Monday, April 16, 2012

This Day in Naval History - April 16

From the Navy News Service

1863 - Union gunboats pass Confederate batteries at Vicksburg.
1924 - Navy commences relief operations in Mississippi Valley floods, lasting until June 16.
1947 - Act of Congress gives Navy Nurse Corps members commissioned rank.
1959 - Helicopters from USS Edisto (AGB 2) begin rescue operations in Montevideo, Uruguay. By April 26, they had carried 277 flood victims to safety.

Air Guard units close chapters, begin anew

By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard Public Affairs

STARKE, Fla. (4/16/12) – In the span of a few moments one Florida Air National Guard unit became part of the past, and another became the way of the future.

On April 12, the Florida Air Guard's Weather Readiness Training Center was inactivated as the 131st Training Flight was activated in its place.

A small afternoon ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center marked the transition – a transition that will increase the training unit's abilities and successes, said Florida Air Guard leadership.

The WRTC's mission was to train Air Force and Air National Guard weather personnel in combat meteorological tasks. The 131st Training Flight will continue to provide the same support, but the designation as a "numbered unit" will increase its effectiveness in the Air National Guard and help it better equip and train weather Airmen to go into combat zones.

"The unit will finally be its own numbered unit, and that's going to give the personnel in the unit the ability to be eligible for unit-level awards," said Air Force Maj. John Waltbilling, the 131st TF commander and former WRTC commandant. "And it gives us the command authority that our students deserve."

Currently, Air National Guard personnel from 42 states have trained at the WRTC, but Airmen from all 54 Air National Guard states and territories are eligible for the combat weather training.

Waltbilling said now under the 131st that also means the training program could expand into areas outside weather-related tasks and could include Battlefield Airman Skills, vehicle operations, AFTR training records, and other ancillary tasks.

"As the training missions continue to morph and evolve, the 131st Training Flight will continue to meet the needs of today's Air Force and the National Guard through the dedication and adherence to the Air Force core values exemplified by all its personnel," he said.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing recently converted to a new mission as well. Re-designated as the 118th Wing, the unit – which can trace its history back to World War I – retains a flying mission as the Air Education and Training Command’s C-130 International Training Center.

“These new missions are a culmination of efforts by our elected officials, Tennessee governors, and the command and staff of the Tennessee National Guard,” said Army Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard. “It truly benefits Tennessee for us to advance our volunteer tradition into the future of warfare with modern missions.”

A formal mission announcement ceremony for the 118th Wing was held April 14 at Berry Air National Guard Base in Nashville, Tenn. [The Tennessee National Guard also contributed to this story.]

 “It’s an honor to have the [Army] National Guard command sergeant major come here,” said Army Spc. Michael Hilario, a member of ADT 4. “You have somebody of that rank and the stature that he holds in Washington…that speaks volumes to me. It lets us know that we’re on the right track.”

Sailors, Marines Run Whidbey Island Marathon

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mike James, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Whidbey Island

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- More than 220 active duty military members participated in the Whidbey Island Marathon in Oak Harbor, April 15.

Approximately 40 active service members from around the northwest region competed in the full-marathon, 130 for the half-marathon, and 50 were volunteers.

Many retired military, Reservists and military family members also raced and volunteered.

Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 1st Class Matt Strauss, assigned to Naval Information Operations Command (NIOC) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island said he had only been training for a few weeks but ran the half-marathon as a way to challenge his personal fitness goals.

"I was really surprised at how many people came to show support, and the weather was good, so it was a fun race," said Strauss.

This year's race is the 11th iteration of the marathon and regularly draws runners from around the world. This year there were nearly 1,800 competitors and 500 volunteers.

The 26.2 mile marathon began at Pass Lake, north of Deception Pass and ended at Wind Jammer Park in Oak Harbor, while the 13.2 mile half-marathon began and ended at Wind Jammer Park.

Brad Sandefur, Fitness Instructor at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Gym and Fitness Center, leads a running club with about 30 runners that ran either the half or full marathon. The runners in his club reflect a broad spectrum of runners from first-timers to experienced veterans that run 10-20 events a year.

"I have done this race every year since 2005; we consider it our home race on our home course, so we try the best we can at it," said Sandefur. "It's a good local event and is well supported every year I've done it."

Tamra Sipes, Whidbey Island Marathon race director for the third year in a row said, "We have always had a great relationship with the military on the island. We appreciate their participation and couldn't have done it without them."

The first-place finishers for the half-marathon were Joseph Gray of Newcastle, Wash. with a time of 1:09:25 for the men and Kristi Houk of Port Orchard, Wash. with a time of 1:25:00 for the women.

The first place finishers for the full-marathon were Tahoma Khalsa of Seattle with a time of 2:40:15 for the men and Kristen Carter of Bellingham, Wash. with a time of 3:01:31.

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.

