Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mesa Verde Helps Others

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Josue L. Escobosa, USS Mesa Verde Public Affairs

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, Spain (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines from USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) volunteered at a monastery in Jerez De La Frontera during a port visit to Rota, Spain Jan. 17.

More than 30 volunteers went to the "La Cartuja" Our Lady of the Defense monastery and assisted with yard work and minor renovations to the chapel and living areas.

"These community relations (COMREL) projects keep the relationship between the Navy and the local Spanish community strong," said Lt. Rob Johnson, a chaplain assigned to Naval Station Rota. "The Spaniards really do appreciate everything we do around here; they know it's genuine. They know it's not something that we have to do, but that Sailors and Marines choose to do from the kindness of their hearts."

"I had a great time," said Sgt. Beth Grauer, a participant from the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). "It feels like we're actually doing something when we're out here. deployment was long, but COMRELs really make me feel like we're helping."

The monastery, which was originally founded in the sixth century, houses 18 nuns and is the second most historic building in the Andalucia region. The chapel was reconstructed in 1490 after it had been conquered and destroyed twice before by foreign invaders.

"This was the biggest group of volunteers I've seen since I've been here," said Johnson. "Their motivation and work ethic is unmatched."

"The response for this COMREL was overwhelming," said Lt. Diego Londono, the 22nd MEU command chaplain. "We had way more volunteers than we had space for this. It's a great opportunity for our Sailors and Marines to work together and gain cohesion with each other and those we help."

Volunteers performed a range of outdoor jobs such as trimming hedges, pulling weeds and removing rocks from a field the nuns will later use to plant a garden. Mesa Verde Sailors and Marines also did heavier chores such as lifting, moving and organizing marble slabs and old stones, as well as cleaning, leveling and laying PVC piping for plumbing.

"It was great to be out here and really lend a hand to people that need it," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Christopher Blue. "It's important for us as Americans to help out and this is just another way to do it."

After the volunteers finished their work they were given a tour of the monastery, which included the original grounds, the chapel and ruins of the cells used by the early priests of the monastery. Tour escorts provided participants with stories about the historical significance of the area and church.

"The monastery was gorgeous," said Grauer. "I loved being out here and helping and the tour was more than worth the time we spent working here."

Mesa Verde is deployed as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and deployed from her homeport of Norfolk, Va., March 23. Mesa Verde has spent the past nine and a half months supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, and is returning home after having been relieved by the Makin Island ARG.

Defense, State Agree to Pursue Conduct Code for Outer Space

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2012 – The departments of Defense and State have agreed an international code of conduct should govern activities in outer space, and officials announced plans to work with the European Union to develop it.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little yesterday issued a statement saying DOD “supports the concept” of an international code of conduct for outer space activities.

“An international code of conduct can enhance U.S. national security by encouraging responsible space behavior by reducing the risk of mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust,” he said.

Little added that a European Union draft plan “is a promising basis for an international code.”

Little’s statement followed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s announcement yesterday that the United States has decided to join with the European Union and other nations to develop a code of conduct, which she said “will help maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, stability, and security of space by establishing guidelines for the responsible use of space.”

Clinton’s announcement came two days after a Russian spacecraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 700 miles west of Chile. The European Union issued its proposal about the same time as another space mishap – the February 2009 collision between a commercial satellite and that of a Russian military satellite, according to reports.

“The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors,” Clinton said. “Ensuring the stability, safety and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community. These systems allow the free flow of information across platforms that open up our global markets, enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring, and enable global navigation and transportation.

“Unless the international community addresses these challenges,” Clinton continued, “the environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to human space flight and satellite systems, which would create damaging consequences for all of us.”

Opponents of the European Union plan have said it would restrict U.S. military options. But Clinton said yesterday that the U.S. government “has made clear to our partners that we will not enter into a code of conduct that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space, or our ability to protect the United States and our allies.”

In early 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper approved a National Security Space Strategy designed to govern congestion and competition in space, as well as contested areas of space.

Air Guard's 174th Fighter Wing writing the book on Air Force MQ-9 maintenance

By Air National Guard Capt. Anthony L. Bucci
174th Fighter Wing

HANCOCK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Syracuse, NY -- Since Hancock Field Air National Guard Base converted from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the MQ-9 Reaper, the flight line has become more silent and there has been a noticeable reduction in the level of aircraft maintenance activity on the base.

