Friday, January 13, 2012

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta Martin Luther King Jr. Day Message

 “My career in public service began more than 40 years ago at the height of the civil rights movement.  As a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate, I worked on landmark civil rights legislation and as director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, I had the responsibility to enforce those laws.

 “At that time, I saw how one man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., could make a difference.  He did so by challenging his fellow citizens to reflect on what it means to be American.  Faced with opposition, he did not threaten violence, but rather gained strength from the truth of his convictions.  His powerful ideas and lyrical words compelled our nation to live by its founding principle:  that we are born with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  In the end, he changed not only the law of our land, but also struck a note for freedom that still resonates in the hearts and minds of the American people and the entire world.  That’s a legacy worth celebrating.

 “Dr. King renewed the promise of America’s dream.  His example inspired a movement for our country to reclaim its fundamental pledge -- so that we might live as one nation, with liberty and justice for all.  Every man and woman at the Department of Defense should strive to uphold these fundamental ideals.

 “One of my proudest moments was the opportunity to meet Dr. King and years later, as a congressman, to cast my vote to set aside a day dedicated to Dr. King’s memory.  This weekend, I hope each of you will think about just how much this one man’s life and accomplishments have meant to our country.  The nation we work so hard to protect is a better place because of him.  In fighting for equal justice, he was fighting for all of us.”

OPNAV Hosts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration

By Ensign Amber Lynn Daniel, Diversity and Inclusion Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The OPNAV Heritage Committee, in collaboration with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, hosted a celebration commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Community Center Jan. 11.

Celebrating the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day theme, "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off!" the event included southern-style food sampling and remarks by guest speaker Joe Madison, a Washington D.C. activist and radio talk show host.

"Everybody can do something," said Madison. "That is what the King celebration is. It's not even a celebration; it's a call to action. It should be a reminder that we all can do something. We have to be more than bystanders."

Madison shared historical leadership highlights of the civil rights movement, including the significance of Dr. King's efforts during a time of national struggle for equality.

"People don't realize how difficult leadership can be," said Madison. "And before Martin Luther King, Jr. could convince white America that it needed to change, he had to first convince his own community. He first had to convince black people, and that was extremely difficult."

Speaking to an audience of more than 200 military service members and civilians, Madison reminded listeners that Dr. King was not always the respected civil rights leader remembered in history books. At one point in time, Dr. King's own fraternity considered revoking his membership, and Morehouse College wanted to revoke his degree. Madison also discussed events making current headlines, and compared the stories to those of Dr. King's era.

"People need to know the history," said Madison. "If you don't remember the history, you are bound to repeat it."

At the conclusion of his speech, Madison challenged those attending the celebration to not only appreciate the struggles of Dr. King, but to make those sacrifices real through actionable efforts.

"Take King beyond the National Mall," said Madison. "You should leave here and think, 'What is the problem, and what am I going to do about it? In and out of uniform, all have to ask the question that all great people ask themselves - what am I going to do about it?'"

Madison's call to action encouraged many Sailors in attendence to start reflecting on their own lives.

"I was definitely motivated by today's event," said Lt. Joe Leavitt, "Hearing Mr. Madison speak about Dr. King really gave me a chance to think about what I do every day and why it matters. I'm motivated to change the world."

Keyport Celebrates the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Airman Jasmine Stokes, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- Service members and civilians gathered to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a commemoration ceremony at the Naval Undersea Museum Keyport's Jack Murdock Auditorium Jan. 11 in Keyport, Wash.

The commemoration of King's legacy was held to acknowledge his leadership and determination to establish equal rights during the 1950s and 1960s.

"Dr. King fought not just for black people but racial equality for everyone and that was what he was willing to die for," said Monica E. Emerson, retired Navy diversity officer. "Diversity reflects who we are as a nation."

Emerson said many of King's quotes including 'Pursued through love and nonviolence,' and 'We have to involve everyone through alliances, team work and diversity,' embraced King's dream of unity and peace.

Raymond Miller, vice president of Snohomish county National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, acknowledge the importance of observing this day as a national holiday.

"We honor the life and legacy of a true American hero," said Miller. "Someone who was on the front-lines of not only changing American history but American culture that included all people regardless of race, creed, or national origin was able to be a part of the great American experience."

A commemoration ceremony was also held at William E. Moore Auditorium on Naval Station Everett, and King will also be honored at the base chapel on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Jan. 13.

