Sunday, November 20, 2011

Adm. Papp reviews mission of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia

By CDR Glynn Smith

This is the first of a three-part series focused on Adm. Bob Papp’s travel to the Middle East and Europe to meet with partner organizations and visit Coast Guard personnel. It was written with contributions by Ademide Adedokun.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp visited Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia in Manama, Bahrain, this week to learn more about the unit’s evolving mission in support of U.S. naval forces in the region and meet with Coast Guard personnel. This coordination is critical to the Coast Guard’s continued support, as part of the combined armed forces in the area, to protect U.S. national interests.

The Coast Guard established PATFORSWA as a contingency operation in November 2002 following a U.S. Navy request for patrol boats to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. The focus then was protecting two Iraqi oil terminals responsible for 90 percent of the nation’s gross national income. The Coast Guard answered by deploying 110-foot patrol boats with support personnel to conduct this mission.

 “Most people typically see us day-to-day on U.S. waters saving lives, enforcing law and protecting the marine environment,” said Papp. “But the Coast Guard is also at all times a military service and member of the U.S. armed forces. We have routinely fought in the Nation’s wars and conflicts since our founding in 1790.” See for yourself in the best Coast Guard books written by real USCG veterans!

We expanded our role by deploying forces into Iraq to provide training and advisory support to Iraqi naval forces and inspection support for redeploying U.S. forces back home. In other locations, Coast Guard forces secure ports being used by U.S. ships and train other naval forces in the region to enhance their skills.

The increase in demand led to PATFORSWA becoming a fully commissioned permanent duty station in June 2004. It represents the largest allocation of Coast Guard forces outside of the United States.

In January 2009, PATFORSWA began training and administrative support for Coast Guard Visit Board Search and Seizure teams deployed with Task Force 151 on counter-piracy operations in the western Indian Ocean near Somalia. And more recently, in September 2010, PATFORSWA transitioned to Operation New Dawn with other Department of Defense forces, during which the mission changed from combat to stability operations in Iraq.

 “I am very pleased to hear that our capabilities are being put to good use here,” Papp said. “We are the only organization that can do what we do. I look forward to continued support to local naval operations.”

Today, PATFORSWA continues to deliver the Coast Guard’s unique capabilities as a member of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in support of national objectives. It’s key to success are the amazing people that volunteer each year to make the required sacrifices in leaving their loved ones and comforts behind and serving their nation far from home. Their reward is helping the Iraqi people rebuild their nation after decades of dictatorship and others in reducing the influence of terrorism.

“We have truly extraordinary people serving across the Middle East,” said Papp, adding, “I am always in awe of the volunteers we get each year for this duty, and they always exceed the number of positions we have in theater.”

Obama: Take Time to Honor Troops, Families

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – President Barack Obama pointed out the importance of honoring military families’ contributions and sacrifices in his proclamation declaring Nov. 20-26 National Family Week.

“Our troops and military families serve with valor at home and overseas, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve these patriots as well as they have served us,” the president wrote.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched the Joining Forces campaign earlier this year to better fulfill this promise to troops, veterans and their families, the president said. The initiative is intended to raise awareness of the challenges military families face and to challenge Americans to make a difference in their lives.

As loved ones gather for the holidays, Obama urged all Americans to pause to give thanks to those who share in the “trials and triumphs of our lives.”

“Our families illuminate our days and bring meaning to our years, and their love has the power to see us through our greatest challenges,” he said. “This week and throughout the year, let us strive to give back to our friends, families, communities and neighbors, and to work together in pursuit of our highest ambitions.”

The president urged states, communities and individuals to take part in ceremonies and activities that celebrate the nation’s families throughout the week.

“This week, we celebrate the threads of compassion and unity that tie our families together, enrich our communities and strengthen the fabric of our nation,” he wrote.

Navy Leadership, Wounded Warriors Play in Wheelchair Basketball Exhibition

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Mikelle D.Smith, Defense Media Activity

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- In honor of Warrior Care Month 2011, military personnel from every branch of service participated in the Wounded Warrior Wheelchair Basketball Exhibition held at the Pentagon Athletic Center, Nov. 18.

Wounded Sailors had the opportunity to share in the festivities alongside key Navy leadership including Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) the Honorable Juan M. Garcia; Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Admiral Kevin M. McCoy; and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West, during a two-hour basketball clinic followed by the basketball exhibition.

"The most important thing about this event is to highlight these wounded warriors and understand that the best days of their lives and service to country are still ahead of them," said Garcia. "To see what our wounded warriors are challenged with every day is really a humbling experience. I can unstrap myself and get out of this chair at any moment, and some of them can't which is a testament to their spirit."

