Friday, March 30, 2012

Marine Historian Visits Peleliu

This is my second post regarding my recent trip to Iwo Jima and Peleliu.  In this post I would like to the Peleliu portion of the trip.  For those who have read my book, Last Man Standing, The First Marine Regiment on Peleliu, they know that I was an Aide de Camp for General Ray Davis, who, as a Lieutenant Colonel was a battalion commander during the battle.  For gallantry in action, the "old man" received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart.  He talked to me many times about his experience, which sparked my interest in visiting the island.

You may be aware that Peleliu was a bloody slugfest for the 1st Marine Division, ranking with Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa in ferocity but little known outside the normal history buffs' interest.  Anyway, I wanted to walk the ground, so to speak, to learn more about the fight.

Upon reaching the island, which ain't easy--flight to Guam and Koror, followed by a boat to Peleliu--I hotfooted it to "The Point," which Kilo company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines captured after a horrific fight. Their objective was located on the extreme left flank of the regiment's landing beach.  It was defended by several heavy machine gun and anti-boat guns in reinforced concrete pillboxes.  At one point, the company was cut off and down to 90 men out of the original 250 men that landed. Personal accounts noted that the Japanese were able to fire all along the flank of the beach, which was concave.  Another piece of ground on the right flank gave the Japanese a perfect crossfire, enabling them to knock out several amtracs,,,accounts mention up to 26 vehicles.

In any event, I wanted to walk the ground.  Today, the island is covered with heavy jungle-like growth...thick stuff that's difficult to push through...vines, saw grass, low growing plants, as well as towering trees 60 feet high.  The Point is also crawling with land crabs...ugly creatures that scuttle along the ground making a particularly tell-tale noise.  The ground is uneven, covered with coral stone, which tears hell out boots...and could but the hell out of anyone that fell on it.  Needless to say footing is treacherous. 

I walked in from the water...low tide...and came across a pile of copper bullet point...the metal cartridges had rusted away.  It was obvious that someone had dumped a box of .30 caliber in the water and it has remained there all these years.  Just at the water's edge I spotted one of the concrete emplacements...although it was difficult.  The Japanese had placed coral rock along its face, which made it blend in with the rest of the ground.  It had not been hit by naval gunfire and had to be taken out by Kilo Company's infantrymen.  I climbed inside through an opening in the rear and found the rusted remains of the boat gun still pointing toward the beach.  Alongside the position was the remains of a coral trench, where Japanese infantry protected it from a flanking attack.  Further along I found another identical emplacement, as well as the remnants of other fighting positions.  Scattered about were expended .30 cartridges...U.S. M-1.   

One of the highlights was a buddy brought along a Marine small Marine flag that he place on the beach in honor of his father, who had been killed during the assault...a very solemn occasion.

I will close for now, stay tuned for other accounts of what I did on my summer vacation.  Semper Fi, Dick

About the Author
Colonel Richard D. Camp, USMC), “retired from the Marine Corps in 1988 after completing 26 years of service. During his career he served in a variety of command and staff assignments, including the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., Instructor, The Basic School, CO, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, MCRD San Diego, CO, Recruiting Station, Milwaukee, WI, CO, 12th Marine Corps District, San Francisco, CA, and Aide de Camp, CG Marine Corps Education Center. He served one tour in Vietnam as CO, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment.  You can find out more about Colonel Camp and his books at:

Shinseki Vows to Support Military Members, Vets

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2012 – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki offered assurances that VA will make good on its promises to veterans and those currently serving in uniform, despite growth in demand for its services and benefits and federal belt-tightening initiatives.

Shinseki sat with American Forces Press Service during the 26th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic this week in Snowmass Village, Colo., to discuss VA’s $140.3 billion budget request for fiscal 2013 and what it means for those who serve or have served in uniform.

With a 4.5 percent increase in discretionary funding over fiscal 2012 funding levels, Shinseki said it sends a clear message to the nation’s 22 million living veterans. “The nation honors and appreciates their service,” he said. “It has not forgotten and will not forget.”

The funding increases will go primarily toward medical care, disability pay and pensions, jobs and educational and training programs. They also will help build momentum in three priority areas Shinseki has identified: increasing access to care, benefits and services; eliminating the disability claims backlog; and ending veterans’ homelessness.

Shinseki said the budget request -- up from $99.9 billion when he arrived at VA in 2009 -- was an easy sell to President Barack Obama, who he said has been a staunch advocate of veterans.

“He gets it, both that sense of obligation, and a responsibility to ensure that these men and women we have sent off to do the nation’s business have an opportunity to get back to some kind of normalcy in their lives, and that VA is responsible for carrying that load,” Shinseki said of the President’s support for veterans.

