Friday, April 20, 2012

Kentucky Air Guard to support, participate in Thunder Over Louisville

By Air National Guard Master Sgt. Phil Speck
123rd Airlift Wing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (4/20/12) – The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing is scheduled to support the 2012 Thunder Over Louisville Air Show April 21, providing logistic and maintenance support for military aircraft scheduled to appear at this year's show.

The April 21 event promises to be one of the biggest yet, said Air Force Capt. Josh Ketterer, a C-130 Hercules pilot with the 123rd AW, and the Kentucky Air National Guard's Thunder coordinator.

This year's schedule features more than 25 current military planes and helicopters from the across the U.S. armed forces and Canadian military, as well as variety of historic aircraft. Highlights of the show this year include the F-22 Raptor, a B-2 Stealth Bomber and F/A-18 Hornets.

"The public will see a representation of every single service, and every single type of military aircraft during the air show," Ketterer said. "It will be impressive."

A special segment of the six-hour program will highlight Marine Corps aircraft in recognition of the Corps' 100th year of flying operations. The United States Marine Corps began its aviation program on May 22, 1912.

Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Medal of Honor recipient and Kentucky native, will be featured during the Marine aviation segment by sitting in the back seat of an AV-8B Harrier during its aerial demonstration over the Ohio River.

As always, the Kentucky Air Guard will provide logistical, security and maintenance support for military aircraft throughout the day.

"It's an honor for us to support this event, which is now in its 22nd year and has become one of the most successful air shows in the nation," Ketterer said. "For the past 21 years, the 123rd Airlift Wing has consistently provided a high level of service to the community and a high level of hospitality to our visiting air crews and maintainers during Thunder. This year will be no different.

"We know our efforts allow hundreds of thousands of people to see the nation's military aircraft up close, whether they're watching them in person along the riverfront or tuning in to the live telecast."

The Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron will kick off the air show Saturday when four pararescuemen are scheduled to parachute out of a Kentucky C-130 aircraft and land in the Ohio River, where they will be recovered by other members of the special tactics team.

Wyoming Guard supports Utah during major earthquake exercise

By Army National Guard Capt. Tim Lockwood
Wyoming National Guard

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (4/20/12) – Members of the Wyoming National Guard supported their neighbors in Utah recently as they helped them train and prepare for potential natural disasters, specifically those that could affect the Salt Lake City area.

The Guard members are spending three days participating in Utah Shakeout, a large scale, multi-agency disaster exercise in Utah.

Local, state and federal agencies simulated a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting the Wasatch Valley area April 19, which included the metropolitan Salt Lake City area. A disaster of that magnitude has the potential to leave nearly 86,000 people displaced if it were to actually occur.

"This exercise for us is about the state of Wyoming helping out its neighbors to the west," said Army Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, adjutant general of the Wyoming National Guard. "We know that Salt Lake City sits on a significant fault and we're told it's only a matter of time until it goes – not if, but when."

 Organizations, schools and individuals across Utah simulated everything from setting up shelters to taking cover during the earthquake. As part of the exercise, Wyoming's Joint Task Force Cowboy, the T71 Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, and 84th Civil Support Team, all deployed in an effort to support exercise operations.

Task Force Cowboy and the JISCC are based at Camp Williams, Utah for the exercise and have been providing support for emergency operations of civilian authorities and Utah National Guard members by helping with the processing and tasking of additional military units that are flowing into the area.

"A devastating earthquake in this area is a real possibility," said Col. Shelley Campbell, the commander of JTF Cowboy. "This training exercise is providing our Guard members valuable insight into assisting a large scale, multi-agency disaster exercise.

"We need to be prepared to respond and support our neighbors in their time of need," she said. "We are here to help civilian authorities practice in saving lives and mitigating damage."

The JTF and JISCC are performing joint reception staging and onward integration, functions. That means the task force is welcoming units from others states such as Idaho and Colorado as they arrive. The JTF then provides situational and priority information briefings to each force package before providing them their assignments for assisting local authorities.

"This is good training for our Joint Task Force, which we know we will be utilizing in the event of a disaster in Wyoming or neighboring states," Reiner said. "They are doing great. They are receiving a lot of good training and there is a lot of communication going on up and down the line, which is absolutely key."

Reiner added the key to a synchronized response is common understanding of the situation.

"There is focus on maintaining a common operating picture, which means every civilian, every emergency responder, every Soldier and Airman should see and know the same information as everyone else," he said.

The 84th CST is providing a different type of assistance to the communities of Utah affected by the simulated quake. They are supporting areas southeast of Salt Lake City with search and rescue efforts and the identification and mitigation of hazardous materials.

In addition, personnel with the Wyoming Joint Force Headquarters Joint Operations Center have been supporting the exercise from Cheyenne. They provide the support necessary for the deployed Wyoming Guard members in the areas of personnel tracking, logistics and information.

According to exercise organizers, the main goal of the Utah Shakeout is to get residents prepared for major earthquakes and help government agencies, private organizations and emergency personnel coordinate how to handle a disaster recovery.

Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Conducts Hurrex Citadel Gale 2012

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justin Ailes Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba commenced its annual base-wide hurricane preparedness exercise, April 13-18.

HURREX/Citadel Gale 2012, a Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) and Fleet Forces Command (FFC) exercise, is held annually to help commands prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

"Our events were centered around an impending hurricane heading in from the East," said Kevin Robarge, NS Guantanamo Bay Installation training officer. "We utilized our Conditions of Readiness (COR) settings to set and prepare the installation for the affects of destructive winds, heavy rains and other possible damage."

