Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hagel, Guatemalan Leaders Visit Troop Humanitarian Projects

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, April 26, 2014 – On his first visit to Guatemala as U.S. defense secretary, Chuck Hagel spent the day with the nation’s leaders, and with them visited a small town that is the most recent site of humanitarian projects that U.S. and Guatemalan troops work side by side to complete.

Hagel visited Guatemala after a stop in Mexico to attend what he called a successful second North American Defense Ministerial with his counterparts from Mexico and Canada.

On Friday the secretary began his day in the country’s capital, Guatemala City, at the Central Air Force Command to meet with President Otto Perez Molina.

During the meeting Hagel conveyed among other things, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, U.S. support for a key partner in a region challenged by narcotics trafficking and transnational crime.

It was the first visit to Guatemala by a U.S. defense secretary since 2005, Kirby added.

“It was a very good meeting,” Hagel said of his talks with President Molina during the day, as they walked to and from briefings and rode in helicopters.

“We were able to spend a lot of time … talking and walking and we addressed all the big issues,” the secretary added. “We talked about cooperation.”

Most Latin American countries allow their presidents just one term so their approach to governance is interesting, Hagel explained, adding that President Molina is impressive.

“He has a reputation for reaching out to the people,” the secretary said. “I asked him how often he gets outside of Guatemala City, and he said he goes somewhere in the country every Friday and Saturday.”

Molina “has really upped the game on human rights down there,” Hagel said of what he characterized as “a country that used to be in a lot of trouble.”

He added, “Through some courageous, visionary leadership they have really pulled themselves up” from human rights abuses.

Hagel also met there with Minister of Foreign Affairs Fernando Carrera and Minister of Defense Army Maj. Gen. Manuel Lopez Ambrosio.

With support from the Defense Department, defense officials said, Guatemala has made important progress in reforming and modernizing its defense institutions, and Hagel will communicate DOD’s continued support of these efforts.

After these meetings, Hagel, Molina, Lope and the secretary’s delegation loaded into Blackhawk helicopters and flew 50 minutes to Los Limones, a town of about 1,000 people in east central Guatemala, where U.S. and Guatemalan troops are preparing to participate in the upcoming April-to-June annual Beyond the Horizon humanitarian and civic assistance exercises.

U.S. Southern Command sponsors the joint foreign military exercises and Army South plans and leads them. They last for several months and provide assistance to partner nations throughout the Central and South America and Caribbean region.

The exercises tend to occur in rural, underprivileged areas and they are a major component of the U.S. military's regional engagement efforts. They offer a unique opportunity to train U.S. service members alongside partner nation personnel, while providing needed services to communities in the region, Southcom exercise fact sheets say.

“Some of the most significant opportunities the United States has to reach out to people and affect their lives in very positive ways is through our military, and I think what we saw today was a clear demonstration of that,” Hagel said later in a briefing to reporters traveling with him.

“Really changing people's lives, helping people through these clinics, building a school -- they're teaching people in these countries who have very little, who have not had much attention over the years, to be able to bring the sophistication of our assets and technology to these countries and help them in very meaningful ways,” the secretary added.

“Not theory, not policy, not speeches, but really affect their lives,” he said. “When you can do something about their teeth and help educate their kids, that lasts a long time and those young people will never forget it.”

During the exercises, which this year will be held in Belize, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, according to Southcom, U.S. troops work with governmental, nongovernmental and private-sector organizations to train in civil-military operations skills while they provide medical and dental care and engineering support to local populations.

This year on April 22, days before Beyond the Horizon was to start in Los Limones, an Army radio operator stationed there died, according to an advisory from Army South.

Army Specialist Hernaldo Beltran Jr., 24, assigned to the 56th Signal Battalion at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, died during what may have been a practice exercise for Beyond the Horizon, which had not yet begun. A large tree branch fell on a group of soldiers working on an engineering project in Los Limones.

Three other soldiers received nonlife-threatening injuries and all were evacuated to Mega Medica Hospital in Zacapa, Guatemala, by Blackhawk helicopter, attended by a unit doctor.

Beltran, whose home of record is El Paso, Texas, enlisted in the Army Dec. 29, 2009, and completed basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., in 2010. After basic combat training, he attended advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga.

