Thursday, August 13, 2015

Face of Defense: New York Guard Officer Becomes Champion Powerlifter

By Army Maj. Al Phillips
New York Army National Guard

WEBSTER, N.Y., Aug. 13, 2015 – What started as a weightlifting hobby at the gym while deployed at Guantanamo Bay in 2011 and 2012 has become a record-breaking event for New York Army National Guard Capt. Jeremy Hillyard.

Hillyard, a battle-staff officer in the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters based in Syracuse, took five prizes in the Aug. 8-9 Revolution Powerlifting competition in Rochester.

More than 300 weightlifters took part in the regional competition, one of the largest on the East Coast.

“Nothing compares to the adrenaline when you are competing against yourself; it takes mental and physical strength when you are no longer in front of just a mirror but instead hundreds of people,” Hillyard said. “Getting your body to do something you may not have been able to do a month ago is something special.”

Hillyard discovered weightlifting when he was serving as part of Joint Task Force Guantanamo with the New York Army National Guard’s 107th Military Police Company.

He looked for something to fill time in a productive and positive manner and followed the path of fellow soldiers to the base gym. Hillyard said he excelled at lifting weights but he stopped lifting weights when he redeployed here from Cuba.

Looking to Increase Physical Fitness

Hillyard said he was capable of doing military-style pushups, sit-ups and making the two-mile run but not much more.

Hillyard and his wife, Katie, then decided to join a gym.

The two became “gym rats,” he said.

“I lift more for power lifting and physical and mental strength; she lifts for overall fitness,” Hillyard said.

At this month’s weightlifting competition, Hillyard was defending weightlifting records he had set at earlier events.

Hillyard competed in two weight classes: the 198-pound Military Professional Open; and 198 Amateur open weight class division, referred to as a “Full Power” event consisting of bench press, squats and dead lift. He successfully bench-pressed 295 pounds, squatted 605 pounds and deadlifted 560 pounds for a total of 1,440 pounds.

The 198 refers to Hillyard’s body weight in pounds.

Champion Powerlifter

Hillyard competes in the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate, one of several large powerlifting federations in the United States that hold competitions in 17 states and Canada. He holds three RPS New York state records and two RPS International Records in the deadlift and squat events. He plans to defend his state records and pursue national and international records in future competition.

Hillyard said he wants to set a fitness example for his fellow soldiers.

“People must get past the mental block of being afraid to hurt or feel tired and have pride in themselves to ultimately see great results and reach their full body potential,” he said.

VA secretary visits JBER, lauds 673d medical personnel

by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

8/13/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Robert McDonald, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs visited the 673rd Medical Group Aug. 11 to provide his insight and explain the future of veterans' benefits.

"I'm used to going around the world," McDonald said. "I've developed an eye for what to notice about an operation, just little things. For example, in the restroom, is the area around the sink filled with water; are people cleaning up the restroom when they're done?

"Do people walk by litter on the floor? Are there boards in the hallway showing how they're using technology to improve the operation? I was very impressed by what I saw [at the 673d MDG]," McDonald said.

The secretary described the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hospital as clean and well-lit, with engaging personnel.

"There were people caring for patients, veterans were engaged - I just thought it was a really great operation," he said.

"What impressed me more than anything else was the way you couldn't tell the difference between the active-duty people and the VA people. They were both working hand-in-hand; it was incredibly hard to tell them apart. They were both committed to the mission. I was very impressed."

During his visit, McDonald said he was committed to engaging with elected officials to codify a long-term funding solution for all joint-venture hospitals.

"Nationally we've conducted seven million more completed appointments in the last year than in the previous year," he said.

"Of that, four and a half million were outside the VA, 'care in the community' as we call it. The two-and-a-half-million balance was inside VA. The Alaska health care system has completed more than 106,000 health care appointments from June 2014 to June 2015.

"Nationally, 97 percent of our appointments are within 30 days of the [veteran's] desired in Alaska, that number's 98 percent," he said.

Among the various topics discussed, the secretary also emphasized the VA's use of telehealth services, which use health information, disease management and other technologies to target care and case management to improve access to care, improving the health of veterans.

Telehealth allows patients to receive clinical care from their homes.

"We are, I would argue, global leaders in telehealth nationally," McDonald said. "Here, we are on the cutting edge of using telehealth to reach veterans in rural areas.

