Military News

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Panetta, Dempsey: Chiarelli Inspired All

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2012 – The Defense Department and the Army said goodbye today to a general known for his leadership and his innovation, but who may be best remembered for his focus on advancing brain injury treatment and mental health care.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among hundreds who gathered today at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Summerall Field to celebrate the career of Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, as he retired following 40 years of service.

As the son of a World War II Silver Star recipient, Chiarelli “exemplified the values of his father: of patriotism, of courage, of resilience, of dedication,” the secretary said.

Panetta said he traveled to Baghdad as part of the Iraq Study Group in September 2006, where the group heard a briefing from Chiarelli, then commander of Multinational Corps Iraq. Iraq at the time was “in considerable turmoil,” the secretary said.

“But Pete’s presentation demonstrated an extraordinary knowledge of the 21st-century battlefield,” he continued. “He was honest, he was direct, he called it as it was, and he pulled no punches.”

The secretary said one member of the group who was particularly impressed with Chiarelli was then-Texas A&M University President Robert M. Gates, who as secretary of defense later chose the general to serve as his senior military assistant.

“For 17 months, Pete served as Bob Gates’ right-hand man, advising him on a full range of pressing national security matters, and always -- always -- giving him insight into how the decisions he was making would impact on the men and women on the battlefield.”

The hallmark of Chiarelli’s career is “the depth of his concern for the welfare of every soldier,” the secretary said. “It’s that quality that made him the perfect choice to be the vice chief of staff of the Army.”

For his more than three years in that job, Chiarelli has not rested, Panetta said, but has devoted himself to improving the lives of soldiers and family members at a time of extraordinary strain.

“Under his leadership, the Army has taken tremendous steps to give soldiers increased dwell time [at home stations] between deployments, and he’s been an outspoken advocate for wounded warriors -- in particular, those suffering from the unseen wounds of war,” the secretary said.

More than any other officer, Panetta added, Chiarelli sought to eliminate the stigma of post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues.

“And he’s devoted every ounce of his energy to the problem of suicide in the Army,” the secretary said. … “Thanks to his tireless efforts, the department is fully working to confront these issues.”

Panetta said Chiarelli and his wife, Beth, have made “an extraordinary difference.”

“You’ve touched so many lives,” he told the couple. “You’ve inspired all of us … to redouble our efforts to protect the men and women who fight to protect us.”

Panetta assured Chiarelli that while the nation’s military members will miss him, “the light that you have lit will continue to shine, and to light our way in the future.”

Dempsey used his remarks in part to offer guidance to media members covering the event: “I want you to report that we have never had a finer man in uniform, and never a finer couple, than Pete and Beth Chiarelli,” he said.

Dempsey said his fellow general is an outstanding son, husband, and father, as well as “an unbelievable friend.” But as a soldier, the chairman added, Chiarelli “is a giant of a man in every way, inside and out.”

Dempsey said that after watching Chiarelli “stalking the halls of the Pentagon,” he finally got the image he was seeking to describe his fellow general, likening the general to Paul Bunyan, the larger-than-life lumberjack of North American folklore.

“[It’s] almost like he’s got a big hatchet or ax on his back, hacking his way through the bureaucracy to make life better for soldiers and their families,” the chairman said.

Dempsey said before the end of the Cold War, Chiarelli was known as one of the finest trainers in the Army, and was the first commander assigned to Iraq to realize -- and train his staff to deal with -- the key question of how to run a city.

In Baghdad, Chiarelli led the Army to transform its “fundamentally flawed” command-and-control structures, and then to make those systems reach to ground troops, so a squad leader could build context from the bottom up, Dempsey said.

When he came back from war, Dempsey added, Chiarelli confronted the Army’s “enduring challenge” with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress injury.

“He drove our Army -- drove it -- to recognize the problem, to reduce the stigma, to confront it. And that was Pete Chiarelli,” Dempsey said.

Beth Chiarelli likewise worked to improve the Army, the chairman noted, by focusing among many other issues on the challenges military children face while changing schools frequently during a parent’s career.

“Here’s the bottom line,” Dempsey said. “The enduring example of both Pete and Beth Chiarelli is that you have to live with a passion for something. The goal is not just to make a living, but to make a difference. And boy oh boy, did you two make a difference.”

On Chiarelli’s last day at work, Dempsey noted, hundreds of members of the Army staff formed a cordon from his Pentagon office to the parking lot to “clap him out” of the job.

“What struck me was this wasn’t organized by his executive officer, it wasn’t organized by any other general officer, it was organized by the noncommissioned officers,” the chairman said. “And if that doesn’t tell you about Pete Chiarelli, you don’t know anything about Pete Chiarelli.”

During the ceremony, Chiarelli received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the department’s highest noncombat military award. His wife, Beth, received the Secretary of the Army Exceptional Civilian Service Award, the highest Army honor a civilian can receive.

