Military News

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Face of Defense: Germany-based Soldiers Rescue Family

By Ignacio Rubalcava
U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder

BAUMHOLDER, Germany, Jan. 3, 2013 – An early morning drive here turned into a nightmare for Heather Majorwitz and her two children, Kaitie and Bret.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Heather Majorwitz thanks the soldiers who rescued her and her children from an automobile accident at U.S. army Garrison Baumholder, Germany. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
They were on their way to school recently when their car hit a patch of ice and started to skid across the road toward an oncoming bus. Majorwitz, a librarian at a local elementary school, swerved to avoid the bus and slid off the road, rolling her car.

"One minute we were on the road and the next we were hanging from our seatbelts," Majorwitz recalled during a recent recognition ceremony held at U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder here.

The car’s wheels were still turning when a group of soldiers from the 421st Multifunctional Medical Battalion came upon the scene. Without hesitation, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Vladimir Sequera and three other soldiers stopped their Humvee and dashed out to help. The children were already making their way out of the car’s shattered back window when the soldiers approached.

Sequera and the other soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Winston Smith, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Lehman and Sgt. Cheryl Henneberry quickly brought the children to safety and wrapped them with their jackets to stay warm. By then, Majorwitz was trying to get out of the car and Sequera and the other soldiers turned their attention to helping her.

"When we saw the vehicle we immediately pulled to the side. We all had the same thought. There's somebody in the vehicle," Sequera said. "We didn't know if they were American or German. We just wanted to help.”

"I just remember the car rolling and lots of glass. I felt blessed to walk away from the wreck but I also felt really blessed that we had soldiers there that would go above and beyond and help us. You guys are my heroes,” Majorwitz said.

"I'm glad that we were there to help out. I don't think it's a hero thing. I think it's a human behavior that we help each other out. It is part of what we do in the military," Sequera said.

Madeleine Dwoiakowski, public affairs officer for the Baumholder garrison, drives the same route on her way to work.

"I saw soldiers and hoped that none of our guys were injured, not knowing that the soldiers were actually assisting on the scene," Dwoiakowski said. "I then saw the car and it looked like it had gone through a press. They were extremely fortunate to walk away with no injuries and they were also equally fortunate that the soldiers were there almost immediately to help."

For Majorwitz, it was the scariest moment she's experienced as a mother.

"I wasn't sure if the children were OK. Everybody said they were OK but even at the hospital I wasn't sure,” she said. “My little boy gets anxious about things and I was worried that he'd have this anxiety and wouldn't want to ride in a car again.” Majorwitz explained that they had a flat tire once and for the next year her son checked the tires before getting in the car.

But her son “was fine, he was a trooper," Majorwitz said. Turning to Sequera, she added, "I think he was fine because you guys were there immediately. There wasn't that second to even worry about it because we were taken care of right away."

Later, Majorwitz, called her 15-year-old daughter in the states and told her why she enjoys working with soldiers and their families.

"This is why I do what I do to serve these guys, because they're there and they step in -- no matter what,” Majorwitz said. “It's automatic, because that's who they are. This makes me even more proud to be able to teach the kids of our soldiers because I know that they're out there taking care of everybody else."

Majorwitz expressed her gratitude to the soldiers who rescued her and her children.

"I think that's why you are soldiers,” Majorwitz said, as she fought back tears. “We could have died but we didn't. We were very fortunate all around so I just want to thank you."

Majorwitz then embraced Sequera and repeated her appreciation for their help.

"You guys are my heroes," she said.

"Band of Brothers" descendent brings Vandenberg Airman lost family heirloom

by Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- "From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother..." said Henry V, in the "St. Crispin's Day Speech" before the battle of Agincourt in the play "Henry V", by William Shakespeare.

One Vandenberg Airman witnessed the strength of the tie that binds brothers-in-arms together through generations when he received his great-uncle's World War II dog tags in a repatriation ceremony in the 576th Flight Test Squadron's conference room here, Dec. 20.

