Tuesday, January 17, 2012

USS James E. Williams Participates in COMPTUEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel J. Meshel, Enterprise Strike Group Public Affairs

USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS, At Sea (NNS) -- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E Williams (DDG 95) is participating in a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) while underway in the Atlantic Ocean Jan. 16 to certify the ship for its upcoming fourth deployment.

The goal of the exercise is to integrate and assess the staff and individual units within the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, and to grant the strike group major operations certification upon completion.

"COMPTUEX is the last major battle group exercise that the James E. Williams will have before we deploy with the Enterprise Strike Group this spring," said Cmdr. Christopher M. Senenko, the commanding officer of James E. Williams.

"It's a last opportunity for the battle group to integrate, demonstrate all the mission sets we possibly may encounter on deployment, and get certification from the operational chain-of-command," said Senenko.

"The James E. Williams is underway with other forces, with live aircraft, live surface ships, and live submarines, flexing their combat systems in a real world type environment," said Cmdr. Luke L. Reinhold, the assistant maritime operations officer at Strike Force Training Command Atlantic.

COMPTUEX incorporates a myriad of missions to include air defense, maritime interdiction, and anti-submarine warfare.

"Just about every evolution in every warfare area is evaluated in some facet," said Reinhold. "The main objective is integrated training with the entire Strike Group and all the different staff and warfare commanders."

The COMPTUEX scenario involves a friendly ally at war in a highly volatile area prone to terrorism. Training vessels and personnel play the roles of hostile forces within each exercise.

These exercises not only help assess the operational readiness of each unit within the strike group, but also establish an element of situational realism that represents potential real threats the James E. Williams may encounter while deployed.

The exercises offer Sailors valuable experience operating the many different areas of the destroyer's assets; including weapons, navigation, and radar systems.

"For a lot of [Sailors] this is the first time they'll actually get to see their systems work against real assets and operate within an actual strike group scenario," said Reinhold.

"It's a great opportunity for the crew to practice their skills," said Senenko. "They're professionals, and this is why they joined the Navy.”

Submarine Squadron 4 Welcomes New Commander

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Submarine Squadron 4 held a change of command ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton Jan. 13.

Capt. Michael Holland relieved Capt. Michael Bernacchi.

In conjunction with the change of command, Submarine Squadron (COMSUBRON) 2 disestablished. The disestablishment consolidates all COMSUBRON 2 assigned attack submarines under Commander, Submarine Squadron (COMSUBRON) 4 and Commander, Submarine Development Squadron 12. Under the consolidation USS Springfield (SSN 761) is assigned to COMSUBRON 4; USS Dallas (SSN 700), USS Providence (SSN 719), and USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720) are assigned to COMSUBDEVRON 12.

During Bernacchi's tour as commodore, COMSUBRON 4, he transformed all squadron submarines and its crews into an advanced, finely honed fighting force capable of bringing unmatched stealth and firepower anywhere in the world in support of the nation's defense. His charge ran the gamut from complex shipyard repair and modernization projects to the most aggressive surge deployment schedule seen on the Groton waterfront in the past decade.

"Mike has a spark of leadership that is innovative," said Rear Adm. Rick Breckenridge, commander, Submarine Group 2. "He is a leader who drives for change, strives to not accept the status quo, and leads from the deckplate."

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney also attended the change of command ceremony.

Bernacchi, a native of pleasant Ridge, Mich., has been selected to be the chief of staff, COMSUBGRU 2 and will relieve Capt. Frank Lowery. As chief of staff, Bernacchi will be responsible for the daily operations for the group and managing the 27 attack submarines based in Groton and Norfolk, Va., under the cognizance of COMSUBGRU 2.

During Bernacchi's tenure as commodore, COMSUBRON 4 he helped build a strong foundation for the Navy's newest class of submarines - the Virginia-class and its significant accomplishments, such as the USS New Hampshire's (SSN 778) participation in Ice Exercise 2011, the commissioning of USS California (SSN 781) in October 2011, the christening of PCU Mississippi (SSN 782) in Groton in December 2011, and the Post Shakedown Availability and modernization of USS Missouri (SSN 780) completed ahead of schedule in January 2012.

Bernacchi praised Submarine Squadron 4 staff and the commanding officers of all boats assigned to the squadron.

