Friday, December 02, 2011

Carter Recognizes Best Junior, Senior Enlisted Troops

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 – Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter today paid tribute to the military’s enlisted members while recognizing two deemed the best of the best.

“You may not read about them everyday … but, behind the scenes, they are the unsung heroes,” Carter said during a Pentagon ceremony honoring the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Senior and Junior Enlisted Member of the Year for 2010.

Carter pinned the Joint Service Commendation Medal on Air Force Master Sgt. Wesley K. Fleming II, operations manager of American Forces Network at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Army Staff Sgt. Motavia S. Alston, manager and head chef for the Secretary of Defense’s executive dining facility in the Pentagon.

The value of strong enlisted members has been observed far and wide, Carter noted. Baron Friedrich von Steuben described them as the “backbone” of George Washington’s Continental Army, and Russian officials, while rebuilding the military after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said they could not have a great military without great NCOs.

Carter called Fleming and Alston the “living example of duty, honor, country,” noting their career excellence, as well as that to their communities.

Vice Chairman Honors Legacy of Naval Aviation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 – Days after celebrating the 50th anniversary of USS Enterprise, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hosted a video conference last night with commanders of the Navy’s newest carrier, USS George H.W. Bush, during a gala commemorating the centennial of naval aviation.

Navy Adm. James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld Jr. treated attendees to a live conversation with the USS George H.W. Bush’s leaders a day after the carrier passed through the Strait of Gibraltar en route to its Norfolk, Va., home port after its first combat deployment.

Navy Rear Adm. Nora W. Tyson, commander of Carrier Strike Group 2, which Winnefeld commanded from 2004 to 2006, reported a successful deployment that allowed the state-of-the-art carrier and its crew to shine.

Winnefeld noted that the crew conducted more than 2,200 combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and the region and Operation New Dawn in Iraq.

Tyson, a naval aviation pioneer as the first woman to command a carrier strike group, said this performance reflects the capability carrier strike groups deliver. They provide a forward presence, she said, and an ability to respond quickly to promote security, prosperity and vital U.S. interests around the world. "In my opinion, the carrier strike group is and will remain for the foreseeable future an important instrument of our national security," she said.

Navy Capt. Brian "Lex" Luther, USS George H.W. Bush's commanding officer, praised the crew members who continue to live up to the standard set by the carrier's namesake from the "greatest generation."

"This spirit makes them the greatest of this generation," he said.

"They are proud to be part of the legacy," agreed Navy Capt. Jeffrey A. "Jack" Davis, commander of Carrier Air Wing 8, embarked on the carrier. "Like the naval aviators before them, they are the nation's best."

Davis achieved a personal milestone during a deployment, completing his 1,000th flight deck landing, or "trap," aboard USS George H.W. Bush in August.

Winnefeld, a career naval aviator, said the celebration of the" heart and spirit and honor and courage and commitment of naval aviation" can't overlook its most vital component.

"Our top weapon system, our ready-on-arrival platform, one that delivers time and time again and answers our nation's call, the true secret to our success, of course, is our people," he said.

Naval aviation -- which includes Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard air operations -- is a community effort, he emphasized. It includes not only air crews, but also the maintainers at all levels and ship's companies who work tirelessly to keep these aircraft safely airborne. Also key are industry partners who have driven innovation for the past century and will continue to do so into the future.

But behind the scenes, the admiral added, it all hinges on families, whom he called "the true strength behind our uniform and our service and our enterprise."

Winnefeld got an opportunity to thank some of the pioneers behind this effort earlier this week when he visited USS Enterprise for its 50th anniversary celebration.

Known throughout the fleet as "The Big E," Enterprise was commissioned in Newport News, Va., on Nov. 25, 1961. The one-of-a-kind vessel, considered by many to be a marvel of modern engineering, is the only carrier in the Navy's fleet powered by eight nuclear reactors.

Beginning with the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Enterprise has served in almost every U.S. armed conflict since its commissioning.

Speaking at the Nov. 28 anniversary commemoration, Winnefeld told dozens of “plank owners” – original crew members -- and current and former Enterprise sailors and officers that he first laid eyes on the carrier he would later command on a National Geographic magazine cover in 1963.

"I remember thinking, 'There's something special about that,'" he told the group.

Little did he know at the time that he would lead "Big E" through its 18th deployment, which included combat operations in Afghanistan immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

Now scheduled to make its 22nd and final deployment this spring, Enterprise is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2015. Winnefeld its legacy set the standard for the future.

"I can only stand here and wonder what the next Enterprise will be," he said.

