Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Truman Installs Port Anchor Chain

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Thomas Miller, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

Portsmouth, Va (NNS) -- The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) installed its port anchor chain Dec. 16, marking completion of another goal in Truman's docking planned incremental availability (DPIA).

More than 30 Sailors and 10 shipyard workers assisted in lifting the 249,000-pound anchor chain 80 feet from the dry dock into the ship's forecastle. Truman expects installation of both anchor chains and anchors to be complete by the end of January.

The anchor chains and anchors were removed in April for sandblasting and painting.

"Having the anchors back on the ship is important because without them, we would not be able to go underway safely," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Shawn Pankratz, assigned to Truman's deck department.

Prior to the evolution, the deck department and rehabilitation teams were working in the forecastle, sand blasting and painting the hawse pipe, the hole for the anchor chain on the bow of the ship.

"We had to make sure that the hawse pipe was being rehabbed properly, so we stayed in constant communication with rehabilitation teams to make sure we were on schedule," said Pankratz.

When anchor chain and anchor rehabilitation was complete, the anchors were transported to Truman. Sailors attached a line to the anchor chain and pulled it up using the ship's port side capstan.

When the bitter end of the chain, or the attaching link, reached the forecastle, Sailors wrapped it around the wildcat and guided it into the chain locker. There, the chain was attached to the bulkhead.

"By sandblasting and painting the chains, we can clearly see the markers on it, which is key to dropping the anchor underway," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Mason Ellison, assigned to Truman's deck department. "It also ensured that the detachable links are working properly, making it easier to conduct maintenance."

Truman is undergoing a docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) to conduct maintenance and refurbish shipboard systems.

Truman is expected to return to the fleet in the summer of 2012.

Wisconsin Guard welcomes new enlisted leader, bids farewell to 40-year veteran

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

Following nearly four years as the Wisconsin Air National Guard's top enlisted leader, Chief Master Sgt. James Chisholm transferred responsibility to Chief Master Sgt. Greg Cullen following an official ceremony at Joint Force Headquarters earlier this month.

Cullen became the 12th command chief master sergeant for Wisconsin as Chisholm prepares to retire following more than 40 years of service in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Cullen, a Milton native who now resides in Tomah, has been dreaming for an opportunity like this for a long time. He says he was grateful to be considered among the 38 chiefs eligible in the state.

"I am very excited but very humbled." Cullen said. "We have a lot of outstanding chiefs in the WIANG ... so to be selected among them is truly an honor."

Challenges that faced Chisholm are still challenges that Cullen must face today - a task he says he is up to. Cullen will focus on emphasizing in-residence professional military education, civilian education and recognizing the "outstanding work our Airmen do across the state."

"I'd like to continue what Chief Chisholm and others have started," Cullen said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Cullen faces, however, is something the entire National Guard faces - unyielding budget constraints and the uncertainty of future missions as the United States reduces its footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan for the first time since 2001.

"There are lots of rumors out there and we want to make sure Wisconsin stays at the top of everyone's list, to keep us relevant in the Guard organization." Cullen said.

Cullen, who enlisted as an Air Force air traffic controller on active duty in 1989, most recently served as operations chief enlisted manager at Volk Field and also filled a public affairs role. He says he has the utmost faith that Wisconsin Air Guard members will continue to serve at the same level as he has seen since joining the Wisconsin Guard in 1996.

"Without a doubt, it is one of the finest organizations I've been a part of," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of talent and ability across the state. Every Airman in every unit seems to exceed the standard."

Chisholm, of South Milwaukee, shares Cullen's sentiment on the state of the Wisconsin National Guard and - as an Airman who has served four decades in the organization - perhaps no one is more versed in the past and current state of the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

"We were pretty rough back when I joined," Chisholm said. "I think we're absolutely on par with [the best units in the force in] everything we're doing and how we perform our missions.

"Every single unit that we have, in my estimation, is looked at as one of the tops in their field," he continued. "I think we are the best and we are absolutely blessed to have the reputation that we have."

Chisholm, who plans to move to Arizona with his wife after he retires, ends his second tour as state command chief master sergeant, having served once before from 1998 to 2001. Chisholm spent much of his latest tour working with national-level organizations so he could bring a vaster wealth of knowledge back to Wisconsin, as well as spread word of the great work the Wisconsin Guard has accomplished to the rest of the nation.

Although Chisholm served as command chief in a traditional sense, he has helped convert the position to a full-time role in the Wisconsin Guard.

"You can see how it is evolving into a full-time position, just like the state command sergeant majors for the Army Guard are full-time," Chisholm said.

The full time position is something Chisholm saw other states utilizing and he quickly brought the advantageous idea to Wisconsin. This is the kind of leadership Wisconsin has become accustomed to under Chisholm, said Brig. Gen. John McCoy, commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

"Chief Chisholm has been an outstanding mentor, leader and friend to the Wisconsin Air National Guard," McCoy said. "He will be missed as he transitions to his new life in Arizona."

