Wednesday, January 04, 2012

TCM transits more than 17,000 servicemembers over holiday season

by Senior Airman Lynsie Nichols
376th Air Expeditionary Squadron

1/4/2012 - TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- During the two-week period of Dec. 10 to 25, 2011, approximately 17,108 service members travelling via the Transit Center at Manas made it home in time to see their families for the holiday season.

"On average, Detachment 1 processes 800 passengers a day," said Capt. Jonathan Bowe, 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (Detachment 1) assistant director of operations. "On Christmas day, we flew a total of 984 passengers."

Bowe is deployed to TCM from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and also works as an instructor aircraft commander in the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.

On Christmas Eve a C-17 Globemaster III arrived with 158 Marines from Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan. The average lay-over time for transients is two to three days; the Marines left the TCM by 11 a.m. the next day.

Airman Brooke Breeden also works for 817th EAS and is a loadmaster also deployed from JB Lewis-McChord. On Christmas day, he flew 158 Marines into the area of responsibility and brought the 158 Marines back to the TCM.

"It was really touching to bring 158 Marines out of the AOR [area of responsibility] after their year-long deployment," Breeden said. "They were so happy and that makes up for flying on Christmas."

For Bowe, working on Christmas was like working on any other day, but he knew the impact he had on military members transiting through the TCM and on their families waiting for them at home.

"It's always nice to know you are helping people get home to see their families no matter what day it is," Bowe said.

Breeden agreed, adding, "On Christmas night, one of the passengers from my flight told me he and his whole unit were going to make it home for New Year's. He thanked me for giving up my holiday and making it feel like Christmas."

He continued, "It's the little things like that, that make you feel like you are making a difference."

As a first time deployer, Breeden has made some great memories.

"This is my first holiday season away from home, but I've met so many interesting people and have a new appreciation for other branches of service and what they go through," Breeden said. "TCM brings everybody together, it doesn't matter your branch of service [or nationality], out here, we are all moving the same mission. This has been a great experience that I will never forget."

Bowe has also made some great memories during his deployment.

"Hearing our passengers cheer when we told them we were crossing the border out of Afghanistan on Christmas was the best moment," Bowe said. "One of the most satisfying things about this job is starting our troops on their way home to see their loved ones."

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Static F-86 display dedicated to Korean War ace

by 1st Lt. Robert Howard
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

1/4/2012 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- Pacific Air Forces and 15th Wing leaders dedicated a newly repainted static F-86E Sabre fighter aircraft to a former PACAF vice commander during a ceremony here Dec. 29.

Gen. Gary North rededicated the aircraft here to retired Lt. Gen. Winton W. "Bones" Marshall, who was also a combat commander and Korean War ace.

"It is a tremendous pleasure for us to honor the courage, professionalism, airmanship and the achievements of Lieutenant General 'Bones' Marshall by dedicating this F-86E Sabre jet to him, renaming it 'Mr. Bones V,'" North said. "As we just marked the historic 70th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks on Oahu (Hawaii), this is the perfect moment to continue to honor our heritage and recognize the sacrifice and service of those who came before us. Lieutenant General Marshall exemplifies this proud tradition; it's Airmen like him who made our Air Force the best in the world."

While assigned as the 335th Fighter Squadron commander at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Marshall deployed to Korea and became the fifth U.S. jet ace of the Korean War. He is credited with 6 1/2 enemy aircraft destroyed, seven probable aircraft destroyed and six aircraft damaged.

Marshall's career spanned 35 years and included assignments as Allied Air Forces Southern Europe chief of staff, Seventh Air Force vice commander and U.S. Readiness Command deputy commander in chief. He permanently resides in Beverly Hills, Calif., with his wife, Millie, who served in World War II as one of the original women pilots in the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

New Law Eases Airport Screening for Troops, Families

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2012 – President Barack Obama signed a bill into law yesterday to streamline airport screening procedures for service members and their families traveling on official orders.

