Military News

Monday, April 02, 2012

Navy 50/50 Program Broadens Navy Outreach Across America


By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ian Lundy, Navy Office of Community Outreach

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- The Navy wrapped up its first visit to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, March 30 as part of a new nationwide outreach program designed to show Americans in cities across the country the tremendous investment they have in their Navy.

Recently established by the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the "Navy 50/50" program will send 50 top Navy uniformed and civilian leaders to 50 cities across the United States for three days of high-level engagements with corporate executives, civic leaders, government officials, educators, non-profit executive directors, veterans and members of the media.

"With the Navy concentrated on both coasts, we're challenged to gain Americans' understanding of our mission, capabilities and relevance to national security throughout the rest of the country," said Cmdr. Kim Marks, director of the Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO), the activity charged with running the new program. "All Americans deserve to know what the Navy brings to the national security equation, that their Navy is America's away team, deployed around the world, defending our nation's interests every day."

Modeled on the successful Flag Officer engagement module that has been a staple of the Navy Week program since 2005, the Navy 50/50 program will expand the Navy's outreach efforts nearly three-fold in terms of the number of cities visited each year. Traditionally the Navy Week program is conducted in 15-20 cities each year.

"The Navy 50/50 program will help us reach areas of the country that we have not previously engaged in a meaningful way," said Marks. "Combined with our established Navy Week program, our aviation and Navy band outreach efforts, our Leaders to Sea embark program, and our national speakers bureau, we have the ability now to reach Americans in markets that traditionally hear very little about the Navy."

Through a thorough research and assessment program conducted over the past three years, it has been shown that Americans, particularly those living in areas of the country with no significant Navy presence, have a favorable view toward the Navy and the military in general. But that research has also shown that most do not fully understand what the Navy does, or why it is important to have a strong Navy.

"The Navy 50/50 program is going to help make Americans understand what their Navy does for them on a daily basis," said Lt. Glenn Sircy, assistant program manager for executive outreach at NAVCO. "The flag officers and SES (Senior Executive Service) leaders who have volunteered to support the program will be spreading the message that what happens on the sea matters. It matters to world peace. It matters to our economy and to the preservation of prosperity. It also matters to our national defense. A strong Navy is necessary to preserve the American way of life."

Rear Adm. Chris Sadler, commander, Naval Air Force Reserve and a Dallas-Fort Worth area resident, made the first Navy 50/50 program visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth area March 26.

"I was excited to kick off the Navy's 50/50 program. Through 16 different presentations, roundtables and discussions with local corporate, civic, government and education leaders, I was able to explain how the Navy protects America. I also demonstrated how the Navy affects the daily lives of North Texans, and show them the tremendous investment they have made in the Navy. In turn, I learned about how some of these groups already support the Navy or the military in general. The Dallas Fort Worth area has a large Navy presence at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, so I explained the sacrifice our citizen-Sailors make to serve their country, and thanked their employers for supporting their military duties. Fostering existing relationships, and creating new ones, through executive level community outreach visits like the 50/50 program, helps highlight the significance of the Navy to their respective organizations, and the community in general. As a resident of the area for the past 21 years, I couldn't think of a better region to tell our story."

DOD Implements New Changes to Sexual Assault Response


By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2012 – The Defense Department has refined new methods to aid sexual assault victims whether reporting a crime or seeking assistance as they transition from service, the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office said here March 30.

“We have several new options for victims of sexual assault,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog. “First, if you’ve been a victim of sexual assault in the military you now have the option of requesting an expedited transfer. We signed that into effect in December.”

“If you find it untenable or unbearable in the organization that you’re at … you can request to be transferred,” she added.

Hertog said a service member’s local commander has 72 hours to respond to the request for transfer, and if denied there is an option to take it to the first flag or general officer in the chain of command who also has 72 hours to respond.

“We also have a new document retention initiative,” she said. “We heard loud and clear from our veterans that present themselves at the [Department of Veterans Affairs] years later that there was no documentation that they had ever been sexually assaulted [during] their military service.”

The issue arose, Hertog said, because varying standards of retention had existed among all of the services but has since been resolved.

“We now have one standard of retention so those individuals that file unrestricted reports will have their documents retained for 50 years,” she said.

“And those that file restricted reports will have their documents retained for five years,” Hertog said. “And of course our victims of sexual assault who file restricted reports have that option to convert over to unrestricted reports at any time and then we will retain their documents for that 50-year period.”

The director also discussed other innovations such as expanding legal assistance to encourage victims to participate in the military justice system “in order to hold that perpetrator accountable.”

And as of January, DOD civilians and contractors deployed abroad, and military dependents over 18 years old are now eligible to access sexual assault response services, Hertog said.

Hertog noted other changes implemented include new training for investigators of sexual assault crimes within the services.

“Some of our new training initiatives concern our investigators such as our [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] agents, Air Force [Office of Special Investigations], and Army [Criminal Investigation Division],” she said. “We think we have found the gold standard course … to send many of the agents to, to build a sexual assault subject expertise cadre of our agents to get them very familiar with these cases.”

