Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Officials Discuss India, Egypt, South Sudan

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2012 – The U.S. military relationship with India, support to a United Nations mission in South Sudan, and the Defense Department’s view of recent events in Egypt were among topics in a Pentagon media briefing today.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little and Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that language in the defense strategic guidance released last week recognizes India’s regional and global importance.

The section in the document discussing the U.S. emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region reads, in part, “The United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.”

Kirby said the United States has and hopes to sustain a strong relationship with the Indian military.

“They are contributing to issues in Afghanistan in a very constructive way, whether it’s training or economic assistance, and we certainly want to see that continue,” he said.

The U.S. government, he added, wants to continue to pursue a close relationship with India, Little said. “They’re a major economic power not only in the region but in the world, … and we respect [their] interests,” he added.

Turning to Egypt, Little responded to a reporter’s question about Defense Department communication with Egyptian officials following late-December raids by Egyptian forces on the offices of a reported 17 nongovernmental organizations, including human-rights and pro-democracy groups.

Little said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke to Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, commander in chief of the Egyptian armed forces, shortly after the Dec. 29 incidents. The press secretary said he is not aware of any further DOD contact with Egyptian officials on the issue.

“We continue to monitor the situation, and it's a very important one to get right,” Little said. “We hope that the Egyptians, of course, do the right thing. We understand that they have taken steps to improve the situation with respect to NGOs, and that's something of importance to the United States.”

Little also responded to questions on the five-person team of military officers who have been assigned to a U.N. mission in South Sudan.

A White House memorandum released yesterday indicated the officers would take part in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. South Sudan, a U.N. member state in northeastern Africa, achieved independence in July.

The press secretary said there are no plans to send any additional U.S. service members there.

“These U.S. military officers have been assigned to a U.N. mission in South Sudan,” he said. “They’re going to work in concert with international partners to … engage in peace operations in that new country.”

Kirby said the officers will assist with governance, rule of law issues and civil affairs as South Sudan begins to stand itself up.

“Right now, that’s the limit of involvement of these five individuals,” the spokesman added. “It may change over time; we contribute to U.N. missions in several other nations all over the world.”

Kirby emphasized the assignment is “not a combat mission whatsoever,” and is designed to meet U.S. commitments and responsibilities to the United Nations.

PCU North Dakota CO Participates in First Namesake Visit

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The commanding officer of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784) participates in his first namesake visit to the "friendliest" state, Jan. 11-13.

"Namesake visits are critical during the construction phase of a submarine because it increases the awareness of the critical investment by the taxpayers of North Dakota and the nation," said Cmdr. Doug Gordon, PCU North Dakota's commanding officer.

During the visit to the submarine's namesake state, Gordon will tour the North Dakota State Capitol and North Dakota Heritage Center and visit the city of Bismarck-Mandan. Gordon is also expected to meet with the state's Navy League, submarine veterans of North Dakota, USS North Dakota Commissioning Committee members, state dignitaries, state legislators, and Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

In late October 2011, PCU North Dakota's Chief of the Boat Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS/DV) Timothy A. Preabt, originally from Mandan, N.D., met with Bismarck Mayor John Warford; Mandan Mayor Tim Helbling; the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce and with other related organizations during his visit.

PCU North Dakota, the second ship named in honor of North Dakota, is being constructed at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, and Quonset Point, R.I. as well as at Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding division in Newport News, Va., and will be the 11th Virginia-class submarine when it is commissioned in 2014.

The other ship to bear the name North Dakota was the Delaware-class USS North Dakota (BB 29), which was in service from 1910 to 1923. The contract to build PCU North Dakota was awarded to Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Groton, Conn., Dec. 22, 2008 as part of a teaming arrangement with Newport News Shipbuilding.

Virginia-class submarines are designed to dominate the world's littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine; anti-surface ship; strike; irregular; and mine warfare missions; as well as support special operation forces; and covert intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

U.S.-Iran Tensions Easing, Pentagon Officials Say

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2012 – Pentagon officials said today they believe tensions between the United States and Iran have cooled in recent days.

Meeting with reporters, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the United States has been very clear “that we seek to lower the temperature on tensions with Iran, and we think that things have calmed down a bit in recent days.”

Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said the presence of two U.S. carrier groups in the U.S. Central Command area of operations is just “prudent force posture requirements set by the combatant commander,” and is nothing out of the ordinary.

