Friday, April 13, 2012

This Day in Naval History - April 13

From the Navy News Service

1847 - Naval Forces begin a five-day battle to capture several towns in Mexico.
1861 - Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederate forces, kicking off the American Civil War.
1960 - The Navy's navigation satellite, Transit, is placed into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and demonstrates ability to launch another satellite.

Panetta Vows to Continue Fighting Sexual Assault in Military

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2012 – With the release of an annual report today on sexual assault in the military, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta vowed to continue fighting to stamp out the crime among service members.

DOD officials delivered the Report on Sexual Assault in the Military to the House and Senate armed service committees today. The report noted there were 3,192 reports of sexual assault in fiscal 2011 compared with 3,158 in fiscal 2010, a one percent increase.

“Sexual assault has no place in this department,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a press release on the report. “It is an affront to the basic American values we defend, and to the good honor of our service members and their families.”

Countering sexual assault has been one of the secretary’s top priorities since taking office last year. Panetta wants all members of the department “to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career, and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable.”

The secretary will meet with members of Congress next week to propose new measures to counter sexual assault and give DOD new tools to erase this scourge.

The report details ways the department is working to implement its sexual assault prevention and response plan. The first step is to institutionalize prevention strategies across the services. DOD looks to influence the knowledge, skills and behaviors of service members to prevent sexual assaults from happening. Officials are looking to training, a social media campaign and posters/commercials to increase awareness and encourage good behaviors.

The strategy also looks to increase the confidence those who have been assaulted have in the reporting process. DOD wants to engender a positive and supportive command climate that encourages people to reports cases of sexual assault. The department also wants to reduce stigma and other barriers that deter reporting.

The report also details additional programs, policies and activities that will improve the response to sexual assault. It details the new 24/7 hotline for sexual assault victims and improvements to education for case workers, as well as new exams and health care for victims of sexual assault.

The report also recommends ways to improve service through system accountability. “In fiscal 2011, commanders had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action against 989 subjects,” the report says. “For the 791 subjects who could be disciplined for a sexual assault offense, 62 percent had courts-martial charges preferred for a sexual assault offense, 24 percent received nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and 14 percent received a discharge or another adverse administrative action.”

This is a 10 percent increase in courts-martial over fiscal 2010, the report says. The proportion of military subjects against whom commanders decided to take disciplinary action for sexual assault offenses by preferring court-martial charges has increased steadily since fiscal 2007, when only 30 percent of subjects had charges initiated against them.

Finally the strategy looks to “improve stakeholder knowledge.” This means reaching out to service members about the sexual abuse prevention and response program. It also means reaching out to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. It further means taking the message of the mission to non-traditional audiences to enlist their support for the effort.

Panetta appointed Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog to oversee the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. He also directed several new victim-focused policies that have been implemented since the end of fiscal 2011. Among these are expanded legal assistance, expedited transfers for victims of sexual assault and extended retention of forensic examination and investigative reports.

Other initiatives to enhance prevention and response efforts include establishing a sexual assault advocate credentialing and certification program; expanding sexual assault support services to military spouses and adult military dependents; expanding emergency care and support services to DOD civilians stationed abroad and DOD U.S. citizen contractors in combat areas; and increasing funding for investigators and judge advocates to receive additional specialized training.

The department is also assessing how the department trains commanding officers and senior enlisted leaders on sexual assault prevention and response.

“As this report makes clear, we have more work to do to confront this problem,” Panetta said in the release. “There are no easy answers, but that makes it all the more essential for us to devote our energy and our attention to trying to confront this challenging crime.”

First Lady Thanks Nation for ‘Outpouring’ of Military Support

By Elaine Sanchez
April 13, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, marked the one-year anniversary of their Joining Forces campaign this week with a renewed call to action and a message of gratitude to the nation.

“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,” Obama said at an anniversary event on the South Lawn of the White House April 11.

I vividly remember attending the launch of this military-support initiative last year at the White House. Flanked by their husbands and senior military leaders, the first and second ladies announced their intent to raise awareness of military families and to spur Americans to better support troops, veterans and their families for years to come.

“This campaign is about all of us, all of us joining together as Americans to give back to the extraordinary military families who serve and sacrifice so much every day so we can live in freedom and security,” the first lady said at the time.

This week, the first lady and Dr. Biden celebrated the campaign’s anniversary with the White House event, followed by a whirlwind two-day tour across the nation. They spoke  to everyone from military spouses and teens, to nurses seeking to provide better care for military families, to late-night talk show hosts, including satirist Stephen Colbert.

But fanfare aside, their intent was simple: to spread a message of gratitude for the “outpouring of support” Americans gave military families over the past year.

At the anniversary event, the first lady ticked off a list of contributions from the past year:

 – 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;

– State leaders are passing legislation to ease employment woes for military spouses with professional licenses moving across state borders;

– 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;

– Associations of doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and social workers are working to improve treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries;

– TV shows such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Sesame Street” and organizations such as NASCAR, AOL and Disney are sharing military families’ stories; and

– Stars such as Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg have appeared in a series of popular public service announcements.