In July 2010, he arrived at his first duty station with the 56th Signal Battalion, where he served as a radio operator. Beltran had deployed in support of Beyond the Horizon to Guatemala in 2012 and Panama in 2013.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated, Hagel said, adding, “I expressed our condolences and [President Barack Obama’s] condolences, as Guatemalan President Molina did to the families and all those involved.”

At Los Limones, Hagel also visited with U.S. troops who are engaged in medical training and civil affairs exercises alongside the Guatemalan military.

Back at the airport in Guatemala City, before boarding his military aircraft for Washington, Hagel and his delegation walked through a military capability display of troops and equipment with the Guatemalan government and military leaders.

During a briefing later with reporters traveling with him, Hagel said Guatemala is on the right path.

“They’re going to be okay if they just keep finding the kind of leaders they've been able to find, and their ministers are impressive,” he added. “I really did appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with [President Molina] and I'll give President Obama my observations when I see him next week.”

U.S., South Korea Alliance ‘Incredible Bond,’ Obama Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2014 – The special bond between Americans and South Koreans serves to strengthen U.S. commitment to the country’s security in the face of aggression, President Barack Obama told troops today during a visit to South Korea.

Speaking to U.S. troops in Yongsan, South Korea, the president noted the two nations aren’t just allies, but friends.

“This alliance is special, forged on the battlefield,” Obama said. “It has been fortified by the common values and mutual interest and mutual respect of our peoples.”

“The United States and Korea are more than allies -- we are friends,” he noted.

Obama said the foundation of trust, security and stability that allows both nations to thrive economically and socially is made possible by the service and sacrifice of U.S. service members and diplomats.

“You are the tip of the spear on freedom’s frontier,” he said. “You carry high the legacy left by all those who fought and served here.”

“And to the family members, both here in South Korea and awaiting your return back home,” Obama said, “I thank you for your service as well.”

The president lauded the audience for their service and said this alliance is “the linchpin of security and stability in the Asia Pacific.”

Because of that service and the service of generations before them, Obama said, the U.S. still stands with its founding principles shining, and nations around the world that once knew nothing but the “bitter taste of fear” now know the blessings of freedom.

Obama said during his visit he and South Korean President Park Gen-Hye received a briefing from U.S. Forces Korea commander, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, and signed the guest book on top of a table where the Korean War Armistice was signed.

“Both of those moments drove home the truth that, after more than 60 years, our alliance is as strong as it has ever been and as effective as it has ever been,” he said.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the professionalism and the interoperability of the two nations’ militaries, Obama said.

“That’s because our forces on duty here -- American and Korean -- are highly trained, closely coordinated, fit to fight tonight and every other night,” he said.

“In addition to dealing with the threat from North Korea, this is also an alliance that represents the incredible bonds between peoples,” Obama said.

The president noted that in 1950, just five years after the end of World War II, Communist armies first crossed the 38th Parallel.

“At the time, many Americans couldn’t place Korea on a map,” he said. “But we knew -- as much as we had already given, as weary as we were of war -- that we had a stake in what happened here on the Korean Peninsula.”

America had to roll back the tide of Communism and stand with its South Korean friends, Obama said. In September, the Americans arrived and the alliance landed in a surprise attack.

“And all told, nearly 1.8 million Americans would join the fight those next few years,” he said. In dangerous and brutal conditions, nearly 37,000 Americans would give their last full measure of devotion on this faraway soil, but not without pushing the invading armies back across the line they had dared to cross, Obama said.

The president said the Republic of Korea’s security is a “hard-earned, long-defended victory” for that nation, which has “risen from occupation and ruin, and become one of the most vibrant and open democracies in the world.”

Obama said when U.S. veterans see the progress in the Republic of Korea, “they can say with pride their efforts and their sacrifice was worth it.”

“They see the real results of what they’ve done -- a South Korea that is a world leader and a true partner in Asian security and stability,” he said.

“None of this was an accident,” Obama added. Freedom, democracy and progress are not accidents, but priorities that have to be fought for, he said.

“You’re part of that legacy,” he said. “They must be won. And they’ve got to be tended to constantly and defended without fail. And here, on freedom’s frontier, they are -- by every man and woman who has served and stood sentinel on this divided peninsula.”

