Sunday, February 09, 2014

Soldiers See Russian History at Sochi Opening Ceremony

By Gary Sheftick and Tim Hipps
Army News Service

SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 9, 2014 – Team USA marched into Fisht Olympic Stadium to thunderous applause during an opening ceremony choreographed to highlight centuries of Russian folklore and history.

Ten soldiers from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program are in Sochi for the XXII Olympic Winter Games, and WCAP bobsled driver Sgt. Nick Cunningham was among those smiling and waving to 40,000 spectators in the stadium and a worldwide television audience Feb. 7.

"I'm overwhelmed with joy and pride," Cunningham said after closely following the Stars and Stripes as Team USA -- decked out in blue, star-studded jackets -- paraded into the ceremony.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watched from a skybox. He welcomed the athletes from 97 nations and officially opened the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The main character in the ceremony, however, was a young Russian girl named Lubov, meaning "love." She guided the audience through generations of Russian heritage. The culture of 180 different Russian ethnic groups was displayed during what organizers dubbed the "most technologically innovative" show in Olympic history.

The extravaganza featured 2.64 million luminary objects produced by 132 projectors, and spectators wore flickering medallions in the grandstands, adding to the dazzling array of flashing lights. An aerial track on the arena roof pulled more than 80 large illuminated props across the ceiling. Twenty-five lifts and 18 traps on the stadium floor enabled props and performers to transition between the ceremony’s 13 scenes.

Three thousand performers, including Russian ballet stars, circus professionals, acrobats and young volunteers, adorned more than 6,000 costumes.

Opening ceremony producer Konstantin Ernst said he wanted to reveal Russian history in a manner that had not been seen, an exhibition "untainted by decades [of] propaganda and the Cold War."

Featuring a "Dreams of Russia" theme, the show began with letters of the ancient Russian alphabet, Azbuka, swirling across video screens throughout the stadium. Lubov took the audience through the Cyrillic alphabet of Russian innovations, ranging from Mendeleev's periodic table of elements to Pushkin's fairy tales.

The young girl grabbed the strings of a kite that lifted her into the air and across the diverse Russian landscape of 6.6 million square miles, spanning nine time zones. She passed the volcanoes of Kamchatka, over a central Russian village, and around the cliffs of Lena Island, while floating alongside circling birds. The music of 18th-century composer Alexander Borodin, "Fly away on the Wings of the Wind," accompanied a scene that ended with a husky and two reindeer popping their heads above a night snowstorm.

Another Borodin piece from "Prince Igor" accompanied an Olympic Rings segment that preceded the entrance of dignitaries, such as Putin and Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. The Sretensky Monastery Choir then sang the Russian national anthem.

Unlike other Olympic opening ceremonies in which athletes entered the stadium from corner portals, here they seemingly came from underground, parading up a ramp from the middle of the playing field.

After the parade of nations, "Russian Odyssey" scene depicted centuries of infrastructure development, culminated by the construction of Fisht Olympic Stadium.

The stadium ceiling featured a giant horse-drawn "troika" sleigh that illuminated a "Rites of Spring" segment. Portraying the 1700s, the troika was pulled by horses galloping three abreast to move mail and passengers across the country. Appearing to slowly gallop across the ceiling, the troika symbolized the magic of Russian past. On the stadium floor below, puppets represented boyers, the highest rank of Russia's medieval era.

Huge helium-filled inflatables represented the colorful, swirling domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in the "Festivity" scene and were accompanied by inflatable boyars and Dymkovo toys, symbols of Russian folk art. A street circus included 50 tumbling acrobats who enacted festivities of Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, celebrated for centuries by Russians.

A segment on Peter the Great -- the 17th-century czar who built St. Petersburg and brought commerce to Russia -- was highlighted by 300 marching troops who symbolized changes he made to the Army. They marched off to a grand ball.

The imperial ball -- enacted by Russian ballet stars and other dancers -- was designed to depict a scene from Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," written in 1869. This 1,200-page novel followed the struggles of five Russian families during the Napoleonic Wars. The long waltz scene included music by Aleksander Sergeyevich Zatsepin.

The ball ended with Alfred Schnittke's "Concerto Grosso No. 5" as a red vortex swirled across the ballroom floor and ceiling, representing the 1917 Revolution. The cogs of a giant industrial machine ground to a halt and a mechanical horse sculpture imploded. This scene was titled "Time Forward! Suprematic Ballet."

The next act was "Moskva," covering 40 years of the Soviet era, highlighted by massive construction. Construction workers were joined by policemen, students, athletes and cosmonauts on a metropolitan city map. This cross section was designed to depict a day in the life of a Soviet metropolis and ended with Lubov holding a red balloon.

Lubov then took the audience on a journey into a dream world of the future, punctuated by symbolic doves of peace, and a final piece comparing athletes to Olympic gods.

Following the speech of Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko, International Olympic Coimmittee President Bach took the stage. He recounted how the Russians' passion for sports on snow and ice prompted them to build the winter resorts around Sochi in just seven years, while other nations took decades to develop such facilities. He thanked the Russian hosts and challenged all athletes and their leaders to live up to the Olympic dream.

"Olympic Games are always about building bridges to bring people together," Bach said. "Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity."

Tennis star Maria Sharapova carried the Olympic torch into the stadium. She handed it off to two-time Olympic pole vault medalist Elena Isinbaeva. The next runner was legendary heavyweight wrestler Alexandr Karelin, a four-time Olympic medalist who went undefeated for 13 years before losing to Team USA's Rulon Gardner at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, the most historic upset in U.S. Olympic wrestling history. Gymnast Alina Kabaeva, a two-time Olympic medalist, then took the torch. She passed it to skater Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretyak, goalie of the legendary Russian hockey team of the 1970s.

