Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Chairman, The Stars, The Cupcakes

By Lt. David Carter and Morgan Over, Naval Station Rota, Spain Public Affairs

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined several celebrities at Naval Station Rota, Spain, as their first stop on the USO Holiday Troop Visit tour, Dec. 6.

Gen. Martin Dempsey and his wife, Deanie, made their fourth USO Holiday Tour visit and were joined by celebrities including actor-comedian Rob Riggle, country music star Kellie Pickler, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, and actresses Meghan Markle and Dianna Agron.

Not only did they bring talent, jokes, and motivation but they also hand-delivered nearly 200 dozen cupcakes from a bakery in Washington, D.C.

During the daylong visit the Dempseys and celebrities visited Sailors aboard USS Ross (DDG 71), dined with service members at the base galley, then entertained the crowd of nearly 1,500 with jokes, poems, songs, and words of appreciation.

"It's the holidays and we should remember all the things we are and should be thankful for, but I hope you're as proud of what you do as we are of what you do," said Dempsey.

Aboard Ross, Dempsey and the celebrities toured spaces and were briefed on Ross' capabilities as well as her recent patrol. Following the tour, Dempsey held an all-hands call during which he highlighted Ross' resolve and praised the crew's aptitude.

"I'm really, really glad you're on our side because when I see the kind of capability that we bring to bear and the technology we bring to bear I always remember that we can always have the best technology in the world but if it wasn't for you, the best and brightest of America who are willing to leave their homes and forward deploy, if we didn't have you willing to do that, we wouldn't be the country we are," said Dempsey.

Highlighting Ross' role in the NATO and European Phased Adaptive Approach of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), Dempsey left a message for those aboard the ship as well as providing support from the base.

"They're in such an incredible strategic location, nearly where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean ... and with all the challenges we have in the Middle East and North and West Africa in addition to the BMD missions, I want them to know they're in the right place at the right time for their country," he said.

The USO show was filled comedy, music, and heartfelt appreciation from the celebrities.

"You guys have gone out there, sacrificing for us and we wouldn't be able to do the things we do without you guys," said Fister. "It's something that doesn't go unnoticed and we're definitely supporting from home."

Markle echoed Fister's sentiments and remarked about how meeting the troops amplified the connecting she felt to the base.

"Hearing their stories, where they're from, who their families are and just having that connection to the base made it so real," said Markle. "Today has been a day filled with a lot of chills and a lot of tears."

The visit coincided with Morale, Welfare and Recreation Rota's Holiday Wonderland celebration, which brought a special visit from Santa via a Spanish helicopter. This year's event featured a train ride, games, and even snow.

"Holiday Wonderland is one of our largest annual events and we have been trying to raise the bar every year," said Paul Savarese, Rota's MWR director. "Two months of planning and coordination was evident in the execution, as an all-star team of professionals from a number of local departments and commands came together and created something very memorable for NAVSTA Rota. It was something we are all very proud to be a part of and will remember for the rest of our careers."

Louisville visits Singapore during Western Pacific deployment

By Ensign Hobart K. Kistler, USS Louisville Public Affairs

CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore (NNS) -- Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) arrived at Changi Naval Base Dec. 5 for a port call as part of her deployment to the Western Pacific.

With an augmented complement of nearly 170 officers and men, Louisville showcased the latest capabilities of the submarine fleet in her latest mission.

"Louisville brings to the theater a very capable multimission platform with nearly unlimited endurance for independent operations," said Cmdr. Bob Figgs, Louisville's commanding officer. "My highly-trained crew is proficient in all core mission capabilities, from open ocean anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare; to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and precision land strike.

"They have worked tirelessly to prepare for and execute the first two months of our ... deployment, and I could not be prouder of their accomplishments. I know that my officers and crew are looking forward to some well-deserved liberty here in Singapore."

Measuring more than 360-feet long and weighing more than 6,000 tons when submerged, Louisville is one of the stealthiest, most modern attack submarines in the world. Louisville's stealth, mobility, endurance, and firepower allow this covert, multimission platform to operate independently or in conjunction with a carrier strike group or joint forces to support the interests of the United States wherever and whenever needed.

