Tuesday, August 07, 2012

National Night Out Promotes Community, Safety for Military Families

By Mark O. Piggott, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Public Affairs

YORKTOWN, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown and Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) Yorktown brought together military families for an evening of education and entertainment at the annual National Night Out, Aug. 3, at Lincoln Military Housing aboard the installation.

WPNSTA Yorktown is one of 15,000 communities across the country participating in National Night Out, bringing first-responders together with community partners to help raise awareness of personal and community safety with military families.

"This night has come together to give you the opportunity to meet with the first responders from Newport News and York County," said Capt. Lowell Crow, commanding officer, WPNSTA Yorktown. "These are the people who provide your support so this is a great opportunity for you to get to know them."

This is the 29th year for National Night Out, "America's night out against crime," the chance for service members and dependents to learn more about military and community resources and an opportunity for families to meet emergency services personnel who work hard to protect and serve our community.

"We had well over 600 attendees, counting program representatives, military families and vendors, a 30 percent increase in attendance from last year," said Michele Bondurant, FFSC Yorktown director.

The field was crowded with more than 30 vendors and several military displays from WPNSTA Yorktown and its tenant commands. Families were given a head start in school supplies thanks to major corporations, York County and Newport News schools as well as other local businesses. Everything from traffic and fire safety to home security and family wellness were represented at the National Night Out program.

"National Night Out is conducted as a festival-like experience with food, music, a parade of law enforcement and fire trucks, games for the children, interactive vendor displays, fire and safety demonstrations, raffle drawings, and many vendor give-aways," Bondurant said.

"It is in this family fun environment that Navy families learn and benefit from the many resources available to them both in the Navy and throughout the community. It emphasizes and solidifies the importance of team work, collaboration and community partnerships both on our installation and throughout the surrounding area," she added. "National Night Out provides a forum to celebrate a sense of community within the Naval Weapons Station and provides a venue to showcase the many resources available to Navy families."

With an increase in community participation in just its second year at WPNSTA Yorktown, the future for more events like the National Night Out will continue in years to come.

"It is important to keep WPNSTA Yorktown perpetually engaged with the Navy family population and in working to continually strengthen its community bonds, collaboration vision and strategy," Bondurant said. "Next year we hope to have even more community vendors from James City and York County, along with added representation from Navy resources."

Illinois National Guard Soldiers help first responders at Megabus crash

By Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Camacho,
Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (8/7/12) - Fire fighters and police officers throughout the central Illinois town of Litchfield came to aid the victims after a Megabus crash on Aug. 2 that killed one and injured three dozen - among those assisting the first-responders were two Illinois National Guard Soldiers.

Cadet Casey Fay, with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Litchfield and Pfc. Christopher Morris of Robinson, with 445th Chemical Company, were driving from Camp Lincoln in Springfield, headed to their office at the Illinois National Guard’s East St. Louis Readiness Center when they came across the crash.

Morris said as they passed the wreck, they saw firefighters and emergency management technicians assisting people at the scene.

“We both felt it in our gut that we should get out there and help these people,” Morris said.

Fay, a combat medic and certified EMT, helped the first responders treat the victims. Morris, who just returned from a search and extraction class, assisted with litters and patient aid.

According to Fay, the first responders were happy to receive the additional help from the two Soldiers. They directed the two to help the walking wounded and get casualties on to stretchers to be transported for further treatment. They also assisted with gathering patient information.

After most of the walking wounded was triaged, they were loaded on to a bus to be transported to Litchfield community center for further medical treatment.

Fay was assigned as the primary medic on one of the buses transporting patients to the community center. Morris stayed on scene to help more casualties get on stretchers to be transported to area hospitals.

“We were glad we stopped and helped out,” Fay said. “They definitely put our skills to good use.”

USS Jason Dunham Celebrates 365 Days DUI-Free

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Jamieson, USS Jason Dunham Public Affairs

USS JASON DUNHAM, At sea (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) celebrated a milestone by reaching 365 DUI-free days while on its maiden deployment, Aug. 6.

According to Command Master Chief Raymond Chamberlain, a robust command culture of responsibility and the personal pride of the crew were the main contributing factors to the ship's DUI-free year.

"This achievement is a great example of Sailors looking out for Sailors," said Chamberlain. "This crew takes the reputation of their ship personally and it shows when you can reach this type of milestone. The word proud doesn't come close to expressing what I feel for every last one of them."

In order to help foster a command climate of responsibility, Jason Dunham employs the Arrive Alive program, which provides Jason Dunham Sailors with a number that can be called to provide the Sailor with a safe ride home.

Senior Chief Electrician's Mate Michael Jordan, command Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisor (DAPA), said he and Chief (select) Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) Dwayne Williams, assistant DAPA, focus on the Arrive Alive program and the leadership of Jason Dunham Sailors resulted in command primed for success.

