Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Abizaid Agrees to Chair Dover Mortuary Panel

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2011 – Retired Army Gen. John P. Abizaid will chair the panel overseeing the Dover, Del., port mortuary, Pentagon officials announced last night.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta asked Abizaid, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, to replace former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, who recused himself from the position when he decided to run for the Senate.

The review “will evaluate the efficacy of changes already made to mortuary procedures at Dover and make recommendations about any additional changes which may be required,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby.

Abizaid spent 34 years in the Army and brings to the position a wealth of military experience and leadership, Kirby said.

“The secretary is grateful for the general's willingness to lend his time and his talents to this critical work, and he knows that General Abizaid shares his commitment to ensuring we continue to do all we can to meet the highest standards of caring for the remains of our fallen heroes,” he added.

Abizaid will follow the same timeline laid out Nov. 8 for the original panel. Panetta has asked for a report within 60 days.

The other members of the panel are:

-- Retired Army Gen. Fred Franks, a member of the Defense Department’s health board;
-- Ruth Stonecifer, representative of families supported by the Dover Port Mortuary;
-- Dr. Vic Snyder, a former U.S. representative from Arkansas;
-- Garold Huey, a funeral director and embalmer who served in the Navy as an enlisted embalming technician;
-- Jacquelyn Taylor, executive director of the New England Institute and an internationally recognized leader in funeral service education; and
-- Dr. Bruce Parks, a forensic pathologist.

Three civilian employees at the mortuary filed complaints last year about how some remains were handled at the facility. The service implemented multiple corrective actions as a result of the investigation, Air Force officials said.

The Air Force Inspector General and the Office of Special Counsel have completed their investigations into the charges. A former commander and two other mortuary officials were disciplined, Defense Department officials said.

Statement by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta on Supercommittee Negotiations

The failure of the Congressional Supercommittee to reach an agreement on deficit reduction is a setback for the country’s efforts to achieve fiscal responsibility while protecting our national security.  If Congress fails to act over the next year, the Department of Defense will face devastating, automatic, across-the-board cuts that will tear a seam in the nation’s defense.

Despite the danger posed by sequestration, I join the President in his call for Congress to avoid an easy way out of this crisis.  Congress cannot simply turn off the sequester mechanism, but instead must pass deficit reduction at least equal to the $1.2 trillion it was charged to pass under the Budget Control Act.

In my four decades involved with public service, I have never been more concerned about the ability of Congress to forge common-sense solutions to the nation’s pressing problems.  Since becoming Secretary of Defense, I have made it clear that the Department has a responsibility to help the country get its fiscal house in order -- and we are doing that.  I have been leading a strategy-driven effort to achieve the more than $450 billion in cuts over 10 years required by the Budget Control Act.  We will move ahead with that plan.

But as Secretary of Defense, my primary responsibility is to protect the security of the nation.  The half-trillion in additional cuts demanded by sequester would lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned.  If implemented, sequester would also jeopardize our ability to provide our troops and their families with the benefits and the support they have been promised.  Our troops deserve better, and our nation demands better.

Military Sealift Command Visits Cable

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Delesia Buchanan, USS Frank Cable Public Affairs

POLARIS POINT, Guam (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, Commander, Military Sealift Command (MSC), visited submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), Nov. 20, to assess the ship's material condition and the progress of work since MSC integrated the ship with civil service mariners (CIVMAR) in February 2010.

Navy Capt. Pete Hildreth, Frank Cable's commanding officer, and CIVMARs Chief Mate Joseph Siddell and Chief Engineer James Shirley, greeted Buzby and led him on a tour of the ship.

"This was a great opportunity to showcase the work that the Navy and the CIVMAR crew have done on board the ship," said Siddell. "Rear Adm. Buzby saw the progress we've made since the last time he came onboard."

As Buzby toured the ship he saw first hand the strides made to improve the ship's engineering spaces, reefer decks, boats and crane spaces, supply storerooms and the MSC berthing.

"He recognized the improvements of the material conditions of some long-standing problems in the engine room and fire room," said Hildreth. "He was very complimentary to the job that engineer and deck departments had done."

After his tour, Buzby held an all hands call on the crew's mess with the CIVMARs to discuss current issues and update them on new plans of relief and the rotation of four to five years for the permanent crew. Buzby also talked about the implementation of the new dual band Next Generation Wideband commercial satellite communications infrastructure and service.

"Basically for the same cost that I'm paying today for a little bandwidth, I could buy almost double the bandwidth so we can provide greater capacity for crew use," said Buzby. "That's the plan, and it's going to happen really soon."

Buzby took questions from the CIVMAR crew and addressed their concerns, acknowledging the plan to complete jobs when the ship goes through a regular overhaul and dry docking in Vigor Marine, LLC in Portland, Oregon.

"I think he was really happy to see the team come together on relatively short notice to get the ship ready for the flag officer visit," said Hildreth. "The ship looked good, and the crew did a good job getting ready for it."