Kenyan native gives back to new home through service in National Guard

By Jennifer Archdekin
Missouri National Guard

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (4/16/12) – Army Pvt. Paul Baiywo has only been in the United States for about five years, but this Kenyan native has made the decision to serve in the Missouri Army National Guard as a means to give back to his new nation.

Baiywo, who is making his home in Kansas City, Mo. with his wife Grace and two daughters, said he left his home in Africa in search of a better life for him and his family.

“We agreed to travel here and look for greener pastures,” Baiywo said. “When I came here I liked it and thought I should do something for my country now. I chose the National Guard because it’s part-time and I have a family.”

Now a student at Penn Valley Metropolitan Community College studying electrical and computer engineering, Baiywo hopes to complete his associate degree soon and continue his education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“I can go to school at the same time and have the experience in the Army,” Baiywo said about serving in the National Guard. “Grace supported me for my dreams. It takes a lot, but I’m ready for this. I would eventually like to work full time for the Army. I’ve always had a passion for the Army.”

At the young ages of five and three years old, Baiywo’s daughters are still learning what it means for their dad to be a Citizen-Soldier.

“My kids don’t understand it yet, but they will when they grow up,” he said. “Once they see me in my uniform and see things on TV they’ll connect the lines.”

Baiywo’s girls were born in the U.S., so they are not familiar with their Kenyan heritage first-hand, but he hopes they will one day be proud of him for what he is accomplishing on their behalf.

“They just hear about where they came from, but have never experienced it,” Baiywo said.

Army Sgt. Jerry Simons, Baiywo’s recruiter, was impressed with his eagerness to not only improve himself, but to also give back to his state and country.

“He's driven by gaining success for himself and his family,” Simons said. “Paul is very smart. His goal is to become an officer one day. I believe he will be a good Soldier and has what it takes to be a good officer.”

Baiywo will serve as a combat engineer with the 1141st Engineer Company (Sapper) in Kansas City. He is slated to begin his basic training in September at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

 “It’s an honor to have the [Army] National Guard command sergeant major come here,” said Army Spc. Michael Hilario, a member of ADT 4. “You have somebody of that rank and the stature that he holds in Washington…that speaks volumes to me. It lets us know that we’re on the right track.”

Panetta, Dempsey Say Pentagon Feels Sequestration’s Shadow

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2012 – The shadow of sequestration is being cast over the Defense Department, and members of Congress must act to dissipate it, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.

Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about sequestration and the defense budget during a news conference at the Pentagon.

“Sequestration” refers to a mechanism based into the Budget Control Act that would trigger an additional $500 billion cut across the board for defense spending over the next decade if Congress doesn’t find an alternative by January.

“I think … the shadow of sequestration is there,” Panetta said. While the Defense Department has received no guidance from the Office of Management and Budget to begin planning for sequestration, the threat of it is having an impact on the department and on the industries the department depends on, the secretary said.

“In the end, it’s up to Congress,” Panetta said. “In the coming weeks, they will begin considering the defense authorization and appropriations bills. Our hope is that Congress will carefully consider the new defense strategy and the budget decisions that resulted from that strategy.”

Any changes the Congress contemplates will affect other sections of the budget, because it is a zero-sum game, the secretary noted. Because of the Budget Control Act, he added, any change in any one area of the budget and force structure will inevitably require offsetting changes elsewhere.

“That carries the real risk that … if this is not done right, the result could be a hollow, unbalanced or weaker force,” he said. “Our hope is that our strategy will not be picked apart piece by piece.”

Panetta said he hopes Congress will be reasonable. “There isn’t any member [of Congress] I’ve talked to that doesn't think that sequester is a disaster,” he said. “There isn't any member who has said to me, ‘Oh, it’ll be great.’” All of them understand that it's the wrong way to go.

“And I just have to hope that ultimately, they will find the courage and leadership to be able to address that issue, detrigger sequester, deal with the other challenges that are out there and try to do it as soon as possible,” he continued, “because frankly, the longer this drags on, the more of an impact it has in terms of the planning process and in terms of the budget process.”

Dempsey said the department confronted the new fiscal reality last year and developed the new strategy. The fiscal 2013 budget request came from that new strategy, he said.

“It took us every bit of energy we had to get from there to the budget submission in February,” the general said. “So I mean, I would anticipate that we would have to begin doing some planning in the mid to late summer if we have any chance at all of reacting to it should it trigger.”

This is a critical moment for the United States, Panetta said, and while the nation must cut the military, this does not mean threats have disappeared.

“We need to rise to meet the challenges that are facing us in this dangerous and uncertain world, and we can't afford to have the Congress resort to bitter partisanship or parochialism at this critical time,” Panetta said. “So the message we wanted to send Congress today is that there is very little margin for error with this package.

“That’s the reality that all of us are living with,” he added. “The strategy we developed will maintain, we believe, the strongest military in the world by every measure, and that's essential because of the nature of the security challenges that we’re facing.”