Chiarelli thanked his wife and their four grown children for their love and support during his career. Marrying Beth was the “best decision I ever made,” he said, adding that they are both “immensely proud” of their sons and daughter.

Chiarelli said he bought his father a journal after the senior Chiarelli retired, and asked him to record some of his experiences from World War II, during which the older Chiarelli received a battlefield commission.

“I still have that journal,” the general said. “Every page is blank. He never wrote a single word. Like many from his generation, he never talked about his experience or exploits in combat.”

One of his father’s fellow soldiers, however, sent him a 24-page narrative outlining some of the two men’s shared exploits across North Africa, Italy, southern France, Austria and Germany.

That document proved to him something he’s also learned for himself over four decades in uniform, Chiarelli said: “There is undeniably a thread that links every soldier to those who came before, and those still to come.”

Years after commanding 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq and later Multinational Corps Iraq, Chiarelli said, not a day goes by that he doesn’t think of the 650 soldiers under his command who were killed.

“I would trade all the medals and ribbons on my chest, and every bit of rank, to get just one back,” he said.

Two years ago, Chiarelli added, he presented a Purple Heart to a young staff sergeant who had been wounded in successive roadside bomb explosions in Afghanistan.

“He was there with his parents, his wife and their two children,” the general said. “Over the course of our conversation, he told me how much he loved being a soldier, leading soldiers. He wanted desperately to get back to his unit.”

Chiarelli said the young man was suffering from traumatic brain injury, and it was “readily apparent to me he had difficulty gathering his thoughts and speaking.”

The general said he now believes the invisible injuries of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“While we have made significant progress in recent years, we must, must, must continue our efforts,” Chiarelli said. “We owe it to our men and women in uniform, active and reserve, as well as veterans, and their families.

“I want this to be my parting message to all of you as I leave our Army’s active ranks,” he concluded. “I certainly hope in retirement to be able to continue to champion this most important cause, and contribute in some meaningful way.”

Voluntary Sea Duty Program Provides Sailors New Opportunities

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- According to NAVADMIN 043/12, released Jan. 31, the Navy is asking Sailors to volunteer for sea duty under a new initiative called the Voluntary Sea Duty Program (VSDP).

Volunteering to return to sea duty under this program offers two key benefits.

"The Voluntary Sea Duty Program's goal is to improve manning levels at sea, while providing motivated Sailors the benefits of geographic choice and stability as well as the deferment of their Perform-to-Serve window," said Rear Admiral Tony Kurta, Director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division. "This opportunity allows Sailors a chance to improve their record and increase their competitive edge in PTS through sustained superior performance at sea."

This program does not change eligibility or benefits for the Sea Duty Incentive Pay Program and Sailors may take advantage of both programs concurrently.

Under the program, Sailors may apply to extend their enlistment in their current sea duty billet beyond their prescribed sea tour, terminate their shore duty early in order to extend their enlistment to obtain new orders to a sea duty billet, or accept back-to-back sea duty orders. The sea duty assignment may be onboard ships, squadrons, or other qualified sea duty assignments.

Volunteers will be assigned to commands within the same geographic location as the current command if available, providing the benefit of geographic stability for Sailors and family members. The Navy will also consider Sailors' requests for out-of-area moves.

Volunteers will not be required to accept a billet they do not desire. The detailers will work with volunteers during two CMS/ID cycles to find desirable orders. If no match is found during this time period, Sailors can reapply.

To be eligible to apply for a short term extension to defer PTS, Sailors must meet eligibility criteria to ensure competitiveness in their next PTS window. However, Sailors who do not meet these criteria, but have enough obligated service time can still apply for geographic stability or choice.

Requests will be accepted until Sep. 30, 2012. All 1306/7 requests should be forwarded to Navy Personnel Command via the Chain of Command.

For complete information on eligibility, restrictions and application procedure as well as benefits of VSDP, read NAVADMIN 043/12 at NPC.navy.mil.

Sendoff ceremonies planned for two Wisconsin National Guard units

Two sendoff ceremonies will be held Saturday (Feb. 4) for nearly 200 Wisconsin National Guard members headed overseas.

The first ceremony, for approximately 130 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers of the Oshkosh-based 1157th Transportation Company, will be held at 11 a.m. at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Eagle Hangar, 3000 Poberezny Road, Oshkosh, Wis.

Prior to their deployment overseas, the Soldiers will train for several weeks at Camp Shelby, Miss. Once their mobilization training at Camp Shelby is complete, the Soldiers are scheduled to deploy to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations. While the unit was preparing to deploy to Kuwait, due to reallocation of forces, the 1157th may be considered for other Central Command missions, pending approval by the Secretary of Defense.

 The second sendoff ceremony, for approximately 60 Wisconsin National Guard members of the 82nd Agribusiness Development Team, will be held at 2:30 p.m. at Hartford High School, 805 Cedar St., Hartford, Wis.

