Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Message to Pearl Harbor Survivors

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta

Seventy years ago on a December morning, our nation sustained a cruel and destructive attack at Pearl Harbor.  Our enemies thought that by this sudden and deliberate raid, they could weaken America.  Instead, they only strengthened it.  That day truly awoke a sleeping giant.

As we join you in remembering the events of December 7, 1941, we honor you and your fallen comrades for your indomitable will – and we remember the sacrifice and shared purpose of the American people, as well as the strength of our elected and military leaders during the war.

December 7, 1941 was indeed a day that will live in infamy.  But in the memories of that day we continue to draw determination and conviction to protect our freedoms, to sacrifice for our fellow citizens, and to serve a purpose larger than self.  You, the survivors of Pearl Harbor and of the war that followed, embody this conviction, this determination to raise high the torch of freedom and sacrifice.  From your stories, posterity records for all subsequent generations the emotion, the heroism, and the tragedy of a harrowing attack and the titanic struggle that would later unfold.

As a young boy, I remember seeing troops move through Fort Ord during the war years in Monterey, California.  My parents would invite soldiers into our home for Christmas dinner, and I remember seeing young men from all over the country about to go to war.  And I remember thinking in that uncertain time: “This is going to be the last opportunity these young men have to enjoy the comforts of home for a long time.”

You are the veterans of that greatest generation.  You have lived full lives and witnessed years of great prosperity because of the freedom you helped to secure for America and her allies.  I know you take great pride, as I do, that your legacy lives on in today’s men and women in uniform, who have borne the burden of a decade of war, and who are truly this nation’s next greatest generation.  The 9/11 generation, like you, has stepped forward in your image of service and sacrifice, volunteering for military duty after another sudden and terrible attack on our shores.

We treasure you.  You have brought everlasting credit to your fallen comrades.  The men and women in today’s military stand on the shoulders of your individual and combined sacrifice and service to our nation.  Your example inspires those in uniform today, strengthens our nation’s moral fiber, and proves that with united resolve our country can surmount any challenge.  Thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your endless zeal to see to it that our children and grandchildren can pass along a better life to the next generation.  This has always been the American dream, a dream we can realize because of the determination of our citizens to defend it.

God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America.

Officials Announce Absentee Voting Guidelines

Federal Voting Assistance Program News Release
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2011 – The Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Military Postal Service Agency yesterday announced absentee ballot mailing date guidelines that apply to various overseas locations.
Military members serving overseas and other U.S. citizens living abroad must consider mail transit times when submitting their absentee ballots to vote in upcoming presidential, Senate, House, gubernatorial, state legislature, local and other elections.
The 2012 U.S. presidential election, for example, will be held Nov. 6, 2012.
Officials recommend that absentee voters sending ballots from the following countries mail them out no later than:
-- Iraq: 22 days before the election;
-- Afghanistan (excluding air stop locations), Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Turkmenistan: 17 days before the election;
-- Germany: 11 days before the election;
-- Afghanistan air stop locations, Bahrain, Cuba, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates: 10 days before the election; and
-- Japan, Korea and the Philippines: seven days before the election.
For a full list of absentee ballot mailing dates for overseas locations, visit
Military members serving overseas may express mail their absentee ballots free of charge from any APO/FPO/DPO or American embassy and consulate -- ask to use the Express Mail Label 11-DoD. This label allows voters to track their ballots at
The federal write-in absentee ballot is used as a backup ballot. Thirty days prior to an election, if voters believe they’ll not receive their state ballot in time to vote and return it, they can vote using the FWAB. This ballot is accepted by all states from any overseas or military voter who has registered and requested a ballot for 2012.

Face of Defense: Airman Saves Musical Treasure

By Air Force Capt. Amy Hansen
Air Force News Service

WAKE ISLAND AIRFIELD, Wake Island, Dec. 6, 2011 – In a tale straight from an adventure book, contractors on this tiny Pacific island recently stumbled upon a vinyl record collection with an estimated value between $90,000 and $250,000.

