects that will add to the dozen or so such agreements established between the two countries since 2005,” he said.

Military-to-military engagements are another element of the U.S.-India defense partnership, Scher said.

“We partner with the Indians on a number of educational, doctrinal, institutional, training and other subject matter exchanges,” he added. “These engagements and exercises provide opportunities for our militaries to work together and learn from each other, … and most importantly, they improve our ability to address real-life challenges.”

India routinely has more exercises with the United States than with any other country, Scher noted. “Over the last six years, we’ve done nearly 50 major exercises with India, … and our exercises are evolving in complexity,” he said.

Over a decade, Malabar, a regularly scheduled bilateral naval field training exercise with India, has advanced from little more than a passing exercise to a full engagement that exercises all functional warfare areas, Scher said.

“Malabar allows our navies to work cooperatively in integrated air and missile defense, antisubmarine and naval special warfare scenarios, for example,” he said.

In September, Scher said, in one of the first major interactions with the Indian coast guard, “we’re going to send a training team of subject matter experts to India to work with the Indian coast guard on counterterrorism and antipiracy-related boarding measures.”

The major U.S. exercise with the Indian army, Yudh Abyhas, started in 2004 as the first conventional army-to-army training with India since 1962, Scher said.

“The exercise, in addition to sharing training and capabilities, promotes cooperation between our armies on partner readiness,” he said. “The first deployment of Stryker vehicles outside the United States other than to a war zone was to India [to support their participation] in Yudh Abyhas.”

The practical effect of such interaction is to allow the two nations to make progress on issues of shared interest, such as maritime security, Scher said.

“The United States and India share a clear desire for freedom of navigation and unimpeded sea lines of communication, particularly in the Indian Ocean,” he said. “And through our military engagements this year, we will seek to deepen cooperation on key issues such as maritime domain awareness, countering piracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

Together, the United States and India have an important role in fostering multilateral cooperation in Asia and supporting the emerging regional security architectures, Scher said.

“Overall,” he added, “we will increasingly look to India’s leadership and partnership in promoting and maintaining security in the region and the world.”

Defense sales to India increased from virtually no defense trade relationship in the 1990s to nearly $6 billion today in foreign military sales alone, Scher said.

“It is clear that the Indian military in the future will routinely use U.S. equipment and all services across a full range of mission areas,” he added.

The United States and India, Scher said, “are destined to be closer because of our shared interests and values, democracy, human rights and our desire for a stable, secure and inclusive world economy.”

All of this, he added, “makes us natural partners.”

China Report Notes Military Modernization

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2011 – China’s military is modernizing, but the Chinese government needs to be more forthcoming on why it needs these new capabilities, according to a Defense Department report delivered to Congress today.

Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, briefed Pentagon reporters on the report.

“The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that contributes to international rules and norms and enhances security and peace both in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe,” Schiffer said.

The United States is working to engage China in economic, peacekeeping and humanitarian areas, among others, Schiffer said. A good military-to-military relationship is one part of that engagement, he added, noting that China is working with the international community, for example, to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. The Chinese military also has contributed to earthquake relief in Pakistan and played a role in delivering humanitarian aid to Haiti, he said.

“However,” he added, “the pace and scope of China's sustained military investment have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties.”

The capabilities could pose a temptation for the Chinese government to use military force “to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests, or resolve … disputes in its favor,” Schiffer said. This danger, he told reporters, re-emphasizes the need for a sustained and reliable military-to-military dialogue between the United States and China.

China’s army is on track to realize its goal of building a modern, regionally focused military by 2020, the report says. But China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance today remains limited.

This may change shortly, Schiffer said. This month, China has conducted sea trials of a Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier it purchased from Ukraine and refurbished.

“The aircraft carrier could become operationally available to China’s navy by the end of 2012, we assess, but without aircraft,” Schiffer said. “It will take a number of additional years for an air group to achieve the sort of minimal level of combat capability aboard the carrier that will be necessary for them to start to operate from the carrier itself.”

The Chinese continue to invest in submarines, and China’s navy is investing in new surface combatants designed for anti-surface and anti-air warfare, Schiffer said, and construction of a major naval base on Hainan Island is complete. “And this base, we assess, is large enough to accommodate a mix of ballistic missiles, submarines and large surface combatants, including aircraft carriers,” he added.

