Military News

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Tuesday, August 30, 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. 29

From the Navy News Service

1861 - U.S. squadron captures forts at Hatteras Inlet, N.C.
1862 - Union gunboat Pittsburgh supports Army troops in landing at Eunice, Arkansas. (Check out these American Civil War books written by military authors!)
1915 - Navy salvage divers raise F-4, first U.S. submarine sunk in accident.
1916 - Congress passes act for expansion of Navy but most ships not completed until after World War I.
1964 - USS Boxer (LPD 4) and two LSDs arrive off coast of Hispaniola to give medical aid to Haiti and Dominican Republic, which were badly damaged by Hurricane Cleo.

Marine Unit to Practice Disaster Preparedness

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2011 – Fleet Week-San Francisco is more than just a chance for liberty in a world-class city, it’s also an opportunity for Marines to practice their disaster-response capabilities, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Spiese’s Camp Pendleton, Calif.,-based unit will practice providing disaster response and humanitarian aid as part of Fleet Week activities Oct. 6 to 11.

In September, the brigade will board the ships of the Expeditionary Strike Group 3 to take part in Exercise Dawn Blitz. “It will be a largely amphibious and conventional war scenario, where we’ll be working landing plans and projecting power ashore,” Spiese said in a recent interview.

“We will transition from that into San Francisco Fleet Week,” he said. “The 1st MEB’s flag will sail north and we will be the headquarters running all the Marines who are participating in Fleet Week.”

The city has been using Fleet Week to exercise military support to civil authority in the event of a national disaster.

San Francisco is on a peninsula right along the San Andreas Fault. The entire area is earthquake country.

“I think a significant earthquake in San Francisco could be catastrophic,” Spiese said. “The road networks could become easily problematic as well as significant infrastructure problems. The ability to pull people out is going to be difficult.”

Getting help downtown will be a problem -- a problem the Marines could help with using their amphibious capabilities. “We’re unique in that we can bring capabilities in to the disaster to help bring relief, but without bringing a significant footprint adding to the problems,” Spiese said.

This year, the Marines are demonstrating a medical surge. “We’re going to be moving north our surgical companies and our shock-trauma platoons,” the general said. “Not only will they be part of the table-top exercise, but we will be putting them on display during Fleet Week at Mission Green near the piers in San Francisco.”

Fleet Week also will highlight the medical capabilities aboard the amphibious ships. The USS Bonhomme Richard will be on display.

In the past, San Francisco was laced with active duty bases, which closed as part of the base realignment and closure process. Today, local officials don’t really consider the help active duty forces could bring to a situation, Spiese said. Active duty forces have been used countless times in support of natural disasters inside the United States.

The exercise allows authorities “to understand what they can leverage and access out of the active duty force -- in particular, the Navy and Marine Corps team in Southern California,” he said. “In the event of a disaster, they know quickly what they can start looking for and planning on, as well as the process by which they gain access to those federal resources.”

The Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Spiese said, is primarily a warfighting organization. The Fleet Week humanitarian aid and disaster response exercise is focused mainly on combat service support and logistics.

“It’s going to force us to think through the problem differently,” the general said. “It will force us to exercise a different part of the military brain.”

New Efforts Enhance Irene Response

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. , Aug. 28, 2011 – As about 7,675 citizen-soldiers and –airmen responded today, three capabilities are enhancing the National Guard’s contribution to the joint state and federal support for civil authorities tackling Hurricane Irene.

The National Guard Bureau’s new 24-hour, 365-day National Guard Coordination Center here boosted coordination and communication between the Army and Air National Guard and local, state and federal partners, Guard officials said.

The appointment of dual-status commanders to lead state National Guard and federal forces sped up response, officials said, and the deployment of strategically placed force packages ahead of the storm increased readiness.

The coordination center, dual-status commanders and pre-placed force packages are relatively new capabilities born from lessons learned from past natural and manmade disasters.

Additionally, about 7,675 citizen-soldiers and –airmen from 18 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico responded today to support hurricane relief efforts.

Guard members cleared debris and performed high-water search-and-rescue missions in Connecticut, officials said. They helped transportation officials control traffic in the District of Columbia, and handed out cots and supplies in Delaware. They flew helicopters from Alaska, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio to stand by in the affected region for search and rescue, damage assessment, transportation and other missions.

