Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FOCUS Project Teaches Resiliency to Military Families

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Liz Vlahos, Defense Media Activity – Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Families Overcoming Under Stress (FOCUS) Project is a military service being highlighted during April as part of the Month of the Military Child.

FOCUS, a service initiated by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in 2008, teaches practical resiliency skills to service members and their families to better equip them to meet the challenges of deployment and reintegration. Part of this involves teaching the family to communicate and solve problems effectively, and to successfully set goals together and create a shared family story.

"The role of the program is to basically help families identify, look through, and define what [it] is that's causing their stress," said Kirsten Woodward, director of the Family Programs Division at the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "[The] program can then assist with that stress in terms of emotional regulation, defining a shared family narrative, and working through compounding stressors that might come from a deployment, multiple deployments, or high operational tempo issues."

Two of the tools FOCUS uses for teaching these skills are the feeling thermometer and the personal narrative. The feeling thermometer, modeled after the Navy's Operational Stress Continuum, helps family members to discuss their emotional states. Green means "comfortable," yellow means "less comfortable," orange, "uncomfortable," and red, "extremely uncomfortable."

The personal narrative is when each member of the family writes a story about his or her life as part of that family. In a subsequent meeting, each family member shares his or her narrative, with focus on the children, and from that point the family builds a combined narrative. This helps the family to be able to understand different perspectives, clear up misunderstandings and create a stronger family unit.

"When a service member deploys, the whole family is really experiencing that deployment," said Dr. Anna Crane, a family resiliency trainer for the FOCUS Project aboard Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va. "Deployments can be an opportunity for a lot of growth, but [there's] quite a few challenges often associated. FOCUS provides skills so families can stay strong through those multiple deployments. We frequently hear that as a service member, when they're deployed and their family's okay, they're able to do their job even better."

Chief Information Systems Technician Liam Benincasa, assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Support Activity, Little Creek, Va., is pleased with the shift in the Navy's view of the Sailor's family.

"When I came in eleven years ago, there was the old adage of 'your spouse didn't come in your seabag,'" said Benincasa. "To see now, eleven years later, where they're really understanding that families are just as important to the military as the service member...definitely makes me feel better about being in the military."

To learn more about the FOCUS project, visit

Sailors Participate in Fleet Week Damage Control Olympics

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Morgan E. Dial, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (NNS) -- Damage Control teams Sailors from the USS Normandy (CG 60), USS Ross (DDG 71) and USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), gathered for a competition at the 10th annual Resolve Marine Group's Damage Control Olympics at Port Everglades, Fla., April 26th.

Teams of four to 10 service members competed in five competitions, putting their damage control knowledge and skills to the test. The events included a P-100 pump rigging drill, a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) relay, a pipe-patching competition, a fire fighting drill and a search and rescue drill.

"My favorite event was the SCBA relay because it was so fast-paced," said Damage Controlman Fireman Josh Richardson, a USS Iwo Jima Sailor and native of Salisbury, N.C. "It tested our speed in dressing out in our firefighting ensemble and assembling the SCBA."

The competitions were judged by Resolve Marine Group training personnel and points were awarded for each evolution. At the end of the day, Sailors from the USS Iwo Jima took home the first place trophy for the third time in four years, followed by USS Ross who placed 2nd, and USS Normandy who placed third.

"We run drills like these all the time on the ship, so we were well prepared for every event today," said Richardson.

In between events, service members unwound by listening to live music and enjoying complimentary massages and smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Red Bull energy drink also sponsored the event with a Red Bull van stocked with free energy drinks for participants and attendees.

"It's our way of paying them back and showing our appreciation to Sailors when they are in our hometown," said Todd Duke, Resolve Marine Group's director of fire response. "We have a great time doing it and I think the Sailors enjoy it too."

The Resolve Marine Group trains cruise line and tanker crews in shipboard firefighting, safety and hazmat response.

Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 has brought more than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to participate in this South Florida tradition, honoring sea services and establishing relationships through community outreach, public tours of sea platforms, and general tourism.

Army Honors Africom’s First Commander

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

FORT MYER, Va., April 27, 2011 – A special review ceremony here yesterday honored Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward for a career that has spanned four decades and saw him rise through the ranks to be the first commander of U.S. Africa Command.

"This has been an experience for Kip Ward," the general said. "I would not trade it for anything. I leave this position proudly, honorably, humbly."

Africom stood up its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, in October 2007.

Army Secretary John M. McHugh reflected on Ward’s career.

"From Somalia to Cairo to Israel and Stuttgart, and back home again, Kip Ward has distinguished himself in each and every assignment,” McHugh said. “On behalf of the U.S. Army Kip, ‘Job well done.’"