During their deployment to Afghanistan, the 82nd ADT — comprised of Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard members — will employ their individual military occupational specialties along with the their specific civilian skills, knowledge and abilities to teach Afghan farmers how to effectively farm and herd to expand their agribusiness, create jobs and reduce poverty.

Projects that other agribusiness development teams have undertaken include training Afghans in beekeeping, advising grape farmers in the use of trellises to increase yield, educating livestock owners in the use of vaccines to improve herd health, and establishing demonstration farms to highlight various agriculture techniques.

 The members of the 82nd ADT consist of various administrative and technical staff, including forestry specialists, agronomist, agricultural marketing specialist, a hydrologist, a pest control specialist, engineers, a veterinary technician, mechanics, medics, communications specialists and security personnel.

Both ceremonies are open to the public.

EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media are welcome to cover the sendoff ceremonies Saturday, Feb. 4.

 1157th Transportation Company at EAA: From U.S. 41, take Exit 116 east (Wis. 44/South Park Road). Turn right on Knapp Street Road, and right again on Poberezny Road. Follow traffic signs to EAA general parking. Eagle Hangar is attached to the EAA Museum.

82nd ADT in Hartford: From Milwaukee, take U.S. Highway 41 north to State Highway 60. Travel west on State 60 and take Exit 64B; turn left onto County Road K. Turn right on E. Monroe Avenue, and left on Cedar Street. From Madison: Take U.S. Highway 151 north to Exit 115, and turn right onto State Highway 60/State 16. Continue traveling east on State 60 when 60 separates from 16. Turn right onto Cedar Street.

Ukrainian Sailors Tour USS Vella Gulf

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian Glunt, Navy Public Affairs Support Element-East Detachment Europe

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (NNS) -- Ukrainian naval officers and sailors visited the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) Jan. 27 and 28, during a scheduled port visit.

This visit to Ukraine serves to continue U.S. 6th Fleet efforts to build global maritime partnerships with European nations and enhance maritime safety and security.

"We had a visit from the master chief petty officer of the Ukraine navy, Sergei Ryabstery, and about ten of his more senior chiefs," said Vella Gulf Command Master Chief Sheila Langejans. "He wanted to see how we manage our young Sailors and how we work with them to grow as leaders and more productive technicians."

After a lunch with Ukrainian and U.S. naval officers, Capt. Mark Harris, commanding officer of Vella Gulf, personally toured with Ukrainian navy Capt. Andrew Ryzhenko.

The tour continued the next day when Ukrainian sailors came aboard to view the different areas of the ship including the bridge, flight deck, mess halls and officers' quarters.

"The Ukrainian sailors seemed to have a really good time," said Ensign James Wolters. "They were really impressed with the weapons and they really thought that the six-man officers' berthings were extravagant. They all seemed very appreciative of the tour. It was a really pleasant experience."

U.S. 6th Fleet continues to collaborate with the Ukrainian navy and other global maritime partners, increasing the collective capability of the region and enhancing overall maritime domain awareness in the Black Sea.

Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Va., is conducting theater security cooperation and maritime security operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

Face of Defense: Surgical Tech Becomes Army Aviator

By Army Staff Sgt. Regina Machine
13th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Jan. 31, 2012 – Army Maj. Jonathan Steinbach, an aviator with the Washington National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Regiment assigned to 3rd Army/U.S. Army Central Aviation Task Force Raptors here, took an unusual route to the cockpit.

 “I was an enlisted surgical technician in the Army Reserve,” Steinbach said. “I worked as a surgical technician at a private hospital while I was a cadet in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at University of California–Berkley.”

The summer before his senior year, the Spokane, Wash., native decided to join the active-duty Army as an infantry soldier, but his ROTC advisor encouraged him to become an aviator instead.

“It sounded interesting, flying helicopters, so I did a flight physical and requested it,” he said. “I was then branched aviation in the regular Army.”

Even though going from the operating room to the cockpit of a helicopter was a unique transition, Steinbach completed it with ease. When he completed his regular Army commitment in 2003, Steinbach moved to Washington for work and asked the battalion commander of the local National Guard headquarters where he was needed the most. The battalion commander told him he was needed with Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Regiment, so he put his uniform back on and returned to aviation.

As the Task Force Raptors liaison, Steinbach works to shape the mission and set appropriate expectations with clients. The unit provides air movement support to leaders and distinguished visitors in 3rd Army’s area of responsibility. Although being an aviation liaison can prove to be time consuming, it does not stop the pilots from maintaining proficiency with their skills.

“Major Steinbach and I are both current UH-60 Black Hawk pilots,” said Army 1st Lt. Jason Miller, a Shelton, Wash., native and deputy aviation task force liaison, also assigned to Company C. They maintain their currency by flying missions at Camp Beuhring, he added.