Hertog said training frequency will increase, more seats will be offered and the training has expanded to include Judge Advocate Generals “because these are some of the toughest cases to investigate as well as prosecute.”

Perhaps the most useful option has been established for about a year, Hertog noted.

“You have the option of contacting our DOD Safe helpline,” she said. “We stood up a 24/7 crisis hotline -- it’s operated by RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network -- who have been trained by us so they’re very familiar with military terminology.”

“If you don’t want to go through your chain of command you can contact them and they will tell you where your nearest rape crisis center is in your community outside your installation gates,” Hertog said.

Hertog said the hotline has been “extremely successful” with about 30,000 unique visits to the site and about 2,500 referrals for counseling services.

She emphasized the Defense Department’s commitment to “eradicating” sexual assault in the military “from the Secretary [of Defense] on down.

“We have to eliminate this problem from our ranks,” Hertog added. “The American public gives us what’s most dear to them and that’s their sons and daughters. And they trust us that we’re going to take care of them [which] is a commander’s job.”

PCU Minnesota and Deployed Minnesota National Guard Share Banner Exchange


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

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The crew of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Minnesota (SSN 783) showed their solidarity and support for the "Red Bulls" of the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division serving in Kuwait by participating in a banner exchange in late March.

The concept for the exchange was launched in late February by Cmdr. John Fancher, PCU Minnesota's (SSN 783) commanding officer and Col. John Morris, state chaplain for the Minnesota National Guard.

"One team, one fight," said Morris. "We honor the crew of the USS Minnesota and greatly respect their critically important mission."

Fancher and Morris both agreed that they wanted to use this banner exchange to demonstrate to the deployed national guardsmen from the land of 10,000 lakes that the crew of Minnesota appreciates their service.

"My crew and I wanted to participate in this banner exchange to show our support for those deployed and provide a direct link with our crew aboard PCU Minnesota," said Fancher.

With the crew's signatures and well wishes written on the banner, a second banner to be signed by the "Red Bulls" were carried by Morris more than 6,000 miles to Kuwait. The banner was later signed by the Minnesota National Guardsmen and returned to Norfolk affixed with signatures from Kuwait.

"Our deployed citizen-soldiers were eager to sign the banner to express their appreciation for the crew of their home state's namesake, PCU Minnesota," said Morris. "More than a decade of war has forged strong bonds amongst all military branches within the profession of arms, and the Red Bulls know that the Sailors serving aboard the Minnesota will bring great pride to our state for years to come."

Morris recently attended the annual Minnesota Navy League meeting. The League's Vice President Brian Skon relayed what Morris shared with the League and the impact the banner had on the deployed National Guardsman from Minnesota.

"The PCU Minnesota signed banner brought to Kuwait was well received," said Skon. "In fact, so many Red Bulls wanted to sign the banner being sent back to PCU Minnesota in gratitude that people back home were thinking about them, including the crew of Minnesota, that a lottery had to be taken to sign the banner."

As a result of the response of the banner exchange, the Minnesota Navy League made copies of the two banners, one resides in the offices of PCU Minnesota and another resides in Kuwait to show support from home.

Under construction and set for delivery in 2013, PCU Minnesota will be the 10th of a projected 30 Virginia-class submarines. This will be only the third ship to be named after Minnesota, with the last one being more than a century ago in 1905.

Leap Frogs Parachute at Phoenix Navy Week


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Luke Eastman, U.S Navy Parachute Team Public Affairs

PHOENIX (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, participated in Phoenix Navy Week 2012, March 26-28.

The Leap Frogs performed three demonstrations at Agua Fria High School, Peoria Sports Complex, and Desert Ridge High School with a combined attendance of more than 10,000 people.

The Leap Frogs, composed of parachuting experts from Naval Special Warfare, performed aerial parachuting maneuvers called canopy relative work and flew an American flag, a POW/MIA flag and a Navy SEAL Trident flag during the performances. The Leap Frogs handed out signed photographs, talked to spectators about their jobs in Naval Special Warfare and showed spectators how to pack their parachutes after each performance.

"It was really inspirational," said Caitlin Gilmore, a freshman at Agua Fria High School. "Watching them parachute into the stadium like that, you see what people can push themselves to do and it kind of gives me hope that I can do what I want to do in the future. It makes me feel good about myself and encourages me to achieve whatever I want."

Phoenix 3TV News reporter Javier Soto rode along with the Leap Frogs in the C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 139th Airlift Wing of Missouri Air National Guard to watch the practice jump above Peoria Sports Complex, March 27.

"Awesome," said Soto. "That's the only way to describe my experience flying with the Navy Leap Frogs."

Commanding Officer of Navy Recruiting District Phoenix, Cmdr. Derek Wessman, also watched the practice jump from the baseball stadium at Peoria. He explained how Navy Weeks help convey the Navy's mission and achievements.