The 611th Air Support Group's Detachment 1 is making a comprehensive effort to preserve the nearly 9,000 vintage vinyl records and ship them to their rightful owner, the American Forces Radio and Television Service in Alexandria, Va., according to Master Sgt. Jean-Guy Fleury, the detachment's infrastructure superintendent, who took over the project from the former Detachment 1 commander, Maj. Aaron Wilt.

No digging was required to access this treasure, as the records were cataloged and neatly organized on shelves in a small room on the second floor of the airfield’s base operations building. The door was conspicuously stenciled with the name of a radio station, KEAD, and a "Restricted Area Warning" sign, which kept most people out.

"That's a locked room, normally, but people in my department have known the records were there for years," said Colin Bradley, the communications superintendent with Chugach Federal Solutions Inc. CFSI is the contractor that manages operations on Wake Island with the oversight of Air Force quality assurance personnel.

"Because of the completeness of the collection, I assumed it was quite valuable," Bradley said. "I have not run across a collection that well preserved or that intact in my career. It's a little time capsule."

The collection includes a variety of vinyl albums and records specially made for military audiences, as well as some commercially available records.

"In 1942, the American Forces Radio Service was starting to get American music out to the troops overseas," said Larry Sichter, the American Forces Network Broadcast Center’s affiliate relations division chief. "Some of the radio productions were original, like GI Jill and Command Performance, and have significant value."

The exact operational dates of the low-powered AM station on Wake Island remain unclear, but Bradley shared his estimate.

"I would guess that [KEAD] started in the ’60s, due to the dates on the records," he said.

According to a 2007 Internet entry by Patrick Minoughan, who was stationed on Wake Island from 1963 to 1964, KEAD was operating in 1963.

"On the second floor of the then-new terminal building was a very small AFRTS radio station," Minoughan wrote. "AFRTS had no personnel there, but sent in monthly shipments of music. While I was there, one of the communications guys named Steve Navarro would do a daily show for a couple of hours. When it was unattended, anyone could go in and play the records, which were broadcast on the island."

AFRTS was able to get permission to use the work of many artists, and later actors, for free, Sichter said. Therefore, the records were copyrighted and only to be used for their official purpose of entertaining the troops overseas, and then returned to AFRTS.

Since Wake Island Airfield is on a 1,821-acre atoll located about 2,000 miles west of Hawaii and 2,000 miles east of Japan, it is possible that the cost and logistics of returning the records to the mainland were prohibitive when the radio station was shut down, officials said.

So now, about 30 years after the last record was spun on KEAD, Fleury is spearheading the operation to ship the records back to AFRTS. He has estimated that it will take about 75 16-inch-by-16-inch boxes, and about $10,000 worth of specialized material to properly pack up the records. AFRTS is providing the materials and Detachment 1 will do the packing, he said.

The records will be used to fill any gaps in the American Forces Network’s local museum, Sichter said, and the rest of the collection will be entered into either the Library of Congress or the National Archives to become a permanent piece of U.S. history, accessible to all.

Country Music Group 'Emerson Drive' Entertains Guantanamo Bay

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justin Ailes Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) at Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, presented celebrity country music group Emerson Drive, Dec. 3.

The Grammy-nominated act performed at the Downtown Lyceum as part of the installation's annual holiday parade and Christmas celebration.

"What a great way to kick off the holiday season," said MWR Community Activities Director Amiee MacDonnell. "Events like these are important to give the community a way to start the holidays in an enjoyable way for everyone."

Emerson Drive entertained the community with their recent singles, "Moments" and "Fall Into Me," before inviting children in the audience on-stage to sing along with classic Christmas songs.

"We chose a country act for the holiday performance based on customer feedback from our last entertainment survey," said MacDonnell. "Emerson Drive appealed to all audiences and this was a truly special holiday performance."

Family Matters Blog: ‘Budget Fatigue’ Can Lead to Holiday Debt

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Last night I hopped on the Internet with the intention of buying a few gifts. Money, as always, is tight, so I figured I could go bargain hunting without wasting time or gas.

As colorful, enticing images of gift possibilities danced across the screen, I swiftly shot from site to site, half a dozen windows open at a time, comparing prices and swooping in to buy more and more.

I felt exhilarated. I was spending guilt-free for the first time in years. I was clicking buttons rather than forking out cash, and that’s OK, right?