Personnel not directly involved with the event were also given the opportunity to get in a chair and shoot hoops with the service members, which provided further insight to the continuous potential and determination of wounded warriors.

"Being out here with these warriors and getting to do this is a great experience and an honor," said West. "They are determined, and they are ready to get down to business. They are a really talented group and they make it look easy when it is really quite challenging."

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Frank, wounded warrior and participant, expressed his gratitude for the men and women that took the time to acknowledge and support warrior care month, as well as the continued efforts of organizations that sponsor events such as the exhibition.

"Really, you never know the types of abilities you need to play basketball in a wheelchair until you get in one and start shooting around," said Frank. "I want to personally thank Navy Safe Harbor because they really put forth a lot of effort to bring us [wounded warriors] together and give us the support we need to get back into doing physical activities again. I really appreciate it."

The event was sponsored by the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation and the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. Both organizations focus on providing wounded warriors and their families with non-medical care assistance and concerns such as transitioning back to active duty or the civilian community.

"This event gives the people here the opportunity to experience both sides of the equation when dealing with wounded warriors," said Will Wilson, program manager for Navy Wounded Warrior Adaptive Reconditioning and Sports. "Having experienced both sides, being a wounded warrior myself, I can tell you that athletics is a lifesaving adventure. I've had athletes say that this is the only thing that keeps them going. If we can expose our leadership to what these guys have to experience every single day, it's advantageous."

Warrior Care Month is a national, joint-service effort to honor wounded warriors and their families. The theme of Warrior Care Month 2011 is "Unleashing Unlimited Potential: Healing a Wounded Warrior's Mind, Body and Spirit."

Japan, U.S. Naval Ships Complete Dynamic Koa Kai Training

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii

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Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (NNS) -- Hawaii-based Destroyer Squadron 31 completed a week of dynamic training as ships returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Nov. 17-18, from the latest Koa Kai exercise in Hawaiian waters.

It was the first time U.S. Navy ships were joined by a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) surface ship for a Koa Kai exercise. The JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Kurama (DDH 144) participated in the exercise that began Nov. 10.

"The Koa Kai exercise provided intense and comprehensive training for all of us," said JMSDF Capt. Shinji Maruzawa, commander, Escort Division 2. "It was remarkable how well we worked together, demonstrating good teamwork and sharing skills. We have great support from our U.S. Navy friends and partners here in Hawaii."

Kurama joined guided-missile destroyers USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and USS Chafee (DDG 90); frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37); and Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11). The surface ships of CDS 31 are joined by assets from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Helicopter Squadron Light 37, Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2, and the Royal Canadian Air Force 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron.

"This is the first time we've had a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship participate in Koa Kai," said Capt. Dave Welch, commander, Destroyer Squadron 31. "They were a fantastic addition to the exercise. This gives us an opportunity to exercise in another area that our deployed ships deal with, operations with coalition and allied partners."

Hawaii-based surface combatants regularly deploy to the Asia Pacific region and often train with international partners while on deployment. Koa Kai demonstrates the Pacific Fleet commitment to forward readiness and prepares Middle Pacific ships to meet current and future challenges.

"The opportunity to work together gives our crews the chance to see that there is strength in the diversity of capabilities that our allies and partners bring and gives us a chance to work closely with them in a controlled training environment," Welch said. "It also gives our allies confidence in the rigor that we put in our preparations to go forward in deployed areas."

Sailors aboard the JMSDF and U.S. Navy ships participated in visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills; tactical training; anti-submarine warfare and live-fire ammunition exercises; and other drills and training.

"We just returned from major exercise Koa Kai, which translates as 'Sea Warrior' from the Hawaiian language," said Firecontrolman 2nd Class Deborah Rosen, USS O'Kane. "It's a major test of the entire ship's battle readiness. It's challenging. It has to be. It's meant to be. It's designed to be. It's to make sure that we're really going to be ready to go out on deployment and accomplish our mission."

Units participating in Koa Kai 12-1, the first of two such training events in FY 12, conducted integrated flight operations, anti-surface and anti-submarine training and dynamic ship maneuvers.

Koa Kai supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet's mid-Pacific surface combatant operational employment program, which calls for all Hawaii-based surface combatants to use the strategic location in the Middle Pacific to conduct intermediate and advanced training in a multi-ship environment. The training helps each ship prepare to deploy and respond quickly to support the Maritime Strategy.