Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Lady, ‘iCarly’ Cast Celebrate Military Kids

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

ALEXANDRIA, Va.  – First Lady Michelle Obama joined Nickelodeon TV’s “iCarly” celebrity cast at a school here today to pay tribute to the children of service members and preview the show’s upcoming episode about the hardships of military families.

With hundreds of cheering students – many of them from military families – and pop music booming in Hayfield Secondary School’s auditorium, Obama and the five actors who make up the “iCarly” cast danced onto the stage with the fanfare of a rock concert.

It was the last of four such appearances as part of the first lady’s “Joining Forces” campaign with Dr. Jill Biden, which seeks to get all Americans involved in supporting military families. Similar events were held this week at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.; Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn.; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

“Kids like you make the same kind of sacrifices that your families do,” Obama said, after asking for a show of hands of military children. “I know how hard it is to stay strong and focused when your mom or dad is serving.”

She noted that Jerry Trainor and Noah Munck, who play Spencer and Gibby, respectively, on “iCarly”, also are from military families.

In a preview of the “iCarly” episode that airs Jan. 16, the audience watched as the show’s main character, Carly Shay, and her older brother, Spencer, are heartbroken to get a last-minute call from their father, a deployed Air Force colonel, saying he can’t get home for the birthday celebration they planned for him, marking three consecutive birthdays of his they have missed.

But before they can put away the red, white and blue balloons and streamers and the jet aircraft birthday cake, Carly’s friends surprise her with a video chat with her father. A technical glitch keeps Carly from seeing him, but she can read his words to her on the screen and be happy again.

Obama, who approached “iCarly” producer Dan Schneider about creating the military-focused segment, said the show is a favorite of hers and her daughters, Malia and Sasha. She makes a surprise cameo appearance in the upcoming episode to lend her support to Carly and Spencer and tell them she is proud of them and their friends’ support, allowing “Colonel Shay” to defend the nation.

“We did this episode because we want the whole country know how proud we are of all of you, and how much we appreciate you as our little heroes,” Obama said. “So we want you to stay strong. Be proud of what you do, because we are so proud of you. And we know sometimes it can be hard, but know that you have your entire country behind you.”

During a question-and-answer session after today’s screening, a 13-year-old boy told Obama his father is deployed to Afghanistan, leaving him “to be the man of the house.” Asked by the first lady how many schools he has attended, he answered five.

“When you find a military kid coming in new, it’s your time to step up,” Obama told the audience. “Find out who the military kids are in your school and make sure they feel welcome.”

Obama and the cast taped a public service announcement for Joining Forces with the cheering audience in the background.

Panetta: King Renewed Promise of America’s Dream

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2012 – In anticipation of the nation’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance Jan. 16, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has issued a message to members of the Defense Department outlining his personal view of the slain civil rights leader’s impact on America.

Here is the text of the secretary’s 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.”

Naval Submarine Base New London Holds Special Screening of iCarly

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jim O'Donnell, Naval Submarine Base New London Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Naval Submarine Base New London welcomed more than 1,300 fans of the hit Nickelodeon show iCarly who were on hand for a special screening and cast appearance at the base's Dealey Center Theater, Jan. 11.

Before the screening, the cast paid a special visit to the crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768).

The cast members and guests received a guided tour of the submarine by the boat's commanding officer Cmdr. Steve Wilkinson and Chief of the Boat Senior Chief Eric Mathley.

"I was very honored to have an opportunity to give the iCarly celebrity cast and guests a tour of the boat," said Mathley.

"That the show's lead character is a military child and that some of the iCarly shows have dealt with the things military kids have to deal with is pretty nice," said Mathley.

For the iCarly cast members, it was their first time being on a nuclear-powered submarine.

"It's been my dream since I was a little kid, to go on a submarine," said cast member Noah Munck who plays Gibby on the show.

"It was pretty great to get a chance to actually go on a submarine," said Nathan Kress. Kress, who plays Freddie, said he had toured a World War II submarine once before, but that had not prepared him for Wednesday night. "To be able to go down and see something modern that our Navy is using right now was really cool.

Kress said his favorite part of the tour was the visit to the control room where he saw the center of operations for the boat. "We got a chance to look through a periscope which was probably the highlight of the tour," added Kress.

The iCarly cast spent about 30 minutes on the submarine and the cast members said they were all impressed.

"Visiting the Hartford was just awesome," said Munck. "What a great experience."

Fans of the show brandishing posters and pictures, hoping to obtain autographs began lining up at the theater around lunchtime Wednesday in the hope of getting as close to their iCarly idols as possible.

