Friday, April 06, 2012

Truman Sailors Participate in Command PT

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David R. Finley Jr., USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) attended the ship's command physical training (PT) at Naval Station (NS) Norfolk April 4.

Truman command fitness leaders (CFL) worked alongside Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Waterfront Fitness to train a group of more than 1,000 Truman Sailors.

"The purpose of the PT session was to build morale and serve as a team-building exercise for Truman," said Chief Legalman (AW/SW) Kristine Skupnik, Truman's CFL. "PT builds camaraderie and is a good way to start the day."

Skupnik said the event was important because it allowed Sailors the chance to work out built-up energy in a positive way.

"Truman really rocked it today," said Susan Lowry, NS Norfolk MWR fitness director. "I enjoyed the enthusiasm and participation that the Sailors displayed out there."

The PT session was the first of its kind aboard Truman. The event featured cardio-kickboxing and strength training exercises.

"I always enjoy leading these classes for Sailors," said Lowry. "I have a Sailor at home, and I like to give back to the Navy anyway I can."

According to Sailors who attended, the session was a great way to prepare for the upcoming physical fitness assessment (PFA) cycle.

"I take my role as a CFL seriously," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class (AW) Stephanie Rodriguez, air department CFL. "I like to help Sailors prepare for the PFA, and I want everyone to pass and do their very best."

The PT session gave Sailors a chance to have a good time, said Rodriguez.

"It was a real morale booster," said Rodriguez. "PT brings us closer together as a crew and prepares us to work together as a team."

Truman is undergoing a docking planned incremental availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va.

Fitness is one of the key elements of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.

Navy Jet Crashes in Virginia Beach

From a Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic News Release

NORFOLK, Va., April 6, 2012 – An F/A-18D Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana crashed today in Virginia Beach, Va.

Initial reports indicate that the jet crashed just off the base shortly after takeoff at about 12:05 p.m. EDT.

Both crew members safely ejected from the aircraft.

Strike Fighter Squadron 106 serves as the Navy’s East Coast fleet replacement squadron. Its mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 replacement pilots and weapon systems officers to support fleet commitments.

The Navy is coordinating with local authorities.

2012 Navy Military Child of the Year Awarded at Gala

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shannon Burns, Defense Media Activity - Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- During the Fourth Annual Military Child of the Year Awards Gala the five recipients of this year's Military Child of the Year Awards were presented with their awards by senior leadership of each branch of service at the Ritz Carlton in Washington D.C. April 5.

Keynote speakers during the ceremony included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis.

"I think that our military kids are who they are because of the hardships, the moves, and their adaptability," said Dempsey. "One of the things that sets us apart is that our kids become who they are because of what we ask them to do and because of what they see us do."

Jim Knotts, President and CEO of Operation Homefront said that these children are honored because of their contributions to their communities.

"The sons and daughters of America's service members learn what patriotism is at a very young age," said Knotts. "Children in military families demonstrate leadership within their families and within their communities. This is what the Military Child of the Year Award honors."

Each year one child from each branch of service is chosen as the military child of the year. This year's Military Child of the Year for the Navy, 9 year old James "Nate" Richards, was presented with his award by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

"I am so proud of our military kids for their resilience, strength of character, and unselfish service to our nation," said Greenert. "Nate's father and three brothers all serve on active duty as a part of our Navy-Marine Corps team. He and his family are special people and we are so fortunate to have them on our team."

Richards was chosen from a pool of 1,000 nominees by a committee made up of active duty military personnel, Family Readiness Support Assistants, teachers, military mothers, and community members.

At one time Richards' three brothers and his father were deployed simultaneously. To help him deal with the difficulty of their absence he started a blog entitled "natethegreatamilitarybrat" ( where he shared his wisdom about being a child in a military family.

"It was hard because my brothers took care of me when my dad was gone, and then everyone was gone," said Richards. "I wrote the blog so my friends could see what it was like."

Richards said that being chosen as this year's Navy Military Child of the Year has been a cool experience.

"This has been awesome," said Richards. "My favorite part was coming up on stage and receiving my award and also hearing Mr. [Sammy] Davis [Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.)] play the harmonica."

