Sunday, July 15, 2012

National Guard Bureau's PATRIOT exercise engages local, federal emergency responders

The National Guard Bureau's PATRIOT annual training exercise has begun at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center and Fort McCoy.

More than 1,100 participants are converging on the Wisconsin Air National Guard's Volk Field this week for a large-scale emergency response exercise, bringing community and federal agencies together with military organizations from several states. Agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services, Minnesota Department of Health Mortuary Response Team, Civil Air Patrol, Wisconsin Disaster Medical Team, Juneau County Sheriff and HAZMAT (Hazardous Material) Team, and the Tomah Police Department.

"This year's exercise is unique because we are training alongside local authorities," said Lt. Col. Brian Leong, PATRIOT 12 director. "Working with federal, state, and local authorities will allow us to be better prepared to respond to a national crisis."

The primary purpose of PATRIOT 12 is to assess the National Guard's ability to assist state and local agencies in response to multiple emergencies. The exercise will help all participants identify the strengths and weaknesses in their current response plans.

Local residents may notice an increase in air traffic as a result of the exercise. Some training may occur at low altitudes and in the evening, especially near Volk Field and Fort McCoy. Area residents with questions or concerns should contact Volk Field at 1-800-972-8673.

PATRIOT 12 runs July 17-19. Participants will conduct preparatory training until July 17.

U.S. Basketball Teams Wow Service Members, Families

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

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2012 – The men’s and women’s U.S. national basketball teams, which are preparing for the upcoming Olympics in London, put on a show for service members, their families, and other fans at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory here yesterday.

The “Hoops for Troops” program, launched in 2006, provides support for the U.S. military and their families through programs, events, and partnerships, according to the USA Basketball website.

The audience included Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Adm. James “Sandy” A. Winnefeld Jr., JCS vice chairman; and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the chairman’s senior enlisted advisor.

Military children, service members and fans were treated to activities including a girls’ basketball clinic led by members of the women’s U.S. national basketball team, a skills challenge where troops teamed up with NBA players, viewing of the men’s U.S. national team conducting practice and a basketball scrimmage.

“It was awesome. It was just a tremendous honor to be here,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Drey said. “It was a great experience, and I was very excited.”

Drey, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Command, represented the Navy and was paired with Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams for the skills challenge, which the duo won.

“My son got to watch me do it too, so I was very happy,” Drey said. “It was such an honor to represent the Navy and the men and women of the military and their families.

“And also having the wounded warriors here,” he continued. “It was so awesome to be out on the court, even just by the NBA players [and] Team USA -- the team that’s going to represent our country … it was a great experience.”

The USA Basketball players were equally happy to have an opportunity to meet with service members, their families and fans.

“They humble us. I mean they do so much for our country and … represent our flag,” said Kevin Love, power forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves. “We just go out there and play basketball. So they are the reason we have our freedom.”

Service members “protect and serve so we can live the lives we live today,” Love added. “So it’s pretty cool to be out there performing in front of them but they’re doing all the good deeds for us, really, so we have to pay homage to them.”

Others such as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas were touched when members of the ceremonial 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Army’s “Old Guard” presented the patches from their uniform sleeves to USA Basketball team members as Dempsey wished the players well during the London Olympics.

“It was a great day for USA Basketball, for the Olympic movement and the Olympic team,” Bilas said. “I think it was just a great day for our country.”

The basketball analyst noted U.S. national men’s team Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., served in the Army for five years, which has inspired a lot of what the team does in emulating the military “on a much smaller scale.”

Bilas said he was unable to put into words what it meant to him to see the troops take their American flag patches off their uniforms and present then to the basketball players.

“It was so moving,” he said.

Locklear Arrives in Manila for Security Talks

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MANILA, Philippines, July 15, 2012 – The senior U.S. commander in the Pacific region arrived here today to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and to explore how the United States can support efforts to boost Philippine military capacity.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, paying his first visit here since taking command at U.S. Pacific Command in March, is slated to meet with President Benigno S. Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, Gen. Jessie Dellosa, for talks to center on maritime and regional security issues.

Locklear told American Forces Press Service during the flight here that he looks forward to building on the historic U.S.-Philippine bilateral defense relationship that marked its 60th anniversary last year.