"I'm really excited to get to see iCarly in person," said 10 year-old Isabella Iaccarino. "I've never seen anyone from television before, and I'm kind of really looking forward to this.

Although the show's audience focus is the 5-12 year old demographic, there were even a few more mature fans in attendance.

"I guess I'm a fan too," said Chief Master-at-Arms Charlie Wenzel who, in addition to ensuring security was prepared for Wednesday night's event, was making sure his daughter Rylie got to see the show. "I watch it with my daughter and it's a funny show, I like it."

"I also like the fact that it deals with kids that have a parent in the military deployed away from home and how they handle things," said Wenzel.

iCarly revolves around the show's namesake Carly Shay (played by Cosgrove) and her friends Sam (played by Jennette McCurdy), Freddie (played by Kress), Gibby (played by Munck), and brother Spencer (played by Jerry Trainor). In the show, Carly's father is an Air Force Colonel perpetually deployed away from home, sometimes on a submarine. Although most kids here at SUBASE don't have a parent deployed year-round it is a theme that is very well understood among the population of this base in southeastern Connecticut.

In Wednesday's screening of the episode titled "iMeet the First Lady," Carly is disappointed when her father is unable to make it home for his birthday because of another deployment. Carly's friends to try to brighten her mood by putting on a special webisode for her and her dad, which captures the attention of the government and the First Lady.

The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama guest stars on the show to be broadcast Jan. 16. In the episode Obama surprises the iCarly gang to thank them for supporting Carly when her dad is away.

Obama is a staunch supporter and spokesperson for the Joining Forces organization. Mrs. Obama along with the Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph Biden, spearhead the organization to help support military families and advocate for their priorities.

Following the premiere of "IMeet the First Lady" the cast was brought out on stage to the excited screams of those in attendance. The cast members spoke about their experiences meeting the First Lady and even demonstrated some of their personal skills like juggling and human beat boxing to the enjoyment of the audience.

After leaving the stage the iCarly cast stuck around to meet some of their fans in the back of the Dealey Center Theater. For Nathaniel Rivers, who just turned ten Wednesday and his sister Alyssa, 8, it was a chance like no other. Both Rivers children met the actors, posed for photos and received autographs from the cast.

"It was really fun because I got to see them for the first time," said Alyssa. "I got to meet Miranda Cosgrove she is a really good singer."

"I thought it was awesome," said Nathaniel. "I've never done something like this. This is my favorite TV show, I especially like to thank my parents it was the best birthday ever," said Nathaniel.

Defense Secretary Teaches Class at El Paso High School

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

EL PASO, Texas, Jan. 13, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta taught a history class and talked about public service with students at John L. Chapin High School here today as part his visit to nearby Fort Bliss.

Roughly half of the student body of this school comes from military families, and the school honors the men of the 36th Infantry Division’s Company E, 2nd Battalion, 141st Infantry, a local Texas National Guard unit that fought across Europe in World War II.

Panetta taught Kristina Mills’ 11th grade U.S. history class. He spoke about the opportunity that America offered his family when his parents arrived in the United States from Italy in the 1930s.

“My father and mother made clear that my brother and I owed something back to the country that had given us so much,” Panetta said.

He said his parents were his greatest influence in pursuing a life of public service, and his second inspiration was the time he spent as a military intelligence officer in the early 1960s.

“When you are in the military, you understand the importance of working together for a common mission,” he said. “It reinforced to me how important it is to work together.”

Panetta said his third inspiration came from President John F. Kennedy, who called on Americans in January 1961 to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

All this inspired him to service, the secretary said.

Panetta thanked the military family members for their service and their sacrifices. Roughly 45 percent of the school’s 1,900 students come from Fort Bliss or William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Richard Tellez, a retired soldier, is the school’s military family liaison. He works with parents, post officials and the school district to ensure the needs of military families are met.

Many service members at the post have deployed numerous times, and that brings its own set of problems and challenges, said Carla Gonzales, Chapin’s principal. “But the cooperation between Fort Bliss and the school has been exceptional,” she said.

Many students who graduate from Chapin go into the military, Gonzales said, adding that she is particularly proud of the number of students who go on to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo.

“We have had one student who went to the Naval Academy prep school, too,” she added.

Holds 'Train-the-Trainer' Course for Command Fitness Leaders

From Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity Mid-South held a command fitness leader (CFL) "Train-the-Trainer" certification course for more than 20 Navy fitness professionals from across the country and Guam Jan. 9-13.

"Our goal is to provide our Navy Fitness personnel with all of the tools and knowledge needed to deliver this course at their local installation," said CFL Instructor Debbie Deutsch, Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). "This course ensures that we have qualified, certified instructors located on every base who are able to offer classes to Sailors around the world."

