Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dempsey, NATO Defense Chiefs Gather for Conference

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, April 24, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will meet with his NATO counterparts and the defense chiefs of partner nations in a two-day conference that begins tomorrow at NATO headquarters here.

The chairman arrived here from Afghanistan today for the third stop in an overseas trip that began with a visit to Jordan.

NATO foreign and defense ministers recently met to set the agenda for the alliance’s summit in Chicago next month, when the heads of state and government gather to finalize commitments. Over the next two days, Dempsey said, the defense chiefs will discuss how to act upon the guidance.

“The ministers get together and provide us with political guidance, and we discuss how we turn that into military advice and planning,” the chairman explained.

But the Chicago summit will focus on the way ahead after 2014, when Afghan forces will have security responsibility for all of Afghanistan, he noted, and challenges remain in the meantime. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, will brief the defense chiefs, as will Simon Gass, the alliance’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan. Dempsey met privately with Allen at ISAF headquarters April 22.

Partnerships based on capabilities will be another important aspect of the defense chiefs’ discussions, the chairman said.

“Our new U.S. strategy rebalances our forces toward the Asia-Pacific region while sustaining our commitments in the Middle East,” he noted. “We and our partners need to innovate. We need to move away from our traditional paradigm and take a fresh look at re-emphasizing policies and procedures that allow us to provide the capabilities we all need.”

Rotations, exercises and military academy exchange programs go a long way toward building and sustaining partnerships and helping partner nations’ respective military capabilities fit together, the general said. “As we move forward in this direction,” he added, “we’re building on a strong foundation.”

The defense chiefs also will discuss the alliance’s mission in Kosovo, counterpiracy and counterterrorism efforts, and lessons learned from Operation United Protector in Libya. In addition, defense chiefs from Russia, Ukraine and Georgia will participate in discussions on the practicalities of NATO military partnerships and ways to deepen cooperation.

Country Music Star Toby Keith Entertains Lincoln Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan P. Idle, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Country music superstar Toby Keith performed for more than 4,000 Sailors during an underway concert in the hangar bay of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), April 23.

The concert was part of a tour sponsored by the United Services Organization (USO) in conjunction with Navy Entertainment to boost the morale of deployed Sailors.

The Sailors gathered in the hangar bay to hear Keith perform several of his numerous hit songs, including "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," "American Soldier," "Should've Been a Cowboy" and "Red Solo Cup."

Keith, who is currently on his 10th USO tour since 2002, said he started performing for service members as a way to honor his late father's memory, but after his first tour, he knew it was something he wanted to continue doing.

"I was going to do a couple weeks just to honor my dad and the time he did in the service, and we just fell in love with it," Keith said. "The men and women that serve had such a good time that the USO said, 'they want you to go back.' So we started going every year. Now, 10 years and 180-something shows later, we keep coming back. It's been a wonderful time."

While aboard Lincoln, Keith toured the ship, signed autographs, posed for photographs and stood witness as a group of Lincoln Sailors reenlisted.

Aviation Electrician's Mate 1st Class Kenneth Gaal, one of the reenlisting Sailors, said he was honored to have Keith there for the ceremony.

"Toby Keith has supported the Navy and the United States in our military endeavors for over a decade," Gaal said. "He is a patriotic celebrity who shows his support for the sacrifices we make, and I'm proud to have been able to reenlist in his presence. This has certainly been the highlight of my deployment."

Keith said he appreciated all the Sailors in attendance at the show as well as all U.S. service members stationed around the world.

"I see the job you do every day," he said. "It's a tough job. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard; I get to see it all. You do a wonderful job. Godspeed to you. As long as you're out here, we'll keep trying to come back, shake your hand and thank you for what you do."

Lincoln is the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 9, which also includes guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and Destroyer Squadron 9, comprised of guided-missile destroyers USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Sterett (DDG 104).

CSG 9 and Carrier Air Wing 2, embarked aboard Lincoln, are deployed to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support exercises in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.