Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blue Ridge Completes Sea Trials

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mel Orr, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- United States Navy 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) completed three days of sea trials Nov. 16, after extensive training, a planned maintenance period and a successful light off assessment.

According to Blue Ridge Damage Control Assistant Lt. Jerry Belmonte, the crew was fully engaged in preparations leading up to sea trials after a two-month maintenance period with Ship Repair Facility (SRF) aboard Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

"We conducted testing on equipment that was repaired during SRF to ensure everything worked properly," Belmonte said. "The crew put in a tremendous level of hard work to get the job done right, and it paid off."

Such testing included bringing the ship to full power, flexing the boiler plants and testing relief valves, boiler safety and electrical generator plants.

Additionally, crew members participated in damage control exercises, proving proficiency within repair lockers and setting material conditions of readiness in an expeditious manner.

"The Engineering department and program managers performed safely and professionally throughout the assessment in demonstrating material checks and program reviews," said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Williams, Commander Task Force 76 training and readiness officer and senior engineering assessor. "The engineering spaces were at the highest standards of material readiness, looked amazing and minimum discrepancies were noted. All programs are in place, and program managers are heavily engaged."

Leading up to sea trials, engineers put in long hours to get ready for a light off assessment conducted by Expeditionary Strike Group 7 with assistance from Afloat Training Group Western Pacific. The ship's Engineering department conducted a series of checks and a main space fire drill as part of the assessment. During the assessment, each engineering system was verified as functional.

"Failing this assessment was not an option," said Master Chief Machinist's Mate (SW) Gilfredo Belantes, Engineering department leading chief petty officer. "Our Sailors were motivated to provide a quality example of damage control knowledge and ship readiness."

Blue Ridge Commanding Officer Capt. Dan Grieco, expressed his appreciation to the crew for its efforts in getting the ship ready.

"I am tremendously proud of the crew's performance during sea trials," Grieco said. "I give great credit to the engineers, combat systems technicians and flight deck teams for their tireless efforts to return the ship to underway operations and full certification after an extensive maintenance period."

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, and is the command ship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered aboard White Beach Naval Facility Okinawa, Japan, with an operations detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka Supports Diplomacy Tours

By H. Sam Samuelson, NAVSUP GLS Corporate Communications

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka lends ongoing logistics support to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during their visit to the Asia-Pacific region Nov. 16-20.

"Our sites in Singapore, Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines are a networked military logistics backbone for these visits," said Cmdr. Jose Sanchez, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka's operations officer.

"From area transportation, to lodging, and direct fleet support to ships with Joint Task Force (JTF) POTUS Support, we are ensuring the president and the secretary of state receive everything and anything they need to accomplish their missions," he said.

Obama will visit Indonesia for a security summit with Asian nations; meanwhile, Clinton will visit the Philippines to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S. - Republic of the Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Obama's visit to Indonesia requires significant logistics planning among NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka and Sites Jakarta and Singapore.

Preparations for the executive level visit began when a logistics line of communication (LOC) system was established to ensure the supply and delivery of immediate or emergent material support for JTF POTUS platforms USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS Stethem (DDG 63) when and as often as needed.

"One true measure of the LOC is how quickly it allows our different sites and dets to connect, communicate and respond," Sanchez said. "It's providing the right support at the right time, every time."

Sanchez said NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, Site Jakarta partnership with the Embassy of the United States Jakarta, remains a critical link for the POTUS visit.

"We're juggling resources from multiple agencies to provide direct logistics support for this visit," said NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Jakarta's Logistics Specialist 1st Class Mark Bettencourt, FLC Yokosuka's go-to logistics point of contact in Indonesia.

Meanwhile NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka's Site, Manila arranged logistics support for the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) the selected platform for the U.S - R.P. Mutual Defense Treaty 60th anniversary commemoration at which Clinton attended to represent the United States.

"Even before the secretary's visit, we rushed parts, equipment and mail to the Fitzgerald while arranging to get the ship pier side," said NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Director Jun Garcia. "And one day before the ceremony, we delivered four pallets of administrative supplies.

"We take a lot of pride in providing logistics services to the fleet," Garcia said, "especially when one of those fleet platforms serves as the center stage for an important event as the mutual defense commemoration and a visit by the secretary of state.