Obama noted the stark contrast in the Republic of Korea and its neighbor to the north.

“The 38th Parallel now exists as much as a contrast between worlds as it does a border between nations;” he said, “between a society that’s open and one that is closed; between a democracy that is growing and a pariah state that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams.”

That’s not the result of war, Obama said, but of the path that North Korea has taken -- a path of confrontation and provocation that includes pursuing the world’s most dangerous weapons.

“I want to be clear,” he said. “The commitment that the United States of America has made to the security of the Republic of Korea only grows stronger in the face of aggression.”

“Our alliance does not waver with each bout of their attention-seeking,” Obama said. “It just gains the support of the rest of the world.”

The president said North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a path that leads only to more isolation.

“It’s not a sign of strength,” Obama said. Anybody can make threats, move an army or show off a missile, he said.

“That doesn’t make you strong,” he said. “It does not lead to security, opportunity, or respect. Those things don't come through force -- they have to be earned.”

Real strength, Obama said, is allowing an open and participatory democracy where people can choose their own leaders and their own destiny.

Additionally, he said, real strength is allowing a vibrant society where people can think, pray and speak their minds as they please, and there are free and open markets building a thriving middle class and lifting millions of people out of poverty.

“We don't use our military might to impose these things on others,” Obama said. “But we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life.”

Like all nations on Earth, Obama said, North Korea and its people have a choice -- continue down a lonely road of isolation, or join the rest of the world in seeking a future of greater opportunity, security, and greater respect.

This future, he noted, already exists for the citizens on the southern end of the Korean Peninsula.

“If [North Koreans] choose this path,” Obama said, “America and the Republic of Korea and the rest of the world will help them build that future.”

“But if they do not, they should know that the commitment of the United States of America to the security and defense of the Republic of Korea has not wavered once in more than 60 years,” he said. “It never has and it never will.”

Rear Adm. Buck, 21st Century Sailor Office, Speaks with NAVSTA Newport Sailors and Leadership

By Bob Krekorian, NAVSTA Newport Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Sean Buck, director, 21st Century Sailor Office, visited Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport, April 22, to provide members of command leadership with an update on the activities and progress made within his office.

In attendance were the commanding officers, executive officers, and command master chiefs/senior enlisted leaders from the NAVSTA Newport command, Naval Academy Preparatory School, Center for Service Support, Surface Warfare Officers School, Naval Justice School, Command Leadership School, Officer Training Command, Naval Health Clinic New England, and Navy Supply Corps School.

"I wanted to talk with you about those areas that are within my portfolio of work so that you can begin to be the disciples for me and with me as we talk to the Sailors," Buck said.

Buck said he has learned, after talking with Sailors Navy-wide during the past six months, they have a voracious appetite for information and they are getting it by means of their smart devices rather than the more traditional methods.

"We market the good ideas but I believe the good ideas come from our young Sailors," Buck said. "That audience of young Sailors, young junior Officers, and new chiefs, I like to speak to because they have some good ideas about training and the way forward."

"We, because of our rank, maturity, position, and experience, are in the best position to market great ideas," Buck said.

During his visit, Rear Adm. Buck addressed the students and staff at the Command Leadership School, received an update from the installation's Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, met with command staff chaplains and the NAVSTA staff judge advocate (SJA) during a combined Chaplain/SJA call, and addressed members of Senior Enlisted Academy Class 180.

He met with the area Sailors of the Year/Quarter during lunch at Ney Hall galley.

Sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR), suicide prevention, domestic abuse, alcohol abuse prevention, physical fitness, nutrition, and most of the GMT topics are amongst his portfolio of work.

Buck said he is working to build up those areas that contribute to the resiliency of Sailors and their families, and is mindful of those areas that breakdown resiliency.

The physical fitness assessment and the Navy's nutrition programs are positive programs that build resiliency.

Buck said the negative behaviors of sexual assault, suicide, sexual harassment, hazing, fraternization, and alcohol abuse break down resiliency.

"These are destructive behaviors that break down our resiliency," he said. "If you are a participant in these kinds of destructive behaviors, it definitely has an impact on resiliency."

Buck said 2013 was a year that was marked by a huge push in the fleet to make Sailors more aware of sexual assault prevention and to improve the reporting system.

Buck used the analogy of a parent responding to their child who has fallen down and is bleeding.

