Monday, December 20, 2010

Air Force Announces Classic Association at Kirtland Air Force Base

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, recently approved the creation of a classic associate unit by aligning elements of the 150th Wing and 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

The 58th SOW, which is a regular Air Force unit, will serve as the host, and will have primary responsibility for the aircraft and its active duty members.  As the associate unit, the 150th Wing of the New Mexico Air National Guard, will have primary responsibility for the guardsmen assigned and share the aircraft assigned to the unit.

The primary mission for the new associate unit includes flying training for HC/MC-130P, HH-60, and UH-1 aircraft. Guardsmen from the 150th Wing have already begun training for this mission.

Additionally, guardsmen from the 150th Wing will add secondary missions of rapid, deployable engineering, power production, and intelligence targeting.

This new association maintains a cadre of qualified flight instructors with long-term continuity and preserves New Mexico Air National Guard manpower to support state emergencies.

For questions regarding this release, please contact Kirtland Air Force Base public affairs at 505-846-5991.

Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Completes Seven-Month Deployment

From USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Nearly 7,000 Sailors and Marines deployed with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) returned to their homeports Dec. 20, following a seven-month deployment.

The Norfolk-based Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) and USS Ross (DDG 71) returned after supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq and maritime security operations in the Mediterranean Sea.

"This has been a great deployment because of the hard work and professionalism of our Sailors and Marines over the last seven months," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, commander, Harry S. Truman CSG. "Whether conducting combat flight operations in support of U.S. and coalition ground forces in Afghanistan, preventing piracy on the open seas, or interacting with the local community during well-deserved port visits, the strike group represented themselves and their country with the greatest pride and professionalism."

Shortly after departing Norfolk May 21, the Truman CSG participated in the 100th anniversary of French naval aviation celebration. French aircraft landed and catapulted off Truman, while F/A-18s and E-2s from CVW 3 touched down on the French nuclear aircraft carrier CVN Charles de Gaulle (R 91). French maintenance crews embarked aboard Truman to conduct a practice engine change on a French Rafale F3 in Truman's hangar bay.

The Truman CSG joined the 5th Fleet Area of Operations in June 2010 and began combat operations in support of OEF and OND. During the next five months, CVW 3 aircrews flew 2,915 missions into Afghanistan and Iraq, providing vital close air support to coalition forces on the ground.

"Our success in support of OEF and OND is a glowing testament to world-class training, the high caliber of men and women who volunteer to serve and the manner in which they came together to perform as a mission-focused team," said Capt. Jay Bynum, commander, CVW 3. "We are so thankful and blessed to be returning home with all our Sailors, Marines and aircraft and to be reunited with our families to enjoy the holiday season."

While operating in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, several Truman CSG ships rescued mariners adrift at sea. The visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams from Winston S. Churchill rescued 62 distressed mariners after their dhow capsized in the Gulf of Aden Sept. 27, while the VBSS team from Oscar Austin provided assistance to two Iranian mariners after their dhow sank Nov. 18.

"Whether conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, operating with the Harry S. Truman in the Northern Arabian Sea, or conducting escort operations and other duties in the Arabian Gulf, the ships of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 were essential in maintaining peace and stability throughout the 5th Fleet AOR," said Capt. Bob Barwis, commander, DESRON 26.

Returning a few days before Christmas, the leadership aboard Truman is both proud and thankful to have safely achieved so much while deployed for 213 days and traveling nearly 55,000 nautical miles.

"It is truly wonderful to return to our homeport and reunite with our families and loved ones after seven months at sea," said Capt. Joe Clarkson, Harry S. Truman's commanding officer. "With the invaluable support of family and friends throughout this deployment, we accomplished the mission we were sent to do, and it is good to be home to celebrate the holidays with our families."

Obama Calls on Senate to Ratify New START

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2010 – President Barack Obama used his weekly address today to call on Congress to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before recessing for the holiday, warning of the consequences of delays in moving forward on “an urgent national priority.”

“Ratifying a treaty like START isn’t about winning a victory for an administration or a political party,” the president said. “It’s about the safety and security of the United States of America.”

That, he said, is why the treaty has had bipartisan support from former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, as well as every living Republican secretary of state, the United States’ NATO allies and the U.S. military leadership.

Obama also noted that Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed the importance of the treaty earlier this week at the White House. “All the Joint Chiefs are very much behind this treaty because of the transparency [and] because of the reality that both the United States and Russia are going to have to recapitalize their nuclear arsenals,” Cartwright said. “To have transparency … to put structure to that activity, we need START, and we need it badly.”

“And that’s why every president since Ronald Reagan has pursued a treaty like START, and every one that has been reviewed by the Senate has passed with strong bipartisan support,” the president said today.

“We have taken the time to get this right,” Obama said, noting that new START has undergone more than seven months of Senate review and 18 congressional hearings.

“It’s time to get this done,” he said.

Delaying action comes at a cost, the president emphasized. “Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites,” he said.

CNO Issues Statement Following Vote to Repeal DADT

Special from Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, released the following statement following the vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

"I am pleased the Congress voted to repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" statute (section 654 of title 10, United States Code).

