Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Missouri Air Guard band 'Sidewinder' performs at White House

By Bill Phelan
Missouri National Guard

WASHINGTON (4/11/12) – Sidewinder, the rock band element of the St. Louis, Mo.-based 571st Missouri Air National Guard Band made famous by a YouTube video, performed at the White House today in front of the Obama, National Guard senior leaders and other attendees.

The 10-member ensemble was invited to perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph Biden, marking the one-year anniversary of the Joining Forces Initiative, a military family support program spearheaded by both women.

"We are thrilled," said Air Force Maj. John Arata, Sidewinder band leader and commanding officer of the 571st. "This is a unique opportunity for us to represent the Air National Guard on a national stage and share what military bands do to support troop morale and build international relationships."

According to Arata, band members were told just last week that they would be making the trip to Washington after Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden saw videos of the band's performances.

"The First Lady's Joining Forces Initiative builds troop support in the American public particularly through the use of social and shared media," Arata said. "Our YouTube video is a perfect example of how modern, shared media can build troop support."

That video of Sidewinder performing "Rolling in the Deep," by Adele, while deployed to the Middle East last summer went viral and was viewed more than two million times. Its popularity led to the band appearing on the "Ellen" DeGeneres Show, "Entertainment Tonight," "Good Morning America," and "Fox and Friends." Band vocalist, Air Force Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson, also appeared on the hit NBC show "The Voice."

But all of that pales in comparison to playing at the White House.

"Performing at the White House is the opportunity of a lifetime, especially for a regional band," Arata said. "We're very motivated to present a high quality, professional product and we look forward to thanking the First Lady and Mrs. Biden for the opportunity to be a part of this significant event."

Sidewinder performed three songs at the White House, including "Rolling in the Deep," a popular song by professional vocalist Adele.

In addition to Arata and Johnson, Sidewinder band members include Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Navarro; Staff Sgt. Ransom Miller; Staff Sgt. Devin LaRue; Staff Sgt. Brian Owens; Tech. Sgt. John Cavanaugh; Staff Sgt. Toby Callaway; Tech. Sgt. Kevin Maret; and Tech. Sgt. Joey Castilleja.

The 571st Air National Guard Band is a subordinate unit of the 131st Bomb Wing, headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base.

First Lady, Dr. Biden Mark ‘Joining Forces’ Anniversary

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2012 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, today marked the one-year anniversary of the Joining Forces campaign by celebrating the individuals and organizations that have stepped up in “extraordinary ways” to improve military families’ lives.

Speaking from the White House’s South Lawn, the first lady and Biden expressed their gratitude for the nation’s “outpouring of support” for military families to a star-studded crowd that included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and his wife, Deanie, as well as military, government and community leaders from all sectors of society and military members and their families.

In brief remarks, Dempsey noted the importance of supporting troops and their families. Service members are “pillars of American strength … -- hardened warriors, unwavering teammates and absolutely selfless citizens,” he said.

Today’s warriors, he said, “have fought harder and their families have sacrificed more over the last decade than any of us could ever really know.”

In return, they deserve enduring support that continues long after they transition out of the military and back into their hometowns, the chairman said, which will require community involvement and a nationwide commitment. It will take “each of us and all of us,” he said.

Dempsey lauded the first lady and Biden for their efforts over the past year to improve employment, education and wellness opportunities for troops, veterans and their families, and expressed his “deep appreciation” for the individuals, organizations and communities also stepping up to help.

When Joining Forces launched, the first lady said, she knew the nation would step up to honor and support veterans and military families. “But the outpouring of support that we have seen over this last year -- … the hours logged, the services donated, the love and devotion and offers to help that have poured in from every corner of the country -- all of that has far surpassed even our wildest expectations,” she said.

Obama ticked off a list of these contributions. Over the past year, she said, more than 1,600 businesses have hired more than 50,000 veterans and spouses, and have pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the coming years.

Technology and employment companies such as Google, Monster and LinkedIn have stepped up to help connect veterans with jobs, she added, and state leaders are passing legislation to ease employment woes for military spouses with professional licenses moving across state borders. Additionally, medical schools are training health care providers so they can better care for military families.