"The very first thing a parent does is run to the child and pick them up and you console them. You need to respond because they are probably hurting."

"The Navy now has a world class response system and a benchmark to be followed in how we respond to victims," Buck said.

Buck said the increase in awareness of what sexual assault is and the improved response system to sexual assault resulted in a huge push in Sailors coming forward to report it.

"Now that the fleet understands the importance of awareness and response, it's important now to prevent sexual assault," he said.

"The higher numbers of Sailors that are coming forward to report sexual assaults indicate the Sailors now trust you and know that you will do something about it and that you will reach out to them to help when they ask for it," Buck said.

Buck said that one suicide is one too many. "Getting to zero is the only number that counts. "The numbers are declining since 2012, but until we get to zero, it's not good enough," he said.

Buck said a cultural change has brought about how the Navy handles mental health issues. "In the past we would work with mental health providers to help resolve suicidal feelings and stress within the command structure," he said.

"We now are listening to our Sailors who are calling out for help and need to talk with someone," Buck said. "This will help them to become productive team members again and build back their resiliency."

Buck said SAPR and suicide prevention training will continue but the methods of delivery will change in some aspects.

In response to a question about how training is delivered, Buck said there is an on-going effort to consolidate the training and make it more efficient.

"Sailors have told me they want to be able to revisit training in a way that they receive information on smart devices, tablets, and apps," Buck said.

In response to a question about alcohol abuse and underage drinking, Buck said commanders must continue to get the message out about alcohol abuse prevention.

"The 'Keep What You've Earned' campaign has applicability," Buck said.

Fiesta San Antonio: "Navy Day at the Alamo"

By Master-At-Arms 1st Class Candice Boyd, Center for Security Forces Public Affairs

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (NNS) -- Sailors from Naval Technical Training Center Lackland impressed spectators of all ages during Fiesta San Antonio's Navy Day at the Alamo, Apr. 24.

Fiesta San Antonio is an annual celebration that honors those who fought and died in the "Battle of the Alamo" and the "Battle of San Jacinto." Fought within months of one another, each battle played a pivotal role in the Texas Revolution and ultimately led to Texian freedom.

The year's celebration marks the 124th anniversary of Fiesta San Antonio. It is also the 12th consecutive year of participation by NTTC Lackland in Navy Day at the Alamo.

Rear Adm. William Roberts, commandant, Medical Education & Training Campus (METC) spoke about the Navy being there when it matters.

"Seventy percent of the earth is covered by water, 80 percent of the global population lives near the ocean and 90 percent of international trade occurs by sea," said Roberts, "Around the world and around the clock a Sailor stands the watch. When disasters strikes the Navy is there-being there matters."

Sailors from METC and Master-at-Arms "A" school provided demonstrations that show how the Navy stays proficient through vigorous training evolutions. Training that enables them to deploy worldwide and serve a vital role in safeguarding both military assets and personnel.

Spectators had an opportunity to observe Chief Master-at-Arms Delilah Clymer, receive level one direct contamination spray and complete a confidence course. Oleoresin Capsicum spray is one of several non-lethal weapons used by Navy security force personnel to subdue a hostile suspect or defuse a hostile situation.

"Wow, it is unbelievable. Why would anyone volunteer to be sprayed directly in the eyes?" asked spectator Neal Pooson. "However, it was excellent and realistic."

The highlight of the event was the Military Working Dog (MWD) demonstration where the crowd learned first-hand what it takes to train MWDs. MWD handlers explained the tools used to train these highly specialized dogs such as a bite suit and mock weapons all of which help the dogs become more proficient in performing their daily duties.

"Simply amazing," stated Chris Medina, San Antonio Mayor Pro Tem, "It reminds me how important it is that we have our military operations so well-trained and well-prepared to take on any incident or issue that may come up."

The ceremony and demonstrations concluded with the proclamation reading by Medina who declared it "Navy Day" in San Antonio. "We're Military City, USA and we really value all of our services and we're just so proud to have the Navy for Navy week here at Fiesta," stated Medina.

The Center for Security Forces is the parent command for Naval Technical Training Center Lackland. The Center provides specialized training to more than 28,000 students each year. It has 14 training locations across the U.S. and around the world - Where Training Breeds Confidence.