Military News

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NASCAR Drivers Visit Guantanamo Bay

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

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- In coordination with United Service Organizations Inc. (USO); Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) on board Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, presented celebrity NASCAR drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Dec. 13.

The drivers were showcased during meet-and-greets and autograph signings at numerous locations on base, providing an opportunity for the community's racing enthusiast to meet celebrity NASCAR drivers.

"I'm pumped about being here," said Keselowski. "This is a great experience and opportunity to meet the men and women of Guantanamo Bay, and we are truly honored to meet our nation's service members."

Commander, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support Participates in Temple University MESA Event

By Margaret Kenyon-Ely, Naval Supply Systems Command Public Affairs

PHILADELPHIA (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Weapon Systems Support (WSS); participated in a holiday event celebrating the first graduating participants enrolled in Temple University's Math, Science and Engineering Achievement (MESA) program Dec. 9, in Philadelphia.

Rear Adm. John G. King addressed the MESA students during his opening remarks.

"Over the past couple of months, several NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support U.S. Navy Supply Corps Officers have taught Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), courses to MESA students such as yourselves, and these officers will continue to do so," said King. "We are all committed to the continued success of this program, especially as the U.S. Navy needs our future workforce to be skilled in these all-important areas."

The event, which also featured the announcement of the growing number of schools to be involved in the program in 2012, was attended by about 30 students and their families, representing six middle and two high schools in the Philadelphia region.

The 2012 Philadelphia MESA program will boast 400 students who represent 10 middle and five high schools in the area. By next December 2012, the program is projected to grow to 4,000 students state wide, with 75 percent of those students being from Philadelphia.

"By seizing the initiative, NAVSUP is now in a leadership role that will export this model of corporation to other DoD commands and their partner universities across Pennsylvania and the rest of the country," said Lt. Cmdr. Andre Sadowski, who is coordinating the NAVSUP WSS involvement in the program.

A field activity of the Naval Supply Systems Command, NAVSUP WSS is the U.S. Navy's supply chain manager providing worldwide support to the aviation, surface ship, and submarine communities. NAVSUP WSS provides Navy, Marine Corps, joint and allied forces with products and services that deliver combat capability through logistics. There are more than 2,000 civilian and military personnel employed at its two Pennsylvania sites. The NAVSUP WSS Philadelphia site supports aircraft, while its Mechanicsburg site supports ships and submarines.

Panetta to Reinforce Strong U.S.-Turkey Partnership

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 15, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived here today to reinforce the United States’ strong relationship with a critical security partner within the region and NATO.

Panetta traveled here after ceremonies in Iraq marking the end of the U.S. Forces Iraq mission, with stops also in Afghanistan and Djibouti.

In Ankara, the secretary will meet with President Abdullah Gul and Turkish defense leaders to thank them for their country’s leadership during a period of transition and change within the region.

“Turkey represents a key ally in the Middle East,” Panetta told reporters traveling with him.

In addition to being a strong NATO ally, Turkey is “extremely important to the ability to try to keep what is happening in the Middle East headed in the right direction,” he said.

“They can have an influence on what happens in Egypt, what happens in Iraq, what happens in Iran, what happens in Syria,” the secretary said.

Panetta noted that Turkey has taken a strong position in condemning Syria’s violent crackdown on protestors and calling for President Bashar Assad to step down.

“Turkey is coming on very strong in recent weeks in full alignment with our efforts and those of our key Arab and European partners,” a senior defense official traveling with Panetta told reporters.

The secretary also said he will commend Turkey’s decision to host the forward-based radar for the NATO missile defense system.

Panetta also is expected to thank the Turks for their contributions to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Also during the visit, the secretary is expected to express the United States’ solidarity in its fight against the PKK terrorists and ways to continue that support as U.S. forces complete their drawdown in Iraq, the official said.

Echoing a theme he raised earlier this month, the secretary is likely to encourage Turkey to strengthen and, where necessary, build relations with key neighbors, including Israel, Armenia and Cyprus, the official said.

Coronado Holds Safety Stand Down

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Spencer Mickler, Naval Base Coronado Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors stationed aboard Naval Base Coronado (NBC) attended a holiday safety stand down briefing at the base theatre, Dec. 14.

The holiday safety stand down is an annual event held by the NBC Safety Office to help minimize the risk of potential accidents or injuries during the holidays.

"This event was all about preparing the Sailors and civilians aboard NBC to have a safe holiday," said Ryan Hilliard, NBC safety specialist. "We wanted to raise awareness of holiday hazards like suicide, fires and drunk driving."