"Each and every member of our crew has devoted a lot of time, hard work, and energy towards preparing themselves and Louisville for this deployment," said Master Chief Fire Control Technician Larry Williams, chief of the boat. "It is only because of the crew members that we are successful as a team. I am excited for the crew to be able to do what a lot of them have joined the Navy to do: see overseas countries and represent the U.S. Navy well.

"This liberty port call is definitely well deserved by the crew, and each and every one of them has been looking forward to the visit," said Williams.

For many of Louisville's crew, this is their first time visiting Singapore.

"Growing up in rural California, I never dreamed I would one day find myself exploring Southeast Asia," said Machinist Mate 3rd Class Robert Hollister. "My shipmates and I cannot wait to try some hawker food, visit the famous Singapore Zoo, and hit the beaches!"

Previous deployments have earned Louisville numerous decorations and a place in submarine history. In 1991, Louisville supported Operation Desert Storm by traveling more than 14,000 miles to be the first submarine to launch Tomahawk missiles in a time of war. In 2003, she returned to the Red Sea to support Operation Iraqi Freedom with another successful Tomahawk strike.

Louisville is the fourth United States ship to be named for Louisville, Kentucky. Commissioned Nov. 8, 1986, at Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, she is the 35th nuclear powered fast-attack submarine of the Los Angeles class.

Louisville is homeported at Hawaii's Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

US Naval Forces Southern Command Hosts Planners for Continuing Promise 2015

From U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Military, non-government agency planners and prospective participants in the upcoming Continuing Promise 2015 humanitarian assistance deployment worked on the details of the operation during a mission planning conference hosted Dec. 2-5 by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/4th Fleet.

Continuing Promise, a U.S. Southern Command training mission introduced in 2007, focuses on providing medical, engineering and veterinary humanitarian assistance activities in select countries to strengthen partnerships and improve cooperation on many levels with our partner nations, interagency organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

This year's Continuing Promise mission will include hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), a military sealift command ship, for the fourth year.

Capt. Sam Hancock, commander, Destroyer Squadron 40, is the mission commander. Capt. Rachel Haltner commands the Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) aboard Comfort. The ship's civil service master, Capt. George McCarthy, is responsible for the ship's safe and timely navigation and day-to-day operations.

Hancock will command the joint civil-military operation, which includes personnel in the fields of medicine, engineering, veterinary medicine, public and environmental health, other specialties and personnel from other government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and multinational partner nations who will participate in the Continuing Promise mission.

Haltner, MTF commander, will oversee the roughly 700 member joint medical staff, to be drawn mostly from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, and the Army and Air Force.

From early April through September, Continuing Promise will provide medical and dental care, preventive medicine and veterinary consulting, and construction projects in 11 countries. The mission will return to Belize, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and, for the first time, visit Dominica and Honduras.

As in previous years, hundreds of surgeries will be performed aboard Comfort, and thousands of patients will be treated ashore - an effort that Haltner, called "real work for real people that will make a real difference in their lives."

The mission has an enhanced focus. Building on relationships created in previous years, participants will consider each visit a subject-matter expert exchange, working together to increase the capacities of countries and communities to provide for themselves.

Continuing Promise participants will work alongside local government officials and medical professionals from the host nation to meet the day-to-day needs of communities and to prepare to respond together in disaster relief.

The multinational members of the planning staff worked with information gathered through pre-deployment site surveys in which U.S. and partner nation planners relied on local professionals to describe the needs of their communities to develop the specific plans for each mission stop. Participants will share best practices with the host nation partners, and will work with local doctors, nurses and dentists when providing care and with host nation engineers and specialists during subject-matter expert exchanges and activities.

"As you look around the room, you see on many faces, military, civilian and volunteer; this is what CP15 is all about," said Hancock, as the conference concluded. "Coordination, collaboration, with a ton of caring goes into mission planning. We are about where we need to be at this point, but it is also clear that there is a lot of work to do."