Frank Cable conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

USS Emory S. Land Arrives in Guam

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Gabrielle Blake, USS Frank Cable (AS 40)

APRA HARBOR, Guam (NNS) -- Submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) arrived at Naval Base Guam to temporarily assume the responsibilities as Guam's main submarine repair facility, Nov. 21.

Emory S. Land, originally homeported in Diego Garcia, will replace the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), during Frank Cable's scheduled Regular Overhaul and Dry Docking in Portland, Ore.

"It's great to see our sister ship arrive in Guam," said Cmdr. Timothy Sparks, Frank Cable's executive officer. "The Emory S. Land arrival marks a major milestone in Western Pacific (WESTPAC) maintenance."

As part of expeditionary manning, Frank Cable rotates approximately 80 crewmembers on and off Emory S. Land, to complement their crew of Sailors and civilian service mariners (CIVMARs).

Sparks said this marks the first tender turnover since Frank Cable arrived in Guam to relieve the now decommissioned submarine tender USS Holland (AS 32) as the WESTPAC tender in May 1996.

Emory S. Land left Diego Garcia in October and made port visits to Malaysia and the Republic of the Philippines prior to her arrival in Guam. During her stay in Guam, the Land crew, along with stay behind personnel assigned to Frank Cable, will continue to service submarines and carry out the mission of the tenders.

Yeoman 3rd Class Kelly Mossi, assigned to Emory S. Land said he and his fellow shipmates know integrating a larger amount of crewmembers from both ships may be challenging, but they are excited to be in Guam and to work with more Frank Cable Sailors.

While Frank Cable is in dry dock, there are plans to replace switchboards and the ship's electrical power control panel, replace low pressure turbine rotors and steel, and conduct machinery and habitability overhauls and repairs.

Sparks said that as these repairs and upgrades are being carried out, there will be a small contingent of Frank Cable Sailors and CIVMARs stationed aboard the ship for duty section support, and for the various security watches.

"One hundred fourty-five Frank Cable personnel will depart Guam for approximately seven months to oversee the availability requirements," said Sparks. "The majority of the Frank Cable crew will be remaining in Guam and assigned temporary duty to the Emory S. Land."

Emory S. Land will be the WESTPAC tender until Frank Cable returns mid 2012. Emory S. Land conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 5th and U.S. 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.

NASCAR Event Shows Pride in Military Families, First Lady Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – A barbecue at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida before the Ford 400 NASCAR race is the latest example of the pride Americans have in their military families, First Lady Michelle Obama said yesterday.

At the event -- held in conjunction with the White House’s “Joining Forces” initiative, which fosters public and private-sector support for service members, veterans and their families -- Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, thanked military families for their service and highlighted their resilience.

Tony Stewart won the race and the 2011 NASCAR crown, but military families received a share of the applause at the speedway.

“The fact that NASCAR is taking the time … during what is probably the most tense time of their whole race season -- that they’re putting the focus on all of you -- is just what we want you to know,” the first lady told the military families at the event. “This is how much your country is willing to step up.”

NASCAR is one of thousands of businesses, organizations, educational institutions and plain folk who step forward for service members and their families because they know what they owe military personnel, Obama noted.

“We know you guys are moms … and dads juggling it all alone while someone is deployed,” she said. “For all the military kids out there, we want the whole country to know we know that you’re sacrificing as well. That it’s not easy to have your mom and dad away from home for long periods of time, but you guys are strong. You guys are leaders in your own right.”

Obama and Biden said they want Americans to think of service members and their families all times of the year, not just during special occasions.

“We want to make this a part of the dialogue in this country forever,” the first lady said. “This is about the way we want this country to talk about our troops, veterans and military families forever. We want you to feel that appreciation and that gratitude so that you know your sacrifice is not in vain. People care about you. They care about what you’ve done, and this is just our way of shining whatever spotlight we have on the sacrifices that you make.”

USS Anzio Enters U.S. 6th Fleet and Begins Journey Home

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian M. Brooks, USS Anzio Public Affairs

USS ANZIO, At Sea (NNS) -- Guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) departed U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) and enters U.S. 6th Fleet AOR, Nov. 20, to make the journey to its homeport, Norfolk, Va.

Anzio, along with the other ships from the George H.W. Bush Strike Group, transited from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea by way of the Suez Canal.

"It was a fast and furious transit," said Lt. j.g. John Camp, Anzio's navigator. "It feels good to be back in the Mediterranean Sea and headed back home."

Anzio departed Norfolk May 10 and was the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, a counter-piracy operations coalition task force, for more than four months in the 5th Fleet AOR.

"Although the Sailors are happy to be closer to home, they fully understand the deployment is not over and they must stay focused and be safe," said Anzio's Command Master Chief Donnie Novak.

Anzio is deployed as part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

Veterans Get Boost as Obama Signs Tax Credits Into Law

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – President Barack Obama delivered a clear message today when he signed two new tax credits into law to increase the hiring of military veterans and wounded warriors.