"One of the greatest challenges we have here in Phoenix is that we're in a landlocked state," said Wessman. "People out here don't see the Navy every day. We're not like a San Diego or a Norfolk where the ships come in and out of port all the time. So for people to see real Navy Sailors doing great things for the community really emphasizes the fact that we're a global force for good. The parachute demonstration team is a big eye catcher but it gives us an opportunity to have that conversation with people and explain to the community how much of an impact the navy has on our country and the world."

Phoenix Navy Week is one of 15 Navy Weeks planned across America this year. They are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy as a Global Force for Good and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

Top 10 Reasons I Admire Military Kids


By Elaine Sanchez

In honor of April’s Month of the Military Child, I created a Top 10 list of the qualities I most appreciate about children from military families.

Their amazing service and sacrifice deserve a much longer list, but I figured this would at least be a start.

What I most appreciate about children from military families:

10. Their sense of humor. Navy wife Vivian Greentree’s sons pasted pictures of their deployed dad on a stick, dubbed it a “dad on a stick” and took it everywhere with them. Her son, MJ, even asked if “dad on a stick” could help make macaroni and cheese. He carefully placed the following message to his dad under the picture of this mac and cheese preparation: We’ll eat mac and cheese when you get home. You can use my Spiderman bowl.”

9. They selflessly serve their community. Military children possess a strong sense of service — perhaps modeled after their military dads and moms who serve and sacrifice daily. But whatever its origin, they don’t hesitate to step up at school, at home and in their communities. James Nathaniel Richards, the fifth of six children in his military family, took on a host of deployment-related challenges when his Navy father and three of his brothers deployed at the same time. But rather than focus on the separation, the 9-year-old started a blog to help other military kids deal with deployments and separations. He also heads up the anti-bullying committee at his school, and has clocked more than 200 hours as a USO volunteer.

8. They stand by their military parent through thick and thin. I met a high school senior who told me his father would miss his graduation and his departure to college. But this teen wasn’t upset in the least. “He loves to be a soldier, and if it makes him happy, it makes me happy,” he said. “How can I possibly complain that he’s not watching me graduate when he’s out there sacrificing for our nation.”

7. Their sense of patriotism. Zachary Laychak was 9 years old when his father was killed Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Laychak struggled over the years with anger and confusion over the incident. But as time passed, his initial anger evolved into a deep sense of patriotism – born of resentment against those who dared to attack his nation and his family. “As terrible as this whole situation was, I know he was a very patriotic person,” he said of his father, and that he died serving his country. That’s a way he would have been proud to go.”

6. They support each other. Two California teenagers, Moranda Hern and Kaylei Deakin, were inspired to create the Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs after they dealt with their National Guard dads’ deployments. They didn’t want other military daughters to feel what they did: alone. Their organization is intended to unite, inspire and lead girls with parents in the military.

5. Their adaptability. I attended a high school graduation at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., last year. The class included nine students from Defense Department high schools in Japan who had left with their families in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Although they had entered a new school and a new senior class just a few months shy of graduation, they were all smiles that day as they talked to me in their caps and gowns. A transition that would have thrown the best of us for a loop didn’t seem to phase these teens, who had already been through more changes in their 18 years than most people see in a lifetime. The students in that class had moved, on average, more than six times with one student tallying up a total of 18 moves in the same number of years.

4. Their compassion. A number of kids have military parents who return home wounded, some with visible wounds and others with less-evident injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. These kids immediately step up to help out at home – taking on additional chores, pitching in to babysit — during their parent’s recovery. Taylor Dahl-Sims’ Marine Corps stepfather returned home from his fifth deployment with a traumatic brain injury and she stepped in to help during his recovery. She already was helping her mother with her baby brother’s medical care. Many wounded warriors have told me their children don’t look at them any differently, even if their wounds are severe. They are simply grateful their mom or dad made it back alive.

3. Their global knowledge. Many military kids have traveled across the nation and around the world. They have an innate appreciation for cultural diversity and knowledge of world events that most kids who never crossed state lines would be hard-pressed to match. This will serve them well in the future as modern technology and the rise of a global economy increase the likelihood they’ll be exposed to a people of different cultures and backgrounds in their careers. “These children come to us with broadened perspectives and a broad range of experiences,” said Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity. “They’re the closest to being a global citizen that this world will have.”

2. Their strength. They’ve dealt with a decade of war and multiple deployments, with the associated worry and fear. But these challenges also have equipped them with a resilience that will prepare them for life’s setbacks and hardships. The first lady summed it up well at an event in June. “A bad grade on a test, a bad day at work, that’s not going to knock you off your game,” she said, “because from a very young age, you all have been dealing with the big stuff, and that’s given you perspective.”

1. They serve too. Their military parent signed on the dotted line; their children did not. Yet, they must deal with deployments, frequent moves and school transitions, and they do so with courage and grace. As a nation, we owe them a debt of gratitude. This month, and year round, we should take time to let military children know how grateful we are for their service, said Barbara Thompson, director of military community and family policy, children and youth. “One of the things that’s disconcerting is we know that 1 percent of our population is in uniform and is serving, and the other 99 percent of the country takes full benefit of that,” she said. “We owe it to our children to honor them and to protect them.”