Friday, September 07, 2012

Marines Aid Fight Against Drugs, Transnational Crime

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2012 – Officials at Joint Interagency Task Force South are welcoming the contributions that a 200-member Marine Corps detachment is making toward tracking drug traffickers and other transnational criminals.

The Marines -- mostly from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Marine Forces South in Miami -- deployed to Guatemala City at the Guatemalan government’s request Aug. 11, reported Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes, Marine Forces South spokesman.

Since their arrival, they have been patrolling the skies over Guatemala’s littoral waters with four UH-1N Huey helicopters, reporting suspicious activity as part of Joint Interagency Task Force South’s Operation Martillo mission, which kicked off in January.

Detachment Martillo also is using enhanced communications to increase the task force’s monitoring and detection capabilities to help Guatemalan authorities quickly apprehend and prosecute illicit traffickers, and seize their shipments, Barnes said.

Barnes emphasized that the Marines are not directly involved in apprehending traffickers and are serving only in a supporting role.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven J. DePalmer, Joint Interagency Task Force South’s deputy director, praised the Marines’ contributions. “Our Marines are well-suited to work with the Guatemalans against transnational organized crime. With their aerial surveillance helicopters and communication support, the U.S. Marine detachment deployed in support of Operation Martillo provides an enhanced capability to partner-nation efforts.”

Operation Martillo, which translated, means “Operation Hammer,” specifically targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American Isthmus -- the route for more than 90 percent of the cocaine destined for the United States.

The goal, explained Coast Guard Rear Adm. Charles D. Michel, the task force commander, is to “take pressure off these Central American countries.”

Particularly in the northern triangle area of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, “thousands of their citizens are being murdered,” Michel told American Forces Press Service. “Government officials are being corrupted. Institutions are being rotted from the inside out. Portions of their territory are no longer effectively under their control.”

“That is instability,” the admiral said, “and that is a national security threat, right in our backyard.”

Operation Martillo is showing progress in working with partner nations to address that threat. Since Jan. 15, law enforcement and Coast Guard members operating under its umbrella seized or disrupted shipments that included more than 108 tons of cocaine, almost 8 tons of marijuana and $3.5 million in laundered money, reported Jody Draves, the task force’s public affairs officer.

Michel had high praise for the interagency and international teamwork that has made Joint Interagency Task Force South “the most effective and efficient counter-illicit trafficking, detection, monitoring and law enforcement organization the planet has ever known.”

The task force stood up 23 years ago as Joint Task Force 4 as a new model of intergovernmental cooperation in dealing with drug trafficking. The staff includes representatives of all five armed services, including the National Guard and reserves, members of various federal law enforcement entities, the intelligence community and their counterparts from 13 partner nations.

Even as the Marines tentatively plan to wrap up their support mission Oct. 31, Michel said, he’ll continue to press for more assets – particularly ships and aircraft – to support the task force’s mission.

“If we had more assets, we would be able to make an even bigger dent into this effort,” he said. “You give me assets, and I’ll show you results.”

Suicide Prevention Awareness Proclamation Signed

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Greg Johnson, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The commander of Navy Region Southeast (NRSE), signed a suicide prevention awareness proclamation on board Naval Air Station Jacksonville Sept. 5.

Rear Adm. John C. Scorby Jr. signed the proclamation which recognizes September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and is intended to raise suicide awareness prevention throughout the Southeast Region.

"This proclamation brings to light an issue of paramount importance in our military today," Scorby said. Each year, we lose shipmates, co-workers and family members to suicide and these losses can be prevented. It is our collective responsibility to remain alert to the warning signs and to be prepared to take action with those in our lives who might be at risk. An actively engaged force, including everyone in the Navy family, is key to the successful prevention of suicide."

The proclamation emphasizes the Navy's "Act, Care, Treat" (ACT) training tool, which is designed to raise awareness of suicide warning signs and encourages people to intervene with those at risk. According to Dianne Parker, NRSE assistant suicide prevention outreach coordinator, knowing the warning signs of suicide and being proactive is particularly important when it comes to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel.

"Suicide is a major issue right now throughout the DoD," she said. "Our goal is to reduce the number of these tragedies through education and awareness campaigns, and we hope this proclamation will go a long way in those efforts."

Raising leadership awareness about the issue has been a key theme in DoD efforts to lower suicide statistics. In a May 10 memorandum to DoD personnel, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote, "Leaders throughout the chain of command must actively promote a constructive command climate that fosters cohesion and encourages individuals to reach out for help when needed."

According to Parker, suicide prevention efforts within the Southeast Region are in line with that statement. In September 2011, the region implemented an aggressive suicide prevention coordinator training program that utilizes Defense Connect Online. So far, it has resulted in more than 200 newly-qualified coordinators throughout the region and more than 1,000 worldwide.

"The program has been instrumental in raising awareness and getting the message out to leaders throughout the DoD. Leaders need to make Sailors understand that there is no shame in reaching out for help," she said.

Each year, hundreds of DoD personnel commit suicide and many of these cases could be prevented if friends and co-workers only knew what to look for and took action, Parker said.

"The bottom line is if you suspect that someone may be thinking about suicide, you need to act, care and treat," she said. "The key is to take action. The worst thing that you can possibly do is nothing."