The Risk-based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act gives the Transportation Security Administration six months to develop and implement a plan to expedite screening services for service members on orders and in uniform and, “to the extent possible, any accompanying family member.”

The act, in part, calls for the agency to establish standard guidelines for the screening of military uniform items, such as combat boots.

In a statement released today, agency officials said they’re in the process of reviewing options for these new procedures in consultation with the Defense Department.

Even before this law, the agency had several measures in place to aid troops through the screening process. For example, troops in uniform with a military identification card aren’t required to remove their boots or shoes unless they set off an alarm, according to the agency’s website.

The agency also seeks to accommodate family members. Families who would like to accompany a deploying service member to the boarding gate or greet them upon their return may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport, the site said. Family members, agency officials advise, should contact their air carrier representative at the airport for local procedures.

The agency also expedites the screening process for Honor Flight veterans, and partners with the Defense Department to expedite screening for wounded warriors and their families. The Honor Flight Network organization transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their war memorials.

Also aimed at expediting screening procedures, the agency is testing a new program at the airport in Monterey, Calif. In mid-November, troops traveling out of Monterey Peninsula Airport began presenting their DOD identification to a document checker for card-reader scanning.

The pilot program is designed to test the technology to verify service members’ status. If successful, it could pave the way for service members to be included in the agency’s expedited screening program, agency officials said, enabling them to use special lanes at participating airports to pass more quickly through airport security. These expedited procedures could involve not having to remove their shoes, belt and jackets or their laptops from bags.

Programs such as this one strengthen security, officials said, explaining that separating out low-risk people, such as members of the armed forces, allows the agency to focus its resources on travelers who present a higher risk.

President, Defense Secretary, Joint Chiefs Chairman to Brief Media on Defense Strategic Guidance

President Barack H. Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey will brief the media at 10:50 a.m. EST, Jan. 5, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) on defense strategic guidance.
After a 15-minute filing break, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle A. Flournoy, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. will provide additional comments and take questions.

The Pentagon Briefing Room will open for pre-set of broadcast equipment at 7 a.m. Pre-set must be complete no later than 8 a.m. All media should arrive at the briefing room at 9:30 a.m. to allow for security screening. Access to the briefing room will open at 9:30 a.m. and close at 10:35 a.m.

Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the Pentagon River Parking Entrance only. Those with equipment should arrive no later than 7 a.m., and others should arrive no later than 9:15 a.m.; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

This Day in Naval History - Jan. 04

1863 - Blockading ship USS Quaker City captures sloop Mercury carrying despatches, emphasizing the desperate plight of the South.
1910 - Commissioning of USS Michigan (BB 27), the first U.S. dreadnought battleship.
1989 - F-14 Tomcats from Fighter Squadron 32 embarked aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) shoot down two hostile Libyan MiGs.

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Announces 2011 Battle 'E' Award Winners

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) announced the recipients of the 2011 Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") award in an official message to the submarine force Jan. 1.

The Battle "E" is an award of merit presented to the most proficient submarine crew in each squadron and recognizes sustained superior technical performance and continual combat readiness throughout the year. The awards are presented by the commodore of each squadron to the submarine under their command which has demonstrated the highest level of battle readiness during the evaluation year.

"The competition for Battle Efficiency awards was extremely tough. These awards recognize commands which were evaluated during the past year to have attained the highest overall or departmental readiness to carry out their wartime task," said Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in the message to the force. "I am extremely proud of your outstanding performance. Well done and congratulations!"

The Pacific Force Battle "E" winners and their homeports are:

Commander, Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 1 (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) - USS Texas (SSN 775)
SUBRON 3 (Pearl Harbor) - USS Olympia (SSN 717)
SUBDEVRON 5 (Bangor) - USS Connecticut (SSN 22)
SUBRON 7 (Pearl Harbor) - USS Santa Fe (SSN 763)
SUBRON 11 (San Diego) - USS Hampton (SSN 767)
SUBRON 15 (Guam) - USS Buffalo (SSN 715)
SUBRON 17 (Bangor, Wash.) - USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) (Blue & Gold)
SUBRON 19 (Bangor) - USS Michigan (SSGN 727) (Gold)
Submarine Tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) and Floating Dry Dock Arco (ADRM-5).
Special Category was awarded to the Torpedo Weapons Retriever Devil Ray (TWR 6) out of Naval Base Point Loma.

