Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Panetta Calls Kuwait Important U.S. Partner

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, Dec. 11, 2012 – On his first official visit to Kuwait, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today that the nation is an important partner with a longstanding U.S. bilateral defense partnership.

More than 13,500 U.S. forces serve in Kuwait, the secretary told reporters traveling with him. The last visit to Kuwait by a U.S. defense secretary was almost five years ago, he added.

Kuwait is strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The United States and Kuwait “share a history of cooperation that goes back to the first Gulf War,” Panetta said, “and I look forward to discussing with the government of Kuwait how can we enhance that partnership in the face of regional security challenges in the area.”

Together, U.S. and Kuwaiti troops conduct security cooperation activities and are involved in joint exercises and training, the secretary said.

“Our presence in Kuwait and throughout the Gulf helps enhance the capabilities of partner nations, deters aggression and helps ensure that we’re better able to respond to crises in the region,” Panetta added.

The new U.S. defense strategy makes clear the United States will maintain a force presence in the Middle East, he said, and the department is maintaining a very strong and flexible presence there.

With nearly 50,000 U.S. troops in the region, the United States is in a position to be able to respond to any contingency that arises there, the secretary said.

“Kuwait,” he added, “plays a critical role in our ability to do that.”

Panetta said one of the main reasons for the trip is to visit troops during the holiday season, “and to express on behalf of the nation our best wishes for the holidays to all of them.”

It’s a tough time of year to be away from loved ones, he added.

“Since 9/11, so many have spent so many holidays away from home, the secretary said. “I want them to hear directly from me how much I appreciate their dedication, their commitment, their sacrifice and their willingness to put their lives on the line to keep our country safe so far away from their families.

“Our hope,” he added, “is that ultimately, one day soon, they can be home with their families for Christmas.”

COMPACAF visits the Wolf Pack

by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/11/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Korea -- Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander, visited Kunsan Nov. 30 to share his expectations with the Wolf Pack.

Carlisle spoke about being good wingmen to each other, what the future holds for the Pacific, and emphasized his commitment to PACAF Airmen.

"Our job is to fight and win this nation's wars, and my job is to take care of you, to give you what you need and to have your back," he said. "You are no kidding the leading edge of our Air Force. If you run out of resources, tell us. If you need help, ask for it. If something's wrong, let us know so we can fix it."

The general added that identifying issues early is increasingly more important as the Air Force focuses on "doing less with less" due to fiscal constraints. He then shifted his focus to the "rebalance."

"We're not going to build more bases in the Pacific. It's about more engagement - we're going to bring our best assets out here to increase combat capabilities," said Carlisle. "Half of the Air Force's F-22s (Raptors) are already in PACAF, as well as the best command and control systems."

Carlisle added PACAF is going to continue to engage with regional partners and allies in an effort to integrate with both them and our sister services.

Another key point Carlisle discussed was the wingman concept - Airmen taking care of each other both on and off duty. He stated that relying on the people around him helped him through a tough time in his life, and he hopes that is the case for other Airmen.

"We need that type of personal intervention," he said. "It doesn't matter what the problem is; we have to get our arms around it and proactively intervene and take care of them. Our asymmetric advantage against any potential adversary is our Airmen and the reason we're so good is because we have each other's backs."

Lastly, Carlisle discussed how honored he is to serve with Airmen stationed around PACAF.

"The Airmen I've seen in the Pacific are absolutely outstanding, and I'm incredibly proud of you," he said. "The sacrifices you make and the sacrifices your family makes - none of it is easy, but what you do is spectacular. It's a great honor and privilege to be at the Wolf Pack."

Biological detection team trains to keep Andersen AFB safe

by Senior Airman Benjamin Wiseman
36th Wing Public Affairs

12/11/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- "Out of sight; out of mind," is never the policy of the 36th Medical Group lab detection team, who work year-round to ensure Airmen here are always prepared in case of a biological attack or a medical epidemic.

The 36th MDG lab technicians take proficiency exams to stay current on training for biological attacks or a medical epidemic. The proficiency test examines; not only the technician, but the entire detection process.

Every lab technician is required to take a hands-on test and a written test for identifying agents. Each quarter, the lab technicians rotate to take the proficiency test. This ensures everyone in the laboratory is able to identify and process biological agents.