The two carrier groups in the 5th Fleet region continue the nearly constant U.S. naval deployments to the region since World War II, Kirby noted. “That presence changes all the time,” he said. “It fluctuates based on needs and requirements set by the combatant commander and approved by the Joint Staff and the secretary of defense.”

The presence of the two carriers is not tied to recent strains with Iran, the captain said, pointing out that it takes months for a battle group to train up and deploy.

“I don’t want to leave anybody with the impression that … we’re somehow ‘zorching’ two carriers over there because we’re concerned about what happened … today in Iran,” he said. “It’s just not the case.” Iranian media reported that a scientist from a uranium enrichment plant and his bodyguard were killed today in Tehran.

The fact that two carriers are in the region is not an indication of any specific trouble with respect to Iran, Kirby said.

Neither carrier group is inside the Strait of Hormuz, Kirby told reporters. The strait is an international waterway and a key sea lane for the oil of the Middle East to reach customers around the world.

“It’s a key chokepoint,” he said. “And the United States Navy has and will continue to remain a force in that region to help protect the free flow of commerce in international waters.”

Kirby acknowledged that Iran could use access-denial capabilities to close the waterway temporarily, noting that Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as much Jan. 8 on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” But he emphasized that any such closure would be of short duration.

“We're very comfortable with the capabilities that we have and we maintain, and the partnerships and the commitments we have in the region,” the captain said. “We’re very comfortable that we will be able to meet those requirements and those commitments.”

Greenert: Navy Advances Asia-Pacific Partnerships

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2012 – The Navy is working to bolster existing partnerships and forge new ones in Asia and the Pacific, an initiative that supports U.S. Pacific Command’s overarching goals in implementing the new defense strategic guidance, the service’s top officer said here yesterday.

Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, told a forum at the Center for a New American Security that the Navy will focus largely on relationships -- rather than a naval buildup in the region -- to support President Barack Obama’s strategic guidance.

The new strategic guidance, announced last week to guide the military through 2020, underscores the growing strategic importance of Asia and the Pacific.

Greenert noted that the Navy will need to review its numbers of ships, aircraft and equipment and how they are distributed around the world in light of the new guidance.

“But my first assessment is we’re in good shape in the Navy where we stand in the Western Pacific,” he said.

He noted the strong naval presence already there. “On any given day, … we have 50 ships underway in the Western Pacific,” he said, with about half of those forward-deployed naval forces in and around Japan.

“We put our best in the Western Pacific,” he said. This includes not only “the most advanced air wing we have, the most advanced cruisers and destroyers, ordnance [and] anti-submarine warfare,” he said, but also carefully screened commanders and sailors.

Emphasizing the need for the U.S. Navy to be “tangibly present out there,” Greenert said it enhances that presence by continuing to nurture partnerships and potential partners.

“There are many out there, and they are growing, through a range of missions that we will have to foster,” he said, some through closely integrated operations and some in a more ad hoc manner.

Greenert also expressed a need to continue dialogue and work toward a relationship with China.

Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, U.S. Pacific Command commander, struck these same notes earlier this week during an address to the Hawaii Military Partnership Conference.

U.S. relationships with Asian allies and key partners will remain critical to the region’s future stability and growth, he said. So while strengthening existing alliances that have provided a vital foundation for regional security, Willard said, the United States also will strive to forge closer ties with emerging regional partners.

Enterprise Gets Underway for Final Qualifications

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Stephen M. White, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At sea (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., Jan. 11 to participate in a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX).

The early morning departure was the next to last departure from Naval Station Norfolk for the 50-year-old carrier. Enterprise is scheduled to enter deactivation after completing its 22nd and final deployment later this year.

COMPTUEX is the intermediate phase of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group's (CSG) Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), designed to hone warfare skills throughout the strike group while maintaining unit proficiency.

"It's the final exercise to ensure Enterprise is combat ready," said Capt. William C. Hamilton, Jr, Enterprise commanding officer. "We're looking forward to working with the full strike group conducting combat exercises across the full spectrum of battle spaces."

COMPTUEX is designed to bring every part of a strike group together to work effectively and efficiently as one cohesive unit.

Hamilton says the exercise will require a total team effort from Enterprise, the embarked air wing and the more than 4,500 Sailors and Marines involved. Every department, division and work center, and every Sailor and Marine aboard Enterprise, from the engineering plants up to the flight deck, will play a vital role in the exercise.

