Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 20

1822 - Congress authorizes the 14-ship West Indies Squadron to suppress piracy in the Caribbean.
1941 - Adm. Ernest J. King is designated commander-in-chief in charge of all operating Naval fleets and coastal frontier forces, reporting directly to the president.
1964 - USS Richard E. Kraus (DD 849) completes a successful emergency mission, aiding the disabled American merchant ship SS Oceanic Spray in the Red Sea.
1974 - Clearance of the Suez Canal for mines and unexploded ordnance completed by joint task force.
1989 - Operation Just Cause begins in Panama.
1998 - Operation Desert Fox in Iraq ends.

USS Topeka Arrives at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD, Maine (NNS) -- Attack submarine USS Topeka (SSN 754) and her crew of 13 officers and 120 enlisted personnel arrived Dec. 16 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

While at the shipyard, Topeka will complete various maintenance work and several system upgrades. Topeka is the third ship of the United States Navy named for the city of Topeka and the fourth "Improved" Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarine.

The improved modifications of this class include retractable bow planes, a reinforced sail for under ice operations, vertical launch Tomahawk Cruise Missile capability, ship quieting enhancements, and an integrated combat systems suite. Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Topeka was commissioned Oct. 21, 1989, and is homeported in San Diego.

Topeka recently conducted a six-month Western Pacific deployment from March through September 2012 in support of the Chief of Naval Operations' Maritime Strategy, which includes maritime security, forward presence, sea control, and power projection. During the deployment, Topeka covered more than 35,000 nautical miles and executed missions vital to national security. Topeka also participated in U.S. and multinational naval exercises. The ship's port visits included Yokosuka, Japan; Republic of Singapore; and Guam.

Topeka's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. James Belz, a native of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., graduated from the State University of New York Maritime College in 1992 with a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering and a Third Mate's license in the Merchant Marine. Belz assumed command of the Topeka Feb. 14, 2011.

Navy Delivers Offshore Support Vessels to Iraqi Navy

From NAVSEA Office of Corporate Communications

UMM QASR, Iraq (NNS) -- The Iraqi navy and the U.S. Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command marked the delivery of two 60-meter Offshore Support Vessels (OSV 1/ OSV 2) to the Iraqi navy in a ceremony at the Umm Qasr naval facility, Dec. 19.

The two OSVs, procured as part U.S. Navy's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program, will help reconstitute Iraq's ability to enforce maritime sovereignty and security in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

"This occasion reflects the important ties that bind our governments and our commitment to supporting s strong coalition partnership that is based on mutual respect and understanding," said Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. "Combined with the previously delivered Iraqi patrol boats, this acquisition program has offered another unique opportunity for cooperation between our countries."

OSVs are multi-function vessels providing a wide range of capabilities to support Iraq's oil production platforms. The vessels will provide transport support for crew changes and resupply to the platforms. Each OSV is equipped with a 30mm gun weapon system and outfitted with fast attack boats to defend it and the offshore platforms. The vessels each include a vertical replenishment deck to facilitate the transfer of supplies as needed.

RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames is the prime contractor for the OSV procurement, with Gulf Island Marine Fabricators manufacturing the hull and deckhouse, and outfitting the vessels.

PEO Ships is currently managing the design and construction of all U.S. Navy destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, as well as a wide range of boats and craft for U.S. agencies and foreign military sales.

$8 million MXS facility consolidates operations

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

12/19/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- A ribbon-cutting ceremony held at Kunsan Dec. 18 signified the completion of a new maintenance complex which consolidates 18 interrelated shops.

The new accessories shop cost $8 million and was completely funded by the Republic of Korea. It will be home to four functional areas within the 8th Maintenance Squadron: wheel and tire, hydraulics and electrical, external tank and the commander support staff.

"Before the new facility was completed, maintenance operations were performed out of several buildings scattered across three square miles," said Andrew Rajala, the resident engineer at Kunsan's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office. "Now, all these sections are in a single area and there are fewer inefficiencies of transporting parts among the shops."

The two other phases of the project, the fabrication and armament shops, were completed in September 2011 for a combined $12.8 million.

Throughout the project, quality assurance (QA) and contract management was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 8th Civil Engineer Squadron acted as a liaison between them and the customer.