"It has been an absolutely fantastic time for me where every day I had the privilege of seeing the tremendous good our Sailors and the ships they man; do for our country each and every day," said Bernacchi.

He also praised Breckenridge for his vision for the future. "Admiral, your vision of the future has been very inspiring. I didn't get where we were going with the Design until that time in your office when it was just you and me and you took the time to explain it. That was incredibly enlightening and has driven me since," said Bernacchi.

Bernacchi highlighted the Design for Undersea Warfare's impact is not only felt at the waterfront, but also with the leadership with General Dynamics Electric Boat highlighting the recent delivery of USS Missouri (SSN 780) as an indicator.

"Their willingness to embrace the design with the leadership of Mr. John Casey allowed for the early delivery of Missouri, not just ready for sea, but ready to fight. So to my Electric Boat partners thanks for all the support over the last two years," said Bernacchi.

During his naval career some of Bernacchi's significant accomplishments include earning two Battle Efficiency "E's" while serving as commanding officer aboard USS Alexandria (SSN 757), as well as the Navy League's John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership.

Bernacchi was commissioned through Officer Candidate School after graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Detroit with a bachelor's degree in Biology. In 1993, he was assigned to the University of Michigan as part of the Advanced Education Program, where he earned Master of Science degrees in Nuclear Engineering and Industrial Engineering.

Holland, a 1987 graduate of Montana State University, a finalist for the VADM James B. Stockdale Leadership Award in 2008 and 2009, reflected on both the disestablishment of SUBRON 2 and the change of command ceremony.

"While we celebrate the history of Submarine Squadron 2 today, it's important that we recognize that we are simply taking steps to maximize our ability to keep ships of the submarine force ready to defend the nation's interests. I look forward to continuing to support those efforts as commodore of Squadron 4," said Holland.

Some of Holland's past accomplishments include commanding USS Providence (SSN 719) and earning the Battle Efficiency "E" for 2008 as well as the Arleigh Burke Trophy for the most improved unit in the Atlantic Fleet for 2007.

COMSUBRON 4 is known as the Virginia Class "Center of Excellence," assigned units include: USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), USS New Mexico (SSN 779), USS Missouri (SSN 780) and USS California (SSN 781), as well as Los Angeles Class submarines USS Miami (SSN 755), USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS Springfield (SSN 761). Later this summer USS Virginia (SSN 774) and USS Mississippi (SSN 782) will join the squadron.

State Partnership Program Emphasizes Building Relationships

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2012 – A small, but innovative, program demonstrates the U.S. military’s “very agile and flexible” capabilities in working with partners, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said recently.

Meeting with reporters Jan. 5 after the announcement of President Barack Obama’s new strategic guidance for the U.S. military, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. brought up the National Guard’s State Partnership Program as an example of an ongoing effort that lines up well with the new strategy.

“It's a very high-leverage program where individual states will partner with another nation in Europe or Africa or Asia,” Winnefeld said. “It's proven to be a very, very valuable high-leverage tool for us, … so we plan to build on things like that to help us on these innovative approaches to other parts of the world.”

In a subsequent interview with American Forces Press Service, Air Force Col. Joey Booher, chief of international affairs for the National Guard Bureau, said the program is where “the rubber meets the road.”

“It’s a [Defense Department] program that’s managed by the National Guard Bureau, but executed by the states,” he explained. “The states, the adjutant general, the state coordinator who works with the combatant commander’s staff and the partner nation [work] to meet collective security cooperation objectives.”

Booher said the fall of the Berlin Wall and U.S. military leadership’s engagement with the former Warsaw Pact nations were the impetus for the program’s creation.

“The U.S. was trying to engage with the former communist nations that were in the Warsaw Pact, and using active duty troops might have been a little too offensive to the Russians or the folks that were in there, so the idea was to use the small footprint of National Guard troops,” he said.

The state adjutants general partnered with Air Force Lt. Gen. John B. Conaway, then the chief of the National Guard Bureau, to explore how to do this, Booher added.

Booher noted the National Guard was a “perfect fit” because of its force structure and capabilities such as disaster response, consequence management, interaction between the state governments and the federal government.

