Military News

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Face of Defense: Marine Credits Success to Mentorship


By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Aug. 14, 2012 – He plays a cat-and-mouse game with explosives for a living, but accepting credit for his achievements makes him shift uneasily in his seat.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher P. Lukas, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader with 2nd EOD Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, swept the field to receive the Marine Corps Engineer Association’s 2012 EOD Technician of the Year award. It is for “the most outstanding contribution as an EOD Marine,” but Lukas isn’t sure it is solely his to accept.

For him, working with explosives is a family affair.

“We end up closer than brothers because of the way we have to operate in our career field,” said Lukas, who spent his youth traveling as part of a military family. “You basically know what the other individual thinks.”

He credits his achievements to the mentorship of fellow Marines such as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher West and Gunnery Sgts. Jonathan Key and William Isele. The names, Lukas said, are more than just past mentors -- they reflect how he thinks and who he is as a team leader today.

Their example taught him to step forward while others are backing away, Lukas explained. Leadership at all levels showed him how to think like his opponents and approach each situation with a plan. His leaders, he added, gave him the ability to adapt when the situation changed.

“We rely on each other so much that I think their names need to be on [the award],” said Lukas, struggling to explain why his name came out on top. “I’m not going to sit here and say I deserve something or not. I started out as Gunnery Sergeant Key’s team member for the last deployment, and all I did was what he trained me to do.”

His modest tone hid the fact that Lukas found a calling in the EOD field, which he joined after nearly eight years calibrating and repairing aviation equipment. The lessons of Key, West, Isele and many others found an open mind in Lukas, who claims a desire to learn as one of his greatest strengths.

“At the end of the day, I learned everything I know from those guys,” said Lukas, who found himself a team leader halfway through his last deployment. “The tables have somewhat turned. We’re sitting here, and I’m training some new guys. I continually find myself saying, ‘I learned this from that guy, or I learned that from this guy.’”

All that information came to a crossroads when he took on the role of team leader in Afghanistan, where strategy and the safety of his team members became his top priority. Lukas worked in an area rife with improvised explosive devices. He said he couldn’t turn away when the call to lead came.

“You live with them every day, and get to know their personalities,” said Lukas as he recalled the brotherhood and tragedies that thrust him into a leadership role. “Some of the best moments were just sitting and talking with those guys. Obviously, the worst were whenever someone got hurt.”

Lukas’ leadership responsibilities weighed heavily upon him. He took Key’s example to heart as he led Marines through the IED threats of Afghanistan, where Lukas found himself tempted to take on each hazard his team faced.

“Everybody looks at somebody else and thinks, ‘I could never do that,’” he said. “It basically boils down to your training and the people who are going to teach you what you need to know.”

Every name has a place on that award, Lukas said, adding that he could not do his job without the support of his EOD family in the field, just as he could not do it without the support of his wife and children at home. Each, he said, helped to shape and protect the Marine who received the award.

Defense Has Vital Role in Catastrophe Planning, Official Says


By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2012 – The Defense Department makes valuable contributions in U.S. disaster preparedness planning, a senior defense official said today.

At a panel discussion sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security, addressed the role the Pentagon plays in disaster planning and response.

Thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Stockton said, he got “a big wake-up call” during a 2011 national exercise that simulated the events surrounding a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which touches on the states of Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

“That scenario would have produced destruction on a scale that would differ from Hurricane Katrina in two important dimensions,” he explained. “First of all, on a quantitative scale, we would have had many, many more casualties over a much wider geographic area.

“There’s a second dimension that I believe is even more important,” he continued. “A seismic event of that scale would produce a long-term loss of power -- a loss of electric power for weeks to months over a multistate region.” Such a power loss would result in the cascading failure of critical infrastructure, he said.

Gas stations would be closed, Stockton said. Water would be in short supply, because electric pumps are needed to draw water from aquifers hundreds of feet underground, and urban wildfires would rage through cities, he added.

The Defense Department’s challenge is how to better position itself to support civil authorities during disaster response activities, Stockton said. Building resilience against cascading failures of critical infrastructure -- even, as in the case of the electric grid, when it is owned by the private sector -- is essential to mission assurance, he said.

“Our responsibility to the Department of Defense is to ensure that we can still execute the core missions of the department that the president assigns to us, even if critical infrastructure goes down,” Stockton said.

It’s not a question of if a complex catastrophe will strike, he said, but when.

“We need to continue to improve our … capacity to provide support to civil authorities when the call comes,” Stockton said.

To that end, Stockton pointed to a new complex catastrophe initiative signed by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that would enable DOD to bring all of its capabilities, from all components, to bear in support of civil authorities. The initiative will make defense support of civil authorities faster and more effective in delivering life-saving and life-sustaining requirements, Stockton said.

In addition to the DOD initiative, a presidential policy directive required revision and addition of national response and recovery plans, Stockton said, noting that the initiatives are intended to streamline disaster planning and disaster recovery.

“It’s enormously helpful to us that the administration has led the integration of all of these lines of effort, including recovery, that we knew were important, [and] that we knew where DOD could make important contributions, but we lacked an overarching policy framework,” he said.

“It’s great when you’re in support to be given the framework within which you’re going to be able to operate and be able to serve,” he added, “and that’s what we have today.”