One of the new building's occupants, Staff Sgt. Brice Gaston, is excited about how the facility will benefit the mission.

"This project is great and it's an absolutely beautiful building," said the 8th MXS alternate facility manager and vehicle control officer. "Having everyone right here instead of having to walk across base is really convenient. It also helps our squadron decrease our footprint on the base."

This equates to saved money and manpower, a part Rajala is glad he had in the project.

"My role was to oversee our staff of project engineers and QA representatives," he said. "We take great pride in knowing we were involved in a project that allows Kunsan to maintain the U.S. Forces Korea mission."

Kunsan, Hurlburt Field Airmen unite to spread holiday cheer

by Senior Airman Joe McFadden
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

12/20/2012 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla.  -- Despite more than 7,000 miles and at least 10 time zones between them, the junior enlisted forces of Hurlburt Field and Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, teamed up to comfort the widows of former Airmen.

Members of Hurlburt Airman's Voice and Kunsan's Airmen Committed to Excellence signed, sealed and delivered holiday cards to the more than 60 residents at the Air Force Enlisted Village's Hawthorn House in Shalimar, Fla., Dec. 19.

"Being away from our families for so long, especially throughout the holidays, we know how important it can be to receive emotional outreach," said Senior Airman Adam Borgman, a vehicle management journeyman of 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kunsan and ACE president. "Each resident in the village sacrificed and gave up so much so each and every one of us could have the quality of life and freedoms we do."

Borgman, serving as HAV's outreach liaison, participated in last year's card collection and Hawthorn House visit. Now stationed in Korea, he and his fellow Wolf Pack Airmen organized card signings around Kunsan before sending the cards to their Air Commando counterparts for delivery.

Hurlburt Airmen collected more signatures during lunch at the Reef Dining Facility, adding to the multitude of well wishes posted from Kunsan, both in English and Korean. They later visited every resident of the Hawthorn House, handing them the cards while wishing them a wonderful holiday season.

"It is important for us, as Airmen, to show that no matter who you are, we are here to enrich the lives of everyone around us," said Airman 1st Class Emmett Unbehagen, a cyber-system operator of 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron and current HAV outreach liaison. "On behalf of our fellow Airmen at both Hurlburt Field and Kunsan, we wanted to show our appreciation to the widows, particularly during this holiday season. I hoped that we made a difference in their day, and I believe we did."

While visiting with the residents, Senior Airman Allison LaPraim, a paralegal of 1st Special Operations Wing Staff Judge Advocate, said her favorite part was learning more about their families and how they viewed every Airman as a member of their own.

"I enjoyed the lovely lady who gave me a hug and embraced me with her whole heart - that was very touching," LaPraim said. "It definitely moved me. I feel that every Airman should experience this."

As they left the village, the Airmen said they not only gained a deeper appreciation for the holidays and the generations of Airmen before them but for their extended Air Force family serving around the world today.

"It was a great honor to work with HAV again," Borgman said. "We thank our fellow Hurlburt Airmen for being able to walk in and hand-deliver each card with a smile and a hug. Although we are a little jealous we couldn't be there, we are glad they can for us."

Iwo Jima ARG, 24 MEU Return from Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Jonathan Sunderman, Amphibious Squadron 8 Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines from the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed an eight-and-a-half-month deployment when the ships arrived at Norfolk Naval Station and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., Dec 18-20.

While deployed, the Iwo Jima ARG/24th MEU served in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR), conducting Maritime Security Operations, crisis response capability, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence.

The Iwo Jima ARG is comprised of amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Fleet Surgical Team 4, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, and Naval Beach Group, which includes Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, ACU 4 and Beachmaster Unit 2.

The 24th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced) and Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 24.

"It is truly an honor and privilege to be a part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group," said Capt. Arturo Garcia, commodore, PHIBRON 8. "The Sailors and Marines performed superbly and responded immediately to whatever our nation required of them."

The Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU participated in bilateral exercises and operations in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet AORs to include African Lion 2012 with the Moroccan military, Eager Lion 2012 with the Jordanian navy and the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 with more than 30 international partners.

