Friday, March 09, 2012

North Dakota National Guard musicians win Army honors

North Dakota National Guard
Courtesy Report

FARGO, N.D. (3/9/12) - Two Soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard’s 188th Army Band were honored as among the Army’s best Feb. 27.

 Army Sgt. DeAnn Fylling was named 2011 Reserve Component Army Band Junior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year while Army Spc. Aaron Bedford was runner-up for the 2011 Reserve Component Army Band Soldier of the Year.

“Congratulations to Sergeant Fylling and Specialist Bedford on this outstanding accomplishment,” said Army Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general.

“North Dakota’s 188th Army Band truly is the finest in the entire National Guard, and having two of their Soldiers chosen for such an honor further validates that,” he said.

 The Band Soldier of the Year contest is an annual event to identify the most outstanding Soldier-musicians in the Army. The competition evaluates candidates’ leadership abilities, artistic integrity, military accomplishments and organizational and planning skills. A candidate must excel in musical proficiency and physical fitness to qualify for the competition.

“It’s extremely gratifying to have other band leaders validate my opinions of these soldiers,” said Warrant Officer Dave, 188th Army Band commander. “They excelled at every category of the competition.”

Fylling joined the Guard in 2001 and works full time for the Guard’s Military Funeral Honors program in Bismarck. She plays saxophone for the band.

“I was very surprised that I won,” Fylling said. “I knew that it was an Army-wide competition and that lots of noncommissioned officers would be competing. It was really just a shot in the dark — I wanted to know where I stood among my peers.”

She graduated in 2001 from Minot’s Bishop Ryan High School. Her father, Brian Hickel, and her mother, Shelli Hickel, live in Minot. Fylling earned an education degree from Jamestown College in 2005.

 Bedford, a percussionist with the band, said the Band Soldier of Year audition was a challenging test.

“I had to prepare to play mallets, snare drum and drum set,” he said. “The audition tests you on all the categories, from concert and marching music to jazz, funk and country.”

Bedford joined the military in 2000 and served four years on active duty in the Marine Corps. He deployed to Iraq from 2009 to 2010 with the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division Band.

Bedford is a 1999 graduate of Fargo South High School. His parents, David and Laurie Bedford, live in Fargo. He is studying medical laboratory sciences at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

“Sergeant Fylling and Specialist Bedford stand out because of their individual work and dedication,” Stordalen said.

“These Soldiers’ achievements show that the band is raising its standards,” he said. “The band’s soldiers asked for more challenges and tougher training, and we are working every drill to meet the high expectations we’ve set for ourselves.”

Nimitz Completes Sea Trials, Arrives at New Homeport

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Vanessa Y. David, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) arrived at its new homeport of Naval Station Everett, Wash., March 9 after spending nearly a week at sea conducting sea trials.

"The main objective was to make sure all systems and equipment worked properly following the extended yard period," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Webster, Nimitz training officer. "In addition to checking out major systems like the Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting system and Close in Weapons System (CIWS), several training requirements, in areas such as navigation and damage control were met."

An additional goal of sea trials was to prepare the crew to operate the warship at sea, said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Dominique Anderson. "It gives Sailors the opportunity to actually see the responses that the equipment will have," he said. "There's a difference between running a simulation and actually running the plant. Everybody has responded positively to this experience."

Nimitz met the set criteria for testing its equipment and procedures to include conducting high-power steering evolutions, tested the ship's weapons and combat systems and conducted various damage control evolutions.

A pre-action aim calibration fire with its two newly installed CIWS systems was conducted March 7. "Firing the CIWS is [one of] the first significant evolutions since (docked planned incremental availability) DPIA," said Senior Chief Fire Controlman (SW/AW) Matthew Barry, Nimitz' CS-7 division's leading chief petty officer.

The crew's damage control response capabilities were also put to the test in several general quarters evolutions during the underway period, during an AFFF test on the hangar bay and flight deck and through a flight deck countermeasure wash down.

"We were able to accomplish almost everything we needed to during this short period," said Webster. "For the few things we couldn't complete, we should be able to knock out during the next underway period."

Before Nimitz left for sea trials, the ship had been in Bremerton for the past 15 months conducting a DPIA where the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Intermediate Maintenance Facility and Ship's crew completed a $239 million maintenance package that included upgrades to the carrier's self-defense, combat, navigation and potable water systems.

Program Inspires DOD Students to Aim for Public Service

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2012 – Two Department of Defense Education Activity students were among the more than 100 student delegates from across the nation who stopped by the Pentagon today to hear from senior leaders and to gain insight on the inner workings of national defense.

Jane Rudy from Brussels American High School in Belgium and John Bonney from Vicenza High School in Italy traveled here as delegates to the 50th Annual U.S. Senate Youth Program. Their visit to the Pentagon was the culminating event of the program’s Washington Week, an educational experience for high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service.

This week has been “humbling and inspiring,” Rudy, daughter of Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Rudy and his wife, Peg, told American Forces Press Service today.

Each year, two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia and DODEA spend a week in Washington to experience their national government in action. Student delegates meet with the president and hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials from the Defense and State Departments and other federal agency directors.

“It’s important for us to encourage the future leaders of this country to go on to pursue careers, not only in public service … at the national level, but also at the state, local and community levels,” Rayne Guilford, program director for the Senate Youth Program, told American Forces Press Service today. “We hope this program inspires them to do so.”

Guilford said they strove to make the 50th year of this program a special one for the students. Throughout the week, the students met with President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Chief Justice John Roberts, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr., and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was a delegate in 1971 and the program’s first alumna to become a senator. Today, the students toured the Pentagon and met with defense officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.

