Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tips to Help Keep Your Relationship Strong

By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications

Ah, the honeymoon phase — when everything is fresh and exciting, when faults are merely quirks and fights are simply pent-up passion. Fast forward a few years and some couples may be scratching their heads, thinking, “Wait, we have to work at this?”

All relationships take work. While it can be challenging for any couple to navigate a long-term relationship, military couples face unique stressors. Deployments, transitions, reintegration and separation can impact the connection with a spouse or partner, causing anxiety, conflict and isolation. These feelings and behaviors are common when a relationship is going through a tough phase, but it’s important to address concerns before they turn into serious problems. While tip sheets and articles are useful, interactive help — such as workshops and counseling — provide a dialogue to enrich relationships well past the honeymoon phase.

Check out the relationship workshop offered through, where couples can take an assessment to get feedback on their relationship, learn about various relationship skills and watch videos of other military couples opening up about challenges they faced. Also, flip through the e-library for in-depth information and tips on how to improve relationships through all phases of deployment, transitions and at home.

Military OneSource offers service members and their spouses face-to-face, phone or online non-medical counseling for short-term concerns for up to 12 free sessions. Licensed, professional counselors help couples identify problems and find ways to cope with them, through individual or joint consultations. Visit their counseling home page or call 800-342-9647 to learn more.

Try a relationship class offered through your local installation or family support center. These all-service programs, often led by a chaplain, can help couples overcome challenges and reconnect emotionally and spiritually. Find out what programs are available through the National Military Family Association.

Take a vacation! The Army’s Strong Bonds and Navy’s Chaplain's Religious Enrichment Development Operation programs take couples on free retreats to learn marriage enhancement skills and simply spend some quality time together in a picturesque setting. An added romantic treat — couples can renew their vows before they depart.

For any couple who wants to talk, the 24/7 DCoE Outreach Center can connect you to a military family life consultant by email, phone or live chat — just call them at 866-966-1020. Also check out a list of counseling options that strengthen military families through the Real Warriors Campaign.

Chief of Naval Personnel Emphasizes Readiness to Sailors in Naples

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (EXW/DV) Jack Georges, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia Public Affairs

NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- The chief of naval personnel stressed the chief of naval operations' three tenets of 'Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready' during an all-hands call at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, July 12.

Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk emphasized Naval Personnel Command's efforts to manage a sustainable and resilient force composed of the right number of Sailors with the right skills for the job while attracting, recruiting and retaining the highest quality personnel.

"I don't think there is a better example of the chief of naval operations' three tenets of 'Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready' than all of you here today. You are doing it all in probably the most dynamic theater in the world," said Van Buskirk.

While acknowledging the valuable work of service members in the region, Van Buskirk said the three tenets must also guide the Navy as it considers future challenges.

"One of the areas we have a challenge has to do with jobs on ships that require very specific critical skills. We have some gaps at sea for some very technical ratings," said Van Buskirk.

In response to these vacant positions, the Navy has sought to provide incentives to Sailors with critical skills who return to sea duty early. Incentives include increased opportunities for retention as well as advantages when choosing new assignments.

"I think you may even see some more sea-duty incentive pay available for more ratings too," said Van Buskirk.

Filling sea-duty billets that require critical skills enables the Navy to effectively meet the chief of naval operations' sailing directions.

Van Buskirk said the key is to find the right mix of skill sets, sea and shore billets and to continue providing incentives for sailors to help encourage Sailors to select sea-duty billets.

Van Buskirk is scheduled to continue his trip to Naval Station Rota where he will also interact with Sailors in an effort to hear directly what issues are important to today's Sailors based overseas.

Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia delivers efficient and effective shore service support to U.S. and allied forces operating in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Dempsey Salutes ThanksUSA Organization

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2012 – After briefly bursting into song before addressing supporters and scholarship recipients at the ThanksUSA Treasure Our Troops gala held July 11 at the Newseum here, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey called the event one of the most interesting he attends.

