Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vinson Sailors Make Clean Sweep

HONG KONG (NNS) -- Sailors aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 visited Saint Barnabus' Society and Home as part of a community service (COMSERV) project Dec. 29, during the ship's port visit to Hong Kong.

Saint Barnabus' Society and Home is a homeless shelter in Western District, Hong Kong. For some Vinson Sailors this was the first time they participated in a community outreach event. Other Vinson Sailors had visited the shelter during the ship's last visit to Hong Kong in May.

"I wanted to help someone else so I decided to try a COMSERV for the first time. We went there and cleaned for them and gave a helping hand," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Alfredo J. Razo, assigned to Supply Department's S-2 Division.

"My dad has given so much to his community, and he has inspired me to help out in the community as well," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice William Arms, assigned to Air Department's V-3 Division.

Vinson Sailors rolled up their sleeves to help and were thankful to participate, even if the work wasn't what they had come to expect from a COMSERV.

"We didn't build or destroy anything, we actually went and cleaned up. That little bit helped the people who work at the shelter," Razo said.

That "little bit" had Sailors sweeping floors, washing windows and cleaning restrooms. As dirt and dust hit the dust pans, the residents of the shelter peeked out to see what all the commotion was about.

"The shelter residents were ecstatic with all the dirt and leaves we took out. They were happy we were there and took time out of our day to help out," Razo said.

"Assisting a foreign community, realizing service isn't limited to just the United States but also to countries around the world brought me a good feeling," Arms said.

Arms was not the only volunteer to express positive feelings about being a world citizen and looking out for those in need.

"I can't wait for the next COMSERV. I'll definitely take more people with me next time," Razo added.

COMSUBPAC and USS Pasadena CO's Attend Annual New Year's Day Rose Bowl Game

PASADENA, Calif. (NNS) -- Keeping with tradition and to celebrate the New Year, Commander, Submarine Force Pacific and the commanding officer of USS Pasadena (SSN 752) are attending the 98th New Year's Day Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Jan. 2.

"The submarine force has a longstanding relationship with the people of Pasadena through their ties to USS Pasadena. Pasadena has supported its submarine through numerous deployments as the submarine represented the city across the globe," said Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "It's an honor to celebrate our continued relationship as we ring in the New Year."

During the namesake visit, Caldwell and Molina will also visit with the Pasadena Police Department and Pasadena Navy League; attend the Tournament of Roses Parade, and watch the Rose Bowl with the Pasadena Foundation and civic community leaders.

USS Pasadena is currently undergoing an extended maintenance overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Cmdr. Luis Molina, USS Pasadena's commanding officer, reflected on the strong ties the submarine has with its name-sake city.

"We maintain one of the strongest relationships with a namesake city in the submarine force, and we look forward to continuing to forge this mutual relationship when the ship relocates to San Diego after our modernization period. I am honored to have been invited to represent the ship and the Navy as we ring in the New Year with our extended Pasadena family," said Molina.

Earlier this year, during the transit to the shipyard, the boat and its crew visited San Diego where they were able to conduct a one-day cruise to showcase the professionalism of the crew and demonstrate the boat's capabilities to a group of civic leaders and members of the Pasadena Foundation.

"The city of Pasadena has supported the ship and its crew throughout its history dating back to before the commissioning. They have generously contributed to the welfare of the crew and continue to cultivate strong ties with the ship and the Navy," said Molina.

The Rose Bowl was constructed in 1922 and currently seats 100,184 people. The size of the football field, about 880 feet, could fit two Los Angeles class submarines.

According to the City of Pasadena's website, the Tournament of Roses annual parade of flower-covered floats has been held in Pasadena since January 1, 1890. Today, the average float contains up to 100,000 blossoms. About 1,000,000 people come to Pasadena to watch the Tournament of Roses.

Pasadena is the U.S. Navy's second "Improved" 688 Class nuclear-powered submarine. In July 1991, two years after it was commissioned, Pasadena became the first 688I to deploy, commencing its first of many six-month Western Pacific deployments.

Defense Bill Affects Pay, Separation Bonuses, More

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – President Barack Obama today signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which increases active-duty and reserve pay by 1.6 percent and governs Defense Department activities, from procurement to military personnel policy.

Several provisions in this year’s act will potentially affect active-duty and retired service members and their families.

Section 347 requires DOD to finance an independent assessment of overseas troop basing, advising retention, closure, realignment or establishment of U.S. military facilities outside the United States “in light of potential fiscal constraints on [DOD] and emerging national security requirements in coming years.”

Section 402 reduces authorized Army minimum end strength from 562,000 to 547,000. The other services’ authorized minimum strengths are unchanged, with 325,700 for the Navy, 202,100 for the Marine Corps and 332,800 for the Air Force.

