Thursday, February 23, 2012

Face of Defense: Veteran Ensures Safety for Marines

By Marine Corps Cpl. Garry J. Welch
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

HAT YAO, Thailand, Feb. 23, 2012 – Deploying, embedding and ultimately ensuring the safety of the Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is just the start of what former Marine Corps Cpl. Edwin A. Ventura does here for the unit.

Working as the civilian tactical safety officer, “Ace,” as he is commonly called, works tirelessly to ensure the Marines are mindful of safety at all times.

Ventura has deployed with the 31st MEU five times to seven countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and he has spent more than 270 days of the last two and a half years away from his family.

“My job is important because it helps the commander in the decision-making process to ensure his Marines go into any given mission with the best information that will keep them safe out there,” he said.

The tactical safety officer’s main responsibilities are to oversee the commander’s safety program, assist the commander in incorporating training and risk management into planning, develop unit safety officers, and assist the commander with operational safety.

Although regimental and higher level units sometimes embed a tactical safety officer, Ventura’s work with the 31st MEU presents more challenges than other units, due to the nature of constant deployments.

“This MEU is so unique in the way it operates and the places it goes. I have to improvise a lot, and do a lot of last-minute things,” he said. “The biggest challenge is the mission of this MEU and the way it changes at a moment’s notice requires me to adapt quickly, and adapt my safety plan to those changes.”

One of those challenges is ensuring the Marines of the 31st MEU get their annual safety training. The training usually takes place before deployments, but because the unit deploys two to three times per year, Ventura sometimes conducts the training on a ship or in foreign countries between training exercises.

Ventura said he believes his job benefits all the Marines with the unit because it keeps them mindful of safety and encourages them to think something over carefully if they believe it might not be safe to do.

“What really helps prevent mishaps is just good common sense and good planning,” he said. “Knowing what we are going to be doing, what we are going to be involved with, and knowing the dangers associated with those things, we can be prepared for anything as we move forward.”

His efforts have been a key enabler in the continued success of the expeditionary unit while conducting regional security operations, the unit’s commander, Marine Corps Col. Andrew R. MacMannis, said.

“He is always where he needs to be making sure the MEU operates in a safe manner. His presence, work ethic, and knowledge make him invaluable,” MacMannis said. “The MEU is always looking to reduce the risk to very complex and inherently dangerous activities. Our safety record could not be matched without him. It would take years to replace him and find someone else who could operate at his level.”

The former corporal said the opportunity to still be around Marines is the best part of his job, and added that a big part of his continued success as a tactical safety officer is the support he receives from MacMinnis.

“The most important thing about safety with any unit in the Marine Corps is commander support,” Ventura said. “Without the commander’s support, nothing can be accomplished in terms of safety, so in my case, without Colonel MacMannis’s support, I couldn’t do everything that I do, and the MEU’s safety program wouldn’t be as successful as it is.”

The 31st MEU, which recently concluded Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 here, is the only continuously forward deployed Marine expeditionary unit.

Navy Supply Corps Celebrates 217th Anniversary

By Debbie Dortch, NAVSUP Corporate Communications

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (NNS) -- The Navy Supply Corps celebrated its 217th anniversary Feb. 23, commemorating a history that traces back to 1795.

At its inception, the Supply Corps supported the Navy's six frigates. Since that time, the duties and responsibilities of the Supply Corps have evolved to keep pace with the expanding scope of the Navy's global mission.

"Today's Supply Corps is a key enabler of the Navy's global force for good at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels," said Rear Adm. Mark Heinrich, chief of Supply Corps and commander, Naval Supply Systems Command. "By delivering logistics capabilities to the Navy and joint warfighter, the Supply Corps provides mission-essential supplies that keep ships, aircraft, submarines, and expeditionary forces ready for tasking."

There are more than 3,500 active and Reserve component naval officers serving on nearly every afloat platform and in a full range of expeditionary environments, as well as at hundreds of shore installations located worldwide. They are trained and employed in three principal lines of operation: supply chain management, acquisition management, and operational logistics. Complementing these lines of operations are skills in comptrollership, operations research, and business management.

All Supply Corps officers are graduates of the Navy Supply Corps School, now located in Newport, R.I. It is here where officers are educated in disciplines such as supply management, expeditionary logistics, inventory control, disbursement, financial management, contracting, information systems, operations analysis, material and operational logistics, fuels management, physical distribution, and food service.

"As we celebrate 217 years of proud service to the fleet, all of us who wear the oak leaf can take great pride in our history, in our traditions, and in a community that has always been an enabling part of the CNO's (chief of naval operations) tenets-warfighting first; operate forward; be ready," Heinrich said. "As we face challenges of a dynamic world environment, which will tax our capabilities to their limit, the logistics expertise and business acumen that Navy Supply Corps officers bring to the table is a skill set more coveted than ever. For 217 years we have been 'ready for sea,' and I am proud to be celebrating this birthday as the chief of the Navy's premiere staff corps."

Alaska Air Guard members help family 3,000 miles away

By Air National Guard 2nd Lt. Bernie Kale
Alaska National Guard

CAMP DENALI, Alaska (2/23/12) – In an instant, everything was gone. A lifetime of laughter, tears and memories lay smoldering in a heap of twisted metal and charred lumber. Annette Cook was now without a home.

On Aug. 23, 2011, a propane facility in Butler County, Kan., encountered a gas-release, subsequently causing an enormous fire with as many as 40 separate explosions at the propane-fill station. Harmless tanks of propane turned into 100-pound rockets, shooting in every direction, intent on destruction, according to eye-witnesses.