"I say that because of what it says to America that a ten year old and an eight year old saw a problem and decided to do something about it," Dempsey said.

ThanksUSA is a nonprofit group that distributes need-based scholarships to the children and spouses of active duty U.S. military members, according to the organization’s website. ThanksUSA was founded by Kelsi and Rachel Okun in 2006, when they were eight and ten years old, respectively. Since then, the program has awarded 2,500 scholarships totaling almost $7.5 million.

Dempsey noted that as he started speaking it was early morning in Afghanistan, and many service members deployed there were just beginning their work day.

“They're part of the armed forces of the United States, doing the nation's bidding, wherever that takes them and regardless of the personal risk and the sacrifices that we ask of them and their families,” Dempsey said.

“I'm often asked, 'What holds all this together? How do they persevere year after year and deployment after deployment?' And the answer is actually fairly simple. It all holds together because of trust,” he continued. “Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen trust each other. They trust their leaders. They trust the civilian leaders of our nation. And they trust their fellow citizens. If they didn't, they'd never leave their base camps, they'd never strap themselves into a cockpit, they'd never man the deck of an aircraft carrier, and they'd never descend beneath the waves. Trust is what holds our military family together.”

The Okun family embraced the spirit of service, Dempsey said, and in doing so set a powerful example for America.

Dempsey cited the example of Army Gen. Omar Bradley, who on July 11, 1944, created the plan that allowed Allied troops to push forward out of Normandy and advance into Europe.

“On June 6th, 1944, we conducted the Normandy invasion. We seized the beachhead, but then, frankly, we bogged down a little bit because the terrain was extraordinarily difficult,” Dempsey said. “But ... today in history, that many years ago, Omar Bradley created and designed his breakout plan.”

“Several years ago, seeing the challenges faced by servicemen and women and their families serving during this extended conflict, Rachel and Kelsi had a breakout moment of their own,” he continued. “They founded ThanksUSA. ... They’ve strengthened the bond of trust between America and its military, and for that we are deeply, deeply grateful and enormously proud.”

Returning to the events of Normandy, Dempsey paraphrased a piece from the Columbus Star newspaper in 1944.

“‘Today is a fitting day to ask ourselves, am I doing enough?’ If I met a man who was there at Normandy today, could I look him squarely in the face and say I did my share? Well, let me tell you, ThanksUSA and those honored here tonight can answer that question with a resounding yes,” Dempsey said.

Noting his reputation for singing at public events, Dempsey wrapped up his comments by inviting Rachel and Kelsi to join him onstage to sing “God Bless America.”

“If you know the song, you should join in, and if you don’t, you should be ashamed of yourself,” he added.

Empire Shield arms Wisconsin National Guard with homeland defense information

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

With the CERFP's (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Explosive Emergency Response Force Package) recent certification, the Wisconsin National Guard has additional resources to apply to domestic emergency operations. To get a sense of how National Guard assets can integrate with local agencies, a team of Wisconsin National Guard members representing the Joint Staff and CERFP visited the New York National Guard's Joint Task Force Empire Shield, which has conducted a state-duty homeland security mission since Sept. 11, 2001.

"We were able to visit with the command elements of JTF Empire Shield and discuss with them in depth and see first-hand how they conduct their missions and orchestrate their day-to-day missions," said Brig. Gen. Scott Legwold, director of the Wisconsin National Guard Joint Staff. "Our takeaways are truly learning from an organization that provides personnel to support homeland security day in and day out at multiple locations in a vast metropolitan area, which is not done in any other cities [currently] to our knowledge."

JTF Empire Shield has approximately 280 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on state duty in three company-sized elements, patrolling vital transportation terminals in the New York City area and nuclear power plants north on the Hudson River. They coordinate daily with various law enforcement agencies and state agencies such as the New York Naval Militia - a state maritime agency comprised largely of retired Navy Reserve personnel.

Lt. Col. Peter Riley, JTF Empire Shield commander, explained that his troops support law enforcement, but their primary mission is to detect and deter terrorism.