Dan Potter, a field service engineer for the Fortune 100 company, Honeywell, and the son of one of the servicemembers memorialized in the television mini-series, "Band of Brothers," presented Staff Sgt. Jason Riggs, 576th Flight Test Squadron maintenance team chief, with Rigg's great uncle's, James F. Courtney, dog tags after receiving them from a friend who found them in an attic in Normandy, France.

"My father was in the 101st Airborne Division and a member of the, 'Band of brothers' made famous by HBO," Potter said. "Because of that, I had the opportunity to visit Normandy several times. During one of my visits, I made a bunch of acquaintances of really good Frenchmen who live in the area and one of them is Roger Delarocque."

According to Potter, Delarocque, who owns a bed and breakfast in Oglandes, a small village in Normandy, would often refer to the French people's freedom from Nazi occupation as his souvenir from World War II and would let returning servicemen stay in his home for free stating, "they paid for their rooms 70 years ago." This gratitude is what may have drove Delarocque's passion to return the tags.

"About two years ago, I received a note from Roger saying his friend had found a U.S. serviceman's dog tag in the attic of his 800-year-old home," Potter said. "Roger asked me if I could locate the serviceman or the family of the owners and that began a two year quest to locate the family of James Courtney, terminating today with the delivery of the dog tags."

After Potter presented Riggs with the tags, Riggs thanked all in attendance, including the people of Normandy, and was thankful the family tradition that the tags represented.

"I'm honored to know that our family tradition runs in the military, I'm in the Air Force, both of my brothers were in the military and my great-uncle," Riggs said. "[Finding these tags] is kind of like a puzzle that we did not know about. I want to thank the French people and let them know that we appreciate everything that was done."

Like William Shakespeare's words in the "St. Crispin's Day Speech", "...we in it shall be remembered." Some were grateful for the memories gained through the discovery of the tags.

"What a priceless gift this is to Sgt. Riggs and his extended family," said Col. David Lair, 576th FLTS commander. "Prior to last week, Jason didn't know a whole lot about his uncle, who served in World War II, both his grandfather, Elmore Courtney, and his great-uncle had passed away before he was born. So, the stories of D-day were never passed along. He heard the family talk about 'Uncle Jimmy' from time-to-time, but never had the opportunity to know his great-uncle. With the gesture today, Jason's family gets back more than just an heirloom, more than just a war souvenir, they get back a piece of their family heritage and insight into a lost chapter of their American family story."

The tags were found in a section of Normandy that saw heavy combat during the early days after D-Day and today the German World War II cemetery is located just outside of Oglandes.

First disabled person to climb Everest, American300 Warrior Tours visit 24th Air Force

by Tech. Sgt. Scott McNabb
24th Air Force Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Anyone who wants to emulate the guest speaker from the American300 hosted Promise Tour, better understand the need to raise the bar for measuring success higher than most ever will.

Tom Whittaker, who lost his foot in a car accident in 1979, was not impressed when people in the hospital cheered for him when he put on his sock for the first time after the accident, he explained during a speech to more than 120 members of 24th Air Force at Arnold Hall here Dec. 19.

"You better set the bar a lot higher than that," he said raising his hand to neck level.

The Welsh-born mountaineer is not one to back down to challenges and became the first person with a disability to reach the top of Mount Everest on May 27, 1998.

He visited members of 24th Air Force and others from around the base as the featured speaker of The Promise Tour - a program designed by Robi Powers, a U.S. Army veteran and former U.S. Olympic coach who saw a need for mentors to those in service now.

Powers has gathered more than 50 volunteer mentors since 2009 and said the program only uses around 30 percent of those who apply. In 2012, American300 Tours mentors toured 25 stateside tours and five overseas.

Powers said he's delighted when people tell him the experience was uplifting or inspiring because that exactly what he's trying to accomplish.