However, that all began to change recently as the unit commenced MQ-9 flying operations at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field at Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 174th FW Maintenance Group resumed a more normal maintenance posture on base.

"Our maintenance personnel have contributed to the creating and/or validation of approximately 80 percent of all maintenance technical data for the U. S. Air Force in regards to maintenance for the MQ-9," said Air Force Maj. Tim Martin, 174th Fighter Wing Aircraft maintenance squadron commander.

Currently, the 174th Fighter Wing flies at its training range located at WSAAF with 174th Fighter Wing maintenance personnel positioned there to assist with necessary maintenance requirements. However, when more in-depth maintenance needs to be done those aircraft are boxed up and transported back to Hancock Field where 174th Fighter Wing maintenance troops begin the more arduous maintenance work. As a result of this maintenance activity, the unit has been generating a significant amount of technical data concerning the proper maintenance of the MQ-9.

"We are importing what the U. S. Air Force is using as it relates to the MQ-9 for technical data, maintenance procedures, etc., as well as providing improvements for the overall care and maintenance of the MQ-9," said Martin.

As the unit continues to fly at WSAAF, the maintenance tempo has picked up dramatically to include pre and post-flight maintenance in addition to maintenance issues that have never been seen before. In fact, the unit has submitted more than 100 engineering requests during the past two years for technical data on how to fix certain issues with the MQ-9 - in comparison to the F-16, which the unit only submitted three engineering requests during the unit's some 20 years of flying the aircraft.

"The maintenance personnel here at Hancock Field are becoming the subject matter experts for the MQ-9, while working very closely with the U. S. Air Force and General Atomics. These maintainers have a vested interest in the technical data that is being written for this aircraft and they take that responsibility very seriously, knowing they have the potential in helping to decide the proper and safest procedures for maintaining the MQ-9," Martin said.

The MQ-9 is a medium-to-high altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft system. The Reaper's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR. It acts as a Joint Forces Air Component commander-owned theater asset for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of the Joint Forces commander.

The turboprop-powered, multi-mission Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System was developed with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., funding and provides significantly greater capabilities than Predator.

First flown in 2001, Predator B is a highly sophisticated development built on the experience gained with GA-ASI's battle-proven Predator UAS and a major evolutionary leap in overall performance and reliability.

With an operational ceiling of 50,000 feet, and higher cruising speed, the MQ-9 can cover a larger area, under all weather conditions carrying payloads of more than 1.5 tons. The aircraft is powered by a single Honeywell TP331-10 engine, which provides a maximum airspeed of 260 knots and a cruise speed for maximum endurance of 150-170 knots.

This aircraft has been acquired by the Air Force, Navy, Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force.

Texas Guard members train for Africa mission

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - Waiting their turn, National Guard members from Texas huddled around a space heater in the 17-degree Indiana weather. The warmth it provided was only temporary as they had to head down to the range soon.

Soldiers from Task Force Raptor (3-124 CAV), conducted training at the reflexive fire range at the Joint Maneuver Training Center here in preparation for their deployment to the Horn of Africa early this year. The range trains Soldiers for close-quarter combat.

"It teaches Soldiers how to engage the enemy at distances between zero and 25 meters and how to take the recoil from the weapon in a certain manner in order to engage the target quickly," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Demarsiso, senior observer control/trainer with the 1-57 Brigade at Camp Atterbury.

The range was only one stop of a list of things the Soldiers had to do in their first week at Atterbury.

Earlier in the week, the Guard members moved from what seemed to be one endless line to another at Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration, a process that ensures the Soldiers are cleared of medical, legal, and financial issues as well as have the gear needed for the mission. According to Army 2nd Lt. Matthew Venia, staff officer at the RSOI, the process is worth the wait.

"This process is not only important for the Soldier, but for the family back home. SGLI [Serviceman's Group Life Insurance] is obviously a good thing to have up to date, but also their DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System] and ID cards are checked for accuracy to ensure the family back home is getting the medical care that they are now entitled to."

Once the Soldiers cleared RSOI, they hit the frozen Indiana ground running with an exercise in base defense. Soldiers trained on a mock military base conducting security patrols, entry control points and quick reaction force scenarios. Army Capt. Travis Nelson from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, out of Wylie, Texas, was the officer in charge of the tactical operations center there.