"The 24th MEU-Iwo Jima ARG team provided a flexible, expeditionary force that was called upon multiple times in the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. Our ability to quickly respond to a variety of missions gave decision makers at all levels time and options to develop their plans and assurance that there was a force ready to be called on if needed," said Col. Frank Donovan, 24th MEU's commanding officer. "Our Marines and Sailors went above and beyond during an extremely demanding deployment and I'm extremely proud of the entire Blue-Green team."

The Iwo Jima ARG/24th MEU team steamed more than 55,000 nautical miles, conducted more than 2,800 flight sorties, logged more than 4,800 flight hours and performed more than 300 small boat operations.

"I hope the families and loved ones of Iwo Jima are as proud of their Sailors as I am," said Capt. Grady Banister, Iwo Jima's commanding officer. "They have gone the distance, steaming day after day in a turbulent part of the world, never backing down, never slowing down. For me, nothing, absolutely nothing, comes close to the honor of being part of this crew."

This deployment also marked the New York's maiden deployment, made of seven and a half tons of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center in her keel.
Shortly after entering the Commander, Task Force 80 AOR on their return home, the ships pulled in to North Carolina to disembark equipment and Marines of the 24th MEU.

Landing craft utilities, assigned to ACU 2, landing craft air cushion and aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced), transported equipment, vehicles and Marines ashore, concluding the 24th MEU's segment of the deployment.

"Whether supporting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts or bilateral exercises with allies and regional partners in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet area of responsibility, this Navy-Marine Corps team came together and successfully accomplished the mission," said Garcia.

"I could not be more proud of them. We also need to recognize that we couldn't have made it through this challenging deployment if not for the network of support and constant encouragement from our family and friends."

The Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU were relieved by the Peleliu ARG and 15th MEU in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR in November.

U.S., NATO Forces Maintain Vigil in Kosovo

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2012 – Returned this week from a trip to Kosovo, the commander of NATO and U.S. European Command recognized the 5,000 NATO forces that continue to preserve the peace there and said he hopes to reduce their numbers in 2013 if the situation allows.

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, writing in his command blog, recalled the 1990s when almost 60,000 NATO troops conducted peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, sometimes engaging in vigorous combat.
More than 100,000 people died during a turbulent decade following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, he noted. In one single incident in Srebrenica in Bosnia, almost 8,000 men and boys were massacred during the worst war crime in Europe since World War II.

The international community rallied to promote peace talks between warring ethnic and religious groups, and under a United Nations mandate NATO contributed forces to help stem the violence.

Today, the NATO presence has dropped from 15,000 in 2009 to the current 5,000, deployed from the United States and 29 other nations.

Most are in Kosovo, Stavridis said, with the mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment and ensuring freedom of movement.

Despite occasional demonstrations, roadblocks and violence, “the situation is largely under control,” he reported.

“We are hoping to reduce [the NATO force] further in the coming year, although that will be very situation-dependent,” he said.

“The key will be steady and sustained international pressure on both Serbia and Kosovo to resolve their difficulties, which range from border disputes to customs arrangements along their extensive and contested border,” he said.

Stavridis praised the European Union’s recent efforts to bring the two prime ministers together to address these differences.

He offered assurance that NATO forces will remain as needed to underpin these initiatives. “NATO will also stay steady,” he said. “We’ll continue performing our U.N.-mandated mission to the best of our ability.”
“As the cold winter approaches, I'm thankful for the 5,000 troops far from their homes,” Stavridis wrote. “They are standing the watch, keeping the peace, and shaping a more peaceful world in the Balkans: something that looked impossible a decade ago.”

NATO’s contribution has helped shape a vastly different security environment in the Balkans over the past decade, he said.

“While tensions remain, Croatia, Albania and Slovenia are members of NATO,” he said. “Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro are all in various stages of applying for NATO membership. Serbia wants in the European Union. Kosovo is recognized by nearly 100 nations.”

In addition, many of these countries have troops deployed to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force there, Stavridis noted.

Academy firefighters recognized for Waldo Canyon Fire efforts

by Don Branum
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

12/20/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- More than 50 firefighters with the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron here received Air Force Achievement Medals and Air Force Civilian Achievement Awards in a pair of ceremonies Dec. 19-20 for their efforts in containing the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned 12 acres on the Air Force Academy in June but did not destroy any structures on base.