The safety stand down marks the beginning of the holiday leave period in which many Sailors travel out of state to be with family and friends.

"We provide tips on safe travel, traffic safety, fire prevention and suicide prevention," said Gwenevere Ray, NBC safety director. "We want everyone to have a safe and happy Christmas."

"The brief was good for everyone, it gives us all an idea of what to expect when leaving the base and going on leave," said Mater-at-Arms 1st Class (EXW/SW/AW) Michael Daley. "We hear things like this from our friends and family, but it's good to hear it come from the chain of command."

The Safety office brought in guest speakers from the California Highway Patrol, Fleet and Family Support Center, Federal Fire, and special guest retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt., and actor, R. Lee Ermey.

Ermey, who has acted in the film "Full Metal Jacket," joined as a special guest speaker to encourage Sailors to be safe. After the brief, Ermey stayed to sign autographs and take photos with Sailors.

"It's awesome to have someone who's put on a uniform and served in the military come back and see us after they've become famous," said Daley.

The holiday stand down will continue until after the New Year.

For more information about holiday safety aboard NBC, contact the Safety Office at (619) 545-1049.

Giving Tree Angels Donate Gifts for 1,100 Local Children

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danian Douglas, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Midshipmen, faculty and staff aboard the U.S. Naval Academy helped make a brighter holiday this year for many local children during their annual Giving Tree project which ended Dec. 12.

The team of midshipmen from 6th Company who organized the event, collected gifts for approximately 1,100 children - 400 more than last year - to be distributed to underprivileged families in the Annapolis area.

Gifts ranged from musical instruments to clothes, to a number of bicycles and scooters, with an estimated total value of more than $50,000.

Paper angels decorating the Giving Tree contained the names, ages and gift requests of local children. Midshipmen, faculty, staff and visitors to the academy were encouraged to choose a card and provide a gift for that child. Gifts were left under the tree for the Salvation Army to collect and distribute.

Midshipman 2nd Class Ricky Rodriguez described the experience as very humbling and noted two unique ways the program benefits the academy and midshipmen.

"Not only is it a tourist attraction, but having this program in conjunction with the Salvation Army right here at the academy provides midshipmen with the opportunity to volunteer service to their community without leaving the campus," said Rodriguez.

Originally created by the Midshipmen Action Group in 1992 to fulfill the needs of children in the local community, sponsorship of the project was taken over by 6th Company in 1998, and has been growing annually.

"We sent out numerous e-mails, created and displayed posters in strategic locations throughout the academy and sent out a public service announcement," said Midshipman 1st Class Kristen D. Tella, project coordinator. "This year, because we had so many more angels, we created a group page on Facebook which played a major role in our success.

"It's really important for the midshipmen to give back to the community because the city of Annapolis supports us in everything," Tella said. "It's also a good way for midshipmen to interact with people and to take responsibility."

Family Matters Blog: Enlisted Leaders Call for Better Financial Education

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2011 – I attended a financial fitness forum earlier this week that brought together representatives from the military and financial institutions to discuss how they can better financially empower and educate troops and their families.

Senior enlisted leaders from each service were invited to join a panel to speak about what they see as the greatest financial pitfalls for service members and their families and to offer input on how the government and private sectors can help.

As the leaders spoke, it became clear to me that while each service is separate and distinct, the financial issues are not.

Troops and their families, they said, face the same challenges as most Americans: getting by in a tough economy, housing market struggles and personal financial management issues.

Frequent moves and deployments can result in troubling housing issues for service members, noted Army Sgt. Maj. Thomas S. Gills, sergeant major to the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G1.

If they’re deployed or get orders to move and can’t sell their house, they typically rent it out. But that can be a nightmare, he said, if a troop is deployed or is living too far away to keep an eye on the property. “That’s gnawing away at you and at the same time we have very high standards and expectations for our soldiers, noncommissioned officers and leaders,” he said.

Navy Command Master Chief Scott Fleming, executive assistant to the master chief petty officer of the Navy, noted the proliferation of used car lots, payday lenders and pawn shops outside the gates of many military installations. People assume everyone knows that some of these businesses may be shady, he said, “but does that knowledge really exist?”

Technology now offers questionable lenders a way to also reach inside the gate. It’s all-too easy to find financial deals, as well as outright scams, on the Internet, said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Frank, special assistant to the chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

The leaders all called for better financial education and information that’s tailored to a young generation. “Sitting in an auditorium and getting death by PowerPoint doesn’t work with today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines,” Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett said.