USS Chung-Hoon Returns Home

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin W. Sisco, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Hawaii

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) returned home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) from a six-month independent deployment Dec. 1.

Families, friends and co-workers of Sailors aboard the Chung-Hoon waited pierside for their loved ones to cross the brow as the ship pulled in.

"It was a really tough six months, but I really appreciate how he called me and we kept in contact," said Relonda Begay, who waited for her boyfriend. "I supported him, he supported me while I was in school, so I'm finally glad that our six months is up and he's coming back."

While on deployment, Chung-Hoon participated in several missions including Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines, Naval Engagement Activity Vietnam, and CARAT Singapore.

CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Lt. Harry Bednarczyk talked about coming back from a long and successful deployment.

"It feels overwhelming," said Bednarczyk. "I am glad to be back. I was really looking forward to coming around the bend with the blind signals and all the whistles going. It brought a tear to my eye knowing that I was finally home again."

The crew of more than 275 Sailors conducted ballistic missile defense operations, as well as maritime interdiction operations and theater security cooperation, supporting the nation's maritime strategy.

Panetta Welcomes Army Vet, Dancing Champion to Pentagon

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta yesterday hosted a multi-starred Pentagon welcome for recent celebrity Iraq War veteran and “Dancing with the Stars” champion Jose Rene “J.R.” Martinez.

Martinez, a former Army infantryman who was severely burned by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2003, also met with Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior leaders, said Doug Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

“As Martinez made his way down the corridor to Panetta's office,” Wilson said, “young military aides, seasoned officers and civilian assistants poured out of offices to meet and congratulate the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ winner -- who happily accommodated every request for a handshake or photo.”

During the brief visit, he added, Martinez also shook hands with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, who made clear his pride in Martinez as a national symbol of the determination and accomplishments of America's wounded warriors.

Martinez and partner Karina Smirnoff were crowned champions on the ABC television program after a final dancing competition against other contestants Nov. 22 in Los Angeles.

Panetta called Martinez on Nov. 25 to congratulate him on his victory and reiterate his conviction that Martinez stands as a testament to wounded warriors’ strength and resilience.

In 2003, Martinez was a 19-year-old Army infantryman assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. He was driving a Humvee there when the vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

Martinez suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body, including his face and hands.

He was evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany, and later transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he spent 34 months. He has undergone 33 cosmetic and skin-graft surgeries.

While in recovery, Martinez began to visit other patients in the hospital, sharing his story and listening to theirs. Since then, he has spoken to audiences at corporations, veterans groups, nonprofits and schools.

In 2008, Martinez landed a role as an Iraq war veteran on the ABC soap opera, “All My Children,” which led to his “Dancing with the Stars” appearances this year.

Martinez described his visit with Panetta for the Pentagon Channel.

“It was really cool,” he said. “There are a lot of important things happening right now outside J.R. Martinez, so for him and everyone else on his staff to take the time to meet with me was a tremendous honor.”

To Panetta, Martinez said, “Listen, I’m a soldier, I’ll always be a soldier, and I want to share the message from whatever platform that I have. As [the Defense Department is] hammering out ways to take care of our troops in different ways, I want to be able to find a way to express that to the general public.”

Martinez said he never could have imagined such a meeting at the Pentagon back when he joined the Army in 2002.

“It just goes to show that things happen in life,” he said. “As we continue to walk through our life after the adversity, our heads naturally are down because we’re grieving through that process.

“But it’s important for us to pick our heads up through that process,” the former infantryman continued, “because then you see opportunities, you see great things that could potentially be a new beginning for you.”

On Dec. 4 Martinez will visit Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the 101st Airborne Division, where he was stationed before deploying to Iraq.

“I’ve been getting a lot of military support throughout this whole process of being on the show,” he said, “so it’s important for me when I’m close to any kind of base to go and visit these troops and their families and say thank you, sign some autographs, take some pictures and just hang out.”

Martinez said he thought meeting with his military friends would be “a lot tougher” after the Dancing with the Stars win.

“I thought I was going to get a lot of grief from my military friends about wearing rhinestones and ballroom shoes with two-inch heels,” Martinez said. “I thought I was going to get a lot of grief from that, but I guess they kind of left me alone because they’re like, ‘He actually can dance so we have no way to mess with him.’”

The feedback Martinez has received from the troops “has been overwhelming in a positive way,” he said. Troops have told him it’s great to see a fellow soldier succeed, he said, and to see him use his celebrity to be a voice for U.S. troops and their families.