"When we hear that a service member gets inspired by one of our guests, starts making positive choices in their life based on learning from one of our guests true life stories ... it's the ultimate payback," said Powers. "Our number one goal is to increase the resiliency of our service members. We do it through a simple mix of true life story telling, our guests are by their very presence in a room walking billboards for 'pre-exposure preparation training'"

Powers met Whittaker during the Olympics and years later called his friend to ask him to spread the word on resiliency by telling the story of his climbing feat.

Whittaker's first attempt to climb Everest was in 1989, but a storm that marked the end of climbing season hit and dropped 10 feet of snow on Whittaker and his climbing partner. They were forced to turn back. He tried again in 1995 and had to turn back just over 2,000 feet short of the 29,029-foot summit, when he ran out of oxygen because the expedition guides decided he would never make it and didn't carry his tanks ahead of the team as they did for the others.

In 1981, when taking someone with a disability to a park or beach was considered an adventure, Whittaker founded the Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group (C.W.HOG) in Pocatello, Idaho. He broke down barriers with the belief that everyone should be eagles and not vultures.

During his speech, the eagle vs. vulture analogy resonated when he compared both birds to humans who either take what's lying in front of them and call that life or those individuals who soar, reach out and grab what they want in life and make it theirs.

"It is your lives; it's your example that gives other people the chance to be as good as you are," said Whittaker. "And they don't follow vultures, ladies and gentlemen ... they don't. The hard way to earn your living is as an eagle and you earn it every day of your life. And it's not when you put the uniform on. It's not when you get out of bed. Its 24 hours a day every day of your life. You will drop the vase and you can't pick the pieces up, but you can learn from it and move on."

Whittaker had a dream job as a ski instructor in Idaho before the accident. He awoke to a different life, but his steadfast belief in himself and the help from the small town of Pocatello, Idaho were catalysts for success in a world of disbelievers. In a world of vultures.

Powers chimed into the speech for a moment and painted the picture of how handicapped were treated with kid gloves during the late 70s and through most of the 80s. He said the idea of taking an amputee to a park was dicey. He said the idea of someone missing a knee cap and a foot saying he was going to get to the top of Mount Everest was not taken seriously by most.

Whittaker said if he'd hired a few able-bodied climbers to haul him to the top, he would have been able to call himself the first disabled person to make it to the top, but no one in the world of climbing would have respected or endorsed that kind of ascent. He had to do it on his own one foot.

A friend of his, who was a U.S. Marine, helped him along. He pushed Whittaker to reach his lofty goals while he was bound to a wheelchair until the climber could walk again.

Whittaker started climbing again. He set goals and beat them. His HOGs, his daughter and a team of friends from the climbing elite were at the base camp of Everest when he went after the mountain again and accomplished his goal.

Capt. Michael Forostoski, a 24th Air Force operations planner, said both Whittaker and Powers were inspiring and reinforced a lot of great concepts while keeping the audience interested the entire time.

"I really enjoyed hearing about Whittaker's life journey and how his spirit ultimately pulled him through every obstacle he faced including the accident, being homeless, and discrimination to eventually go on to have a conversation, and kiss the ring of, the Queen of England," he said.

Staff Sgt. Lance Mayfield, a 24th Air Force communications non-commissioned officer, said that Mr. Whittaker told him everyone makes mistakes in life and the woman that hit him lit a fire under him and set him on a path that allowed him to impact so many people.

Mayfield said that to him, being an eagle means, "Being able to look back at my life and say, 'I can't believe I did all that, let's do it again.' Looking back at my children and knowing that I showed them how to fly and hunt so that when they're ready to leave the proverbial nest they are ready to capture their dreams. My children are definitely who I am the eagle for."

Staff Sgt. Tamisha Rutledge, a member of the 624th Operations Center, had a slightly different, but equally positive definition of what being an eagle means to her.

"I try to be the eagle for myself first and foremost," she said. "I feel that if I'm a vulture then how can I possibly be the eagle for those entrusted to my charge or to those in leadership? If you are an eagle for yourself, then you can easily be an eagle for those you supervise, your peers, and your leadership."

