Sunday, November 06, 2011

Wisconsin Guard Soldiers depart for training, Kosovo

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By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

Approximately 30 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade have left Wisconsin today (Nov. 4) for about 10 days of mobilization training at Fort Benning, Ga., before arriving in Bosnia and Kosovo, where they will serve as part of NATO headquarters in Bosnia and Pristina, Kosovo.

The deploying Soldiers will work for the U.S. commander assigned to the KFOR NATO headquarters overseeing the international peace-keeping mission, which is to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens in Kosovo.

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar acknowledged, during a sendoff ceremony Thursday (Nov. 3) at the Richards Street Armory in Milwaukee, that many people may not be aware of the United States' continuing commitment to Kosovo. He recounted the turmoil the former nation of Yugoslavia experienced following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"All heck broke out in the early 1990s," Dunbar said. "There was a lot of bloodshed and a lot of fighting along religious lines."

The United States became involved, and helped broker the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995. Since then, U.S. troops have been helping keep the peace in Kosovo and Bosnia.

"This is the United States of America honoring its commitment," Dunbar said. "In World War I and World War II, in that very part of the world, millions of people died in bloodshed. And since we stepped in, a few handful have died. We've been keeping the peace."

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch recognized the Soldiers for their service.

"I am thankful that the brave men and women of the 157th MEB are prepared to ensure peace in all ways in Bosnia and Kosovo as guardians of freedom and ambassadors of our great country," she said. "It is with courage and with pride that they protect a people, make permanent a calm, spread goodwill, and continue to sow the seeds of liberty."

She presented Lt. Col. Chris Klatt, officer in charge of the deploying Soldiers, with a state flag.

"I hope you will fly it with great pride so that the world knows that champions from Wisconsin don't just play in Lambeau [Field]," she said. "They also defend us every single day in the Wisconsin National Guard."

Klatt thanked the Soldiers taking part in the deployment and the people of Wisconsin for their support. He also thanked the families of the Soldiers.

"They serve right along with us," he said.

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, agreed.

"When we talk about the Guard family, we talk about not only those in uniform, but the families and the children that serve right alongside our Soldiers," he said. "I want to say thank you for your love and support for your Soldiers. I know full well, and you know, that they could not do what they have done up to this time, and what they are about to embark upon again, without your support, without your love, and without your commitment. And my commitment to you and to the Soldiers is that we are not only here for the Soldiers, but we are here for the families."

Dunbar said that the Wisconsin National Guard has a robust family support network.

"I'm giving my personal pledge that everybody at home is here for your family, so that you can focus on your mission," he told the troops. "I want the families to know that there's nothing too big, nothing too small that we won't give you everything we have. We are a family and we're here for you."

Anderson said the deployment experience of the Kosovo-bound Soldiers would serve them well. State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper urged the younger Soldiers to draw on the deployment experience around them.

"Let them guide you through those instances that you're going to come up against," he said. "The first birthday away from home, the first anniversary away from home. They've been there, they've done it - they've made it through. They'll guide you, also.

"I ask you to do what we do best as Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers," Stopper continued. "Go forth and show the rest of the country exactly what you're made of. Show the world just how phenomenal it is to be a Soldier in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. Go forth and be great representatives to the rest of the world."

The 157th MEB has already mobilized approximately 180 members for a different role in the KFOR mission. The brigade's Headquarters Company and members of the 32nd Military Police Company left Wisconsin Sept. 16, and members of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment and the 248th Aviation Support Battalion followed Sept. 24. Those Soldiers are training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, in preparation for their deployment, where they will serve as the brigade headquarters unit for Multi-National Battle Group East, also referred to as Task Force Falcon.

Sesame Launches New Resources for Military Families

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va., Nov. 5, 2011 – With hundreds of military families gathered here, Sesame Workshop today unveiled a new collection of resources designed to help children stay connected with military loved ones.