Emergency and essential personnel from NS Guantanamo Bay's operations, security, fire, administrative and public affairs departments, the U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay, Cuba's emergency medical technicians and emergency room staff, Joint Task Force Guantanamo personnel, and the Defense Media Activity Detachment Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, participated in the exercise.

"Simulations included shutting down water usage due to sediment clogging the filtration system, flooding in multiple areas around the installation, debris, mud slides and damage to accompanied and unaccompanied housing units," said Robarge. "Lessons learned from this exercise will allow installations to assess their ability to set COR conditions and mitigate loss of life property and return to full mission capability as soon as possible."

COR conditions 1-5 were observed during the exercise and all damages were tracked and prioritized with resources assigned to that priority, according to Robarge. COR conditions help base residents and Emergency Operation Center (EOC) personnel to initiate preparatory actions required to properly secure the installation.

During the three-day evolution, emergency response officials manned the installation's EOC which consists of multiple disciplines based on the type of disaster, tracking emergency response personnel as they reacted to each destructive weather scenario.

"This exercise provided NS Guantanamo Bay the ability to validate the Hazard Specific Annex (HSA), destructive weather," said Mark Kennedy, NS Guantanamo Bay emergency manager. "By exercising this HSA we identified information that will be added, deleted, or reworded for clarity. These changes will be made before the start of hurricane season to enhance our readiness."

VA Increases Mental Health Care Workforce

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will add approximately 1,600 clinicians -- to include nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers -- as well as nearly 300 support staff, to its existing mental health workforce of 20,590, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced yesterday.

The staff increase is part of an ongoing review of the VA’s mental health care operations, Shinseki said.

“As the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to anticipate the needs of returning veterans,” he said. “History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more veterans return home, we must ensure that all veterans have access to quality mental health care.”

VA’s ongoing comprehensive review of mental health operations has indicated that some VA facilities require more mental health staff to serve the growing needs of veterans, officials said. . It projected the need for the 1,900 additional mental health staff largely because of increasing needs for the Veterans Crisis Line, as well as an expected increase in compensation and pension and integrated disability evaluation exams.

“Mental health services must be closely aligned with veterans’ needs and fully integrated with health care facility operations,” VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel said. “Improving access to mental health services will help support the current and future veterans who depend on VA for these vital services.”

VA will allocate funds this month from the current budget to all 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks across the country to begin recruitment immediately. Under the leadership of President Barack Obama and Secretary Shinseki, officials said, VA has devoted more people, programs, and resources toward mental health services to serve the growing number of veterans seeking mental health care from VA.

Last year, VA provided specialty mental health services to 1.3 million veterans, officials said. Since 2009, VA has increased its mental health care budget by 39 percent and has seen a similar increase in the number of veterans receiving mental health services, as well as a 41-percent increase in mental health staff.

VA has enhanced services through the integration of mental health care into the primary care setting, developing an extensive suicide prevention program, and increasing the number of Veterans Readjustment Counseling Centers. VA’s Veteran Crisis Line has received more than 600,000 calls, resulting in more than 21,000 rescues of veterans in immediate crisis.

“The mental health of America’s veterans not only touches those of us at VA and the Department of Defense, but also families, friends, co-workers, and people in our communities,” Petzel said. “We ask that you urge veterans in your communities to reach out and connect with VA services.”

Veterans in need of immediate help can receive assistance by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255.

Our Military Kids' Holds Celebration of Star Power Awards Ceremony

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Mikelle D. Smith, Defense Media Activity - Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Family and friends gathered at the Naval Heritage Center for Our Military Kids' Celebration of Star Power awards ceremony held in Washington D.C, April 19.

Five youths of military service members and one military family were recognized at the ceremony for their outstanding accomplishments made possible in part of receiving grant money from Our Military Kids' grant program.

"We are honored to recognize out littlest warriors heroism, courage and continued resilience," said Linda Davidson, co-founder and executive director for Our Military Kids'. "The children were selected for their service to their families and communities during the deployment of their military parent, and their willingness to share their talents."

Our Military Kids grant program is a public/private partnership that supports the children of service members in the National Guard, all reserve branches of the military, wounded warriors and fallen heroes.

"The grant has really been a blessing because without it we wouldn't have been able to afford the tae-kwon-do lessons," said Ann Karnbach, award recipient of the military family of the year award. "I was really thankful to have something to keep the kids occupied while my husband was away on his second deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

As a surprise to the military family of the year, Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Karnbach, father of two award recipients and husband to Ann, returned early to attend the ceremony and be reunited with his family.

"This charity has been remarkably successful," said the honorable G. Kim Wincup, chairman of the board of directors for Our Military Kids'. "Eighty percent of children experience increased anxiety and stress from having a parent deployed. As a result of adding additional activities to their daily routines while that parent is absent, 95 percent of those children do better because of the support."

Last year Our Military Kids' grant program distributed $3.7 million and 9,000 grants to military children.

"I'm so thankful to Our Military Kids for giving all of us grants," said Jonathan Harrell, Star Power award recipient. "I think that is it really cool to be here, and just to be one of the military kids that got a grant."

Our Military Kids was founded in 2004 to support children ages three to 18 of National Guard and Reserve families during a deployment. The organization provides $500 grants for extracurricular activities while a parent is serving overseas. Additionally, the program is available to children of Wounded Warriors in all branches of the military. Our Military Kids is funded by corporations, private donors, and government grants.