Defense Has Vital Role in Catastrophe Planning, Official Says


By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2012 – The Defense Department makes valuable contributions in U.S. disaster preparedness planning, a senior defense official said today.

At a panel discussion sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security, addressed the role the Pentagon plays in disaster planning and response.

Thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Stockton said, he got “a big wake-up call” during a 2011 national exercise that simulated the events surrounding a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which touches on the states of Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

“That scenario would have produced destruction on a scale that would differ from Hurricane Katrina in two important dimensions,” he explained. “First of all, on a quantitative scale, we would have had many, many more casualties over a much wider geographic area.

“There’s a second dimension that I believe is even more important,” he continued. “A seismic event of that scale would produce a long-term loss of power -- a loss of electric power for weeks to months over a multistate region.” Such a power loss would result in the cascading failure of critical infrastructure, he said.

Gas stations would be closed, Stockton said. Water would be in short supply, because electric pumps are needed to draw water from aquifers hundreds of feet underground, and urban wildfires would rage through cities, he added.

The Defense Department’s challenge is how to better position itself to support civil authorities during disaster response activities, Stockton said. Building resilience against cascading failures of critical infrastructure -- even, as in the case of the electric grid, when it is owned by the private sector -- is essential to mission assurance, he said.

“Our responsibility to the Department of Defense is to ensure that we can still execute the core missions of the department that the president assigns to us, even if critical infrastructure goes down,” Stockton said.

It’s not a question of if a complex catastrophe will strike, he said, but when.

“We need to continue to improve our … capacity to provide support to civil authorities when the call comes,” Stockton said.

To that end, Stockton pointed to a new complex catastrophe initiative signed by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that would enable DOD to bring all of its capabilities, from all components, to bear in support of civil authorities. The initiative will make defense support of civil authorities faster and more effective in delivering life-saving and life-sustaining requirements, Stockton said.

In addition to the DOD initiative, a presidential policy directive required revision and addition of national response and recovery plans, Stockton said, noting that the initiatives are intended to streamline disaster planning and disaster recovery.

“It’s enormously helpful to us that the administration has led the integration of all of these lines of effort, including recovery, that we knew were important, [and] that we knew where DOD could make important contributions, but we lacked an overarching policy framework,” he said.

“It’s great when you’re in support to be given the framework within which you’re going to be able to operate and be able to serve,” he added, “and that’s what we have today.”

Defense Has Vital Role in Catastrophe Planning, Official Says


By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2012 – The Defense Department makes valuable contributions in U.S. disaster preparedness planning, a senior defense official said today.

At a panel discussion sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security, addressed the role the Pentagon plays in disaster planning and response.

Thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Stockton said, he got “a big wake-up call” during a 2011 national exercise that simulated the events surrounding a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which touches on the states of Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

“That scenario would have produced destruction on a scale that would differ from Hurricane Katrina in two important dimensions,” he explained. “First of all, on a quantitative scale, we would have had many, many more casualties over a much wider geographic area.

“There’s a second dimension that I believe is even more important,” he continued. “A seismic event of that scale would produce a long-term loss of power -- a loss of electric power for weeks to months over a multistate region.” Such a power loss would result in the cascading failure of critical infrastructure, he said.

Gas stations would be closed, Stockton said. Water would be in short supply, because electric pumps are needed to draw water from aquifers hundreds of feet underground, and urban wildfires would rage through cities, he added.

The Defense Department’s challenge is how to better position itself to support civil authorities during disaster response activities, Stockton said. Building resilience against cascading failures of critical infrastructure -- even, as in the case of the electric grid, when it is owned by the private sector -- is essential to mission assurance, he said.

“Our responsibility to the Department of Defense is to ensure that we can still execute the core missions of the department that the president assigns to us, even if critical infrastructure goes down,” Stockton said.

It’s not a question of if a complex catastrophe will strike, he said, but when.

“We need to continue to improve our … capacity to provide support to civil authorities when the call comes,” Stockton said.

To that end, Stockton pointed to a new complex catastrophe initiative signed by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that would enable DOD to bring all of its capabilities, from all components, to bear in support of civil authorities. The initiative will make defense support of civil authorities faster and more effective in delivering life-saving and life-sustaining requirements, Stockton said.

In addition to the DOD initiative, a presidential policy directive required revision and addition of national response and recovery plans, Stockton said, noting that the initiatives are intended to streamline disaster planning and disaster recovery.

“It’s enormously helpful to us that the administration has led the integration of all of these lines of effort, including recovery, that we knew were important, [and] that we knew where DOD could make important contributions, but we lacked an overarching policy framework,” he said.

“It’s great when you’re in support to be given the framework within which you’re going to be able to operate and be able to serve,” he added, “and that’s what we have today.”

U.S. Medics Support Botswana HIV Prevention Efforts


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana, Aug. 14, 2012 – A U.S. military medical team here for the Southern Accord 12 exercise is helping the Botswana Defense Force confront its country’s most pressing health crisis one circumcision surgery at a time.

The U.S. team is working side by side with its military hosts to promote Botswana’s national program of education, HIV screening and male circumcision surgeries to stem what’s become a national epidemic, explained Army Col. (Dr.) Michael Kelly, an Army Reserve surgeon deployed here from the Army Reserve Medical Command in Washington.

