Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mullen Praises Troops, Families on ‘Daily Show’

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2011 – For a U.S. military leader trying to reach a different audience, it doesn’t get much more different than “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was Stewart’s guest for the third time on the popular Comedy Central show last night.

Mullen joked with the satirist about his plans for retirement and his decision to join the Navy in 1964. And on a more serious note, he stressed the need for military leaders to hear a range of opinions before making decisions.

Stewart has been spending a lot of time with the chairman. He traveled to Afghanistan with Mullen this summer to thank troops in remote combat outposts and forward operating bases for their service. Stewart called it his “summer vacation.”

Mullen, whose father was a Hollywood publicist, joked about escaping Los Angeles in 1964 when he entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Stewart asked about the chairman’s plans after his retirement at the end of the month. “A long winter’s nap,” Mullen responded.

The discussion turned to weightier matters, and the chairman praised the men and women who are serving today. They have served multiple deployments, he noted, and have done everything the country has asked them to do.

“I’ve been doing this a long time -- since 1968 -- and unquestionably, they are superb,” he said.

Mullen said he and his wife, Deborah, who accompanied the chairman to the taping, try to represent the needs of service members and their families. “We try to stay in touch with them, so we understand what they are doing and what we are asking them to do, including the ultimate sacrifice,” the chairman told Stewart. “I tell them … there isn’t a decision I make or recommendation I make that doesn’t take their needs … into account. The strength of our military is those men and women and their families.”

During last month’s trip, Stewart said, he was surprised that Mullen had surrounded himself with people whose jobs were to challenge him and his thinking.

“What I’ve found over the years as I’ve gotten into jobs with more responsibility is the diversity of opinions and views is absolutely critical,” the chairman said. “It allows me, in the end, to make the best decision.”

Winnefeld Praises National Guard

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leisa Grant
National Guard Bureau

MILWAUKEE, Sept. 12, 2011 – Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the National Guard at the 133rd General Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States.

“You are uniquely postured, both as a personification of what is right about America -- namely, selfless service to country and community -- and as a shining example of what we are, what we believe, and what we do in the United States military for the American people,” Winnefeld told the audience here last month.

Winnefeld spoke of the tens of thousands of Guard members who have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere throughout the world.

“Our guardsmen do their duties overseas, too. They always have and always will,” the four-star admiral said.

Winnefeld saluted the exemplary service of five Army National Guard Special Forces soldiers, who recently earned the Croix de la Valeur Militaire, the French military award roughly equal to the Silver Star, for heroism.

The admiral noted that he is proud of his association with the National Guard.

“I want to assure you that I intend to continue building on my relationship with the Guard,” said Winnefeld, adding he’s a strong supporter and advocate of the Guard.

“You have transformed from a strategic reserve to one that also provides operational full-spectrum capabilities to our nation, and we’re grateful for this,” the admiral said, “So simply returning the reserve component, and especially the National Guard … to [a] strictly strategic reserve role is a nonstarter.”

Winnefeld said there will be tough choices ahead on force structure. He pledged to stay connected to reserve component leaders, and to highlight the importance of Guard and Reserve forces during his travels.

The admiral also asked the audience for assistance.

“You are the linchpin of maintaining the American people’s connections with the military,” Winnefeld said. “You live and work alongside our fellow Americans in communities. You are their aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, their coaches and their teachers. You, as guardsmen, are uniquely postured in your communities to take the lead in maintaining and strengthening this dialogue.

“So, just as we need to hear from you on the strategic issues you face and how we can work together,” he continued, “they need to hear from you about who we are and what we do proudly each day, and every day, as members of our nation’s military.”

Winnefeld thanked Guard members and their families for what they do in their states and communities and he also saluted reserve component members’ overseas service.

“Thank you for truly living up to being all that is right about America,” he said.

MCPON Sends Ombudsman Appreciation Day Message

Special from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick D. West

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West and his wife, Bobbi, ombudsman-at-large, released the following Ombudsman Appreciation Day message to the Fleet Sept. 12.

"Navy Ombudsmen,

Bobbi and I would like to take the time to say 'thank you' for all your hard work and dedication to our Sailors, families and our great Navy for the past 41 years. Since Admiral Zumwalt established the ombudsman program, the outstanding volunteers who have stepped up and have served in this important role have left a lasting positive impact that resonates across the Fleet every day.

We honor you, our Navy ombudsmen, who are Navy spouses and highly trained volunteers that provide a vital communication link between commands and families. When our families are faced with the challenges of deployments or family emergencies, our dedicated ombudsmen promote resiliency and self-reliance by providing guidance that assists families to regain a sense of normalcy.