And it’s got to be information that makes sense rather than a flood of overwhelming information, said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt. Finding ways to reach troops and their families will require leadership at all levels, he added.

At the same time, the military needs to keep in mind the older service member who isn’t confronting issues such as purchasing a first car or home, said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, National Guard Bureau’s senior enlisted leader. “We also have to take into consideration that service member that is perhaps providing for an elderly parent or grandparent,” she said. The Guard has instituted programs to help, but there’s “always more that we can do.”

The leaders expressed their gratitude that forums such as this one are spotlighting the importance of financial education and awareness.

The military welcomes all the help it can get regarding financial issues, Gills said. “Our young men and women ... -- deployed, redeployed and deployed again -- shouldn’t have to worry about how they’re going to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families.”

If you’re looking to become more financially fit, contact Military OneSource or your installation financial advisor.

'GITMO 8' Trains Sailors to Save Lives

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel J. Meshel, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- The risk of injury during day-to-day operations while USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is underway in the Atlantic Ocean Dec. 5-14, presents a possible threat to the welfare of the crew and the success of the ship's mission.

To better prepare for accidental injury, Sailors aboard Enterprise are participating in a training series, known as "GITMO 8," which covers the treatment of the most common wounds and injuries.

GITMO 8 provides Sailors with knowledge to recognize and treat injuries such as amputations, sucking chest wounds and fractures. These guidelines for treatment allow all Sailors to be first responders in the event medical personnel are unable to reach the victims.

"The training was recorded and will be broadcast to the crew to help better prepare and train Sailors for mass casualty situations," said Lt. Darcy R. Guerricagoitia, Enterprise ship's nurse.

Guerricagoitia said the Medical department aboard the ship is one of the smallest departments and training Sailors to be first-responders during a mass casualty situation increases the chances of an injured shipmate receiving life-saving treatment.

"We've tried to make sure that we have disseminated [GITMO 8] throughout the entire crew," said Capt. Roderick L. Clayton, USS Enterprise physical therapist. "We don't want them to have to think too hard, because when the adrenaline starts pumping, sometimes you forget exactly what it is you are supposed to do for a given type of injury."

Using theatrical make-up and prosthesis to reproduce wounds found within the GITMO 8 training, Sailors recreate scenarios and injuries for maximum realism.

"We want to make it as realistic as possible so that if something were to happen, all [Enterprise Sailors] will understand how they can support medical by being first responders," said Clayton.

Along with training, Sailors are given itemized cards with a detailed template for responding to specific injuries found in the GITMO 8 training. Sailors are recommended to always keep a copy with them.

"They can pull the card out and go step-by-step to help treat wounds and potentially save their shipmate's life," said Guerricagoitia.

"We hope that everyone takes this training seriously, because one day, and it's not a matter of 'if,' but 'when,' you'll have to step in and save a Sailor's life," said Clayton.

Live From Kosovo: The mission begins

Sgt. 1st Class Jim Wagner
157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs

As the last plane rolled down the tarmac in Kosovo, it marked the end of one part of our journey and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our year-long deployment.

I’m one of approximately 200 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers of Headquarters Company, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and the 32th Military Police Company who are taking part in Operation Joint Guardian, a United Nations mission to bring safety and security to the people of Kosovo, a country that declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 after years of bitter fighting.

Our mission is conducted out of Camp Bondsteel, headquarters for Multi-National Battle Group-East, and we’re responsible for the safety and security of approximately half the country of Kosovo. Another U.N. Unit, MNBG-W, is responsible for the other half of the country, with overall authority for Kosovo Forces in Pristina, the Kosovo capital.

We’ve spent nearly three months — since Sept. 12 — training and getting our medical and personnel affairs in order to get where we are today. For some of us, it was the first time we’ve been away from home; for others, this is the latest in a long history of deployments. Either way, all of us were missing our families and friends back home and trying to make the best of living in barracks and eating Army chow hall food.

Our first stop was Camp Atterbury, Ind., where we received our final medical and personnel clearance, as well as Kosovo-specific training, to include weapons qualification. In early November, we were flown to Hohenfels U.S. Army Garrison, Germany, to receive more training. The Army’s premise for training is crawl, walk, run. Where Camp Atterbury was the crawl stage of training, Germany was where we started walking, pulling 12-hour-plus shifts daily for three weeks, training to staff operational maneuvers.