My bank account told another story when I accessed it later that night.

Today I learned I had fallen victim to a phenomenon known in some financial circles as “budget fatigue.”

It’s easy to get frustrated and tired of tight purse strings, particularly after years of economical setbacks, and decide to let loose over the holidays. But today’s spending excess is tomorrow’s debt hangover.

In a recent article, Dan Radovsky of USAA offers some tips to combat this trend:

-- Know your budget. Be realistic about what you have to spend, make a gift-giving list and stick to it, whether shopping in a store or online. If you’ve been on a strict budget all year, don’t veer off course now.

-- Paper or plastic? The payment method you use can have a big impact on the final cost of the gift. If you decide to charge now and pay later, high interest rates and late fees can take an expensive toll. You may end up spending a lot more than you intended. Plus, what’s the point of bargain hunting if you end up with fees tacked on? An expert suggests people who want to use plastic stick to a debit card, but even then be wary of piling up teller machine fees.

-- Try layaway. Layaway plans encourage early shopping and enable people to spread out the financial burden over a period of time rather than have it hit all at once. These plans may involve a small fee, but that won’t come close to a credit card’s interest rates and late fees.

Bottom line, Radovsky said, is to avoid letting budget fatigue nudge common sense aside. Have fun, but within limits.

Now that I’m a smarter shopper, I’m off to reduce the damage of my Internet shopping spree so I can get back on my budget track.

Service members and their families can learn more about smart spending on Military OneSource or through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, a government office dedicated to protecting service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls.

If you have some tried-and-true holiday smart spending tips, don’t hesitate to share.

For more posts like this one, visit AFPS' Family Matters Blog.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Honors Tuskegee Airmen

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardel Gervacio, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Whidbey Island

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) hosted a visit from World War II Tuskegee Airmen and an exclusive showing of "Red Tails," a Lucas Film about the Tuskegee Airmen, at the Skywarrior Theater, Dec. 6.

In "Red Tails," a film scheduled for release in 2012 about the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-African American group of pilots that fought in World War II, are called into duty under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard.

During World War II, the U.S. military was racially segregated. Reflecting American society and law at the time, most black soldiers and Sailors were restricted to labor battalions and other support positions.

An experiment in the U.S. Army Air Forces, however, showed that given opportunity and training, African-Americans could pilot, command and support combat units as well as anyone.

The event included Tuskegee Airmen, Capt. George Hickman and Lt. Col. Edward Drummond, members of the Tuskegee Airmen Youth Camp, Youth in Aviation and Sam Bruce Tuskegee Airman Chapter.

On hand to promote the movie was producer Rick McCallum and actors Elijah Kelly and Marcus Paulk.

"I think it's great that Lucas Film has spent so much time and effort and that George (Lucas) really wanted to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airman," said Billy Hebert, a systems test technician at Boeing and a member of the Sam Bruce Chapter in Seattle. "It's just great that the film is finally getting out and that so many of the young people are seeing these men and their accomplishments."

Divided in four groups, the morning included tours of NASWI Search and Rescue, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2 and the Aviation Survival Training Center at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island,and lunch at the Admiral Nimitz Hall Dining Facility, followed by flight operation demonstrations.

After the base tour, the tour group gathered at the Skywarrior Theater for a special prescreening of Red Tails.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. As an African-American, this is a great part of my history...the Tuskegee Airmen have paved the way for me as a minority to be in the military and do great things," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Psyleth D. Gilroy of Cunningham, Tenn., assigned to Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The Tuskegee Airmen, a pioneering and highly decorated World War II African-American aviator unit gained its name during training at the US Army airfield near Tuskegee, Ala., and at the Tuskegee Institute.

The unit was activated as the 99th Pursuit Squadron and later formed the 332nd Fighter Group (with the 100th, 301st and the 302nd squadrons). Nearly 1,000 black pilots emerged from training to fly P-39, P-40, P-47 and P-51 aircraft in more than 15,000 sorties in North Africa, Sicily and Europe.

On escort missions, it was the only unit that never lost a U.S. bomber. It shot down 11 enemy planes and destroyed 273 planes on the ground.