MDSU 2 Company 21 Completes Debeaching Exercise During FEP

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Steven Hoskins, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 Company 21 and the crew of Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) participated in a debeaching exercise at Anzio Beach, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story, Va., Dec, 15.

The exercise, part of a week-long Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) for Company 21, provided an authentic training environment to certify the team for deployment. The 17-Sailor team freed the 400-foot former U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Salvia.

Company 21 had to show they could solve problems they may face on deployment, from debeaching and towing the Salvia to anti-terrorism and force protection and an underwater search and recovery.

"The exercise went extremely well," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Bennett, MDSU 2 training officer.

Mother Nature plays a vital role in salvage missions like this, explained Bennett. High tides and swift currents make it hard to steady the rescue and salvage ships.

Grapple provided the platform and towing capability for Company 21.

"We had about 80,000 pounds of pull, along with 85 percent of power on the Grapple's two main engines and pulled the vessel out free," said Bennett.

"The exercise not only certifies the team, it was also a global partnership between Military Sealift Command (MSC) and MDSU," said Master Chief Navy Diver Billy Gilbert, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit 2. The Grapple and other ships from MSC will be used in future salvage missions if a ship runs aground.''

Gilbert compared the exercise to real life missions. MDSU and MSC successfully freed the grounded USS Port Royal (CG-73) in Honolulu in 2009. MDSU also provided diving and salvage during the search and recovery efforts at the Minneapolis Bridge collapse in 2007.

MDSU 2 is part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). They provide combat ready and rapidly deployable mobile diving and salvage teams to conduct harbor clearance, salvage, underwater search and recovery, and underwater emergency repairs in any environment.

DOD Takes Southern Border Support to Air

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Defense Department and National Guard support to southwest U.S. border security will change in the next few months from a ground effort to primarily air, Defense and Homeland Security officials said today.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the lead federal agency charged with defending the southwest U.S border with Mexico, but the Defense Department, specifically the National Guard, works closely in support of the effort, and has since 2010.

But the mission has changed, said Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs. Customs, he said, has beefed up its manpower and technical abilities and no longer needs the numbers of National Guard personnel on the ground.

“CBP has changed the kind of support that it is asking the Department of Defense to provide,” he said, “and DOD is transitioning to much more effective support … that not only matches up to what CBP needs, but provides more flexibility against an adaptive adversary.”

The border is better protected because of the cooperative relationship between defense and homeland security, said David Aguilar, the Customs and Border Protection agency’s deputy commissioner.

“Over the last year, we had over 1,200 National Guard representatives on the line with us,” Aguilar said. Under the new system, he said, fewer than 300 Guardsmen are needed.

The Guardsmen worked with border police to man entry identification teams. These are fixed positions and were what was required at the time. But times change, and now the Border Patrol requires aerial platforms to provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and mobility ability.

This mission will begin around the first of the year and completely transition by March, Aguilar said.

“There will be a ramp down of the static [entry identification teams] and the boots on the ground related to those [teams], but a ramp-up on the aerial support and platforms,” he said.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said the patrol has grown to 21,450 officers. The aviation assets will focus at first on detection and monitoring capabilities, he said. Guardsmen will fly specially equipped OH-58 and UH-72 helicopters with a detection radius of 6 and 12 nautical miles, respectively. In addition, Guardsmen will fly RC-26 fixed-wing aircraft with detection and monitoring capability of 12 nautical miles.

Such capability will enable the Border Patrol to work in more challenging terrain and give the patrol a faster reaction time to prevent illegal activities. These airborne assets will be able to look way over the horizon of a person on the ground and be able to flow personnel into an area.

Defense officials will continue to work with Customs and Border Protection officials to figure the mix of aircraft and capabilities and where the aircraft and ground stations will be.

The new National Guard mission will end Dec. 31, 2012, officials said.

Naval Station Norfolk hosts "Toast to the Troops"

By Seaman Wesley Dannelley, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, East

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- More than 150 service members and military spouses volunteered for the care package stuffing event, "Toast to the Troops" aboard Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 16.

The 15th "Toast to the Troops" helped pack more than 10,000 care packages, containing toiletries, snack foods, phone cards, and other items.

"It's fantastic. We have been doing these programs since 2005, and we never get tired of it," said Jill Meyer, a spokesperson for one of the sponsors. "We are always impressed by the energy from the volunteers, and also the commitment from the Soldiers, Sailors, and their families."

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Malisha Fields volunteered with the United Service Organizations (USO), stating she could give something back to the men and women that were out in the field supporting us here on the home front.

"It's not just the Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines we're doing it for, it's also for the families," said Fields. "To bring them together when their husbands, wives, or kids go underway or overseas, they need someone to fall back on."

Army veteran and country music artist Craig Morgan has participated in all 15 stuffing parties, and finishes each one with a free concert for service members and their families.