"What Martin Luther King Day means to me is the movement of society as a whole, moving forward and treating people with equality and respect regardless of where you came from and what you've done," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class (FMF) Richard Herring, of Tulsa, Okla., assigned to the base chapel at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. "What I hope people take out of this day is hard work and dedication in what you believe in and striving for a better place in the world."

Army to Replace 2 Brigades in Europe With Rotating Units

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 12, 2012 – Ground forces will remain important to the U.S. defense strategy, but the employment of the forces will change, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

In an interview on his way to Fort Bliss, Texas, Panetta said that the Army will withdraw two brigade combat teams from Europe, while retaining a strong presence in the region via rotational units.

The change is part of a new, 10-year defense strategy announced by President Barack Obama last week that emphasizes air-sea doctrine to better allow the United States to confront more than one threat at a time, Panetta said. Still, ground forces will remain important, and soldiers and Marines will continue to deploy to Afghanistan and be on the Korean Peninsula and partnering with nations around the globe.

“We will continue to maintain our presence both in the Middle East and Asia,” the secretary said. “Yes, we’ll have the Navy and the Air Force, but in my experience, in any conflict you need to have the potential use of ground forces.”

Panetta said he is excited about the prospect of using Army units on a rotational basis, just as Special Forces and the Marine Corps do. “Getting the Army to deploy to areas conducting exercises providing, most of all, a partnership with countries in Latin America, Africa, other countries where we can show the flag” is important, he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is particularly excited about the ability to develop that rotational capability, Panetta said. “It will keep the ground forces very meaningful in the future,” he said.

As the Army replaces the two brigade combat teams with rotational units, the Europeans actually will see more U.S. forces because the American forces in Europe have more often than not been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Panetta said.

DOD officials have spoken to European leaders about the withdrawal and they understand why the change will be good for the U.S. military and NATO allies, senior defense officials traveling with the secretary said.

Marines and NMCB 23 honored in Guatemala during HSV-SPS 12

By Lt. Matthew Comer, High Speed Vessel-Southern Partnership Station 2012 Public Affairs

PUERTO SAN JOSE, Guatemala (NNS) -- A recognition ceremony was held at Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Aldea Magueyes in honor of U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 23 Seabees and U.S. Marine and Guatemalan construction specialists, Jan. 11.

The ceremony was held in appreciation for the completion of a 12-day construction project as part of High Speed Vessel-Southern Partnership Station 2012 (HSV-SPS 12).

"I would like to thank all the people involved, especially SPS-12 on behalf of the children in this community," said Byron E. Anavisca Sandoval, community president. "We are looking forward to this year because our children will get to enjoy the rewards of education because of the work done here."

The project was led by project manager Marine Staff Sgt. Mario Vargas, whose family emigrated from Guatemala to the U.S. The team of two Marines, 18 Seabees and 12 Guatemalan military construction specialists demolished and replaced the school and bathroom roofs and installed more than 300 feet of fencing and security wire.

"My father and family are from Guatemala and it has been an especially great experience for me," said Vargas. "I put everything in my heart into this school so the children here are able to learn as my children are able to learn."

The team also installed a new securable entrance, replaced the water purification system and painted the school. The improvements will allow the school to reopen after a flood forced its closure last year.

"It is a wonderful pleasure for me to see the transformation of this school," said Cmdr. Todd Smith, commanding officer NMCB 23.

"It is great to see the work NMCB 23, the Marines and our Guatemalan partners have done here and the difference it will make."

Parents, teachers, and children of the school, as well as Seabees, Swift service members, and representatives from the Guatemalan Pacific Naval Base attended the ceremony. In total, more than 70 people attended the occasion.

"When I was a student, I remember Sailors coming and doing what they are doing here," said Guatemalan Capt. Carlos Luis Sanchez, representative from the Guatemalan Pacific Naval Base. "To the children of public schools, this will give you the opportunity it gave me. Because of this, you will be able to reach your dreams."

This is the first of two construction projects in Guatemala, where Seabees and Marines have been working closely with Guatemalan partners to renovate local schools.

The construction project is one event during the two week HSV-SPS 12 partnership with Guatemala. Service members from each of the armed services are working with the host-nation partners, exchanging information regarding medical and veterinary practices, small unit leadership, and port security.

Southern Partnership Station is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The mission's primary goal is information sharing with partner nation service members and civilians in the region.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.