Richards had some advice for other military children who may have family members deployed.

"Think about something else," said Richards. "Read a book or a book series and try not to listen to the news about where your person is deployed to."

He also had a message for his father and his brothers.

"I want to tell my brothers and my dad that I love and miss them and hope they come back soon," he said.

Operation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 4,500 volunteers across 23 chapters and has met more than 590,000 needs since 2002. A four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, nationally, 94 percent of total revenue donated goes directly to support service members and their families.

U.S. 7th Fleet to Conduct Exercise

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Naval personnel from India and the United States will participate in Exercise Malabar 2012, April 9-16.

Malabar is a regularly scheduled naval field training exercise and has grown in scope and complexity over the years. Malabar 2012 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises conducted to advance multinational maritime relationships and mutual security issues.

Participants from the U.S. Navy include the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97), a logistics ship, P-3C aircraft and a submarine.

The exercise will feature both ashore and at-sea training. While ashore in Chennai, India, training will include subject matter expert and professional exchanges on counter-piracy operations, carrier aviation operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations and anti-submarine warfare operations.

The at-sea portions will be conducted in two phases.

Phase I will take place in the vicinity of Chennai, while Phase II will be in the Bay of Bengal and west of the Nicobar Islands.

They are designed to advance participating nations' military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations in a multinational environment.

Events planned during the at-sea portions include liaison officer professional exchanges and embarks; communications exercises; surface action group operations; helicopter cross-deck evolutions; underway replenishments; gunnery exercises; visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS); maritime strikes; air defense exercises; encounter exercises; shore-based surface strikes; and anti-submarine warfare.

The Indian Navy and U.S. 7th Fleet have a common understanding and knowledge of a shared working environment at sea. This exercise helps to advance the level of understanding between the countries' Sailors and both countries hope to be able to continue this process over time.

Senior Leaders Honor Military Children of the Year

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., April 6, 2012 – From a 9-year-old blogger to a 17-year-old community-service volunteer, children from military families took center stage here last night during Operation Homefront’s 2012 Military Child of the Year awards gala.

The military’s top brass heaped praise on five of these children -- one from each service plus the Coast Guard -- for their resilience, strength of character and leadership.

Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to military families, annually gives the award to a child from each service to honor military kids’ service and sacrifice.

These children are the “best of the best,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told an audience of military and family members. Joining the chairman was his wife, Deanie, top military leaders from each service, and special guest speaker, Medal of Honor recipient Army Sgt. 1st Class Sammy L. Davis.

“If I had to be identified as the best of the best among any group in America today, I’d actually like to be known as the best of the best among military kids,” Dempsey told the audience, “because of what we ask them to do, and what they do.”

The honorees included a 9-year-old who started a blog to support other children dealing with deployment to a 17-year-old who dealt with her Army father’s illness, then the loss of her soldier brother in Afghanistan.

Though people have said military children are tough and resilient despite their hardships, the chairman said, he takes an opposite view.

“I think that our military kids are who they are because of the hardships,” he said, citing their adaptability, strength and ability to embrace diversity. “Kids become who they are because of what we ask them to do and because of what they see us do [and] see their moms and dads do.”

These children are the nation’s future leaders, Dempsey noted. He said Nathaniel Richards, the Navy’s Military Child of the Year, put it best when he wrote this on his blog site: “Even though we are young, we still have great ideas. We can help. We can make a difference.”

Dempsey thanked Operation Homefront for its efforts to honor military children. “Let me tell you how proud we are of America’s military kids,” he said. “And let me tell you how very proud we are of the five that have been identified tonight as the best of the best.”

Following Dempsey’s remarks, senior service leaders presented the awards to their service’s honoree -- first citing their exceptional qualities and accomplishments and passing on their personal gratitude for their service and strength.

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the Army’s vice chief of staff, acknowledged military children’s challenges, particularly after a decade of war. Yet, he said, “it is remarkable to see these young people routinely rise to the challenges of military life and excel under what are very difficult circumstances.”

Through their unyielding support, military children increase not only their military parents’ strength, but also their resilience, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz added.

