Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stearney conducts ceremony at 9/11 Memorial

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Rob Aylward, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- Five Sailors were promoted and five Coast Guardsmen reenlisted during a ceremony officiated by Rear Adm. Scott A. Stearney, commander, Carrier Strike Group 4, at the National September 11 Memorial, May 23.

"I can think of no better place for a promotion and reenlistment ceremony than on these hallowed grounds," said Stearney. "Each of these service members will remember this day proudly as the moment they chose to continue to wear the cloth of their country."

Family and friends of the Sailors and Guardsmen were joined by Fleet Week New York participants, along with ground zero visitors, to witness their solemn declaration to uphold the defense of our nation's freedom.

"With freedom comes a heavy burden and tremendous responsibility," said Stearney. "It is my privilege to administer this oath of special resolve and commitment to service members swearing to carry these burdens with honor and courage."

Service members that were promoted or chose to reenlist took time to speak with local media and the crowd that had gathered about the significance of the ceremony's location.

"It was an important moment for me to be promoted here because of what the memorial represents," said Lt. Jack Curran, a Naval Academy graduate, now assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). "The fact that this site has been rebuilt, is a testament to the resolve of New York City and America to recapture what was taken from us."

Fleet Week New York, now in its 26th year, is the city's time-honored celebration of the sea services. The weeklong celebration is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services.

For up-to-date information on all Fleet Week events, visit the official Fleet Week New York website at, "Like" FleetWeekNewYork on Facebook, or "Follow" @FleetWeekNYC on Twitter. Join the conversation on social media by using #FleetWeekNYC.

Jacksonville Area Military Spouse of the Year for 2014 Recognized

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Greg Johnson

Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The 2014 Heroes at Home Jacksonville Military Spouse of the Year was announced during a ceremony at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, May 22.

A panel of judges selected Kandi R. Debus, wife of Senior Chief Information Systems Technician (SW/IDW) Christopher Debus, as the inaugural winner of the award recognizing military spouses in the greater Jacksonville area. Debus, an employee of Commander, Navy Region Southeast, said her dedication to military families and the community demonstrated through her extensive volunteer and community service accomplishments were key to her selection.

"There were a lot of other great spouses who were nominated and that do great things, so it's really a humbling experience to be selected," Debus said. "At the same time, it's gratifying to see such appreciation for what military spouses do day in and day out. It takes patience and sacrifice, but as military families, we take pride in seeing our Sailors wear the uniform."

The Heroes at Home Military Spouse Awards program was launched in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia in 2005 by the Norfolk, Va., Navy newspaper, The Flagship, and was later expanded to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Fort Lee, Va., and now military serving in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

"It's about honoring and recognizing military spouses for what they do behind the scenes in support of their families and the community where they live," said Adair Wells, sales development manager for The Flagship/Military Newspapers of Virginia and the founder of the program. "They move every few years, they raise their families, they work, and they do all the things that a normal spouse would do, but it's intensified by their situation. Their spouses are sometimes deployed for extended periods of time and it's tough."

Southern Chevy Dealers were the primary sponsor of this event. Other sponsors included the Florida Times-Union, USA-Discounters, St. Leo's University, Navy Mutual, First Coast News and the City of Jacksonville. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown honored nominees during the lunch, citing their sacrifices while embracing them as citizens of Jacksonville.

More than 100 people attended the ceremony, including eleven finalists and their families. A panel of judges selected the finalists from 34 original nominations provided by family, friends and community organizations. Debus' husband, who is assigned to the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), submitted her nomination. He said she is always there for Sailors and their families as the Navy Region Southeast ombudsman, supporting both her command and ombudsmen at installations throughout the southeast.

"No matter what's going on in our lives, sometimes we have to take a back seat, while my wife takes care of another family who is in need or simply has a question," Senior Chief Debus said. "We've come to accept it. My children admire her and remind her in some off-the-wall comment about taking care of 'her Sailors.' No matter what age or pay grade, once you come in contact with my wife, you are now an extension of our family."

During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, commander, Navy Region Southeast, expressed his gratitude to all military spouses.

"Our Sailors in the fleet could not do their jobs safely if it weren't for your leadership back home in taking care of our families," Williamson said. "Your commitment and dedication gives our Sailors the peace of mind required to operate safely and effectively. Thank you for all your leadership and for everything you do for our Navy. Without you, we would not be the Navy we are."

Individual selection criteria for the award was based on volunteer efforts, fortitude during deployments, personal sacrifices, support for other military families, and impact on the community.

Senior Chief Debus has served more than 25 years in the Navy. He and Kandi reside in Jacksonville and have three children, Jakob, Caleb and Kaylin.

Purple Heart Recipient Graduates with Naval Academy Class of 2014

By Jessica Clark, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Marine 2nd Lt. Jefferson Talicuran, of San Diego, California, is one of more than 1,000 new officers who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, May 23.

But, as a prior-enlisted Navy corpsman with a Purple Heart on his chest, his path to the Academy was different from that of his classmates.

Talicuran is originally from the Philippines. His uncle, a retired Navy chief corpsman, helped his family immigrate to the U.S. in 2004. Following his uncle's example, Talicuran enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman.