Steinbach said he is proud of the job that the members of his unit do here as well as at their home station.

“The young men and women in the flight company make me incredibly proud to be a soldier and an aviator,” he said. “When I go out to the flightline with a very important person and I see the crew chief standing at attention and rendering a salute under the rotor disk of a raging Black Hawk, my chest swells with pride.”

Steinbach has not fully left his operating room roots. As a civilian, he is a sales representative for a less invasive surgical treatment. In the operating room, Steinbach said, he refers to himself as an instructor pilot.

“I teach surgeons how to do surgery with a robot, and I teach nurses and technicians how to give the surgeons what they need while keeping the patient safe throughout the procedure,” he explained.

Steinbach said he considers himself fortunate to be able to use the two career skills he has learned while in the Army to assist others, and credits his fellow aviators for his continued success here.

“As a staff aviator, I do not consider myself to be the best pilot,” Steinbach added. “The other pilots and crew chiefs are so patient and generous with their skills and their experiences, it makes me proud to be in their community.”

U.S. Naval Base Guam Participates in School Career Day

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

BARRIGADA, Guam (NNS) -- Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 joined U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) Fire and Emergency Services firefighters and inspectors in a career day for students at P.C. Lujan Elementary School in Barrigada, Guam Jan 25.

The contingent from NBG spoke to students about their day-to-day activities in their respective fields, demonstrated equipment use and answered questions about their careers.

P.C. Lujan guidance counselor and career day coordinator Vera Elliott said the event showed students the tremendous importance of military presence on island and gave them a wider view of different career opportunities they are able to explore as they get older.

"Having the military presence here showed the kids that it's not only the local, but also military people who play a big role in the community," Elliot said. "Their presence here helped the kids better understand the field each person was presenting on."

The NBG firefighters' presentation included a visit by Sparky the dog, a chance to see a fire engine up close and a presentation on fire safety tips. Kindergartners and first-grade students learned safety techniques such as, 'stop, drop, and roll' and 'stay low and go.'

"Teaching them that young will help them to remember fire safety as they grow up," said NBG Fire Inspector Bethany Satterlee.

The firefighters' goal for visiting career day was to inform students that though NBG Fire and Emergency Services is part of a federal agency, their duty extends to assist the local community when there are fires or other emergencies which require assistance.

"We want the community to know that we're there to help and that we're not just locked down on the base," said NBG Fire Chief Robert Green.

Students were able to see the MK Talon II robot in action from EODMU 5. The robot, which is maneuvered by remote control and used to safely disarm dangerous explosive devices, roamed around a grassy field as the technician showed students different controls and buttons on the panel board.

"We showed them a couple of the tools that we use in the EOD career," said Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class Mario Spencer, of EODMU 5.

In addition to the MK Talon II robot, the students saw the bomb suit, helmet and various EOD items.

"The kids loved the robot," Spencer said. "They loved trying on the bomb-suit helmet."

The Sailors spoke to the students about EOD rating and the intense preparation technicians endure as well as other careers in the Navy and their experience in the armed forces.

Their presentation also included practical safety advice as well. Since Guam was a site of intense fighting during World War II, there exists the possibility of discovering live explosive devices around the island.

"We told them 'stay away from it [and] don't touch it [and] let their parents know or an adult and have them call the proper authorities,'" said Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class (EWS) Matthew Herrygers, of EODMU 5.

In addition to the two groups from NBG, career day participants included the Guam Army National Guard and Guam Homeland Security.

USO Innovates to Better Support Troops

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2012 – The USO has served America’s troops and their families for seven decades, but thanks to innovations and adaptability, it’s not the same old USO, the organization’s president said.

“We have basically the same mission we’ve had for the last 71 years -- to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families,” Sloan D. Gibson told American Forces Press Service.

“But one of the things we realized is that the needs of troops and families are changing all the time,” he added. “So we’ve tried to change and adapt over those 71 years to make sure that we’re meeting the most urgent needs. And [that we’re] also using the most up-to-date technology to meet those needs.”

Gibson said the USO continues to seek ways to better serve the nation’s service members and their families.

“We ask a simple question of ourselves: ‘If our mission is to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families, who needs us most?’” he said. “The answer today is certainly different than it would have been before 9/11. So as we think about that with all the things that USO does. We want to make sure we’re taking care of our forward-deployed troops that are serving in harm’s way.”

Gibson said the USO also strives to meet the needs of military families enduring the stresses of multiple deployments, as well as healing heroes and their families and the families of fallen service members.

“So what you find are facilities and programs that are delivered all over the world that are designed to help those that need us most today,” he said.

Although the USO is best known for entertaining service members and families, Gibson said, the organization has become attuned to other needs.

“Entertainment is still a big part of the USO, … but as you think about the needs of troops and families, we’ve got to constantly adapt,” he said. “For example, we now operate eight USO centers -- soon to open our ninth USO center -- in Afghanistan.