McHugh noted Ward is a Baltimore native and the son of a World War II combat engineer who served at a time when the Army was segregated.

"I imagine it would have been easy, and indeed it would have been understandable, if Kip Ward turned away, rather than turned toward and embraced the Army, both as an institution and as a career," McHugh said.

By following in his father's footsteps, McHugh said, Ward's career is an inspiration.

"That a son of a sergeant in a segregated Army would rise through the ranks to become one of only a handful of African-Americans in our nation's history to attain the rank of four-star general is a testament to the integrity, tenacity, character and the ability of General Kip Ward," the Army secretary said.

Ward said he was 22 years old when Air Force fighter pilot Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. -– who later would become the first African-American four-star general -- commissioned him as an infantry officer in 1971. Initially, Ward said, he thought he'd spend four years in the Army and then go to law school.

"But as the years went on," Ward said, "it became clearer that serving my country and taking care of my teammates was a pretty fulfilling undertaking … in a way I saw my dad do it."

Wearing a star, Ward told the crowd of well-wishers, doesn’t mean it belongs to the one who wears it.

"[It belongs] to all the aspects of one’s life that created the opportunities, and to the causes that led to that star," he said. "I have proudly worn the cloth of our nation. … I never left a fallen comrade. I remain proud to serve. I am a soldier."

As a commander, Ward said, he has shared his commitment to his troops with an equal commitment to their families. One of his privileges during his career, he said, has been meeting America’s sons and daughters, and caring for their families.

"There is no greater honor," he said.

Save the Date - Oct. 15, 2011 and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Wisconsin Army National Guard's Berlin Crisis mobilization

In September 1961 about 10,000 32nd Infantry Division Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard were alerted to an impending call-up and then ordered to report to active duty at Fort Lewis, Washington on October 15, 1961.

Please plan on joining us Saturday, October 15, 2011, in Camp Douglas, Wis., at the 32nd Infantry Brigade’s headquarters for a special day to commemorate the selflessness, dedication and duty of these Wisconsin citizen-Soldiers 50 years ago.

More details to follow in the coming weeks and added to our special event Berlin Red Arrows website. 

Please forward to fellow Veterans, friends and family and encourage anyone interested in receiving more information to sign up to receive text/email notifications of "Berlin Red Arrows" updates by subscribing via

Sent on behalf of the Wisconsin National Guard by
Jackie Guthrie
LTC, Wisconsin National Guard
Director of Public Affairs

Submariners Assist South Florida Church

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles White, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Annapolis (SSN 760) Sailors volunteered to work on two major projects for First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale as part of Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, April 26.

The eight Sailors assisted church staff members with painting a two-story church building and clearing a large parking lot of crumbling concrete parking blocks, the materials of which were then donated to a local Habitat for Humanity project where they will be recycled.

Church Administrator David Kramer noted the difficulty in organizing a large working party of strong people to handle the two projects from within the church body and was appreciative of the Sailors' helpfulness. Adding to that appreciation was his surprise to learn of a very typical Navy skill set.

"It was wonderful to learn that all of the Sailors know how to paint," he said. "If you don't know how to paint, it can get messy."

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Jacob Lalonde of Corpus Christi, Texas, had never before been to Florida but still chose to spend his first day ashore volunteering. He said it was the best way to "experience Florida and touch base with the people who live here, to show them that we actually care."

In addition to volunteering his time at First Presbyterian, Lalonde decided to spend his next two liberty days speaking to patients at a children's hospital and feeding the homeless.

After a few hours of work, Navy volunteers were surprised with a lunch prepared by Executive Chef Kevin Hyotte, judge of Fleet Week Port Everglades' Galley Wars, which is scheduled for April 28. The meal included gourmet submarine sandwiches and muffins.

With more than just a meal though, the charitable dealings of the Navy toward First Presbyterian of Fort Lauderdale have reciprocated through the church's craft ministry, which makes and sends sand scarves to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, and blankets to wounded warriors in Landstuhl, Germany.

David Kramer said the impact of the Sailors' hard work for the church will be equal to the church's impact on the military.

"These are two very important jobs that will be noticed immediately and appreciated literally by thousands and thousands of people," he said.

As part of Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, community service events by each of the sea services will be held throughout the week, in South Florida.

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for the week-long celebration of the sea services that honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides the sea services an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels.

For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit the Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Center's Navy NewsStand page at

Media outlets interested in covering Fleet Week events should contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

Total force brings aeromedical evacuation training to the Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
17th Air Force

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (4/26/11) - A two week medical exercise, in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and U.S. Air Forces Africa, focusing on aeromedical evacuation, kicked off here at the Centre Superior Militaire Academy Monday.