The Botswana Ministry of Health’s goal, Kelly said, is to bring the number of new HIV diagnoses to zero by 2016. That’s an ambitious plan, in light of an HIV rate that has skyrocketed since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Botswana in 1985.

Today, 17.6 percent of the general population is infected with HIV, and the rate continues to climb by 2.2 percent per year, Maj. Mooketsi Ditsela, the Botswana Defense Force’s HIV coordinator, told American Forces Press Service. Men ages 30 to 45 suffer the highest infection rates, topping 40 percent, according to Health Ministry statistics.

As the Botswana government adopted an aggressive national prevention strategy, it teamed the Health Ministry with the Botswana Defense Force, which was showing signs of progress in reducing infections within its ranks.

In addition to education about the risks of unprotected sex and multiple partners and the importance of proper condom use, the national program includes a “safe male circumcision” strategy, Ditsela said. Unlike in the United States, circumcision is not a cultural norm in Botswana, Kelly explained. Yet research shows that the simple procedure can reduce HIV infections among males by as much as 60 percent.

So in meetings to plan humanitarian civic assistance projects for Southern Accord 12, Air Force Capt. Francis Obuseh wasn’t completely surprised by the Botswanans’ request for help in conducting male circumcisions.

Working with a partner-nation military to conduct male circumcisions during those clinics would be a first for the U.S. military, Obuseh said. Few U.S. medical doctors are experienced in the procedure. Kelly, for example, said he hadn’t performed one in about 30 years, when he was undergoing his surgery residency.

But as an epidemiologist who grew up in Nigeria and has studied HIV around the African continent, Obuseh welcomed the opportunity to teach U.S. medics new skills, strengthen the partnership between the two militaries’ medical teams and to make a valuable contribution to the Botswanan people.

“This is excellent way for them to partner together in an area of great importance that can make a lasting difference,” he said.

Obuseh emphasized that the circumcisions were just one part of a comprehensive HIV program for the local villagers, funded in part by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, program.

Members of the Botswana Defense Force provide HIV counseling, screening and education about the safe male circumcision procedure. Meanwhile, the U.S. medical personnel are working side by side with them, performing the surgeries. To prepare the U.S. surgeons, nurses and surgical technicians who arrived here earlier this month for Southern Accord 12, Botswana Defense Force medical personnel conducted two days of classes to teach them the techniques.

They put them to practice yesterday for the third medical clinic since they arrived, performing circumcisions on 28 men ranging in age from 14 to 49 not far from the base in the tiny village of Monwane.

Army Spc. Chris Kepler, a medic with the 396th Combat Support Hospital, said he “begged and pleaded” for the chance to serve as circulating nurse for the clinic. He scurried among five operating areas sectioned off within a generator-powered tent, preparing rooms, drawing medications and applying dressings once the surgeries were completed.

“This is a lot of work, but it’s exciting to be a part of a humanitarian mission like this,” Kepler said. “I feel that we are serving a bigger purpose and getting a chance to give back. … I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.”

Army Spc. Christina Shoemaker, a 396th CSH surgical technician, acknowledged the challenges of working in an austere environment with limited instruments and a steady flow of patients. But just as she knows she is helping to change their lives, she said, her experience here is changing her own.

“This has been a really big influence on me that I will take home,” she said, expressing interest in working with HIV-positive patients at a local veterans hospital as a volunteer. “It’s a great feeling knowing that we have helped these people,” she said.

Army Capt. Julie Karpinski, a registered nurse with the 396th CSH, said she enjoyed learning a new skill while making a contribution she knows will benefit the people of Botswana long after Southern Accord 12 ends.

“If you can’t change the fact that HIV is here, at least this procedure is minimizing the transmission rate. And that is huge,” she said. “Being a part of it is wonderful.”

Southern Accord is a joint, combined training exercise led by U.S. Army Africa to expand capabilities between the U.S. military and Botswana Defense Force and enhance their interoperability. In addition to training activities relevant to peace support operations, it includes engineering projects and four medical and dental clinics in local communities.

Families, Friends Support Military Olympians


By Gary Sheftick
Army News Service

LONDON, Aug. 14, 2012 – U.S. military athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony the night of Aug. 12 had more than just fans cheering them on throughout the games.

Service members competing in London had a support network of family members and fellow soldiers who came to help them train and to provide motivation.

U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program wrestler Spc. Justin Lester had his wife, daughter, parents and more than a dozen friends and family members from Akron, Ohio, here to see him compete in the Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling tournament. The group -- all wearing the same London 2012 T-shirts emblazoned with Lester’s name -- included two of his former wrestling coaches and three teammates from his high school wrestling squad.

The Akron community raised about $26,000 so the Lester family could travel to London and see him compete. Cradle Gear made a substantial donation, family members said, and so did an 82nd Airborne Division veteran, who donated $3,000.

Lester stopped in Akron to visit family and friends before coming here for the Olympics. The mayor declared June 30 as Justin Lester Day, and the Akron Bible Church held a community day attended by many, including the president of the city council. Lester also participated in a free wrestling clinic that day for youth in Akron.

“The whole community got behind us and supported us, and we are so grateful,” said Lester’s sister, Kenya Young.