“These centers are visited more than 100,000 times a month,” he added. “We know that connecting forward-deployed troops with their families back home is really important, so we’ve installed in those centers high-speed Internet connections and a private telephone network where troops are making over 2 million free phone calls every year.”

The USO president said these kinds of changes take place based upon the needs of today’s troops and based upon the important role that military families play today. The organization also adapts to mission changes, he noted, such as the end of the war in Iraq.

“We closed our last center in Iraq during the fourth quarter of 2011,” Gibson said. “We’ve taken the large majority of the resources that we were investing in Iraq and shifted those into Afghanistan. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve been able to support such a large growth in our presence in Afghanistan -- most through our centers, but also through a program called ‘USO2Go,’ where we actually ship pallet loads.”

Gibson said the average “USO2Go” shipment weighs a ton and consists of everything from video games to snack foods.

“They tell us what they need right there at their small combat outpost or small forward operating base, and we ship it out there,” he said. “And it arrives right there. It’s like Christmas when it shows up.”

Gibson said the USO also has created programs to help meet the needs of wounded, ill and injured troops.

“We’ve looked at those that needed us most, focusing on healing heroes and their families and our families of the fallen,” he said. “We’ve begun to build an array of programs that are designed to best meet their needs.” These programs cater to those suffering from invisible wounds as well as physical ones, he added.

“We’ve launched a new public service announcement that really focuses on the invisible wounds of war,” Gibson said. “One of the roles that the USO has played historically is we’ve been kind of a bridge between the American people and their families. So this is another one of those examples where we’re reaching out to the American people to help them understand the challenges that many of our troops and their families are facing right now with these invisible wounds.”

Gibson said it’s a “labor of love” for the USO to create new ways to serve service members and their families while ensuring their needs are met.

“We all care very deeply about what we do,” he said. “I get the opportunity -- I have the privilege -- to spend time with these men and women. I can’t say that I know what they go through, but I certainly have an appreciation for that. And if there’s something that we can do to say ‘Thank you,’ to express our gratitude, that’s really, really important.”

USS Whidbey Island Welcomes Fleet and Family Support Prior to Return to Homeport

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Desiree D. Green, USS Whidbey Island Public Affairs

USS WHIDBEY ISLAND, Atlantic Ocean (NNS) -- Deployed Sailors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) welcomed representatives from Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Jan. 26-30.

FFSC representatives conducted several classes over the three-day period to assist in the smooth transition from life afloat to life ashore to a crew that has been underway for nearly a year.

"Seeing the Fleet and Family representatives brings the end of deployment into focus for our Sailors," said Whidbey Island Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Kevin Goodrich. "After ten and a half months of operational stress and mission focus, they are finally given the opportunity and the vehicle to start shifting their thoughts to the return and reunion they are about to enjoy. They are very excited to see civilians with news from home; and the enthusiasm Susan and Linda bring is infectious."

Both retired Navy chiefs, representatives Linda Wilkinson and Susan Presnell educated Sailors over a three day period offering both group and one-on-one information sessions. The classes included reunion and intimacy, returning single Sailors, returning to children, single parenting, new parents and money management.

"We are here to provide programs that ease the integration for both the Sailor and their family members," explained Wilkinson. "We offer programs, information, and referral services for self-improvement, counseling, parenting and money matters for the children and all the way up. Our job is to assist the military family in whatever they may need."

Several Whidbey Island service members who attended the briefs agreed that Wilkinson and Presnell were beneficial not only because they provided valuable transitional information, but also because of their personal experiences as former service members.

"They have made me so much more comfortable with going home," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jody Miller, who attended several of the briefs offered. "I could definitely tell they were prior enlisted. The information that they put out was very helpful and they were really understanding of our situation and current state of mind."

Wilkinson agrees that her military background gives her insight on how to approach personnel.

"I have a deep passion for this. I love working with service members," said Wilkinson. "Having both been prior enlisted; I believe it makes us more sensitive and able to relate to what they are going through. I feel like if I can help them help themselves, it improves their quality of life, their careers, their home lives. They are taken care of and that will improve their lives and ultimately, mission readiness."

Many members of the crew agree that after a deployment of this length, outreach from FFSC is important.

"It's good that they came," said Hull Technician Fireman Preston Myatt. "We've been gone so long that for many of us, we need a little bit of help and encouragement being reintroduced to society and our families. I learned a lot and I felt like we could really be ourselves when discussing how we were feeling."

"I think that it's very important that these services are provided to Sailors during deployment. It gives us an idea of what to expect and how things may have changed," said Miller. "My favorite brief was on reunion and intimacy. It covered almost everything and they used skits to re-enact real life situations that we may encounter after our return."