The JTFEX will test the ship's ability, as well as that of its strike group, to operate in a complex, hostile environment with other U.S. and coalition forces.

"By the end of COMPTUEX and JTFEX, we will have a combat-ready strike group that will be ready to execute the Navy's mission anywhere in the world," said Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter, Jr., commander, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. "Our goal is to ensure we are integrated as a team and to exceed our requirements for our combat operational efficiency."

The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group includes USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78), USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) and USS Nitze (DDG 94).

For more information about USS Enterprise, Carrier Strike Group 12 or Carrier Air Wing 1 visit, or

National Guard assists Alaska community buried in snow

By Air National Guard Maj. Guy Hayes
Alaska National Guard

CAMP DENALI, Alaska - Alaska National Guard members arrived in Cordova Sunday afternoon to help the citizens in this small Alaska town dig out from a series of winter storms.

Termed Operation Deep Dig, 57 Alaska National Guardsmen arrived on the state's ferry system with shovels in hand ready to assist but keeping safety the number one priority according to Alaska Army National Guard Capt. Chad Ausel, commander, 761st Military Police Company.

"As soon as we got here, we identified a priority list for safety and familiarization training with Cordova. We asked for a subject matter expert on how they've cleared snow here safely and then completed training on harnesses, ropes and knots to make sure the Guardsmen are trained to do the mission safely," Ausel said.

With training complete, Ausel is now focused on getting his Soldiers out in the community today to assist wherever they're needed.

"We have everything staged, equipment ready and the Soldiers are ready to go," Ausel said. "The city officials identified three locations this morning, and we're going to stay in squads to clear those areas."

With more snow and rain on the way, the Alaska National Guard has arrived at a crucial time to assist before things potentially get worse.

"We are concerned about heavy and wet snow on roofs," said Allen Marquette, public information officer with the city of Cordova. "Some structures have already collapsed. We are trying to get those prioritized and shoveled off and assist residents in anticipation of the new snow and rain that's coming."

Mayor Jim Kallander of Cordova also commented on the response to his community and how pleased he is with the assistance the City of Cordova has received from the state.

"I can't say how impressed I am with the homeland security response, the governor's office response and now the National Guard is stepping up to the plate," Kallander said. "It's exactly what we needed."

As the first military responder in all domestic emergencies, the Guard is focused on doing everything it can to help the community, and according to Ausel, Guard members will stay as long as they're needed.

"We hope to leave Cordova in a better situation," Ausel said. "If that means staying here until the next snow storm goes through, then we will. I'm very proud of my Soldiers and the job they've done so far. They are working with a sense of urgency and are very proud to serve the community down here. This is why they signed up to serve in the National Guard."

NEX Customer Satisfaction Survey Results Remain at All-Time High

By Kristine M. Sturkie, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) announced the NEX Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) survey remained at an all-time high of 83 for the second consecutive year Jan. 10.

On average, the overall retail industry score is 76. The CSI survey is used to determine how the NEX can better to serve its customers.

"We've been surveying our customers since 1998 to find out areas where we are doing a good job as well as those areas that need improvement," said Michael Conner, NEXCOM vice president, marketing insights. "It's a great tool for us to use to see if the areas we're focusing on, like merchandise selection, are working. We know it is because our score continues to increase in that area. In contrast, it also shows us the areas we still need to work on, such as problem resolution."

The focus NEXs put on PREMIER Customer Service over the past year had a positive impact on both its customers and the CSI score. Scores for store environment rose two points while associates and checkout rose one point each. Other increases in scores were in returns, pricing, sales flyer and merchandise, all which rose one point each. Based on this information, top priorities for 2012 will again be on merchandise, pricing and sales flyers.

Eighty-four percent of the NEXs worldwide had a score of 80 or above while the remaining 16 percent of NEXs had scores 70-79. For the second year in a row, there were no NEXs with scores below 70. Districts in the continental United States remained the same while overseas districts rose one point. NEX districts scores for 2011 were Hawaii and Mid-South remained the same at 86 each; Tidewater rose one point to 85; Western and Guam rose two points each to 85; Southeast and Northwest remained the same at 83 each; Northern remained the same at 82; Japan decreased one point to 81 and Europe rose four points to 80.

"Statistically, it will be difficult to increase our score year after year," said Conner. "So looking forward, we will be looking more to maintain this high score of 83 and making sure we're delivering the best possible products and customer service to our customers."