"We're using vehicles and people approaching the ECPs, there are individuals dropping off suspicious objects outside the base, and even a scenario for the QRF to escort individuals from the embassy to a safe location."

At the base's front gate, soldiers from the 712th Military Police Company, out of Houston, stood guard at their ECPs. Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Hayes, sergeant of the Guard, talks about the training.

"The Soldiers here at the gate make sure all persons coming in and out have IDs and if needed the passengers are asked to exit the vehicle and searched separately. This is basically the crawl phase of running an ECP, but it shows everyone what goes on and what we will be doing on the deployment."

Hayes believes the cold weather adds value to the training.

"The way I look at it, one way or another there is going to be some heartache involved. Here it's the cold, when we get to Africa it's going to be the heat; so either way you're gonna have some aggravation to learn to deal with," said Hayes.

Back at the reflexive fire range, the Soldiers tore themselves away from the warmth of the heater, clenched the cold steel of their weapons, aimed and fired.

Guam Educators Unite to Help Military Students Cope

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Waris Banks, U.S. Naval Base Guam Public Affairs

TUMON, Guam (NNS) -- Educators from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Guam District schools and the island's public and private schools participated in the Military Child Education Coalition's (MCEC) Transition Counselor Institute (TCI) Phase II at the Guam Marriott Resort in Tumon, Guam, Jan. 12-13.

The event was the second in a three-part series on the social and emotional factors as they relate to military students and their families.

MCEC is a nonprofit organization that focuses on ensuring that military children receive quality education in a challenging world that includes mobility, family separation and transition.

"Everything that we teach is researched based, and the research was done on military families, hundreds and hundreds of them," said Judy Coffee, a lead trainer with MCEC. "The people we come to train are the frontline helpers, your teachers, your counselors, the people on your post that work with your families and children. We are trying to teach them to teach kids resilience."

On average, military children move six to nine times between kindergarten and 12th grade. School-to-school moves bring different academic standards, courses and graduation requirements that vary across states and schools. In addition to frequent moves and mobilization issues, family separation can also affect a military student's school performance.

Cmdr. William C. McCool Elementary/Middle School (MEMS) guidance counselor Julie San Nicolas said it is important for educators to focus on ensuring a smooth transition into a new school as well as the transition from the old school.

"They've left best friends and they've left a community what they're used to," she said. "This training is going to give us even more ideas on dealing with this."

San Nicolas said one tactic MEMS uses to help students transition to their new academic and social environment is having current students mentor new arrivals.

"These are the students trained to work with the new students coming into McCool," she said. "So they do a tour."

Face of Defense: Father, Daughter Bring Past to Life

By Air Force Senior Airman Rae Perry
4th Fighter Wing

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C., Jan. 18, 2012 – For Marty Stanton, a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management superintendent, and his daughter, Alicia, restoring pieces of the past is something they both enjoy.

Stanton said he has loved working on cars since he was in high school. Unable to afford the equipment for welding class, he settled on body shop. From there, he added, shaping and bending metal to fix cars became a passion.

"I really liked fixing something, so no one could tell what was done," Stanton said. "It's like bringing a car or truck back to life. I just can't get enough."

When Alicia was 3 years old, she became curious about what her dad was doing in the garage, so she put on her mother's black boots to check it out.

"She said, 'Daddy, I want to help you today.' I mean, what can you say?" Stanton said with a chuckle. "It sounded like a great idea."

During their first project together, Stanton taught Alicia how to remove the chrome rings on his 1967 Corvette Stingray.

"I went over grabbed a small pry spoon and showed her how to take the hub caps and beauty rings off of my Corvette," he said. "She took the pry bar, put it under the ring and

pushed on it. The beauty ring came off [and] rolled around on the floor. She started jumping up and down, waving the pry bar around, just celebrating."

From there, Alicia has helped her dad with the family business.

"My favorite part is hanging out with my dad and working on cars," Alicia said. "It's kind of like a family thing."

Even though she is only 12, she already has her first car, which she and her father plan on restoring for her 16th birthday.

"I was excited about getting the Celica," Alicia said. "I just wondered if I was too young, but my dad's thinking was that it would take a couple years to get it fixed up."