In addition, representatives held briefs on everything from purchasing a new vehicle in Hampton Roads, Va., to current state laws. They also held a baby shower for the new fathers on board.

"It was really special besides being very informative," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Aaron Perry. "I learned a lot of things that I didn't know. I was extremely nervous, but I left the shower feeling much better about handling the challenge of being a first-time dad. I am so thankful that the ship and the representatives cared enough to do that for us."

In total, FFSC representatives held more than 10 classes over a three-day period.

"Fleet and Family Support Centers play a vital role in the Navy by ensuring Sailors and their families have access to the resources necessary to maintain the highest state of personal and family readiness," said Goodrich. "In addition to the seven briefs they offer to returning ships, they offer briefs to the families of returning Sailors and work closely in a supporting capacity with our Ombudsman and Family Readiness Groups."

Neither Presnell nor Wilkinson had worked with a crew deployed for this length of time, and were impressed with the crew's continuing morale.

"The crew has been phenomenal," said Presnell. "From the moment we stepped foot on deck, they made us feel like family. I was expecting some low morale but everyone is in really good spirits. I don't know if it's because they are headed home, but I think it's just an amazing crew."

"We didn't really have to change our approach. The crew has really handled this deployment very well and adapted. They were great," Wilkinson added.

Though many crew members were grateful for having FFSC provide these resources, Presnell and Wilkinson were equally grateful for the opportunity to assist them.

"I am truly humbled to be here," said Presnell. "This crew has done essentially two deployments back to back. I have a ton of respect and I am very grateful for their service. They have been standing the watch for almost an entire year while we have been at home with our families. I am excited for them to return home and I know I speak for both of us when I say that we are glad to have been here to share in their happiness as they finally make their way home to their friends and family. They truly deserve it."

Whidbey Island deployed March 23, 2011 as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. The Whidbey Island has spent the past ten and a half months supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

Wisconsin National Guard takes part in virtual conference on diversity

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Expanding the scope of diversity beyond race and gender can unlock untapped potential in the Wisconsin National Guard.

This is the message senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders are emphasizing to their troops following the first National Guard Bureau Virtual Diversity Conference - held completely online Jan. 18.

"Diversity is a core value of the Wisconsin National Guard and it directly affects readiness. It extends far beyond race and gender - it is about faith in the future and breaking free of stereotypical thinking," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin. "This diversity conference sent a powerful message - our national leadership shares our core values and, by conducting it virtually, we saved significant resources by not having to travel. An excellent event."

1st Lt. Ron Adams, the Wisconsin National Guard diversity officer, said that the "melting pot" concept can suppress diversity and stifle ideas in favor of assimilation.

"Valuing diversity is creating a workplace that respects differences, recognizes unique contributions and maximizes potential," Adams said. "Diversity for the Wisconsin National Guard includes a long-term vision of a workforce that generally reflects the population demographics of the state."

Helping develop that vision is the Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Diversity Council, made up of senior and junior officers and enlisted members reflecting every unit of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard.

"In today's environment, leaders at all levels are expected to get the best out of their team," said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and co-chair of the Joint Diversity Council. "Understanding the value that each team member brings to the fight is imperative to continued success for our organization.

"How leadership views diversity, so goes the organization," Anderson continued, noting that there is value in different backgrounds, experiences and thought processes. "These collective backgrounds give you more variety of input when addressing an issue."

Brig. Gen. John McCoy, commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard and co-chair of the Joint Diversity Council, said that diversity cannot be a separate program.

"It is simply who we are," McCoy said. "We are much more effective when we value all of our members. Different perspectives and experiences, when embraced, can drive outstanding results."

Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the goal of the virtual conference was to present to all Citizen-Soldiers, - Airmen and civilians the vision and strategy of Guard leadership in the area of diversity management - and the use of a virtual conference allowed that message to reach a larger audience.

"As your chief of the National Guard Bureau, it is my role to work with your adjutants general to ensure that the National Guard remains a mission-ready force," he said. "Effective diversity management is essential to military readiness and mission accomplishment."

McKinley said steps to improve diversity management throughout the Guard have been taken, one of them being the establishment of the National Guard Bureau Joint Diversity Executive Council.

"The goal of this council," he said, "is to identify and adopt the best practices for recruiting, retaining and developing a very diverse workforce - and sustaining a climate of equality in the National Guard."

"The council adapts these practices from various resources to recommendations that are appropriate to the National Guard's military and civilian structure," said Phyllis Brantley, chief of National Guard diversity and special-emphasis programs.

Some of the accomplishments of the council thus far include a comprehensive diversity policy, a leaders' guide on diversity, resources for state-level Joint Diversity Councils and training and mentoring for state-level JSDCs from NGB staff.

"We as an organization have made significant progress, but much more is needed - especially in our military leadership diversity," McKinley said. "It's a problem with cyclical effects. Through the work of our adjutants general and other National Guard leaders, I am confident that we can move toward a future workforce that more clearly reflects the population of our great nation."