The Defense, Veterans Affairs, Treasury and Labor departments all have made “groundbreaking” announcements to support veterans, wounded warriors, caregivers and military spouses, she continued. And associations of doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and social workers are working to improve treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.

From the entertainment industry, TV shows such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Sesame Street” and organizations such as NASCAR, AOL and Disney are sharing military families’ stories, “and using those stories not just to shine a light, but to encourage others to serve,” she said. Obama noted her own appearance on the popular children’s TV show “iCarly.” “I am now more popular than the president because I was on ‘iCarly,’” she joked.

The first lady also cited a series of popular public service announcements featuring stars such as Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

“Over the past year, not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help -- not a single person,” she said. “We’ve asked; they said yes.”

Obama cited “Operation Honor Cards,” an initiative that asks Americans to pledge service for military families, as a perfect example of Americans’ willingness to help. The organization had set a goal of 3 million hours of pledged service last year, but had doubled that number by June. “And today, we can announce that we’re at 21 million hours pledged -- 21 million hours pledged -- with already 30 million total hours served,” she said.

Other examples of the nation’s commitment to help were scattered across the audience, Biden added. Also attending the event were the 20 finalists of the Joining Forces Community Challenge. The Challenge is intended to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary military family support efforts of citizens and organizations across the country.

Biden pointed out a few of the these organizations, such as, a network of photographers who take photos of soon-to-be deployed troops and their families, and GreenCare for Troops, which connects local green industry professionals with military families to provide free lawn and landscaping services.

“If I had to sum up what we have seen since launching Joining Forces in one word, it would be ‘inspiring,’” Biden said. “These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways.”

While a powerful gauge of the nation’s commitment, Joining Forces’ true impact can’t be measured in numbers of hours served, the first lady said. “The true measure of our success lies in the lives that we’ve helped to change,” she said.

Today is a time for celebration, Obama said, but it’s also a time to renew a call to action. She challenged the audience, and all Americans, “to keep raising the bar.”

The first lady reiterated her enduring commitment to military families. Joining Forces isn’t a temporary initiative, but a “forever proposition,” she said.

“We’re going to keep driving forward until all of our nation’s military families feel in real and concrete ways the love and support and gratitude that we all hold in our hearts,” she said. “That is our simple promise to you.”

MCPON Sends Submarine Birthday Message 2012

By Special from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West released the following Submarine birthday message to the fleet April 11.

"Happy 112th Birthday Shipmates!
The Submarine Force has had a great year! With the design of a new Class in progress, the commissioning of USS California (SSN 781) in October and the introduction of women on submarines, the community and its Sailors are ready for both today's missions and tomorrow's challenges. The force is truly a crucial part of the greatest Navy the world has ever known, and critical to the security of our nation and freedom around the world.

You operate in complex, high consequence environments where vigilance is always required. More than ever, America requires a robust submarine capability to gather critical intelligence, maintain strategic deterrence, and prepare the battlespace for joint forces in a world of evolving and unpredictable challenges.

But our boats don't do it alone. There are those whose expertise allows our submarines to stay mission ready: The submarine headquarters staffs ashore (Force, Group and Squadron), the nation's two submarine tenders, service support commands, and training commands. And there are remarkable families, who often times have the hardest job of keeping life on track back in homeport. Together, they do the difficult work it takes to ensure we are sending our Submariners to sea ready to do what the nation asks of them.

The most technologically advanced equipment means nothing without a 21st Century Sailor running it. Our submarine Sailors are the strength and foundation of a ready force. This point is driven home by Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay recently placing first in the Large Shore Command category for the Health, Safety and Fitness Flagship award, sponsored by the Naval Education and Training Command.

Thank you Shipmates, for demonstrating the dedication and teamwork needed to sail safely, swiftly and silently, and for your many mission successes around the world.

For those who have worn the coveted dolphins and retired from service thank you too for your contributions and influence on our modern day Submarine Warriors.

Happy Birthday, Submariners! You may be called the silent force but your contribution to our great Navy speaks volumes.

Going deep ...