Air Force Marathon has record opening day registration

1/3/2013 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio -- The Air Force Marathon filled a third of its 15,000 runner slots on the first day of registration, breaking last year's registration opening record.

More than 5,100 runners registered for the 2013 event on January 1, taking advantage of special New Year's Resolution discounts that were available only on that day. Last year, only 4,178 runners had registered on January 1.

"It's phenomenal," said Race Director Rob Aguiar, "It's great to see that our event is so popular with runners."

The next schedule price hike is April 2, but Aguiar warns that the race could sell out before that date.

"We're not increasing the number of runners this year and expect to sell out even faster than 2012," he said.

The 2012 Air Force Marathon sold out two months earlier than expected in May.

The featured aircraft for 2013 is the C-130J Super Hercules, a military transport plane used in military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations. The Hercules family is the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history.

Total Force: Behind the music

by Staff Sgt. Eric Burks
U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

1/3/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- (Editor's Note: This is the second article in a series about the U.S. Air Forces Central Band, the only assigned Air Force Band to the Central Command Area of Responsibility. Based in Southwest Asia, the current band "Total Force" is comprised of deployed Airmen from the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.)

At the sound of the first few notes on the accordion, the two patients in a small room at the hospital looked up and smiled.

When the rest of the band joined in on the song -- an acoustic cover of Van Halen's "Jump" -- a small crowd of medical personnel gathered outside the room let out a chorus of cheers and applause.

The scene was unfolding inside the NATO Role III Hospital at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, a few days before Christmas as the AFCENT Band "Total Force" brought music, as well as holiday cheer, to locations around the base.

"One of the patients told me he wanted to get up and start dancing with the band," said U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Paul Kuhn, hospital staff nurse. "They thoroughly enjoyed it and so did we. It would be great for morale if the band could play here every day."

According to the band's leader, that's exactly the type of reaction the band strives to receive.

"We strive for those moments, that opportunity to reach people at the most basic human level and make them feel just a little bit better," said 1st Lt. Rafael Toro-Quinones, AFCENT Band officer-in-charge and a 15-year Air Force bandsman.

"Raising morale for U.S. service members and coalition partners is one of our top priorities, especially during this holiday season," he said. "Our warfighters need to be ready to accomplish the mission and must be spiritually, mentally and physically ready. I'm convinced that we're part of two of these three elements.

"Although it can be challenging to measure our impact in numbers, it is impossible to miss the immediate effect that we have on the warfighter," Toro-Quinones said. "At the end of one of our performances a commander looked at me and said 'this was awesome ... look at them all smiling.' Undoubtedly our team is fulfilling a very real and important role in the deployed environment."

Behind the scenes, it takes a lot of planning, preparation, and hard work before the band even takes the stage, said Master Sgt. Claudia Weir, AFCENT Band director of operations. Arranging a tour can take as little as a week, or up to three months, she said, depending on where the band will be playing.

"We're on the ground in the area of responsibility 365 days a year," she said. "We try to visit locations where our deployed members don't get a lot of music. We want to provide them a taste of home."

Weir and Toro-Quinones work in coordination with AFCENT Public Affairs leadership and host wing public affairs offices to develop a long-term strategy and ensure band assets go where they are needed. During the recent holiday tour in Afghanistan, "Total Force" completed 30 performances -- a mix of strolling sets and evening shows -- in nine days at multiple bases.

Each tour begins in Southwest Asia where the AFCENT Band is home-based. As band members practice and play local concerts, Weir and Toro-Quinones are busy planning the next tour. This includes arranging flights, preparing itineraries and working out logistical processes with host wing agencies at each planned stop.