McKinley said accessing and adopting some programs from the civilian sector is one way that the Guard could use to achieve its diversity goals.

"Another step to reaching our goals on diversity and inclusion in the Guard is for each state, territory and the District of Columbia to establish state joint diversity councils and assign a liaison to work with the NGB Joint Diversity Executive Council," he said.

Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, the National Guard's senior enlisted leader, said in order for the organization to remain relevant, "we must understand diversity and how to strategically capitalize on the strength of our Soldiers, Airmen and civilians."

"Diversity must be recognized as an enhancement of the character of our organization," McKinley said. "Change is never easy, but I remain confident in the Soldiers, Airmen and civilians of the National Guard to get this work done."

Sgt. Darron Salzer of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report.

Navy Warfare Development Command Plays Critical Role in Bold Alligator 2012

From Navy Warfare Development Command Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) is playing a critical role in planning, executing and evaluating Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12) across every function of the command and as host facility for key components of exercise leadership and staff supporting U.S. Fleet Forces Command, beginning Jan. 30.

BA12, scheduled to run until Feb. 12, is the largest east coast amphibious exercise conducted by the Navy and Marine Corps in at least the past 10 years. The intent of the exercise is to revitalize Navy and Marine Corps amphibious tactics, techniques and procedures, and reinvigorate its culture of conducting combined operations from the sea at the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB)/Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG)-level.

NWDC's state-of-the-art Navy Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NCAMS) is the site of the BA12 Joint Exercise Control Group (JECG) and the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) staff.

Vice Adm. David H. Buss, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces and commander, Task Force 20, who will also serve as the CFMCC for the exercise, recently expressed his appreciation for NWDC's role in the exercise. "What happens here are at NWDC will have a profound impact on the future of Navy and Marine Corps interoperability," Buss said.

As the Navy's forward-leaning command directed to develop, test and deliver solutions to the maritime warfighter, NWDC's directorates are contributing to BA12 in several ways.

The Modeling and Simulation (M&S) directorate is operating the technical infrastructure known as the Navy Continuous Training Environment (NCTE) in support of BA12, in addition to hosting the JECG, CFMCC and significant portions of the controlling organization in NCAMS. The M&S directorate also engineered and installed voice communications and simulation networks specifically designed to support BA12's live, virtual and constructive exercise requirements.

For experimentation, the Allied Command and Control experimentation team is providing an updated draft Allied Tactical Memorandum (TACMEMO) to the exercise participants. NWDC will also be supporting data collection efforts to ensure the appropriate capture of observations to best inform the final development of this document. Three ship riders and other NWDC personnel are capturing the data and, upon exercise completion, will distribute a final draft TACMEMO to stakeholders.

BA12 presents an invaluable opportunity for participants, observers, and evaluators to directly and rapidly influence the doctrine review and development process. NWDC Doctrine and Training Integration, has solicited input from BA12 exercise participants, observers and evaluators for potential updates to amphibious operations-related doctrine. Additionally, NWDC Doctrine has put together a ready reference "electronic bookshelf" of relevant amphibious related doctrine for quick reference by BA12 participants and watch standers in NCAMS, utilizing its online Navy Doctrine Library System (NDLS).

NWDC is collecting and analyzing many facets of the exercise both afloat and ashore to help develop lessons learned from BA12 in order to improve the Navy and Marine Corps' amphibious capabilities in the future.

The Navy Warfare Development Command is the Navy's conduit between the fleet and its leaders, directed to develop coherent, creative and timely solutions to operational capability challenges and help move the fleet forward through the 21st Century. Its core competencies; concepts, experimentation, modeling and simulation, information dominance, lessons learned and doctrine, make the command the solutions hub to meet the needs of the maritime warfighter in a challenging global environment.

NECC participates in Bold Alligator

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kay Savarese, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Riverine Group (RIVGRU) 1 will command the Navy's expeditionary forces for Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12), the nation's largest joint forces and multinational amphibious exercise on the East Coast, which began Jan. 30.

RIVGRU-1 is part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) that deployed to North Carolina as headquarters for the Navy Expeditionary Force (NEF) supporting BA12.

Units from NECC participating include RIVGRU-1, Riverine Squadrons (RIVRON), Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAST), Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command (NEIC), and Expeditionary Training Group (ETG).

"The NEF represents the first live play on the ground and inland waters of North Carolina for Bold Alligator 2012, representing the historic flexibility of maritime services," said Capt. Christopher Halton, the commodore of RIVGRU-1 and commander of NEF.

The NEF provides command and control necessary to integrate NECC into any Navy operation. BA12 provides NECC the opportunity to further refine partnerships for worldwide Navy support, including joint operations and allied forces, extending global partnerships. In the BA12 scenario, the NEF deploys to assist a fictitious host nation.

