Thursday, April 26, 2012

Army Announces New Two-Star HQ at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Secretary of the Army John McHugh today announced that the Army will establish a new two-star headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), reflecting the installation’s growth over the past nine years, as well as its strategic importance in the new Defense Strategic Guidance.

 “This new headquarters will provide command and control for several brigade-size units, many of which have been activated since 2003,” McHugh explained during a news conference at JBLM, near Tacoma, Wash.  “Under the leadership of Gen. Ray Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army, and joined by officials from I Corps and U.S. Army Forces Command, the Department of the Army believes this new headquarters will help meet the needs created by the base’s nine years of dynamic growth and its evolving future missions.”

McHugh noted that the new headquarters is an internal reorganization within the Army, and will not require an increase to the Army’s end-strength.

 “As the Army’s only power projection installation west of the Rocky Mountains, JBLM has assumed even greater importance in our new Defense Strategic Guidance,” he explained.  “The dynamic growth over the past decade, combined with their regional significance in our ability to protect and defend the Pacific region, makes JBLM’s new headquarters important not only to the Army, but also to the nation.”

The new unit will provide oversight for personnel, equipment, training and readiness of three Stryker brigade combat teams, a combat aviation brigade and a fires brigade -- totaling some 17,000 Soldiers.  The I Corps commanding general remains the joint base commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the new two-star headquarters will report to I Corps.  The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Command will continue its joint-installation functions in support of the new headquarters and other tenant units.

Since 2003, the roles of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord have evolved in a manner to keep pace with significantly changing war-time roles and missions of the Army, Air Force and the Department of Defense (DoD).  Over the past nine years, it has grown by about 15,000 soldiers and 22,000 family members.  During that time, it has also seen the rapid establishment of three Stryker brigade combat teams; and a military construction program totaling $1.75 billion.

 “This has been one of the fastest growing installations in the Army,” McHugh said.  “And we’ve been fortunate that members of Washington State’s Congressional delegation – specifically Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Norm Dicks – have worked with us on behalf of JBLM, its soldiers and families, and I’m grateful for their leadership and support.”

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the largest in size of the DoD’s 12 joint bases, and is the second largest in population. The new headquarters’ formal activation is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2012, but the unit’s personnel and three general officers will begin arriving early this summer.  The new unit will be designated Headquarters, 7th Infantry Division and its commander will be announced at a later date.

Media inquiries about the new unit may be directed to the Army Public Affairs, at 703-697-7550 or 703-693-7589.

CORRECTION: -- April 26, 2012; no. 312-12:  The contact information about the new unit has been changed from U.S. Army Forces Command Public Affairs Office, 910-570-7200 to Army Public Affairs, at 703-697-7550 or 703-693-7589.

DOD to Open New Assignments for Women in May

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2012 – Policy changes announced in February opening more than 14,000 new assignments to women in uniform will take effect May 14, Defense Department officials said today.

Officials issued a Pentagon press release confirming that two changes to the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule can now move forward since the Congressionally-mandated notification period has expired. The changes were first announced Feb. 9 in a report to Congress.

The biggest barrier DOD is lifting is a 1994 policy prohibiting women from jobs -- such as tank mechanic and field artillery radar operator -- that take place near ground combat units. With that restriction removed, 13,000 new assignments will be available for women. Nearly 10,000 of those new opportunities are in fields never before open to women.

The second change is an “exception to policy” that will allow the Army, Navy and Marines to open select positions at the battalion level in jobs women already occupy.

The previous policy, also set in 1994, barred women in jobs such as intelligence, communications and logistics from assignment at units smaller than a brigade. Nearly 1,200 assignments will open to female soldiers, sailors and Marines under the exceptions.

Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today it is now up to the military services to make necessary changes in the ranks.

The change “doesn’t mean that immediately, today, there will be 14,000 women in these jobs,” he noted. “But these billets will now be eligible to be filled by women.”

The services will train and assign women to jobs they haven’t previously filled through their normal personnel management processes as the positions become vacant, Kirby said. Many of those positions may continue to be filled by men, he added.

“The point is that 14,000 positions … are now eligible to be filled by female service members,” he said.

Today’s release quotes Jo Ann Rooney, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, as saying Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has stated the changes are “the beginning, not the end, of a process.”

Kirby said service leaders will update Panetta in November on their progress in implementing the new policies, and any new policies they want to suggest to increase opportunities for women.

“The secretary was very clear … that he wants to remove as many barriers as possible to service in the military for female service members,” Kirby said. “He’s very committed to that, and wants to continue to look at other ways we can lower those barriers.”

NMCPHC Unveils Web-Based Relaxation Tool Kit

From Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) unveiled its web-based "Relax Relax Tool Kit" April 24 designed to help users manage daily stress using relaxation techniques.