China is also investing in aircraft and missiles. In January, the Chinese air force flight-tested its next-generation fighter prototype. The aircraft includes stealth attributes, advanced avionics and supercruise-capable engines, Schiffer said.

Space also is a focus of China’s military modernization, with a record 15 launches in 2010.

While relations with Taiwan and China have improved markedly in most areas, Schiffer said, the Chinese military still focuses on a cross-strait contingency. China also seems to be stressing maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea – an area where roughly 50 percent of the world’s trade travels.

The Chinese military also has demonstrated in recent years the capability to conduct limited peacetime deployments of modern forces outside Asia.

“This includes multiple counterpiracy deployments to the Gulf of Aden and increasing participation in international humanitarian and disaster … relief efforts,” Schiffer said. “Investments in large amphibious ships, a new hospital ship, long-range transport aircraft and improved logistics have made these sorts of missions a practical reality.” These peacetime operations provide China’s military with a valuable operational experience and also serve the government’s diplomatic objectives, he added.

The modernization shows no sign of slowing, the report says, as the Chinese military received a 12.7 percent budget increase this year. The report acknowledges the difficulty in figuring how much China spends on its military, but estimates it at around $165 billion. “That continues more than two decades of sustained budgetary growth,” Schiffer told reporters.

The Chinese have made some incremental improvements in transparency in recent years, he said, but a number of uncertainties remain.

“We will continue, and we do continue, to encourage China to improve transparency and openness, to act in ways that support and strengthen common political, economic and diplomatic interests of the region and of the international community,” Schiffer said.

In the past, the Chinese have objected to the release of the report. Schiffer said he hopes the Chinese government and military will look at it differently this year.

“The report can best be read not simply as a piece of analysis, but really as the sets of questions and issues that we would like to be able to engage in dialogue and discussion with our Chinese counterparts about,” he said. “These are the questions and the issues that we think that it's important for us to be able to understand.

“We know our Chinese friends have questions for and about us,” he continued, “and that's the sort of dialogue and discussion that we welcome and that we think contributes to regional and global security and stability.”

Biden Thanks Yokota Airmen for Helping Japan

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Desiree Economides
374th Airlift Wing

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan, Aug. 24, 2011 – Vice President Joe Biden thanked about 1,000 military and civilian personnel from Japan’s Kanto Plains here today for their role during Operation Tomodachi, partnering with agencies worldwide to provide assistance in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The vice president stopped at Yokota during his nine-day tour to China, Mongolia and Japan, where he met with key leaders to discuss a full range of bilateral, regional and international issues.

"I've visited military bases all over the world, and what you did here in Japan over the past few months is nothing short of astounding," Biden said. "I come here for a simple reason, on behalf of the president and myself, to say, ‘Thank you. Thank you not only for saving thousands of lives. Thank you for making America look as good as we are.’"

The vice president shared about his pride in the service members for their role in aiding the people of Japan.

"All the American people are in awe of what you do day in and day out, especially when you rise to the occasion of the most difficult times," he said. "You guys are awe-inspiring. You were part of the largest humanitarian relief efforts in U.S. history. It was a truly monumental operation."

Biden noted the importance of the relationship between the United States and Japan, and he told the service members and civilians they have an essential role in that partnership.

"The role you all play is going to become increasingly important, and our alliance with Japan will be more important than in the past,” he said. “It continues to be absolutely critical, and you are the glue that holds this all together. You're the ones ensuring this alliance remains effective."

After his remarks, the vice president posed for pictures with service members.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Alicia Greene, 374th Wing staff agency unit deployment manager, said she appreciated Biden’s words of gratitude and encouragement. "It is really great that Vice President Biden took the time to come here and thank us for all that we did during Operation Tomodachi," she said.

MCPON Engages Navy Region Southeast Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Abraham Essenmacher, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) conducted fleet engagements with Sailors in Navy Region Southeast over the weekend, including a 5-mile beach run with more than 250 chief petty officers (CPO) and selectees on Jacksonville Beach Aug. 20.