“For businesses out there, if you are hiring, hire a veteran,” he said. “It's the right thing to do for you, it's the right thing to do for them, and it's the right thing to do for our economy.”

In August, Obama called on Congress to enact tax credits, included in the American Jobs Act, that will help to get unemployed veterans back to work.

“While we've added more than 350,000 private-sector jobs over the last three months, we've got 850,000 veterans who can't find work,” the president said. “And even though the overall unemployment rate came down just a little bit last month, unemployment for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan continued to rise.”

Obama said “that isn’t right,” and he lauded veterans as the “best that America has to offer.”

“They are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we have,” he said. “If they can save lives on the battlefield, then they can save a life in an ambulance.

“If they can manage convoys moving tons of equipment over dangerous terrain,” he continued, “they can manage a company’s supply chain. If they can track millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, they can balance the books of any company here in the United States.”

Obama noted the United States has benefitted “enormously” from veteran’s service abroad and would benefit greatly from their service at home.

“And that’s why, under my direction, the federal government has already hired more than 120,000 veterans,” he said.

Obama praised First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, for their efforts in the “Joining Forces” campaign, which has secured pledges from private-sector companies to hire 135,000 more veterans and military spouses.

“Today, we’re giving those businesses just one more reason to give veterans a job,” he said.

The president also credited Congress for the legislation. “Today, because Democrats and Republicans came together, I’m proud to sign those proposals into law,” he said. “And I urge every business owner out there who’s hiring to hire a veteran right away.”

Obama pledged continued support to the nation’s veterans and wounded warriors.

“So to our veterans, know that we will stand with you as long as it takes for you to find a job,” he said. “And to our businesses, let me say again, if you are hiring, hire a veteran.”

The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides businesses that hire unemployed veterans with a credit of up to $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers a credit of $9,600 per veteran for businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities.

Under the Recovery Act, employers who hired certain unemployed veterans were eligible for a tax credit of up to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages, for a maximum credit of $2,400 for veterans who had been unemployed at least four weeks. This credit expired at the end of 2010. For employers who hire veterans unemployed for longer than six months, a new credit of 40 percent of the first $14,000 of wages, up to $5,600, will be applied.

The Wounded Warrior Tax Credit will double the existing tax credit for long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities. A new credit of 40 percent of the first $24,000 of wages, up to $9,600, will apply for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed longer than six months.

The law will maintain the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit of up to $4,800 for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

The new tax incentives continue an ongoing effort to ease unemployment among veterans. A White House statement released today notes that in August the president challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or military spouses by the end of 2013.

With the help of Joining Forces,, the statement says, more than 1,500 private-sector companies have stepped up so far to employ more than 18,000 veterans and spouses and have committed to hiring 135,000 veterans and spouses by the end of 2013.

“Hire a veteran today,” Obama said at the signing ceremony. “They will make you proud, just as they've made this nation proud.”

San Diego Training Center Partners with SEAL Training Command

By Lt. Emily Castro, Training Support Center West Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Training Support Center (TSC) San Diego began a partnership with Naval Special Warfare Training Detachment 1, Nov. 21, to have students awaiting orders or for a school contribute to unit level training for deploying West Coast-based SEAL teams.

"The opportunity for our hold students to participate in this high-level training environment is invaluable - both in terms of direct support to the training mission and the indirect positive experience each student has after contributing to the training of our SEALs," said Capt. Antonio Cardoso, commanding officer, TSC San Diego.

The student volunteers are employed throughout the training in events such as close quarters combat, land warfare, visit, board, search and seizure, and special operations urban combat training. The students are tasked with a variety of jobs from setting up and taking down targets, picking up expended munitions casings, cooking meals, and cleaning, to acting as an opposing force against the SEAL elements.

"Having the students act as an opposing force benefits the SEALs because they can be chaotic and unpredictable due to their lack of specific awareness as to how the SEALs are trained and what their strategies are during combat," said Chief Special Warfare Operator Glen Davis. "Live action role players are a critical enhancement to our unit level training. Static paper targets provide a need for identification of friendly and unfriendly engagements, but when you introduce live people, it adds the dynamic of unpredictability and establishes a requirement to follow through the scenario by handling live personnel."

Unit level training is a vital series of readiness events that prepare SEAL teams to forward deploy to combat zones; the time allows for battlefield cohesion and enables platoons to come together as a single fighting unit. After unit level training, SEALs complete squadron integration training to incorporate their support personnel and fine tune all of their training in final preparation for deployment.

"Our relationship with Training Support Command San Diego has been incredible. Their support has almost become a requirement to maintain our training scenarios at their current level of complexity. We are grateful for the dedication and energy their staff puts into this program and look forward to their continued participation," said Davis.

"This is an experience that I normally wouldn't ever see in my job. It's cool to see other aspects of the Navy outside my rate," said Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Apprentice (SW) Brian Mares, a student at Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Command.

TSC San Diego includes three geographically separate service support centers that support 15 independent learning sites within the San Diego region. The command supports both surface Navy and aviation schools and averages 60,000 students per year.