Once it's time to "hit the road," the Airmen must palletize their own instruments and equipment. If the band will be performing in -- or even passing through -- Afghanistan, each member picks up their weapon and body armor on the way to the flight. Upon reaching their destination, the band must unload and transport their equipment to each stop along the way. As most tours involve multiple performances at each base, the hours quickly add up, according to Tech. Sgt. Steve Moore, AFCENT Band audio systems engineer.

"The part the audience doesn't see is that we arrive at the concert site three hours early to unload our pallet, set up the instruments, perform a sound check and troubleshoot any technical issues," he said. "When the music begins, if everything goes smoothly, it's a great show and the audience is thrilled. Once they leave, we're still on-site packing everything up and rebuilding the pallet for an hour or two.

"It's a seven or eight-hour work day for a two-hour show, and sometimes we'll play several shorter 'strolling gigs' earlier throughout the day," Moore said. "We strive to get out there and put on our best show for every single performance."

And whether the stage was large or small, the band frequently received immediate feedback from the audience.

"It was awesome," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Chris Kane, Role 3 hospital surgeon, who was present for both the acoustic performance in the hospital, and an evening performance on the Kandahar boardwalk. "This was the best night I've had in nine months here."

Toro-Quinones said that while you can't measure morale with statistics or figures, the way an audience responds goes a long way to help evaluate impact.

"We're in the business of communication," he said. "We get instant feedback, and we can use that as a measuring stick."

While the band's job is not to drive convoys, patrol outside the wire, or put bombs on target, they remain focused on supporting those who do.

"As long as taking care of Airmen remains a priority, we have a very important job," Toro-Quinones said. "Weapons systems are the hardware our military uses to complete the mission, but that hardware is useless if we are not taking care of our total force."

Obama Signs $633 Billion Defense Authorization Act

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2013 – President Barack Obama signed the $633 billion fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act into law yesterday.

The legislation, which cleared Congress last month, authorizes the department to act in any number of instances. “There are certain things that cannot be done without [the authorization act],” said a senior defense official speaking on background.
The act allows the department to institute pay raises, bonuses and incentive pay for personnel. “All military construction has to be authorized under this act,” the official said.

It includes a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel, and contains $527.5 billion for DOD’s base budget, $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations and $17.8 billion for national security programs in the Energy Department and Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

It also extends the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program that has been used in Afghanistan and Iraq. It authorizes a one-year extension of the Afghan Infrastructure Fund and extends the Coalition Support Fund and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund. In Iraq, the law authorizes U.S. training activities, the official said.

The law also authorizes changes needed to deter sexual assault in the military.

In addition, it establishes the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which will examine all aspects of military compensation. Officials stress that any possible changes to military retirement benefits that the group recommends will not affect current service members.
Air Force structure was of some concern to the department going into the process, but officials say they were pleased with the outcome. The Air Force also received 32 more C-130 aircraft than requested.

“But the Air Force is allowed to do everything else. They are allowed to do their divestures and moves,” the official said. “The only thing kept out of service’s force structure plan was we had to keep the Global Hawk Block 30 [unmanned aircraft].”

The act raises the co-pay for medications under TRICARE through 2022. The legislation also limits any annual increases in pharmacy co-payments to increases in retiree cost of living adjustments.
“It is a little bit toward what we need to start paying for how much health care is costing,” the official said.

The authorization also provides DOD funds for servicewomen who need abortions in case of rape or incest. “So they don’t have to take leave and come home or go out on the economy,” the official said. “This is the first time this has been approved.”

Among other programs, the act authorizes the defense biofuel initiative as well as counternarcotic authorities. “We use this a little bit in Afghanistan, but it’s mostly in the southern border and Colombia,” she said. “It has to get done.”

Passage of the legislation is particularly important this year because the department is operating on a continuing resolution through March, which may be continued again through the rest of the fiscal year. The resolution maintains funding at 2012 budget levels. Without this authority, “Things really do shut down,” the official said.

“It actually is things that keep the war going and things that … keep the economy going because it is pay, recruiting, military construction,” the official said.