The VA’s workload is anticipated to grow, Shinseki said, with an estimated 1 million service members expected to leave the military during the next five years. And based on the experience of 1.4 million veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan who have left the military as of September, he said the newest veterans will be twice as likely as those from previous generations to take advantage of VA services and benefits.

Shinseki noted that 67 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have come to VA for services or benefits ranging from health care to insurance, home mortgages and Post-9/11 G.I. Bill education. That’s a far-higher percentage than for previous generations, he said, noting that roughly 8.8 million, or about one-third of all 22 million living U.S. veterans, are enrolled with the VA.

“So looking down the road, that percentage is going to be pretty significant,” he said.

In some respects, VA has become a victim of its own successes and what Shinseki called a “very aggressive” outreach effort to encourage veterans to take advantage of VA programs. “In the last three years, we have pushed very hard to get the message out,” he said. It’s been a two-prong effort, he added, to educate new veterans, and to “reach out to those who may have tried us and been disappointed in the past to say, ‘This is a new VA. Give us another try.’”

The message has clearly resonated, with about 800,000 new veterans enrolling with VA over the past three years and beginning to take advantage of its services.

“As a result, we have been able to present what I think is a good argument for why VA’s budget needed to be reinforced, Shinseki said.

The VA budget request includes $52.7 billion for medical care, up 4.1 percent. VA officials estimate that 6.3 million veterans will use its health care services, including about 610,000 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The request includes $6.2 billion for mental-health, up 5.3 percent from current levels. VA will use the additional funding to conduct more outreach and screenings, better address post-traumatic stress disorder and enhance programs that reduce the stigma of seeking mental-health care, officials said.

The budget also will fund expanded gender-specific care for women veterans and medical research focusing on traumatic brain injury, suicide prevention, PTSD and other needs, officials reported.

New funding in the 2013 budget request, officials said, will help veterans prepare for and secure jobs, building on a national program that includes tax credits for employers, corporate hiring pledges, job fairs and other initiatives.

The budget request will cover Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits for an estimated 606,000 service members, veterans and family members during fiscal 2013, officials said. A separate funding increase of $9 million would expand the “VetSuccess on Campus” program from 28 college campuses to 80 to provide outreach and supportive services for about 80,000 veterans transitioning from the military to college.

Meanwhile, VA’s vocational rehabilitation and employment program will expand services to wounded, ill and injured service members to ease their transition to civilian life, officials said. Program participants are expected to increase from 108,000 in fiscal 2011 to 130,000 next fiscal year.

The budget request proposes $1 billion over five years for a Veterans Job Corp. This effort, projected to put 20,000 veterans to work, would leverage military-acquired skills for jobs protecting and rebuilding U.S. public lands.

Shinseki said VA and the Defense Department are collaborating better than ever before to ensure a smoother transition from the military to VA-assisted ranks.

A task force that blends both departments’ expertise is exploring ways to improve transition assistance programs and weave health care, employment, education and entrepreneurship offerings into them. The idea, Shinseki explained, is to put transitioning service members “on a vector to that next phase of their lives, as opposed to the uniform coming off and then having them ask the question, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

The goal, he said, is to gear transition assistance programs toward providing veterans “a clear set of choices,” that both departments can help support.

Shinseki noted other areas where the close DOD-VA partnership already is helping service members and their families and veterans. VA is the insurer for everyone in the military carrying Servicemembers Group Life Insurance. VA administers Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for service members and their families as well as veterans. VA hospitals already provide specialized care to many active-duty patients.

“So the connection is there,” Shinseki said. “And I want all service members and their families to understand that we are there for them, and that is our only mission.”

Service Members Must Prepare For Transition, Dempsey Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2012 – This is a time of transition for the U.S. military and part of that change requires service members to immerse themselves in the study of their profession, said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey took time during his recent travels to Colombia and Brazil to talk to reporters about the transitions he sees coming.

In his letter to the force upon taking office in October, Dempsey stressed the need for service members to study their profession.

“We’re not a profession simply because we say we’re a profession,” he wrote. “We must continue to learn, to understand, and to promote the knowledge, skills, attributes and behaviors that define us as a profession.”

Dempsey said he gets a lot of affirmation on his position.

“Most agree that we need to look inside this profession of ours and make sure we have the attributes right,” the general said in an interview aboard a C-17 en route to Colombia. “Are we developing the right attributes in our new leaders? Some of those attributes are enduring, but there are some new ones.”

But there are a number of service members, he said, who question the need for this study.

“There are some who say, ‘C’mon. Look how good we’re doing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” Dempsey said. “To me, that’s the formula for losing our credentials as a learning organization.”

The military has been through 10 years of conflict and service members have made many deployments. “How can we think that hasn’t had some effect? It seems to me to be a bit na├»ve,” the general said.

Dempsey said he isn’t suggesting the military is broken. Morale is high, he said, and the spirit in the force is good.