The admiral recalled his days as a young Navy officer when the United States had a large presence at Subic Bay and U.S. military members worked closely with their Filipino counterparts. Although the U.S. footprint in the Philippines has changed significantly over the years, he said, the trust and collaboration established between the two nations hasn’t.

That foundation will be important, he said, as the United States helps the Filipino military transition from an army-centric, internally focused organization into one able to draw on more joint capabilities to address regional challenges.

“Now, as the security environment changes, many countries recognize that there has got to be more maritime domain awareness [and] more understanding of what is happening around them rather than [just] what is happening internally,” he said. “So what we are looking for is to try to provide [the Philippines] assistance that builds the interoperability of our defense forces over time.”

The United States isn’t alone in this endeavor, the admiral said, noting that other regional allies and partners are invested as well, recognizing that the broad challenges across the Asia-Pacific region demand strong multilateral cooperation.

Among those challenges are tense maritime disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam all claim portions of the contested waterways. The Philippines and China are currently locked in a naval standoff, with both claiming ownership of the contentious Scarborough Shoal. That dispute reached a new level just before Locklear’s arrival as a Chinese naval frigate ran aground about 70 miles off the Philippines’ western coast. The incident was resolved peacefully as the Chinese freed the stranded vessel earlier today.

Locklear, speaking with reporters in Australia before that latest development, said the United States doesn’t take sides in territorial disputes and encourages peaceful resolution through international legal processes. He warned, however, of excessive maritime claims that cause friction among neighbors, and if not resolved, could lead to “miscalculation” that threatens stability.

During his meetings with Filipino military and political leaders, Locklear said he’ll seek ways to expand the U.S.-Philippine military-to-military relationship in ways that promote regional stability and security.

“On the military side, a productive alliance requires us to be able to work together, to have connectivity with each other, to be able to share information, and to be able to bring our military systems together in a meaningful way across all aspects of military power -- whether it’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or a contingency or otherwise,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to giving the message to the Filipino military and to the leaders there that the United States is a very reliable ally,” he said. “We want the Filipinos to be a reliable ally to us as well.”

Locklear said he will reinforce the message of U.S. commitment that Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made during his visit here in June. Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta had delivered the same message days before that visit when they met with Gazmin and Dellosa at the annual Shangri-La regional security summit in Singapore.

That discussion followed U.S.-Philippine “Two Plus Two” talks in Washington in April. Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gazmin and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met for what Panetta called “very successful” sessions about expanding the alliance.

Locklear said he looks forward on building on this momentum in ways that deepen engagement between the two countries and identify ways they can work together to support common security goals.

“This is a reaffirmation that the Mutual Defense Treaty is still in place and still strong,” the admiral said of his visit here. “And it is an opportunity for us to find places and missions were we can partner and exercise together in a way that will increase our overall security cooperation and increase security in this critical part of the Asia-Pacific.”

Which GI Bill do I use?

By Capt. Michelle Baer
Wisconsin Army National Guard

At age 20, I enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard for the education benefits. At the time I knew that the National Guard paid my college tuition and gave me money towards books and housing. I learned the requirements to receive benefits and I was off to the races.

Twelve years later, I returned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard after completing a six year tour on active duty and a 15-month deployment. I am now ready to complete my Master of Business Administration, but I was confused on my education benefits.

I knew there were new education benefits such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Wisconsin GI Bill. I was unsure on which GI Bill chapter I had already used, or even the difference between a tuition grant and the GI Bill.

After talking with Capt. Dustin Cebula, the Wisconsin Army National Guard education service officer, I learned there are four programs that pay for tuition and four programs that pay a monthly stipend while attending school.

 The four tuition programs include:
 •Wisconsin Tuition Grant pays up to the UW-Madison rate for eight semesters of full-time study for currently serving service members.
 •Federal Tuition Assistance pays $250 per semester credit ($4,500 max per fiscal year), limited to 130 credits for undergraduate and 39 for graduate degrees for currently serving service members.
 •Wisconsin Tuition Remission (GI Bill) reimburses qualifying veterans 100 percent tuition for eight semesters or 128 credits at UW System or Wisconsin technical schools and can be used after separation from military.
 •GI Bill Post 9/11 payment is based on total days of qualifying Title 10 active duty and Title 32 AGR service on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Benefits include: tuition and fees payment, housing and books stipend. In addition, benefits can be transferred to a spouse or children.