This Day in Naval History - Jan. 03

1904 - The cruiser USS Detroit (C 10) lands a Marine detachment at Puerto Plata, Dominican Replublic, to protect American interests during an insurrection.
1944 - Top Marine ace Maj. Gregory Boyington captured after shooting down 28 aircraft. Boyington went on to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions.
1945 - Third Fleet carriers begin a two-day attack against Formosa, Taiwan, destroying 100 aircraft while losing only 22.

FASTCENT Platoon Returns to Bahrain

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Blake Midnight, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, Bahrain (NNS) -- U.S. Marines assigned to Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Company, Central Command (FASTCENT), Charlie 5 Platoon, returned to Bahrain, after a 111-day deployment to Sana'a, Yemen, Jan. 1.

Charlie 5 deployed to Sana'a Sept. 13, 2012, to provide continuous security for the U.S. Embassy immediately following the attempted breach of the embassy walls by protesters during a period of heightened tensions in the region.

Charlie 5 was greeted by Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, who congratulated the Marines on a successful mission.

"I cannot explain to you how reassuring it is for someone who is in an embassy, that needs help, to hear that there are Marines ready to go," said Miller.

"We put you in a situation where your professionalism had to be absolutely exceptional in order for us to be successful," said Miller. "I want to personally thank you and congratulate you on a job done extremely well."

The rapid deployment and overall mission success of Charlie Five is another example of how successful forward operating Marines have been in this region of the world.

"The reinforcement of the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a by FASTCENT epitomizes the reason Marines are forward in the CENTCOM AOR (Area of Responsibility). This platoon had been standing alert when the call came from the Embassy and they executed their rapid deployment with exacting precision and were the first U.S. forces on scene to quell the unrest. I am extremely proud of these young men," said Col. Brett Bourne, Fleet Marine officer and director for Plans and Strategy U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet.

Charlie 5 not only augmented the existing U.S. Marine security force responsible for the protection of U.S. Embassy personnel and facilities, they also organized and executed close quarter battle training for approximately 50 local national embassy security guards and conducted advanced urban combat classes for the 1st Law Enforcement Platoon, responsible for the security of U.S. Embassy employees and their families.

"The local foreign military was very willing to work and train with us," said Lance Cpl. William Wiedeman Jr., a squad leader in the platoon. "It was very rewarding to see the proficiency they gained during the time we spent with them."

"Being a part of this mission was very important to me," said Cpl. Stewart Blackwell another squad leader in the platoon. "In the future, if the U.S. needs to do something in Yemen we have aided in keeping good relationships there."

Charlie 5 was relieved in-place by Charlie Six, another platoon within FASTCENT.

FASTCENT's mission is to provide limited duration expeditionary anti-terrorism and security forces in support of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command to protect vital naval and national assets.

Last Deployment for "Wizards" on Stennis

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charlotte Oliver, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- The flight deck shakes, an arresting wire is caught and twin turbojet engines roar as an EA-6B Prowler from the "Wizards" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 lands on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during its current deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

It is the end of an era for the Prowler, an aircraft that has been in use by the military since July 1971. After completing its final deployment as a Prowler squadron, VAQ-133 will transition to the EA-18G Growler and join Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

"It's a huge technical leap for us," said Cmdr. Michael Bisbee, executive officer of VAQ-133. "The aircraft offers us better situational awareness in electronic warfare."

Bisbee will also take the reins as commanding officer of VAQ-133 by the time they finish the transition. "I'm really excited," said Bisbee. "We're going to be learning an entirely new system."

A big change will be transitioning from a crew of four to a crew of two. Growlers will have one pilot and just one electronic countermeasures officer instead of three.

Based on the F/A-18F Super Hornet platform, the Growler is developed by the Boeing Company and began integration into the Navy in August 2009 with VAQ-129. Since then, six more squadrons have transitioned to the Growler.

VAQ-133's transition was originally scheduled for January 2014, but due to schedule changes and mission requirements the squadron will start the transition process immediately following deployment.