Citizen-soldiers and –airmen provided command-and-control support in Maine, filled sandbags and assessed damage in Massachusetts, performed search and rescue and provided security and transportation in North Carolina, and provided shelter in New Jersey.

The National Guard provided maritime transportation to the islands of Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico, supported communications in Rhode Island and provided engineers to local authorities in Virginia.

Throughout the Eastern Seaboard, Guard members helped neighbors hit by Irene. For example, 129 New York Guard members sent in speed boats to help rescue 21 people stranded by floodwaters in an upstate New York hotel this afternoon.

About 101,000 Guard members were available in the affected region, Defense Department officials reported, and the National Guard Coordination Center worked with the states and other federal agencies to ensure the right numbers reached the right places at the right time.

"As Irene approached the United States, our NGCC was coordinating with the states, territories and the District of Columbia; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and U.S. Northern Command to ensure the most effective National Guard support to civil authorities,” said Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, “and enable us to bring the full benefit of our size, skills, training, experience, command and communications infrastructure and legal flexibility to the whole-of-government response to the storm.

"Hurricane Irene demonstrated the vital importance of our new National Guard Coordination Center, which enables us to work seamlessly with our state and federal partners at the first warning of potential disaster," he added.

Among assets coordinated and monitored by the coordination center were force packages that allow Guard officials to strategically position assets to respond to any additional needs states may have.

For example, in Eastover, S.C., the Guard stood up an aerial force package of 17 aircraft -- including UH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks, UH-72 Lakotas, OH-58 Kiowas and C-27 Spartans -- with about 100 Guard members.

"Assembling and pre-staging ground and air force packages -- drawn from Army and Air National Guard assets contributed by multiple states -- in strategic locations out of harm's way but near potentially affected areas meant the National Guard stood ready to respond faster than ever to civil authorities' critical needs that might arise in the storm's aftermath," McKinley said.

The appointment of four dual-status commanders in support of relief efforts marked the first time the dual-commander concept has been implemented in support of a natural disaster.

When agreed upon by the secretary of defense and the governor of an affected state, dual-status commanders can direct both federal active-duty forces and state National Guard forces in response to domestic incidents, DOD officials said. The concept is intended to foster greater cooperation among federal and state assets during a disaster.

The nation's governors led the creation of this new opportunity for collaboration.

Dual-status commanders ensure that state and federal military forces will work effectively together, when states request federal forces through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This storm also demonstrated how dual-status combatant commanders who can direct both state National Guard and federal forces in response to domestic incidents increases collaboration, communication and coordination between federal and state assets, improves leadership, avoids duplication of effort and enhances the team response," McKinley said.

In March, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the bipartisan 10-member Council of Governors adopted the "Joint Action Plan for Unity of Effort," strengthening support to governors when they request military assistance for disaster response.

“Monitoring our response to Irene, I have been deeply proud of the sacrifices of our citizen-soldiers and -airmen, more than 7,000 of whom once again set aside their civilian lives and took on their military roles at a moment's notice to help their neighbors and communities, with tens of thousands more at the ready if needed," McKinley said.

Dual-status Commanders to Support Irene Relief Efforts

From a Defense Department News Release

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2011 – Defense Department officials announced the appointment of four dual-status commanders to support Hurricane Irene relief efforts yesterday, marking the first time the dual-commander concept has been implemented for a natural disaster.

While others may be appointed in the coming days, the initial list of dual-status commanders appointed by the state governors and the Defense Department for Hurricane Irene is as follows:

-- Army Brig. Gen. James Trogden III, North Carolina Army National Guard;

-- Air Force Brig. Gen. Carolyn Protzmann, New Hampshire Air National Guard;

-- Army Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey, New York Army National Guard; and

-- Air Force Col. Donald Lagor, Rhode Island Air National Guard.

When agreed upon by the secretary of defense and the governor of an affected state, dual-status commanders can direct both federal active-duty forces and state National Guard forces in response to domestic incidents. The concept is intended to foster greater cooperation among federal and state assets during a disaster.

The nation's governors led the creation of this new opportunity for collaboration. Dual-status commanders ensure that state and federal military forces will work effectively together, when states request federal forces through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Through this improved leadership, forces responding to Hurricane Irene will be better able to avoid duplication of effort, and provide the life-saving capabilities that governors request.