Brad Sanderson was one of three of Lester’s former high school wrestling teammates who came to the Olympics to support him. “He was an inspiration to our team,” Sanderson said of their high school days.

Al McIntosh, a former wrestling coach at Cuyanoga Valley Christian Academy, provided Lester wrestling pointers when the athlete was only 10 years old. Young Lester would come to high school wrestling practice with his older brother, Damian.

“I saw his talent then,” McIntosh said while sitting in the bleachers at London’s ExCel Centre before Lester’s match against Germany's Frank Staebler.

The academy’s current head coach, Dave Bergen, was also at the arena to cheer on his former wrestler.

“I’m going to think of this as a huge positive,” Bergen said of Lester’s wrestling after he lost to Staebler in the repechage wrestle-back and finished the tournament in eighth place. Bergen said only 15 wrestlers worldwide, at most, are of Lester’s caliber in the 66-kilogram weight class, which is 145.5 pounds. He said just making it to the Olympics is a major achievement.

The wrestler’s father, Fred B. Lester, agreed, and added that he is proud of his son just making it to the Olympics. He has followed Justin to tournaments all over the world, including one in Azerbaijan, where Lester earned a bronze medal. Despite failing to make it to the bronze-medal match in London, Fred said, the family is going to tour the city and celebrate.

The family got to see the London Bridge, Jubilee Bridge and the Tower of London, among other sites.

“All day long we’re walking the streets, and there’s so much to see,” said the wrestler’s sister, Sandra Lester. “My camera’s all full. This is so amazing.”

Lester’s wife, Staci, and 2-year-old daughter, Zurriana, were also in London. At the ExCel Centre, Staci held young Zurriana, who enthusiastically waved an American flag in the grandstands while her father wrestled on the mat.

Lester is a three-time U.S. national champion and a six-time U.S. World Team member. He made the decision two years ago to join the military and the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.

Lester’s mother, Verleane, said it was a good decision because the Army has helped her son. “It helped him a lot with his training and his diet,” she said. “I think it was a good choice.”

Some of Lester’s WCAP teammates also were in London to help him and fellow wrestlers. WCAP heavyweight wrestler Spc. Timothy Taylor was there as an alternate Olympian. When he was not helping to train the three Army wrestlers who were competing in the games, he was out touring the city.

“Everybody’s super friendly here,” Taylor said. “The history is cool. We walked into one pub that said: ‘Last remodeled in 1767.’”

Taylor, however, said the language is sometimes difficult to understand in London.

“Everybody’s talking English, but you can barely understand what they’re saying,” Taylor said. “The slang is all different.”

In addition, 1st Sgt. Terrence Burkett of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colo., was in London to watch his wrestlers compete.

“It’s been quite an experience,” Burkett said, even though none of his WCAP athletes earned an Olympic medal. The only soldier to win a medal in the 2012 games was Sgt. Vincent Hancock of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, who took the gold in skeet shooting and set two Olympic records in the process.

Army family member Jamie Gray, wife of Staff Sgt. Hank Gray, won an Olympic gold medal in the women’s 50-meter 3-positions rifle event Aug. 4 at the Royal Artillery Barracks.

Air Force family member Janay DeLoach also won a bronze medal in the women’s long jump Aug. 8 at Olympic Stadium. Her father, retired Chief Master Sgt. William DeLoach, now a contract employee at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., was at the stadium to see her compete.

“My dad’s here with me, cheering me on,” DeLoach said. “He’s been there the whole way through. … He’s always supported me in all my endeavors.”

While in London for the past two weeks, Staff Sgt. John Nunn did more than prepare for the Olympic 50-kilometer race walk on Aug. 11. His mother and daughter Ella, 8, joined him in London, and together they toured historic sites in the city. They also watched the musical “War Horse” together in downtown London.

Nunn appeared on a segment of the NBC “Today” show early in the Olympics to show hosts of the show -- and the American public -- how to race walk. He also cheered on other American athletes in venues including basketball, gymnastics and swimming, along with the first night of track and field.

“Friendship through sports,” is the spirit of the Olympic Games said Team USA assistant wrestling coach and retired Army Staff Sgt. Shon Lewis. He said interacting with other athletes on and off the mat is all part of that Olympic spirit.

The spirit of the games is something that excites WCAP athlete Spc. Dennis Bowsher, who competed in the modern pentathlon Aug. 11.

Bowsher said he was exhausted after the five sports in one day of the pentathlon, but that he would walk in the Olympic closing ceremony, even if it was that night instead of the next.

“I’d still go and have a blast,” Bowsher said. “It’s the spirit of the Olympic Games.”

His father, John Bowsher, his sister, Devon, and his niece came to London to see him perform. His father works for Hilton, who provided some assistance for the trip, and the athlete lauded that because he said it’s often difficult for family members to travel to international events. The Olympics were the first time his father and sister have seen him in an international competition, Bowsher said.

“To have them see me for the first time internationally on the big stage was something,” he added.

CPPD Hosts Virginia Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security


By Susan Henson, Center for Personal and Professional Development Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Virginia's secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security visited the Center for Personal and Professional Development Aug. 9.

Terrie Suit met with CPPD leadership and toured the command to gain an understanding of CPPD's role in developing Sailors who think critically, act responsibly and lead proactively.

