Friday, June 22, 2012

Navy Secretary to Host USS South Dakota Naming Ceremony

From Defense Media Activity-Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will host a ship naming ceremony in honor of USS South Dakota, June 23, at 2 p.m. CDT at the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial in Sioux Falls, S.D.

South Dakota, a Virginia-class submarine designated SSN 790, is the third ship to bear the state's name. The second ship was a battleship that stood as the lead ship of her class and earned thirteen battle stars during her extensive service in the Pacific theater during World War II.

This next-generation attack submarine will provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. Virginia-class submarines will have enhanced stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, and special warfare enhancements that will enable them to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.

The future USS South Dakota will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land area, littoral waters or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; mine delivery and minefield mapping. It is also designed for special forces delivery and support.

SSN 790 will be built at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn and will be 7,800 tons and 377 feet in length, have a beam of 34 feet, and operate at speeds greater than 25 knots submerged. It is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time. Virginia-class submarines are built under a unique teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News.

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at 703-697-5342. For more information about attack submarines, visit

For more news from Secretary of the Navy, visit

Southcom, Partners Prepare to Respond to Natural Disasters

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MIAMI , June 22, 2012 – Putting lessons learned from the 2010 earthquake response in Haiti into practice, U.S. Southern Command has entered this year’s hurricane season ready to provide timely, effective aid should another disaster strike the region, command officials reported.

“We remain deliberately prepared,” Southcom commander Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser reported to Congress in the lead-up to hurricane season, which kicked off this month.

“As we look at the hurricane season, we prepared for that, not only within our own headquarters, but with our partners in the region,” Fraser said.

Southcom’s area of responsibility, which includes Central and South America and the Caribbean, is no stranger to natural disasters. The largest earthquake recorded worldwide in the 20th century occurred in 1960 in Valdivia, Chile. Mount Pelee’s 1902 eruption in Martinique caused more than 30,000 deaths, and the 1985 Nevada del Ruiz eruption and mudslide in Colombia killed 25,000 people. Major flooding in northern Venezuela in 1999 left more than 20,000 dead.

Haiti has been tormented throughout its history with cyclones, hurricanes, tropical storms, torrential rains, floods and earthquakes. Haiti’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010 left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. That disaster sparked the Southcom-led Operation Unified Response mission in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Relief.

At the peak of that mission, Joint Task Force-Haiti included 22,000 service members -- 7,000 land-based and the rest operating aboard 33 Navy and Coast Guard vessels, 262 fixed-wing aircraft and 57 helicopters. They reopened the heavily damaged international airport at Port-au-Prince, repaired port facilities and delivered 2.6 million bottles of water, 2.9 million food rations, 17 million pounds of bulk food and 149,000 pounds of medical supplies into Haiti.

The task force also provided one of the largest medical outreach efforts in history, with humanitarian and engineering support continuing long after the six-month disaster response in Haiti concluded.

The mission proved to be a “tremendous learning experience” for Southcom that underscored the importance of close interagency and non-governmental cooperation, Army Maj. Gen. Gerald W. Ketchum, Southcom’s director of theater engagement, told American Forces Press Service at the organization’s headquarters here.

The response effort led to revisions in the command’s disaster response plan, increases in its disaster-response capabilities and expanded disaster-preparedness outreach across the region, Ketchum reported.

Coincidentally, the Southcom headquarters was getting a demonstration of a new computer-networking tool to promote collaboration in the event of a natural disaster the very day Haiti’s earthquake hit. The All Partners Access Network, initially introduced at U.S. Pacific Command, provides a standardized platform for coordinating efforts between the various interagency, non-governmental organization, international and military responders. The scenario being used to demonstrate the APAN system was a notional hurricane hitting Haiti and taking out its emergency response command-and-control capabilities.

But based on real-life events, the Southcom staff quickly took the demonstration live and hundreds of organizations began using APAN to coordinate a faster and more efficient relief response that saved lives. Southcom is now using the system as part of an improved framework for military support to civilian-led disaster relief operations, Fraser noted in his command’s 2012 posture statement.

Meanwhile, Southcom is collaborating with regional partners to increase their ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Fraser described a three-part effort through Southcom’s humanitarian assistance program, disaster preparedness projects and annual humanitarian assistance exercises.

Last year, those efforts included building disaster-response warehouses, wells, potable water systems and emergency operations centers, he said. In fiscal year 2011, Southcom also conducted 169 projects designed to increase disaster preparedness in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

In addition, the command supports the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, a regional effort to increase disaster resilience and response capabilities among the 18 Caribbean nations involved.

A new project Southcom sponsored in the wake of the Haiti earthquake involves forward-staged kits that provide disaster-response teams with essential services, including potable water, hybrid renewable power, communications and situational awareness.

“Past experience has demonstrated that one of the biggest challenges in providing an effective response is the ability to accurately assess the situation on the ground after communications go down and transportation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed,” Fraser noted in his commander’s blog.

Pre-positioned Expeditionary Assistance Kits, or PEAKS, developed in partnership with the National Defense University, “enable decision makers to gain a better understanding of how best to deploy relief efforts,” he said.

The kits underwent a joint capability technology demonstration last year at Soto Cono Air Base in Honduras, less than a year after the program’s inception, Fraser noted. Joint Task Force Bravo in Honduras, Southcom’s main expeditionary organization, and members of Honduras’ military and civil-relief agencies, put the kits to the test under realistic field conditions.

Meanwhile, Fraser emphasized the importance of training to ensure the Southcom staff is prepared to support USAID, the lead federal agency for international disaster response, if called upon. This includes a joint operations course it hosts, with classes presented by USAID.

“This recurring training guarantees that when disaster strikes, U.S. Southern Command is ready to assist,” Fraser said.

