Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Deadline Nears in ‘Serving Abroad’ Photo Contest

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 – The contest deadline to submit photos is fast approaching for an exhibit titled “Serving Abroad … Through Their Eyes,” which will depict the daily life of military deployments and overseas assignments.

The contest’s focus is to show the most compelling photos of friendships, places, faces, losses and triumphs of deployment as captured through the camera lenses of military members, veterans and diplomats, said Army Lt. Col. Luke Knittig, a coordinator for the joint Defense Department and State Department project.

Feb. 20, will be the final day judges can receive photos taken overseas since 2000 by active-duty troops, veterans and Foreign Service members. Submissions can represent daily life during a deployment, in a combat zone or from a humanitarian relief mission, Knittig said.

The contest to collect photos began last Nov. 11.

The exhibit will comprise 1,000 winning pictures that will commemorate the State Department’s Art in Embassies program’s 50th anniversary. The images will be a part of an audio and video montage.

Judge will include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. Colin Powell. Powell also is a former secretary of state.

The winning photos will be announced Armed Forces Day, May 19. The 10 “Best in Show” photographers will be invited to Washington, where they will be honored and participate in the exhibition’s November VIP opening celebration.

The “Serving Abroad … Through Their Eyes” exhibit is slated to be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum, U.S. embassies around the world, the Pentagon and other prominent international venues this year, officials said.

The State Department’s Art in Embassies program, formalized by President John F. Kennedy’s administration, is one of the premier public-private partnership arts organizations in continuous operation in 180 countries worldwide, State Department officials said. It plays an important role in U.S. public diplomacy through a culturally expansive mission that creates temporary exhibits and permanent collections, artist and cultural exchange programming, and publications, they added.

Contest rules, photo specifications and submission forms are posted on the project’s website.

Contracting Remains Growth Area for Army

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 – While the U.S. military will shrink in the coming years, the contracting career field will buck the trend and grow, officials at the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center said.

The field is open to officers and enlisted soldiers, and the total Army population in the military occupational specialty will double by the end of fiscal 2013, officials said.

Those selected will become part of the Army Acquisition Corps.

The Corps needs more officers in functional area 51 and noncommissioned officers in military occupational specialty 51C.

On the officer side, the Army typically looks for officers in their sixth or seventh year of service. “We would like to have them starting to look at the career field when they are lieutenants, but they transfer to the career field after they have their branch qualifying job as a captain,” Army Maj. Anthony Maneri said during a recent interview.

The enlisted side is a bit different. The service targets sergeants and staff sergeants under 10 years of service. “They must be in balanced or overstrength military occupational specialties,” said Army Master Sgt. Jason Pitts, a specialist at the center. “There are over 180 MOSs, and there are only nine that are not eligible, so pretty much any soldier is eligible.”

Those interested must send in a reclassification packet. The Acquisition Support Center at Huntsville, Ala., holds a quarterly board composed of sergeants major and lieutenant colonels to select the best-quality soldiers for transfer. Soldiers selected for the 51C MOS may qualify for a $2,000 transfer bonus. There is no re-enlistment bonus, because “right now our people are staying in,” Pitts said. “It’s a great job.”

No unit ever goes on deployment with everything it needs, Maneri said. Army contracting specialists work with commanders to get exactly what a unit needs in the field. This runs the gamut from food and water to building materials to plasma screens and so on.

The force views these contracting specialists as force multipliers. “You are the procurement guy for the guys in the field,” Maneri said. “You also are a business advisor to the battalion or brigade or division commander.”

In the field, acquisition experts work on four-member teams -- a major, a captain and two NCOs. They work at every level from the company up to division.

The specialists speak the language of the military and also the language of business. “I spent 14 years in the infantry,” Pitts said. “I understand the commander’s mission. And I understand how I can use procurement to support that mission.”

The officers and NCOs help to push technologies downrange. For example, contracting specialists helped in getting improvised explosive device jammers to soldiers quickly in 2003 and 2004.

