Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DOD Strives for Balance Between Military Lifestyle, Readiness

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 – The Defense Department must slow compensation and benefits growth to balance military lifestyle with readiness and modernization, DOD’s top personnel specialist testified on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee that DOD’s vision for balance is reflected in its recommendations for pay and benefits in the department’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.

Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel; Lt. Gen. Samuel D. Cox, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; Navy Vice Adm. William F. Moran, chief of naval personnel and deputy chief of naval operations, manpower, personnel, training and education; and Sheryl E. Murray, the Marine Corps’ assistant deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, also testified at the hearing.

Service members’ lifestyles are good, Wright said, and the budget proposal seeks to slow the rate of growth in compensation.

“And that's why we're asking for a 1 percent [military pay raise], as opposed to a higher percentage, so we can slow that growth of a military member's pay, and also be able to bolster their readiness and bolster [the] force and bolster their modernization,” she added.

“Our going-in proposition is to provide benefits to the service member and the family, but also to keep them trained and well-equipped so they can do their jobs,” she said.

Paraphrasing Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Wright said, “Instead of doing a Band-Aid approach … we wanted to go in with a holistic package [for] what we would like to do for compensation and benefits, so we can take that balance and use it for readiness.”

Generals Honor Women of Character, Courage, Commitment

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 – The rich history of women in the military paved the way for today’s servicewomen, two general officers said at a Capitol Hill Women’s History Month event here yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Flora D. Darpino, the Army’s judge advocate general, and Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, deputy chief of staff of the Army Reserve, discussed the evolution of women’s careers in the military at the “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment” event.

Darpino said when she joined the Army, women made up just 8 percent of the JAG corps. “At my first duty assignment, my [male] boss said, ‘I told them not to send me a woman, but they sent you anyway,’” she told the audience.

But what resonated with her was a positive reaction, Darpino said, adding that she knew she had been sent do a job for which she was best suited, regardless of her gender. From that point on, Darpino said, a couple of realizations carried her through a career that has led her to become the first woman to take charge of the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps.

“Be empowered by people who don’t get it,” the general said, reiterating that she knew she was put in her job because the Army knew she was good at what she did.

“Never walk away from a challenge,” she said. “I was given opportunities as a woman. … if I had not taken those challenges, I would have admitted defeat. Accept challenges you’ve been given and feel empowered by those who underestimate you and your capabilities.”

Smith said that unlike Darpino, the lessons she learned came about later in her career.

When she found herself as the only female officer in her early assignments, Smith said, she thought it was because that was just the way it always had been.

“I knew so little about my own strength,” she said, adding that one day, she had “an accidental moment, which is sometimes the best learning experience.”

Smith said she was scheduled to address an audience of former Women’s Army Corps members, and while mingling with them before the event, she got to hear some of the women’s stories about their Army service. But the one that struck her the most was from a small, 89-year-old woman she called “Little Bits.”

“What would you want me to know about you and your service?” Smith said she asked her. “The soldier stood up straight, and was bigger than life. She said, ‘The most important thing I would like for you to know is that I was a soldier. I am a soldier.’

“Looking back over her life, she was most proud of being a soldier,” Smith continued. “Someone asked me how I busted through the glass ceiling. I didn’t bust through it at all. All I did was pass through the hole that was already made by all the women who busted through it on my behalf.”

Smith told the Capitol Hill audience that she feels privileged to wear her uniform.

“And now since I know ‘Little Bits,’” she added, “I stand up a little taller, a little straighter, and I realize it was those women who had the courage, commitment and character to make that hole in the glass ceiling for me, and I wear this uniform in pride for them.”

JBER command and control units consolidate

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Blake Mize
JBER Public Affairs

3/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Two Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson units merged recently to increase efficiency, reduce manpower redundancies and improve the installation's ability to meet command and control requirements.

The 673d Air Base Wing Command Post and 732nd Air Mobility Control Center officially combined for initial operating capability March 18. The consolidated command post provides JBER a full-time command and control capability directly responsible to the wing commanders, said Senior Master Sgt. Shawna Hovestadt, 673d ABW Command Post superintendent. It is responsible for receiving and disseminating orders, information and requests necessary for the effective command and control of assigned forces and operations.

"This is an exciting time in the [Command Post] career field," Hovestadt said. "As the host wing, we are eager to take on the air mobility mission and are looking forward to gaining insight into the Air Mobility Command world - while at the same time imparting our knowledge and experience on the installation command and control process to the new members of the [673d] Command Post."

The 732nd AMCC was located on the JBER flightline. Its role, which will continue within the consolidated unit, was to facilitate inbound flight crews. This included coordinating the logistical movement of cargo, communicating in-flight emergencies and arranging accommodations for flight crews.

Hovestadt said the merging process actually began in 1997 when the Air Force Audit Agency recommended command post operations be consolidated across the force. In January 2007, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley directed each Air Force installation go to one command post. The one command post implementation plan was signed Sept. 22, 2013 and dates were established for different units to begin merging.