Rodnina and Tretyak ran out of the stadium together past a host of Olympic volunteers. The two runners held their torch to a mini cauldron and the flame ignited a path up a pillar to light the cauldron of the XXII Olympic Winter Games at Olympic Park. Fireworks burst into the air and the stadium emptied in a matter of minutes as thousands rushed to see the aerial display.

Chairman Promises Vigorous Military Ethics Campaign

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2014 – Recent lapses in military ethics have Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s full attention, and he promises a military campaign to reinvigorate the profession of arms.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the pledge in statements he issued following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s Feb. 7 news conference on the issue.

“This challenge didn’t accumulate overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight,” said.

Dempsey noted the importance of understanding the challenge that ethical lapse pose to the military, adding that military officials must continue to “see the challenge clearly and precisely.”

“Acts of crime, misconduct, ethical breaches, command climate and stupidity each require a distinct solution,” he said. “But the overall solution is attention to who we are as a profession. And that’s my focus.”

The American people have high regard for their military, and in most cases, the chairman said, that high regard is well-deserved.

“The overwhelming majority of our military leaders are tremendous professionals and citizens who show up to serve, to bring their best, and often sacrifice greatly,” he said. “There will always be those who let down the team and the nation, and when they do, we will hold them accountable.

“The trust of the American people, and frankly, the trust our young troops place in us as leaders, is too important,” he continued. “We can’t afford to let the transgressions of the few undermine the trust and credibility of our entire profession.”

Dempsey began his campaign to highlight the profession of arms even before he became chairman. He began looking at the effects of prolonged war on the profession when he served as the commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. This picked up speed when he served as the Army chief of staff, and expanded when he became chairman.

During a recent interview, Dempsey said he views the campaign in military terms – a campaign in the military vocabulary implies a series of actions, all intended to converge on a desired outcome.

“The desired outcome in this campaign is that the force rekindles its understanding and resolve as a profession and then recommits itself to that which makes us a profession: our unique skills and attributes, commitment to continuing education, and the agreement to live to a specific set of values,” he said.

Still, the chairman said, it is not the war that caused these ethical lapses. “It is the pace, and our failure to understand that at that pace, we were neglecting the tools that manage us as a profession over time,” he said.

21st Century Sailor Office Director Visits Harry S. Truman

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Sean Buck, director, 21st Century Sailor Office, visited the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to solicit feedback from crew about 21st Century Sailor programs, Feb. 7-8.

The 21st Century Sailor initiative, started in June 2013, is responsible for Sailors' total health and mission readiness with programs that include sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR), suicide prevention and alcohol and substance abuse prevention.

"The chief of naval operations has tasked me to be a one-stop shop for our Navy to have one accountable officer for all of these programs," said Buck. "That's how important this is to the leadership of our Navy."

The 21st Century Sailor initiative focuses on readiness, safety, physical fitness, inclusion and continuum of service.

During his visit, Buck held E-6 and below calls, met with the chiefs' mess, command triads, officers and command representatives of the programs he administers. Buck also answered questions that were broadcast on the ship's TV network.

"There are a lot of good programs and information out there that help Sailors and their families stay resilient in a time of long deployments and high operational tempo," Buck said. "It's important to the Navy that we get you that information, which is why I'm here."

Buck said it was equally important to find ways to keep Sailors engaged with deglamorization training such as suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention and sexual assault prevention.

Sailors in the crowd shared ideas for training that included small focused discussion groups, using peer-led training, fewer formal lectures with powerpoint presentations and more creatively communicated messages.

"I suggested that we use more interactive training for bystander intervention topics using the crew to act out different situations or using more peer-to-peer training to keep peoples' interest," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Roidy Amparo. "The admiral seemed open and genuinely interested in hearing new ideas on how to train the fleet."

Amparo said she looks forward to seeing the new training ideas implemented because SAPR, suicide prevention and drug abuse are important issues in the fleet.

Buck also discussed the Navy's physical fitness assessment (PFA) program, the effect of physical health on resiliency, and body composition assessment testing.

"The measure of body fat is an overall indicator of Sailors' total health and potential future health," said Buck. "Having extra body fat at a young age has the potential to put Sailors at higher risk for diseases later on in life."

Harry S. Truman Sailors suggested a more holistic approach to fitness for Sailors.

"People who can pass the physical readiness test but are overweight shouldn't just automatically fail," said Seaman Apprentice Deanna Lamee. "I think it would be more beneficial for the Sailor and the Navy to give them a chance to change their diet and get nutrition counseling instead of just putting them on the fitness enhancement program."

During the call-in question and answer forum, Buck responded to questions about the perception that seeking help for mental health or substance abuse is a sign of weakness.

"I encourage Sailors who are struggling with thoughts of suicide or a substance abuse problem to ask for help," said Buck. "Asking for help with a problem is a sign of strength and honesty with yourself."

The Navy is an organization that has a vested interest in helping Sailors who are experiencing issues, which is why the programs he administers exist. Sailors who have a problem will not be discarded or pushed out, but helped and accepted back in, explained Buck.

"I encourage Sailors to be proactive about seeking help rather than letting issues get out of hand or to the point that they are either hurting themselves or suffering disciplinary consequences."

Making sure Sailors and Marines have the information and resources they need to be strong and mission ready is the most important thing he does.

Buck's visit to Harry S. Truman is part of a 19-stop tour.