That led to a breakthrough in how commanders viewed contracting specialists, Maneri said. “In the early days, commanders weren’t sure what we could do for them,” he said. “After a few successes, warfighters started understanding the other aspects that we could offer to help them do their jobs.”

Army Lt. Col. Matt Schramm, another specialist at the center, said there’s little difference between the officer and enlisted training. “It’s essentially the same training that people in private industry receive,” he said. “This enables us to speak the same language that they do at Coca-Cola or Boeing or Google or wherever.”

Wisconsin Guard unit completes training exercise in Japan

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

The Wisconsin Army National Guard's 332nd Rear Area Operations Center (RAOC) tested its limits during the multi-national exercise Yama Sakura 61 in Osaka, Japan, which concluded yesterday (Feb. 6).

"This is the biggest exercise in the Pacific," said Lt. Col. John Morgen, 332nd RAOC commander. "It gives us a chance to stretch our staff members in a number of ways - the military decision-making process, information flow, planning, coordinating and executing. This sets up perfectly for our [mission essential task list] tasks."

Yama Sakura is an annual bilateral exercise involving U.S. forces and the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and is designed to strengthen military operations and build working relationships. The scenario depicts a massive military assault against Japan and the military response from Japanese and U.S. forces. This year's exercise was the largest since the Great Tohuku Earthquake in March 2011.

Morgen said the 332nd RAOC is a small, versatile unit that plans and coordinates terrain management, area damage control, security, safety and unity of command within a designated rear area - in short, the unit keeps the rear area running smoothly to best support the forward battlefield units. This requires developing effective solutions to challenging problems and circumstances.

"We do command post operations," Morgen explained. "This [exercise] is exactly that. The 332nd has an impressive history of being the organization with the best answers."

The skills honed during this exercise, which began Jan. 23, can also be applied to domestic operations such as disaster response, Morgen said.

Yama Sakura also provides cultural exchange opportunities, with U.S. service members visiting local cultural sites and homes, and taking part in activities such as a Japanese drum performance, tea ceremony, calligraphy, ceramics and cooking. Morgen said some unit members visited a local orphanage.

"It's a unique training experience," he said. "Not only do our Soldiers get a chance to get better at their jobs, but they work with their Japanese counterparts and they experience Japanese culture."

Morgen said he was proud of how his unit performed during Yama Sakura 61.

"I've had an opportunity to be in two other exercises in Japan like this," he said. "I've never seen this level of coordination with the Japanese. In terms of collective training, we're doing very, very well."

Morgen said the 332nd RAOC conducted command post operations and cultural briefings for the past three months to prepare for this exercise.

"Having an opportunity to travel halfway around the world to get great training, in an environment that culturally enlightens, is a great opportunity," he said. "It makes for a better Soldier and develops a better individual perspective."

The 332nd RAOC is one of two rear operations centers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and one of only 10 nationwide. Next year the Monroe-based 64th ROC will take part in Yama Sakura.

Wasp, ESG-2 Begin Bold Alligator "D-Day" Operations

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Drae C. Parker, USS Wasp Public Affairs

USS WASP, At Sea (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) started "D-Day" operations Feb. 6 as Exercise Bold Alligator switches from its initial stages into full exercise combat operations.

"D-Day" marks the transition to land operations, where more than 3,600 Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen representing 11 countries will begin to take back beaches in Virginia and North Carolina during a complex training scenario in which parts of the United States belong to hostile forces.

"This was the first day," said Lt. Cmdr. George Pastoor, lead planner for Bold Alligator. Pastoor added that the strike group will continue putting people on the beaches over the next few days.

Bold Alligator is the largest amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces in the last decade and since it is based on real-world situations, the exercise will run in real time and will not end until the mission is complete.

Wasp is serving as the flagship of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 for the exercise, and the ship's crew spent the past few days loading the equipment and personnel necessary to conduct well deck and flight deck operations.