Winners of each of the Battle "E" competitive categories were also announced. Those categories are the Engineering Red E, Tactical Operations White T, Navigation Red and Green N, Communications Green C, Damage Control Red DC, Supply Blue E, Deck Seamanship White D, Medical Yellow M, Deep Submergence White DS, Strategic Operations White S, Repair Red R, Dental Yellow D and Weapons Black W.

Pensacola Training Center Celebrates 35 Years of Accreditation

By Steve Vanderwerff, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT), onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, announced Jan. 4 that it is celebrating 35 years of accredidation from the Council on Occupational Education (COE).

The council is a nonprofit, voluntary membership organization serving post-secondary education and training institutions to provide quality assurance reviews of their workforce training programs. A national accrediting agency, COE conducts in-depth reviews of occupational programs to validate career and workforce training standards and practices. The review evaluates how the training is developed, including how the training center works with fleet subject matter experts to review and validate that the training supports their needs. The council evaluates various public and private organizations using standards and criteria outlined in their charter.

In his letter of congratulation to Capt. Terry M. Burt, CNATT commanding officer, Naval Education and Training Command's Chief Operating Officer Rear Adm. Clifford Sharpe praised Burt for consistent application of motivation, perseverance and talent.

"Your command embodies the ideals of a Navy Total Force that values the strength and contribution of a diverse organization. Through the laborious and time-intensive accreditation self-study process, CNATT harnessed the collective energy of personnel towards a common goal and produced a highly successful outcome," said Sharpe. "The recognition you earned reflects true commitment to the spirit of persistence, teamwork, and service, and exemplifies the Navy's resolve to be a world-class training organization and employer of choice for the best and brightest of this generation."

"It's a privilege to have been recognized for continually providing world-class training," said Burt. "Our students benefit through COE accreditation. The training they receive is equal to a public school and COE endorsement provides greater acceptance of transferable credits for service related education and experience to support earning college degrees."

The Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training provides operational and maintenance training that supports shore and afloat operations. This includes specialized skills training for enlisted ratings and officer designators supporting all facets of aviation maintenance and support. Selected courses cover: maintenance and repair of avionics and electronics; rotary and fixed wing aircraft engines and structures; ordnance maintenance and support; flight deck operations and, firefighting, crash and salvage training; shore and shipboard air traffic control; and radar operations and repair. Courses are taught through blended learning including standard classrooms, hands-on labs, simulations, as well as computer-based and interactive courseware training.

Navy Safe Harbor Surveys Measure Wounded Warrior, Family Satisfaction

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Beginning the week of Jan. 3, Navy Safe Harbor is administering its annual Enrollee Survey and Caregiver Survey to evaluate those groups' satisfaction with the program and determine ways to improve wounded warrior support services.

"As we kick off 2012, I can't think of a more appropriate time to check the pulse of our seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, as well as their families," said Capt. Bernie Carter, director of Navy Safe Harbor. "We always are eager to enhance our program, and their responses to the survey will inform our approach to caring for wounded warriors in the New Year and beyond."

Navy Safe Harbor is the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. It provides a lifetime of individually tailored assistance to promote the recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration of seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members.

The Enrollee Survey captures the experiences and perceptions of enrolled Sailors and Coast Guardsmen during the past calendar year, while the Caregiver Survey assesses the opinions and needs of the caregivers who support them. The surveys are distributed to more than 750 service members and their families.

The surveys include a variety of questions, including how frequently respondents communicate with Navy Safe Harbor Non-medical Care Managers and whether those staff members were responsive and reliable. The survey also asks respondents what they like best about Navy Safe Harbor, what they'd like to change about the program, and whether they would recommend it to others.