Our ombudsmen serve with a genuine desire to help and represent the very best of the program's tremendous legacy. Mission readiness is tied to family readiness, and family readiness is tied in part to the selfless dedication of our extraordinary ombudsmen.

Please join Bobbi and me in offering our sincere gratitude and appreciation to our Navy ombudsmen and their 41 years of excellence.

Bravo Zulu and HOOYAH,
Very Respectfully,
MCPON and Bobbi West"

USS Green Bay holds 9/11 Memorial Service

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Steven Votaw, USS Green Bay Public Affairs

USS GREEN BAY, At sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) conducted a 9/11 memorial service while underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) Sept. 11.

The ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11 and commemorated those who lost their lives that day.

"Today we reflect back on a period in our nation's history, to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001," said Cmdr. Kevin P. Meyers, commanding officer of Green Bay. "In the minds of the terrorists, a strike would paralyze Americans with fear, cause our economy to falter and collapse, and would allow extremists to establish their foothold in the Middle East and beyond."

"Our military actions over the last decade have served notice throughout the world that we will defend our homeland as we always have," Meyers said. "We will not cower in fear or hide in our homes, we will take the fight to our enemy wherever they might be, and in the end, the courage, heart, grit and determination found in every American will win the day."

Guest speaker retired Lt. Roger Perrino, New York City Police Dept. gave his firsthand account of what happened at Ground Zero when he responded on his day off.

"I first heard about the attacks after I dropped my sons off at school," said Perrino. "When I reported, no one really knew what was going on, we all just thought it was an accident. So when the second plane hit we were all in shock."

Perrino recounted his tale of the events that took place and the horror, tragedy, and the selflessness of so many individuals coming together to help in the hours, days and months after the attack.

"It was amazing to see the whole country come together," said Perrino. "We had an avalanche response team come all the way from Montana to lend their expertise, because we weren't equipped to deal with something like that."

The presentation helped instill a sense of pride and honor in the Sailors and Marines in attendance.

"It gave me a big sense of pride and belonging," said Sgt. George Hurby, from Camp Pendleton, Calif. "To know that we are out here serving a purpose and to be reminded why we are needed out here so far from home is very sobering and reminds me why we do what we do."

Green Bay as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, along with Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR during its maiden deployment.

Clinton, Panetta to Attend Australia-U.S. Ministerial

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2011 – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will travel to San Francisco this week to attend the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

The main topics on the agenda at AUSMIN, as the meeting is known, Little said, will include a discussion of challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, ways to improve and deepen alliance cooperation, and issues affecting global security.

This year’s AUSMIN is scheduled Sept. 14-16. Attendees will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty, signed in 1951 by the United States, Australia and New Zealand, he added.

According to the U.S. State Department, the treaty is Australia's pre-eminent formal security treaty alliance.

Little said Clinton and Panetta will greet Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith on Sept. 15 at the Presidio, where the ANZUS treaty was signed.

Medal of Honor Recipient to be Inducted into Hall of Heroes

Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer will be inducted into the Hall of Heroes on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. EDT in the Pentagon Auditorium (Room BH650).  Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of the Navy Ray E. Mabus, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Michael P. Barrett will participate in the ceremony.

Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will need to enter the River Entrance and will require a Pentagon escort.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event, have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.

Following the Hall of Heroes ceremony, Meyer will be honored with an evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington at 6 p.m.

To cover either event, media representatives should RSVP with Capt. Kevin Schultz at 703-614-4309.

President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to Meyer in a White House ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 2:30 p.m. in recognition of his valor during Operation Enduring Freedom.  Interested media should contact White House Office of Media Affairs at 202-456-6238.

Visit:  http://www.marines.mil/medalofhonor for more information on Meyer and his courageous actions.

Lake Erie Sailors Remembers 9/11 at Put-in-Bay

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the missile-guided cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) arrived at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, to honor the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack.

The small group of 10 Lake Erie Sailors joined the town residents as they remember the events of Sept. 11 during the Put-in-Bay Historical Weekend Sept 9-11. Put-in-Bay is a small island in Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio.

"Our nation was jolted into action one decade ago by the actions of terrorists," said Capt. William Johnson, Lake Erie commanding officer during his speech at the event. "Their goal was to weaken the United States. Instead, fueled by the desire for freedom and justice, they did the opposite; they strengthened us. We came together as one nation in a search to find and defeat those who struck the heart of America."

During the memorial, Johnson spoke about the late Lake Erie plankowner and former executive officer, Capt. Gerald Deconto, who lost his life when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11. A plankowner is a person who was a crewmember during their ship's commissioning. Deconto was Lake Erie's first executive officer and was present during the ship's commissioning July 24, 1993.

"To this day, we keep a plaque and photo in the executive officer's stateroom to remember the sacrifice he made for our country," said Johnson.