"We are here to train like we fight," said Rear Adm. Kevin D. Scott, ESG-2 commander, in a ship-wide address over the ship's intercom system. "I know we are ready; to not only learn but to strike. Give it everything you've got and we will be victorious."

While Wasp handled command and control operations during the first day of D-Day operations, its crew will launch landing craft, air cushions and amphibious assault vehicles along with coordinating efforts with international forces and carrying out normal day-to-day evolutions.

"It's the most amphibious operations the ship's done in two years," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/EXW) Joseph Costa, a member of Wasp's well deck control crew. "This allows the junior Sailors to see how their efforts contribute to the ship's larger mission."

The overall exercise involves 24 ships at sea conducting operations as well as numerous synthetic ships and personnel that aid in the overall training.

Pastoor said Bold Alligator involved a huge planning effort that went on for a year, starting in January 2011. The future plan for Bold Alligator is to switch between live and synthetic exercises each year.

"We worked hard for this," said Pastoor. "When you see all the ships in their place and ready to go, all the planning is worth it."

Wasp began Bold Alligator Jan. 30 and is expected to continue in the scenario until Feb 12.

Military Works with Habitat for Humanity of Guam

By Shaina Marie Santos, Joint Region Edge Staff

TALOFOFO, Guam (NNS) -- Service members partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Guam to refurbish the home of an island resident in Talofofo, Guam Feb. 4.

Antonio Bagaygay, 91, lives alone on a lot that was once covered by trees and plants. The home was almost invisible to passersby, until a Habitat for Humanity of Guam employee found him and solicited the aid of volunteers.

"This project has had at least 20-30 people each weekend," said Habitat for Humanity of Guam's board president Shane Intihar. "It is very easy to get Sailors and Airmen out to these projects. This is the kind of stuff they love to do."

Ann Cruz, administrative assistant for Habitat for Humanity of Guam, was pleased with the turnout of service members.

"The militaries, the Andersen, the Navies, and every volunteer that I call, they have all the heart when they come out and they came here, they work, and they help us out," she said. "They like to do what is good for the people and what is good for the families. They show they really are one of the Samaritans here on our island and that's what we're looking for, people like them."

Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Bryan Darnell, of U.S. Naval Base Guam Security, was one of the many Sailors who volunteered at the event.

"I like helping out," Darnell said. "I like coming out and helping people around the island. We're showing a pretty good presence out here. We're showing a lot of military personnel out here are more than willing to help the local community."

Lt. Alex May, of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas echoed his sentiments.

"Habitat for Humanity got the word out that [Bagaygay] needs help, so here we are," he said. "It's very important that we keep in touch with the community and this is one of the great opportunities to do so. I thank every single one that's here to help out."

Bagaygay grew up in the Philippines, where he was recruited into the U.S. Army. When he arrived on Guam, he helped in rebuilding efforts after World War II.

"He's done a lot to serve both the U.S. military and Guam," Intihar said.

Special Ops, Conventional Forces Work Together, Admiral Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – The demands of 10 years of war have driven special operations and general-purpose forces closer together, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said here today.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven told an audience at a special operations and low-intensity conflict convention that military and interagency personnel have forged new relationships and broken new ground since 9/11.

Special operations forces have a prominent role in the new defense strategy guidance that President Barack Obama laid out last month, and McRaven said collaboration among the civilian and military leaders acknowledged the key role that special ops forces will play in the future.

“Not only has the last 10 years demonstrated the tactical, operational and strategic value of [special operations forces], but from a business sense, it has highlighted the cost-effectiveness of our force,” he said.

The special operations force has grown from 33,000 personnel in 2001 to 66,000 today. The budget has increased from $3.3 billion in 2001 to $10.5 billion today. But even with those increases, the admiral noted, those forces still represent less than 1.6 percent of the entire Defense Department budget.

But that can be a bit misleading, McRaven said, noting that Special Operations Command relies on the military services for combat service and combat service support.