"This Senate action does not immediately change the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

"If the President signs the provision into law, there are still a series of steps that will take place before Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed.

"First, the Department of Defense will prepare the necessary policies and regulations to implement the change. We will also ensure that the force is provided training on the new policies.

"Second, the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that the change can be made consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.

"Finally, there is a 60-day period following certification before repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell takes effect.

"As we move forward our Navy's superb leaders, both officer and enlisted, will be key to a successful transition to the new policy. Navy leadership will continue to keep all informed.

"The United States Navy will remain the world's most ready, capable and professional Navy where all our shipmates will continue to be treated with dignity and respect."

Statement by Adm. Mike Mullen on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

"I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell.’ Handling this through legislation preserves the military's prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner.

 “More critically, it is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.

 “I look forward to working with Secretary Gates and the Service chiefs as we set about the task of preparing and certifying the joint force to implement the new law. And I am committed to making sure that process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards."

The last of the fall buoy runs

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young

For nine weeks, Coast Guard units across the Great Lakes have been working around the clock in the largest domestic aids to navigation recovery operation in the United States … and just in time! With the slow-moving snowstorm that brought snow and fierce winds to the upper Midwest last week, there is no doubt that winter is here and more icy weather is on the way.

Operation Fall Retrieve put Aids to Navigation teams, buoy tenders, and stations to the test as they worked together to ensure 1,264 navigational aids along 6,700 miles of Great Lakes coastline were replaced before they could become damaged by the harsh winter weather.

Units are still hard at work, braving the cold weather to finish clearing the critical aids before the ice sets in permanently. One of the units finishing up the last of the buoy retrievals is Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay.

Mobile Bay began the cutter’s “buoy run” in mid-October, and has primarily operated in the waters of Green Bay with an occasional trip to work on a few buoys on the Lake Michigan side of Door Peninsula.

During their run, Mobile Bay was responsible for as many as 61 seasonal buoys. A huge order for such a short deployment considering this is two thirds of all the buoys the cutter maintains annually.

The crew of Mobile Bay replaced the seasonal buoys with winter aids capable of withstanding the abuse of almost five months of shifting ice flows.

“In general, the seasonal buoys are replaced in succession based upon their importance to navigation for major shipping and to a lesser degree with the greater probability of ice forming in that location,” said LT Bryan Estell, executive officer of Mobile Bay.

While the crew still works through foul weather, like the snowstorm last week, they try to take advantage when the weather is just right for operations, which may mean working long hours over holidays to ensure the buoys are recovered prior to ice formation.

“It’s hard, dirty work; an ‘all-hands’ evolution where everyone on the cutter plays a role in ensuring that every buoy is maintained and positioned properly,” said Estell. “Every time we work AtoN, we drive away from the buoy with a real sense of accomplishment.”

The hard work and long days make a real difference for the professional mariners who transit the Great Lakes during the treacherous winter months. Mobile Bay will return to its moorings in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., but not to rest … It’s icebreaking season!

First Lady Sorts ‘Toys for Tots’ With Volunteers

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C., Dec. 17, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama joined military and civilian volunteers here today to sort gifts for the Marine Corps Reserve’s “Toys for Tots” program, which collects and distributes holiday gifts for underprivileged children.

"We're so proud of the work you do for the country and the fact that you are putting it all out for kids across this country," she told the group in a warehouse brimming with large, colorful gift boxes marked by age groups. "We couldn't do it without your leadership."

Servicemembers' families play a big role in making the program work, Obama noted. "It is just another tribute to the hard work that our military families put into this country, after already sacrificing so much for this country," she said.

The idea for Toys for Tots came from a Marine reservist and his wife more than 60 years ago, the first lady said.

"Ever since then,” she added, “our military members and their families have made the holidays brighter for millions of kids all across the country. It's another example of how military families are always willing to do their part for their community."

Obama’s motorcade to the event included a vanload of toys.

"We're here today because we want to do our part," she said. "We've been collecting toys from our staff, and today we brought as many as we could fit into one [vehicle], but there's still more to come."

The first lady took the opportunity to ask the public to contribute to the program, noting that it’s now possible to contribute toys online through the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation’s website, She also asked people not only to think of infants and small children when shopping for gifts, but also to keep older children in mind.

"We're working with families with kids as old as 14 years, and we want to be sure that these preteens and teens have something to open on Christmas, too,” she said.

Clothing, books and backpacks are good gifts for that age group, Obama said.

"If you've already donated for the little kids, and you want to take one more shot at it for the bigger kids, we'd encourage you to do so," she added.

People experiencing financial struggles know someone else needs more of a hand up, Obama said, and participating in the program does more than simply helping the gift recipients.

"Taking the time to shop for another family really teaches our kids the importance of giving at a time when they're expecting to get,” the first lady said. “It teaches them by your example."

Obama spent time with the troops and volunteers, sorting toys into the decorated boxes that soon were overflowing with presents.

Over the 62 years of Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million children in need, according to the foundation’s website.

Today in the Department of Defense, Monday, December 20, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.