The 1977 Toyota Celica GT fastback, five-speed with a 2.2 liter motor, is heavily styled off older Ford Mustangs. Many Japanese car clubs have given the car the nickname “Tokyo Pony.”

"Since Alicia is part Japanese, and it's a Japanese muscle car, I figured that was a perfect fit," Stanton said. "I'm not going to give my beautiful, young, 16-year-old daughter a Mustang to drive around town in, but it looks just like a Mustang, except it's cooler, because it is Japanese."

"I'm looking forward to doing the paint job," Alicia said. "It's going to be Dodge Viper blue with white racing stripes."

The car has a standard transmission, but Alicia is not afraid of learning how to drive it.

"My mom is actually really good at driving stick shifts, so I'm going to learn from both my mom and dad," she said.

Although the car is far from being able to be driven on the road, the father-daughter duo looks forward to fixing it up.

"I'm just really happy that my daughter and I are going to get to restore her Celica together," the proud father said.

Stanton said he plans on fixing cars, not only for the Air Force, but until he can no longer do it.

"I cannot get enough of it," he said. "I'll probably be doing this until I'm in a wheelchair, then I'll get Alicia or one of her sisters to push me around. I'll just keep sanding or doing stuff with my hands until I can't anymore."

Chairman Explains Joint Operational Access Concept in Blog

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2012 – The nation’s top military officer wrote in a blog post yesterday about a new Defense Department concept to assure U.S. forces entry and sustained access to any contested domain: land, air, space, sea or cyber.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Joint Operational Access Concept is based on the defense strategic guidance President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta released this month.

“No matter how formidable our forces, if we are unable to bring our capabilities to bear in any of these domains, we may not be able to complete the mission or meet our nation’s needs,” the chairman wrote. “Our adversaries know this as well.”

For the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps of the future, Dempsey wrote, gaining access to the right place at the right time presents an ever more pressing challenge.

“The [concept] outlines how we will confront emerging anti-access/area denial [referred to by military members as A2/AD] threats by state and non-state enemies across the globe,” the chairman noted in his blog. “A2/AD is not new, but it is a defining characteristic of today’s operational environment.”

In a foreword to the concept document, Dempsey noted that each service helped to develop the approach and each has a vital role to play, separately and together, in carrying it out.

“Embracing cross-domain synergy at increasingly lower levels will be essential to generating the tempo that is often critical to exploiting fleeting local opportunities for disrupting the enemy system,” Dempsey wrote in the foreword. “The [concept] also envisions a greater degree and more flexible integration of space and cyberspace operations into the traditional air-sea-land battlespace than ever before.”

The 64-page document setting forth the concept outlines both A2/AD threats and effective means to countering them. Anti-access threats usually are long-range, employed most often against air and sea approaches, and designed to prevent an opposing force from entering an operational area. Area denial refers to shorter-range actions and capabilities, designed to limit an opposing force’s freedom of action within all domains of the operational area.

The document lists key anti-access capabilities U.S. forces may face as ballistic and cruise missiles, long-range reconnaissance and surveillance systems, anti-satellite weapons, submarines, cyber and terrorist attacks and special operations forces.

Area denial capabilities, according to the concept, include air forces and air defense systems; short-range missiles and submarine-based torpedoes; precision-guided rockets, artillery, missiles and mortars; chemical and biological weapons; computer and electronic attacks; land- and sea-based mines; unmanned surveillance or weapons systems; land forces; and special operations forces.

According to the concept document, countering these capabilities requires preparing the operational area in advance, seizing the initiative with multiple deployments and operations, exploiting advantages in one domain to disrupt or destroy enemy capabilities in others, and protecting space and cyber assets while attacking the enemy’s.

“The concept identifies 30 operational capabilities the future joint force will need to gain operational access in an opposed environment,” the document reads, in part. “The implications of creating and maintaining these capabilities in the necessary capacity are potentially profound.”

The concept’s authors acknowledge risks with the approach. It could lead to operations that are logistically or economically unsupportable or of “debilitating complexity,” the document states.

Even in successful operations, the authors note, “gaining and maintaining operational access in the face of armed resistance is inherently fraught with risk.”

The chairman’s blog post emphasized the nation’s military faces a clear strategic challenge: it must maintain the freedom of action to accomplish any assigned mission.