Very Respectfully,

Emory S. Land Sailors Conduct Dive with Royal Malaysian Navy

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason, USS Emory S. Land Public Affairs

SEPANGAR, Malaysia (NNS) -- Navy divers assigned to submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) conducted a coordinated scuba diving evolution with Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) divers April 8.

"We were honored by our Malaysian counterpart's invitation to conduct joint diving operations," said Chief Navy Diver Jose Castilla. "This was an opportunity to enhance the enlisted side of our two militaries' growing relationship."

Before the dive, the RMN sailors toured Emory S. Land and exchanged t-shirts.

"It's sort of a tradition," said Navy Diver 2nd Class Jody Kappen. "When divers get together with other divers we exchange t-shirts. It allows us to showcase the different places we dive and the different divers we meet, and this is certainly one I'll want to show off."

Royal Malaysian Navy diver Seruji and Navy Diver 1st Class Peter Kozminsky took to the water to conduct a scuba diving evolution involving the inspection of the ship's screw as part of a pre-underway check.

"The Malaysian divers' familiarity with these waters was critical to the success of the evolution," said Castilla.

Land is in Malaysia as part of a theater security cooperation and good will mission in the region. Land is currently on an extended deployment to Guam serving as 7th Fleet's lead afloat fleet maintenance activity. USS Emory S. Land is homeported in Diego Garcia.

To learn more about USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) visit or

Nursing Community Pledges Support for Troops, Families

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2012 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today announced a major pledge by the nation’s nursing community to better understand the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families, and to reach out to provide treatment wherever it is needed.

Obama and Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, announced at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that 150 state and national nursing organizations and 500 nursing schools, representing the nation’s 3 million nurses, signed the pledge as the latest endeavor of their “Joining Forces” campaign to help military families.

Noting Penn’s reputation for having one of the nation’s best nursing schools, Obama and Biden announced that the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National League for Nursing have committed to educating current and future nurses on how to recognize and care for veterans with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, depression, and other combat-related issues, in ways appropriate to each nurse’s practice setting.

“Whether we’re in a hospital, a doctor’s office or a community health center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door,” Obama said in a prepared statement. “Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of America’s health care system. That’s why Jill and I knew we could turn to America’s nurses and nursing students to help our veterans and military families get the world-class care that they’ve earned.”

The pledge follows an announcement in January that the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with 105 and 25 schools, respectively, made a similar commitment among doctors to lead in the education, research, and clinical care of service members, veterans and their families.

“Nurses are at the center of providing life-saving care in communities across the country -- and their reach is particularly important because our veterans don't always seek care through the VA system,” Biden said today. “This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve.”

Amy Garcia, the American Nurses Association’s chief nursing officer, said nurses of every generation have cared for men and women suffering the visible and invisible wounds of war. Today’s new, evidence-based strategies and treatments provide hope, she added.

Some service members, veterans and their families may avoid seeking care for traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression either because of a perceived stigma, or because they live far away from military or veterans’ health care facilities, Garcia said. “We want to change that, and ensure that nurses in every community have access to the most current, evidence-based treatments and resources,” she said.

Garcia understands the challenge firsthand. In a conference call with reporters yesterday, she described how her husband returned to their home state of Kansas with a traumatic brain injury suffered in combat in Iraq, when a dining hall full of U.S. service members was blown up in Fallujah in December 2004. “It’s been difficult to get care in rural areas of America,” she said. “The farther you get away, the less aware practitioners may be.”

The nurses’ Joining Forces pledge “is a positive effort to change that tide,” she said.

More than 300,000 veterans -- one of six returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq -- are believed to have post-traumatic stress or a traumatic brain injury, Garcia said.

Key commitments of the nurses’ pledge include:

-- Reaching 3.1 million registered nurses by 2015 to raise awareness of PTSD, TBI and depression;

-- Enriching nursing education to ensure that nurses are trained in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans, and their families;

-- Disseminating the most up-to-date information as it relates to TBI and psychological health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress;

-- Growing the body of knowledge leading to improvements in health care and wellness for our military service members, veterans, and their families; and

-- Leading and advancing the community of nurses, institutions, and health care providers dedicated to improving the health of military service members, veterans, and their families.