The “Military Families Near and Far” products, which include a bilingual website and mobile application, encourage elementary school-aged children to express their emotions and to communicate as they undergo challenging military transitions. The resources are a team effort by the iconic kids’ TV programs, Sesame Street and The Electric Company, and are provided in cooperation with the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

“Our families serve and make tremendous sacrifices every day,” said Charles Milam, the Defense Department’s principal director of military community and family policy. Just as President Barack Obama has made the support and care of military families a top priority, “we at the department are committed to increasing opportunities for military children and their families,” he said.

The new products include Military Families Near and Far, a bilingual website where kids can create networks, draw pictures, create songs and write letters to a deployed parent; Free Electric!, a mobile application that encourages children to explore and express their emotions; an Electric Company magazine for military families; and the Electric Company Extended Learning Program, which is packed with literacy and math-based lesson plans, games, activities and tips.

Sesame’s previous efforts to help military children have been aimed at preschoolers. These new products will enable them to reach older children in an age-appropriate and entertaining way, H. Melvin Ming, Sesame Workshop president and CEO, said at the event. “One size does not fit all,” he noted. “Children learn best when the message is age-appropriate.”

The resources will be distributed mid-November through multiple channels including the Department of Defense Education Activity Educational Partnership Program, Boys and Girls Clubs of America-affiliated youth centers and other military-support programs.

Navy Capt. Paul S. Hammer, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, cited the importance of joint efforts aimed at helping military families such as this one.

“This is a partnership,” he said. “We bring our understanding about emotion, stress, psychological health, and Sesame Workshop brings the expertise of really understanding how to reach kids and get kids to talk about [their emotions]. I think that’s a good partnership to really help military families.

“There are a lot of programs out there, but this is a significant one in terms of really reaching kids and reaching families in a way that’s really constructive,” he added.

Along with the launch, the children who attended the event learned the importance of expressing their emotions, whether happy or sad, with a song and a dance and the help of some familiar friends from Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

Sesame’s Gordon and Abby Cadabby entertained the kids with a song, Near and Far, and then kids of all ages enjoyed dancing and “beat-boxing” with Electric Company’s Jessica and Shock. They also unveiled the Let it Out music video, which encouraged emotional expression and featured military members and children from across the nation.

After the event, the children dispersed to various play stations to play, snack or try out Sesame’s new Near and Far site and app on computers and iPads set up throughout the hall.

Air Force spouse Vicki Diesing’s two tech-savvy children, ages 4 and 9, were drawn to the computer station. Her younger daughter drew pictures for her deployed dad online as her mom gave her a hand.

“I like the idea they can communicate with their deployed family member through this site,” Diesing said. “I think it’s a good resource. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to express their feelings, and to have characters they can relate to helps them.

“My older daughter is just getting out of Sesame Street phase,” she added, “so the Electric Company really appealed to her.”

Josselyn Velasquez, whose husband is in the Air Force, also was busy navigating Sesame’s new website with her 4-year-old daughter, Tatiana. “I think it’s awesome,” she said of the site. “It’s letting military kids know they’re not alone, feeling the way they do with their families being gone.”

Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy, children and youth, praised Sesame’s efforts for military children. “Sesame is just the best when it comes to creating innovative products,” she said.

The event was well-timed for November, she noted, which the president designated as Military Family Month. “We know that children also serve; they’re a part of our military family,” she said.

Obama: Libya Mission Underscores NATO’s Effectiveness

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – The Operation Unified Protector mission in Libya demonstrated that NATO remains the world’s most effective alliance, President Barack Obama said today as he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised the men and women who carried it out.

Speaking alongside Sarkozy at France’s Cannes City Hall following the Group of 20 economic summit, Obama recognized the solidarity their two countries and NATO showed as they protected the Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi’s brutality.

“The United States was proud to play a decisive role, especially in the early days, taking out Libyan air defenses and conducting precision attacks that stopped the regime in its tracks,” Obama said.

The way the mission was conducted underscored NATO’s effectiveness and set a standard for the future, he said.

“We acted quickly, in days,” the president said. “And whether contributing forces or command staff, every single one of NATO’s 28 members played a role.”

Eighteen nations, including Arab states, provided forces to the operation, he said.

“And in an historic first, our NATO allies, including France, and especially the extraordinary leadership of President Sarkozy, helped us to conduct 90 percent of our strike missions,” Obama said.