The dual-status commander concept was created in 2009. In March, the Defense Department , the Department of Homeland Security and the bipartisan 10-member Council of Governors adopted the "Joint Action Plan for Unity of Effort," strengthening support to governors when they request military assistance for disaster response.

Walter Reed Closes, Legacy Lives On, Commander Says

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2011 – An ambulance carrying the last inpatient from Walter Reed Army Medical Center here slowly made its way out of the Georgia Avenue gate this morning, pausing briefly for the crowd of flag-waving troop supporters and shouts of “Thank you for your service! We love you!”

As the ambulance turned north on Georgia Avenue toward the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., the once-bustling Walter Reed hospital fell silent.

This early morning move of inpatients -- one to an ambulance -- marked the end of an era for Walter Reed and its 102 years of Army medicine that has saved hundreds of thousands of military lives.

Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center are consolidating as one medical center as mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act. The Army and Navy complex on the grounds of Bethesda will be renamed the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“It's been 102 years for Walter Reed, but the legacy lives on,” Army Col. Norvell "Van" Coots, Walter Reed commander, told reporters this morning at the hospital. “The name lives on, and it’s a new beginning for our health care system.”

Earlier expectations were to move 150 inpatients this weekend, Coots said, but the number was reduced to 50, and gradually became 18 this morning after eight were moved to Bethesda yesterday. Walter Reed’s staff also was able to discharge and relocate many other patients who wanted to be hospitalized closer to their homes.

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast today, the move was made a day earlier than planned.

As the Red Cross flag came down from the front of the hospital this afternoon, it signaled the final closing of the iconic medical center.

“The Red Cross flag is the symbol of health and healing, and symbolizes the end of physical patient care at Walter Reed,” Coots said.

Walter Reed has been the Army's flagship of military medicine since 1909, and cared for soldiers during World War I and World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, and the decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A small post, Walter Reed had no room to expand and accommodate more wounded warriors, Coots said in a press conference earlier this summer. The medical center straddles a couple of neighborhood blocks between Georgia Avenue and 16th Street.

The Walter Reed garrison and installation will remain open until Sept. 15, Coots said. When the U.S. flag comes down that day, he added, the installation and the garrison will close for good.

Sometime afterward, Walter Reed will become the property of the District of Columbia government, and the State Department is expected to take over the hospital building.

Looking forward to a new beginning, Coots said today was emotional as he walked the wards early this morning, stopping in to check on each of the remaining 18 patients.

“There’s still an energy you can feel in those halls,” he said. “It’s an energy that’s left behind from the hundreds of thousands of patients we’ve treated in these 102 years, and the tens of thousands of staff members.

“We take Walter Reed with us,” Coots added. “And we leave a piece of it here."

Fleet Master Chief Visits CSADD Members in Great Lakes

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) John Mike, Navy Region Midwest Public Affairs

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- The Navy Total Force/Manpower, Personnel, Education, and Training Fleet Master Chief visited members of the Great Lakes Area Chapter of the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) Aug. 23 to share ideas on how to improve the Navy's peer-mentoring program.

Fleet Master Chief (SW/AW/SCW) Scott A. Benning, who initiated and oversees the CSADD program, met with leadership of the Great Lakes area chapter to learn how they use social media, junior Sailor leadership and, in particular, an ongoing video campaign to highlight the consequences of poor decision making.

"I'm excited to see the great things you are doing here with CSADD - particularly with your videos," said Benning. "Because of their message and impact, they were sent to every flag officer in the Navy."

The short videos or "spots" put a junior Sailor spin on topics ranging from general safety awareness to bystander intervention and suicide prevention, and have developed a following via social media outlets among the nearly 4,000 student Sailors attending their initial Navy trade schools aboard Naval Station Great Lakes.

"It all started out innocently enough," said Seaman Kit Wingate, who is president of the chapter and portrays the popular character and chapter mascot "CSADD Guy" in the spots.

After a few videos, the former Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS) candidate found that his trademark smile and thumbs-up were gaining him a lot of attention not normally seen in a command that cycles through 14,000 Sailors a year.