Martinez’s next celebrity appearance is on Jan. 2, 2012, when he will serve as grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses New Year’s Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Martinez said he’s also working on a book and wants to continue acting and doing motivational speaking.

“I’m booking myself a lot right now to travel the country and share the message of perseverance and positivity and faith,” he said.

Those activities “work together in a lot of ways,” Martinez said, and provide a platform for him to raise awareness about U.S. service members and their families.

“I have been able to be a role model and a voice for a lot of [troops] who don’t feel that they have a voice for themselves,” Martinez said.

“I’ve been able to be a source of inspiration to the families as well,” he added, “to say good things do happen and you’ve just got to be patient and have a great attitude.”

Panetta, Defense Leaders Celebrate Naval Aviation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta commemorated the 100th anniversary of naval aviation last night, praising military aviators’ boldness and courage and expressing hope that Congress will draw inspiration from it in tackling the nation’s financial challenges.

Speaking at the Naval Aviation Centennial Gala here, the secretary expressed concern about additional, automatic across-the-board cuts the Defense Department could face if Congress doesn't take action in the next year.

Those cuts, if implemented, would undercut all of the department's strategy-driven efforts, he said, and he called on Congress to draw inspiration from the aviation community and put partisanship aside to find a solution to the country's fiscal problems.

"If our aviators, if our men and women in uniform, are willing to put their lives on the line, are willing to fight and to die for this country, then surely our elected leaders should be able to take a small risk in order to do what's right for this country," he said.

Panetta joined a long list of aviation luminaries and military and defense leaders in paying tribute to the achievements naval aviators have made since aviation pioneer Eugene Ely first launched from the bow of the Navy test ship Pennsylvania in 1911.

“Boldness has been at the heart of our aviators ever since,” he said, and remains critical as aviation assets provide a capability “absolutely essential to projecting power overseas.”

While providing “an unrivaled force” on the seas, the secretary noted, their contribution also extends inland. “In Afghanistan, hundreds of miles from the nearest sea, carrier aviation assets account for fully half of all air combat missions and one-third of close air support for our troops in contact with the enemy,” he said.

Meanwhile, aviation assets provide critical relief in times of crisis, he added, recalling his visit last month to USS Blue Ridge, which dispatched helicopters loaded with food, water and supplies via helicopter after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

“All this takes a talented team of more than just pilots,” Panetta said. He recognized the forward air controllers, logistics specialists, maintainers, rescue swimmers, crew chiefs and weapons system specialist who are integral parts of the naval aviation community.

“They, too, are the heroes we celebrate tonight,” he said.

That boldness will remain critical to maintaining air superiority into the future, he told the group. “We need the entire military to be bold – to take the offensive, to innovate, to embrace risk,” he said.

That, Panetta said, includes adapting -- not only to a changing strategic environment, but also to a new period of fiscal constraint.

As the department focuses on building a strong military for the future while meeting its fiscal responsibilities, Panetta offered assurance that it will remain the world’s best military while keeping faith with troops and their families.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. all joined Panetta last night in paying tribute to a century of naval aviation.

Mabus noted the vision that has guided naval aviation for the past century. "[It] has adapted, grown and evolved over the past 100 years," he said. "It is continuing to do so, and due to the courage, skill and professionalism of every sailor and marine, naval aviation will remain an integral part of the most formidable expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known."

Greenert recognized that people – not equipment or technology – are the heart of naval aviation. "As we turn our focus to the future, it is important that we remain focused on winning today and in the future, always work together to provide offshore options for our nation, and utilize our diverse and talented force responsibly when employing our resources," he said.

Dunford, who said he has witnessed aviators flying into harm's way to support troops under attack or provide lifesaving medical evacuation support, thanked the community for its strict code of honor to its comrades.

Papp recognized the commitment aviators repeatedly demonstrate as they put themselves into harm’s way to protect or save others.

Winnefeld, a career aviator, congratulated the aviation community for its first century of successes and looked to the future with a live video feed from USS George H.W. Bush as it transits home after its first deployment.

“You are the best,” Panetta summarized in his address to the aviation community. “You are great citizens. You are great warriors. You are great patriots.”

Navy Welcomes New Surgeon General

Navy Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan stepped into the role of 37th Navy Surgeon General in a ceremony at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center-Bethesda, Nov. 18.  Doing so, he assumed the role of top uniformed medical professional for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the chief of Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

Nathan addressed the military medical community in a blog on Navy Medicine Live Nov. 29, thanking the community for their service, leadership and accomplishments to date.

 “Though numerous challenges abound, I sleep better at night given the leadership team I inherited,” Nathan said.

