Thursday, September 24, 2015

Face of Defense: Young Marine Reflects on Service

By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Justin Kronenberg and Marine Corps Cpl. Garrett White, 5th Marine

SOUTHWEST ASIA, September 24, 2015 — Graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Training is a special day in any Marine’s life. It is a day of great pageantry and fanfare, and it marks the closing of the first chapter in a Marine’s career. For the friends and family of the new Marines, it’s a chance for them to share in their loved one’s accomplishment.

But for some in attendance, it is a glimpse into their futures.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lakin Chaffer, an embarkation specialist deployed to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, said her interest in the service was piqued when she watched her best friend’s graduation on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Now, Chaffer herself has earned the right to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

 “When I saw her graduate, I saw how cool it was and thought, ‘I’m not doing anything-so why not?’” Chaffer said.

From Serving Tables to Serving Country

“When I told my mom I was thinking about joining the Marine Corps, she told me my sister was also considering joining the services,” she said. “So we went to the recruiting office together and both ended up joining the Marine Corps.”

At the time, Chaffer said, it felt like her life was staying stagnant and enlistment was the push she needed to get moving in the right direction.

“If I didn’t join I would have just kept doing the same stuff,” she said. “I was working as a waitress and just doing the bare minimum to get by in life. This got me on my feet and helped me start growing up.”

While both Chaffer and her sister wanted to enlist as aviation mechanics, there was only one space open for that contract, and they wanted to go to boot camp together. Her sister got the aviation mechanic contract, and Chaffer chose embarkation specialist.

Her job requires her to keep track of all task force troops and supplies flying in and out of the base. Chaffer said although it wasn’t her initial choice, she has learned to like her job and appreciates the opportunities it has provided her.

“If cargo such as ammunition, food, or hazmat needs to get somewhere, it’s my job to submit the proper paperwork to get it on a flight,” she explained. “Once my name is attached to it, I’m responsible for it until it gets to its destination. I need to keep track of it and make sure it arrives, and if it doesn’t, I have to figure out why.”

Purpose Found

Even though Chaffer is relatively new to the Marine Corps, she said she understands her purpose and gains fulfillment from the work she does.

“If it wasn’t for me, people here wouldn’t be able to travel on Marine Corps flights,” she said. “Cargo wouldn’t be able to get where it needs to go, and basically nothing could go to and from this base.”

On her first deployment, and not even half way through her contract, Chaffer hasn’t quite decided where she wants her future to go.

“Re-enlistment is always an option, but I still have a while to decide,” she said. “One of the nice things about this job is that I can take all the skills I learned here and transfer it to a job in the civilian world, but I still haven’t decided yet on what I want to do.”

She said she’s glad she decided to join the Marine Corps, even if she ultimately decides to leave the service when her contract is finished.
“The biggest piece of advice I can offer someone that is looking to join the military is don’t drop your pack,” she said. “Don’t be that guy or girl that just says ‘forget this,’ and give up when things get tough. Just keep pushing and always do the best that you can, and eventually it will pay off.”

Carter Reaffirms U.S. Commitment to Ukraine

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 24, 2015 — The United States will continue to back the Ukrainian military’s right to defend itself when Russian-separatist forces attack its positions, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.

In a joint news conference with Ukrainian Defense Minister Col.-Gen. Stepan Poltorak following their meeting during Poltorak’s first visit to the Pentagon, Carter reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and praised his counterpart for his leadership and fortitude “at a critical time for the security of his country, the region and the world.”

Ukraine has made “a genuine effort to live up to its Minsk commitments, and has shown considerable restraint in the face of provocations and attacks,” the secretary said, referring to a February ceasefire agreement.

Carter said the U.S. message to Russia stands firm as the United States is “adjusting its posture and investments to deter Russian aggression, and working with NATO and other security partners to do the same.”

The Defense Department will continue ongoing U.S.-Russia military talks on issues in Syria and countering the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, where mutual interests overlap, he said. But those talks will neither take away from the strong U.S. condemnation of Russian actions in Ukraine nor change U.S. sanctions and security support in response to destabilizing actions, he added.