“I am suggesting that we ought to have the conversation,” the general said.

The U.S. military has had these sorts of discussions throughout its existence. As the military faces its latest transition, Dempsey said, it is a good time to see what is needed to maintain the best military on the globe.

And this discussion is not limited to officers. “We have been putting more emphasis on the noncommissioned officer as an integral part of the profession,” Dempsey said. “That’s kind of a new thing. Twenty years ago, the profession was defined by officer corps and then the NCOs were held accountable to go out and deliver it.”

But NCOs have to be part of the discussion on what it means to be a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, the chairman said.

“How do you see yourselves as leaders in the profession?” he said. “They are at the point of the spear on this in terms of dealing with all the issues we’ve uncovered in the past 10 years. We have continually said to them -- rightly -- that they are what make us great; that they are the backbone of the profession.”

But being the backbone means continuing to grow and to be strong enough to support the body, the general said.

Ten years of war, Dempsey said, has affected all aspects of the force. NCOs have typically been handed a training checklist, for example, to get troops ready for war.

“Now they are reaching a point where noncommissioned officers are going to have to think about what it means to train their organizations,” he said, “to deliver an outcome and to re-instill those small disciplines -- training management, command supply discipline, barracks discipline -- those small disciplines that in a war sometimes are overlooked because they are so darn busy.

“Now we are going to have to hold the NCOs accountable for bringing that [discipline] back,” he added, “and I think sometimes they underestimate the challenge.”

Historic HS-4 Transitions to HSC-4

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

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4 became Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, during a transition ceremony at Naval Base Coronado, March 29.

The primary mission of the legendary "Black Knights" has always been anti-submarine warfare. However, with the transition from the SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter to MH-60S Knighthawk, the squadron adds search and rescue, combat search and rescue, special operations support and logistics as secondary missions.

"With this ceremony the legendary 'Black Knights' will embark on a new path, and with any decision of the future there will be uncertainties, but one thing that is clear is that the future is bright," said retired Capt. Michael Fuqua, a former commanding officer of HS-4.

Since the announcement of the transition in October 2011, HSC-4 has been training with the Fleet Replacement Squadron of HSC-3 to ensure a solid transition.

"We are learning the new airframe by going to HSC-3 to train with their instructor pilots," said Cmdr. Tamara K. Graham, commanding officer of HSC-4. "And our maintainers go over [to HSC-3] to execute maintenance under the instruction of already trained maintenance professionals."

After months of training, hard work and the official transition, the men and women of the legendary "Black Knights" can now call themselves "plank owners."

"When you work for a command that is called a legend in history, maintaining that representation is going to be challenging, especially being the first to be called HSC-4," said Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Miguel Caro, "but we are all up for the task."

HS-4's most famous helicopter was the SH-3D Sea King "Helicopter 66" which was used to pick up astronauts from Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Recently, HS-4 deployed and supported Operation Tomodachi to aid tsunami victims in Japan, as well as Operations New Dawn in Iraq and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

"HS-4, at least in my eyes, is the best and greatest squadron that ever was and ever will be, and is truly legendary," said Fuqua.

Graham said by the end of May, HSC-4 expects to be fully transitioned and equipped with seven new MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters.

California National Guard member first Hispanic female general officer

California National Guard courtesy report

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Army Brig. Gen. Sylvia Crockett is the first Latina general officer in the California National Guard after being promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a ceremony at the state capitol in here Wednesday.

“With the amount of Hispanic people in California, it’s a great opportunity to serve in a position that in many ways will serve as an example for many young women and men in the Latino or Latina community to realize that they too can reach the top,” Crockett, who serves as director of strategic communications for the state’s Military Department.
“Her example of breaking the glass ceiling, not only for Latinas but for women in general, I think she’s a great role model,” said state Sen. Lou Correa. “I’m going to talk to my daughter who’s 12 years old about this great woman.”

Crockett’s promotion coincided with Women’s History Month, a tradition with origins in Sonoma, Calif., which observed the nation’s first Women’s History Week in March 1978. The annual March celebration raises awareness of the importance of equality and diversity in the United States.

“[This position] takes a lot of skill, which you have and we recognize that,” said Gov. Edmund Brown Jr., who was the ceremony host. 

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the adjutant general of the California National Guard, has expressed his commitment to ensuring the National Guard increasingly reflects the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the state it serves, both in its leadership and across its ranks.

“We are putting her into a very, very prominent position in her full-time capacity, where she is going to take over for us all of our strategic communications, which includes the Public Affairs Directorate, our state legislation, working with our friends in the state Senate and Assembly and of course working with our enormous California congressional delegation,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin said Crockett will also be helping to reshape the future force structure of the National Guard and addressing Soldier, Airman, civilian and family care issues.