“The Joint Operational Access Concept is a critical first step in ensuring the joint force has the requisite capabilities to do so,” he concluded.

SECNAV Recognizes Heroism of World War II Vet

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (AW) Sam Shavers, Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device to a former Sailor during a ceremony on Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., Jan. 17.

Mabus presented the long-awaited medal to Carl E. Clark, a 95-year-old African-American for his actions during World War II.

"Mr. Clark's service was honorable, but his DD-214 was missing one entry," Mabus said.

"Today, we will add that final official entry that has been missing from his record for almost exactly two-thirds of a century. That entry will record that Carl E. Clark has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with the Combat V".

Clark, then a ship's steward first class, was working in the officer's mess aboard the destroyer minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM 34) when Japanese kamikazes attacked his ship May 3, 1945.

The Ward's gunners shot down some of the kamikazes, but six planes and three of their bombs hit the ship on the port side of the main deck, igniting an instant firestorm upon impact.

According to Clark's Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal citation, he was slammed against the overhead from the impact of the first kamikaze attack.

He then headed out of the passageway and watched the second plane as it slammed into the port side. Unaware that the men on his damage control team were killed, he manned a fire hose fighting raging fires while kamikaze planes continued to crash into the deck and infrastructure.

"Imagine being in a battle like that. Imagine being a member of that crew, engulfed in fire and water, while relying on training and experience to conquer your fear with determination," said Mabus "Carl Clark not only can imagine it, he lived it."

Mabus also said Clark now officially joins other pioneers like the Golden 13, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Montford Point Marines; African-Americans who proudly represented the Navy and their nation, even during a time when their nation did not always live up to the ideals they served to protect.

"Carl Clark will tell you that he doesn't consider himself a hero. He says, 'I only did the best I could in a very ugly and demanding situation,'" said Mabus.

"Well, Carl, we here consider you a hero. America considers you a hero and I am proud to offer this symbol of thanks from a grateful Navy and nation," said Mabus, just prior to presenting Clark with his medal.

How to Find Support Resources in Your Community

By Corina Notyce, DCoE Strategic Communications

Hopefully you have heard the advice “reach out if you need help,” but would you know where to go to find it? Real Warriors Campaign’s latest article, “Finding Support Resources in Your Community,” offers a quick overview of several resources and support services offered locally and nationally to help you with reintegration challenges, employment, housing, counseling, education assistance and more.

For those dealing with traumatic brain injury or psychological health concerns, including combat stress and depression, connect with the DCoE Outreach Center. Looking for information at night or during the wee hours of the morning? The center is available 24/7 to help everyone—military or civilian. Trained health resource consultants can provide information and resources on topics including:

■Resilience programs
■Suicide prevention initiatives
■Family and relationship support
■Alcohol/substance use programs
■Health care system navigation
■Resources about traumatic brain injury and psychological health

The DCoE Outreach Center is a free resource you can access from your home confidentially. Call 866-966-1020, email or log on to live chat from your computer or smartphone.

The National Resource Directory, a partnership between the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families and caregivers to thousands of services and resources that support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. Whether you’re looking for one reliable resource, or possibly a few, you can get as specific as you need to in your search—search by city, state or zip code for resources on:

■Benefits and compensation
■Education and training
■Family and caregiver support
■Homeless assistance
■Transportation and travel
■Volunteer opportunities
■Other services and resources

As new resources and services are added to the directory, be in the know by signing up to receive email updates. Additionally, you can connect with the directory through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

MilitaryHOMEFRONT, a Defense Department resource, provides information to help service members and families, leadership and service providers. One example is its downloadable listing of public and government service organizations to help identify and navigate support resources available to address military-related issues. You’ll find a description of each organization and a link to the organization’s website in the guide.

Specifically for veterans, the Department of Veteran Affairs has a network of community-based counseling facilities called Vet Centers. To find a Vet Center near you, search the Vet Center National Directory or call 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387). Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling, individually or in group settings, and outreach services to all veterans who served in a combat zone at no cost. Additional support services offered include:

■Bereavement counseling for families who experience the death of a loved one serving on active duty
■Military sexual trauma counseling and referrals
■Substance abuse assessment and referral
■Employment assessment and referral
■Screening and referral for medical and psychological issues including traumatic brain injury, depression and other psychological health concerns

Changing careers and need help? The Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop, offers employment information and resources specifically to help service members transition from military service to civilian employment. Check out the Key to Career Success section of the website as well as Veterans ReEmployment for employment, training and financial assistance. To find a One-Stop Career Center near you, visit America’s Service Locator.