Productive Meeting

The two leaders met previously at the recent NATO defense ministerial conference and discussed their nations’ strong defense relationship, Carter said.

“Today, we had a productive meeting and built on that discussion in Brussels [to find] ways to sustain and strengthen those commitments, including ongoing security assistance to Ukraine’s armed forces and border guard service,” the secretary said.

“[Poltorak] described to me today the very admirable steps he’s been taking to strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces, and I was very impressed,” he added.

While recent reports of a general reduction of violence in Ukraine are encouraging, the secretary said, the United States still sees a failure to fully uphold the Minsk commitments by Russia and the separatists. “That’s why we’re committed to helping Ukraine safely and effectively operate, secure and defend its border, and preserve and enforce its territorial integrity,” he said.

The secretary noted the United States has provided Ukraine with more than $244 million in equipment and training, including Humvees, counter-mortar radar, night vision gear, body armor and medical equipment, and he said strengthening Ukraine's training capacity will strengthen its defense capability. And by the end of November, he added, “we will have trained 900 Ukrainian national guard personnel, and we are commencing training the regular Ukrainian armed forces.

Grateful for Support

Thanking all the nations that support Ukraine during what he called “a difficult time, Poltorak emphasized the particular importance of U.S. support as his country fights for its democracy.

The minister described the U.S.-Ukraine relationship “as good as ever before,” and said he invited Carter to visit his country and see the many changes made to its economy and its armed forces and how the nation is “building a Ukraine that will be a European country with democratic values in which its people are treated as [the] first priority.”

The United States and Ukraine must stand together going forward “to overcome all the challenges we’re facing right now,” the minister said.

“I’m very happy the United States and other countries … are supporting us,” he added. “Together, we will win.”

USS Columbia Presented the 2014 Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Swink, Submarine Force Pacific Public Affairs

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii (NNS) -- The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN 771) has been named the Pacific Fleet's recipient of the prestigious Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy.

The announcement was made June 16, 2015 by Adm. James F. Caldwell, Jr. in Washington, D.C.

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, presented the trophy with congratulations on behalf of the Chief of Naval Operations to the crew during a pier side ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sept. 21.

"Operations are about achieving and maintaining readiness; we take what is produced and we consume it, in our operations and we work to achieve balance," said Swift. "Taking the resources available and matching it to the readiness requirement, is what you knew you needed to do to make Columbia as fit as possibly be within the constrained resources."

"You have taken that readiness challenge and not only surpassed your peers in how much you have advanced your readiness," said Swift. "You have advanced it all the way to the top in recognition of the fact you were awarded the Battle 'E'."

Swift said it was a very unique distinction for the crew to win Commander, Submarine Squadron Seven's Battle Efficiency Award and the Pacific Fleet Arleigh Burke Trophy during the same time period.

The Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy, is presented annually to the ship or aviation squadron in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets that has achieved the greatest improvement during the previous year based on the Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") Competition. The competition is conducted annually to strengthen individual command performance, improve overall force readiness, and recognize outstanding performance.

"I always talk about operational success; operational success is boat readiness, crew readiness and family readiness," said Fleet Master Chief Susan A. Whitman. "You have hit all three wickets and you should be very proud of yourselves."

Cmdr. David Edgerton, USS Columbia's commanding officer, was very proud of the enthusiasm, hard work and dedication of the crew.

"I have never seen a crew with more enthusiasm. Most of all, I am impressed by their humility," Edgerton said. "Despite receiving awards such as the Arleigh Burke Trophy and the Battle 'E' from Submarine Squadron Seven, the crew continues to maintain a steady strain on keeping the high standards that are essential to sustained superior performance."

Columbia returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Nov. 21, 2014, after successfully completing several missions vital to national security, including participation in several multinational exercises, which supported ongoing security theater objectives, and improved the overall warfighting readiness of U.S. and allied forces in the Western Pacific.