Now that we’re in Kosovo, it’s time to run.

But before we started our run, Thanksgiving awaited us after a more than 36-hour transport from Germany to Kosovo — a welcome respite after going full-tilt for nearly three months with limited down time. While it will never compare with Thanksgiving at home with the family, we were treated to a fantastic spread of turkey, ham, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce and a blizzard of deserts.

Our living quarters are a little cramped right now as we go through the “left seat/right seat” changeover from the unit we’re replacing. Called the “crunch plan,” HHC, 157th MEB, is doubled up on sleeping quarters until the other unit leaves and we can spread out into our regular billeting plan. All things relative, billeting is better than most deployments I’ve been on in the past. All rooms are either 16 feet by 32 feet or 16 feet by 16 feet, depending on the Soldier’s rank and how many roommates share the room. (And after weeks sleeping in a bunk bed in an open-bay barracks, a bed with sheets seems a luxury!)

The weather is remarkably similar to Wisconsin, and we were greeted to 30-degree weather when we touched down in Pristina. Since then, the weather has been blustery and cloudy, with a very rare — and welcome — display of the sun Saturday afternoon. No snow yet, but we’ve been warned — with a shudder from our New Mexico-based counterparts who rarely see freezing temperatures, much less snow — it will be arriving any day now.

For two weeks we trained up to assume the duties of our respective jobs. Our unit officially took over operations at the Dec. 10 Transfer of Authority ceremony, when Col. Jeffrey Liethen assumed command of MNBG-E.

Want to know more about our mission and how we’re getting along here at Camp Bondsteel? Post a question below.

More to follow…

Naval Base Point Loma Participates in 'Wreaths Across America'

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justin L. Webb, Naval Base Point Loma Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 1,200 service members, veterans and civilians arrived at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to lay nearly 3,000 wreaths on the graves of fallen troops Dec. 10.

These volunteers were participating in the 19th annual nationwide event, which is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies on the second Saturday of December at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as veterans' cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.

This year's keynote speaker was retired Navy Seal Rear Adm. Raymond Smith, who took a few moments to reflect on the more than 105,000 service members and merchant marines laid to rest in Fort Rosecrans.

"This ceremony, which is being played out across our nation today, is a powerful indication that amidst the challenges we face in our nation all of us recognize that we must frequently stop our own busy lives and look to the past for inspiration and courage," he said. "Today we honor them all! Whether they served four years or forty years, there is no distinction. For the raising of one's right hand and swearing of one's allegiance to our nation and its citizens is sufficient to be recognized."

Commanding Officer Naval Base Point Loma Capt. Scott Adams participated in this year's event, and was able to place a ceremonial wreath on a wreath stand as a tribute to fallen Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Merchant Marines laid to rest in Fort Rosecrans and throughout the world.

"I was proud to represent the Navy while recognizing the sacrifices of the service members who have gone before me," said Adams. "However, more to the point of the day I believe, I was thankful for the men and women laid to rest on Rosecrans Hill and for the thousands more they represent who, refusing to be bystanders, took an active role in defending our freedom."

Engineman 3rd Class Kenitha Taylor, who volunteered for her second consecutive "Wreaths Across America" this year was honored to be involved in the ceremony.

"Being able to come here and pay tribute to the people who laid down their lives for us, puts what I'm doing more into perspective," she said. "I could one day be at risk, and it makes me proud to be a part of something bigger. This is what I do every day. It got emotional of course to think about the people who died for the freedoms we have."

Enterprise Hosts Distinguished Visitors While Underway

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristin L. Grover, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is showcasing her Sailors and missions as the ship supports the Navy's Distinguished Visitor (DV) program.

DV embarkations are intended to increase awareness of the Navy's mission while highlighting the dedicated and professional service of its Sailors.

Enterprise hosted two such visits Dec. 10-12 while underway in the Atlantic Ocean for carrier qualifications. During these embarks, nearly 20 civilian leaders in business, government and finance toured the ship and got an inside look at shipboard operations.

"The distinguished visitors who come aboard Enterprise are from all walks of life," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark D. Kurtz, V-3 division officer. "When they depart the ship, they leave with a true sense of appreciation and amazement that they bring back to their jobs, giving them a renewed focus on supporting the Navy and our overall mission."

Guests are flown onto the ship in a carrier onboard delivery aircraft and spend a very busy 24 hours on the aircraft carrier. While onboard, the visitors get an in-depth experience of the aircraft carrier's primary function - launching and recovering aircraft.