Rudy said the highlight of the week for her was the speakers, particularly the defense secretary. “[Secretary] Leon Panetta was one of the coolest people I’ve ever talked to -- not just at the program,” Rudy said. “I haven’t always considered joining the military necessarily, but after this week I’m considering that too.”

Bonney agreed. “I really enjoyed speaking with Leon Panetta,” said the son of Army Maj. Philip Bonney and his wife, Georgia, and an aspiring doctor of pediatric orthopedics. “It was great to hear him speak and get to know the man behind everything my dad is doing.”

Each year, the program seeks delegates with confidence, knowledge of current events and government, and with a desire to serve, Guilford said, noting delegates all serve in an appointed or elected student office back home. DODEA students possess these qualities in abundance, she added.

“They bring the overseas perspective,” Guilford said. “They come from countries across the world and have seen different forms of government; they can compare and contrast.”

They also bring an “incredible perspective of parents serving in the military,” she added, “and what service means on a deeper level.”

While Bonney and Rudy are accustomed to being surrounded by service members, some of the other students hadn’t met military members prior to this week, Guilford said. But this week they were up close and personal with the troops as military mentors escorted the students to hear speakers and visit museums and memorials throughout the city. Each year, mentors -- officers representing each service, including the Coast Guard –- travel here from installations across the nation.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Peter Epton led this year’s 16 military mentors. “It’s a good way for the Department of Defense to put a face to the military in general,” he said of the program, “and a good way for the students to see us as individuals.”

Navy Lt. Janelle Kuroda, a military lawyer assigned to the Washington Navy Yard here, said she was excited to serve as a mentor this year, particularly since she’s a former delegate herself. Kuroda traveled here as a student delegate from Hawaii in 1997. “These students are so bright, so enthusiastic and real leaders,” she said. “You really see the passion they have. They all have a commitment to public service.

“I feel so fortunate to be a part of this program again,” she added.

Through the military mentors, Guilford noted, students learn what “service means at the most profound level.”

Guilford said the Defense Department is an integral part of the program’s success. “We want to thank the Department of Defense for 50 years of providing us with the most excellent officers who serve as mentors to our students, and we look forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come,” she said.

The Hearst Foundations provide transportation, hotel and meal expenses for the delegates. Additionally, each delegate is given a $5,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies.

U.S. Leaders Recall Japan Disasters, Relief Efforts

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2012 – President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta issued statements today marking the upcoming one-year anniversary of the “3/11” earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that devastated Japan.

Obama said he and First Lady Michelle Obama join all Americans in honoring the memory of the 19,000 victims lost or missing. “We continue to be inspired by the Japanese people, who faced unimaginable loss with extraordinary fortitude,” he said.

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan in the afternoon of March 11, triggering a tsunami. The disasters killed an estimated 16,000 people and destroyed coastal villages, towns and cities in the Tohoku region. The earthquake damaged the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which suffered cooling system failures, fires and explosions continued through March 15.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the disasters were the worst crisis his nation had faced since World War II. Some 3,000 Japanese people remain missing.

In today’s statement, the president said the United States mobilized immediately to aid Japan in a relief effort named for the Japanese word for “friend.”

“At the peak of Operation Tomodachi -- our single, largest bilateral military operation with Japan ever -- the Department of Defense had 24,000 personnel, 190 aircraft, and 24 Navy ships supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts,” Obama noted.

Japan’s government has led rebuilding efforts over the past year, Obama said, while U.S. experts “continue to support Japan’s ongoing efforts to deal with the challenges associated with Fukushima.”

Obama said he and the first lady are grateful for the contributions American civilians and service members have made to Japan’s recovery.

“On this day when our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people in remembrance of the hardship faced one year ago, let us also celebrate the recovery under way in Japan and pay tribute to Japan’s unflagging dedication to bettering the lives of others throughout the world,” the president said.

Biden, in his statement, recalled his visit to Japan five months after the disasters.

“The survivors I met in Natori and Sendai made clear to me that the disaster met its match in the resilience and fortitude of the Japanese people,” the vice president said. “While struck by the scale of the devastation, I also witnessed remarkable and inspiring progress in rebuilding homes, schools, and workplaces.”

In Sendai, Biden said, he visited an airport that had been flooded and later became a refugee center.

“A week after the tsunami, Japanese and American forces reopened a runway, allowing the arrival of hundreds of relief workers and more than two million tons of humanitarian supplies,” he said. As Japan rebuilds, America will stand with its allies as long as it takes, Biden added.

“We join the Japanese people today in honoring the memories of those lost as they continue to work for a better future,” he said.

Panetta also expressed admiration “for the strength and resilience of the Japanese people,” adding that he too, in a visit last year, had seen their determination to rebuild their country even stronger than before.

"The U.S. military was proud to support the government of Japan in responding to this disaster, and the success of these efforts is a testament to the strength of our alliance,” the secretary said.

The United States remains committed to helping Japan rebuild, Panetta said, and the U.S. military will continue to deepen its partnership with Japanese forces.

“Japan is more than just an ally,” the secretary said. “It is also a great friend of America. Together we will continue to forge ahead to achieve peace, prosperity, and a better future for both of our countries.”

Panetta thanked the thousands of Defense Department men and women who responded to Japan’s disasters.

“Within moments of disaster striking, the United States armed forces, under the leadership of [Navy] Adm. Robert Willard, were fully mobilized to support the Japanese government in its response and recovery efforts,” he said.

Willard commands U.S. Pacific Command, the nation’s largest combatant command, and led U.S. relief efforts after the earthquake struck. Willard, who is retiring after a 39-year career, will hand that position over to Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III in a ceremony later today.

Panetta said the greatest service anyone can perform is to help fellow human beings in need.

“Together, Japanese and American forces helped those in need, and solidified the friendship between our two great nations for generations to come," the secretary said.