Sunday, April 29, 2012

Executive Order Safeguards Military from Predatory Schools

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – President Barack Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, visited with 3rd Infantry Division soldiers Friday at Fort Stewart, Ga., and discussed a new executive order that helps to safeguard military education benefits and protect service members from predatory schools.

Obama and the first lady expressed their desire to protect military members, veterans and their families from predatory recruiters offering bogus and costly education programs.

“I've heard the stories … you may have experienced it yourselves. You go online to try and find the best school for military members or your spouses or other family members,” President Obama said. “You end up on a website that looks official. They ask you for your email, they ask you for your phone number, they promise to link you up with a program that fits your goals.”

Obama pointed to certain schools that “aren’t interested in helping” because “they don't care about you; they care about the cash,” later referring to them as “appalling” and “disgraceful” and something that “should never happen in America.”

“I'm not talking about all schools,” the president noted. “Many of them, for-profit and nonprofit, provide quality education to our service members and our veterans and their families. But there are some bad actors out there.”

Obama declared he was “going to put an end” to hidden high-interest student loans, non-transferrable credits and non-existent job placement programs used as tactics to “swindle and hoodwink” troops through his signature today of an executive order.

According to the president, the order requires colleges to provide clear information about qualifications and financial aid through access to a fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe,” and providing increased support through counseling.

“If you've got to move because of a deployment or reassignment, they've got to help you come up with a plan that you can still get your degree,” he said. “[And] we're going to bring an end to the aggressive, and sometimes, dishonest recruiting that takes place.”

Obama also indicated tougher restrictions to colleges and universities allowed on military installations and increased vigilance to prevent improper education program recruiting practices.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lauded the president’s and first lady’s commitment to protect the military, veterans and their families.

"I applaud the steps, President and Mrs. Obama, announced today to ensure military and veterans' educational benefits meet the needs of service members, veterans, and their families,” he said. "Ensuring quality educational opportunities are available to those who have served our nation in uniform is an essential part of enabling them to compete in today's economy.”

America’s men and women in uniform and military veterans “have fought and risked their lives for this country,” the secretary said. “They represent a generation of Americans returning home from war with unique experience and skills that make them invaluable in schools, workplaces, and communities across America and the world.”

Panetta said the demands of military service can make it difficult to find the right information from schools, especially those engaged in aggressive, deceptive recruiting practices.

“This initiative will ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the information and support they need to make informed decisions about their well-earned educational benefits,” he said. “This effort helps preserve our nation's legacy, going back to the original GI Bill, of doing all that we can to help our troops lead productive and successful lives after leaving the military.”

The defense secretary said Obama’s executive order is another example of the president’s “strong support” to troops and their families. Panetta thanked the president and first lady for their commitment to “these brave young men and women."

The first lady touched on the “Joining Forces” campaign during her remarks today to soldiers at Fort Stewart. Established about a year ago, “Joining Forces” is a nationwide campaign that was created to recognize, honor and support veterans, troops and military families. The first lady started the “Joining Forces” campaign with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

“In our first year alone, more than 1,600 businesses hired more than 60,000 veterans, and they pledged to hire at least 170,000 more in the coming years,” the first lady said of some results of “Joining Forces” campaign efforts.

The Commander in Chief commended the division’s soldiers for their “unshakable commitment to our country” as they performed “heroically in some of the most dangerous places on earth.”

“You have done everything that has been asked of you and more,” Obama said. “You have earned a special place in our nation's history.”

NMCB 133 Bridge Detail Builds Confidence, Knowledge During Command Post Exercise

By Lt. j.g. Alberto Crespo, NMCB 133 Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133's Bridge Detail (Bridge Det) participated in its third command post exercise (CPX) April 23 - 27 to get ready for the battalion's upcoming field training exercise (FTX) and deployment.

"This was our third CPX this homeport," said Lt. j.g. Mathew Ward, Bridge Det's command post watch officer. "We're using them as part of our FTX preparations. It is our goal to maximize our training with the CPX scenarios so that our FTX has no major surprises. Ultimately, we want the troops to succeed with the CPX so that we can continue to build their confidence in themselves for our upcoming deployment."

