Sunday, February 19, 2012

PCU Mississippi Commanding Officer Visits Namesake State

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- The commanding officer of Pre-Commissioning Unit Mississippi (SSN 782) is visiting the submarine's namesake state Feb. 19-21 in preparation for the upcoming commissioning this summer.

"It's great to have another opportunity to visit the state of Mississippi and the Ole Miss NROTC unit. We continue to enjoy tremendous support from all around the state and particularly from our commissioning committee," said Capt. John McGrath.

During his visit, McGrath will meet with University of Mississippi and University of Memphis NROTC midshipman and their faculty; members of the Mississippi Commissioning Committee; Eastern Mississippi Business Council and the mayor of Pascagoula.

McGrath is conducting the namesake visit to draw awareness to the upcoming commissioning of the newest Virginia-class attack submarine, which will be commissioned in Pascagoula, June 2.

McGrath, a native of Neptune, N.J., leads a crew of about 140 officers and enlisted personnel. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1990, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

Virginia-class submarines are built under a unique teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News. Construction on the submarine began in February 2007 and will be delivered this spring.

Mississippi, like all Virginia-class submarines is designed to dominate both the littorals and deep oceans. It will serve as a valuable asset in supporting the core capabilities of maritime strategy, including sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

Face of Defense: Deployed Airman Sees Wife Become Officer

By Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D.  – An Air Force couple put modern technology to work to help keep a military tradition alive during a ceremony here earlier this month.

Shortly after being commissioned as a second lieutenant, Donna Tluczek received her first salute from her husband, Tech. Sgt. Pawel Tluczek.

But because he's deployed more than 8,000 miles away in Southwest Asia, the salute was broadcast from a computer screen.

"I didn't think I would be this nervous, but now that this moment is here, I really am," Lt. Tluczek, a former staff sergeant, said. The commissioning ceremony was held at Air Force ROTC Detachment 610 headquarters inside the University of North Dakota Armory.

Military tradition dictates that an officer gives a silver dollar to the first enlisted member to offer a salute.

The lieutenant, a native of Lodge Pole, Neb., raised her hand to the web camera, showing her husband a shiny silver dollar.

"This is waiting for you when you get back," she said to her smiling husband, the NCO in charge of the 319th Logistical Readiness Squadron's special purpose shop.

"I'm severely proud of my wife," Tluczek said while tapping his chest with a closed right fist. "I miss the people [at Grand Forks Air Force Base], and I miss my wife's hugs."

The lieutenant was stationed as an enlisted member here for three years, and served as a radar maintenance and electronics specialist.

Lt. Tluczek was accepted into the Airman Education and Commissioning Program, which is now suspended, and spent more than two years years with the ROTC detachment. Under the program, she remained on active duty while attending school as a full-time student.

She graduated in December with a bachelor's degree in nursing, and staying true to the Air Force core value of "Excellence in all we do," she graduated with honors. She recently passed North Dakota's state boards test for nursing, solidifying her official status as a registered nurse.

"AECP provided a great avenue for me to commission, and although the program is currently suspended, I hope my story will encourage others to look at other opportunities and programs in becoming an officer," Tluczek said. "Yes, there will be challenges, but it's well worth it."

Her next stop is Commissioned Officer Training at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., later this month. She'll then have to complete the Air Force Nurse Transition Program at Scottsdale, Ariz.

Air Force Capt. Anthony Dremann, recruiting flight commander for Air Force ROTC Det. 610, lauded Tluczek for her hard work.

"It certainly has been a long and difficult road for her to get here," Dremann said. "Sergeant Tluczek showed high potential as a cadet, and there's no doubt in my mind she's going to do great."

As for Tluczek’s husband, he said he plans to be back in time to see his wife complete the nurse transition program and collect that silver dollar waiting for him back home.

NEXCOM Celebrates Black History Month

By Kathleen Martin, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) Headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., hosted a diversity event Feb. 16 celebrating Black History Month.

The program highlighted the many contributions of African American women and African American history through storytelling, music and dance.

NEXCOM associates gathered to hear Crystal Hatton depict the evolution of African American women. She spoke of the pioneers in the nation's history, including Sojourner Truth and the many other significant contributors who played an important role in the evolutionary process.

"There are so many nameless and faceless women who didn't make the history books, but who had an incredible impact on the evolution of African American women," said Hatton. "Today we remember and celebrate our mothers, our sisters, our teachers, and many others who have had an incredible impact on history and our lives and we look forward to the continued journey."

The group also learned of the connection of historical West Africa to the religious expressions of African Americans through songs and music in during a presentation by Corey and LaQuita Marie Staten of Atumpan - The Talking Drums.

"Through history music and song, we can tell the history of African Americans through the years," said Corey Staten. "Griots, or African storytellers, have used music to tell their stories beginning with the African drum to blues to rap."

NEXCOM's CEO's Council for Diversity coordinated the event as part of its ongoing mission to promote and integrate diversity through the development of associates, mentoring and initiating outreach to our Navy community.

"Events like these provide an opportunity to learn and highlight how our differences make us stronger, more cohesive and more effective," said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, NEXCOM chief executive officer. "It is truly our diversity that makes us stronger as a command, as a Navy and as a nation."

Thailand: Guard members dedicate new school building they help build

Washington National Guard Courtesy report

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand -- Army National Guard Soldiers and members of the Royal Thai Armed Forces attended a dedication ceremony with members of the local community to commemorate a new school building here, Thursday.

Soldiers from the 176th Engineer Company, Washington Army National Guard, constructed the new building over the last few weeks, with their Royal Thai counterparts from the 2nd Development Division, Royal Thai Army, as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2012.

“No matter where in the world each of us is from, we all share a common desire: to ensure the quality of our children’s future,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gary Beard of U.S. Army Pacific.

The multipurpose building is slated to be used as a secondary school for the Ban Wang Nam Khiao School, and is one of six humanitarian action projects built during Exercise Cobra Gold.

“Our armies’ combined efforts to provide an appropriate venue for learning to prosper is a down-payment on the future, as these young students advance the United States – Thailand relationship into the next generation,” Beard said.

Beard said Exercise Cobra Gold is vital for increasing joint military cohesion in preparation for disaster response and other future missions in the region.

A medical civic action project was held in conjunction with the dedication ceremony.

Service members from the U.S. Navy’s 3rd Medical Battalion and the U.S. Army’s 65th Medical Brigade provided general medical and dental care along with pediatric and optometry services, alongside medical personnel from the Royal Thai Armed Forces.

Service members from Japan, the Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia also provided medical care.

Cobra Gold 2012 is the thirty-first iteration of the joint, multinational exercise held to increase interoperability with participating nations and to advance security throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Cobra Gold 2012 is scheduled to conclude today.