Saturday, August 23, 2014

Buffalo Sailors Donate Blood to Armed Services Blood Program

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Swink, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The crew of Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Buffalo (SSN 715), their family and friends came out in numbers to support the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP), Aug. 20, at a blood drive held adjacent to the submarine piers aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The turnout for this blood drive, the sixth in the last 18 months for Buffalo, is the best yet, as Tripler Army Medical Center's (TAMC) phlebotomists were able to collect 98 pints of blood during the drive.

"Ninety-eight pints is an excellent turnout," said Michelle Lele, the ASBP recruiter for TAMC. "I wish we had more commands that were able to sponsor large drives like this."

One recipient of such donations, former Army Staff Sgt. Jed Kennedy, a Purple Heart recipient and brother of Buffalo's engineering officer, encouraged the boat's Sailors to make a life-saving contribution.

"Your contributions that you make do go to a good purpose," said Jed Kennedy to the crew Aug. 15 at quarters on the pier. "If there weren't people out there willing to give blood, then I wouldn't be here today. I am so thankful for anybody who takes the time to go out and give."

Jed Kennedy detailed his battlefield injuries he received while on patrol in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, while serving with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, where he was shot through the chest, requiring immediate medical attention and 10 units of blood products to recover from his wounds.

Now separated from the Army, Jed Kennedy was visiting his brother, Lt. Cmdr. Jake Kennedy, who asked Jed to talk to the boat's Sailors to provide a real life example of how their blood donations directly impact soldiers, airmen and Sailors in the field.

"I know it's something else they have to do on an already loaded schedule, but it might be the thing that saves somebody's life," said Jed.

The energetic and lively recounting of his experiences worked to motivate the Sailors in achieving their highest donation rate yet.

"The numbers reflected the call to service of Sgt. Kennedy and the accompanying feelings of these Sailors," said Buffalo's commanding officer, Cmdr. Brian Tothero. "These units of life-saving fluids will be used where they are most needed at nearby Tripler Army Medical Center, and in various forward-deployed locations in Afghanistan and other areas around the world."

"It really shows how much people actually need donated blood," said Electronics Technician Seaman Jacob Ellis. "I think a lot of people donate and don't think they are making that big of a difference, but they really can save someone's life."

Buffalo has sponsored blood drives about once per quarter. After the last drive, the engineering officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jake Kennedy, informed Tothero of his brother's experiences and how he was grateful that this was a command initiative to send blood to theater operations. When hearing that the family was visiting the island, it was a golden opportunity to set up a guest speaker for this next blood drive.

"We were very blessed that my brother, Jed, was able to make it out of there alive," said Jake Kennedy as he recounted his brother's ordeal. "We were especially blessed with the donors and the amount of blood they did have at the forward operating base."

"It's really heartwarming to see the Sailors of Buffalo, who are 'my family,' providing all this support to our brothers-in-arms in Afghanistan," said Jake Kennedy.

ASBP provides quality blood products for service members, veterans and their families in both peace and war. As a joint operation among the military services, the ASBP has many components working together to collect, process, store, distribute and transfuse blood worldwide.

The blood and blood products are used for patients of all ages for many reasons from cancer patients to those with battlefield injuries. Military members and their families depend on blood donors every day.

Naval Special Warfare Group TWO Change of Hands, Plans, and Command

By By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Desiree D. Smith, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs

VIRGINA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group (CNSWG-2) TWO held a change of command ceremony at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Aug. 22nd.

Capt. Peter G. Vasely relieved Capt. Robert E. Smith, who served at the helm of CNSWG-2 since Aug. 2012. Rear Adm. Brian Losey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, was the guest speaker for the ceremony.

"The change of command ceremony is a time-honored naval tradition, all hands would muster on deck and witness the formal transfer of authority from one commander to another," said Losey.

Rear Adm. Losey spoke to an audience of more than 350 Naval Special Warfare (NSW) personnel, family, and friends about the accomplishments of CNSWG-2 and the forward deployed forces during Capt. Smith's tenure as well as the shift in direction that he directly supported during his tour.