This showed more nations bearing the burdens and costs of peace and prosperity, he said. “And that’s how our alliance must work in the 21st century,” he added.

Obama praised the way French and American forces served together -- commanders who planned and executed the operation, pilots who prevented a massacre in Benghazi, tanker crews who sustained the operation from bases in France, airmen who delivered lifesaving aid and the sailors and Marines who enforced the arms embargo at sea, among them.

He noted that American pilots flew French fighter jets off a French carrier in the Mediterranean Sea during the operation. “Allies don’t get any closer than that,” he said.

“Every man and woman in uniform who participated in this effort can know that you have accomplished every objective,” Obama said, noting that they saved Libyan lives and gave the Libyan people an opportunity to enjoy freedom and democracy.

Obama offered a salute to Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command; Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of Allied Joint Force Command, Naples, Italy, and U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa; and Air Force Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, commander of Allied Air Component Command Headquarters in Izmir, Turkey, the 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force and U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

They and thousands of other personnel who made Operation Unified Protector a success helped show the world that “after a difficult decade, the tide of war is receding,” Obama said.

“The long war in Iraq is finally coming to an end,” he said. Meanwhile, he added, with France and other allies and partners, “we’ve achieved major victories against al-Qaida, including Osama bin Laden.”

The president noted that French and American forces are fighting together in Afghanistan and transitioning security responsibility to Afghan security forces.

Obama recognized the many times through history when the United States and France stood together to defend their shared ideals.

“I’m confident that we’ll continue to stand together, strong and free, for the centuries to come,” he said. “Long live the alliance between our two great nations.”

Vigilant Shield Tests Homeland Defense Processes

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By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2011 – Navy ships, Army ground-based radar and missile systems and Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard aircraft have descended on Key West, Fla., for the field training portion of U.S. Northern Command’s annual homeland defense exercise that kicked off this week.

Northcom’s Vigilant Shield 12 exercise launched Nov. 1 and continues through Nov. 10, combining field and command post exercises to train Northcom and North American Aerospace Defense Command staffs in homeland defense and homeland security processes, Lt. Alain Blondin of the Canadian navy, a command spokesman, told American Forces Press Service.

“The scenario for the exercise is based on potential military threats to the United States and Canada that require extensive military planning to provide a range of military options to our national leadership,” said Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., Northcom and NORAD commander, in a blog announcing the exercise.

Northcom’s operations center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., working in coordination with a joint deployable integrated air and missile defense system and elements of a logistics support facility dispatched to Naval Air Station Key West, are testing their capabilities against simulated enemy attacks, Blondin said.

Although most of the scenarios are classified, Blondin said, they will involve “the full spectrum of threats,” including simulated terrorist attacks.

“It’s an old Army truth that you have to train like you fight, and the exercise scenario will undoubtedly put us through our paces,” Jacoby said. This exercise will not only train us for that worst-case situation, but it will also aid our planners in preparing for it.”

“Homeland defense is our most important mission, and it’s a sacred trust we share with the citizens of the United States and Canada,” he said. “VS 12 will make us better and, most importantly, make our countries safer in the long run.”

To increase the realism of the scenarios and test the ability of federal, state and international partners to provide a synchronized response to homeland threats, Vigilant Shield planners have piggybacked on other training exercises.

For example, routine training flights under way across the Washington, D.C., region are testing Northcom’s and NORAD’s ability to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Aviation Administration, among other federal agencies.

This year’s Vigilant Shield is being linked to two other concurrent exercises: Vigilant Guard Arizona and Determined Dragon. Vigilant Guard Arizona, a joint regional exercise sponsored by Northcom and the National Guard Bureau, is designed to improve military processes, procedures and coordination with state and local responders, officials said. Canada Command is conducting Determined Dragon to test the readiness of Canadian forces at the national level.

Jacoby emphasized the importance of a strong exercise program to maintain readiness, noting Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “Everywhere men pray for peace, but prepare for war.”