Topics covered during the week-long course included instruction to conduct the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA), nutrition, exercise physiology, anatomy, injury prevention, safety, public speaking and Physical Readiness Information Management System basics.

Deutsch said the course stresses the need for CFLs to provide smart, effective and safe physical fitness programming for their Sailors.

"Through effective training techniques and safe exercise programming, this course provides the necessary tools to ensure that our Sailors are trained properly and safely," Deutsch said.

Attendees participated in physical training each day and successfully completed all of the steps of the official PFA, including curl-ups, push-ups and 1.5-mile run/walk.

"Throughout the week, our instructors are being taught everything from PRP [Physical Readiness Program] policy to proper military etiquette in addressing military personnel," added Deutsch. "We want to ensure that they leave this course fully educated and prepared to not only teach the five-day course at their installation, but to be the subject matter expert for local CFLs when questions or issues arise."

CNIC will host the course in Rota, Spain Feb. 6-10 to certify instructors for the Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia region.

"Last year, we trained nearly 2,000 CFLs," said Deutsch. "With more classes being offered this year, we're expecting to meet, if not exceed, that number."

Naval Air Station North Island Commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Mass Communication Specialist 2rd Class Phillip Pavlovich

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Air Station North Island celebrated the many accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during its 26th annual commemoration of the legendary civil rights leader at the base theater, Jan. 12.

The event started with a walk from the north side of the bowling alley to the base theater, symbolizing King's famous marches.

The commemorative event was sponsored by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest's (FRCSW) Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee.

"Today gives us an opportunity to stop and reflect on Martin Luther King's life and gives us a chance to ask ourselves, are we living up to his expectations?" said Capt. John C. Smajdek, commanding officer of FRCSW.

Service members and Department of Defense employees gathered in the base theater where they recited the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a musical guest, Lanee' Battle, a local singer who entertained the crowd with songs in King's memory.

"The time we're in now we see more diversity," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Patience Johnson, from FRCSW. "I volunteered because it's important to me to show my support for what people have done in the past."

The keynote speaker, Steffanie B. Easter, assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, spoke about her thoughts on taking personal responsibility and accountability.

"Be the best you can be," Easter said after challenging participants to live up to the American Dream, and affect the lives of those around them.

Panetta Thanks Fort Bliss Neighbors for Support

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

EL PASO, Texas  – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta thanked the people of this West Texas city last night for their support of service members based in the area.

“Our military has done everything we’ve asked them to do, and this community has done everything it can to ensure they can do their mission,” Panetta said during a speech to the local Chamber of Commerce.

Fort Bliss is the new home of the 1st Armored Division, and more than 200,000 troops have deployed out of the post since 9/11, Panetta said. “While the troops have deployed, their families remain here, and El Paso has stepped up to the plate.”

Panetta told the chamber that the military must change to remain the best military in the world and confront the threats that face America. With the country facing a fiscal crisis, the Defense Department must cut $489 billion over the next 10 years.

The military has gone through reductions following wars in the past, Panetta said, but this time is different because threats remain. The American armed forces dropped after World War II, but the fascist threat had been defeated, the secretary noted. The military contracted after the Cold War, he added, but the Soviet Union had dissolved.

“We still confront some major threats,” he said. “We have continuing threats of violent extremism and terrorism.”

The United States has put al-Qaida and its allies on the run, but the threat remains, the secretary said, and U.S. forces must keep the pressure on. In addition, he told the group, the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons and the means to launch them has not gone away.

“We’ve got the destabilizing behavior of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea,” he said, adding that uncertainty accompanies the rise of new powers in Asia and changes in the Middle East.

Countering these threats and uncertainties has to be governed by a strategy, Panetta said, and the department is firmly behind President Barack Obama’s new defense strategy revealed last week. That strategy reshapes the military while meeting new fiscal constraints, he explained, and Pentagon leaders are shaping a budget based on the strategy, “and not just some numbers game.”

“This will shape just what our military force will look like -- not just today, but in the future,” the secretary said.

The men and women in uniform will continue to be the country’s greatest strength, Panetta said, and those men and women will continue to need the support of communities like El Paso.

“As this new greatest generation of Americans begins to return home from war, many will need our support to recover from wounds, both physical and mental,” he said. “They will need our support as they transition either back into the force or back into civilian life. We must be there for them. We must honor their commitment to this country.”

People are the highest priority for DOD, the secretary stressed.

“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need your help. Defending America is a team effort. It’s a joint effort on the part of our troops and their families, but it also includes the people of communities like El Paso.”