He went on to address the issues of combat casualty care, support for the war fighter, readiness, value, health care informatics, joint operations and global engagements.  Nathan also wrote about a continuing strategic vision to maintain the equities and capabilities of Navy medicine.

 “I am encouraged by the opportunities and the shaping that will occur as we find our equilibrium with the evolving tactical and strategic imperatives,” Nathan said in conclusion.  “I am grateful we are shipmates and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves together and doing what we do best, providing ‘World-Class Care… Anytime, Anywhere!’”

DOD Observes World AIDS Day, Notes Contributions

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2011 – The Defense Department is commemorating World AIDS Day today with a broad range of activities aimed at helping more than 70 partner militaries with their prevention, care and treatment programs.

“Leading with Science, Uniting for Action,” the theme of this year’s worldwide commemoration, describes how U.S. military members work hand in hand with militaries around the world to address the disease, said Matthew Brown, deputy director of the Defense Department’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program.

The Naval Health Research Center in San Diego serves as DOD’s executive agent providing technical assistance, management and administrative support for the program.

DOD has provided partner militaries support, technical assistance and resources for their own programs since 2001. That effort expanded in 2003, Brown said, with the launch of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

The five-year governmentwide program, managed by the State Department, proved so successful that it was extended in 2008 for another five years, through 2013, Brown reported. Meanwhile, its funding more than doubled, from $15 billion -- the largest commitment any country had ever made to combat a single disease -- to $38 billion for the second five-year period.

DOD’s role in the broader U.S. government program, conducted in cooperation with geographic combatant commanders and embassy defense attaches, enhances what Brown calls “health security cooperation.”

It’s critical to promoting security and stability, he said, because governments realize that the prevalence of AIDS weakens governments, militaries and economies.

“HIV tackles the youngest, most productive segment of the population, and it hobbles the society’s ability to function,” Brown said. “This is exactly true in the military, because the military draws from this same population that is most at risk for HIV.”

That recognition makes nations eager to become partners in the program. “They want to work with us on HIV because it is such a devastating problem,” Brown said. “They want assistance and they want collaboration with the U.S. government.”

Working with foreign militaries, predominantly in Africa but also in Central and South America, Central Asia and the Pacific, teams assigned to DOD’s HIV/AIDs Prevention Program focus education and prevention.

They spend about 80 percent of their time on the road, meeting with their foreign military counterparts and providing technical assistance and support, Brown said.

The scope of the cooperation varies country by country, from periodic conferences and meetings to full-time representation on the ground.

But regardless of the size of the individual program, Brown said, partner nations benefit from new research and lessons the U.S. military has learned in identifying, treating and preventing HIV within its ranks.

“We are able to share 25 years’ worth of experience with HIV in the U.S. Department of Defense and in our services with the host country department of defense and their various services,” Brown said. “What we are trying to do is provide the learning curve.”

While progress continues in developing an HIV/AIDS vaccine, Brown said the most promising way to address the problem now is through education and treatment.

“We know exactly how it is transmitted, and we know how to prevent it,” he said. “And it is 100 percent preventable.”

Identifying people who are HIV-positive is an important first step. “The literature shows that if you are affected with HIV and don’t know, you are far more likely to transmit it,” often as much as five-fold, he said. “If you simply know that you are HIV-positive, your transmission risk goes down.”

Another effective prevention tool being promoted by many partner nations is male circumcision. Circumcised males are 30 percent less likely to transmit HIV than those who aren’t, Brown said. “In the absence of a vaccine, that’s the most effective prevention strategy we have, other than just knowing that you are infected,” he said.

Partner nations share state-of-the-art developments regarding HIV and AIDS during biennial conferences sponsored by the Defense Department’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program. Mozambique will host the next one, scheduled for early May.

Meanwhile, the additional staff of the Naval Medical Center San Diego provides foreign military health-care providers training in HIV treatment being provided there.

Thanks to the PEPFAR program, that same level of treatment -- which consists of daily medication and close medical monitoring -- is now available to an additional 2.7 million people around the world. “The fact that we have free treatment available in these countries is just an amazing accomplishment,” Brown said.

An epidemiologist who has spent the past 11 years focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and care in Ivory Coast, Haiti, Beijing and Kazakhstan before arriving in San Diego two years ago, Brown said he’s excited about progress made and what’s ahead.

“We have come so far and really know so much more now,” he said. “This is really an extremely exciting time where we have the knowledge and tools to be able to arrest the spread of the largest scourge that the world has seen -- the AIDS epidemic.”