 The four stipend programs include:
 •Chapter 33 GI Bill Post 9/11 is the only program that pays tuition and stipend.
 •Chapter 1606 GI Bill Selected Reserve pays $345/month for full-time study.
 •Chapter 30 GI Bill Active Duty enroll while in the regular Army or AGR program.
 •Chapter 1607 GI Bill REAP where payment is based on continuous days of active duty.

 In order to find out how many months I had left of my GI Bill benefits I called 1-888-442-4551. I could have also gone to in order to find out the payment rates and months of eligibility.

The rule is that you can use a maximum of 36 months of one GI Bill but no more than a total of 48 months of combined GI Bill benefits if eligible for more than one.

Capt. Cebula helped me decide the best course of action on how to maximize my benefits. I have decided to attend a private university, so I will be using my Federal Tuition Assistance and then I will transfer my GI Bill 9/11 benefits to my son. In addition, I plan to contact the veteran certifying official at the college if I have any other questions.

I learned that everyone has a different military experience and is eligible for different military benefits. In order to fully utilize your education benefits you should contact the Wisconsin Army National Guard Education Service Office at 608-242-3447 or your battalion career counselor.

Chairman Motivates USA Basketball Teams

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

WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a motivational talk to players on the USA Basketball men’s and women’s national teams here today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey met the basketball players, who are preparing for upcoming Olympics competition in London, at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory. He was joined by service members and their families for the “Hoops for Troops” program.

The “Hoops for Troops” program, launched in 2006, provides support for the U.S. military and their families through programs, events, and partnerships, according to the USA Basketball website.

“If you’re a huge sports fan, this is one of these events that have got to be memorable to you,” Dempsey said. “It is a huge morale boost for us, that is to say, those that serve and their families.”

Dempsey said the event was a great morale boost for troops, but it was equally important for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which he had the opportunity to talk to before the event began.

“I told them I’m not going to give you any advice on how to play basketball,” he said. “I’m not going to talk to you about leadership because you’ve got Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Geno Auriemma, two of the finest leaders of any profession in our country.” Krzyzewksi coaches the USA Basketball men’s national team and Auriemma coaches the USA Basketball women’s national team.

The chairman said he explained to the players how the U.S. military’s young men and women operate with trust in themselves, their leaders and the institution they support.

“I let it just sit there,” Dempsey said. “I didn’t tell them: ‘Therefore, you need to trust each other.’ But in having that conversation about what makes us an effective team, and the foundation of which is trust, I think they’re clever enough young men and young women to figure out that the message is if they’re going to succeed in London they’d better learn to trust each other -- in an extraordinary way.”

Dempsey also explained his connection to Coach Krzyzewski.

“We do go back several decades I guess,” Dempsey said with a laugh, “[We’re] both ‘West Pointers’ -- him, Class of ’69; I’m the Class of ’74. I went to graduate school at Duke while he was the coach.

“And then when I became the [U.S.] Training and Doctrine commander, I reached out to him on the basis on a shared interest in leader development,” the chairman continued. “And on that basis, we’ve grown even closer over the years.”

The chairman said he most admires Krzyzewski’s ability to adapt, “which is one of the attributes we’ve said as a force is most in need in the future … because we don’t know exactly what we’ll confront.”

Dempsey also touched on the “Hoops for Troops” program which is an effort “to keep connected to athletes” and serves as one of a “triad” of important national outreach efforts.

Another outreach program of interest to the military, the chairman said, is First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, which seeks to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. DOD began partnering with the “Let’s Move” initiative last year.

Dempsey said another key program is the “Joining Forces” initiative that’s spearheaded by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. The national initiative calls on all sectors of society -- from citizens and communities, to businesses and nonprofit groups -- to honor and support military families.

Joining Forces “seeks to connect communities and make it easier for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and their families … to move around the country and not have to restart everything every time they move,” the chairman said. “It’s been really successful.”

Dempsey noted the success of these programs derives from the fact that they’re not managed “top down,” or only senior-leader driven. Once resources, guidance and motivation are provided, he said, these programs catch on from the “bottom up.”