DVs get a firsthand view of naval aviation and the constant action taking place aboard Enterprise from the flight deck, primary flight control, arresting gear and catapult spaces, a squadron "ready room", and the Carrier Air Traffic Control Center.

Kurtz said that visitors are always excited to watch flight operations and are impressed by the amount of coordination and activity on the flight deck.

An aircraft carrier is truly a "city at sea," and visitors can get a sense of what it takes to support the crew with visits to the ship's medical and dental department, the many dining facilities, the ship's chapel, Learning Resource Center, library, barber shops, and gyms.

Each department visited makes an effort to inform DVs about their individual responsibilities and the duties they perform.

"I want everyone who comes aboard to know that we are passionately dedicated to providing the highest standard of medical care to the great Americans who go to sea and defend our country's liberties," said Cmdr. Kevin J. Brown, senior medical officer. "I very much enjoy bragging about the amazing services that the young Sailors in our department are able to provide to their shipmates."

Allowing visitors to see the medical facilities available on the ship reassures the DVs that deployed Sailors will receive the same care they would back home.

Operating safely and accomplishing the carrier's mission requires many operational specialties and talented Sailors. Guests see a cross-section of some of what it takes to make the Enterprise run by visiting the navigation bridge and spaces such as the jet engine test shop, forecastle and machinery repair shop, and the weapons magazine.

Enterprise will be deploying on her 22nd deployment.

USS Oak Hill Ports Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

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

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) ported Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Dec. 13.

After completing its deployment in support of Amphibious Southern Partnership Station in the Caribbean area of operations, the ship arrived to conduct agricultural countermeasure wash downs of all embarked equipment before returning to the U.S.

"This is the first chance that most of my crew of 300 and the other 400 embarked Marines, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard personnel have ever had to visit Guantanamo Bay," said Oak Hill Commanding Officer Cmdr. David Bauer. "I am honored to have had the opportunity to sail the Mighty Oak into this port, and we all look forward to meeting those of you stationed here and enjoying this excellent location."

NS Guantanamo Bay's Port Operations department served as the primary point of contact for the visiting vessel, arranging all services while in port.

"This visit is important for the Oak Hill as they are heading home after a successful deployment, and an agricultural wash down is a requirement prior to their return," said NS Guantanamo Bay Port Operations Officer Lt. Shawn Ware. "This will also benefit our department as we will capture all information pertaining to agricultural wash downs. The Port Operations department will finish the visit armed with a canned brief for future ships as well as recommendations for codifying and improving the process going forward."

During the Amphibious Southern Partnership Station deployment, Oak Hill conducted missions in coordination with military forces in Colombia, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala.

Navy Cyber Forces, NETWARCOM Sailors Help Families Celebrate Christmas

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Aaron Strickland, Navy Cyber Forces Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors from Navy Cyber Forces (CYBERFOR) and Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM) volunteered to help two charities make Christmas a little brighter for hundreds of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., families, Dec. 12.

The group of 10 Sailors joined 150 military and civilian volunteers and Salvation Army staff, helped distribute toys, food, clothing and other gifts donated through the Salvation Army.

Called the Christmas Depot, the week-long charity event combines the Tidewater Area Salvation Army with the Tidewater area Marine Corps' annual Toys for Tots campaign. In all, more than 20,000 children in 8,500 families - more than 39,000 individuals in total - are expected to receive donated presents during the Christmas Depot from Dec. 12-20.

"No matter how big this world seems, we're still all one community," said volunteer Information Systems Technician 1st Class David Hart, originally from San Antonio. "They are still my neighbors."

Christmas Depot was set up in a former retail warehouse, filled wall to wall with thousands of anonymously donated gifts for the deserving families. CYBERFOR and NETWARCOM volunteers helped families pick out toys, distributed 'Angel Tree' boxes filled with clothing for each family member, handed each parent a gift, and helped families load the gifts in their cars.

At the same time, Marines reloaded crates of donated toys to replace those going out the front door.

"We're here to help spread the holiday spirit," said Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Stefan Morrow, whose wife helped him hand out Christmas stockings.

Morrow said. "This is a nice kickoff to the holiday season to get us in the right spirit for giving."

Office of Naval Intelligence Sailors Lend their Expertise to Area Schools

From Office of Naval Intelligence Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Sailors from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) are volunteer at four schools throughout the year in the Washington, D.C. area to tutor students in academics, athletics and life skills.