We do that three ways: we have home telehealth, which allows veterans to take regular readings like blood pressure so we can catch issues that arise as they self-manage chronic diseases.

"A second is what we call store-and-forward, that enables us to capture and store images from patients to specialists without having to come into a clinic. This becomes very important for something like dermatology, for example, where in the private sector it could take six to nine months to make an appointment, but with digital photography the way it is today, you can use broadband to transfer that image and have a specialist look at it from afar.

"The third way is clinical video telehealth, where someone in a clinic can communicate with a veteran in the comfort of his home. Having the veteran [at home] is a big plus for something like mental health care where coming to a clinic could be an anxiety-ridden situation."

An Army veteran, McDonald served in multiple units including the 82nd Airborne Division.

He is described as being personally committed to values-based leadership and to improving the lives of others.

This is the first time he has visited Alaska since his Arctic training in the 1970s, he said.

"I was much happier landing in the airplane than jumping out of it," he said.

Nepali troops attend WLC at JBER

by Sachel S. Harris
USARAK Public Affairs

8/13/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- For some Soldiers, the trip to the Sergeant First Class Christopher R. Brevard Noncommissioned Officer Academy is only a few minutes from home. For those stationed at Fort Wainwright, it's a couple of hours. But for six soldiers currently enrolled, the trip was more than 11 hours.

Through the Regional Partnership Program, six noncommissioned officers from the Nepal Army traveled across the Pacific to the United States to attend the Warrior Leadership Course, a month-long rigorous training course that develops leadership skills within Soldiers.

"I think this partnership has a major benefit for this region just for the simple fact that we are showing both our flexibility and professionalism," said Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Mark Haight, a small-group leader.

"Having the opportunity to work side-by-side with another nation's army is always a great thing," said Staff Sgt. Kandom Michael Moore, also a small-group leader.

The course allows both Nepalese and American troops to identify both their strengths and weaknesses, benefitting from each other while cultivating invaluable relationships.

"When I first learned I was coming to America, I was shocked," said Nepalese Army Capt. Paras Tathapa, battalion training officer and acting operations officer. "But since being here, we have all learned things we can't learn at home that will prepare us for unique situations that could come our way."

However, the unique training environment isn't without its challenges.

To prepare for the main challenge, the language barrier, each Nepalese soldier is partnered with an American, creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to learn something new.

The students have homework, take quizzes and maintain physical training. For both the instructors and students, their hard work is paying off.

"When I see the Nepalese soldiers learn something new, understand how it's done and perform it to standard, it is very rewarding," Moore said.

Though the Nepalese are attending the course in order to learn how to become better soldiers, it has also been a learning experience for the instructors.

"We have had a couple of classes geared to talking about cultural differences, so it gave them an opportunity to share with the class," Haight said. "It has encouraged me to continue learning about their military."

Once the Nepalese soldiers complete WLC, they will continue their training through the Foundation Instructor Facilitator Course.

This week-long course teaches students basic facilitation and instruction techniques through interactive multimedia instruction and lessons given in U.S. Army schools.

"Their eagerness to learn about our Army has motivated my partner and me," Haight said. "We have learned a great deal about their culture and I am sure we will learn a lot more as the cycle winds down to a close."

The troops graduated from the course on Thursday.

5th Fleet Commander visits TR

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor L. Jackson, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, visited the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Aug. 11, and spoke with the crew during an all-hands call in the ship's hangar bay.

Miller told the Sailors he expects Theodore Roosevelt to depart the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations on schedule, addressing what he said he assumed to be the most prominent question among the crew.

Miller then discussed the importance of the work Theodore Roosevelt and her Sailors are doing in U.S. 5th Fleet and also took questions from the crew.

"My two biggest concerns continue to be Iraq and Syria and the Daesh [ISIL] forces that continue to occupy portions of Iraq and Syria," said Miller. "What we're doing from the deck of TR is providing coalition air support in order to help the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces kick these folks out of Iraq. It's a long fight, one that began in June of last year, and it's a slow fight, but we're providing the air support and it's a fight that I predict will be a successful one."

U.S. 5th Fleet Master Chief Scott Fleming also gave his thanks to the crew for their efforts in supporting operations.