While still in boot camp, he learned about the possibility of attending the Naval Academy, but put off applying until after his first deployment, assuming that the experience would make his application more competitive. He completed boot camp and reported to his first duty with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines based in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif.

In April 2008, he deployed to southern Afghanistan. Less than two months later, he was on patrol with his squad in an Afghan village, passing an abandoned yellow bicycle when it exploded, causing a traumatic injury to the brachial artery in his left arm.

Despite the explosion, Talicuran remained on his feet and was able to move to cover with the rest of his squad. Once they realized the extent of his injury, he talked them through what to do to apply a tourniquet and medicate him.

Talicuran was sent back to the U.S., first to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center then home to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. While recovering from his injuries, he was also undergoing a medical examination board that would decide whether or not he would get to stay in the military.

"You have to realize there are things that are out of your control. What is in your control is to move on and do your best," Talicuran said. "Don't just settle and assume you're heading for a med board so there's no point in finishing your application. I still had hope."

Determined to continue his service, Talicuran underwent daily physical and occupational therapy and was eventually cleared for continued service. He also received his U.S. citizenship in November 2008. While serving on temporary duty at the hospital, he completed his Naval Academy application and was accepted, reporting on Induction Day in 2010.

"That's how my 'American Dream' started," he said.

Talicuran, 25, said that despite his experiences and the fact that the younger mids looked up to him, the Naval Academy still posed its own challenges, especially mentally.

"I tried to adapt to that environment," said Talicuran, who graduated with a B.S. in Information Technology. "I would share my experiences if asked, but not just put them out there."

Evidently his prior experiences didn't put Talicuran off serving in the Marine Corps.

"Working with the Marines was the best thing that happened to me," he said.

Which is just as well, as Talicuran is in the first wave of graduates to attend the Basic School within weeks of graduation.

"I'm excited to do my job and do it well," he said.

Coup Leads U.S. to Curtail Thai Military Engagements

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2014 – Following a coup by the Thai military, the United States has curtailed military-to-military engagement with the Kingdom of Thailand in accordance with U.S. law, Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a written statement today.

The Royal Thai Armed Forces took over the country Thursday after earlier imposing martial law. Kirby called on Thai military leaders to “end this coup and restore to the people of Thailand both the principles and the process of democratic rule, including a clear path forward to elections.”

Thailand is one of America’s oldest allies. The first treaty between the nations was ratified in 1837, and today Thailand is a “major non-NATO military ally.”

Kirby referenced this long association in his statement. “While we have enjoyed a long and productive military-to-military relationship with Thailand, our own democratic principles and U.S. law require us to reconsider U.S. military assistance and engagements,” he said.

In response to the coup, the United States has canceled the ongoing exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2014. The visit of U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Navy Adm. Harry Harris, which was set for next month, has also now been canceled.

In addition, the United States has rescinded an invitation to Royal Thai Armed Forces Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn to visit U.S. Pacific Command in June.

“We will continue to review additional engagements as necessary until such time that events in Thailand no longer demand it,” Kirby said. “We urge the Royal Thai Armed Forces to act in the best interests of their fellow citizens by ending this coup and restoring the rule of law and the freedoms assured those citizens through democratic principles.”

Thailand is one of 23 nations scheduled to participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercises that begin June 26 and last through August. Thailand also hosts the annual Cobra Gold exercises, one of the largest exercises in Southeast Asia. The 2014 iteration of Cobra Gold ended in February.

Pentagon Opens Doors to TAPS Families

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2014 – More than 175 Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors families gathered at the Pentagon yesterday, where senior leaders welcomed them for an evening of activities and interaction with each of the services.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked the families for their sacrifices as part of the event-packed weekend.

“The TAPS [families] are so special and they’ve given such great sacrifices to this country,” Winnefeld said. “We can give countries money, we can give them armaments, we can give them all kinds of things, but the most precious thing we give to a country is the blood of our sons and daughters.”

After presenting family members with challenge coins as they entered the Pentagon, Work and Winnefeld each noted what a privilege it was to interact with families, especially as the country collectively thinks about the sacrifices of veterans over Memorial Day Weekend.

Separated into five groups, the families visited the Pentagon Memorial, learned hand-to-hand combat from the Marine Corps, listened to the Army buglers, operated underwater demonstrations with the Navy and enjoyed other demonstrations from the Air Force and the Coast Guard.

Attendees such as Karen Eggleston and her daughter Molly, 6, said they visit each year and plan to return next year.

Eggleston’s husband was assigned to Ft. Bragg, N.C., as a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group when he was killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan April 26, 2012.

Afterward, his widow turned to TAPS.

“It is the only thing that has helped me make it through,” Eggleston said about being able to network with other grieving families. “The support of knowing that there [are] other people and they completely get your whole journey is amazing.”

While Molly proclaimed her best Washington meal so far to have been “a cookie,” her mother offered greater insight to their experience here.

“Everybody here respects what we’ve been through and everyone around D.C. stops what they’re doing to just honor us,” she said. “It really makes us feel like our loved ones are not forgotten.”