"The NEF was the first U.S. force placed at the maritime-ground seam to help the host nation's security forces improve their capability and capacity," said Halton. "In addition, the NEF is assisting the host nation with countering insurgent activity, maintaining or developing goodwill in the local populace as well as preparing for the follow-on amphibious landing."

Expeditionary forces operate on or near coastal and waterway areas to execute the six core capabilities of the Maritime Strategy; forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster response.

"The NEF is extending the United States' 'Blue Water Option' further into the inland waterways and harbors of nations who request help," said Halton. "There is no other Navy force that can operate from a ship or ashore with equal ease and with the same operational capability."

ETG will assist in directing BA12 and evaluate NECC performance to further refine NECC procedures by coordinating synthetic training by utilizing realistic actors and contractors. Expeditionary forces will operate in at least seven different locations throughout the duration of the exercise.

In addition to NECC, units participating in BA12 include the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG), Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), as well as various other ships and units.

BA12 is a live, scenario-driven simulation held off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida from Jan. 30 to Feb. 12. Its purpose is to revitalize Navy and Marine Corps amphibious expeditionary capabilities and to test and strengthen the fundamental roles of amphibious operations by focusing on force readiness and proficiency.

Eight countries will join U.S. forces in the exercise, allowing American service members and coalition partners the opportunity to exercise amphibious operations in a real-world environment.

NECC is a command element and force provider for integrated maritime expeditionary missions, serving as a single functional command for the Navy's expeditionary forces.

J.R. Martinez and Dakota Meyer to be Featured Speakers at National Conference

The former U.S. Army Officer and Dancing with the Stars Champ Joins American Hero and Medal of Honor Recipient for Foundations Recovery Network conference to focus on the treatment of service men, women, and their families

NASHVILLE, Tennessee  - Foundations Recovery Network announced popular servicemen  J.R. Martinez and Dakota Meyer as special guest speakers at the Freedom & Recovery conference in San Diego, CA held April 23-26, 2012.   The conference brings together leading experts specializing in the treatment of service men, women, and their families.  The event focuses on the unique challenges that these individuals face as well as treatment strategies that prepare them for a return to work and civilian life.

Medal of Honor recipient, Dakota Meyer will be featured on Tuesday, April 24 and retired U.S. Army soldier and “Dancing with the Stars” champion, J.R. Martinez will be featured on Wednesday, April 25. Both speakers will present their inspiring and motivational stories in the Crown room at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.  Each presentation will conclude with an interactive Q&A time.  Both Meyer and Martinez hope to bring attention to the various treatment methods available to returning military men and women while also raising the level of awareness of how our military is affected by the circumstances of war and service.

"With domestic challenges at home and active military returning from abroad, our service men and women have unique and profound needs for integrated treatment," says Rob Waggener, CEO of Foundations Recovery Network.  “We are honored to offer such high quality speakers who are able to address innovations in treatment for our veterans and first responders.”

A limited number of tickets are available to the public and also for conference attendees. For more information about the conference and to purchase tickets please visit: www.foundationsrecoverynetwork.com

Media placement at conference will be available.

About J.R. Martinez: While many may know him as an actor or from his recent participation on Dancing With the Stars or being named the 2012 Grand Marshal for the Tournament of Roses festivities, J.R. Martinez is also a retired U.S. Army Solider who was deployed to Iraq in 2003. While serving, he sustained burns over 40% of his body after his Humvee crossed a land mine. During his recovery, he spent time visiting and encouraging other patients. Martinez now travels the country sharing his life-changing story and message of resilience and optimism. He has devoted himself to showing others the true value in making the most of every situation. His experience was certainly life changing, but he states it is a change for the better. We are very excited to present the opportunity to spend an evening with J.R. Martinez as he discusses his motivational and inspiring journey.

About Dakota Meyer: This U.S. Marine veteran was recently awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration, by President Obama. He is the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, and the first living United States Marine in 38 years to be so honored. Meyer served in both Iraq and Afghanistan but his most notable efforts occurred in September 2009. During the attack near Ganjgal, with disregard for his own life, Meyer help to evacuate both trapped and wounded soldiers. He insists that he is not a hero and any Marine would do the same thing. Back home, this highly decorated service member has issued a "Challenge to America" to raise an additional $1 Million for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. As a speaker, he addresses inspiration, motivation, courage, leadership, believing in yourself, and doing what is right.

About Foundations Recovery Network: Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., Foundations Recovery Network is one of the premier organizations for treating those with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders. The FRN family of treatment facilities includes Michael’s House in Palm Springs, Calif.; The Canyon in Malibu, Calif.; La Paloma in Memphis, Tenn. and a full-service outpatient treatment center in Atlanta, Ga. All FRN facilities employ an “integrated treatment” approach, focusing on a dual-diagnosis model for lasting recovery.