In order to prepare for the transition, some squadron Sailors will be sent to rate-specific schools to learn how to operate and maintain the new aircraft, while others have already attended Growler school. Aviation Machinist's Mate Airman Tony Svezzese, of Bel Air, Md., joined the squadron in November, having just completed Growler "C" School.

"When I arrived at C school, I already had my orders to VAQ-133 and the instructors told me 133 was still flying Prowlers, so I'm learning this [Prowler] aircraft too," said Svezzese.

Now that the transition is being moved up, Svezzese will have a chance to train his fellow Sailors when the squadron returns to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island in Washington, where all Navy Electronic Attack squadrons are stationed.

To help Sailors plan for their future after the transition, VAQ-133's career counselors, chiefs and mentors are conducting special career development boards (CDB).

"There is some uncertainty with which Sailors will be staying with the squadron for the transition, and the CDBs are helping us make those decisions," said Bisbee.

While the Prowler is the last aircraft in service made by Northrop Grumman, the company will still provide the electronic warfare capability in the jamming pods that are attached underneath the wings of the Growler.

Lt. Roy Walker, from Greenburg, Penn., a pilot from VAQ-133, said he is looking forward to the transition, but added that it will be bittersweet.

"I knew eventually I would transition to Growlers, but not that soon," said Walker. "At the time [I was finishing flight school] I was excited, but now that I've gotten a chance to really learn the system, it's sad to leave it."

VAQ-133 will turn in two of the Prowler aircraft to NAS Whidbey Island and conduct final checks on the remaining aircraft when they return from deployment. As Sailors attend schools and officers start the qualification process, the fleet replacement squadron, VAQ-129, will be training with VAQ-133 until they are qualified on the new aircraft, which is expected by March 2014.

"It's a rarity for pilots today to change platforms, but this is exciting to have this experience in my career," said Walker.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, consisting of Stennis, Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility to strengthen regional partnerships, sustain maritime security, and support combatant commander requirements for assets in the area.

SUBLANT Announces 2012 Battle 'E' Winners

By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The commander of Submarine Force Atlantic (COMSUBLANT) announced the winners of the 2012 Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") competition in an official message Jan. 1.

"The Battle E competition is conducted to strengthen individual command performance, improve overall force readiness, and to recognize outstanding performance," said Vice Adm. Michael J. Connor.

"The award symbolizes the overall readiness of the command to carry out its assigned wartime tasks as a unit of the Atlantic Submarine Force. The competition for these honors, as always, is extremely keen. They should be a source of great pride to each and every crew member," Connor added.

Based on a yearlong competition, one submarine from each submarine squadron in the Atlantic Fleet is recognized. The awards are presented by the commodore of each squadron to the submarine under their command which has demonstrated the highest level of battle readiness during the evaluation year.

The 2012 COMSUBLANT Battle "E" winners, their homeports, and commanding officers are:

Commander, Submarine Squadron 4 (Groton, Conn.) - USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), commanded during the competition by Cmdr. John McGunnigle.

SUBRON 6 (Norfolk, Va.) - USS Boise (SSN 764), commanded by Cmdr. Brian Sittlow

Commander, Submarine Development Squadron 12 (Groton, Conn.) - USS Toledo (SSN 769), commanded by Cmdr. Sam Geiger.

SUBRON 16 (Kings Bay, Ga.) - USS Georgia (SSGN 729) (Blue) commanded during the competition by Capt. Kelly McDowell and Capt. Daniel Christofferson, and USS Georgia (SSGN 729) (Gold), commanded during the competition by Capt. Michael Cockey and Capt. Rhett Jaehn.

SUBRON 20 (Kings Bay, Ga.) - USS Alaska (SSBN 732) (Blue), commanded during the competition by Cmdr. Kevin Byrne and Cmdr. Todd Figanbaum, and USS Alaska (SSBN 732) (Gold) commanded by Cmdr. Robert Wirth.