“Additionally, our success is dependent on the interagency and coalition partners,” McRaven said. “Special operations today is a networked force that cannot be effective without these strong linkages to other organizations and other national special operations forces.”

The future looks bright, but there are challenges, the admiral said. He spoke of three lines of operations that will be important.

The first, he said, is to win the current fight against extremism. The bulk of this effort is in Afghanistan, but it is far from the only front. Special operations forces are deployed in 75 countries on any given day, handling civil-military operations, providing security force assistance, and helping to shape good governance and anti-corruption messages, he said.

“This mostly nonkinetic and indirect approach is the past, the present and the future of special operations forces,” McRaven said. “Working by, with, and through the host nation forces, we are helping to reduce the spread of extremism and eliminate the conditions that facilitate the rise of terror networks.”

The second line of operation is about expanding the global special operations force alliance. “Much of this work is being done through geographic combatant commanders and their special operations commands,” McRaven said.

The third line of operation is to preserve the special operations force, McRaven told the audience. “I have said repeatedly … that we cannot achieve success … unless we take care of the force,” he said. “To this end, we are taking a holistic approach to increase deployment and training predictability.”

The admiral also said he is working to ensure special operations personnel and their families get the best of care.

The collaboration between special operations and general purpose forces is not new. In Afghanistan, the 162nd Infantry Brigade -- also called the 162nd Security Force Assistance Brigade -- has two battalions partnered with special operations forces performing village stability operations. The Air Force has established an air advisory training academy program for light utility aircraft and light attack aircraft squadrons to train forces of partner nations. The Navy has established a global fleet station for partner-nation engagement, as well as a riverine warfare group and a maritime civil affairs group in direct support of special operations.

“The necessities of war drove [special operations] and general purpose forces closer together, and the new military strategy will take advantage of those relationships and build on the lessons learned,” McRaven said.

TSC, Learning Site Great Lakes Sailors Become Saturday Scholars

By James F. Antonucci, Training Support Center Great Lakes Public Affairs

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Sailors and students from Training Support Center (TSC) and Learning Sites, Great Lakes volunteered at John Milton Gregory School to tutor and mentor 4th and 5th graders Feb. 4.

Established in 1983, Saturday Scholars is a part of the Navy's Personal Excellence program and is the model for the Partnership Tutoring Program. This five-week program ends with a graduation for students who attended at least three-quarters of the sessions. Students receive a certificate of completion and Sailors provide words of encouragement.

"The Saturday Scholars program provides our newest Sailors the opportunity to perform some wonderful volunteer work for the Navy and help our Chicago community children improve in school; it's a great win/win program," said Master Chief Electronics Technician (SW/AW) Timothy D. Malak, command master chief for Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit (CSCSU) Great Lakes.

"For this one-on-one tutoring program, we volunteer roughly 3,000 man-hours each year of community service to make it work," Malak said.

CSCSU instructor Electronics Technician 1st Class (SW/SCW) Dennis G. Cope is in his first year as the Saturday Scholars Program manager. "We are able to help these students drastically improve their test scores and more important improve understanding," said Cope.

Statistics have shown that the children involved in the program have displayed a 15 to 30 percent improvement on their state test scores, placing Gregory School on the state's honor roll; all due to the support received from the Great Lakes volunteers.

Approximately 90 Navy volunteers from commands across Great Lakes participate with 40 to 50 students each season. This year, students at Gregory School receive assistance in the areas of reading, math and science.

"We really pump this up. The kids know they get a chance to be tutored by a Sailor if they come and they love it," said Gregory School teacher Cathy Wright. Along with Charlene Reynolds and retired volunteer Precious James, Wright is one of the school's program co-coordinators.

"The Sailors here are great role models, especially for the young men who get a chance to see the guys in uniform. The boys especially come out to for it."

The volunteers depart on Saturday morning and spend half an hour socializing with the kids in the cafeteria after arriving. Prior to starting the two-hour tutoring sessions the Sailors lead the school children in a motivational chant.