"I'll go out to lunch and people will say, 'Hey, it's CSADD Guy,' and I like to play along with them," said Wingate, who sees the recognition as proof that their message is being heard. "He shows that what CSADD does can be cool. He doesn't have an identity because we want everyone to know that they can be CSADD Guy too."

Benning stressed that when CSADD was started it had to be implemented on a voluntary basis at commands and needed to be run by junior Sailors.

"We didn't want CSADD to be mandatory because then it wouldn't be run by the people who it is supposed to help," Benning said. "I think it is becoming infectious throughout the Navy because junior Sailors want to be involved and help their peers."

For the Great Lakes chapter, CSADD Guy is just the most visible part of their efforts. The handful of Sailors awaiting transfer to their first command has an opportunity to pass on their knowledge to those arriving to the base's schools fresh from boot camp.

Their work includes conducting presentations at new student indoctrination and small group sexual assault training as well as organizing group events and meetings.

"We really like to get involved with the new students so they don't find trouble with the new-found freedoms of school," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Mariko Convis, the chapter's secretary.

Through their efforts, the Great Lakes Area CSADD has seen a positive impact over the last eight months, which Convis said was reinforced by Benning's visit.

"We've grown from four people to about 500 actively and passively involved, so it's really exciting to have a fleet master chief come and visit us because we are making a difference, and that's why I joined the Navy," said Convis.

The Great Lakes Area CSADD Chapter has been nominated for the 2011 CSADD Shore Chapter of the Year.

Wisconsin adjutant general promoted to two-star

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Gov. Scott Walker has promoted Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, to the rank of major general.

"Maj. Gen. Dunbar truly deserves this promotion," Walker said. "His outstanding leadership, his invaluable insight and professional guidance have served Wisconsin well for several years."

Since becoming the state's 30th adjutant general on Sept. 1, 2007, Dunbar has deployed more than 6,000 Soldiers and Airmen in support of the global war on terror including the historic deployment of the entire 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Iraq in 2009. In addition to commanding the Wisconsin National Guard, the adjutant general oversees the state's Emergency Management division, chairs the Governor's Homeland Security Council and is the governor's Homeland Security Advisor.

Since 2007, Dunbar has led the Wisconsin through five separate Stafford Act emergencies. He also serves as vice chair of the FEMA National Advisory Council and was a member of the Local, State, Tribal and Federal Preparedness Task Force which presented a preparedness report to Congress in 2010.

Dunbar began his military career in 1983 and completed pilot training in 1985. He has served as KC-135 functional manager at the National Guard Bureau, staff member for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, executive officer to the director of the Air National Guard, and commander of the 141st Operations Group.

In 2005 he became commander of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. There he commanded more than 900 Airmen and was responsible for maintaining worldwide unit readiness.

Dunbar has volunteered for and deployed on contingency missions including Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Northern Watch. A native of Drexel Hill, Penn., Dunbar and his wife Colleen reside in New Berlin.

A formal pinning ceremony will be held at a later date.

Obama: Unite in Spirit of Service on Sept. 11

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2011 – President Barack Obama today called on the American people to come together in the spirit of service and remembrance as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches.

“In just two weeks, we’ll come together as a nation to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,” the president said in his weekly address.

“We’ll remember the innocent lives we lost. We’ll stand with the families who loved them. We’ll honor the heroic first responders who rushed to the scene and saved so many,” Obama continued. “And we’ll pay tribute to our troops and military families, and all those who have served over the past 10 years, to keep us safe and strong.”

The worst terrorist attack in American history brought out the best in the American people, he said. Americans lined up to give blood, volunteers drove across the country to lend a hand, schoolchildren donated their savings, and communities, faith groups and businesses collected food and clothing.

“We were united, and the outpouring of generosity and compassion reminded us that in times of challenge, we Americans move forward together, as one people,” the president said.

On Sept. 11, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will join the commemorations at ground zero, in Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon.

Even Americans who can’t be in New York, Pennsylvania or Virginia, he said, can be part of the commemoration by participating in the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

“In the days and weeks ahead,” Obama said, “folks across the country in all 50 states will come together in their communities and neighborhoods to honor the victims of 9/11 and to reaffirm the strength of our nation with acts of service and charity.”

In Minneapolis, volunteers will help restore a community center, the president said. In Winston-Salem, N.C., they’ll hammer shingles and lay floors to give families a new home. In Tallahassee, Fla., they’ll assemble care packages for U.S. troops overseas and their families at home. In Orange County, Calif., they’ll renovate homes for veterans.