In the past, survey results have made significant impacts on the program and the services it provides. For example, feedback received from the 2010 surveys led to the creation of the 2011 Wounded Warrior Family Symposium, which took place last September. The event convened wounded warriors and caregivers with varied backgrounds, who shared their stories and recommendations with Navy Safe Harbor personnel.

Symposium panelist - and the wife of a wounded warrior -Stephnie Rose said about the event: "It is comforting to see Navy Safe Harbor hosting this event. It's great to know the program cares so much about the families and making progress on behalf of wounded warriors."

The surveys are being conducted by the Navy Personnel Research, Studies, and Technology division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. They are being administered during the course of eight weeks, and results will be publicly released in approximately six months.

Sailors Will See Improved Opportunities As Force Balance Improves

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Top-performing Sailors will see more opportunities to convert, reenlist, and advance as a result of the Navy's use of force management tools such as the Enlisted Retention Board and Perform-to-Serve, Navy leaders said Jan. 3.

"We have the highest quality Sailors and the most capable force in our Navy's history," said Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk. "Sailors are increasingly looking at our Navy as a great long-term career choice. While high retention is positive and has resulted in the best trained, most capable, and most highly motivated force in our history, we must continue to ensure we retain the right mix of people so that our workforce matches our warfighting requirements, now and into the future. Programs such as Perform-to-Serve and the Enlisted Retention Board have enabled those mutual goals."

"Because of the strides made by PTS and ERB in balancing the force, barring significant changes to our force structure, the Navy will not need to conduct an ERB in 2013 or 2014," continued Van Buskirk.

High retention and low attrition within the Navy led to some ratings being overmanned, which resulted in hardworking, experienced Sailors not being able to advance or reenlist in their ratings. At the same time, the Navy still lacked Sailors in ratings critical to meeting its mission. Increasing the challenge, the Navy has recently shifted nearly 6,800 billets back to sea, changing the mix of skills and experience required of Sailors.

In addition to voluntary separation programs, the Navy uses programs such as PTS to help balance the force by matching the workforce to the fleet's job requirements. PTS is the Navy's primary system for managing personnel to ensure the Navy maintains a balanced, experienced force. PTS manages balance between ratings so that each rating has their authorized share of personnel. PTS also manages balance within a rating by keeping the right number of top performers in each year group to match experience with mission requirements without gaps. PTS also ensures the highest-performing Sailors have the opportunity to convert, reenlist and advance.

Yet, with so many Sailors desiring to stay Navy, PTS was becoming over-burdened. Many overmanned ratings had limited PTS opportunity, which meant even the strongest performing Sailors faced tough competition and reduced chances to re-enlist and advance. Because PTS only affects those Sailors approaching a re-enlistment decision or requiring additional obligated service, timing had become a critical factor, adding pressure to the PTS system.

To relieve the pressure on Sailors in a PTS reenlistment window, the Navy created the ERB as an additional force management tool. The ERB became necessary to ensure the Navy could reduce the overmanned ratings while converting many Sailors to under manned ratings to fill gaps. The ERB reviewed the records of roughly 16,000 Sailors in the 31 most overmanned ratings to fill a limited number of retention quotas. Unlike PTS, the ERB considered all eligible Sailors in these ratings, not just the ones in a PTS window.

According to Van Buskirk, Sailors will see significant changes in advancement opportunity due to the ERB.

"Before we conducted the ERB, opportunities for Sailors to advance to E5 and E6 in the 31 eligible ratings were extremely limited," said Van Buskirk. "Because the ERB will reduce overmanning in these ratings, more Sailors will advance to E4, E5, and E6 in the coming advancement cycles. In fact, advancements in the ERB ratings are projected to be slightly above the Navy-wide average for the next two to three cycles."

ERB and PTS have also placed many talented Sailors in undermanned ratings, a step that was critical in meeting the mission, said Van Buskirk.

