Monday, December 04, 2017

Face of Defense: Sailor, Recruits Help to Harvest Community Garden

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Walter, Navy Recruiting District Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 4, 2017 — The harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few.

That is when Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Weintraut, a recruiter and career counselor here, had an idea. He had just spent the last year helping to recruit future sailors from around Kingsport, Tennessee, and now he thought about recruiting them for a more local mission: helping to harvest the community garden.

Weintraut knew the garden well. Since he lives with his wife in an apartment in Kingsport with no space for planting, he used a raised bed in the community garden that he tended to once a week. His wife had found the garden and signed him up for a free planting bed where he grew cabbage, broccoli and peppers “so hot they make your face hurt.”

A Community of Gardeners

And while he was there, he found more than fresh produce and a chance to be outdoors. He found a community of people, many of them decades older than himself, but knowledgeable and willing to teach him. He learned from master gardeners and gained experiences that he couldn’t find in a book.

Then the harvest came. A nearby tomato plant that towered 10 feet in the air fell onto his plot and he could see the arriving bounty would just be too much for many of his neighbors in garden. So he asked for volunteers. Five future sailors answered the call to help the gardeners and clean up the excess plant material from a year of growth.

For Weintraut, a native of Rock Island, Illinois, it was a joy to see young people from his community helping out an older generation.

Helping Others

“There are some people that just can’t do what they once could,” he said. “Too many younger people fail to get out their house and help others as much as they can. People get stuck on their TV, phones or Facebook. But the future sailors came out to the community and helped. They were the youngest people there. Everyone else was 45 and older except for me.”

Weintraut said the future sailors were surprised by the gratitude people showed them for the service that they were ready to embark upon in the upcoming months.

“Even though they haven’t stepped foot into boot camp yet, the gardeners were thanking them for making the decision to join the Navy. They had to opportunity to talk to prior-service members who are now gardeners and they saw how appreciative the people were to have the help,” he said.

Now that the planting beds are cleaned, Weintraut is learning how to grow winter crops. But in a way, he already knows how. Helping young people find direction for a career requires time and tending, and in the case of the Navy, some water.

Weintraut says this is why he loves recruiting. He became a full-time recruiter a few years ago because of the opportunity it gave him to affect peoples’ futures.

“I really enjoy the fact that I get to help people by giving them a plan and helping them move forward with their life. There aren’t enough people who take an interest in helping others find direction,” Weintraut said. “People are quick to judge, but no one wants to help. However, we strive to do more and help give people a choice.”

Soldiers Train, Provide Christmas Cheer at Operation Toy Drop

By Army Sgt. Nicole Paese, 361st Press Camp Headquarters

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Dec. 4, 2017 — Hundreds of U.S. Army and foreign airborne troops gathered here Dec. 1-2 to get in some airborne training and provide Christmas cheer to local children during the 20th annual Operation Toy Drop.

The Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop is an annual tradition here. Hosted by the Army Reserve and the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, participating soldiers conduct an airborne operation with foreign jumpmasters. During the event, the American soldiers -- who could jump with an unwrapped toy or stuffed animal that would be donated to underprivileged local children -- also had a chance to earn their foreign jump wings.

On Dec. 1, soldiers gathered at Green Ramp at Pope Air Field here from 7-11 a.m. to receive a lottery ticket. Troops with winning tickets received a spot in the airborne operation the following day.

The Operation Toy Drop tradition was established in 1998 by then-Army Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command soldier. Operation Toy Drop began as a training event, with more than 1,200 soldiers participating and donating 550 toys.

Foreign Country Participation

“Eight foreign countries participate. Soldiers train with foreign jump masters and learn commands,” said Army Maj. Kathleen S. Feeley-Lynch, with the Army Reserve’s 7458th Medical Backfill Battalion. For many of the reservists, she said, Operation Toy Drop serves as a venue to conduct training that mirrors their civilian careers. Foreign countries participating in this year’s event included Canada, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden.

“A lot of our new soldiers are medics for the Army and are full-time students,” said Feeley-Lynch. “Many of the soldiers have recently completed the Drop Zone Medical Operations course offered at Fort Bragg’s Medical Simulation Training Center.” The course, she said, focuses on injuries that could occur during airborne operations.

Training Experience

Operation Toy Drop also enables soldiers to experience real-world military training.