The tool kit was developed through collaboration with team members from NMCPHC's Health Promotion and Wellness Department, Wounded Ill and Injured (WII) Program, and the Information Management Department.

Eight categories of traditional relaxation strategies were selected to develop this scientifically proven tool kit. The strategies, widely accepted by health promotion and other public health experts, include traditional approaches such as breathing, imagery and meditation.

"Learning to relax and to de-stress is part of being resilient," said Dr. Mark Long, NMCPHC Health Promotion and Wellness staff member. "Being able to navigate the daily stresses of life and to perform highly and perhaps even at your peak level is what we strive for."

The tool kit contains a wide variety of relaxation exercises selected on their ability to appeal to a diverse audience. The exercise tracks are easily downloadable to portable media devices for individual use anytime, anywhere. A CD version is also available through NMCPHC.

"No matter what stress continuum zone you may be in at the moment- green, yellow, orange or red, the tool kit offers many selections to move you back toward the green zone," said Lateef Khursheed, staff member with NMCPHC's Health Promotion and Wellness Department.

To test the usefulness of the tool kit, focus-group sessions were conducted with Sailors and Marines who are currently receiving care or treatment through the WII program. Suggestions from these focus groups were implemented to improve the quality of the Relax Relax Tool Kit.

Based on the input of WII service-members, case managers, and others, the tool kit will continue to evolve as an effective and proven relaxation and sleep resource.

Face of Defense: Airman Lives Family Legacy

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., April 26, 2012 – A member of the Skvarna family has served in the skies to defend the United States since World War II.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Skvarna, an instructor loadmaster with the 17th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing here, said pinning on his aircrew wings, lacing up his combat boots and boarding a military aircraft is a family legacy.

The story begins in 1942, with a 17-year-old Czechoslovakian-born teenager, Edward M. Skvarna, Matthew's grandfather. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Edward M. enlisted in the Army Air Corps, hoping to become a pilot.

"My father joined the military for two reasons," said Edward B. Skvarna, Matthew's father. "He wanted to see the world, and he didn't want to be stuck working in the steel mills of Pittsburgh his whole life. For him, being an aircrew member during World War II was everything he dreamed it would be. He loved the dangerous aspects of flight missions and the adventurous skies of combat."

During the Pacific campaign, Skvarna and his aircrew soared through the darkness of enemy-infested skies and gathered photo intelligence in a B-29 Superfortress, one of the heaviest long-range bomber aircraft flown during the war.

On one mission, the eldest Skvarna was preparing for battle as a right gunner on the B-29. He was colorblind, and even though that disqualified him from becoming a pilot, he did qualify for other jobs to the advantage of the Allied forces.

"Being colorblind didn't slow my grandpa down," Matthew said. "It was during that flight over the Japanese harbor when he proved that."

While gathering intelligence from a bird's-eye view, the eldest Skvarna spotted something in the harbor that didn't look right. He spotted the outline of an Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier that was camouflaged to blend in with the colors of the sea.

For everyone on the Superfortress, the carrier was virtually invisible. However, Edward M. noticed the ship immediately because of how differently his vision interpreted the colors.

"He kept telling the crew he saw a Japanese warship in the water," grandson Matthew said. "At first, they thought he was crazy -- nobody else in the air could see anything. He stuck to his guns, though. A U.S. Navy submarine confirmed the Japanese aircraft carrier, Shinano, was in the harbor. The USS Archer Fish sunk the carrier in November 1944. My grandfather's disadvantage may not have allowed him to become a pilot but it ended up saving countless lives by sinking one of the largest Japanese ships during the war."

The eldest Skvarna received an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the Pacific campaign. He became a school teacher in California after leaving the military.

That’s where Matthew's father, Edward B., grew up, listening to his dad's heroic war stories and enlisting in the Air Force after high school. He went on to retire as a captain in the Air Force Reserve. During every mission, Edward B. wore his dad’s old flight wings,battered from use during World War II.

"Being a loadmaster was an amazing experience," he said. "I've always had pride in my military experience. Even after the Vietnam War, when some people didn't have pride, I'd proudly wear my uniform in front of them."

Today, Matthew's father is chief of police at the Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank, Calif. He makes it part of his job to approach every uniformed service member and thank them for their service to the country.

One of his greatest accomplishments in the military came years after he retired from military service.

Matthew was able to give his father, Edward B., a tour inside the C-17 Globemaster III shortly after it landed in Long Beach, Calif. It was during that tour that Matthew's father noticed the impact his generation had on today's loadmasters.

The original design engineers of the C-17 flew multiple flights around the world with various aircrew members, including Matthew's father, while they were brainstorming the internal design of the new C-17. It was on those flights that Matthew's father suggested design changes that were made on upcoming aircraft.