"Sometimes that means they can assist law enforcement, but they don't have the power to arrest," Riley said.

"We're there for presence," added Senior Master Sgt. Edwin Mondezie, Jr., the JTF Empire Shield senior enlisted advisor. "It's so difficult, the role that we play. Even explaining it to the Soldiers, it gets difficult. We're one incident away from being good guys to, 'Why are they out there?' So we have to make sure at all times that we are supporting law enforcement, not doing our own thing."

"Our customers, agency partners and the public in general like what we do," Riley said. "They like that show of force, that presence."

Mondezie said it is impossible to measure how many threats have been prevented simply by having armed Guard members on patrol.

Maj. David Hellekson, the Wisconsin National Guard provost marshal, was impressed with JTF Empire Shield's scale of operations.

"The interagency cooperation has to exist at so many different levels," Hellekson said. "That really drives home the importance of building relationships between those agencies so you can function and train, so when real stuff happens you're ready to go. You have those relationships established and methodologies established so you can act when you're needed to respond."

Capt. Jeremy Duffy, a member of the Wisconsin National Guard CERFP, agreed.

"The biggest thing was how they did the integration and joint service connection, the interagency cooperation between the police, fire and different law enforcement agencies," Duffy said. "As we stand up [the CERFP], that's going to be our biggest challenge - to figure out how we bridge the gap and create that cooperation for interagency training and application."

Duffy said one lesson learned from JTF Empire Shield is to request to train with agencies the CERFP will support in the event of a domestic emergency. 

"That way they're really driving the train and we're not," Duffy said. "They're running the show and we're just there to supplement them."

Legwold said the information gained can be applied if the Wisconsin National Guard is ordered to augment local authorities.

"We certainly can turn to the New York National Guard for a top flight example of conducting a security mission," Legwold said. "They have a set rules of engagement for individuals providing security, and how they implement their rotating security, how they set up their sites, how they work in an urban interagency environment with a significant number of stake holders and interagency partners - all of these are timely and important examples, along with lessons learned that can assist us in planning for any similar mission in the future."

Hellekson said that the visit put the homeland security picture into perspective - not only because of the large metropolitan areas surrounding Wisconsin, but the enduring threat potential in New York City.

"9/11 isn't that far back in their rear view mirror," Hellekson observed. "This isn't a scenario for them."

Dempsey Meets With Russian Counterpart at Pentagon

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

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with his Russian counterpart today at the Pentagon to discuss international security issues and methods to foster military relations, said Navy Cmdr. Scott McIlnay, public affairs officer for the chairman.

U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey met with Russian Army Gen. Nikolay Makarov, deputy minister of defense and chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

“This was General Dempsey's first substantive meeting with General Makarov since he assumed duties as Chief of General Staff in June 2008,” McIlnay said. “The two leaders had brief contact in January and April at the Military Committee in Chief of Defense Staff session.”

McIlnay said the chairman and Makarov discussed “topics of mutual security interests in Afghanistan, [and] the Middle East, to include Syria, the Asia-Pacific, and missile defense.

“They also discussed the status and way ahead for the Bilateral Presidential Commission's Military Cooperation Working Group (MCWG),” he said.

McIlnay explained the working group was established to identify mutually beneficial areas of cooperation; coordinate implementation of joint projects to strengthen strategic stability and international security; develop military contacts; discuss matters of mutual security; and monitor execution of current cooperative projects and joint activities.

“The Military Cooperation Work Plan, a product of the MCWG, has seen recent expansion, with 17 events included in the 2009 plan and 110 events in the 2012 plan,” McIlnay said. “Bilateral engagements on the work plan include port visits, education exchanges, and exercises.”

McIlnay noted that the U.S. and Russian Forces Joint Training Exercise on Fort Carson, Colo., in May was an example of previous cooperation between both militaries.

“For about two weeks, 20 Russian soldiers conducted joint training with U.S. forces,” he said.