Obama and the first lady also will join a local service project, he said. Those who wish to participate can learn more about local opportunities at the serve.gov website.

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost -- a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11,” the president said.

On this 10th anniversary, he said, the nation faces great challenges.

“We’re emerging from the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes. We’re taking the fight to al-Qaida, ending the war in Iraq and starting to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. And we’re working to rebuild the foundation of our national strength here at home,” Obama said.

None of the challenges will be easy, he said, and it can’t be the work of government alone.

“As we saw after 9/11,” Obama said, "the strength of America has always been the character and compassion of our people.”

The president called on Americans to mark this solemn anniversary by summoning the same spirit shown 10 years ago on Sept. 11.

“And let’s show that the sense of common purpose that we need in America doesn’t have to be a fleeting moment,” Obama said. “It can be a lasting virtue -- not just on one day, but every day.”

Sailors, Planning Keep Enterprise Safe from Irene

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nick C. Scott, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), weathered Hurricane Irene Aug. 28, armed with only a skeleton crew and robust safety information.

While many Navy ships homeported in Norfolk got underway to avoid the storm, Enterprise was moved to Norfolk Naval Shipyard because the location was deemed safer for ships unable to get underway.

"The amount of planning that came together in such a short period of time and the flawless execution of our plan by our crew was amazing," said Senior Chief Logistics Specialist (SW/AW/SCW) Don Jones, the senior enlisted section leader during the storm. "Communication was key during the entire process."

The same capabilities that have made Enterprise an effective warship through more than 21 deployments throughout the past 50 years helped the ship weather the hurricane. Sailors on board cite effective communication as their best weapon.

"We kept in communication with the base and the other ships around us, but also kept communication lines open for our Sailors so they could stay in touch with loved ones," said Jones.

Throughout the storm, the ship stayed one step ahead of emergent issues by routing communications through satellites instead of relying on ground-based infrastructure. This advantage, along with the fact that the ship is designed to endure rough weather, made being on board relatively safe compared to being in a building ashore, especially at the waterline.

During the storm, Enterprise kept two teams of Sailors, called duty sections, on board in order to repair any leaks or damage. While aircraft carriers are designed to sustain heavy winds and rain, they usually do so under their own power at sea.

"Keeping two duty sections on board was extremely helpful," said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) John M. Vercelli.

"It takes a lot of work to keep a ship safe during a hurricane, and I'm glad that so many Sailors stepped up and did their duty without complaint," said Vercelli.

Enterprise also opened her doors for its temporary neighbor - aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). More than 300 Harry S. Truman Sailors had the option to stay aboard Enterprise because their ship's extended shipyard maintenance availability doesn't allow for overnight stays.

"We wanted to help our shipmates as much as possible," said Lt. Melissa E. Johnson, from Enterprise's Operations Department, who was on board keeping the crew informed about the status of the storm. "Since we had minimal crew on board, it was easy for us to make room."

The aircraft carrier is undergoing post-deployment maintenance and did not have full use of its propulsion systems when the storm began bearing down on the Hampton Roads area. Navy commanders decided to move the ship from its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk to the more insulated Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

"I had never been through a hurricane before, and I was glad that I felt so safe here on Enterprise," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Jacob R. Blackmore, from Indiana.

Blackmore stayed on the ship throughout the long hours during the storm.

"We don't have hurricanes in the Midwest, and I didn't really know what to expect, but being on this ship was the best option for me because Big 'E' is a tough ship," said Blackmore. "I barely felt the storm!"

Blackmore said that the storm preparations made all the difference.

"If I can take anything away from this experience it's that you should always prepare early for storms. That's how the ship managed to weather the storm unscathed, we as a crew began preparing as early as we could, and that's the best plan," said Blackmore.

Enterprise recently returned from its 21st deployment, where it served in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, conducting missions from counter-piracy and counter-terrorism to more than 1,450 combat missions in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

Enterprise will celebrate its 50th birthday Nov. 25 and kick-off a yearlong tribute to its 50 years of service before her scheduled decommissioning next fall.

