Military News

Monday, May 07, 2012

This Day in Naval History - May 07


By Navy News Service

1779 - Continental Navy sloop Providence captures British brig Diligent off Cape Charles.
1934 - USS Constitution completes tour of principal U.S. ports
1940 - FDR orders Pacific Fleet to remain in Hawaiian waters indefinitely.
1942 - Carrier aircraft sink Japanese carrier Shoho during Battle of Coral Sea.

Force Changes in Europe to Preserve Strategic Edge


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

STUTTGART, Germany, May 7, 2012 – With major force changes to unfold across Europe, including a drawdown of about 7,000 U.S. forces there, U.S. European Command remains committed to its mission of ensuring a ready force prepared to respond if called upon, officials said.

About 80,000 military forces based in Europe remain the command’s No. 1 tool – both for maintaining U.S. influence across the theater and, when called upon, for projecting power within and beyond it, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the Eucom commander, told Congress in March.

They represent “a visible and incontestable manifestation of U.S. commitment to the region” as they engage with regional allies and partners to ensure their mutual readiness and ability to work together, he said.

President Barack Obama’s strategic guidance that looks out over the next 10 years calls for reducing the U.S. presence in Europe by about 15 percent, to 68,000 troops. The plan, which affects U.S. European Command and its Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps components, calls for inactivating:

-- The 170th and 172nd Infantry brigades, two of the four brigade combat teams in Europe, by fiscal 2014;

-- The Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron with its A-10 aircraft at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during fiscal year 2013;

-- The 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, in fiscal year 2013; and

-- 5th Corps Headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany, to become the new home of U.S. Army Europe headquarters, now in Heidelberg, Germany.

In addition, U.S. Army Europe will cut about 2,500 soldiers assigned to enabling units over the next five years.

But, as Eucom officials are quick to note, the strategic guidance isn’t all about cuts.

In addition to preserving two heavy brigades – the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to be consolidated in Vicenza, Italy, and 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment at Vilseck, Germany -- it proposes additions that enhance capability. These include:

-- A rotational U.S.-based heavy brigade combat team to support the NATO Response Force;

-- A battalion-size element from the rotational brigade to participate in joint exercises and operations;

-- Four ballistic missile defense-capable destroyers to be home-ported in Rota, Spain;

-- A squadron of new V-22 aircraft to be based in Europe to support special operations;

-- A small aviation detachment to be stood up in Poland to support rotational deployments of F-16 and C-130 units as they promote interoperability with Polish air forces;

-- A ground-based radar in Turkey; and

-- More Special Forces units stationed in Germany.

Looking at this big-picture plan that he worked on with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Stavridis said he’s satisfied it postures Eucom for what’s ahead.

“I think we are adjusting our force appropriately to support this new strategy,” he said. “We will continue to have an important and enduring mission in the European theater for many years to come.”

Navy Vice Adm. Charles Martoglio, Stavridis’ former chief of staff and now deputy commander, said it all boils down to having what’s needed to accomplish the mission in the most efficient and effective manner.

“Ensuring that we have the right capabilities at the right level of readiness in the right places to match the security environment that we see emerging is one of the big responsibilities of U.S. European Command,” he said.

Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, Eucom’s deputy director for plans, policy and strategy, said the capability that will reside within the command following these force changes is so striking that he shuns using the term “drawdown” to describe it.

“We’ve decided to strategically rebalance our forces,” he said. “What that means is we have increased our forces in the ballistic missile area. We’ve increased our forces in the maritime domain. We’ve increased our Special Forces here in Europe, and we have reduced our forces who do general-purpose ground fighting.”

Montgomery noted that for the past decade, two of Eucom’s four brigades have been in a continual process of preparing for, deploying or resetting after deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan.
“So of four brigades, you would have about two brigades” to be available for other missions, he said.

“And that is what we are going to end up with in 2016,” he said. “We are going to have two brigades that are uniquely skilled and will look like many of our European partners’ units: an airborne brigade and a Stryker brigade.”

The result, he said, will be “the right number to get at the mission we are going to be assigned in 2016,” he said. “So in my mind, this is a strategic rebalancing and not a reduction or some kind of move away from Europe. In no way, shape or form do I see that.”

Stavridis told Congress the new rotational brigade combat team in Europe will go a long way to mitigate the loss of two permanent ones. “Instead of being a static BCT essentially parked in Germany, this would be a BCT that could rotate its battalions one time into Eastern Europe, one time into the Balkans, one time into the Baltics, as well as other places that U.S. European Command might be asked to operate,” he said.

In addition, he said the four ships to be home-ported in Spain will bring multiple capabilities to the theater. In addition to ballistic missile defense, they will be able to support anti-submarine and anti-surface ship operations, to gather intelligence or to deploy the highly sophisticated aircraft attached to them.

“So the capability that you bring forward into this theater is, frankly, profound,” he said. “For every ship that is forward-deployed, it’s really the equivalent of the effort of three or four ships back in the United States because of the transit time.”

In reality, the reductions taking place are part of a process that’s been ongoing for the past 20 years, Stavridis explained during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. He noted that during the Cold War, the United States had almost 400,000 forces in Europe, operating at some 1,200 bases and focused on the Warsaw Pact threat.

With that force already down by 75 percent, Stavridis called the additional 15 percent reductions planned manageable and appropriate when viewed through the new global context. “That’s a pretty reasonable and sensible reduction, given the reduced threat,” he said.