Johnson was also assigned at the Pentagon but was on leave in California during the attack.

"My wife received a phone call from my superiors asking if she had seen me," said Johnson. "They didn't know I was on leave because my leave papers were burnt along with the rest of my office."

Johnson said he felt that he could easily have been there during the attack. Later, Johnson recounted a frustrating feeling on not being able to help out during the rescue and recovery effort after the attack.

"I felt guilty that I couldn't be there to help, but it absolutely renewed my dedication toward defending this country, defending out people and our way of life," said Johnson.

Put-in-Bay Mayor Judith Berry was also at the event and welcomed the Lake Erie Sailors to her town.

"This contingent is named after Lake Erie, so I feel there is that special bond," said Berry. "Our community loves having them, and just the representation of the Navy, any armed services here, especially at this 9/11 event is special thing for us. We very much appreciate the fact that they were here and share their thoughts with us."

Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Marcos Locero, Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class (SW) Dustin Ueltschy, Fire Controlman 3rd Class (SW) Chris Cooke, Logistics Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Joseph Reboja and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (SW) Lance Easton were part of Lake Erie's honor guard team. As part of the event, they presented the colors during the singing of the National Anthem and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ueltschy, an Ohio resident, recounted his own experiences during the events of Sept. 11.

"I remember when it happened, I just got back home from having my senior pictures taken," said Ueltschy. "I got my senior pictures taken for the yearbook. We were watching some TV with my mom. It was like a movie playing. It was so surreal, but I remember that day like it was yesterday."

Worldwide, the US Navy commemorated 9/11 with more than 50 events planned in 13 states nationwide.

According to Johnson, Lake Erie was on station shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 conducting strikes on terrorism in Afghanistan in support of carrier strike groups.

"There is now a wide acceptance for international cooperation when dealing with terrorism," said Johnson. "Terrorism worldwide cannot be justified nor will it be tolerated. Countries have joined together to fight against this threat, and we have made significant progress."

As of Sept. 7, 2011, a total of 8,293 individual augmentees, including 4,913 active duty and 3,380 Reserve Sailors supported the global war on terrorism.

On this day, Wisconsin remembered

By Sgt. Alyson Swanke
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

"As a nation, we watched in shock 10 years ago," Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said during the opening minutes of a ceremony of remembrance Sunday (Sept. 11) at the state capitol. "We all watched. We all flew flags. We all renewed our love of America. In a morning they hoped would lead us to despair, we found unity. In the instant they wanted us to feel defeat, we found hope."

More than 50 family members of fallen service members joined government and military officials and hundreds of citizens around the south entrance to the Capitol building for the hour-long ceremony.

"On a day when we reflect on what happened that day, what is so powerful is not what happened and what was torn down, but rather what was lifted up, and what became of us," said Gov. Scott Walker, commander in chief of the Wisconsin National Guard.

The public was invited to join Walker, Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, and state and federal officials to pay tribute to those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001. Remembered were those from Wisconsin that died at the twin towers and Pentagon, as well as first responders, firefighters, police, and all other who lost their lives in the attacks on America and in the global war on terror.

"Let us renew our commitment to never forget the victims of 9/11, and remain mindful of the privilege it is to be an American," Kleefisch said.

The ceremony included music by the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 132nd Army Band, an F-16 flyover by the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing, 21-gun salute, a wreath laying and the national moment of silence at 7:46 a.m. Members of the Madison Police Department and Capitol Police posted the nation's colors, and a joint service color guard retrieved them. Dunbar shared his recollections of being on duty in Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I believe the terrorists miscalculated grossly - they proved they could sucker punch us, but we've responded," Dunbar said. "The miscalculation is that they do not understand what America is, and who we are."

On Sept. 11, 2001, Dunbar was working in the National Guard Bureau a half mile away from the Pentagon, where he felt the impact of the hijacked airliner as it struck the building. If not for renovations being done at the Pentagon, Dunbar and the National Guard Bureau itself would have been in the building at the time of the attack.

"We made a few decisions that night, right then and there," Dunbar said. "We decided we would continue to live our life with confidence in our nation.

"As Americans, we had to decide what we would do on a personal level," he continued. "The next day the answer came as our country returned to work. We made a decision as a nation that we would not live in fear."

The Wisconsin National Guard has deployed more than 14,000 Soldiers and Airmen in support of the global war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001. Many Wisconsin National Guard members have deployed more than once. Every unit in the Wisconsin National Guard has supported to some extent the global war on terror. Among the 153 Wisconsin service members who gave their lives, 10 were Wisconsin National Guard members.

"This is the next great generation of men and women," Walker said. "Not only the ones that have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but their comrades who are still serving today, who show that out of something as tragic and horrific as what happened a decade ago, that instead of fear and horror, we see honor, and devotion, and commitment, and pride. That's what America is about."