MCPON (SS/SW) Rick D. West spoke with senior enlisted leaders from the Kings Bay Chief Petty Officer Association, CPO selectees and crew members of USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29). At Kings Bay, he also participated in a 5-kilometer run in honor of wounded warriors.

"These Sailors are impressive and motivated," said West. "They're working on qualifications, taking ownership of their commands and are maintaining combat readiness.

"The Run for the Fallen was particularly motivating to me. Any time we get a chance to honor our shipmates for their contributions in combat, it makes me proud to be part of this great Navy," West added.

MCPON spent time meeting and talking with this year's CPO selectees stationed throughout the area.

"I love the interaction with these groups of enthusiastic Sailors as they embark on a new chapter and role in our Navy," said West. "I'm impressed with the energy I've seen in CPO 365, from both the selectees and our chief petty officers."

"Listening to the MCPON speak really put thing in perspective on unity, loyalty, and brotherhood," said Chief (select) Aviation Ordnanceman (NAC/AW) Austin D. Jones before the Jacksonville Beach run. "Relying on each other, and what we as a mess need to do not just for our Sailors, but for our communities as well."

"This was a great turnout and run that was an outstanding demonstration of team building and fantastic representation in the Jacksonville community," added West. "We emphasize the importance of our Sailors being involved in events outside the gate, and this run was truly a demonstration of the lasting impact we can make by doing it right."

"It was nice for him to take the time to meet with the families and CPO selects before and after the run, as well as him running alongside us," said Jones.

MCPON is wrapping up his travel with visits to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Groton, Conn., where he will kick off a suicide prevention conference and tour several submarines. He will also travel to Newport, R.I., to address students attending the Senior Enlisted Academy and the Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat Course.

"It's important to communicate to these future senior enlisted leaders who are going to be guiding and mentoring our Sailors," said West. "Ensuring our enlisted leaders are working and performing on the same level together is key to our success for any mission."

Navy Families See First School Meal Increase in 7 Years

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Monique K. Hilley, Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Students headed back to school at Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) Aug. 29 will face a three year phased increase in student meal prices mandated by The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (Public Law 111-296).

Beginning school year 2011-2012, students participating in the DoD Student Meal Program that pay full price for their lunches will begin paying 50 cents more per meal, followed by a 25 cent increase in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years.

The DoD Student Meal Program is an overseas school program authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act. It is a DoD program that follows many of the same regulations and guidelines as schools throughout the United States that participate in USDA's National School Lunch Program. The program provides free and reduced-price meals for students who qualify under federal guidelines.

School food authorities will charge elementary students $2.55 and secondary students $2.70 per meal under the new pricing structure. By fall 2013, elementary students paying full price for a school-provided lunch will be charged $3.05 per lunch and secondary students $3.20.

Households qualifying for the free and reduced meal programs will not be impacted by the meal cost increases as the cost of a reduced-price meal will remain unchanged at 40 cents per meal through school year 2013-2014.

Changes in the DoD Student Meal Program are being phased in over a three year period to bring students healthier food choices, while minimizing the financial impact on families.

"Public law requires a review and adjustment to student meal prices. This law, plus the fact that meal prices have not kept pace with the increased costs to provide meals during the past seven years have led to an increase in prices," said Charles S. Clymer Jr., program manager for Commander, Navy Installations Command's Child and Youth Program. "Just like everything else, the cost of quality food, labor and equipment increase each year, and this increase will help ensure that school food authorities have funding available to support serving nutritious meals to all students."

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama on December 13, 2010, mandates changes to school lunch and breakfast programs nationwide with a focus of improving child nutrition.

"The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a significant step forward in our effort to help America's children thrive and grow to be healthy adults," said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. "Thanks to the dedication of this Congress and First Lady Michelle Obama, more kids will have access to healthy, balanced, nutritious school lunches. By increasing the number of students eligible to enroll in school meal programs and improving the quality of food served, this legislation simultaneously tackles both hunger and the obesity levels currently affecting too many communities across this nation."

The legislation authorizes funding and sets policy for USDA's core child nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  The DoD Student Meal Program will remain a subsidized, USDA-approved and nutritious option for Navy families with school-age children.

For more information on DoD meal programs, families are encouraged to contact your local school's Navy Liaison School Officer.