MEDLITE 11 is an exercise that will improve the readiness of both countries' medical personnel and will consist of classroom instruction, an aeromedical evacuation training scenario and is scheduled to conclude with a mass casualty exercise, May 4th.

"Our months of planning are now culminating in this mission and exercise as we build on lessons learned from MEDFLAG 2010," said Air Force Lt. Col. June Oldman, mission director for MEDLITE 11 and a member of the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Oklahoma Air National Guard.

"We look forward to the opportunity to learn from each other," Oldman said. "The more we work together with our partners in Africa, the better we understand each other."

The purpose of this joint exercise is to focus on five key points, said Oldman. Reinforcing the training of the Armed Forces of the DRC Medical Immediate Response Unit, enhancing the capabilities of the U.S. and Armed Forces of the DRC to respond to medical emergencies, sharing our training and experiences with the Medical Rapid Intervention Unit, building a partnership and relationship with the Congolese military and cultivating a professional Armed Forces of the DRC as part of the U.S. government's efforts to support peace and stability in the DRC.

"What an in depth broad relationship we have here with the DRC," said Ambassador James Entwistle, U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Not only did we have the DRC and the U.S. forces here today at the opening ceremonies but we were able to get representatives from Rwanda to attend as well.

"We are hoping to increase the capabilities between the Congolese military and the U.S. military and to eventually learn more than we teach," Entwistle said.

About 60 U.S. Air Force active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and 150 Congolese military personnel will participate in MEDLITE 11 from April 25 through May 5.

"I came here to teach aeromedical evacuation to the Congolese," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Julie Swearingin, an aeromedical evacuation technician with the 187th AES, Wyoming Air National Guard.

"My hopes are the things I teach them will one day help save lives and provide them a more increased chance of survivability for their military members," Swearingin said.

"A great opportunity presented itself to me with this exercise," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Amber Weaver, an aeromedical evacuation technician, also assigned to the 187th AES.

"I'm hoping to help the Congolese military medical personnel with helping their own wounded, while at the same time learning a great deal from them," Weaver said.

The start of MEDLITE 11 signifies the latest in a series of exercises that were initiated in 1987 as a now U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, bilateral medical exercise to facilitate an exchange of medical information and techniques with militaries in Africa.

"This mission is truly a total force effort," Oldman said.

"It is a key element in a series of military to military activities that demonstrate the strong partnership and cooperation between the U.S. and Congolese militaries."

USS Iwo Jima Hosts Pop Icon

By Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Zane Ecklund, USS IWO JIMA Public Affairs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (NNS) -- A former United Service Organizations (USO) and chart-topping singer visited multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) April 25, while the ship was in port for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011.

Celebrity singer Connie Francis was a chart topping pop musician in the 1950s and 1960s, and performed with the United Service Organizations (USO) for troops in Vietnam. This was her time on board a Navy ship since 1967.

"This is the experience of a lifetime; this is an absolute thrill," she said. "This is what I liked best so far."

Francis toured the ship's well deck, vehicle stowage areas, hangar bay, hospital, and enlisted mess. She said her father inspired her to support service members, and that her career began with her performing in veterans hospitals when she was only 10 years old.

"Service members are heroes," said Francis. "They lay their lives on the line for us everyday. We can't pay them enough for that."

Lt. j.g. Dave Wilcox, USS Iwo Jima boilers officer, led Francis on her tour of the ship and said he felt privileged to have the opportunity to meet her.

"It reminded me of my childhood growing up listening to her records with my mother and father," said Wilcox.

Wilcox said it was great to meet someone who had experience entertaining troops in Vietnam, and felt that she bridged the gap between him and the previous generation because of her experience with the military.

"It's amazing to listen to someone who talks about Douglas MacArthur because she knew him," said Wilcox.

Francis is involved with the Mental Health America organization and is their spokesperson for their trauma campaign raising money to support wounded warriors. Some of her hit songs include "Where the Boys Are," "Lipstick On Your Collar," "Who's Sorry Now," and "Stupid Cupid".

Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 brought more than 2,500 Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen to participate in this South Florida tradition honoring the sea services and establishing relationships through community outreach, public tours of sea platforms, and general tourism.

Florida Marlins Host Sailors, Marines at Baseball Game

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (NNS) -- The Florida Marlins showed their appreciation for the military by inviting more than 300 Sailors and Marines to attend a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., April 26.

The event was part of Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, scheduled April 25 through May 1.

USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) 2nd Class Daniel Irwin was selected to throw the first pitch. A longstanding ritual of American baseball, the ceremonial first pitch is thrown by a guest of honor to mark the end of pre-game festivities and the start of the game.

"It was a great honor to be selected as the person to throw the first pitch," said Irwin, a Crestview, Fla., native. "It was even more meaningful to do it in my home state and before watching my favorite team play."

