Military News

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Saturday, August 27, 2011

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

This Day in Naval History - Aug. 26

From the Navy News Service

1775 - Rhode Island Resolve: Rhode Island delegates to Continental Congress press for creation of Continental Navy to protect the colonies.
1839 - Brig Washington seizes Spanish slaver, Amistad, near Montauk Point, N.Y.
1861 - Union amphibious force lands near Hatteras, N.C.
1865 - Civil War ends with naval strength of more than 58,500 men and 600 ships.

Check out these Civil War books to learn about the adventures of the heroes of the War Between the States.

Hurricane Accelerates Walter Reed Patient Transfer

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2011 – With Hurricane Irene threatening the U.S. seaboard, officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., have moved up the transfer of the last 30 Walter Reed inpatients.

The transfer, initially planned for Aug. 28, was accelerated by one day to beat out the approaching hurricane, hospital officials announced today.

A procession of ambulances is expected to begin making the five-mile trek between the two hospitals along Washington’s Capital Beltway at about 7 a.m. tomorrow, officials said. The final patient is expected to arrive at Bethesda about three hours later.

Later in the afternoon, a flag-lowering ceremony at Walter Reed will mark its official closing.

The final patient transfer will mark an historic moment in both iconic institutions’ histories and one of the final milestones before they officially merge to become the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, officials said.

Navy Capt. David A. Bitonti, chief of staff for integration and transition at the Bethesda facility, has been part of a team preparing for that merger since Congress directed it as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure plan.

He was one of the chief architects behind a well-choreographed plan that included major construction and renovation projects to accommodate the newly arrived patients and medical care providers.

As the calendar moves steadily toward the congressionally mandated Sept. 15 deadline for the consolidation to be completed, Bitonti said he’s excited by the possibilities that will come from bringing the two flagship medical centers together as one organization.

“When you look at the two powerhouses that Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center are, and you think about combining them together into a singular facility, that speaks to itself about the good things to come for our patients and beneficiaries,” he said. “I think the level and the quality of health care we provide will rival any institution in the country, and maybe the world.”

Biden Praises Kaneohe Bay Marines, Families

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2011 – Vice President Joe Biden visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii late yesterday to thank members of the 3rd Marine Regiment, some preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, and to pledge continued support for them and their families.

Stopping at Kaneohe Bay after wrapping up his trip to China, Mongolia and Japan, Biden praised the “whole hangar-ful of heroes” that have sacrificed heavily during the past decade of conflict.

“You sacrifice an incredible amount for your country,” the vice president told the Marines, many of whom have deployed as many as five times into combat. “Never before has our nation asked as much of an all-volunteer force as we have asked of you.”

Biden noted that only 1 percent of Americans volunteer to serve their country in uniform. “That 1 percent is made up of the most extraordinary men and women this country has ever known, and you are among them,” he told the assembly. “You are simply the very best America has, and I want to thank you.”

Biden noted the many heroes within the 3rd Marines. Among them is former Cpl. Dakota Myer, who next month will become the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, for actions in Afghanistan. And, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Epps donated bone marrow in May to save the life of an 8-year-old girl. That spurred 369 more sailors and spouses to follow suit and sign up for a bone marrow registry.

Watching U.S. service members in action, Biden said he’s been amazed at how little they ask in return. “You never ask for a damned thing,” he said. “But we owe you a lot.”

The United States has a sacred obligation to provide its service members with everything necessary to accomplish their missions when they’re deployed into harm’s way, Biden said, and also “to guarantee you everything we can when you return to make you and your families whole.”

It’s an obligation, Biden said, that will extend long after the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan end as the United States provides continued support for its veterans, particularly the wounded, their families and families of the fallen.

Biden noted efforts under way to provide that support. Among them, he said, are better Veterans Affairs Department funding, improved care for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and other “signature wounds of the 9/11 generation,” as well as new post-9/11 G.I Bill benefits and new caregiver benefits.

As he thanked the Marines for their service, Biden paid a special tribute to service members’ family members.

“Without them, you would not be able to do what you are doing,” he told the assembled service members.

Biden shared his own family’s emotional struggles as they dealt with his son’s deployment to Iraq, and said many Americans have “no idea what your families are going through,” particularly during multiple deployments.

“No generation of families had had to endure this repeatedly,” he said. “America owes them.”

Missouri Navy SEAL to be Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Lamb, Naval Special Warfare Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Several of the military personnel killed in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan Aug. 5 will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington Aug. 26.

The late Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Matthew David Mason is one of the service members who will be buried.

Mason was honored in his hometown of Kearney, Mo., by those whom he knew and loved Aug. 15. Hundreds of people solemnly lined the streets of Kearney as the hearse bearing Mason brought him home.

Kearney residents tied yellow ribbons around streetlight posts and trees and waved American flags to honor Mason.

Nearly 1,500 friends and neighbors in the city visited Mason's wife, children and parents during a service at Kearney First United Methodist Church Aug. 16. Together they mourned the loss of the local hero who was a standout athlete and college graduate. The next day an additional 1,000 people paid their respects during a service at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.

Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, said Naval Special Warfare is, "truly blessed that such men answer a call to military service at the highest levels of professionalism and capability," and the community is deeply saddened by this loss.

Annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian Exercise Concludes

By Walter T. Ham IV
8th U.S. Army

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea, Aug. 26, 2011 – Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian concluded today after two weeks of intense training across South Korea.

The computer simulation exercise is held every summer to hone the warfighting skills of the combined defense team in South Korea.

Led by the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, the exercise provides commanders and staff at all levels the opportunity to train for full-spectrum military operations.

During the exercise, the 8th U.S. Army moved its operational headquarters from one post to another and set up a joint task force headquarters. Army Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, the 8th Army’s commander, said his unit “is evolving to better-support the Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance.”

An important part of that evolution, Johnson said, is his unit’s ability to quickly set up a deployable combined headquarters, with a U.S. and ROK integrated staff.

Johnson said he was pleased with the results of this year’s exercise.

“I’m absolutely convinced that we can tackle whatever challenges are thrown at us,” the general said. “We are ready to deter or defeat any threat here on the Korean Peninsula.”

Johnson also praised the efforts of other U.S. Army units that supported the exercise, including U.S. Army Pacific, III Corps, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division, the 20th Support Command and the 200th Military Police Command.

“I’m proud of how our entire Army team performed during this exercise,” the general said. “This training helps prepare us to rapidly respond to any provocation or crisis, and be ready to fight and win.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney D. Harris, the 8th Army’s senior noncommissioned officer, said the exercise gave his soldiers the opportunity to train as they would fight.

“And I was thoroughly impressed by their pride, professionalism and dedication,” Harris said.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is one of the largest annual military command post exercises in the world. The second of two annual exercises held in South Korea, UFG follows exercise Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, which takes place each spring.

Leap Frogs Rally Students For New School Year

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (PJ) Michelle Turner, U.S. Navy Parachute Team Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, gave an aerial parachute demonstration to students at Westview High School in San Diego Aug. 24.

The team jumped from an SH-60F Seahawk helicopter from 6,000 feet above the school during a pep rally on the first day of school as a special treat for students.

Student leaders kicked off the event, which featured the school band, cheerleaders and dancers. The school's Navy Junior Reserve Officers' Training Crops (NJROTC) honor guard marched out to present the colors just in time for the jump.

The Seahawk helicopter, from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 10 at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, made several passes over the school before a trail of smoke from one of the jumpers let the crowd know the performance was about to begin. The students rose to their feet to get a better view. Seconds later all seven jumpers were in the air and had deployed their distinctive, blue and gold canopies.

Several jumpers trailed colored smoke across the sky, while others flew flags. Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Justin Gonzales trailed a "hanging smoke" as he spiraled down leaving an enormous wave of smoke in his wake. Gonzales wore a Westview "Wolverines" football jersey to the delight of students.

"It was flat out amazing!" said Todd Cassen, Westview High School principal. "What a treat for our entire community. To see people who put [their life] on the line every day to protect our country, serve our country - they're the ones who allow us to be able to do what we do here. For them to come here and honor our students like this and give our students a chance to see this is what other people do with their time, this is what [they] could do... it's just a real treat for us."

The entire student body clapped and cheered as each member of the team landed. The school choir sang the national anthem as Chief Warrant Officer (SEAL) Keith Pritchett flew a large American flag high above the school.

Pritchett presented Cassen with a signed photograph of the team after the jump. Members of the school's NJROTC helped jumpers pack their parachutes - a unique opportunity for students with aspirations of joining the military to meet the team and ask questions about military life.

"It showed the U.S. military and represented them really well," said Francis Garcia, a third-year NJROTC cadet. "It got our school pumped up. It was a great performance."

The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations across America in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy Recruiting as a global force for good. The team is composed of parachuting experts from Naval Special Warfare including Navy SEALs, special warfare combatant-craft crewmen, a Navy diver and an Naval Special Warfare parachute rigger, in addition to support personnel.

All Sortie Ships Underway in Preparation for Hurricane Irene

From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- All U.S. Navy ships in Hampton Roads, Va., ordered to get underway Aug. 25, have sortied in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

Twenty-seven ships departed and will be clear of the storm's path by midday Aug. 27.

These ships will rendezvous with 11 other ships that remain at sea.

Twenty-eight additional ships were taken to safe haven for various reasons, such as being in a particular maintenance status that does not allow them to get underway. Safe havens are predesignated piers that offer better protection against weather than a general pier.

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 critiera for getting the fleet underway to avoid storm damage.

"We are being prudent mariners, getting our ships underway so that they can better weather Hurricane Irene" said Holloway. "This will be a significant storm, so not only do we need to keep our ships safe but also our families. With the forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge, we could see some significant damage here on land. Now is the time for our families to execute the plan they prepared for. Now is the time, before the storm hits."

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

- Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System, http://go.usa.gov/kQ4, 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, http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia, 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, http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/hurricane_defauLT.asp, which provides more detailed information for preparing for a hurricane, hurricane evacuation and public shelters in Virginia.

- Red Cross Hurricane Preparedness Guide, http://www.preparehr.org/documents/RedCrossReadyHurricaneGuide2pg.pdf, which provides general overview of tips and guidelines for hurricane preparedness.

- Prepare Hampton Roads website, http://www.preparehr.org, which provides valuable tips for preparing for high winds and evacuation.