Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blue Ridge Completes Exercise with ROK Navy, Improves Joint Operational Capabilities

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Waldrop

BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff departed Busan, Republic of Korea Aug. 30 after conducting joint exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2014 (UFG 14) with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy during a 17-day port visit.

The exercise enhances combat readiness and interoperability by utilizing cooperative training and engagement between ROK and U.S. forces in the region.

"UFG 14 was the first use of a combined ROK-U.S. Naval Component Commander (NCC) staff," said Capt. Chris Budde, UFG 14 Combined Maritime Operations Center (CMOC) director. "The CMOC concept exceeded all expectations by significantly improving the effectiveness of the navy component in the fight and further cemented the ROK-U.S. alliance."

During the visit, Sailors enjoyed cultural tours sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, participated in community service engagements with locals and competed in friendly sports matches with the ROK navy.

Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet Chief Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officer Selectees visited the Chun-Ma Rehabilitation Center, a home for mentally disabled people of all ages.

"Visiting the people at the Chun-Ma home was an amazing and humbling experience," said Chief Hospital Corpsman (Select) Cameron Poteat. "I'm glad that we were able to teach them a little about what we do and have a positive impact on their lives."

Blue Ridge welcomed aboard members of the ROK Navy to take guided tours of the ship, and in turn, Blue Ridge Sailors were given tours of the Korean guided missile destroyer, Sejong the Great (DDG-993), the ROK flagship.

"It was a great opportunity to meet with one of our regional partners and to get a tour of one of their destroyers," said Ensign Thomas Blevins the Combat Information Center Officer. "It was a unique experience to visit and talk with Korean sailors, see how they operated, and how they maintained their bridge."

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

Preparing to Promote with EAP at Naval Hospital Bremerton

By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Bremerton wrapped up another round of Enlisted Advancement Program (EAP) training August 26-28 in helping to prepare over 150 enlisted personnel for the upcoming September 2014 advancement exams.

According to NHB Command Master Chief Randy Pruitt, there is statistical evidence that Sailors who invest their time and energy into being part of EAP training fare better on an advancement exam.

"Statistics show that seven percent of hospital corpsmen advance during an advancement cycle, but EAP almost triples the chances of advancement if they attend the training in some form. So without a doubt, I'm a big fan of it," said Pruitt.

The EAP training is being held over three weeks, each session focusing on the Navy's specific enlisted pay-grades E-4, E-5 and E-6. The training has consisted of study guides, facilitated topics and practical exams. The EAP has also provided test taking techniques, advancement jeopardy quizzes, and supplied the most current and effective study materials.

"Last year was the first time we taught the EAP and we did have an increase in advancement. Those who did advance last year say that it was due to taking the class. EAP is extremely helpful in not only going over topics, but also in focusing on what to study that someone might miss if they just chose to do it on their own. EAP covers it here," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kyle C. Hewitt of NHB's Physical Therapy department and one of the EAP coordinators.

HM2 Sarah Lowe is a strong advocate of the program and her decision to help coordinate was based on her positive experience with the training.

"I'm convinced I advanced due to EAP at my former command. I feel with EAP there are better tools to learn as well to teach to others. Just as it did for me, the EAP can help narrow down specific topics, focus on correct subject matter and help redirect someone when needed," said Lowe, who along with facilitating the course shared insight on preventive medicine and occupational health topics.

There is a strategy to taking a Navy advancement exam attests Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Julian Rodriguez, and the Enlisted Advancement Program can help anyone getting ready for their upcoming advancement exam to map a navigational course to success.

"EAP helps Sailors concentrate and prioritize what they need to study and what they need to know before their advancement exam. As a volunteer instructor, it's my duty and honor to help our Sailors focus on the essential material to get them to pass their exam and make grade," said Rodriguez, adding that the program's benefits also include tips on how to improve study habits, as well as being able to go over corpsmen-centric information and Navy knowledge in a class room environment and group setting.

The training has been conducted at NHB's Branch Health Education Center (BHEC) on Naval Base Kitsap Bangor to ensure the enrolled Sailors were 100 percent free from distractions and work responsibilities.

"The BHEC site has been perfect for EAP. Our Sailors have been able to focus their fullest attention to their studies during the three day course. In fact, we've had so many, we might need to find a bigger classroom," said Hewitt.

Bataan ARG Deployment Extended in 5th Fleet

From USS Bataan (LHD 5) Public Affairs Office

ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- The Secretary of Defense ordered the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Aug. 30, to remain in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) until the beginning of October.

This represents a 21 day extension to the ARG/MEU's deployment schedule. Bataan ARG includes USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).

The Bataan ARG and 22nd MEU are being extended to assure a continuous ARG/MEU physical presence in the Arabian Gulf and uninterrupted support for potential tasking. This extension provides time for USS Bataan's relief, USS Makin Island and the embarked 11th MEU, to arrive on station for a "face-to-face" turnover before Bataan departs for her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.

The Bataan ARG/22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit entered the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR March 13.

The U.S. 5th Fleet AOR encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, North Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea. The expanse comprises 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

The BATARG is commanded by Capt. Neil A. Karnes, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) Six, and comprises the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).

USS Bataan (LHD 5), commanded by Capt. George Vassilakis, left her homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, Feb. 8, on a regularly-scheduled deployment as the flagship of the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group.

The 22nd MEU is commanded by Col. William R. Dunn and comprises a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment; aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 (Reinforced); logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its command element.

The 22nd MEU's Air Combat Element has been flying non-traditional Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR) missions from USS Bataan over Iraq using its AV-8B Harrier aircraft since Aug. 8.

Bataan conducted two rescues at sea. On March 8th, Bataan rescued two Turkish mariners from their sinking cargo ship in the Aegean Sea. More recently, on June 6th, Bataan rescued 282 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea after their small vessel sank. For both rescues, Bataan brought stranded mariners and civilians aboard the ship, provided medical attention, food, water and temporary shelter.

Since deploying in February, the ship's crew has operated in several locations in the 5th Fleet and 6th Fleet regions. The ship's tasking includes providing the regional combatant commander with a versatile sea-based, expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions, including quick reaction crisis response options in maritime, littoral and inland environments in support of the nation's maritime strategy.