The tour included a stop at the Virtual Education Center (VEC) for a brief on the center's capabilities and education services it provides to Sailors worldwide.

Suit was appointed as assistant to the governor for commonwealth preparedness in January 2010 by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The Commonwealth reorganized some positions the following year, which resulted in Suit appointment

"It is a great honor to host such a distinguished visitor at CPPD," said CPPD Commanding Officer Capt. John Newcomer. "Secretary Suit's visit is a great opportunity to explain our work to provide Sailors the tools they need to lead with courage, respect and trust, and mentor future leaders to do the same. Part of that development is through voluntary education, and the VEC's work is essential to assisting Sailors navigate through the waters of completing higher education requirements for a degree."

The daughter of a career U.S. Army officer and wife of a now-retired Navy senior chief, Suit is familiar with the demands of military life and related challenges of earning a college degree. She has earned an Associate degree from Tidewater Community College and Bachelor's degree in political science from Old Dominion University.

Suit's tour included stops at the Training directorate, which creates, maintains and has oversight for personal and professional course curricula; the Voluntary Education (VOLED) directorate, which is responsible for the Navy's VOLED program; and VOLED's Virtual Education Center (VEC), which provides virtual education assistance and counseling to Sailors and veterans.

Julie Gifford, regional military liaison, accompanied her the tour of CPPD.

At the end of her visit, Suit said she was excited to see the progress of the Navy College Program.

"Governor McDonnell wants to ensure Virginia is supporting our service members as they pursue education and professional development for their Navy career as well as their eventual transition to civilian life," she said. "Julie and I will be proactively identifying future opportunities for Virginia to work together in support of Navy College and the Center for Personal and Professional Development. Thank you for all that you are doing here."

In addition to VOLED, CPPD is responsible for providing a wide range of personal and professional development courses and materials, including General Military Training, Navy instructor training, alcohol and drug awareness program training, suicide prevention, Bearings classes, and Personal Responsibility and Values Education and Training (PREVENT) classes. CPPD's leadership training is delivered multiple times throughout a Sailor's career via command-delivered enlisted leadership training material and officer leadership courses in a schoolhouse setting.

Pacom Works to Advance U.S.-India Strategic Partnership


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CAMP SMITH, Hawaii, Aug. 14, 2012 – As U.S. Pacific Command strives to build stronger alliances and partnerships across the Asia-Pacific region, one of its big focuses is on taking the military-to-military relationship with India to the next level.

The new defense strategic guidance announced in January resets U.S. priorities toward the region, specifically calling for investments in a long-term strategic partnership with India “to support its ability to service as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.”

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, who took command of Pacom in March, is using that guidance as his marching orders as he implements the expanded Asia-Pacific strategy.

“We hope to partner with [India] to share the strategic landscape as it applies to how we apply security to the globe that allows prosperity and peace, freedom of movement and … prosperity in the world,” he told American Forces Press Service.

India’s strategic location between West Asia and the Middle East, and its ascent across economic, military, diplomatic and informational fronts makes it an influential leader in the region, said Army Col. Michael Albaneze, director of Locklear’s India strategic focus group.

The group of six military and civilian experts, one of three “mini think tanks” within the Pacom staff, advises Locklear and his senior staff on a broad range of issues that shape India’s strategic environment, and ways to advance the U.S.-India strategic partnership, Albaneze explained.

It’s a partnership that’s been slow in forming, he conceded. For the past half-century, India has been a leader in the nonaligned movement, and it has an official policy of being “strategically autonomous.”

That said, Albaneze recognized signs of India’s willingness to engage increasingly with the United States as it rises on the world stage. The two countries had their first strategic dialogue in 2010, with two more since then, the most recent in June.

Without a long history of cooperation, Albaneze noted a “maturing process” that could, over time, evolve into a more typical relationship characterized by routine engagement across the board. “We are not quite there yet, but there is a lot of effort in trying to move in that direction,” he said, adding that the relationship is continuing to deepen.

One high point is the exercise program. India partners with the United States in dozens of military exercises every year as it builds an increasingly strong military. Its navy is one of the world’s largest, and its army deploys routinely for peacekeeping operations, Albaneze noted.

Most of the exercises tend to be at the component level. The annual Exercise Malabar involves the U.S. and Indian navies, with several international observers during its latest iteration, in April. The U.S. and Indian armies train together through Yudh Abhyas exercises, frequently weaving humanitarian assistance and disaster response scenarios into the engagements.

The two countries’ air forces train together through Cope India exercises, and the Indian air force participated for the first time in the U.S.-sponsored Red Flag exercise in 2008. Although India has no marine corps, U.S. Marines train with an Indian army brigade that specializes in amphibious operations during Exercise Shatrujeet.

“Those are just the major mil-mil engagements,” Albaneze said, noting a broad array of other military-to-military engagements and exchanges at U.S. and Indian military training centers and schoolhouses.

Both the United States and India hope to increase the complexity of the exercise program over time, he said, and to elevate them into joint engagements that involve more than just one service.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta underscored during his visit to India in June, just ahead of the 2012 U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, that a “close partnership with America will be key to meeting India's own stated aims of a modern and effective defense force.”

“We have built a strong foundation,” the secretary said. “But for this relationship to truly provide security for this region and for the world, we will need to deepen our defense and security cooperation.”