"Chief (select) Williams and I looked back at situations where Sailors had gotten DUIs and we realized the reason they didn't use the Arrive Alive program and ended up with a DUI in almost every case because they were afraid of reprisals," said Jordan. "So the command as a whole refocused their efforts towards educating our Sailors about the Arrive Alive program and reinforced the message that they weren't going to get in trouble by using te [program] and it really made a difference."

Because of their success, Jason Dunham Sailors strove even harder to maintain their claim to be DUI free.

 "I had Sailors coming up to me and telling me how many days it had been since the last DUI," said Jordan. "They really took ownership of their reputation, and they have a lot to be proud of."

To celebrate the ship's DUI-free year, the ship's supply department provided a cake and a special meal of steak and crab legs.

Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Jobdavid Santiago said the galley Sailors were proud to be able to honor the crew's achievement.

"This meal is for everyone because everyone had a part in making sure we stayed DUI free," said Santiago. "We don't want this to be the last one. We are proud of how far we have come, but we want to keep going."

Jason Dunham is on a scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

Face of Defense: Soldier is Giant in Ultramarathon Community

By Army Master Sgt. Frederick Zimmerman
U.S. Special Operations Command

MOUNT WHITNEY, Calif., Aug. 7, 2012 – Standing at 5 feet 4 inches and weighing in at 130 pounds, Army Master Sgt. Mike Morton is a giant in the ultramarathon community.

Morton, a U.S. Army Special Operations Command liaison officer, recently won the Badwater Ultramarathon – a 135-mile race from Death Valley to Mount Whitney in California. This was his first Badwater, and he completed the course in 22 hours, 52 minutes, 55 seconds, a time that was just shy of the 22:51:29 course record. The Badwater Ultramarathon starts off at 280 feet below sea level, and ends at an approximate altitude of 8,300 feet above.

“It’s a very competitive race -- you had two former winners and two guys who are on the U.S. 24-hour team with me – a handful of guys that I consider serious competition -- but I knew I had the potential [to win],” said Morton, who is on the U.S. 24-hour team that competes in races that see how far competitors can run in one day. “I was elated to win – just to finish it.”

A total of 90 runners are selected. Just to enter the race, applicants must have finished a prior Badwater as well as a series of other high endurance events including races of at least 100 miles. Morton has finished and won three 100-mile races so far this year, all in under 14 hours.

He and a friend, Eric Clifton, who had won the race in 1999, had discussed taking aim at the course record.

“In January, I ran a 100 in 13 hours, 18 minutes, in March I ran a 13:11 100, and then in May I ran a 13:42, and those were all relatively flat courses,” Morton said. “Eric laid out a plan and he was expecting around a 21-hour finishing time, but I don’t speculate like that. I said using those splits is a good tool, but you can’t account for the variables of the heat and the three substantial climbs.

“So in my mind, the course record was a strong record. I had a super-smart runner telling me 21 hours, but in my mind I was content even being near [Valmir Nunez’s] record, because I knew those variables were going to play a role, even with the wind during the day. It’s a strong wind; it’s something I didn’t account for.”

Badwater allows entrants to have a pacer run with them after the first 17 miles, and that comes in handy as the pacer can “mule,” or carry food and water for the runner. Morton had Clifton running with him for the last 20 miles of the race, and Morton said he was doing the math and letting him know he could break the record.

“He was spitting out times, but it got to the point where I wasn’t talking,” Morton said. “I didn’t want to hear him. I was just like, ‘Hey, man, you can tell me all I have to do is run 15 minute miles. I’m going as fast as I can go.’ At some point, there’s no more effort available. You’re running at max capacity.”

One of the hardest points of the race for Morton came at mile 42– a 14-mile climb that he power-walked most of the way. He had a 19-minute lead when he started, but by the time he reached the peak, the second-place runner had caught up.

Temperatures throughout the race reached 119 degrees during the day, and dropped to the mid-50s at night. Morton said he changed out of his singlet into a T-shirt at night, but didn’t realize how cold it was until he saw photos of his support crew wearing hats and jackets. Due to the extreme heat, he went through four gallons of a sports beverage, a gallon of water and the occasional soda to take in sugar. It was enough to require a small support crew and two minivans full of supplies to travel with him.

“I’m more of a minimalist runner – a lot of people have this big layout of food and take everything they may desire,” Morton said. “I usually find one thing in a race that I like and I stick with it. I don’t require anything fancy.”

Morton, who has won nearly 30 races, began competing in ultramarathons -- which can vary from 50-mile, 100-mile and 24- and 48-hour competitions -- in 1994. He served 11 years in the Navy before transferring to the Army, and began running marathons when stationed on Diego Garcia. He was introduced to ultramarathons by a chief petty officer in Norfolk, Va. “I wasn’t a competitive marathoner at the national level – I could run a six-minute pace and not even come in the top 10,” said Morton, who has served a total of 22 years. “But then I moved up to running 50s and 100s and I was winning, so it became exciting.”