"This process is not like riding a bicycle or tying your shoe. It is not that simple," said Maj. Philip Bossart, 36th MDG Diagnostic and Therapeutic Flight commander. "If we don't practice this process, a critical step might get forgotten or the wrong agent might be identified. A mistake would impact the base's mission, its people and possibly the local community. This is why we train as seriously as we do."

The testing process starts with unidentified biological agents being sent from the Biological Defense Research Directorate at Naval Medical Research Center in Frederick, Md., to Andersen where lab technicians screen and identify the unknown agent.

"Luckily, the 36th MDG lab hasn't encountered a real world situation here," said Major Bossart. "But because of their training, we will be ready."

With a recently acquired extraction kit, the bio-detection team can now identify a wide variety of biological agents and contaminates. The new kit allows them to rapidly identify the agent and give base leadership more time to respond in case of a medical epidemic or attack.

"We process the biological agents through our Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System which allows us to test for several agents at once instead of one-by-one," said. Tech. Sgt. Anthony Lowman, 36th MDG biological detection team chief. "Since we can test multiple agents at once, we usually can identify it in two to four hours. We then give base leadership the results, and they determine the course of action depending on the agent present."

Denatured biological agents are used during the proficiency tests. These agents are safe to the user and the public ,but still the team takes every precaution as if they were real.

"All agents are tested in a geographically separated containment area from the medical group and has its own contained ventilation system," said Lowman. "This way the base is safe from any samples we may be testing."

The biological detection teams advise Airmen to refrain from handling any possible biological agents.

"If you come upon a possible biological agent, whether it is white powder or something else, don't collect a sample or bring it to the medical facility," said Maj. Bossart. "Keep away, secure the surrounding area and call 911. Our emergency response professionals are trained to handle these types of hazards."

Transition GPS gives Airmen roadmap to success

by Rich Lamance
Air Force News Service

12/11/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- A new roadmap to help ease Airmen into civilian life is in full swing, providing assistance that will help those separating be as competitive in the civilian world as they are in the military, according to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.

Mr. Daniel B. Ginsberg addressed only the second class under the new Transition Goals Plans Success or Transition GPS, during the start of a week-long class in the Pentagon.

Ginsberg told the group that the initiative, which took effect Nov. 21, began when President Obama set a goal to ensure all service members are "career ready" when they leave the military.

The new program is mandatory versus optional and extends classes from three days to five. The new program provides pre-separation counseling, along with a military-to-civilian skills review, a Veterans Affairs benefits briefing, financial planning support, sessions to help develop job search skills and individual transition plan preparation.

"I believe it will be very helpful for me to understand the benefits of the VA and what is required to transition to civilian life," said Master Sgt. Thomas Nequette, a training NCOIC for Air National Guard Security Forces at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. "I also think it will be beneficial to understand what it takes to transition military verbiage to civilian language."

For some, the classes give Airmen the ammunition they need to make that final decision to either stay or separate. "I'm about 18 months out from retirement, but I'm taking the classes to find out what is available before I make a decision," said Lt. Col. Charles Harris, during a Pentagon class session.

"I'm separating from the Air Force after 14 and-a-half years, so I think it's important for me to get ready for the next steps in my career," said Maj. James Fernandez, Air Force Program Executive Officer for the space launch office. "I think the financial budgeting class is going to be very helpful because it will help me budget for my next steps," said Fernandez. "It will help me figure out how much I'm going to make compared to what I currently make with the benefits of the military that I may or may not be receiving when I get out."

Shortly after the president's directive to strengthen the military's transition assistance program, Susan S. Kelly was named a special advisor to the Department of Defense, responsible for bringing together such agencies as DoD, VA, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the Education Department and the Office of Personnel Management to strengthen and revitalize the program. She said it was the responsibility of this task force to put together a curriculum that would maximize benefits to service members.

According to Kelly, the extended program takes service members through job searches using the latest technology, highlights skills that are in demand in the private sector, identify where the best opportunities exist and help determine whether moving is a consideration.

"They might look at what skills are in demand and how they can fill that gap," said Kelly. "There are specific pieces of the new curriculum that give them the information they need to make very well-thought out decisions , as well as skills-building to help them succeed in whatever pathway they choose."

Kelly explained that, during the course of the week, small groups will develop an individual transition plan that covers such things as financial planning, and how to put together a budget that covers their first 12 months following separation. The course also covers how to write a résumé, how to interview for a job, along with how to translate military skills into the civilian work force.

When military jobs don't fit a civilian counterpart, Kelly said tracks are available to focus on education and training programs available. "We found that military members weren't making the most of their post 9-11 GI Bill, so we are getting them the information they need to help them choose wisely."