The 18,247-acre fire was the most destructive in Colorado history, killing two and destroying nearly 350 homes in the city of Colorado Springs while damaging more than 450 others.

Firefighters' heroic efforts kept the fire from breaking through containment lines on several occasions, said 10th Mission Support Group Commander Col. Michael Addison.

"That fire was a pretty close-run thing," Addison said. "It was a real battle." Ground crews directed airdrops of fire retardant from C-130 aircraft equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems.

Had the Waldo Canyon Fire broken through containment lines, "it would almost certainly have consumed everything in Pine Valley," Addison said. "But no structures were destroyed, no one got hurt, and that was due to the courage and skill of our firefighters.

"I'm very proud of them. They prove day in and day out why they are the best fire department in the Air Force," Addison added.

Andrea Caraway, a civilian firefighter, said she's proud of the entire department.

"I'm proud that we were able to help our local community," she said.

Airman 1st Class Taylor King, a military firefighter, said he was grateful for the support firefighters received in turn from the local community, which donated food, clothing and other items.

"It was very generous," he said. "Everywhere I went, everyone was crazy about firefighters. There was overwhelming support."

The Waldo Canyon Fire started in the Pike National Forest June 23. By June 24, the 306th Flying Training Group had converted part of the airfield into a staging area for helicopters helping fight the fire. MAFFS-equipped C-130s with the 302nd Airlift Wing were brought in June 25 to assist.

The following day was the most destructive, as 65-mph winds and hot, dry weather created a horizontal "fire vortex" that rolled through Queens Canyon on the west side of Colorado Springs and into Mountain Shadows. That evening, 10th Air Base Commander Col. Tim Gibson evacuated base housing residents.

The Academy reached out to help the community after the fire. Cadets, some of whom had arrived for inprocessing even as smoke from the still-active fire billowed over the Colorado Springs, helped clear burned and dead wood from affected areas in August.

Investigators revealed in September that the fire was human-caused but that they had no information regarding the intent. The fire remains under investigation.

Receiving medals were (in alphabetical order):

Hans Barkley Patrick Kraft
Brian Bell Senior Airman Tylor Lamberson
Senior Airman Donnie Brown Airman 1st Class Xavier Leal
Airman 1st Class Sulaiman Burns Tech. Sgt. Jason Linta
Andrea Caraway Reid Lohse
Mark Caraway Craig Long
David Caulfield Staff Sgt. Nicole Longwell
Eric Chess Mike Mater
Martin Clinton Dan McAuliffe
Senior Airman Francis Cooper Anthony McMurty
Airman 1st Class Everett Cowart Staff Sgt. Barry McNeil
Roy Dalton Phil Messina
John Dannen Jonathan Milam
Tommy Disario Tyler Moran
Airman 1st Class Blake Dwyer Ryan Moriarty
Airman 1st Class Tieghan Fitzpatrick Airman Blake Nelson
Senior Airman Jacob Frey Elaine Perkins
Airman 1st Class Daniel Garcia Travis Perkins
William Gates Ernst Piercy
Lance Gore Ron Prettyman
Master Sgt. Jeffery Hackworth Shawne Ragsdale
Wesley Harrison Senior Airman Steven Rousseau
Ken Helgerson Staff Sgt. John Salinas
Patrick Holt Jason Smith
Senior Airman Sean Kaufmann Charles Surrat
Airman 1st Class Tylor King Mike Trenker
Kenneth Kotcher Joe Wright

Army Vice Chief Tours TBI, PTSD Treatment Center

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2012 – Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III toured the National Intrepid Center of Excellence here Dec. 19 to gain perspective on treatment for service members who have traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Austin also visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here, a trip officials said he makes on a regular basis. Austin and his wife, Charlene, have taken a particular interest in treatments for TBI and PTSD, two signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said.

Dr. James Kelly, NICoE director, led Austin’s tour of the two-year old center. During the visit, chiefs of major specialties briefed the general on their treatment approaches.

Austin learned how those approaches are effective in treating service members by using such modalities as art and music therapy, relaxation, a sleep lab and counseling, all in a team setting over the course of four weeks. He viewed magnetic resonance imaging -- also known as MRI -- and saw MRI films showing the occurrence of TBI and PTSD in the brain.