In 1998, he was forced to give up competing after injuring his knee and hip when he slipped on ice while carrying scuba tanks. The injury, and training and deployment cycles after joining the Army, kept him from competing for 14 years. The injury still bothers him a bit, he said, but he’s learned to deal with it.

When training for a race, Morton puts in 140 miles a week running twice a day during the week, and once a day on weekend, going through a pair of running shoes in about 10 days. He completed the 135-mile Badwater race on the morning of July 17 and went out for a run again the next day.

Up next for Morton are the 24-hour World Championships next month in Poland, where he will compete on the U.S. team. The American record for a 24-hour race is just over 165 miles, and Morton said he would like to break it. He came close in September 2011 when he ran 163.9 miles, just 1.8 miles off the record, at the Hinson Lake 24-hour in North Carolina.

“If everything goes well in Poland and I meet my goals, I’m kind of content with doing some fun runs,” he said. “Maybe just chilling out and not running twice a day for a little while.”

Service Leaders Weigh In On BRAC, Renewable Energy

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

MONTEREY, Calif., Aug. 7, 2012 – Army, Navy and Air Force officials discussed renewable energy milestones, force structure changes and the impact on military and surrounding communities affected by base realignment and closure here yesterday.

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment; Roger M. Natsuhara, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment; and Terry A. Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, took part in a roundtable discussion at an Association of Defense Communities conference.

The service officials outlined strategies to adapt to future force structure changes and reductions in supporting infrastructure at U.S. and overseas military installations without compromising the nation’s defense capabilities.

“The U.S. is at a strategic turning point after we’ve had over a decade of war,” Hammack said. “We know as the end-strength comes down, force structure changes will be required under the Budget Control Act.” The Army already has announced its end-strength reductions could total about 80,000 soldiers by fiscal 2017, she said.

Base realignments and closures have proven to be effective and objective in reducing domestic infrastructure and reconfiguring what must remain, Hammack said. Four rounds of BRAC took place after the Cold War wound down and force structure was declining, she said, in contrast to the 2005 BRAC, which took place during a protracted war.

“The ’88, ’91, ’93 and ’95 rounds combined produced 97 major base closures, 55 significant realignments and $22 billion in implementation costs resulting in … $8 billion in annual reoccurring savings,” Hammack said.

BRAC 2005 enabled the Army to reset its infrastructure to accommodate the return of forces from Europe and Korea while revitalizing the Army Reserve and National Guard, she added.

“In the last six years, we have closed 97 sites and returned 23,000 acres to host nations, she said. “In the next four years, we plan to close another 23 sites and return 21,000 acres, primarily in Germany,” Hammack said, citing similar progress in Korea during the same timeframe. There, the Army closed 34 sites, with 7,300 acres returned to the community and another 20 sites projected for closure, with 9,400 acres returned to the host nation.

“What remains in Korea and Germany, we believe, is necessary for the support of this nation,” she said.

The Army will continue to seek congressional authorization for additional rounds of BRAC, Hammack said, noting property conveyance remains a priority.

“Putting excess property back into productive reuse facilitates job creation, and that’s never more important than it is today,” she said. “We know that some of these properties have more extensive environmental remediation than others, but we focus on those that can be transferred for beneficial economic use as a first priority.”

Hammack also underscored the Army’s commitment to one of its largest endeavors yet: the deployment of three gigawatts of renewable energy on Army, Navy and Air Force installations by 2025. The Army has partnered with local communities and the services to ensure renewable, reliable energy through analysis of fuel, water and energy needs while reducing the load of power systems in a digital society, she said.

“Collectively, these advancements are changing both the technology we employ and the manner in which we plan and execute our operations,” Hammock said.

Yonkers said the Air Force has taken on similar measures and efficiencies to sustain and modernize its core systems, develop a scalable and responsive force, and preserve readiness while taking care of airmen and their families.

He warned of paying for unnecessary infrastructure that “eats up” dollars better directed to modernization, sustaining weapons systems and supporting the quality-of-life improvements for airmen. He also lamented the possibility another half-trillion dollars pared from the defense budget over the next 10 years that will be triggered in January by a “sequestration” mechanism in the Budget Control Act if Congress fails to come up with an alternative. Sequestration, he said, would have “serious impact” on the Air Force’s ability to conduct its assigned missions.

But despite the new fiscal reality, Yonkers said, communities continue to demonstrate strong support and promising, innovative ideas in support of bases.

“We have 180 renewable energy projects in operation or under construction at 77 of our Air Force bases,” Yonkers said, also noting 20 solar, wind, waste, geothermal, and biomass projects that will move the service closer to its goal of deploying one gigawatt of energy by 2016.