Sitting in on one of the early sessions at Andrews AFB, the Air Force District of Washington commander, Maj. Gen. Sharon K.G. Dunbar, told the class there that the newly restructured transition workshop is a great opportunity for Airmen to prepare themselves beyond Air Force service.

"When you take the time to reflect on all you've done and accomplished since you've come into the Air Force, it's rather incredible," said Dunbar. "Very few people have the richness in experience that you do. Few have lived and worked in different regions of the country and the world and understand cultural differences like you do. Whether you've served your initial commitment, a portion of a career, or full career in our Air Force, this course will help you best convey the accumulation of your unique experience.

"You have vast professional, technical, military and educational training we've invested in you during your service. All that matters to prospective employers. But what really matters is your ability to lead teams, lead people and get things done. There's an old adage that success is when 'preparation meets opportunity.' This TAP course is vital preparation so you're ready for the opportunities that will no doubt come your way."

Freedom Award Recognizes Guard, Reserve Supporters

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2012 – Reserve component members still have time to nominate their civilian employers for the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, officials from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a DOD agency, said today.

Nominations for the award are due by Jan. 21, 2013. The award is the highest honor the Defense Department grants to civilian employers.

ESGR's central mission is to encourage employment of Guardsmen and reservists, who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce.

The award recognizes employers that go to extraordinary lengths to support their employees’ service in the reserve components and enables Guardsmen and reservists to show their appreciation for their employers’ support, according to ESGR officials.

The nomination process does not take long to complete, officials said, and family members can submit nominations on behalf of a Guardsman or reservist. Employers of every size and industry are eligible. ESGR is accepting nominations online at www.FreedomAward.mil.

So far, 1,454 nominations have been submitted, just halfway through the nomination timeframe.

"Guard and Reserve members understand better than anyone how critical America's employers are to our national security, which is why we look to them to tell us which employers deserve this distinguished honor," said Ron Young, ESGR’s executive director.

"We call on all Guardsmen and reservists who have received outstanding support from their employer to nominate them for the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. There really is no better way to thank these employers for standing firmly behind our military men and women," he added.
The 2013 recipients will be announced in early summer and honored in a ceremony here next fall. Recipients of the 2012 Freedom Award included such diverse employers as a telecommunications company, a department of public safety, a Midwestern law firm and a small-town church.

The Freedom Award recognizes exceptional support from the employer community, said ESGR officials said. Officials noted that 175 employers have received the award since it was established in 1996.
ESGR develops and maintains employer support for Guard and reserve service, advocates relevant initiatives, recognizes outstanding support, increases awareness of applicable laws and resolves conflict between service members and employers.

Panetta Meets With Kuwait’s Amir, Stresses Strong Relationship

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2012 – In a meeting with Kuwait’s amir in Kuwait City today, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta expressed strong confidence in the longstanding U.S.-Kuwaiti defense relationship and in the ability of both countries to work together to address common security challenges in the Gulf region and beyond.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement that in the meeting with Amir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, Panetta underscored the importance the U.S. defense strategy places on the Middle East, and commended the emir for Kuwait's leadership role in fostering peace and security in the region.

The secretary and the amir also discussed the crisis in Syria, the problem of cyber threats, and Kuwait's recently completed parliamentary elections and ongoing commitment to the rule of law, Little added.

Panetta’s first official visit to Kuwait is also the first for a U.S. defense secretary in five years.

Grants to Improve Walter Reed Access, Aid Schools on Bases

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2012 – The Department of Defense today announced five grants from the Office of Economic Adjustment, including an $18.3 million grant to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration to improve access to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The department also announced a $35,247,240 grant to Geary County Unified School District Number 475 to replace Fort Riley Middle School at Fort Riley, Kan.; a $18,070,606 grant to Vernon Parish School Board to replace South Fort Polk Elementary School at Fort Polk, La.; and a $57,161,689 grant to Sierra Sands Unified School District to replace Murray Middle School and to expand Burroughs High School at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.

The grant to Maryland will manage a $23.1 million project consisting of $18.3 million in grant funds and other funding of $4.8 million, to construct the Maryland Route 185-Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road/Kensington Parkway intersection improvement project. The project improves transportation access to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Geary County Unified School District Number 475 in Junction City, Kan., will manage a $41,961,000 project, consisting of $35,247,240 in grant funds and $6,713,760 in non-federal funds, to demolish the existing Fort Riley Middle School and replace it with a new 720-student school serving grades six through eight.