Although the new strategic guidance focuses predominantly on challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, Stavridis said there’s no question that the strategic partnerships within the European theater will play prominently in its success.

“Let’s face it: Our most enduring pool of partners exists in the European theater,” he said. Most notable are the 28 NATO members that collectively have 3 million men and women under arms, 24,000 aircraft and some 800 ships.

“This is an alliance of enormous resource, and it represents those that stand with us today in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in the Libyan operation, in [counterpiracy],” he said. “So these strategic, enduring partnerships in Europe are going to underpin the strategic focus on challenges in Asia and in the Middle East.”

Young Journalists Learn Resilience through Expression


By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications

You or I might have hesitated approaching top military leaders at the fourth annual Warrior Resilience Conference, hosted by Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), but 16-year-old journalist Kat Boynton was up for the task.

“I can be eye-to-eye with a three-star general and have a conversation and the confidence to speak well and present myself,” said Kat.

Boynton, whose Army National Guard father and brother have both deployed, reported on the conference with A Backpack Journalist, a program that teaches resilience to military kids through journalism, photography, writing, music and other creative forms of expression. She attributes her assurance and ability to talk to people with taking part in the program.

“Regardless of where I end up, the life lessons and skills that I’m learning [from Backpack] will go wherever I’m going,” she said.

Program manager Linda Dennis created A Backpack Journalist to engage military teens in learning resilience and life skills through artistic expression, after realizing teens needed a creative outlet to share their feelings.

“At a family event at Fort Bragg, I noticed the little kids made cards … but the older kids had a really tough time writing the words. The more I talked to them I realized they didn’t know how, or there was a lump in their throat,” she said. “What Backpack does is help them find their voice.”

Teens learn journalism and photography skills, produce videos, and create songs about military life in camps across the country. The budding journalists most recently produced a music video, “PTSD Won’t Stop Me.”

Dennis has seen teens go from disinterested to creatively driven, bonding with others and learning more about themselves.

“With teens, it can be the toughest time because they’re going through changes. When you add deployment or a new school — there’s a lot going on,” she said. “Once you learn how to express yourself, all of a sudden you’ve got this self-esteem, and you have more faith and confidence … that’s why our program has caught on.”

Backpack journalist and self-described introvert Emarah Cousar, 19, daughter of an Air Force veteran, said taking part in the program has helped her communicate her feelings.

“Sometimes I can’t actually express what I want to say by speaking, so I’ll write it down and it’ll show through what I’m doing, rather than what I’m saying,” she said.

The program is expanding its outreach to include an Internet webcast called Veterans Info Channel, a documentary about equestrian therapy for wounded warriors, and a partnership with Best Buy’s Geek Squad to teach teens tech-savvy skills for their next creative adventure. Dennis said at the core of the success of the program however, is the power of words.

“Writing is the basic formation for everything we do in life. There’s nothing like writing down something frustrating on a piece of paper, putting it under your pillow when you go to sleep, and waking up the next day feeling like it’s a new day,” she said while Boynton interviewed DCoE Director Navy Capt. Paul Hammer at the conference. “And it really looks like we’re raising top journalists.”

NMSC Reserve Sailors Participating in Alabama Care 2012


By Navy Medicine Support Command Public Affairs

SELMA, Ala. (NNS) -- Nearly 80 enlisted and commissioned U.S. Navy medical professionals are participating in one of Navy Medicine's largest community outreach efforts in the Southeast as part of an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission designed to provide assistance to under-serviced communities.

Alabama Care 2012, scheduled to continue through May 10, is part of the Department of Defense (DoD)-supported IRT effort, an initiative designed to improve military readiness while simultaneously providing quality services to communities throughout America.

The project is a multiservice mission comprised of active duty, Reserve, and National Guard members from Navy, Army and Air Force components.

Service members worked together to set up field-operated medical facilities in the three medically underserved and economically-depressed communities of Selma, Demopolis and Hayneville. Although the primary focus of military medical professionals participating in the exercise is to conduct deployment and readiness training, U.S. Armed Forces participants provided free medical, dental, pharmaceutical and ophthalmology services to the community, something Navy Medicine Support Command (NMSC) Reserve Component member and Alabama Care 2012 Navy Component Team Lead Cmdr. Patricia McCafferty said represents the fabric of what military medical professionals do around the world.

"Our Navy medical professionals are eager to provide the best care possible," she said. "We are also providing education through handouts, videos and posters. Each of the three sites has coordinated with local medical doctors, dentists and pharmacies, which allows the patient to continue to receive care once we depart."

The tri-service medical personnel are providing multiple services that include nursing evaluations, cholesterol screening, blood glucose monitoring and Hemoglobin A1C testing. Dental services include assessments, extractions, fillings and cleanings. Eye exams and spectacle manufacturing are offered, and a pharmacy is dispensing prescriptions once the patient has been seen and assessed by the medical team.

Alabama Care 2012 marks the first time some of the deploying Reservists are exposed to working with other military services, an effort she said will prove invaluable in the future for everyone involved.

"Flexibility and adaptability are key working in a joint environment," McCafferty said. "We have become a seamless group and have established friendships that will last a lifetime."

NMSC and its Reserve component are part of the Navy Medicine team, a global health care network of 63,000 Navy medical personnel around the world who provide high-quality health care to more than 1 million eligible beneficiaries. Navy Medicine personnel deploy with Sailors and Marines worldwide, providing critical mission support aboard ship, in the air, under the sea and on the battlefield.