And to ensure regional nations are as prepared as possible for disasters when they occur, many Southcom-sponsored exercises incorporate disaster-response scenarios or training activities that enhance capabilities and cooperation, Ambassador Carmen Martinez, Southcom’s civilian deputy to the commander, explained.

The Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias annual exercise series, sponsored by Southcom and executed by U.S. Army South, helps bring together regional militaries, civilian disaster management agencies and first responders to train in disaster relief and recovery efforts. The 2011 exercise, held in Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala, included 640 participants from 27 nations to practice the national and international response to an imaginary earthquake.

Martinez credited these efforts with building partner-nation capability, noting that no U.S. military forces were called on during last year’s hurricane season to provide support.

“I think that is the direct result of the constant training and exercising and assisting of these nations, that they were able to take care of things themselves,” she said. “And I think that’s a real tribute to the host nations. But it is also a tribute to the programs that U.S. Southern Command has conducted in the region.”

Senior DoD, VA Leaders Kick Off Suicide Prevention Conference

By Emily Deck, DCoE Strategic Communications

Military suicides are a national public health concern, especially as suicide rates continue to rise. And, according to Capt. Paul Hammer, director for the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health (DCoE), “everyone owns this problem.” Hammer, who opened the conference, urged attendees to engage with leaders and speakers as part of the ongoing march to end warrior and veteran suicide. “This is our challenge to overcome,” he said.

It was a theme echoed throughout the day by service leaders, key department officials and government representatives as they discussed the work they are doing to provide service members and veterans with the support, treatment and care they need and deserve.

Day one of the fourth annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference, in Washington D.C., kicked off to a crowd of hundreds as senior leaders from the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spoke to health care providers, military leaders and mental health specialists about the need to end suicides and reduce stigma for service members and veterans seeking mental health care help. The theme for this year’s conference is “Back to Basics: Enhancing the Well-Being of our Service Members, Veterans and their Families."

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson emphasized that “vigilance matters” and that a strategy to end military suicides must involve entire communities coming together. He urged the crowd to be visible and relentless, and to share what they know with the communities they serve, including knowing the warning signs and how to direct others for help. “Everyone needs to know what to look for,” he said.

“One suicide is one suicide too many,” said VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel, who urged the need to create a “zero-tolerance policy of suicide.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki highlighted the partnership between the Defense Department and VA to understand contributors and challenges to veterans’ suicides, including how to assist service members as they transition to veterans.

“We must end suicides,” Shinseki said, especially “among some of the most dedicated, loyal and courageous people I know.” The challenge is knowing when and where to intervene. Shinseki said VA Veterans Crisis Line has rescued nearly 22,000 from potential suicide and highlighted its texting and chatting services, which provides anonymity to those seeking help.

Throughout the day, service leaders and government officials discussed an all-hands approach to suicide prevention, including programs in place to assist warriors through technology, training program, stress management and chaplains. Their work also includes looking at the rate of suicide factors on families and the support they receive.

A key focal point discussed at the conference was the introduction of new technologies to manage stress and assist during a personal crisis.

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a DCoE center which focuses on technologies for psychological health, discussed its development and testing of a Virtual Hope Box smartphone application for reducing suicidal ideation. The new application aims to help those in crisis by redirecting their attention toward good reasons to live through the use of downloaded cherished memories such as personal photos, music, videos, reminders and recorded messages. The application also includes distraction, relaxation and inspirational messages to help a person when he or she needs it the most. “We carry around our lives through personal cell phones," said Dr. Nigel Bush with T2, who noted smartphones are increasingly being carried by service members “who are highly mobile.”

Dr. Peter Lewis and Dr. Gregory Rimoldi, from the VA, discussed increasing resiliency in high-risk suicidal veterans through an interactive text messaging study. Text messaging, done through both cell phones and email, tested the use of sending appointment and medication reminders, check-in questions as well as motivational/inspirational messages to a user group made up of veterans suffering from psychological health issues.

User feedback of the study was positive. Participants said text messaging “came at needed times” and helped to reduce feelings of loneliness and alienation, while several expressed appreciation for the medication reminders. Check-in questions caused participants to reflect on how they were doing in that particular moment. “It forced me to be honest with myself, said one participant. “Text messages are not intrusive like a phone,” said Rimoldi. “There is an increased comfort level for participants.”

New media is also playing a key role at the VA. The agency, which has answered more than 610,000 calls since its Veterans Crisis Line – 800-273-8255 (Press 1) – launched in 2007, increased its outreach efforts to offer an online veterans chat service in July 2009. To date, the confidential service has helped 54,000 people. Recently, the VA added a texting service as part of its Veterans Crisis Line. The service – 838255 (VETALK) – is confidential and free, and more than 1,700 have been helped. Additionally, VA and Facebook collaboration began this May. Facebook users who are concerned about a veteran or service member’s post can report content of posts to Facebook, which then will send the user information to the Veterans Crisis Line/Chat Service and texting services for follow up.

The annual Suicide Prevention Conference is jointly hosted this year by DCoE and the VA to bring together top minds in suicide prevention, military health and family advocacy, and to discuss ways to enhance the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. The conference offers attendees three conference tracks to participate — clinical, research and practical application.

DCoE is live streaming each day of the conference and is live tweeting using the hashtag #suicideprevention.

General Officer Assignments

The chief of staff, Air Force announced today the following assignments:

Maj. Gen. Terrence A. Feehan, program executive for programs and integration, Missile Defense Agency, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Huntsville, Ala., to vice commander, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

Brig. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, who has been selected for the rank of major general, director, strategic plans, programs and analyses, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to deputy director, Missile Defense Agency, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Huntsville, Ala.

Brig. Gen Roger W. Teague, vice commander, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., to director, strategic plans, programs and analyses, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.