That, Panetta said, extends to closer collaboration in sharing defense technology and developing future systems. Despite India’s decision not to buy a U.S. advanced jet fighter, U.S. defense sales to India have grown to more than $8 billion with the potential to increase more.

The secretary recognized legal restrictions that have hampered some sales, and vowed to work to eliminate as many hurdles as possible.

“The United States is firmly committed to providing the best defense technology possible to India,” he told Indian leaders in Delhi, while recognizing India’s ambitions to advance its own defense industry. “We are both leaders in technology development and we can do incredible work together,” Panetta said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter followed up that visit in July, encouraging India to move forward in engaging with the United States across the spectrum, from dialogue to exercises to defense trade and research cooperation.

“We want to develop a joint vision for U.S.-India defense cooperation,” Carter said. “We want to knock down any remaining bureaucratic barriers in our defense relationship, and strip away the impediments. And we want to set big goals to achieve.”

Recognizing the many mutual and converging interests the United States and India share, Albaneze said he’s hopeful about their future prospects.

“I am an optimist on the relationship,” he said. “Every time there is a hiccup, I just think that it’s part of our getting to learn more and more about each other, and how we interact.

“Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back,” Albaneze continued. “But at the end of the day, we still made a step forward -- and that is really what we are trying to do in the region.”

USS George Washington Holds Change of Command


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marissa Beasley, USS George Washington public affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) held a change of command ceremony Aug.11.

Capt. Gregory J. Fenton relieved Capt. David A. Lausman to become George Washington's 11th commanding officer.

 "We stood on this same stage 40 months and 2 days ago," said Lausman. "Since then, we have both watched from different vantage points -- you the crew have excelled in both operational deployments and maintenance, and answering our country's call for tasking as the Flagship of our Navy's permanently, forward-deployed naval force."

 Lausman assumed command of George Washington in April 2009 and has completed four Selected Restricted Availabilities; an emergency sortie in response to the March 2011 Japan tsunami and distressed civilian-nuclear power plant; and has conducted four patrols in the 7th Fleet area of operations while hosting numerous senior government officials, defense and military leaders, and heads of industry from more than 13 Western Pacific countries.

 "George Washington could never hope to maintain the operational tempo or excellence without support," said Lausman. "Support is vital to our success in maintenance, operational deployments and engagements with our vital maritime partners throughout the Western Pacific."

Guest speaker Rear Adm. J.R. Haley, Task Force Seven Zero commander, addressed those in attendance during the ceremony, welcoming Fenton to the George Washington family.

"The test of leadership is not how well a unit responds under optimum conditions; the test of leadership is how a team responds in adversity," said Haley. "George Washington responded superbly at every corner where she encountered obstacles, impediments, and unplanned events."

 Fenton has served as executive officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and commanded USS Denver (LPD 9). His most recent assignment was chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

"We must simultaneously safely operate our ship while preparing for sequential maintenance periods," said Fenton. "We must continue to aggressively identify and correct all discrepancies, train for operations and for personal professional development. I am proud to be your commanding officer and am excited about joining you for the ride."

Following the ceremony, guests were invited to a reception and cake cutting in the ship's hangar bay to celebrate the change of command.

George Washington is currently pier side in Yokosuka, Japan making preparations to return to sea.

Farragut Sailors Visit Tallinn, Estonia


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class A.J. Jones, USS Farragut Public Affairs

TALLINN, Estonia (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) departed Tallinn, Estonia, following a three-day port visit, Aug. 11.

During the visit, Sailors participated in community engagement projects and experienced Estonia's rich culture.

"We were excited about Farragut's visit," said Michelle Schohn, public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn. "It shows a tangible demonstration of the United States' commitment to Estonia, which is vitally important to the Estonian people."

Sailors from Farragut visited the Tondi School for Special Needs Children to interact with the students and staff, as well as restore an iron fence that surrounds the property.

"It felt really good to come out and support these kids," said Seaman Nicholas Tonello. "Visiting Tallinn was fantastic, but to be able to interact with the Estonian people on such a personal level was a real treat."

Sailors also provided shipboard tours for an Estonian youth baseball team sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to Estonia, as well as Estonian and Russian schoolchildren. The tours gave the children a chance to explore the ship with Farragut Sailors while learning about the Sailors' jobs and the U.S. Navy.

Farragut also hosted a shipboard reception during the visit for distinguished guests and foreign dignitaries, including the prime minister of Estonia, defense minister of Estonia and the U.S. charg d'affairs to Estonia, as well as other military and civilian officials representing their countries.

"The interaction that our armed forces have had with the Estonian army and navy has been extraordinary over the past twenty years," said Cmdr. Glen Quast, commanding officer of Farragut. "The relationship that has developed over this long period has made our visit special, and I look forward to operating with the Estonian navy in the future."

Farragut 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.

Virginia Teen’s ‘Operation Hawkeye’ Pays Tribute to 30 Fallen Troops


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

WASHINGTON  – One of the most tragic moments of the war in Afghanistan has inspired an American teenager to honor the memory of 30 fallen service members and to help their families -- by shooting hoops.

Will Thomas, a 13-year-old boy from McLean, Va., has spearheaded “Operation Hawkeye” in an effort to raise money to help the families of fallen special operators -- particularly, 30 American troops killed in an Aug. 6, 2011, CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of eight Afghan forces and a military working dog.