In a prepared speech, Capt. Jay Johnston, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island thanked everyone in attendance and acknowledged the heroic actions made by Tuskegee Airmen. There was also a question and answer session with the actors and producers before the start of the movie.

"I first heard of the Tuskegee Airmen 23 years (ago) when George (Lucas) told me that he wanted to make this film, believe it or not the Tuskegee Airmen are not in any single historical book in school or anywhere in the United States," said producer Rick McCallum. "The basic story of these incredible men, overcoming these extraordinary odds, and all they wanted to do was to have a chance to fight for their country. This story was so powerful as a story and as a film; it was a natural reason for us to do this."

The Tuskegee Airmen flew their first mission in the Mediterranean in 1943, later that year the Army activated three more squadrons. ,Joined with the 99th in 1944, they constituted the 332nd Fighter Group. The latter was the USAAF's only escort group that did not lose a bomber to enemy planes.

"After watching the film, I hope these kids take out exactly what these brave men went through despite any obstacle that is put in front of you," said Hebert. "You can achieve and go over and above the obstacle that was put there, and hopefully after seeing the movie, they'll respond to that and move forward."

A second black flying group, the 477th Bombardment Group was established near the end of the war, in all, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 1,578 missions, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, and won more than 850 medals.

Wisconsin Guard members part of unique holiday tribute to troops

By Sgt. Tiffany Addair
Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The holiday season took a memorable turn for approximately 300 service members and their families Saturday (Dec. 3) - including Wisconsin National Guard members - thanks to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's Holiday Express, a vintage passenger train.

For the past four years, BNSF has invited military members and their families as guests on board the Holiday Express, as a gesture of thanks for their service and sacrifice.

"This program is specifically designed to honor military families," said Andrew K. Johnsen, assistant vice president of state government affairs for BNSF. "[BNSF] recognizes that men and women in uniform make tremendous sacrifices for our nation and we also know service is recognized and praised, but all too often the sacrifices of family members gets lost in the shuffle. This is our way of saying thanks."

BNSF selects four or five states every year for the Holiday Express. This year the train - consisting of 13 cars and the locomotives - visited Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas.

In addition to the military member and family passengers, Gov. Scott Walker, commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard, Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, and Matt Rose, BNSF chief executive officer, were on the 90-minute train ride.

"It was an exciting moment watching the reactions of the children as the Holiday Express pulled into the makeshift station decorated with a red carpet and holiday scene," said Lisa Kluetz, family program director and event coordinator. "Once we boarded the train, it was especially nice that Gov. Walker took time out of his day to say thank you to each military family for their service and sacrifices and, along with BNSF Railroad, create a special and memorable family event."

Rose said the Holiday Express allows families to put their concerns aside for a moment and enjoy an experience many have not had before - riding a train.

"We have done it for several years over several cities and it is always the same result - a lot of kids and parents with smiles on their faces," Rose said. "It's a great way to kick off the holiday period."

The service members and their families enjoyed refreshments, holiday décor and a surprise visit from Santa, who gave all children on board a commemorative ornament to remember their ride on the Holiday Express.

"Each of the vintage train cars had been refurbished to create the wonderful excursion along the scenic Mississippi River," Kluetz said. "Each train had its own theme, complete with holiday decorations and refreshments. I am sure that the families will be talking about what a special moment that BNSF Railroad created to honor their service."

Tech Sgt. Brian Benzing, a jet engine mechanic with the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing, brought his wife, Fawn, and their four children to start off the holiday season.

"It's a great opportunity to bring our kids," Fawn said. "[Brian and I] planned on coming, but it was a last-minute surprise for the kids, so they were excited when they found out we were doing this today."
Sixteen percent of the BNSF workforce includes currently service members or veterans. The company donated $10,000 each to PROUD and Operation Home Front of Wisconsin, two organizations that support military families. Over the course of the route, BNSF donated $110,000 in support of military organizations.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Finds Final Resting Place at Pearl Harbor

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- On Dec. 5, two days before the 70th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day, a memorial ceremony was held for 81-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Jack Gordon Franklin, at the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island.