“If I had to sum up what we have seen since launching Joining Forces in one word, it would be ‘inspiring,’” Dr. Biden said at the anniversary event. “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.”

The first lady reiterated her call to action by asking Americans “to keep raising the bar” through actions big and small.

“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,” the first lady said, calling Joining Forces a “forever proposition.” “That is our simple promise to you.”

First Lady Praises Military Kids at NAS Jacksonville

By Clark Pierce, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The First Lady joined hundreds of military and civilian well wishers aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville April 12, to celebrate the first anniversary of "Joining Forces."

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces in 2011 to recognize, honor and serve military families.

The celebration took place in a Navy aircraft hangar and featured a rock 'n' roll band, Radio Disney Dancers, and a live feed to the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

"Today is a time for celebration, but it's also a time to renew the call to action for Joining Forces," said NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Bob Sanders who welcomed the audience of high school students and parents. "The outpouring of support this past year for Joining Forces proves that Americans want to help our military families and lay a solid foundation of support for years to come."

Commander, Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Jack Scorby Jr. said, "It was just one year ago that first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill biden created Joining Forces, with the important goal of bringing Americans together to recognize, honor and take action to support veterans and military families.

"The initiative focuses on three key priority areas - employment, education, and wellness - while raising awareness about the service, sacrifice and needs of America's veterans and military families.

"Today, the first lady of the United States is making a special trip to NAS Jacksonville so she can show her commitment to you and every other family member who's shared the sacrifices of their parents in service to our nation. Enjoy the show," said Scorby.

High school senior Maddie Stevens, daughter of Patrol Squadron (VP) 30 Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Stevens and his wife, Sheila, introduced the first lady.

"Like all of you here today, I'm so proud to be part of a military family," said Stevens. "We've all stepped up and served on the home front when our dads or moms have been away. Now, there's an initiative that recognizes our service as well. It's called 'Joining Forces' and is led by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. As a result, people all over America are stepping up to provide opportunities for military kids like us. That's why it's now my pleasure to introduce the woman leading that charge, America's first lady, Michelle Obama."

Amid screams and applause, Obama took command of the stage.

"I want to start by thanking Maddie for her poise - she's terrific," Obama said. "I also want to recognize all of the extraordinary men and women in uniform who are here today. Thank you for the service that you've given and the sacrifices that you've made.

"I also want to thank our guests of honor - these amazing, beautiful, well-dressed, well-put-together young women who we are celebrating today. We are inspired by you and grateful for everything that you do for our country. We're talking about our military kids and our military families, because we know that when your parents are called to serve, you all serve right alongside them.

"And I know it's even harder when your parents are deployed, and you have to keep your spirits up through all those missed holidays, and missed birthdays, and times when you would give anything in the world to have them back home.

"And for some of you, when it comes time for the prom, your mom might not be there to help you pick out your dress. Dad might not be there to see you out on your date. But here's something else that I know. Through it all - through all the moves that you've had to make and through all those difficult moments, you all have stayed strong. I've seen it in so many kids like you across this country.

"You all have risen to the challenge. You've become leaders in your schools. You excel in your classes. You get involved in all kinds of activities. You've become leaders in your communities, finding all kinds of ways to volunteer. And many of you stepped up at home as well, juggling activities and homework with chores and housework.

"By working so hard at school and at home, and doing your part, you give your parents the peace of mind they need to focus on their mission. With your service, you make their service possible. And for that, we can't thank you enough.

"As military kids, you have learned lessons and had experiences that many people don't have in their entire lifetimes. You've immersed yourselves in all kinds of communities and cultures. You've made friends with people from all different backgrounds. And you've gained the wisdom and the perspective to appreciate what really matters in life."

Obama then switched gears and asked the audience if they were ready for some fun.

"We have a special surprise guest that I'm proud to call a friend and who is a supporter and admirer of veterans and military families," she said.

She then introduced, via a live TV connection, stand-up comedian and syndicated talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. The two engaged in banter and showed their prom pictures to the delight of the audience.

DeGeneres interviewed three students about the Joining Forces initiative and then announced that JC Penney would provide all 300 students with a special prom-oriented gift bag, including a $250 gift card.

To wrap up the event, Obama joined students on stage to learn the latest prom dance moves from Disney Channel Choreographer Rosero McCoy. She then expressed her gratitude to the audience once again and descended from the stage to shake hands before departing.

For most of the young ladies it was an evening they will never forget.

"I think it was overwhelming and very exciting, and it was a great opportunity to be part of all this. I loved listening to Mrs. Obama and thrilled that she is bringing attention to the hardships military families face," said 16-year-old Jazarie Reddick, daughter of Ship's Serviceman Chief SW/AW) Jeffrey Reddick of Transient Personnel Unit/Pre-Trial Confinement Facility Jax, who accompanied her to the event.