U.S. investigators concluded that a Taliban insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade that brought down the chopper as it attempted to land in Afghanistan’s Wardak province.

Will recalled hearing about the crash from his father.

“I was just outside shooting baskets with my dad … when it happened. … “I was just thinking ‘Wow, that’s a horrible loss.’”

Struck by the great loss of life, the 8th grader felt a strong urge to do something to help the grieving families’ healing process, in part because one of those left a widow is a fellow Mclean native whose husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jonas B. Kelsall, was killed in the crash.

“My dad and I were talking, and I said ‘I’d really like to do something about this,’” the teenager said. “He [asked], ‘Well what would you like to do?’ and we thought about it.”

His father suggested shooting baskets, he said, because that’s what they were doing when they got the news. “So we just thought if there was a way we could work that into help, that would be great,” Will said.

He didn’t have to go far to start Operation Hawkeye, shooting baskets in his driveway in exchange for donations to the families.  Will didn’t stop until he had raised nearly $50,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation.

He didn’t have to do anything special to prepare for his task, he said, but he admitted with a laugh he was plenty sore afterward, having shot 20,317 baskets. “I shoot a lot, but, obviously, it was more than I usually do,” he said.

He named his effort Operation Hawkeye after the loyal pet of one of the victims. “There was a dog of one of the fallen soldiers from Aug. 6,” he said. “At the soldier’s funeral, the dog refused to leave the casket. So when I saw the article about it, I thought that would be a cool name for it.”

Will has set this year’s Operation Hawkeye goal at $310,000, an amount he hopes to raise from donations and pledges. “There were 31 members of the team that fell – 30 members and one highly trained dog. So we just added the zeroes to it, because it was a significant number.”

With success from his last fundraiser, Will said he feels encouraged and intends to continue to raise money in honor of the fallen troops “as long as people are willing to donate.”

Family Matters Blog: Sailor Offers Tips for Moving With Pets


By Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly
American Forces Press Service

Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, a volunteer online resource for military families in Hawaii. The blog and Facebook page provide information on moving with pets in the military, boarding information and pet policies in state and federal governments. She partners with nonprofits that specialize in service members and their companion animals, such as Dogs on Deployment and Pets for Patriots.

As my military family prepares to move to San Diego next year after almost seven years of Hawaii duty, we are dealing with what many military families endure – how to find a rental that allows our big, goofy well-behaved boxer dogs.

Our society loves pets, with most Americans owning at least one. According to the American Pet Products Association, 62 percent of all households have pets, but owners struggle to find affordable and safe rental properties. The National Council on Pet Population and Research found that moving is the most common reason owners give up their dogs, and the third most common reason they give up their cats.

Some of the hardships faced by families with animals are restrictive pet policies, which occur in privatized military housing, off-base rentals and city and state governments. These policies also prevent some pet owners from obtaining insurance when purchasing a home. It’s unfortunate that irresponsible pet owners have caused property owners, rental companies and even city and state governments to adopt such policies, but there are resources to help military families overcome the challenge.

If you’re not ready to buy a home, but determined to find a rental where you can keep your pets, here are some tips to help ensure all members of the family can stay under one roof:

-- Check with other military families to find out what’s worked for them. “I have two large dogs, and I started looking early, not because I want to choose a place early, but because sometimes you notice patterns in which rental management companies are more pet friendly. I’ll contact people that say, “no pets” but then offer a larger pet deposit if it’s a house I really like,” said Kristen McDeeLite, a military spouse stationed in Hawaii.

--As soon as you know the location of your next duty station, start looking online. A great resource is the Automatic Housing Referral Network. Sponsored by the Defense Department, this free service lists off-base rentals, privatized military housing, temporary lodging, military-shared rentals, and allows property owners to list their homes for rent. On the listing, there is a paw print next to each rental and information on banned breeds as well as weight, size and numeric limits.

--Contact your sponsor, the base family service center and a local animal shelter. Your sponsor may have a newcomer’s packet with housing information. Talk to families already living there and ask them for recommendations. See if local shelters have a housing pet program or other referral services.

--Call properties that state “no pets” and find out why. Perhaps you can build a rapport with the property owner and better understand their negative experiences. Maybe your family can help them overcome the negative stereotypes caused by irresponsible pet owners.

--Demonstrate to your landlord that you consider your pet a cherished, lifetime, indoor family member. Offer to bring your freshly groomed, well-behaved pet to an “interview” with the property owner and have letters of reference from previous landlords, neighbors, obedience instructors and your veterinarian attesting to the good behavior of your pet(s). Have all veterinarian records handy and offer to sign a pet addendum making you personally liable for damage to property and injury to others.

Moving is rarely a smooth, stress-free process. But preparing early, putting aside savings and planning smartly will help alleviate some of the hassle and help ensure your furry family member arrives at your next duty station happy and healthy.

U.S. Hopes Egyptian Civilian, Military Leaders Work Together


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – U.S. defense officials were expecting Egypt’s new president to name his own defense team and hope civilian and military leaders can work together to address the country’s problems, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi announced yesterday that the head of military intelligence, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, would replace Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi as defense minister and leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The council effectively led Egypt after last year’s fall of President Hosni Mubarak until Morsi took office in June.