"I sat the design engineers down and told them exactly what loadmasters needed to be safer and to do their job better, such as fixing troop seats, loadmaster's crew positions on the plane and having a weight balance computer for loadmasters," said Matthew's father. "When Matt gave me a tour of the plane he flies all over the world in, I noticed the designers made every adjustment I suggested years ago. It's rewarding for me because not only did I take part in helping future loadmasters stay safe and do their job more efficiently, one of those loadmasters is my son."

Although the youngest Skvarna came from a military family, he didn't join the Air Force right after high school.

"My grandfather knew I'd join the military before I ever considered it," Matthew said. "One of the proudest moments he had was when I became a loadmaster, because not only was I doing a similar job as my father did in the military, but also a similar job to what he once did."

Joining the Air Force also gives Matthew a deeper understanding of both his father and grandfather. The C-17 he flies in soars thousands of feet above the same foreign lands as his father and grandfather's planes did years ago. His grandfather's flight wings, he said, are worn from age and the years of wear from his father wearing them. Today, the same wings are proudly displayed on Matthew's flight suit.

"Wherever I deploy, there is always a bond that I share with generations of air crew members before me," Matthew said. "It is an unspoken bond shared among my grandpa, dad, myself and countless veterans all over the world. Having such a powerful commonality bridges my family's history with the Air Force's history. As the Air Force has changed, so have I."

"Matt didn't know it at the time," said Matthew's father. "But I influenced him at an early age to be a loadmaster. He's always had the perfect attitude; he is a flexible person that thinks outside the box. I would have been proud no matter what he did in life, but carrying on the air crew legacy of his grandfather and me as successfully as he has, has made his grandfather and me very proud."

Matthew's grandfather passed away in 2010, shortly after Matthew's third deployment as a loadmaster.

Today, Matthew still brings his father and grandfather's flight wings on missions all over the world.

Groton-based Commander Visits Gulf Coast to Promote PCU Mississippi Commissioning

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- A Groton-based Navy commander visited several Mississippi Gulf Coast cities, April 23-25, to promote the upcoming commissioning of the ninth Virginia-class submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Mississippi (SSN 782).

The future USS Mississippi will be commissioned in Pascagoula, Miss. June 2, and will be the fifth ship to bear the name of Mississippi. Cmdr. Dale Green, the Submarine Group 2 shipyard representative at General Dynamics Electric Boat, participated in the three-day visit.

"I'm excited to be here, working with the community leaders, commissioning committee, and meeting the great people of the Magnolia state as the boat and her crew also look forward to an exceptional event for our Navy, the region, and the state of Mississippi," said Green.

Green visited the state on behalf of both Commander, Submarine Group 2 and PCU Mississippi, discussing the unique bond the crew has with its namesake state.

"Although the crew of PCU Mississippi is homeported in Connecticut they claim Mississippi as their home," said Green. "I'm here to brag about the incredible men that make up the heart and soul of your namesake submarine PCU Mississippi."

The guiding force behind the success of PCU Mississippi, said Green, is credited to Capt. John McGrath's leadership and his core philosophy.

"The heartbeat of the future USS Mississippi is centered on the commanding officer's core philosophy for the ship. They train and work to a philosophy that focuses on making every crewmember a critical part of the team," said Green.

Green added that this philosophy includes three basic points which include integrity, readiness, and teamwork, which he personally saw the commanding officer's leadership philosophy in action when he embarked aboard the submarine during its Alpha sea trials.

"Two weeks ago I was at sea with the Mississippi crew as they completed Alpha trials, the first time the ship was at sea and the crew was amazing," said Green. "The command team has built a team with a strong family bond."

While visiting Mississippi, Green spoke at the Gulf Council Business Council, Biloxi and Pascagoula Rotaries, and met with submariners residing at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, located in Gulfport.

"I had the opportunity to visit with some retired shipmates who told heartrending sea stories from World War II and expressed their personal excitement of seeing the commissioning of the Mississippi in June," said Green.

One of the submariners Green met with was a retiree who entered the U.S. Navy in January 1939. Retired Lt. Cmdr. Richard Halloran, 91, served 29 years in the Navy and volunteered for submarine service ultimately serving aboard six submarines while on active duty.

Halloran discussed his time aboard USS S-37 (SS 142) and the pivotal role his submarine played in World War II. While USS S-37 was on its third war patrol in February 1942, the submarine attacked a Japanese convoy and sunk the destroyer Natsushiro.

"Sinking Natsushiro marked the first Japanese destroyer sunk in the war by a U.S. submarine," said Halloran.

Halloran served on the following submarines: USS S-37, USS Scamp (SS 247), USS S-20 (SS 125), USS Sea Owl (SS 405), USS Bergall (SS 320), and USS Flying Fish (SS 229).