Florida Marlins season ticket-holders donated their seats to visiting Sailors, something Iwo Jima Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Raymond Young said was a significant gesture and proved a highlight of his visit to Port Everglades for fleet week.

"This was my first time attending a baseball game, and all because of South Florida generosity," he said. "It was a blast, and I am glad I was able to get some baseballs signed for my children at home."

Iwo Jima Sailor Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) Airman Shannon Sittloh said attending the game demonstrated how much Miami-area citizens appreciate the jobs Sailors perform each day around the world.

"I was absolutely astonished by the amount of support the civilians showed toward the military," she said. "It made the whole evening an honor."

The Marlins defeated the Dodgers, 4-2.

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration of the sea services honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides the sea services an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels.

For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit the Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Center's Navy NewsStand page at

Media outlets interested in covering Fleet Week events should contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

Sailors Shadow Broward County Sheriffs During Fleet Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bruce Cummins, Fleet Week Port Everglades Public Affairs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (NNS) -- Nearly 50 Sailors were the first participants in a unique event designed to showcase the day-to-day operations of the Broward County Sheriff's Office during Fleet Week Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 26.

Taking a service member along with him during his work day was an opportunity to show his appreciation for the job a Sailor does on a daily basis, said Broward County Sheriff's Office Deputy Ben Koos.

"It's good for the military to be out here with us, and it's an honor for me to have Sailors come out, see what we do and appreciate what we do," said Koos, a 14-year veteran of Broward County Sheriff's Office. "I love that the military comes to us in different locations for port calls and fleet week."

USS Ross (DDG 71) Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Allan Salas said the event reminded him of the similarities between military service and police work.

"We all work together in some way or another; they defend the safety of the city, and we defend the freedom of the country," said Salas. "The fact that they are willing to bring me along with them for the day made me feel really important; I got to see hands-on what [Broward County Sheriff's Office sheriffs] do, which made fleet week even more fun for me."

Gordon Black, a two-year Broward County Sheriff's Office veteran, agreed with Salas about the quality of an exchange two organizations with similar responsibilities can have.

"I think it's really good to have the Sailors come over and ride with us," said Black. "We get to hear what they've experienced overseas, and they get to see a side of police work – what we do at home. They protect us overseas, and we try to protect everyone here."

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration of the sea services honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides the sea services an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels.

For media outlets interested in covering fleet week events, contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

Combat Operational Stress Conference Kicks Off in San Diego

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines are learning new ways to fight off the stresses of military life at the 2011 Navy and Marine Corps Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) Conference in San Diego, April 26-29.

The theme of this year's conference highlights "the critical role of junior leaders" and how their actions are vital in stress management.

"Operational stress increasingly affects our personnel; the stakes are high," said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, one of the conference keynote speakers. "Operational stress control is the foundation for combating that stress, therefore this conference is important. We, as leaders, are charged with the well-being of our Sailors, Marines and their families.

"The collective goal is to build an environment where our people have the skills, support network, and if necessary, the clinical health care to deal with psychological challenges—and succeed," added Greenert.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West also addressed attendees at the onset of the conference and spoke about junior leaders.

"Leadership is not always about rank," said West. "It's the foundation of who we are. Those young leaders are our future and we have to invest in them. Our challenge in the military, for all these programs, is to make sure that our folks know what's out there.

MCPON said making sure the various programs are accessible and that service members are aware of them is important, but leaders should make sure both immediate and extended families are included in the information dissemination.

The annual conference focuses on practical tools leaders can apply to prevent or identify stress, and how early intervention with problems is critical to keeping the military fully operational.

"In my view this is predominantly a leadership issue," said Greenert. "Leaders must be actively engaged in assuring subordinate psychological health and well being. It is complex-- unlike our ships, aircraft and equipment, our people cannot run on 'autopilot,' nor can they be started up and 'placed on the governor.'"

Greenert encouraged leaders to continue to engage their subordinates, to know what is going on in their lives, and added that leaders need to explain how everyone in the chain-of-command plays a vital role.

"Explain how their sacrifices have meaning and value," said Greenert. "Extend the leadership to their families. Facilitate that family readiness and make sure they have the information they need while the unit is gone."

Greenert mentioned ways military leaders can seek help for stress issues, such as the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery's special psychiatric rapid intervention team, the Navy Operation Stress Control Leaders Course, and the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions.

A goal for the conference is for leaders at all levels to learn new ways to strengthen the force of the Navy and Marine Corps, along with recognizing stress injuries and effective ways to deal with them.

The conference is scheduled to provide specific information, such as how humor can be used to tackle stress, how sleep affects stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and stigmas of stress injuries.