"They thought they could defeat us by knocking down a few buildings and burning our Pentagon," Dunbar said. "They did not understand that our strength is in our freedom, our Constitution and in our people. We are a resilient nation, and despite being countered at again and again throughout history, our nation always rises to the occasion."

"Ten years ago America walked through the valley of the shadow death, but these United States are one nation, under God, indivisible," said Kleefish. "We will fear no evil."

A Freedom Walk, sponsored by Operation Homefront, took place at the Capitol Square immediately following the ceremony.

Face of Defense: Airman Keeps Kadena Moving

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa, Sept. 12, 2011 – Whether it's obtaining routine travel orders or simulating a deployment movement, chances are many service members here have been helped by Air Force Senior Airman Cristofer Mercado at one time or another.

"I enjoy helping out people, especially making sure that people get what they want and getting them to where they want," said Mercado, a passenger travel clerk who hails from San Diego.

Mercado, assigned to the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said his main duties are preparing orders and travel arrangements for deployments and medical evacuations. He handles real-world deployments and deployments for exercises.

"It's interesting and high-paced," he said. "I've pretty much sent people all over the world.”

Mercado said his office usually serves between 150 to 200 customers daily.

The airman said he previously served at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

"Incirlik Air Base was definitely a great experience and I am glad that I got the opportunity to be there and to meet such great people," Mercado said. "I can't really compare [Incirlik to Kadena] because I enjoy both."

Mercado said he loves his job and enjoys serving in the Air Force.

"I joined the Air Force because it was actually a dream I had when I was a little kid,” he said. “It didn't matter what I did in the Air Force. Everybody always asked me if I wanted to be a pilot -- I didn't want to be a pilot. I just wanted to be in the Air Force."

Mercado said he’s thinking about a future career as a kindergarten teacher, or perhaps an Air Force officer. His current people-centric job, he said, is good training.

“I love helping people, so it's a good job for me," he said.

Mercado said there are many challenging parts to his job that most customers don't see.

"We do a lot of paperwork; we have to contact a lot of the agents,” he said. “We work side-by-side with the Commercial Travel Office and they help us out and we help them out constantly with people's [travel] entitlements.

"The deployment tempo here is very high so we're constantly getting a fluctuation of people coming in and out, and we arrange their travel,” he continued. “The volume of people we see is big. I like it, but it's very stressful at times."

Yet, life at Kadena is not all work and no play, said Mercado, noting he enjoys learning about Japanese culture.

"It's a beautiful island," he said. "There are a lot of things to do. I get out as much as possible in the off-time that I get. I like to go around enjoying the culture and the food here. I love it."

Family Matters Blog: Wounded Warrior to Star in Reality Show

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2011 – A few weeks ago, I was browsing the Web, filling my insatiable appetite for pop culture trivia, when I saw a familiar face among the new cast of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Among a line of reality and pop stars was Army veteran J.R. Martinez, a wounded warrior turned motivational speaker and actor. I smiled as I recalled meeting the former soldier three years ago.

At the time, I was the post newspaper editor at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and had volunteered to write about a special camp for military teens whose parents were wounded or deployed.

The camp took place at the middle school, and when I arrived, the teens already had split into small groups to share their stories. One table in particular caught my eye. A group of 16- and 17-year-olds was intently listening to a wounded warrior as he shared his wartime experiences.

I approached the table, camera in hand, and first noticed his face was heavily scarred. But after a few seconds, I saw only a young man with a ready smile, at ease with the teens around him. He laughed and joked with them as he talked about his experiences and shared his message of resilience and hope, qualities he had acquired in spades several years ago.

In March 2003, Martinez was less than a month into his deployment when the Humvee he was driving struck a landmine. Three soldiers were thrown from the burning vehicle, but Martinez was trapped inside. He suffered severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body.

He spent 34 months in recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and underwent 33 surgeries.

While in recovery, Martinez began to share his story with other burn patients, which eventually led him to become a highly sought-after motivational speaker. He now travels the country, spreading a message of resilience and optimism. He also pursued an acting career, and plays a combat veteran on ABC’s “All My Children.”

That day in San Antonio, Martinez shared his story with me and his desire to help others. He hoped the teens would be able to relate to him, he said, and gain inspiration from his story.

I met many wounded warriors in my time at Fort Sam, but Martinez left a lasting impression. He could have withdrawn after such a terrible tragedy. But instead, he has stepped into the spotlight with an indelible message of hope.

I’m excited about his upcoming appearance on the new season of “Dancing with the Stars.” While people may tune in to see the sambas and cha chas, I hope they also are reminded of the immense sacrifices our service members are making each day, and their astonishing ability to soar even after the greatest adversity.