"Our Sailors simply want to make a difference in the community and help kids stay on the right track," said ONI Command Master Chief Billy Hill.

In addition to tutoring in science, mathematics and reading comprehension, ONI Sailors serve as Science Fair judges, vocabulary and sports coaches, and mentors in self discipline, goal setting, teamwork and resisting negative peer pressure.

Volunteers are members of the ONI Chief Petty Officers Association, First Class Petty Officers Association and White Hats Association. Sailors visit the schools to work with students for one hour each week.

In all, approximately 100 Sailors take part in the program and other community activities in the vicinity of ONI's headquarters.

"Our Sailors take a great deal of pleasure and pride in helping to start some wonderful kids down the road to success," said Hill. "I'm glad we are able to make a difference in their formative years."

Holly Petraeus Cites Need to Financially Empower Troops

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Potentially career-impacting financial issues are among the top concerns for service members and their families, a military finance expert said here yesterday.

“For military personnel, the consequences of a bad credit report can be devastating,” and may lead to security clearance loss or, in the worst-case scenario, be a career ender, said Holly Petraeus, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.

Petraeus was among the speakers at the Financial Fitness Forum, which was sponsored by her office. The one-day event brought together representatives from financial institutions, credit unions and the military to learn more about troops and their families’ financial pitfalls and to brainstorm ways to better empower and educate them.

Financial problems, she explained, are now the No. 1 cause for security clearance loss, which may bar troops from doing their jobs. It’s a roadblock, she added, that potentially could lead to separation from service.

Petraeus cited the housing market as one of the key factors causing military families’ financial heartache. Housing values have dropped across the nation, she noted, and some families are finding themselves stuck with a house that’s worth less than what they owe on it.

Once they get orders to move, she added, they really get in a bind. They can’t sell the house and pay off the mortgage due to its lessened value, and may not be able to rent it out for enough to cover their payment. And if they’re not delinquent on their home, they’re unable to access various foreclosure prevention programs.

Petraeus said it’s the aim of her office to offer service members and their families support as they confront these types of issues. Her office, she explained, has three primary missions: to educate and empower service members and their families to make better financial decisions, to monitor consumer complaints and subsequent responses, and to coordinate federal and state agencies’ efforts to improve consumer financial protection measures.

Petraeus said she’s been encouraged by the support from some financial institutions. A number of them offer unique products to military customers and others have rolled out military-specific programs. She would like to learn more about these products and programs, she added, noting the forum offered a perfect opportunity to exchange this type of information and to foster new ideas.

As a lifetime military family member, she said, she’s always happy to hear ideas on how better to support military families. Petraeus grew up in a military family and her husband is retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the CIA director.

Service members and their families, who so faithfully serve, “deserve the best treatment from both government and business,” she said.

Japanese Artist Thanks USS Essex for its Role in Operation Tomodachi

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Terry Matlock, USS Essex Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- A Japanese painter expressed his appreciation of forward deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and its role in Operation Tomodachi by presenting a painting to the command, Dec. 13.

Takashi Shima said he was inspired after taking a photo of Essex while he was on a tour of the JDS Kongo (DDG 173) and decided that he wanted to paint the ship as a way to express his gratitude. The water color painting shows Essex at sea during flight operations with several CH-53E Sea Stallions flying overhead.

"I think the Japanese people should thank the American military forces for all the help we received after the earthquake and disaster," said Shima. "Not all Japanese people are in a position to say thanks enough so I did the painting as my part."

During Operation Tomodachi, Essex joined USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) for three weeks in assisting Japan with humanitarian relief after a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the northeastern part of the country March 11. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on board Essex distributed supplies by air and sea. There were 218 aircraft and landing craft in support of reconnaissance and relief distribution missions. Additionally, more than 166,000 pounds of supplies were delivered to the shore of Japan by the Essex Amphibious Ready Group.

Capt. David Fluker, USS Essex commanding officer, received the painting on behalf of the crew.

"It was a privilege to have Mr. Shima aboard Essex and a true honor to receive this wonderful painting on behalf of Essex crew," said Fluker. "Mr. Shima's gift of his beautiful artwork is another example of the mutual respect and natural bond between two great maritime nations. It is symbolic of our friendship with our Japanese partners and indicative of the maritime traditions that we share."

After being received by the commanding officer in his cabin, Mr. Shima toured the Essex and had a firsthand look at the ship that inspired him to create his piece of art. He stated he was impressed with the multiple capabilities of the Essex and he was pleased, after a closer look, that he represented Essex correctly in his painting.