Morsi is the first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s history.

The president also replaced army chief of staff Gen. Sami Hafez Anan and the leaders of the navy, air force and air defense branch.

“It’s important for both the military and civilians leaders in Egypt to work together to address the economic and security challenges facing that country,” Little said. “We had expected President Morsi to coordinate changes in the military leadership. The United States and the Department of Defense, in particular, look forward to continuing a very close relationship with the [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces].”

U.S. officials know General Sisi, Little said. “He comes from within the ranks of the SCAF, and we believe we will be able to continue the strong partnership that we have with Egypt,” he added.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has not spoken to the new defense minister, “but looks forward to doing so at the earliest possible moment,” Little said.

Egyptian officials said the 76-year old Tantawi retired, but would continue to serve as a presidential advisor.

Army Athlete Finishes 32nd in Olympic Modern Pentathlon


By Tim Hipps
Army Installation Management Command

LONDON  – Spc. Dennis Bowsher of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program finished 32nd here Aug. 11 in the Olympic men’s modern pentathlon, a five-sport event.

Bowsher tallied 5,324 points in the daylong competition that featured epee one-touch fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, horseback show jumping and cross-country running combined with laser-pistol shooting.

“I didn’t have the best of days today, but looking back, there are no regrets,” said Bowsher, 29, a native of Dallas who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. “I’m taking everything positive out of it. I really enjoyed my experience. … I didn’t win a medal today, but I was here to at least have a chance at a medal. Only 36 people in the world can say that.”

David Svoboda of the Czech Republic won the event with an Olympic record 5,928 points. China’s Zhongrong Cao (5,904) took the silver medal, and Hungary’s Adam Marosi (5,836) claimed the bronze.

Svoboda began the day with an Olympic record 1,024 points in fencing, with 26 victories and nine defeats against the field of 35 other competitors.

Bowsher had nine victories and 23 defeats in fencing, which left him in 34th place with 688 points after the first event.

“I think I was just a little late with my reactions,” Bowsher said. “I was fighting, but just a little too late, and people would hit me first before I hit them. Something I might change next time is fencing with the French grip, as opposed to the pistol grip. It just seems like the style in fencing now.

“The goal going in was to go .500 in the fence,” he continued, “but it’s one of those things where you try to take some risks and maybe they work in your favor, and then the downside is that they don’t and you have a lot of touches that go against you.”

Bowsher gained some ground with the 18th-best performance in the pool by swimming the 200-meter freestyle in 2 minutes, 5.15 seconds, his best time of the season, which was good for 1,300 points. He left the Olympic Aquatics Centre in 30th place.

“It was only a couple tenths off my personal best, so I’m happy with it,” Bowsher said. “Of course, I wanted to get a [personal] best time, but I’m happy with that one.”

Modern pentathletes get 20 minutes to acquaint themselves with an unfamiliar horse they ride over 12 barriers in the show jumping event. Bowsher posted the 29th best ride of the day aboard Vito for 1,076 points, leaving him in 31st place for the final combined event of running and shooting.

Vito initially refused the first jump on the course, which startled Bowsher, who quickly recovered.

“In warm-up, he would almost gain energy to the jump,” Bowsher said. “So it was like ‘no leg’ -- I didn’t give him any leg in warm-up. I just assumed that he was just going to be exactly the same out here. Looking back, maybe I could have corrected it quickly enough with a little bit better reaction, but we were sluggish to that first jump.

“Afterwards,” he added, “it was, ‘Oh, you’re going to play that game? I’m going to spur the heck out of you to get you over the rest of the jumps.’”

Bowsher could not help but hear the hush come over the crowd at Greenwich Park as Vito refused the first obstacle.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is jump one, and all these people are watching me.’ But we were able to get it around the rest of the time.”

The hills outside the stadium somewhat drained Bowsher on the run, but he remained consistent and posted the 30th fastest time in the combined event.

“The run was OK,” he said. “The hills were a little bit more taxing than I thought they would be, but it was a beautiful course. I haven’t talked with my coach yet about my splits, but I think it was OK.”

Bowsher did, however, lose some time on the shooting range.

“The first and third shoots were not very good,” he said. “I may have been shooting a little bit too fast, because the shots were just outside of the black. I wasn’t missing way off, but just off the target.”

All in all, Bowsher said, he will take this performance and soldier on.

“I have no regrets,” he reiterated. “Experience-wise, I’m looking forward to doing it again in four years. Today wasn’t the best of days, but after nine years of doing this sport and having WCAP support me, it’s not the end goal, it’s a journey.”

Bowsher re-enlisted July 16 during a WCAP Olympic Media Day event with Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, commander of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command and the Army’s assistant chief of staff for installation management.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” Bowsher said of getting re-enlisted by a three-star general. “It’s an awesome memory that I’m going to have and an awesome experience that’s a part of my life – just another wonderful thing that WCAP has given me.”

Now that the 2012 London Games are history, Bowsher looks forward to training toward Rio de Janeiro, site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

“This is really the cream of the crop of our sport, because everyone had to qualify to get here,” he said. “I knew it was going to be tough coming in. It just didn’t go my way today. … I really look forward to training for the next four years.”