When the fire subsided and the dust settled, one person was killed, a building and three houses were destroyed, including Cook's home.

"It looked like a bomb went off, rubble and ash were everywhere," Cook said.

More than 3,000 miles away in interior Alaska, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ricky Ramos, a security forces fire-team leader for the Alaska Air National Guard's 213th Space Warning Squadron at Clear Air Force Station, checked Facebook and noticed some unsettling photos posted by his childhood classmate Annette.

"I was looking at the aftermath and the destruction, and there was just nothing left," Ramos said.

He scrolled one by one through photos of Annette's house decimated by one of the propane tanks. Looking at warped metal where appliances once were, he saw something that spurred him into action.

"I saw a partly-burnt flag that was her father's, who was a major in the Air Force," he said. "And I saw a Purple Heart Medal belonging to her grandfather, Fireman 1st Class Russell Shaw, that was melted and blackened from the explosion."

Annette's grandfather was on board the USS Drexler when it was sunk by a Japanese Kamikaze attack on May 28, 1945, and he was one of the 158 casualties on the destroyer.

Wanting to help out, Ramos decided to talk to his unit and figure out a way to comfort and take care of the Cook family, half-a-continent away.

"I called up their family as soon as I could, and the first questions they asked were: Who is this? You're calling from where?" Ramos recalled with a chuckle.

Once the confusion abated, Annette's sister, Angie Shaw, explained to him that they had no idea how to replace the tarnished military decorum.

"I looked at my guys, and they simply looked back at me," he said. "I got back on the phone and told her, don't worry about it. We'll take care of it."

From there, Ramos and his fellow Airmen dedicated hours of their free time, money from their pockets, and a sense of duty and honor for someone who they have never met.

The goal was to have the newly titled "Purple Heart Project" finished by the end of the holiday season.

"We just took it upon ourselves to fix it,'" Ramos said. "Granted, it's not going to replace the house or give all of their belongings back. But for us, it's a start."

After months of research and raising money, Ramos and his unit were able to replace the Purple Heart and burnt flag, and put it into a new shadow box to be displayed at the Cook family's new home.

"I was shocked they took the time to do this for me, I was blown away," Cook said.

While Ramos is happy to help an old friend in her time of need, he also says he did it out of honor and respect for a family that has a legacy of service to our nation.

"These guys opened the doors of freedom that we walk through every day," Ramos said. "They have given so much, and we were more than willing to do it for their family."

Family Matters Blog: Military Families Can Apply for New Home

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2012 – More than 100 wounded warriors and military and veteran families will be the recipients of a new home this year, thanks to the generosity of a nonprofit organization and one of the nation’s largest banks.

Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistance to military families and wounded warriors, has teamed up with JPMorgan Chase and Co. to create the “Homes on the Homefront” program, which will offer deserving military families new homes.

The bank will provide the homes and other support to Operation Homefront, a news release explained, and the organization will provide ongoing transitional services to the families until the properties are deeded to the recipients.

“This is an incredible gift from Chase to our men and women in uniform,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “Chase’s imaginative, nationwide approach to providing quality homes to deserving service members and their families will make a huge difference in how these heroes can make that difficult transition and adjustment into productive civilian lives.”

The program’s first priority will be to place families who currently live in an Operation Homefront Village, which provides transitional housing for wounded warrior families. Other wounded warriors, surviving single spouses of those killed in action, and post-9/11 disabled veterans also will receive priority consideration. Any veteran of any era, regardless of wounded or disability status, is eligible to apply, the release said.

Military families can apply for the Homes on the Homefront program at

“Every day we work to give military families financial security so that when service members are in harm’s way, they don’t have to worry about their families back home,” Knotts said. “The homes provided by Chase takes that one step further, and will provide these families with additional peace of mind concerning their futures.”

Operation Homefront also is seeking monetary and goods donations from other companies so they can provide families with a fully furnished home.

For more military family-related posts, visit AFPS' Family Matters blog.

Navy Corpsmen Support Marine Wounded Warriors

By Mass Communication 3rd Class Shawnte Bryan, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (NNS) -- Navy surgeons and corpsmen volunteered in the 2012 Marine Corps Trials hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment (WWR) aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 13-22.

The Marine Corps Trials are a part of the WWR's Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program, which provides opportunities for Marines to engage in both physical and cognitive activities outside the traditional therapy setting.

"I think it is pretty amazing to see double, triple amputees still being active and playing sports that I don't know how to play," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelique Banks, a volunteer assigned to 3rd Marine Airwing, Camp Pendleton, Marine Aircraft Group 39, Battalion Aid Station. "Throughout the week, I've seen great camaraderie and teamwork, and they are out there giving their all."

Many of the wounded warriors give thanks to Navy surgeons and corpsman for their continuous hard work and dedication with the program.

"When I first was injured back in 2004, I told the doctors that I want to be physical again," said former Marine Staff Sgt Nick Lerma, "Even if I wanted to quit they would not let me. Now, I am doing something that I thought I would never be able to do after my injury - especially not at this level - and that's competing."

"It is really exhilarating to work with Wounded Warriors because they are so inspiring in so many ways," said Navy Capt. Bruce Adams, a regiment surgeon for Marine Corps WWR. "And especially working with the Marine Corps, because they are so driven to accomplish their goals and not let anything get in their way."

More than 300 wounded Marines, Marine veterans and international service members participated in the event competing in individual and team competitions including sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, shooting, and archery.

Fifty athletes from the event will compete as members of the All-Marine team for the Warrior Games. The Warrior Games, a competition between all branches of service for wounded service members, will take place in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 30- May 6.