"Because we have reduced our overmanned ratings, the Navy is making strides in improving undermanning in other ratings," said Van Buskirk. "Through PTS and the ERB, nearly 1,200 Sailors have converted from overmanned to undermanned ratings in the past year. Putting talented Sailors into these undermanned ratings enables us to meet our mission requirements while easing the unusually high operational demands on Sailors currently in these ratings."

Sailors are also seeing increased opportunities in PTS. PTS was significantly changed in October to refocus on performance and reduce the impact of a Sailor's timing on re-enlistment approval. Top performers in every rating and year group will now have the opportunity for reenlistment approval, even when a rating is overmanned.

"While PTS and ERB have been difficult pills to swallow for our Sailors, they are necessary tools to balance the effects of excessively high retention," said Van Buskirk. "We are beginning to see increased reenlistment opportunity and better advancement opportunity as a result of improved force balance, but we know that these benefits are of little comfort to Sailors and their families who are separating. That is why we're committed to providing Sailors who must separate the best transition support tools and assistance possible so they can succeed in their civilian careers."

Our Early History – The Soldiers Memorial Hospital

Following World War I, many states chose to give Veterans a bonus for their service in World War I.  Instead of a bonus, the state of Oklahoma preferred to give its Veterans a more lasting gift – free medical care.

In 1922, Oklahoma began construction of a 25-bed hospital for Veterans in the city of Muskogee.  View a photo of The Soldiers Memorial Hospital from the 1920s.  

Officials appointed Dr. Hugh Scott as the first director of the $500,000 hospital and chose Flag Day, June 14, 1923, to officially open the new facility.

At 2:30 p.m. on June 14, hospital staff, Oklahoma political representatives, dignitaries and an estimated crowd of 2,000 people gathered at the crest of Honor Heights Park in Muskogee to witness the opening ceremony of The Soldiers Memorial Hospital, which today is the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.

However, severe lightning and a looming thunderstorm threatened to spoil the grand occasion.  A reporter from the Muskogee Weekly Phoenix compared the lightning and thunder to the cannons on the Western Front during World War I and wrote that it was a “warlike scene.”

Shortly after the opening invocation by Reverend A. E. Moody, officials moved the ceremony inside the hospital and Frank Lee, U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma and Muskogee resident, delivered the welcome address.

“As a proud host, Muskogee extends her welcome to all,” said Lee in a speech to the crowd.  “Honor Heights now forms the pedestal of the Soldiers Memorial Hospital whose doors stand open and remain for all time to welcome sick and disabled Veterans.  It stands the fulfillment of a promise long ago made to bind up the heroes’ wounds and care for those who won the struggle.”

Following Lee’s address, officials resumed the ceremony outdoors after the weather improved.  The crowd listened to remarks from several speakers including Dudley Monk, state commander of the American Legion; R. B. Butts, state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Jennie Stewart, president of the Women’s Auxiliary to the American Legion; and U.S. Senator John W. Harreld.

During his speech to the crowd, Senator Harreld declared that the federal government would attempt to purchase the hospital from Oklahoma.  Several months later on September 28, it was announced that Oklahoma had agreed to sell the hospital to the federal government and the sale became official on March 6, 1925.

In 1930, Congress established the Veterans Administration, the predecessor of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the hospital was formally known as the Veterans Administration Hospital, Muskogee, Okla.

Other Facts from Our Early History

• Eugene R. Lewis of Oklahoma City was the first patient admitted to the hospital.

 • During the first year in operation, the hospital treated 1,500 patients.

 • In 1923, Dr. W. P. Fite, Sr. performed the hospital’s first surgery.

 • Earl P. Porter was the hospital’s first pharmacist and he claimed that when the facility opened he could carry all the hospital’s drugs in a single basket.

 • On June 14, 1924, the hospital’s 165 employees celebrated the one-year anniversary of the hospital with a picnic, swimming party and a dance.

 • During Fiscal Year 1925, the operating budget of the hospital was $484, 732.32 and the average per day cost to treat an inpatient was $3.72.