National Guard leaders address future at Milwaukee conference

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

The global war on terror is in its 10th year with two fronts far from home. Anticipated defense budget reductions will challenge how the U.S. military continues to meet its obligations. Hurricane Irene is scouring the eastern seaboard.

In this crucial time, the National Guard is needed more than ever, according to Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin.

"Our nation is facing a fiscal crisis, and tough choices need to be made," Dunbar said Saturday (Aug. 27) during the opening session of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) 133rd General Conference and Exhibition at the Frontier Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. "The National Guard - you and I, our Soldiers, Airmen, families and employers - are part of the solution. In fact, we are a big part of the solution.

"We provide proven combat readiness across the full spectrum of military capability at a fraction of the cost," he continued. "If Congress formed a think-tank of the world's greatest thinkers, started with a clean slate and tasked them to reduce military spending while not taking risk with national security, they would design the National Guard."

Dunbar was not the only official to hit on the conference theme, The National Guard: Right for America. Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, reminded attendees Friday night (Aug. 26) that the Guard's state mission continues regardless of the demands of national defense.

"A large number of our folks are back in Washington, D.C., working the [Hurricane] Irene relief operations," McKinley said. "We've got an awful lot of adjutants general who aren't here tonight, who are staying home protecting their citizens."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spoke of plans to have the National Guard assist in relief efforts in northern Wisconsin, where strong storms have toppled enough timber to create safety hazards along roadways.

"That prospect of helping out with exceptional skills, we see examples of that every day - not only in Wisconsin, but all across this nation," Walker said Saturday. "Men and women who are the best and brightest we have in this country, many times with multiple deployments to keep our freedoms and objectives secure across the globe."

Walker and Dunbar, along with approximately 100 conference attendees on Friday, led a Freedom Ride from the Harley-Davidson Museum in downtown Milwaukee to the majestic Holy Hill basilica in the scenic Kettle Moraine, and back.

"There's nothing better than being on a Harley-Davidson and experiencing the freedom, the excellence and the tradition," Walker said. "Really, when you think of it, that summarizes the National Guard - it's that tradition, that sense of freedom."

Dunbar said that the United States has never had a more experienced, ready, accessible or combat-hardened National Guard than it does today, describing the Guard as a national treasure.

"We are the leaders of this organization, and we must tell our story," he said. "So, once again, welcome to Wisconsin. We are glad you are here. Have fun, but remember - we've got work to do."

Second Fleet Ships Prepared to Provide Assistance Following Irene

Emergency relief operations by the military happen more often than you think.  Check out these Navy and Coast Guard books.

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

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Units from Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet stand able and ready Aug. 27 to support emergency response from the sea and land if requested in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Twenty-seven ships got underway from Hamptons Roads, Va., area Aug. 25 and rendezvoused with 11 other units already underway to avoid storm damage and maintain fleet readiness.

The ships have safely moved around the storm and are now coming in behind it, prepared to provide any requested support.

"Our ships have safely maneuvered out of the way of Hurricane Irene, to avoid the destructive winds and seas," said Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet. "We are now in position to respond if called upon to meet emergent needs and provide support to efforts along the east coast of the United States with a variety of capabilities from the sea including search and rescue, medical support and aviation lift."

USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), USS New York (LPD 21), USS San Antonio (LPD 17), USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and USS Ponce (LPD 15) are available to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard with search and rescue efforts and medical evacuation if requested.

Wasp and other amphibious and support ships have helicopters available that can provide heavy and medium lift from a sea based staging area, provide surface/air ship-to-shore movement, search and rescue and trauma response capabilities and are ready to render assistance if called upon.

Navy P-3 Orion aircraft are poised to provide full motion video capability after Hurricane Irene passes in order to provide the government the ability to see what ground conditions are like in the aftermath of the storm.

Additional heavy and medium lift helicopters are being made available to support from the land as well. Other units are making preparations to support if required and include: a mobile dive salvage unit, a naval mobile construction battalion air detachment, an underwater construction team and an expeditionary command element naval mobile construction battalion.

Navy personnel and their families should use the Navy Family and Accountability and Assessment System, http://go.usa.gov/kQ4, call their command or call the Navy Personnel Command Emergency Coordination Center, (877) 414-5358, to muster with their respective commands.

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

- 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.

- Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready America Hurricane webpage, http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html, which has various information including about returning to your home following a disaster.