Section 512 of the act creates a new member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which currently includes the Army and Air Force chiefs of staff, the chief of naval operations and the Marine Corps commandant. The new member will be the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who will have responsibility for “addressing matters involving non-federalized National Guard forces in support of homeland defense and civil support missions.”

Section 526 extends voluntary separation pay and benefits authority, formerly set to expire Dec. 31, to the end of 2018. Section 530 converts the high-deployment allowance from mandatory to authorized. The allowance currently pays $100 a day, in addition to all other pay and allowances, to a deployed service member who has been deployed 401 days or more out of the preceding 730 days.

Section 701 limits annual Tricare enrollment fee increases for retirees and their family members to an amount equal to the percentage by which retired pay increases that year.

Section 702 sets mental health assessment requirements for service members deployed for contingency operations. The act calls for a series of assessments: one within 120 days before deployment; another during the period between 90 days after a deployment begins and 180 days after it ends; a third within a year after the deployment ends; and a fourth between 18 months and 30 months of redeployment.

The act states assessments are intended to “identify post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies, and other behavioral health conditions … in order to determine which such members are in need of additional care and treatment for such health conditions.”

Assessments are not required for service members “not subjected or exposed to operational risk factors during deployment in the contingency operation concerned,” the act states.

Section 954 affirms that DOD “has the capability, and upon direction by the president may conduct offensive operations in cyberspace to defend our nation, allies and interests,” subject to the law of armed conflict and the War Powers Resolution.

Signing the bill into law today, President Barack Obama acknowledging “serious reservations” about parts of the act, particularly provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

“I have signed the act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families and vital national security programs that must be renewed,” Obama said in a statement released today.

The act also contains critical initiatives to control spiraling health-care costs within the Defense Department, develop counterterrorism initiatives abroad, build the security capacity of key partners, modernize the force and boost the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations worldwide, he noted.

F-15 Sale to Saudi Arabia Part of Broader Effort

By Donna Miles and Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – The recently announced $29.4 billion sale of F-15SA fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia is just one part of a broader U.S.-Saudi military sales and defense cooperation effort that’s central to regional security, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

U.S. officials announced an agreement Dec. 29 to sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Little said the same represents less than half of the $60.5 billion in U.S. sales of aviation capabilities agreed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the Royal Saudi Air Force, this broader program includes aviation capabilities for the Saudi Arabian National Guard, Royal Saudi Land Forces and Saudi Royal Guard, he said.

“More broadly, the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military alliance is a central feature of regional security,” he said.

Little noted the U.S. Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, which was established in 1953 and remains a cornerstone of the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military relationship. U.S. and Saudi defense departments cooperate regularly at the highest levels, through established bilateral planning forums like the Strategic Joint Planning Commission and the Military Joint Planning Commission, he said.

In addition, the Royal Saudi Air Force trains with the U.S. Air Force in rigorous exercises that improve military cooperation and interoperability, and that facilitate the exchange of ideas, Little said. Among them is Red Flag, the U.S. Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise, conducted in Nevada. Red Flag gives pilots the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties from within the safety of a training environment.

In announcing the F-15 sales agreement Dec. 29, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, emphasized the close military-to-military ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and … more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf,” Miller said.

The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive under the agreement “will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems,” he added.

“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Shapiro said. “It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security.”

State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added.

The White House released a statement Dec. 29 detailing the full Foreign Military Sales program agreement, which also will provide munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics support for the F-15s to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Panetta Urges Egyptian Military to Advance Democratic Process

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – Expressing “deep concern” about raids earlier this week on non-governmental organizations operating in Egypt, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta emphasized to the leader of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces yesterday that it’s time to move the democratic process forward.

Speaking by phone with Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Panetta condemned the Dec. 29 raids and expressed appreciation for Tantawi’s decision to stop them and make it easier for NGOs to operate in Egypt, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little reported.

Egyptian police and judicial officials reportedly raided the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House Dec. 29, as well as other NGOs that have been critical of strong-armed practices by Egyptian officials.

During yesterday’s phone call, Panetta underscored the need for the democratic process that began when a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February to proceed. “After two successful rounds of parliamentary elections, the secretary emphasized that it is critical for Egypt to continue on the path to democratic transition,” Little said.

The secretary also reaffirmed the importance of the longstanding U.S.-Egyptian security relationship, Little said. He “made clear that the United States remains committed to the strategic partnership and stands ready to cooperate with Egypt as it continues its democratic transition,” he said.

Visiting Cairo in October, the secretary said he has full confidence in Egypt’s ability to transform itself to a civilian-led democracy following 26 years of being ruled under a dissent-suppressing emergency law.

Panetta said such a transition would be a “tremendous signal” to the region about moving in a positive direction.