“What the goals of the program were back then were promoting American principles and values while supporting democracy abroad, and also building institutions to keep Americans safe and the world peaceful,” he said. “Those were the broad objectives we had.”

The colonel lauded the program’s success as it approaches its 20th anniversary in 2013. The first three partnerships were developed in 1993 with the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, he said, and all three partnerships still are going strong.

“It started off with [those] three countries, and right now we have 63 partnerships spread throughout 69 countries around the globe,” he said. “So if you’re just looking for growth in the program, … that’s a testament to what its accomplished in its goals and objectives.”

Booher said the original partnerships were between Michigan and Latvia, Pennsylvania and Lithuania, and Maryland and Estonia.

“What we do is partner one country with one state, and that way the continuity is there,” he said. “Why do we do that? The best thing that you get out of this is the relationship. So we feel the state partnership – that enduring, persistent relationship over time – that’s money.”

Those relationships are a critical factor, Booher noted, especially in light of the recent announcement the U.S. Army will replace two brigades in Europe with rotating units.

“The state partnership program is that connective tissue back to the States for DOD, for the Guard, for the country teams [and] for [the] State [Department],” he said.

The State Partnership Program now provides 31,309 troops and military experts to United Nations peacekeeping efforts,” Booher noted. “These critical partner-country deployments reduce pressure [on] U.S. forces worldwide and reduce the need for more direct and costly U.S. military involvement in future contingencies,” he added. Booher cited the Colorado-Jordan F-16 relationship as an example.

“You have Jordan, who participated in the Libyan effort, helped and facilitated by Colorado Guardsmen to get them up to a point where now they’re able to take on NATO taskings on their own without our heavy support,” he said.

Looking forward, the colonel said, the program’s goal is to be the best force provider for the Defense Department’s security cooperation goals. “That’s what I see,” he added. “If the [combatant commanders] have a requirement [or] if DOD has a requirement for security cooperation, then we’re there and ready to support, as resources allow.”

Booher said he believes the State Partnership Program also is efficient in terms of budgetary concerns.

“This is a great ‘bang for the buck’ in a time of reduced budgets,” he said. “And again, as Admiral Winnefeld said, we need innovative approaches, and SPP is a low-cost, high-impact, very valuable high-leverage program that is very relevant to our new defense strategy.”

The colonel noted that the vice chairman brought up the $13.5 million dollar program in his press briefing without prompting, out of many other DOD programs he might have talked about instead.

“I think that might be a testament to just how valuable this has become,” he said. “This is a good program. This is good for America.”

Military Spouses Honored on Wheel of Fortune

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

CULVER CITY, Calif. (NNS) -- Military spouses were featured as contestants on the television game show Wheel of Fortune at Sony Pictures Entertainment Studios in Culver City, Calif., Jan. 12.

This is the first time Wheel of Fortune has dedicated the show to military spouses to honor their sacrifices in support of their loved one's service in the armed forces.

"During military spouse's week it's not just about the men and women serving," said celebrity Pat Sajak, Wheel of Fortune Host. "It's about the men and women behind the scenes, the wives, husbands and kids who are doing without someone for a while, they're making sacrifices as well. It's a way to honor them and to remind all of America that there are a lot of people behind this effort."

Fifteen spouses of service members were chosen to compete for cash and prizes on the 41-year-old game show, and were filmed on a redecorated set to honor the United States military.

"It's funny how great ideas come into being, and I don't know exactly how this one did, but we've always had military weeks, and most weeks we'll have someone from the military on," Sajak said. "We consider ourselves America's game show and this is just a part of what we do."

Grace French, one of the contestants and wife of Chief Navy Counselor Brad French, stationed at Coronado, Calif., spoke about the challenges and adventures of being a "Navy wife".

"Besides being a one woman operation (while my husband is deployed), we move at least every three years," said French. "It can be difficult because you are constantly leaving these friends we have made and then we have to make new ones, which in itself, I find, is fun and adventurous. I enjoy it; I like the sense of adventure and the unexpected."

The program began airing on network television on January 6, 1975 on NBC. While retaining most of the elements from the daytime version, Wheel of Fortune has added many new game play elements and is the longest-running syndicated game show in United States television history, with more than 5,000 episodes aired. The shows featuring military spouses will air on national television during the second week of February.