"He's done a tremendous job in realizing the vision of the continent of Africa," said Losey. "Capt. Smith not only postured there from a command and control standpoint but coordinated with the State Department in each of the countries to remain postured to respond to U.S. unilateral interest if, and when necessary."

Rear Adm. Losey continued, "He has put Group TWO out front in one of the most contentious conflict zones in the world and that's East Africa. Think Sudan, Somalia, and then all of the boundary states such as Ethiopia and Kenya and it's only 18 nautical miles away from where some of the most focused unspoken fighting is occurring in respect to Yemen."

"Admiral William McRaven's number one priority is to win the current fight, and the current fight is being manifested in Afghanistan and he kept the force to the fire and for the last 13 years NSW has been recognized with two Medals of Honor, 58 Navy Cross Medals, 94 Silver Star Medals, and over 2600 Bronze Star Medals with Valor," said Losey. "We've had 77 teammates killed-in-action and 270 wounded and that is no small amount of sacrifice or commitment."

Rear Adm. Losey closed his remarks by saying, "Capt. Smith has done a tremendous job helping evolve our force." Rear Adm. Losey then called the military personnel present to attention and asked the guests to rise as he awarded the Legion of Merit Medal to Capt. Smith for his accomplishments while in command of CNSWG-2. Rear Adm. Losey then turned the floor over to Capt. Smith.

Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group TWO's primary focus rested heavily on Afghanistan when Capt. Smith assumed command in 2012.

"Within the first six months Rear Adm. Sean Pybus and Losey, both challenged us as they challenged every major commander in NSW," recalled Smith. "The challenge was what do we do after Afghanistan, how are we relevant and how does this force continue to serve the American public to ensure security across the globe? It wasn't just the challenge but the empowerment, and they empowered us to reach out to the fleet and operational commanders to engage with them to find out what their needs were to shape our force to their needs, and as we did that, we leveraged that empowerment to make Group TWO relevant,"

Smith ended his remarks saying, "Pete, you're getting a great command, they are ready. I couldn't think of a better person to turn this command over to because from the Naval Academy to Coronado, the East Coast and to D.C., I think it made us both stronger people and this mission is going to continue forward and you're the right man to lead it."

Capt. Smith and Capt. Vasely then read their orders. The two then met in front of Rear Adm. Losey to ceremoniously execute the change of command before Capt. Vasely addressed the command for the first time as the commanding officer.

"As we look at this transition, it comes at a very challenging time and a period of great uncertainty where our country faces a multi-faceted series of threats from violent extremist organizations. One thing that is absolutely certain is the competence, capability of the force to fight, and willingness to win the hardest challenges that are thrown at it," said Vasely.

Capt. Vasely continued his remarks by stating, "I am honored that you and the NSW community have entrusted me with the responsibility to major command and I'm committed to the responsibility of being in command of Group TWO. I'm committed to the men and women of Group TWO to provide you with clear vision, guidance and direction so that you are enabled to continue to excel in executing this nation's toughest missions, and also to your families for being the rock and foundation of everything we do and the commitment they so justly deserve,"

USS Cole Deploys to 6th Fleet

By Lt. j.g. Douglas Kroh, USS Cole Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) departed Naval Station Norfolk today, on a deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

After transiting the Atlantic Ocean, Cole will enter the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding waters to conduct maritime operations and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities, promoting a secure maritime environment.

"It is an honor to command Cole as we set sail," said Cmdr. Dennis Farrell, the ship's commanding officer. "The men and women who make up the crew of Cole are this nation's best and brightest and they have answered the call to serve America, protect the nation's security and carry out the maritime strategy."

Cole returned from her last deployment in January 2013. Between maintenance periods, the crew was underway for certification exercises, participation in the NATO exercise Joint Warrior and Fleet Week New York earlier this year.

"The history of this ship carries great weight," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Bradley Dowden. "We are all proud to carry it into the world. Showing her off gives me a great sense of personal pride."

The ship was commissioned June 8, 1996, and is named after U.S. Marine Sgt. Darrell Samuel Cole, who received the Medal of Honor for his "conspicuous gallantry" at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.