For the past six years, the sponsors have collected hand-written messages, referred to as "toasts", and have included them in over 150,000 care packages sent to troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas of operation.

Wisconsin youth graduate Challenge Academy, focus on future

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

More than 100 young adults - from 38 Wisconsin counties - celebrated an important milestone in their lives as they officially graduated from the first phase of the Wisconsin National Guard Youth Challenge Program during an official ceremony Saturday (Dec. 17) in Mauston, Wis.

Senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders, Challenge Academy staff, family, friends and spectators left standing room only in the Mauston High School gymnasium as each young man and woman took center stage in celebration of their accomplishments.

"Most people strive to be good," said Kevin Krueger, Challenge Academy acting director. "Cadets, you're on track to be brilliant."

The graduates - ranging from 16 to 18 years old - have taken a concerning label of "at-risk youth" and have transformed their progress in life to that of success and promise.

"We have made such a positive step in the right direction," said Raymond Skudlark, of Athelstane, Wis., and Class 27's honor graduate. "We all have the tools to do great things."

Eighty eight of the 103 graduating cadets earned their high school equivalency diploma (HSED). In addition to scholastic success, each cadet received Red Cross certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid. Each cadet also received lessons in philanthropy and community service as the graduating class logged more than 7,000 hours of service work.

The cadets now enter into the 12-month post-residential phase of the program where cadets are encouraged to enter higher education or enter the military. This phase matches each cadet with a mentor from their local community.

"The mentor is there to help the cadets with whatever they have chosen to do," said Mary DeWitt, Challenge Academy admission coordinator. "We also keep in touch with them over the next 12 months and continue to be a resource."

The goal of the program - by the end of the two-phase, 17-month program - is to have provided graduates with "values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens."

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin and the ceremony's keynote speaker, told the cadets they are on their way to reaching that goal.

"They call this commencement for a reason ... it's just the beginning," Dunbar said."Cherish this moment - you've earned it."

Operation Christmas Stockings Comes to 22nd MEU

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Josue L. Escobosa, USS Mesa Verde Public Affairs

USS MESA VERDE, At sea (NNS) -- Santa came early this year with more than 660 Christmas stockings delivered to the Sailors and Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) currently embarked aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) Dec. 10.

The MEU Family Readiness Group (FRG) coordinated with families to ensure all Sailors and Marines assigned to the MEU would have a stocking to look forward to on Christmas morning.

"With this being a long deployment and them being gone over the holidays we organized these events to make the holidays feel a little more like home," said Darlene Kern, Combat Logistics Battalion 22 (CLB 22) family readiness officer. "We wanted to show them that even though they are separated by miles from family during the holidays they were being thought of, supported and are loved."

The stockings included a variety of items, such as cookies, toiletries, toys and candy. The stockings came from families, friends and members of the community who wanted to add a little bit of Christmas cheer to those who are unable to be home for Christmas.

"No matter how strong they seem, I am sure it is just as hard on them not being home for the holidays and it is for us at home," said Judi Long, coordinator for the Battalion Landing Team 2\2 and a mother of one of the Marines. "I hope these stuffed stockings bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to all of our loved ones and that this small gesture will help remind them that we do appreciate what they do."

CLB 22's Command Chaplain, Lt. Diego Londono, from Cali, Colombia received and managed the stocking count and distribution process aboard Mesa Verde. Once the packages arrived, it was kept a secret from the Sailors and Marines to give the service members a holiday surprise.

"There was word of us getting something from our families back home, but we weren't expecting anything like this, definitely not full stockings and for everyone, privates all the way up to lieutenant colonel," said Cpl. Craig Turner, from Detroit. "This is my third time missing Christmas in as many years. Last year I was in Japan and it was sort of treated like a regular day. I've never seen anything like this. It definitely gave us a boost."

"We weren't expecting this at all," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (FMF/SW) Deshon Greene, from Chesapeake, Va. "I really appreciate it and I know all of us do. I would like to thank the FRG and all of the volunteers personally."

Although the Sailors and Marines cannot be home for the holidays this year, most are using the stockings as a boost to make the holidays special within their platoons.

"The FRG had already sent us holiday movies so we planned to watch movies Christmas day and now with the stockings we'll have enough hot chocolate to get us through the day and just enjoy the day together," said Turner.

The ship's religious programs department, responsible for the assembly and distribution process, expressed their joy at being able to help spread holiday cheer.

"Anytime I can do something to help my Marines is a blessing, so helping the chaplain put together stockings and distribute was a real pleasure," said Religious Programs Specialist 3rd Class Michael Sency, from Indianapolis.

"I really can't take any of the credit for this; it was all the volunteers back home," said Londono. "Their efforts have been amazing, they made sure everyone would get a stocking and they even sent a few extras just in case. It keeps us all connected. Sometimes people can feel disconnected when they've been away for so long, but the families back home have made an amazing effort to keep us motivated and connected back home."

The Mesa Verde is deployed as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group currently supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.