"Adm. Miller and certainly the entire staff at 5th Fleet believes it is critically important to come out here and look you all in the eye and say 'thank you' for what you do," said Fleming. "You are integral to anything we do in this area of operations. We assume and trust you're going to go out there and do exactly what we need you to do, and everybody delivers exactly as advertised."

Miller then opened the floor for questions from the crew, addressing the topics of shorter deployments and a "carrier gap" in U.S. 5th Fleet.

Citing the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert's initiative for limiting the scheduled length of deployments to seven months, Miller stressed the Navy's flexibility to support operations when an aircraft carrier cannot be present in 5th Fleet.

"The CNO is committed to seven-month deployments," said Miller. "Long deployments are not sustainable over time. We are the most innovative fighting force in the world, and we'll figure out a way to fill in that gap with other capabilities."

Miller said it was "a real privilege" for him to be on the ship and gave his thanks once again for the hard work of TR and all of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG).

"You're making a difference to the Iraqi people and the stability of this region, and you should all be proud of not only what you're doing, but the very professional way in which you're doing it," he said.

Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the TRCSG, which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).

Theodore Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.

DESRON 7 Changes Command, Reflects on Nearly Three Years as part of 7th Fleet FDNF

By Lt. Lauryn Dempsey, DESRON 7 Public Affairs

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 held a change of command ceremony at Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific in Singapore, Aug. 12.

Capt. Fred Kacher relinquished command of the DESRON to Capt. H.B. Le in a ceremony presided over by Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander, Task Force (CTF) 73.

"Commodore Kacher's leadership and vision, in both the professional and personal development of his Sailors, enabled DESRON 7 to achieve the highest levels of tactical excellence and operational success," said Williams. "The Kacher family has also been an integral part of the U.S. Navy community in Singapore and we wish them only the best in their next assignment."

Kacher arrived at DESRON 7 in October of 2012, first serving as the command's deputy commodore before assuming the role of commodore in July 2014. As deputy, Kacher helped execute DESRON 7's historic shift from San Diego to the Asia-Pacific, where the staff joined U.S. 7th Fleet's forward deployed naval forces in December 2012.

"As I look back on the better part of three years, I can't help thinking of DESRON 7 as the Navy's ultimate version of a Silicon Valley technology start-up," said Kacher. "We arrived in the region with a vision and tasking and a barebones office space, and over the course of the past few years, we've grown tremendously and worked tirelessly to make our mission a reality."

Just like a start-up, DESRON 7's growth was fast. Only three months in the region, the staff was tasked to execute tactical command of the first-ever deployment of a littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), which deployed from San Diego in March 2013.

"While a tough challenge at times, what we learned during Freedom's deployment set USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) up for success," continued Kacher. "In my 25 years in the Navy, I've never seen a more open and inclusive dialogue about what needed to be done better after that deployment. That process, combined with a lot of hard work from many, many stakeholders is a large reason why Fort Worth has hit every milestone and port visit on time, every time, throughout the past nine months of a 16-month long deployment."

One of the highlights of Fort Worth's current deployment was the ship's rapid response to the Indonesian-led search for AirAsia flight #QZ8501 in January 2015. With Fort Worth and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) on scene in the Java Sea, DESRON 7 assumed tactical command of the mission, leading both ships in their search for the missing plane.

"The AirAsia search was a pivotal moment for DESRON 7," said Kacher. "The mission marked the first time our staff led U.S. Navy assets during a real world event that included a multinational response, showcasing the value of having two DESRONs forward deployed to 7th Fleet. We live and work in Southeast Asia, so the crash took on a personal note for many of us, and we were honored to have played a small role in helping bring closure to the families affected by the tragedy."

Another major line of effort for DESRON 7 since arriving in the Asia-Pacific in late 2012 has been executing Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises with nine partner nations on behalf of CTF 73. Now in its 21st year, CARAT is the U.S. Navy's premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia and includes bilateral exercises with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste.

CARAT is in direct support of the Navy's newly released maritime strategy, which stresses the importance of engaging allies and partners, specifically with many of the nations in South and Southeast Asia. DESRON 7 staff spends nearly 150 days of the year working with partner navies planning and executing the nine phases of CARAT, as well as with Vietnam during the annual naval engagement activity event.