"There is a lot that goes into a merger like this," she said. "It is much more complex than just moving from the other side of the flightline. This merger has really been in the works at the grass roots level for years."

Despite the Department of Defense's current budgetary constraints, Hovestadt said the purpose of the consolidation is not money-driven.

"Due to the timing, it may appear to be tied to the fiscal environment but it is more of a common sense approach to best utilize command post personnel and centralize installation command and control," she said.

Thousands across the state gear up for Alaska Shield 2014

by Capt. Melonie San Pietro
Alaskan Command Public Affairs

3/25/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake, the State of Alaska will host Alaska Shield 2014 from March 27 to April 3. Federal, state and local authorities will join together to test interagency response in a natural disaster scenario.

Northern Command's Exercise Ardent Sentry, Joint Task Force-Alaska's Arctic Edge and the Alaska National Guard's Exercise Vigilant Guard and numerous other large-scale exercises will sync together under one vast exercise umbrella, Alaska Shield, to respond to a catastrophic natural disaster resembling the Great Alaska Earthquake.

In addition to the 10,000 Alaska-based Department of Defense assets taking part, 1,200 are deploying in from the lower 48 to participate. The State of Alaska, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army and Air National Guard, Joint Task Force-Alaska and many other federal, local and state agencies will play major roles in the exercise.

"In real life, all of these agencies would have to work together in response to a natural disaster, so it is important that they work together in an exercise setting," said Richard Everson, an exercise planner for Joint Task Force-Alaska.

"The state has had ambitious public outreach," Everson said. "The last Alaska Shield exercise in 2010 had over 4,000 interagency participants. We are expecting much higher numbers this year."

Not only are agencies participating, but entire communities are getting involved. Anchorage, Cordova, Fairbanks, Homer, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kodiak, Juneau, and Matanuska-Susitna Borough are all heavily invested in the exercise.

A variety of scenarios, ranging from search and rescue to hazardous material spills to providing shelter and food for victims, are planned across the state of Alaska in these communities each day of the exercise.

For example, this Friday, Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, will deploy its Mobile Field Hospital along with a 22-person medical team of surgeons, physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists. Patients will arrive with simulated injuries like broken bones and hypothermia to simulate the injuries that would occur in an actual earthquake.
In Cordova, residents of an entire apartment building will practice a full evacuation. A simulated earthquake will also leave the harbor in shambles, leaving seven fishermen dead or injured. Participants will put on their survival suits and simulate the injured or dead fishermen by floating in the water until they are rescued.

Joint Logistics Over the Shore, or JLOTS, is a term the U.S. military uses to describe the loading and off-loading of ships in unimproved areas where ports are unavailable or damaged. The exercise will simulate that the Port of Anchorage is severely damaged by an earthquake making normal port operations impossible for immediate relief operations.

JLOTS will bring approximately 700 active-duty and Reserve Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen from all over the United States, said Everson. It will test their ability to reestablish port facilities, offload containers, equipment and bulk supplies, and transfer, store, and deliver fuel to the area.

According to The Great Alaska Shakeout website, an impressive 100,000 residents across Alaska have signed up to participate in the Great Alaska Shakeout. The goal of the event is to get organizations and families prepared for big earthquakes by practicing how to "drop, cover, and hold on", along with other aspects of emergency planning.

The overarching Alaska Shield 2014 exercise will provide participating organizations an opportunity to test procedures and refine the interagency partnerships critical in all phases of response to a catastrophic widespread natural disaster in Alaska.

It's also important to improve the ability of every resident in Alaska to respond to a natural disaster.

"Anyone remotely paying attention knows this exercise is going on," said Everson. "Because of the media coverage that is planned throughout the exercise, every Alaskan really has a great opportunity to learn from Alaska Shield."

Navy Identifies Deceased Sailor at Naval Station Norfolk

From Naval Station Norfolk Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark A. Mayo, 24, was killed during a shooting incident at Naval Station Norfolk March 24.

Mayo was assigned to Naval Security Forces, Naval Station Norfolk. A Hagerstown, Md. native, Mayo enlisted in the Navy in October 2007 and reported to Naval Station Norfolk in May 2011.

"Petty Officer Mayo's actions on Monday evening were nothing less than heroic. He selflessly gave his own life to ensure the safety of the Sailors on board USS Mahan (DDG 72)," said Capt. Robert E. Clark, Jr., commanding officer, Naval Station Norfolk. "Petty Officer Mayo's family has endured a tremendous loss, as have the men and women of Naval Station Norfolk, in the loss of a shipmate and friend."