Two golden retrievers and their handlers from Warrior Canine Connection also greeted Austin at NICoE. The Warrior Canine Connection is a nonprofit organization that works with NICoE service members while they are undergoing treatment. In an optional program, service members can learn to train the retrievers as service dogs that are paired with veterans who are mobility impaired, the dog handlers said.

Austin also was briefed on the satellite NICoE clinics being developed around the country at Army posts and Marine Corps bases. The sites include Fort Bragg, N.C.; Forts Bliss and Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, N.C., and a yet-to-be determined base in Southern California.

NICoE officials estimate each of those clinics will see about 1,200 patients with TBI and PTSD per year, while the most severe cases of the disorders are usually referred to the NICoE here.

“I’m very much encouraged and excited about the satellite clinics,” Austin told Kelly about the NICoE concept. “They will be beneficial to [service members].”

“It’s not every day NICoE gets a visit from the Army vice chief of staff,” Kelly said, adding that Austin asked him about the progress on the Fort Belvoir satellite clinic, which is now under construction.

“His main concern today was how what we learn here influences the system [for treating TBI and PTSD],” Kelly said.

“His dedication to our service members in these circumstances is unquestioned,” he added.

Face of Defense: Marine Discards Flute, Picks Up Reins

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel Ranney
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif., Dec. 20, 2012 – In 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. At that time, women were only allowed to perform clerical duties to aid the men who were fighting overseas during World War I.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Cpl. Cherisess Paige, a stableman with the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard stationed at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow in California, poses in front of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Dec. 11, 2012. Paige’s unit presented colors during the opening ceremony for the 2012 National Finals Rodeo at the center. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Ranney

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Today, women make up about six percent of the Marine Corps. Women serve in hundreds of different jobs in the Corps, including a very prestigious military occupational specialty: the last remaining Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard.

Marine Corps Cpl. Cherisess Paige, a 21-year-old stableman assigned to the mounted color guard here, is one of the first women to receive official orders to the unit.

Such positions had previously only been given to infantrymen, said Marine Corps Sgt. Edgar Torrealba, who’s also a stableman with the mounted color guard here.

“My first impression of Paige was that she was a squared-away Marine. She is very knowledgeable and willing to take advice and put it into action,” Torrealba said.

Paige, who calls Texas her home, said she was born in Panama and raised as a “military brat” whose father was in the Army.

Paige was seven years old, she said, when she came to America with her family. She excelled academically in high school.

“I was the ‘nerd’ in high school. I was taking many advanced placement classes and was accepted into a lot of good colleges,” Paige said. “My family and friends were surprised when I chose the Marine Corps before finishing school. I wanted to do something stable and have a sure way to pay for college. I also have a lot of respect for the Marine Corps.”

Paige joined the Marine Corps in July 2010 as a musician with the band at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms in California.

“I played the flute and the piccolo,” Paige said. “I love music and I loved being a part of the Marine Corps Band.”

Paige had another passion and an even greater devotion than the one she had for music: horses.

“I love horses. They are, by far, my favorite animal,” she said. “I rode my grandma’s personal horses every chance I got while growing up.”

Paige was first introduced to the Marine Corps’ mounted color guard unit in July 2011 during the commanding general’s change of command ceremony at Twentynine Palms.

“At first sight I immediately wanted to be a part of the unit. I was amazed,” she said. “I put in a request as soon as I could but could not quite leave the band [yet].”

On Jan. 1, 2012, the band at Twentynine Palms was disbanded due to budget cuts. With the elimination of the band came the opportunity Paige was looking for.

“In February 2012, I had been temporarily assigned to the MCG. I was interviewed about my experiences with horses and I also showed my ability to ride, maintain and handle the horses,” Paige said.
Paige put down her flute in April and became a part of the last mounted color guard unit in the Marine Corps.

Torrealba said his favorite memory working with Paige was at the Houston Rodeo in Texas. It was Paige’s first trip with the unit, he said, and the beginning of a strong bond that she formed with the mounted color guard.