"Over the past three years, DESRON 7 has been the familiar face for the partner navies we work with here," continued Kacher. "We've formed close connections with our counterparts, who we've seen year in and year out during planning conferences and exercises. And those close relationships will not only help strengthen the bonds between our countries, but will be invaluable should crises or challenges arise unexpectedly."

Kacher's ability to lead the forward deployed DESRON 7 staff from an idea to a reality did not go unnoticed. In May 2015, Kacher was announced as the 2015 recipient of the U.S. Navy League's John Paul Jones award for inspirational leadership. This past spring also saw a number of awards bestowed upon members of the DESRON 7 staff to include the 2015 Stephen Decatur award for operational competence; the 2015 junior officer recipient of the Captain Joy Bright Hancock leadership award; and the Thompson-Ravitz award presented to the 2014 junior public affairs officer of the year.

With his DESRON 7 chapter now closed, Kacher looks forward to his next chapter serving at U.S. Surface Forces in San Diego.

"I won't forget the DESRON 7 staff and families, both past and present, for their hard work, and incredible leaders like our task force commander, Adm. Charlie Williams, and my predecessor, Capt. Paul Schlise, who served as our first commodore in Southeast Asia. Because of their efforts, DESRON 7 is making an impact in this region on the rise, a region that may very likely define the next century," Kacher closed. "It's been a wonderful tour and I look forward to reading all about DESRON 7 doing 'even more, even better' under Commodore H.B. Le's extraordinary leadership."

Under Le, DESRON 7 will participate in even more exercises throughout U.S. 7th Fleet in 2016.

"I am incredibly fortunate to have served as Fred Kacher's deputy," said Le. "He truly is an inspirational and visionary leader, who has put DESRON 7 on the map and forged stronger relationships in the region. We wish him all the best and know that he's off to do great things for the surface fleet at SURFOR."

Le arrived at DESRON 7 in January 2015 following 17 months in the Pentagon as the junior military assistant to former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Le is no stranger to U.S. 7th Fleet operations. Previous tours saw Le serve as the commanding officer of USS Lassen (DDG 82) and executive officer of USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54)-both forward deployed destroyers, as well as executive assistant to two 7th Fleet commanders.

"With your new role as commodore, you now assume the great privilege and responsibility of leading a very talented squadron of officers and Sailors," Williams told Le during the ceremony. "Your vast experience operating in 7th Fleet and your stellar performance as the deputy commodore will serve you well as you take command today."

In his role as DESRON 7 deputy commodore, Le served as exercise commander during CARAT exercises in the Philippines, Timor Leste and Indonesia. He also was the senior naval officer present during April's Naval Engagement Activity Vietnam and was co-task group commander during the Guardian Sea exercise with the Royal Thai navy.

"Under Commodore Kacher's leadership, we've built a solid foundation in a short period of time in the region, and we look forward to continuing to flex our warfighting skills in future exercises and operations throughout the fleet," said Le.

Le is fresh off having led more than 1,000 U.S. Sailors and Marines during the execution of CARAT Indonesia Aug. 3-10. This year's exercise with the Indonesians was the most complex iteration of CARAT thus far and featured an LCS, DDG, an amphibious dock landing ship with embarked Marines, a P-3C Orion, a rescue and salvage ship with an embarked diving unit, Seabees and Coastal Riverine Group Sailors. The Indonesian navy brought more than 1,000 personnel dispersed across two frigates, one corvette, a dock landing ship with embarked Marines, a type 209 submarine and multiple fixed-wing maritime domain awareness aircraft.

The exercise spanned a wide array of naval warfare areas to include simultaneous amphibious landings and surface and anti-submarine warfare, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) demonstrations, mobile diving and salvage training, coastal riverine operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, a gunnery exercise, and an anti-air warfare missile live fire training exercise.

This year's CARAT with Indonesia also marked the first time a LCS has participated in the Indonesian phase of the 21-year old exercise series. With two LCSs slated to arrive in 2016, and four operating throughout the region later this decade, DESRON 7 has significant room to grow and will continue making operational contributions throughout U.S. 7th Fleet.

"The future is bright at DESRON 7," said Le. "We have a talented team of professionals here - from our most junior Sailor, to our most senior department head - each individual has been given an incredible amount of responsibility in this important region of the world. They're excelling and making a difference, and I am lucky to be part of such a great group of sailors."