"We try to target the students who are struggling in the classroom... so we pull those students who can benefit from having the Sailors tutor them," Wright said.

"The students love it," said Cope. "They like the military, the uniform and ask a lot of questions about where we've been and what we do in the Navy."

"It's been pretty fun so far, I was nervous at first, but I've melded in and gotten used to it," said volunteer Seaman Josue Martinez. "My student has pretty much got it down; I've just needed to push him in the right direction!"

Cope said family members may also volunteer.

"I am very happy to be a part of this program," said Cope. "I have always enjoyed teaching/tutoring, and I think it is extremely important that our children in our community are taught everything to become well-rounded adults."

For information about Center for Training Support Center Great Lakes and Learning Sites, visit

Officials: Women Can Suffer Same Deployment Ills as Men

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – It once was thought that servicewomen neither were exposed to the same combat situations as men nor developed the same psychological injuries. But officials now recognize otherwise.

“With the type of combat we’re in now, … it’s probably the only place where men and women really are equal,” therapist Jeanine Aversa says in “The Long Road Home,” this month’s installment of the Pentagon Channel series “Recon.”

The segment made its debuted on the Pentagon Channel yesterday and will run through February. Officials estimate that the percentage of women in the military has doubled in the past 30 years. But that increase, the “Recon” segment noted, has come with a rise in problems such as homelessness, drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder among female veterans.

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments work together to address service members’ physical, mental and emotional injuries, including those of women, so officials say it’s now easier for female veterans to ask for help.

Kate McGraw, acting deputy director for the psychological health, clinical standards of care at the Defense Centers for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., said a “huge influx” of congressional funding and Defense Department support on the issues facing female veterans have helped address psychological health and traumatic brain injury.

“Because there are more people deploying and the frequency has increased over time,” McGraw said, “we’re also seeing an increase in support for the effects of deployment.”

Focus groups, growing numbers of support groups and a mental health anti-stigma campaign are part of the DOD and VA support for female veterans, she said.

Battling the stigma of seeking mental health counseling also has remained a concern among military leaders, McGraw noted. Some service members don’t seek help, she explained, because they believe doing so could hurt their careers.

“The fears don’t necessarily have a basis,” she said. “So this is an attempt to try to de-stigmatize those fears.”

Peculiar to women is an apparent higher rate of “co-occurrence” of PTSD and depression when compared with men after returning from deployment, McGraw said. And other behaviors also can play a part in women’s lives, she said.

“Women tend to have a higher incidence of binge drinking … and a higher incidence of eating disorder behavior … as compared to males,” McGraw said, citing recent literature on studies conducted during the past five years.

Women made up only seven-tenths of 1 percent of the military when now-retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught entered service in 1957. Although her active-duty experience was nothing like what today’s women service members have undergone in Iraq and in Afghanistan, she said, she emphasized that many more doors are open to women in the military now than before.

“But that progress has come with a price,” she said.

Veteran Jen Crane knows about that price. She began to have panic attacks while searching for work after she left the military. She couldn’t continue her military job as a paralegal in the civilian sector, so she took a bartending job. There, she was introduced to cocaine. She said it brought her anxiety down and made her social.

Eventually, however, Crane’s penchant for drugs nearly cost her everything.

“Because I was using, [I was told to] get help. I was a soldier, a warrior. I can handle anything,” she said she believed. “I felt like a monster.”

Crane turned to prostitution to support her drug habit, and became homeless and broke. As her situation spiraled downward, she decided to take her life.

“I was going to do it with drugs, because it was going to be slow and painful. That’s what I felt like I deserved,” she said. But before she could act on her plan, police arrested her for drug possession.

Crane went to court, and began receiving counseling from Aversa. With support from her therapist, the courts and her family, today she is married, has a child and is the national spokeswoman for a nonprofit organization, traveling around the country to tell her story.

Experiences like Crane’s are helping to change the care female veterans receive. “We’re undergoing a culture change within the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Patricia Hayes, the VA’s chief consultant on women’s health, told “Recon.”