Vernon Parish School District in Leesville, La., will manage a $21,144,931 project, consisting of $18,070,606 grant funds and non-federal funds of $3,074,325, to replace the existing South Fort Polk Elementary School with a new 875-student school serving grades one through four.

Sierra Sands Unified School District in Ridgecrest, Calif., will manage a $39,542,838 project, consisting of $31,634,270 grant funds and non-federal funds of $7,908,568, to demolish the existing Murray Middle School and to replace it with a new 610-student school serving grades six through eight. The district will also manage a $31,909,274 project, consisting of $25,527,419 grant funds and $6,381,855 in non-federal funds, to renovate and expand the existing 1,461-student Burroughs High School serving grades nine through twelve. Both schools are located at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.

Navy Orchestra Spreads Holiday Cheer Through Music

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Navy Band Southwest's 38-piece wind ensemble performed festive holiday music at Naval Air Station North Island's Lowry base movie theater for service members and their families Dec. 8.

The orchestra filled the theater, a former blimp hangar, with holiday tunes such as "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Ave Maria" before the theater's showing of Christmas movies.

"It's a great opportunity for Sailors and their families and to get together during the holiday times and experience something unique like this concert that not many people get to see or hear," said Brandon Workman, Naval Base Coronado special events coordinator.

Navy Band Southwest averages about 600 performances each year and performs music throughout the San Diego area at various events each day during the holidays. The band members expressed how privileged they feel to be able to play for their audience during these festive times.

"I hope that those here away from family can listen to our music and remind them of home," said Musician 3rd Class Michael Greco, trombone player with Navy Band Southwest.

After the band's performance, Santa came into the theater to take pictures with children. Following Santa's visit, the theater exhibited a series of holiday movies. With holiday spirit surrounding the room, the audience and band members remembered those who are currently serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

"I am personally very grateful and I always have those who are out in the trenches and out in the water on my mind during the holidays," said Greco. "The band and I are very thankful for our shipmates who are out there fighting and we hope they all have a wonderful holiday."

NMCSD Staff Save a Life at the Zoo

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr., Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Two staff members assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) performed successful lifesaving measures during a visit to the San Diego Zoo Nov. 23.

Ensign Janean Wujek and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Stephanie Moor were spending the day with loved ones at the zoo. In a matter of moments, however, what started out as a leisure activity quickly turned into a lifesaving situation when the two Sailors' training was called into action.

"While walking, I noticed a large group of people frantically looking down at something on the floor. As I approached I noticed a man approximately 65 years of age lying lifelessly on the ground. I informed [the bystanders] that I was a corpsman from the Cardiac Rehab Clinic at NMCSD and asked if they wanted help," said Moor.

Wujek, a registered nurse assigned to NMCSD's Mental Health department, was with her family on the way to see the hippopotamus exhibit when she saw an alarming sight.

"There was a woman saying 'stop, don't go over there, there is a man getting CPR [cardio pulmonary resuscitation]'. My mind clicked into 'nurse mode' and I immediately ran over, announcing that I was a nurse and quickly assessed the situation," she said. "When I arrived, the victim was not breathing; he was blue as a blueberry and had a thready pulse, so we continued with chest compressions and rescue breathing."

The patient was later identified as Navy veteran James Thompson, who served as an interior communications electrician in the Navy from October 1965 until November 1969 on USS Coral Sea (CV 43) and USS Kearsarge (CV 33), and visits family in San Diego on a regular basis.

His friends were thankful Moor and Wujek were able to offer assistance.

"[Thompson] was a walking time bomb and he was lucky that it happened when he had expert people to help him," said Debbie Andreen, a family friend.

Thompson shared his thoughts on the situation.

"I'm at a loss for words. Their dedication to duty - it's awesome. Coming to the aid of a complete stranger; I would just like to say thank you for their help," said Thompson.

Thompson spent eight days at Scripps Mercy Hospital, where he had a pacemaker defibrillator implanted. Following his surgery, Thompson was released and is currently on his way back to his home in Clearbrook, Minn.

San Diego Zoo representative Christina Simmons expressed her gratitude for Moor and Wujek's quick responses.

"It is always an honor to have service members visit. We are very grateful the two that were at the zoo were able to be there in this family's time of need."

The two NMCSD staff members received a standing ovation during December's Director, Department Head and Senior Enlisted Leaders meeting.