“I firmly believe that quote accurately reflects how the men and women of these commands go at their business each and every day, and that’s why it’s important as we look at a decreasing military budget to maintain and sustain critical training exercises like Vigilant Shield,” he said. “Every time you exercise, you learn something new.”

Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group Completes PMINT

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lauren G. Randall, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8 and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) conducted the PHIBRON-MEU Integrated Training (PMINT) from Oct. 24 through Nov. 3.

PMINT is the first integrated training between the Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) comprised of approximately 1,700 Sailors from amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), and approximately 1,200 Marines with the 24th MEU.

PMINT enhanced operability between the Sailors and Marines and began the process of forming a blue-green team during three phases and approximately two weeks of training exercises.

During the first phase, Sailors and Marines worked together to safely embark and integrate the 24th MEU including all of the aircraft, vehicles, gear and personnel throughout the three ships within the ARG.

Sailors and Marines conducted many well deck and flight deck operations during the first two days transporting 24th MEU gear from land to the ARG ships.

"PMINT is not new, we understood what we needed to do which is to bring the blue-green team together for the first time underway," said Marine Capt. Jeremey Wilkinson, MEU Battalion Landing Team (BLT) operations officer. "No matter how you cut the cake, green team cannot be successful without the blue and blue team cannot be successful without the green. So we have to learn how to work together to deliver the right solution around the world."

The second and longest phase was integrated training. Phase two of PMINT included a series of air defense exercises, surface gunnery, communication scenarios, boarding exercises, planning, co-mingling standard operating procedures and testing gear.

During the training exercises, Sailors and Marines worked on their driver training for the on and off loading of vehicles, dock landing qualifications, shipboard familiarization and overall team building.

"In the well decks, we've done a lot of integrated training, bringing different types of crafts and vehicles aboard," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW/SCW) Kenyon Copeland, assigned to Iwo Jima.

"We've worked together with the MEU, the watercraft crews and ships company to stage them to see what kind of storage we can have, and if we would be able to fit any more and still get around."

Post exercise evaluations were held after each operation. All training evolutions were reviewed and critiqued in order to identify any problems and improvement possibilities.

"This is to basically get everyone on the same page before deployment, so that we can operate safely and complete our mission," said Copeland. "All the trainings have gone well; we've worked well together and kept our heads on a swivel."

The debarkation process involved off-loading embarked personnel, aircraft, watercraft and vehicles from the Iwo Jima ARG.

Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Joshua D. Kramer said Sailors and Marines worked well together and expects similar cohesiveness during the next training exercises.

Upon completion of PMINT the Iwo Jima ARG plans to conduct composite unit training exercise (COMPT2X) and a certification exercise (CERTEX) in preparation to deploy in 2012.

Face of Defense: C-17 Crew Gives Aid to Earthquake Victims

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Leah Young
62nd Airlift Wing

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Nov. 4, 2011 – A group of U.S. airmen took to the air to deliver humanitarian relief supplies for victims of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck eastern Turkey Oct. 23.

The five-member C-17 Globemaster III crew, assigned to the 10th Airlift Squadron here, flew to Turkey Nov. 1 and delivered a 75,000-pound load of tents at Erzurum Airport.

"The men and women of McChord are always ready to provide airlift at a moment's notice," said Air Force Maj. Corey Simmons, the squadron’s director of operations. "It is an honor for the 10th Airlift Squadron pathfinders to provide relief to our great partner Turkey in their time of need."

According to officials at the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., the tents will provide shelter to earthquake survivors as recovery efforts continue. The tents are six-sided, pyramidal-shaped shelters that can comfortably house up to 10 people plus their clothing and equipment.

The tent's wind-, mildew- and fire-resistant construction and materials, officials added, ensure the warmth and dryness of the occupants even in frigid temperatures.

"Our airmen are focused on providing support at home and around the world at any time," Simmons said. "Rapid global mobility is a key to providing assistance at times like these."

McCain, Lieberman Receive NDU Foundation Award

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By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Senior defense and national security leaders were on hand here yesterday as the National Defense University Foundation honored Arizona Sen. John McCain and Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman at its American Patriot Award dinner.