Mrs. Dempsey: Military Families Take Care of Each Other

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 18, 2012 – Caring about military families comes naturally to the wife of the nation’s top military officer. She’s been an Army spouse for nearly 36 years, and their three children have served in the Army.

Since Oct. 1, when Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey became the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deanie Dempsey’s full-time job has been to communicate in every way she can with military families about topics that affect them.

“Wounded warriors have always been near and dear to my heart, but [I’m interested in] pretty much any of the family issues,” Dempsey told American Forces Press Service during a trip here with the chairman Jan. 13.

“We’ve done a lot with spouse employment and post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said, “and making sure we take care of [military families] and not break faith” with them in a time of defense budgetary constraints.

Through accounts on the social media websites Twitter and Facebook, through contacts with service members as she travels with the chairman, and even through personal notes to military spouses, Dempsey discusses everything from programs for military families overseas and jobs for military spouses to military family health and her travels with the chairman.

In December, she joined her husband on his first USO holiday tour as chairman, a fast-paced trip through five countries in six days.

In Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Germany, they hosted four celebrities and brought holiday gifts to troops that included hockey equipment, soccer equipment, holiday cards from schoolchildren in the United States, and 10,000 cupcakes donated by DC Cupcakes in Washington.

“I thought [the USO tour] was absolutely amazing, and I was really impressed with the stars,” she said. The celebrities were recording artist Jordin Sparks, actress and model Minka Kelly, seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry and comedian Thomas "Nephew Tommy" Miles.

“They were good people who really were thrilled at the prospect of going to see troops,” Dempsey said. “If they smiled for one picture, they smiled for a million, and they were working on as little sleep as we were.”

On the last night of the tour, she and the chairman had a small ceremony with the celebrities.

“Marty got up and said some things about each one of them, and they were all in tears by the end,” she said. “They got that the week was about the soldiers, not about them, and the joy that they brought to all those service members for that week.”

On the stop in Iraq, the Dempseys joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other U.S. and Iraqi military officials at the closing ceremony for U.S. Forces Iraq.

“Today I attended the casing of the colors in Baghdad and it was pretty emotional,” she wrote in a Facebook post Dec. 15.

“As I sat there listening, I couldn't help but think of my family members (husband, son, daughter) who all were a part of this effort,” Dempsey wrote. “I felt like I was representing all spouses and mothers who couldn't be here. I also thought of all those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. We will never forget you.”

Dempsey calls being a military spouse, especially as the wife of the nation’s top military officer, a full-time job.

“All through Marty’s career, we’ve always taken that command-team philosophy seriously, so I support him,” she said.

When the chairman travels stateside, Dempsey said, his hosts at the military facilities he visits “always want to show the general everything that’s perfect and good.”

“Then I go and talk with spouses and … find out there is a lot of good, but there also may be something that’s not so good, and they’re not afraid to tell me,” she said. “I think that’s the benefit of having somebody else there -- another set of ears.”

As Dempsey supports the general in his hectic schedule of work and travel and communicates with military families to share her strength and experience, she continues an ancient tradition among military families to look out for each other.

“It is unlike any other occupation,” she said. “I used to tell people I could get in the car on the East Coast and drive to the West Coast and never spend a night in a hotel.

“It might be that I haven’t seen you in 15 years, but if I’m driving on I-70 through Kansas and you’re at Fort Riley … you’re telling me to come over, because there is that close-knit family atmosphere where you want to take care of everybody because you’ve been there,” she added. “It’s what we do.”

Dr. Biden Writes Children’s Book on Deployment

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2012 – Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, has written a children’s book to raise awareness among Americans, particularly children, of military families’ challenges during deployment.

The illustrated children’s book -- titled “Don’t Forget, Nana, God Bless Our Troops” -- will be released in June.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Biden, nicknamed “Nana” by her grandkids, told American Forces Press Service that she decided to write the book after speaking with hundreds of military families across the nation. Many Americans aren’t aware of what military families go through when their loved one is deployed, she noted.

“What better way than a children’s book to help parents reading to their children … understand, and the children understand, just what it’s like to go through a deployment?” she asked.