The city of Houston is Paige’s favorite memory so far, she said. She explained that although she was still too new to participate in the actual event, it felt great to be a part of it and to help with the preparations.
“I loved my time in Houston. It was a huge event and I got to show my family and friends what I do,” Paige said. “They were all very impressed. I cannot wait until next year’s [Houston Rodeo] to actually ride in the event in front of my home state.”

After her first enlistment concludes, Paige plans on either re-enlisting and returning to the Marine Corps Band or becoming a full-time student and getting her bachelor’s degree. Whatever she does, her coworkers believe that Paige has a bright future ahead of her.

“Corporal Paige is an exceptionally hard worker who expects nothing less than perfection on a daily basis. She always goes above and beyond,” Torrealba said.

Paige said she loves to serve her country and to travel.

Whether it’s playing a musical instrument or riding a mustang -- her coworkers agree that Paige has a flair for entertaining patriotic audiences across America.

“I love what I do as a United States Marine,” she said.

Dover Airmen learn life-coping skills

by Airman 1st Class Ashlin Federick
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

12/18/2012 - Dover Air Force Base, Del. -- Fifty airmen at Dover Air Force Base, Del., attended resilience training on Dec. 14. This training was one of 29 training sessions conducted by seven Master Resilience Trainers and six Resilience Training Assistants in 2012, 33 of which have been conducted since Air Mobility Command's big push in September. AMC's goal is train 20 percent of active-duty military across the command by Dec. 31, 2012. The 436th Airlift Wing will finish the year strong, reaching 28 percent of their active-duty military equating to approximately 950 personnel.

The resilience training course is designed to focus on Airmen and their family's total well-being and support the Air Force Comprehensive Airman Fitness framework, which consists of the "4 Pillars of Fitness:" mental, physical, social and spiritual.

"During the eight-hour class, participants are taught the seven competencies that build an individual's ability to be resilient and the nine skills directly tied to enhancing those competencies," said Master Sgt. Jeanette Spain, Senior MRT. "This class teaches the resilience skills that directly tie into everyone's ability to be more resilient and the effectiveness of the skills is dependent on an individual's commitment to using them," said Spain.

Spain said trainers teach the skills that enable mental toughness, optimal performance, strong leadership and goal achievement.

Research has shown the benefits of the training include less stress and anxiety, better health and sleep, increased energy, focus, self-awareness, confidence, improved relationships, communication and performance.

Spain said resilience training is like preventative maintenance for your car. It's a proactive approach to develop and equip Airmen and their families to navigate through life's everyday challenges before they happen, said Spain.

She feels confident that this course and regular use of these tools will have a positive impact on an Airman as a leader, spouse, parent, coworker and friend.

"It [resilience training] allows us to draw on or build inner strength that enables us to do more than survive but also thrive both personally and physically," said Spain. "Everyone can be more resilient."

Staff Sgt. Jennipher Scribner, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron supply technician, attended the course. She said the training was very helpful for her as she prepares for an upcoming deployment in May.

"I think Airmen, people in general, have a whole lot of things on their plates may it be social, work or life," said Scribner. "This [training] can teach you to go and pick up yourself and carry on especially with the deployment tempo, particularly in my career field. This can help you learn how to deal with life."

Scribner said this training has helped her learn other ways of helping any Airman that may have problems in their life.

Spain said utilizing the skills taught during the training, on a regular basis, allow Airmen to be better prepared for future situations and have more control on the outcome.

"This training changed my life. A complete paradigm shift in the way I think, view and respond to daily situations and people," said Spain. "Eight-hours is a long time to be away from your work centers just to sit in a classroom but the clarity you gain from attending the training is well worth it."

Wing leadership has been impressed with the training.

"I am very excited about this training. It teaches our Airmen life lessons that will help them in all facets of their life and will ultimately increase Team Dover's mission readiness," said Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, 436th Airlift Wing command chief. "The resilience training team has done a fantastic job training the members of Team Dover."

DOD Aid to Congolese Army Bolsters U.S. Security

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2012 – The Defense Department plays a critical role in building security capacity in the central African Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials from the departments of Defense and State told the House Armed Services Committee today.

Aiding the armies of DRC and nearby nations such as Uganda can help to disrupt growing links between instability in central Africa and the global terrorist threat, the officials said, and push back against nonstate actors and regimes, such as those in Syria, Iran and North Korea, that directly threaten the United States and its allies.

Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of African Affairs, testified before the full committee.
“The U.S. has many competing security priorities in Africa, from Somalia to Sudan to Libya to Nigeria to Mali,” Chollet said.

“But the DRC also remains important because of the potential opportunity lasting stability would bring and because of the imperative to prevent mass atrocities, which is a priority for this administration,” he added.

The DRC’s army, and the state military organization responsible for defending the nation, is called the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its acronym, FARDC, stands for the French version of the name -- Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo.

“The security and humanitarian situation in the DRC is the most volatile and violent in Africa today,” Carson said. “An estimated 5 million people have lost their lives since 1998, and millions more have been uprooted and displaced.”

A key threat facing Congolese civilians, particularly in the eastern DRC, is an array of violent armed groups, most notoriously including the March 23 Movement, called M23, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the remnants of genocidal militias that now call themselves the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, or FDLR, the assistant secretary noted.

Another danger to civilians is an undisciplined state security force, Chollet said, “particularly when the forces are not well supported, have absorbed armed groups without vetting them for human rights abuses, operate under a separate chain of command or have not been trained in their legal obligations.”

This confluence of security concerns, he added, “is prompting the Defense Department to closely follow security developments of DRC in the Great Lakes region and is actively involved along with our State Department colleagues to address them.”

Chollet said the unfolding crisis highlights the Congolese government’s failure to provide effective security, governance and services in the eastern provinces.

“It also highlights continued political and economic tensions between the DRC and its eastern neighbors, especially Rwanda,” the assistant secretary said.

Outside support, particularly from Rwanda, has helped to make the M23 a significant threat that seriously challenges efforts to stabilize eastern DRC and protect civilians, Chollet said. President Barack Obama told Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a telephone call yesterday that “any support to M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace,” he added.

The Rwandan military is a capable partner in peacekeeping operations outside the immediate region, but their support for M23 prompted the Obama administration to suspend Rwanda’s foreign military financing, Chollet told the panel.

“As the situation in eastern Congo develops,” he said, “we will continue to monitor reports of external support closely and respond appropriately, including by reviewing our assistance.”
Inside the DRC, the United States is prioritizing private-sector reform.

“This means working with our partners and the DRC to develop a comprehensive approach that addresses all three elements of [the] security sector -- the Congolese defense forces, military justice and the police,” the assistant secretary said.

“We must work to develop more professional forces that respect human rights and protect both DRC’s territorial integrity and population,” he added.

DOD has provided training to the Congolese military, including a light-infantry battalion in 2010, incorporating sexual and gender-based violence protection and human rights training into every aspect of the effort, Chollet said.

“In addition to ongoing training on human rights and law, Defense Department engagements with the FARDC have included logistics, exercise participation, basic military intelligence training, military medicine, humanitarian assistance and humanitarian mine action,” the assistant secretary said.
Moving forward, he added, DOD stands ready to work with its State colleagues to determine the best way ahead and support security-sector reform, including by providing more infantry training for the FARDC.

The scale of the need is significant, Chollet said.

“Today we have trained one battalion of 500 soldiers [out of] a military that numbers approximately 150,000. Other European and African partners have also provided training but the FARDC’s absorptive capacity for assistance is limited,” he said.

“The Congolese defense ministry has been slow to respond to our requests [to provide] appropriate personnel for training and information needed for congressionally mandated human rights vetting.
The lack of English-language capacity further inhibits training opportunities,” Chollet added.

While the DRC works to develop its own security capabilities, the United Nations Peacekeeping Operation, called MONUSCO, is essential for providing security for the DRC civilian population.
“MONUSCO has a challenging mandate in a very fluid security climate. We are reviewing options for improving MONUSCO’s ability to meet the civilian protection requirements in the DRC,” Chollet said.

“To help MONUSCO,” he added, “DOD has seconded three U.S. military officers who are hoping to support operational efforts in ensuring an efficient flow of information between MONUSCO headquarters and field components.”

Despite many challenges, the assistant secretary said, DOD has “an enduring interest in helping develop a more capable Congolese military, and this fits within [Defense] Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta’s broader policy emphasis on building partner capacity.”