Following the awards ceremony, actor Gary Sinise, a staunch military supporter famous for his role as a wounded warrior in the movie “Forrest Gump,” shared his gratitude to the children via prerecorded remarks. “You are representing the best of our military youth,” he told the military children of the year. “We as a country earnestly want to honor you for the special contribution you have given your family and your nation.

“There is no greater sacrifice than to serve our nation and you young people are living examples of that dedication and commitment,” he added.

Sinise introduced Davis, who is among the 81 living Medal of Honor recipients, to a standing ovation and resounding applause. Davis received the nation’s highest military honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War.

Some people believe today’s kids are going in the wrong direction, Davis said, but he doesn’t believe this is the case. “Truly we have good kids in this nation, and what we’ve seen here tonight is just proof in the pudding.”

Seeing the children receive their honors, he added, “made my heart swell with pride.”

Amelia McConnell, the Army’s Military Child of the Year, said she was “honored and humbled” by the honor and the opportunity to represent thousands of other military children. “I love being a military kid,” she said with a smile.

Each award recipient will receive $5,000 from Operation Homefront, along with additional gifts from nonprofit organizations such as Soldiers’ Angels and Veterans United Foundation. Jim Knotts, Operation Homefront’s president and CEO, called the honorees examples for thousands of other military children. “I know you will all do us proud,” he told them.

A committee of active duty service members, family readiness support assistants, teachers, military mothers and community members selected the children from a pool of more than 1,000 nominees.

The recipients of this year’s Military Child of the Year award are:

-- James Nathaniel Richards, of Jamul, Calif., for the Navy. This 9-year-old’s three brothers and father all were deployed at the same time. To share his lessons learned, he started a blog for other military children called “Nate the Great: A Military Brat.” He leads the anti-bullying committee at his school and volunteers at the USO -- clocking more than 200 hours last year collecting Christmas toys for children in need and wrapping hundreds of stockings to send to troops in Afghanistan.

-- Amelia McConnell, of Carlisle Barracks, Pa., for the Army. At 17, McConnell is the youngest of six children. She’s moved with her family nine times, and her father has deployed three times. In 2006, after her father returned from Iraq, he was diagnosed with leukemia. After six months of treatments, the disease appeared to be in remission. He returned to Iraq in 2007. Two years later, her only brother, Army Sgt. Andrew McConnell, was killed in Afghanistan. A year later, her father deployed to Afghanistan shortly after the family moved to Pennsylvania from overseas. While helping her mother at home, McConnell also served as the vice president as the National Art Honor Society, and she is a member of the Germany National Honor Society.

-- Chelsea Rutherford, 17, of Panama City, Fla., for the Air Force. She has two parents in the military and has attended five different schools. Still, she’s an honor roll student with a 3.6 grade point average and serves as the vice president of the Student-to-Student Club, which introduces new students to the campus and helps to ease their transition. She’s also an avid volunteer who clocked nearly 180 hours with nonprofit organizations in 2011, and is a member in the Society of Leadership and Success and the National Society of High School Scholars.

-- Erika Booth, 16, of Jacksonville, N.C., for the Marine Corps. She was an avid softball player until she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects her blood and requires painful monthly kidney checks. While dealing with her own health issues, Booth also helps to care for her 13-year-old brother, who has autism. Despite these challenges, Booth is ranked first in her class academically, serves as the junior class president and vice president of her local Health Occupations Students of America chapter, and volunteers as a mentor with the Drug Education for Youth program. She also works with other military children and adults to help them cope with the challenges of military life, and has traveled abroad with the People to People Ambassador Program.

-- Alena Deveau, 17, of Fairfax, Va., for the Coast Guard. She has visited 40 states during her father’s career. When she was in the seventh grade, Deveau’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer, followed by hip cancer. He underwent multiple surgeries before being diagnosed with brain cancer. Her father, who now is medically retired, was hospitalized for nearly three months. Deveau’s mother spent her time by her husband’s bedside, and Deveau held up the home front, helping to care for her 15-year-old sister. Still, she found time to volunteer as an organizer of the local Veterans Day dinner.