"I am incredibly proud of Ensign Wujek and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Moor. They represent what Navy Medicine is all about: saving lives and making a difference for those who need our help," said Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, commander, Naval Medical Center San Diego and Navy Medicine West.

NMCSD's Pathology Program Reaccredited for Two More Years

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chad A. Bascom, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) Pathology program obtained a two-year reaccreditation from the College of American Pathologists (CAP) through October 2014.

Over two days, the Pathology department reviewed policies and procedures to ensure adherance to the current practices and any new requirements since the last accreditation in 2010.

The process involved the review of records, staff training, revision of policies and procedures, and inventory management of consumables.

"CAP accreditation demonstrates that NMCSD is meeting the high standards established by the leaders in laboratory medicine. Moreover, the degree to which the laboratory succeeded in the inspection process shows that we are exceeding those standards"," said Capt. Scott Luzi, laboratory department head.

The Pathology program earned the maximum two year reaccreditation. This means that for the next two years, NMCSD is fully accredited to train and graduate pathology doctors. NMCSD trains approximately four pathology doctors a year as well as one community college intern, six phlebotomy students per month and approximately 10 medical lab technicians per class, according to Eileen S. Licuanan, Pathology lab quality assurance officer.

Proper training is critical to the lab's success. With more than 200 staff comprised of active duty service members and civilians, Pathology is continually running self tests to ensure all standard operating procedures are followed step by step the same way every time. The Food and Drug Administration inspectors can visit unannounced at any time and conduct an inspection, which adds additional incentive for readiness and providing the highest possible standards of care.

Both staff and patients will benefit from the accreditation.

"Our providers and patients can be confident that the laboratory is producing quality results to assist them in guiding their health care decisions," said Luzi.

In addition to this achievement, the laboratory delivers quality laboratory services on a daily basis in support of the armed forces, including laboratory testing, phlebotomy services, and point of care testing for 330 sites within the hospital and donor center collecting approximately 10,000 blood products annually.

The NMCSD Pathology program is also accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks and required to submit a check-up report halfway through the accreditation period.

TR Conducts Shipwide Readiness Exercise for Damage Control

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Austin Rooney, USS Theodore Roosevelt Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) completed its second readiness exercise Dec. 10, consisting of damage control (DC) olympics, damage control jeopardy, and a general quarters drill as a means to prepare Sailors for operational conditions during the ship's last year of refueling complex overhaul.

The damage control training exercises aimed to challenge Sailors physically and mentally, and divided the ship into teams by department to compete against each other for the grand prize.

"The objective here is to have good training, but also to have fun," said Chief Warrant Officer Noel Genao, TR's damage control assistant, and the organizer for the training event. "Having a competition encourages departments to get excited and to participate - it shows them that DC is not just for the in-port emergency team, it's for everyone."

The event was split into five main activities, a pipe patching contest, a P-100 pump operating contest, RAM fan operating contest, knowledge exam, and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) relay race with a dummy carry. Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman (AW) Andrew Bustos, who competed in the Olympics for Air Department, said the SCBA relay was the most difficult event of the day.

"It was a fun and challenging experience," said Bustos. "I think it helped me out, and I'm still learning as I go. Hooyah!"

In addition to physical events, there was also a written Level of Knowledge test, which covered first aid and basic medical knowledge. Lt. Cmdr. Charlene Ohliger, the ship's nurse and test administrator, said the test the Sailors took will eventually be mandatory for the entire ship.

"[The Sailors who took it today] did well, but there is still a lot of room for improvement," said Ohliger. "This test at least helped us figure out what people are having a hard time understanding, and what we need to focus our training on."

Ohliger said she believes the test was helpful to the crew, and her goal is to have everyone aboard able to demonstrate a basic level of medical knowledge.

"I'm confident we'll get there," said Ohliger. "We have a lot of work to do, but I know we'll get there."

The DC Olympics trophy went to Combat Systems Department, led by Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW/EXW) John Meisner, who earned 512 points in the five challenges.

To finish off the night, TR held a general quarters drill involving all 10 repair lockers aboard the ship.
With TR less than one year from leaving the shipyard to return to operation status, Genao said damage control training is more important than ever to get the crew back into an operational mindset.

"This is a tremendous help in getting the crew ready to fight the ship," said Genao. "We're not there yet, but we're on the right road. I think we're doing better than most ships at this stage in the yard period, and I have confidence that we'll be ready when we leave here."