Gov. Walker visits deployed Wisconsin Guard troops in Kosovo

By Spc. Joshua Barnett
MNBG E Public Affairs

Gov. Scott Walker personally thanked Army National Guard Soldiers from the Badger state for their overseas service keeping the peace in Kosovo during his first overseas visit as governor this week.

Walker, who as governor is the commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard, accompanied Maj. Gen. (WI) Don Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general, on a troop visit to see and hear about the missions the approximately 200 deployed Wisconsin Soldiers performed during the past year as part of NATO's Operation Joint Guardian, a peacekeeping mission to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all residents of Kosovo.

"Thank you for your service," Walker told the troops, who are preparing to return to Wisconsin in the coming weeks. "You are part of a proud Wisconsin tradition, and too often we tend to take our freedoms for granted. You should feel very proud of what you've done collectively. I'm immensely proud of the job you've done here.

"It's amazing to me to see the multinational effort, and see the cohesiveness despite cultural and language barriers," Walker continued. "It is really impressive to see how efficiently things are run and how well it's run - it's a testament to the United States Armed Forces and there seems to be a lot of respect from the other multinational forces."

The deployed Soldiers include members of the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the 32nd Combat Forward Military Police, as well as aviation elements Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, and Detachment 1, Company B, 248th Aviation Support Battalion.

The 157th MEB served as the headquarters element for Multinational Battle Group East (MNBG E), which is a U.S.-led battle group composed of soldiers from the Armenian, French, German, Greek, Moroccan, Polish, Romanian, Turkish and Ukrainian armies.

"It is a very important mission that the 157th is leading," Dunbar said, "and very important for the governor and I to come on behalf of the people of Wisconsin and see the troops in action and be able to go back and talk to the families and employers and tell them what a great job they've been doing."

During the two-day visit Walker met with the Wisconsin Soldiers at three military bases in Kosovo. They explained the roles they've played since arriving in country in November, 2011. Troops also shared stories of what they missed most during the deployment and what they're looking forward to when they get home, including meeting new babies, toasting the Green Bay Packers with a cold beer, and deer hunting.

"We will welcome you when you get home in the same style we sent you off a year ago, but it is a pleasure to come over here and see what you do first-hand," Walker told some of the troops during his visit. "I'm proud of you."

Dunbar stressed the importance of the year the Soldiers spent away from their homes and families.

"This mission matters, to not only the United States of America, but to the people of Kosovo and the broader region," he said. The Wisconsin National Guard leadership - Col. [Jeffrey J.] Liethen, Command Sgt. Maj. [Bradley J.] Shields, the officers and NCOs - did a phenomenal job working with a multinational organization plus about 10 other states' National Guards doing a great job keeping our commitment to this part of the world."

The trip culminated when the governor traveled back to the U.S. with redeploying troops from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's aviation elements, who handed the mission over to their replacements Sept. 1.

"It's actually kind of exciting, to go back with the aviators," Walker said. "It's kind of a rush to be able to literally come back with some of them, and then be ready to welcome back the rest in a few weeks."

Dempsey Honors Heritage, Families at Marine Corps Gala

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff praised the Marine Corps and thanked military families for their sacrifices in supporting service members during remarks last night at the Marine Corps Association and Foundation’s professional dinner here.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey acknowledged the significance of the Marine Corps’ history and heritage as the service nears its Nov. 10 237th birthday observance.

“Only the Marine Corps has in their motto ‘Semper Fidelis’ – a value … called faithfulness, always there,” Dempsey said. “And only the Marine Corps has in their hymn the phrase, ‘to keep our honor clean.’ In the world in which we live and are going to live, our commitment to those values has never been more important.”

And along with support from public, private and veteran partnerships with the Defense Department, the chairman said, service members’ families contribute to mission success and deserve the nation’s thanks.

“All of our families … have suffered, but have become stronger … because of the experience,” Dempsey said. “We can’t ever forget how important it is to thank them, not to take them for granted, [and] to keep recognizing that they are sacrificing every bit as much as we are.”

Having just returned from London, where he led the U.S. delegation for the 2012 Paralympic Games, Dempsey said he was humbled by the dedication of athletes he met there. Their enthusiasm and the same drive he sees in today’s service members, he added, gives him hope for the future.

“We’re going to be OK, because as a nation we continue to attract incredible young men and women in service to the nation,” the chairman said.

DOD to Host 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta will host a remembrance event at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 11, at the Pentagon Memorial to honor the memory of those killed at the Pentagon in the 2001 terrorist attack.  This is an event for the family members of those lost in the terrorist attack and is not open to the general public.  The remembrance includes a wreath laying, a moment of silence, music and official remarks from Secretary Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

Media coverage of this event is limited to pre-determined pool coverage.

Opened on Sept. 11, 2008, the Pentagon Memorial is the first dedicated national commemorative to honor those killed during the 2001 terrorist attacks.  The Pentagon Memorial consists of 184 individual memorial units honoring the 59 people aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and the 125 in the Pentagon who lost their lives at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.  For more information on the Pentagon Memorial, please visit .

This event will be televised and streamed live via the Pentagon Channel and .