In California alone, the Air Force already has solar energy projects at Edwards Air Force Base and Travis Air Force Base, he said. Combined and when complete, they will create 420 megawatts of power, he added.

Similarly, the Navy will continue to pursue its energy goals through ongoing community and industry partnership, Natsuhara said.

“The big goals for us will be the 50 percent alternative energy for our bases,” he said. “We look forward to working with the communities as we look at renewable energy, microgrids and other [avenues] to meet all of our very aggressive goals.”

And while the BRAC process has reduced the service’s installations to from 150 to 70 in the United States, the Navy now is in more of a “growth mode” overseas, as the new defense policy pivots attention to the Asia-Pacific region, Natsuhara said.

“We have quite an extensive program that we’re going to have to implement … very soon in Guam, Australia and Hawaii,” he said. “We’re also moving a few ships to Singapore.” A lot of these bases, said he added, are going be of a different and unprecedented model.

“There are going to be less of the traditional bases where we have our families and modern support facilities,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on our facility side as we go overseas.”

With fleet concentrations primarily in the northwest and southwest regions of the United States, Natsuhara said, the Navy can benefit from being able to analyze how to make its bases more efficient as it further aligns its forces.

Community collaboration has produced successes along the way, he said, including Virginia’s Naval Air Station Oceana, which was considered for closure in 2005, but through legislation and joint councils, has become more compatible with the community.

“To date, the Oceania area and the state have contributed about $63 million in some of the land-use purchases to build more compatible lands,” he said.

At Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, the Navy worked with wind developers on private lands to make turbine operations compatible with air training operations, Natsuhara said.

“Wind turbines are an important part of the renewable energy push for this country,” he added, “and we’re a strong supporter of that.”

Panetta Describes Strategy, Warns Against Sequestration

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

MONTEREY, Calif. – As the Defense Department adopts a new paradigm for the U.S. military to remain a formidable force while absorbing $487 billion in spending reductions over the next decade, the prospect of an additional $500 billion spending reduction over that period would be “a disaster” not only for national defense, but also for defense communities, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.

In remarks at an Association of Defense Communities conference, the secretary said the new defense strategy and the Pentagon’s budget decisions reflect the need to bring the government’s budget under control.

“There is a strategic and fiscal imperative that is driving the department to a smaller, … leaner and more agile force – that’s the reality,” Panetta said. “It would be irresponsible not to reduce the budget and do our role in confronting the fiscal challenges facing this country.”

The secretary noted that though the department and the nation are weathering a period of great challenge, an opportunity for planning emerges.

Under the new strategy, Panetta said, the force will remain agile, quickly deployable, flexible, and prepared to deal with crises anywhere in the world. As drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan unfold, the United States will continue to sharpen its focus on matters in the Asia-Pacific region, sparking a rebalance of global posture as part of an overall strategy to maintain a presence elsewhere in the world.

Additionally, he said, vigilance against cyberspace threats is essential. He called the cyber arena the “battlefield for the future,” with the potential to cripple progress for the United States and its allies.

The strategy also must include investment in and protection of DOD’s industrial base, the secretary said.

Close partnerships with members of Congress, committees, caucuses, defense industrial partners, foreign allies, foreign partners and defense communities across the country remain one of the guiding principles in implementing the new strategy, Panetta said.

Noting that he has to “put every area of the defense budget on the table,” the secretary acknowledged challenges that stem from assessing major areas such as compensation, which he said has increased by 80 percent.

“Unless we confront the costs in that area, we’re going to find ourselves cutting our national defense in order to deal with tremendously increased health care costs.” But at the same time, he said, the Defense Department must “keep faith” with the military.

“We’ve got to make sure we stand by the promises that were made to them and to their families,” Panetta said, adding defense communities can help by making sure they hire veterans and spouses who enrich those areas. “I ask each of you to look for creative ways to help us better support each other,” he said. “We’ve got be honest and open with each about the nature of the fiscal challenge that confronts this country.”

But a “sequestration” mechanism built into the budget law would trigger another half-trillion dollars in across-the-board defense spending cuts over the next decade, Panetta said, and a similar amount in other government spending if Congress fails to find an alternative by January. That, he said, would “hollow out the military.”

“I've made clear, and I'll continue to do so, that if sequestration is allowed to go into effect, it'll be a disaster for national defense and it would be a disaster, frankly, for defense communities as well,” he said. “And frankly, it's not only true about the DOD budget, it's also true relating to the domestic discretionary cuts that will deprive communities of the needed federal support they need in areas like education.”

Panetta called sequestration “an indiscriminate formula” that was never meant to take effect.

“It was never designed to be implemented,” he said. “It was designed to trigger such untold damage that it would force people to do the right thing.” He urged the defense community leaders to do what they can to ensure Congress reaches a solution that avoids sequestration.