The story, she explained, was inspired by her own family’s experiences with deployment. The Bidens’ son, Beau, a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008. “I really thought if I wrote the book from the heart, then that would be the best kind of book, and the message would get across and it would be a strong message,” she said.

Biden tells the story from the perspective of their granddaughter, Natalie. She traces Natalie’s journey from coping with her father’s absence to finding support from community members, including teachers and neighbors.

Biden said she gained insight from Natalie during conversations on her porch last summer. “I told her I wanted to write a book to help other boys and girls understand what’s it’s like -- what she went through,” she said. “I also wanted her to know it was important that other children in other classrooms across the country got to know what she went through.”

Natalie is excited about the book, Biden added. “It’s still fresh in her mind, and it’s still emotional for her when we read it together, but I she really has a sense of pride about it.”

Natalie inspired not only the story, she noted, but also the book’s title.

Biden recalled an evening spent at her granddaughter’s house. She read Natalie a few bedtime stories, and then they said their prayers. “God bless Mommy and Daddy,” they said together. “And then, I was turning out the light and Natalie said, ‘Don’t forget, Nana, God bless our troops.’

“That, I felt, was really the essence of it,” she said, “that all Americans should be thankful for the sacrifice and strength of our military families, and I hope that comes across in the book.”

The book will include resources about what readers can do to support troops and their families worldwide, a topic Biden often touches on during her travels across the nation in support of the “Joining Forces” initiative. First Lady Michelle Obama and Biden launched the nationwide campaign last year to raise awareness of troops, veterans and their families and to call on all sectors of society to support them.

Service members and their families deserve recognition and support for their service and sacrifices over this past decade of war, Biden said.

“I happen to … think about these men and women every single night,” she said. “I just hope [this book] creates awareness of what these families are going through.”

Biden said she’ll donate all net author proceeds to charities that support military families and children, and will forgo an advance for the book. The book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, also will make a donation to charities that support military families, according to a news release.

The book, which will be illustrated by award-winning artist Raúl Colón, will go on sale June 5.

Enterprise Sailors and Families United Through Reading

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gregory White, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- The Religious Ministries Division (RMD) aboard aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) began offering the United Through Reading program to all crew members while underway for COMPTUEX Jan. 13.

United Through Reading is a program designed to allow service members to keep in touch with their children by reading to them on video.

"The United Through Reading program is an awesome tool used to connect Sailors, Marines and other service members to their children and families while on deployment," said Chief Religious Programs Specialist Terry A. Burrell, RMD's leading chief petty officer and United Through Reading coordinator on Enterprise.

Participation in the program is relatively simple. RMD Sailors record the reading session in a private location, copy it to DVD, and then give it to the participating service member to mail home.

The program has proven to be quite successful.

"On the last deployment we had around 1,000 recordings," said Burrell.

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class George N. Cintron, the assistant leading petty officer of the ship's bow catapult, and Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Bonita R. Huffman, a customer service supervisor, participated in the United Through Reading program during Enterprise's last deployment.

"My son was one-year-old and it was important to me to have him hear my voice and see my face so that when we returned from cruise he would know who I was," said Cintron.

"I participated in the United Through Reading program last deployment and it was awesome," said Huffman. "After I sent my video off to my son, my mom said that they watched it and listened to it every night."

Burrell said that children will gain experience with words, letters and sounds through the program so when participants are reading they should try to show the book to the camera. He also said one of the program's missions is to motivate and inspire children to read and develop a love for reading.

The ship's library has a variety of children's books for participants to choose from while preparing for their session.

"My son is six-years-old," said Huffman. "He actually asked my mom to buy the books that I read in the video so that he could learn them and read them to me when I got back."

"A lot of the books I read were Dr. Seuss books, and four to five page beginner books featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck," said Cintron. "I tried to find books with a lot of pictures so that I could interact with him (my son) as best as I could."

Crew members who are interested in participating in the United Through Reading program can sign up and schedule an appointment with RMD. Appointments are available in 30-minute increments. Anyone serving aboard Enterprise can participate regardless of whether or not they have children.

Burrell, Cintron, and Huffman agreed the program is a great way for service members to keep in contact with any family member.

"I think my wife enjoyed it too," said Cintron, "I feel like anyone with a loved one, but especially a child, should participate in this program."