The ceremony included a short religious service, the scattering of ashes, and a three-volley rifle salute provided by the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Navy Detachment Honor Guard. A bugler from U.S. Pacific Fleet Band was also on hand to sound "Taps," and at the end of the ceremony a Sailor presented an American flag to Franklin's eldest daughter Joey Elaine Duncan.

"It was really beautiful," said Duncan. "I haven't stopped crying yet. It was a beautiful day too and I appreciate the military doing this for us. It just means so much. It's closure for us."

Franklin, who died July 12, 2005, was a 17-year-old Sailor aboard USS West Virginia (BB 48) during the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks.

Retired Command Master Chief James Taylor, a volunteer at Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs, hosted the ceremony and said Franklin expressed desire to his children to have his remains returned to Pearl Harbor so he could be with his friends and shipmates who were lost during the attack.

"Thanks to his three children- Joey, Tim and Pat- his wish has come true," said Taylor.

Born, on Jan. 31, 1924, Franklin joined the Navy a few days after his 17th birthday in January 1941. Franklin was a mess cook on West Virginia when the attack started. Duncan said when Franklin went topside he was wandering around the ship looking for people.

"A chief was the one who signaled him to get to the gun," said Duncan. "I haven't been able to find out but they used to call him Chief Smithy."

Franklin reached an anti-aircraft battery and fired the only shots from the battery during the raid. The West Virginia was hit by numerous torpedoes and two bombs. More than 100 crew members including the ship's commanding officer were killed that day.

Franklin continued to serve throughout the war effort, participating in major battles such as the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Coral Sea. He saw his last action at Buckner Bay in Okinawa, Japan, ducking Japanese Kamikaze planes.

Franklin was such a devout Christian that his shipmates called him "Holy Joe" because he preached to anyone who would listen. After serving, he dove into several ventures including ministry, operating a café, doing public relations work for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and managing an art gallery until his death in 2005. He is survived by Joey, Timothy and Patrice.

Panetta to Honor Pearl Harbor Dead, Salutes Attack Survivors

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Pearl Harbor survivors represent the best of America and serve as role models for the current generation that responded to another deadly surprise attack, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a message issued today to Pearl Harbor veterans.

Tomorrow, Panetta will place a wreath at the Navy Memorial here to remember the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded in the Japanese attack 70 years ago.

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation today naming tomorrow National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and urged all Americans to fly their flags at half staff in memory of those killed that day.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized an American public that had been leaning toward isolationism. “Our enemies thought that by this sudden and deliberate raid, they could weaken America,” Panetta said in his message. “Instead, they only strengthened it. That day truly awoke a sleeping giant.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Dec. 7, 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy” in asking Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan. On Dec. 11, 1941, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy declared war on the United States. The United States mobilized for the global conflict.

“In the memories of that day, we continue to draw determination and conviction to protect our freedoms, to sacrifice for our fellow citizens, and to serve a purpose larger than self,” Panetta said. “You, the survivors of Pearl Harbor and of the war that followed, embody this conviction, this determination to raise high the torch of freedom and sacrifice.”

The stories and records of the World War II generation are entering legend, and with around 3,000 living Pearl Harbor survivors, this anniversary is poignant.

“You have lived full lives and witnessed years of great prosperity because of the freedom you helped to secure for America and her allies,” the secretary continued. “I know you take great pride, as I do, that your legacy lives on in today’s men and women in uniform, who have borne the burden of a decade of war, and who are truly this nation’s next greatest generation.”

Like the Pearl Harbor survivors, the young men and women of the 9/11 generation stepped forward for military duty after another sudden and terrible attack on American shores. Today’s service members emulate the spirit of the generation that placed the American flag at the Elbe River in Germany, and raised it atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific.

“We treasure you,” Panetta said in his message to Pearl Harbor veterans. “You have brought everlasting credit to your fallen comrades. Your example inspires those in uniform today, strengthens our nation's moral fiber, and proves that with united resolve our country can surmount any challenge.”

Panetta thanked the veterans -- most now in their late 80s and 90s -- for their sacrifices “and for your endless zeal to see to it that our children and grandchildren can pass along a better life to the next generation.

“This has always been the American dream, a dream we can realize because of the determination of our citizens to defend it,” Panetta said.