“Soldiers practice basic soldiering and medical skills in a controlled environment,” said Army Reserve 1st Lt. Kirsten A. Westberg, a medical-surgical nurse with the 7458th and a civilian nurse.

“You’re in a field environment, being able to set up an aid station and learn how to load patients and litters on to an aircraft,” Feeley-Lynch said.

“It’s more relevant for real life. We need hands-on field training,” said Army Maj. Arnold J. Cortez, an emergency room nurse with the 7458th. “This is what we’re trained for.”

Working With Other Reservists

Another benefit is the opportunity to work with soldiers from other Army Reserve units.

“We’re fortunate to work with a bunch of professionals,” Cortez said.

“We have two doctors, several [emergency room] nurses, an [intensive care unit] nurse and several medics. We have 28 personnel in total,” Feeley-Lynch said. “We’re spread out through the drop zone; we also have roaming medics who are walking around with first aid bags.”

“Our overall goal to provide support for this mission. Our team is well-equipped to help people out if they really need it,” Cortez said.

Shanahan Makes Case for Budget Stability, Says Situation ‘Is Not Normal’

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2017 — The Defense Department has clear orders from President Donald J. Trump “to build a stronger military, take care of our men and women, and excel in our business operations,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said yesterday.

Shanahan was the closing speaker at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, and he spoke how the department is putting the president’s orders into effect.

The deputy secretary has been on the job for just under five months, and said he is most concerned with managing business practices to find money to make the military more lethal.

The deputy came to the department after 30 years at Boeing, where he shepherded the 787 Dreamliner to production. And while he says the transition from the aircraft manufacturer to DoD has been seamless, there have been some surprises. “I will say a couple of the department’s behaviors strike me as abnormal,” he said. “First, operating without a budget is not normal. Doing so every year for nine years, is really not normal.”

Stopping the Abnormal From Becoming Normal

While this tongue-in-cheek statement was met with knowing laughs from the high-powered audience at the forum, it served to underscore the problems facing DoD. Shanahan continued his statement of the problem. “Airplanes are meant to fly,” he said. “A service with significant number of its airplanes grounded and awaiting maintenance is not normal.”

“Part of my job as a leader is guarding against normalization of abnormal behaviors within the department,” Shanahan said. “A high level of performance is not only expected of our military, it is essential for America’s security, no matter the restraints.”

He noted that the U.S. military also faced obstacles to readiness and modernization in the years immediately preceding World War II. “While military leaders sought stable funding, political tensions and budgetary pressures stymied readiness efforts until the Second World War arrived on our doorstep,” he said.

Today, artificial constraints once again hold the national defense hostage, Shanahan said. “From budget stresses like continuing resolutions and Budget Control Act caps to disagreements in Congress that affect timely decision-making, right now we have time -- one of our most precious resources. But we lack the stable budget needed to prepare for future fights,” he said.

If a crisis appears, Congress will fund the military, the deputy secretary said, but there will be no time to prepare. “We cannot rely on a crisis to be the catalyst for solutions,” he said. “The cost of global conflict is simply too high and we value our men and women in uniform far too much. The rapidly changing security environment and budgetary instability have forced our department into a risk management posture, the consequences of which are hard to calculate.”

Limited Elasticity

The career engineer used an analogy from physics to illustrate his point. A material may be stretched in many ways and will return to form when the stresses upon it are released unless it is stretched too far. Then it will remain deformed. “The Department of Defense has its limits to elasticity,” he said. “Excessive pressure in the form of budgetary instability has the potential to permanently distort the department’s character, and lessen the lethality.”

The department must get away from risk management and seize opportunities to remain competitive. “A risk-balanced, opportunity driven approach with spark innovation and help protect our hard-earned culture of excellence from the unintended distortion of instability,” he said.

Long-term readiness and modernization will be embedded into the National Defense Strategy, the deputy secretary said. “We are building alignment across the department, the interagency, with industry and other partners and allies,” he said. “We view all these efforts through the critical lenses of lethality and affordability. After all, we must remember the department’s primary purpose is to be as lethal as possible, ensuring our diplomats speak from a position of strength.

“This is only possible when our enemies know with certainty that we are ready to fight and win our wars, and our allies know we stand steady alongside them,” he continued.