VA estimates that 6,500 female veterans are homeless and live on the nation’s streets -- double the number from 10 years ago. VA also reported that one in five women veterans reported military sexual trauma during their military service, and the number of women with PTSD is increasing.

The wartime roles for servicewomen have changed because of their exposure to combat today,” Hayes said. Women were close to bombings in Vietnam, but not like in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, which have involved carrying an M-16 rifle and being alert for roadside bombs.

Women need time to adjust after returning home, Hayes said.

“They need time to work through [what] they’ve been exposed to,” she added. “A lot of women say they’re thrust right back into family life. They tell us, ‘The laundry is piled up.’”

McGraw outlined signs that someone is struggling with readjustment issues. She cited symptoms such as the inability to get a good quality sleep, nightmares, or the feeling of reliving events from a deployment when awake, disturbing dreams about deployment events, changes in mood, irritability feeling increasingly on edge or keyed up, or getting startled easily.

Veteran Genevieve Chase, who suffered a traumatic head injury after the vehicle she was riding in exploded, said told “Recon” that in spite of the struggles women try to overcome, their patriotism remains intact.

“Even the women who are trying to get on their feet or have been struggling through military sexual trauma, substance abuse, suicide or any major issue, … when they come home, every single one of them is still proud of their service,” Chase said.

The Pentagon Channel’s “Recon” series is a monthly, 30-minute broadcast that provides an in-depth look at operations, missions, military events, history and other subjects highlighting the accomplishments of U.S. military men and women. All “Recon” programs are posted on the Pentagon Channel’s website.

Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command Supports Exercise Bold Alligator 2012

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (SW/AW) Molly Treece, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC) conducted a synthetic underwater mine-clearing exercise in support of exercise Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12) at Naval Warfare Development Command onboard Naval Station Norfolk Feb 3.

BA12 is the East Coast's largest joint and multinational amphibious assault exercise in 10 years and is an opportunity for NMAWC mine warfare battle staff to integrate with a combined force maritime component commander to support amphibious operations by mitigating and disabling underwater anti-access/area-denial efforts. The exercise reinforces the role mine countermeasure forces play in enabling Marine Corps' forces to launch ashore.

"It's extraordinarily valuable that the Navy and Marine Corps' team, as sister services, conduct this exercise," Rear Adm. (select) Ken Perry, vice commander, NMAWC and the mine warfare commander of Bold Alligator. "This is to regenerate that partnership and renew those capabilities as sister services, to train as we operate. It's really very valuable."

NMAWC's mission includes providing mine warfare commander battle staff to support operational maritime component commanders in executing operational control of air, surface and underwater mine countermeasure forces.

During Bold Alligator, as the Mine Warfare commander, Perry coordinates the efforts of more than 320 mine warfare Sailors across several U.S. and coalition platforms and units.

Mine warfare forces participating in the exercise include Mine Countermeasures Squadron 3, Mine Countermeasures Division 31, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, Mine Warfare platoons from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units 1, 6, 12; as well as Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center's Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Platoon and the Naval Oceanographic Office's Data Fusion Cell.

Lt. Cmdr. Tyrone David, the Canadian liaison officer for the exercise, said that operating with Canadian and United Kingdom dive units and UUVs increases U.S. and coalition mine warfare proficiency. "We train as we fight. It's a tremendous rehearsal for real-life operations."

Divers operated from Canadian Kingston Class coastal defense vessels HMCS Summerside (MM 711) and HMCS Moncton (MM 708).

BA12 will be a live and synthetic, scenario-driven, simulation-supported exercise designed to train Expeditionary Strike Group 2, Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade (2nd MEB) and Carrier Strike Group 12. Staffs will plan and execute a MEB-sized amphibious assault from a seabase in a medium land-and-maritime threat environment to improve naval amphibious core competencies.

The exercise is in its second week and will run through Feb. 12, ashore and afloat, in and off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.