The events of Monday evening are under investigation but it is known at approximately 11:20 p.m. there was a shooting on board Mahan at Pier 1. The suspect approached the Mahan's quarterdeck and was confronted by the ship's petty officer of the watch. A struggle occurred and the suspect was able to disarm the Sailor. Mayo, serving as the chief-of-the-guard, rendered assistance after seeing the suspect board the ship. Mayo put himself between the gunman and the petty officer of the watch and as a result was fatally wounded.

POTFF providers join wing team

by Senior Airman Michelle Patten
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

3/12/2014 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Preservation of the Force and Family providers gathered for an immersion day to learn about the missions of the 1st Special Operations Wing and its units at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 11, 2014.

POTFF is a U.S. Special Operations Command initiative focused on helping special operations forces and their families.

"Our mission within POTFF is to be proactive in helping Airmen and their family members achieve their goals," said Marisa Olin, 1st Special Operations Mission Support Group family support coordinator.

The team of POTFF providers includes social workers, psychologists, military family life counselors and family support coordinators who are assigned to each of the 1st SOW's groups, the Airman & Family Readiness Center or Hurlburt's chapel. Those working in specific groups integrate themselves in the units so Airmen become more comfortable seeking help.

"The way we work is we provide people with tools and coping skills in a format that's not threatening," said Christina Lewis, 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group family support coordinator. "It's more of a personal vibe."

The base immersion day incorporated team-building exercises, commander briefings and tours of work sections to show POTFF providers the mission of Hurlburt's Airmen.

"We got a good overview of what this base is all about, and the different facets from the fliers to security forces," said Kathy Kubitz, 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group licensed clinical social worker.

Seeing Airmen's work environments firsthand allowed POTFF providers to better grasp the types of stressors Airmen may experience.

"I think any time you have a better understanding of the group you're working with, whether it's the maintenance group by themselves or the base as a whole, you have a better understanding of where people are coming from so you're better able to help them," Kubitz said.

For more information on how a POTFF provider may help, speak to them directly or ask your unit first sergeant.

Navy to Hold USS Miami Decommissioning Ceremony

From Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

KITTERY, Maine (NNS) -- The Navy will formally decommission Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755), March 28, during a 10 a.m. ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

The time-honored ceremony will be held in the shipyard's main auditorium and attended by current crew members, their families and other invited guests. The event will mark the end of Miami's nearly 24 years of active service in the fleet.

The ship's first commanding officer, retired Capt. Thomas Mader, will be the keynote speaker. Rear Adm. Ken Perry, commander of Submarine Group 2, will be the guest speaker. Cmdr. Rolf Spelker, who assumed command of Miami on Nov. 15, is also scheduled to speak.

Miami is currently undergoing an inactivation process the Navy announced last fall. Her crew of 111 officers and enlisted personnel will all be reassigned to other units by December.

Miami was commissioned June 30, 1990 as the Navy's 44th Los Angeles-class submarine.

The 11 commanding officers and hundreds of Sailors who have manned the ship over the course of two decades carry forward her legacy of exceptional service.

Pacific Fleet Commander Recognizes P-8 Squadron MH370 Search Efforts

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PERTH, Australia (NNS) -- Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, recognized the exceptional efforts of the P-8 Poseidon aircrew assisting the multinational MH370 search operation during a visit to Perth, March 25.

The P-8A Poseidon aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 14 to assist in the search and rescue efforts for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. After flying several missions out of Kuala Lumpur, the crew was then relocated to Perth to focus their search on southern portions of the Indian Ocean.

During his visit, Harris commended the War Eagles on their persistence and dedication.

"You're doing a great service assisting the Malaysian and Australian governments, and the families and friends of those onboard MH370," Harris said, "as well as making those in the United States proud."

Harris, who is in Perth to attend the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, also noted as significant the squadron's role in such a complex multilateral effort that includes the cooperation of navies, agencies and nations around the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Since the relocation to Perth, the VP-16 War Eagles crew, known by their call sign Rescue 74, has covered an additional 55,000 square miles of search area using the full spectrum of radar, infrared, electro-optical and visual search methods.

"The crew continues to work hard, whether it's in flight or on the deck," said Lt. Cmdr. Adam Schantz, the VP-16 search and rescue detachment officer in charge. "Our maintenance and aircrew teams continue to push through to accomplish the mission they've been given."

While on station, the crew has encountered multiple radar contacts and has been able to rule the contacts out as possible debris.

"We've come across a number of radar contacts while we were on station which led us to investigate the area using visual searches. We do everything we can while we are on station to positively identify any contacts we come across," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Trumbull, a tactical coordinator onboard the P-8A during the search and rescue missions. "Even though we haven't found aircraft debris, being able to rule out our search areas for debris is still helpful."

VP-16 is currently conducting the first operational deployment with the P-8A Poseidon in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

The deployment of the P-8A, the Navy's newest and most advanced maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, is a tangible demonstration of the Pacific rebalance, bringing newer and more capable assets to 7th Fleet to ensure the Navy is best postured to honor its security commitments and contribute to regional security and stability.