Sunday, September 14, 2014

U.S. Navy Identifies F/A-18C Hornet Pilot in Crash; Declared Presumed Dead

From 7th Fleet Public Affairs

Western Pacific Ocean (NNS) -- The Navy has identified Lt. Nathan Poloski, a 26 year old native of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., as the pilot who was declared presumed deceased, Sept. 15.

Poloski was declared presumed deceased following an apparent collision between the F/A-18C Hornet he was flying and another Hornet aircraft during routine flight operations.

A 2009 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Poloski reported to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, based in Lemoore, Calif., in April, 2014.

"Nathan was an outstanding person, naval officer and aviator," said Cmdr. Michael Langbehn, commanding officer of VFA 94. "My personal thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends and shipmates as they endure this immeasurable loss."

Following the apparent collision the Navy conducted an extensive search for Poloski, covering more than 3,000 square miles using the USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett, USS Dewey, helicopters assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73, P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Guam, and satellite imagery. The search was unable to locate or recover any remains of the missing aviator.

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, Carrier Air Wing 17, and USS Carl Vinson will hold a memorial service on board USS Carl Vinson to honor the life and service of Lt. Poloski at a date and time to be determined. The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

America Lends Helping Hand to Peruvian School

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Huey D. Younger Jr., USS America (LHA 6) Public Affairs

CALLAO, Peru (NNS) -- More than 30 Sailors and Marines assigned to future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) joined Peruvian sailors in a joint community relations (COMREL) project Sept. 1 at Immaculate Conception School, a municipal preschool, in Callao, Peru, during a scheduled three-day port visit.

The school, attended by more than 180 students from age two to five years, prepares young children for primary education.

The ship's chaplain's office contacted the U.S. Embassy in Peru to find volunteer opportunities during the port visit. The embassy then reached out to the Peruvian Navy who helped coordinate the event held at Immaculate Conception School.

America Sailors and Marines spent the day painting two classrooms a bathroom and the courtyard. They also laid down new sod, so the children would have a grassy area to play. The Peruvian Navy provided medical services and haircuts for the children, and the Peruvian Navy band played throughout the COMREL project for entertainment.

Lt. Patrick McPartland, Navy chaplain aboard America, said the service members choosing to use their liberty time to help others spoke volumes about their character.

"They could've done anything. They could've slept in their 'rack', gone out in town or shopped, but they chose to use their time to help other people instead of using it as a free day," McPartland said.

Although the volunteer services most visibly impacted the local community, it also left a lasting impression on the service members who participated.

"I think just to smile and spend a little bit of time with them and make their school look a little bit prettier will be a big deal to them," said Quartermaster 3rd Class Maria Smith. "Just to make somebody feel better and the fact that they are kids means even more to me."

After the painting was finished, the Sailors and Marines put a personal touch on their project by decorating a section of the wall in the courtyard with painted hand prints.

"We are able to come together and do something nice for everybody," said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 2nd Class Alicia Maldonado. "It's not just for the America, but for us as people in general."

Throughout the "America Visits the Americas" transit the crew also volunteered at various COMREL projects in Colombia, Brazil and Chile.

"COMRELs are something that they'll remember from the countries," said McPartland. "It might be the highlight of their time in that country; this is interacting directly with the people and making a positive impact and leaving our mark around the world."

America is currently traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility on her maiden transit, "America visits the Americas." America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious assault ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The ship is scheduled to be ceremoniously commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco.

Navy Nets More Medals at the Invictus Games

By Patty Babb, Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor

LONDON, U.K. (NNS) -- Three Navy athletes helped lead the U.S. wheelchair basketball team to silver at the 2014 Invictus Games Sept. 13 in London.

Retired Navy Aviation Electrician's Mate Apprentice Steven Davis, Navy Chief Yeoman Javier Rodriguez Santiago and retired Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Hector Varela started in all four games played throughout the day. The team won decisively against Denmark (18-12), New Zealand (14-5) and France (28-6) before falling to the U.K. in the final match (9-19).

"During these games, we've played in front of crowds larger than any we've had before, and it's been a lot of fun," said Varela. "I'm definitely tired after so much tough competition - and I'm looking forward to resting - but I'm really enjoying it, and I'm glad my family is here to see it."

Varela - an above-the-knee amputee who was injured in a motorcycle accident in 2012 - started in both wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games. A longtime wheelchair basketball player, Varela plays for the Wolfpack, the Naval Medical Center San Diego team. Wheelchair rugby, however, was entirely new to him at the start of the Invictus Games.

"I wanted to try something new," said Varela. "Wheelchair rugby is similar to wheelchair basketball, but I had to learn some new rules when I got here in London. I really liked it."

The U.S. Team earned silver in wheelchair rugby on Sept. 12 after facing off against several highly skilled teams. Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jaime Garza also played on the U.S. wheelchair rugby team.

In cycling, retired Navy Lt. j.g. Laura Root took the bronze medal in the women's road bike circuit race, completing a nine-mile course in 30 minutes and 53 seconds. In rowing, retired Coast Guard Electrician's Mate 1st Class Paul Johnson was part of the U.S. rowing crew that earned a bronze medal in the team race.

"However I place I will give it my all - my all!" said Johnson - who was injured in a shipboard accident - before competition began. "I am honored to be here, to continue to fight, and to be 'invictus.' I am a winner to be here, and a medal will just be icing on the cake."

Since the event began, the U.S. Team has enjoyed visits from Dr. Jill Biden and numerous flag officers, including Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr.

"One of the things I've learned while watching [the wounded warrior athletes] is the triumph of ability over disability," Winnefeld said. "These folks have given so much to their country, and they've suffered wounds, both internal and external. They're showing us through their hard work, their teamwork, and their companionship that they're able to overcome all of that and become something that's bigger than their individual injury."

During the final day of competition, the U.S. athletes will go head-to-head against the other wounded warriors in power lifting, sitting volleyball and swimming. The closing ceremony will take place that evening.

"I've been having a great time in London, and I like walking around and observing everything," said retired Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Steve Miller, who has never before visited the U.K. "I'm having fun competing and exploring."

Prince Harry announced the launch of the Invictus Games on March 6. The Royal Foundation, with the direct oversight of the prince and the Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, are hosting the event, which brings together wounded warriors from 13 nations. The athletes are competing in archery, cycling, power lifting, rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby.

All of the Navy and Coast Guard athletes participating in the Invictus Games are enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor, the Navy's sole wounded warrior support program. NWW provides seriously wounded, ill and injured service members non-medical care, allowing them to focus on healing without distractions.