Bridge Det's training included conducting a sweep of their operating area as part of the exercise. This entailed coordination with NMCB 133's Convoy Security Element (CSE) to arrange for a convoy to the camp area. Prior to setting up their camp, that included full power generation and communications equipment, Bridge Det. needed to secure the area just as they will during their FTX. To make the experience more realistic the detail was located at a different training area aboard Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport than that of the Main body command operations center.

Some of the training scenarios included simulated chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) attacks, snipers firing into the camp and unhappy civilians protesting the detail's presence at the camp's front gate. All of these scenarios are ones that they could potentially face during a deployment. Additionally, Bridge Det's Seabees were given an opportunity to familiarize themselves with their communications equipment which is vital for effective command and control.

Steelworker 1st Class Joshua Baker acted as Bridge Det's Exercise Control Group (ECG) representative and was on hand to evaluate the detail's performance during the training scenarios.

"Bridge Det did nothing but blossom during CPX 3," said Baker. "There was a vast difference from the start to end in the timeliness of reporting and dealing with scenarios. Bridge Det was successful on CPX 3 and there is no doubt they will have a successful FTX and deployment."

Not only did the junior troops get some much needed training, but some of the more senior troops got to dust off their skill sets as well.

Builder 1st Class Phillip Baranowski, a command post watch chief, said, "This CPX, being the third one for 2012, was by far the most successful yet. Standing the watch chief position, I saw that the troops were very receptive to the training and that their motivation was at an all time high. The level of knowledge gained through this evolution will lead to a successful FTX."

USS Dallas Sailors Visit Local Students During Fleet Week

By By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory Johnson, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (NNS) -- Fourteen Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles Class-attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700) visited Harbordale Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 27 as part of Fleet Week Port Everglades 2012.

The visit served as a chance for students to learn about the Navy and its Sailors. The event also provided an opportunity for the submariners to emphasize the importance of education.

"This kind of event is a huge opportunity for us to reach out to these kids and show them that we do more than just fight," said Commander, Navy Region Southeast Community Relations Coordinator Chief Religious Program Specialist (SW/AW) Mike Music. "Many of these children may not be familiar with the Navy and what our Sailors do, so for them to have a chance to interact with the Sailors can be a real learning experience."

The Sailors spent the morning speaking to kindergarten through fifth-grade students about their Navy careers and how math and science are essential to their ability to successfully perform their jobs.

According to Theresa Bucolo, Harbordale Elementary School principal, Sailors can have a tremendous impact on educators' efforts to encourage children to learn.

"The kids love these visits because the uniforms are so impressive and the Sailors really are like celebrities to them," she said. "The kids look up to them and will really listen to what they have to say. I can say it over and over again, but to hear a successful Sailor up there talking about the importance of education puts it on a different level."

While many of the students walked away from the event with new perspective on the Navy, many of the Sailors left with a sense of true satisfaction from the opportunity to have a positive impact on children who may someday be Navy leaders themselves, said Electrician's Mate 1st Class (SS/DV) Chris Duman, who participated in the visit.

"Being able to come out here and spend the time with the children of the community has been absolutely great," he said. "It's a day for us and the kids to get together and learn more about each other. Who knows, maybe today will have such an impact on one of these kids, they will go on to be a great leader in the Navy."

In addition to speaking to more than 300 students, Sailors also had lunch in the school cafeteria where they signed hundreds of autographs for hundreds of enthusiastic kids.

"It was a lot of fun," said fifth-grade student Jasmine Johnson. "My favorite part of this visit was learning about the meaning of the pins and patches."

Harbordale Elementary School was established in 1959 and currently enrolls 350 students. The school has had a long-standing relationship with the Navy, coordinating annual visits during Fleet Week Port Everglades for nearly a decade.

Four U.S. Navy ships, a submarine, and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter are participating in Fleet Week Port Everglades 2012, an event designed to showcase the investment Americans have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.