The annual event highlights the role of the National Defense University, based at Fort Lesley J. McNair here, as the pinnacle of professional military education.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said one of his first trips as chairman was to NDU.

“I did that on purpose, because I make three promises to the leaders of our military as I travel around and meet them,” he said. “The first promise I make is that we will probably not design your organizations exactly as you want them to be.”

The second promise, Dempsey said, is that they will get equipment that probably will not be exactly what they need.

“The third promise … is whatever guidance we give you will be a little late,” he said with a grin.

“I’ve lived up to those promises in my first month as the chairman,” the general said, “but the point I make to them is that it is the leaders that we develop that knit together all of that and produce the outcomes that our nation needs. And we ought to be really proud of that.”

The military is the premier leader development institution in the United States, “and leaders are what we need to move into an uncertain future,” he said.

Dempsey said he was delighted to be part of the event honoring McCain and Lieberman. He thanked them for their careers of service to America and for their commitment to character and values and also their commitment to developing leaders.

CIA Director David H. Petraeus, a retired Army general, said McCain and Lieberman have “walked point here in Washington for our troopers, intelligence professionals and diplomats -- two men who have answered the call of duty over expediency, the call of country over party.”

The senators have worked from their convictions to implement policies to meet wartime goals, Petraeus said, even when their positions were not politically popular.

The American Patriot Award recognizes people who have dedicated their lives in service to the United States. “But more importantly, it’s the ideals of our nation that they represent,” said Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff. “As a result of their efforts, today we have the strongest armed forces in the world as we continue to fight and serve across many continents.”

Lieberman and McCain have spent almost their entire lives serving the American people, Odierno said, “ensuring that we are not only prepared today, but prepared for tomorrow.”

The senators have served together on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and both have made repeated and in-depth visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. Lieberman has served in the Senate since 1989 and was the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2000, but supported McCain, a Republican, in his bid for the presidency in 2008.

John McCain entered the Senate in 1987. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in 1958, and flew jets for the Navy. He was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.

Commands Transition to NWU Type II/III

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tim Drake Godbee, Naval Public Affairs Support Element- West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Expeditionary commands around the fleet began the scheduled 7-month transition to the Navy Working Uniform Type II and III (NWU Type II/III) this month.

The NWU family of uniforms is intended to replace multiple, less capable legacy uniforms, reduce the Navy's total ownership costs, modernize the warfighter, and complete the vision of Task Force Uniform. As such, these two new uniforms in the NWU series have been developed for use in the tactical expeditionary mission of today's Navy, tailored for desert and woodland environments.

Commands that have been approved to wear the NWU Type II/III uniform will transition to the new uniform in alphabetical order by the name of the respective command.

The NWU Type II (desert) uniform will be worn by Navy Special Warfare (NSW) operators and Sailors assigned to NSW units or units which directly support NSW operations. The NWU Type III (woodland) uniform will be the standard camouflage uniform for all personnel, to be worn in non-desert environments, including most stateside areas. The only difference between the two uniforms is the camouflage pattern.

The NWU Type III will replace the existing tri-colored woodland camouflage utility uniform. It will be the standard camouflage uniform worn in the continental United States, and can be worn while deployed as prescribed by combatant commanders. Occasion for wear of the NWU Type III will be the same as the current woodland camouflage utility uniform per NAVADMIN 188/09.

"The NWU Type II/III approval is a culmination of a four-year effort comprising all of the expeditionary stakeholders, ensuring we capture the true operational requirements our Sailors' need to succeed on the battlefield," said Master Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Robert McCue, NWU Type II/III Conformance Test Monitor during an interview in Aug. "They provide unmatched capabilities to the warfighter enabling tactical advantage and enhancing mission success thus saving lives."

Each Expeditionary Sailor will receive three blouses, three trousers, two cover insignia, one parka, one fleece liner, one helmet cover, and one sun hat (boonie cap). Fleece watch caps will be provided at a later time once available.

Items from the NWU Type II/III will be issued only by the approved commands and will not be available at Naval Exchanges.

The Chief of Naval Operations approved the final design for the NWU II/III Aug. 30.

Testing for the NWU Type II/III began in July.