Face of Defense: Producers Seek ‘Army Wives’ in Alaska

By Army Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead
U.S. Army Alaska

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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, Nov. 17, 2011 – A television production company is looking for military family members to appear in a new show about military spouses in Alaska.

The company, 44 Blue Productions based in Los Angeles, is developing what it describes as a documentary series for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The show, Army Wives of Alaska, is to focus on the real-world lives, struggles and sacrifices of military spouses stationed in the 49th state.

“This program will help to raise the awareness of the national community of the sense of duty that the family has, as well as the soldiers in uniform,” said Army Lt. Col. John Clearwater, film and television liaison for Army public affairs in Los Angeles.

The production company is scheduled to meet with spouses in Alaska the week of Nov. 28.

The show came about, in part, due to the efforts of Stephanie Woodard, whose husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian “Clint” Woodard, is a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with Company A, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

“I found information on an old casting for a show that never launched and asked if they were still looking for volunteer cast [members],” she said. “They said no, but I started talking about some of the wives’ experiences anyway and they got interested.”

It’s important for military families to be able to tell their stories to the public, Woodard said, especially in an era of repeated deployments.

“Yes, there are tough times. Yes, there are fears that naturally come with a deployment, but the close bonds you can form with other military families are unique and will get you through those times,” she added. “No matter how hard someone tries, you just can’t get that kind of understanding from someone who has never been in that situation.”

After several phone calls and meetings with producers, the Army warmed up to the idea, Woodard said. Eventually, Army public affairs granted approval for 44 Blue to cast volunteers for the show.

The show is the first of its kind to be approved for production on a military installation, Clearwater said.

“This is a cutting-edge project,” he said. “There hasn’t been a program similar to this at any time previously within the Army. This is an opportunity to show the nation just how much effort our military families contribute to the service of their soldiers. It’s a commitment just as deep as [that of] any service member.”

It is also a commitment that many soldiers say they couldn’t do without.

“My wife has been an invaluable asset to me,” said Army Staff Sgt. Germaine Pitt, a section chief for the fuel platoon assigned to Company A, 725th Brigade Support Battalion. “She has always been supportive. I couldn’t be as successful as I am without her.”

Stephanie Drachkovitch, one of the co-founders of 44 Blue, is uniquely qualified to help portray military families in Alaska. The daughter of a career Army officer, Drachkovitch lived in Alaska, her mother’s home state, while her father served in Vietnam.

“My mother and father actually met while he was stationed up there in Alaska during his first assignment there,” Drachkovitch said. “Alaska is a beautiful area and I just so happen to know a little bit about the kind of bonds people can make while living there, which is just one of the many reasons I think the show will resonate with viewers.”

Drachkovitch said she wants to see as many people apply for the casting as possible.

“We expect to, ultimately, cast the same number of families from each area [Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson] in the end,” she said, “so everyone should feel free to still apply.”

Many of the wives are doing just that. Traci Moran, whose husband, Army Spc. Jared Moran, is a paralegal representative for 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, has submitted her application in the hopes of getting a positive message out to the public.

“I wanted to make sure that we help show a true portrayal of a real Army wife,” Moran said. “We’re not all about drama and scandal. We’re not completely helpless while our husbands are deployed either. We are strong, independent and able to fill the roles of our husbands while they’re away.

“I want to do my part and help show how we hold things together while they’re gone,” she added.
The show’s producers say they hope there will be more families who are willing to share their stories

Deadline Approaches for Stars and Stripes Holiday Greetings

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2011 – Thanksgiving is just a week away, and closely behind it, the deadline for submitting holiday messages and photos to appear in Stars and Stripes newspapers and its online editions.

“Stripes” is continuing its tradition of publishing free holiday messages to family members and friends, no matter where they are deployed or stationed, officials said.

Messages submitted by Nov. 28 will appear in the Dec. 17 newspaper edition of the sender’s choice: Europe, Mideast or Pacific. Greetings received after that date, or to recipients in the United States, will appear in the online version only, officials said.

Messages can be submitted on the Stars and Stripes website at Click “Submit message,” and then either “Text” or “Picture Message.”

Once the message is approved for publication, senders can search or browse messages by edition or the recipient’s name using the site’s publication tabs or “Find Messages” button.