Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mustin Sailors Extend Partnership to Sydney Children’s Home

(Written by Maj. Brad Gordon, USMC, who is in Sydney, Australia supporting the U.S. Consulate in preparation for exercise Talisman Saber 2009)

More than 20 Sailors from the USS Mustin had the opportunity to visit patients of the Sydney Children’s Hospital on June 29.

The Sailors were in Sydney as part of their port visit in advance of the combined U.S. Military/Australian Defense Force exercise Talisman Saber.

Community service events such as the visit to the Children’s Hospital are a very real opportunity for U.S. service members to build relationships in the communities where they visit.

As the Sailors went from ward to ward, seeing children battling cancer, recovering from severe injuries, waiting on organ transplants, they couldn’t help but be moved and then reflect on the gifts they had been given in life.

Each time a Sailor gave one of the children a little toy or stopped to play a video game with them or even color a picture, the children would light up and you could see in their eyes, they didn’t want their new friends to leave.

In one instance, the Sailors had a fantastic reality hit them as they were visiting two boys, both in the hospital after receiving athletic injuries. One boy was awake and talkative while the other had been in a coma. As the Sailors were there visiting, the boy in a coma opened his eyes and took a breath on his own, coming out of the coma.

Instances like this not only benefit the children, they benefit the Sailors as well. Numerous times during the visit, Sailors would walk up to their escort and talk about how moving it was to see the determination on the young kids' faces.

No one was more determined than young, 5-year-old, Oscar. This young boy doesn’t know the meaning of the word STOP. The nurses say he is just a fireplug from the time he wakes up until he finally passes out asleep in the evening. When the Sailors arrived he was running around the ward, hanging onto his I/V trolley, with a huge smile. When the Sailors walked through the door, Oscar’s eyes widen even further and he couldn’t get to them fast enough. He had 20 new friends. When they finally left, Oscar couldn’t wave his hand hard enough. He just kept waving until the last Sailor was out of sight.

The Sailors of the USS Mustin brought the Pacific Command message of friendship and cooperation to Sydney. It wasn’t with great fanfare, but they carried the message nonetheless.
These children will remember their partnership with the Sailors of the USS Mustin for years to come.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Adm. Keating Talks Strategy With Atlantic Council

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), discussed the PACOM Strategy and current Asia-Pacific security successes and challenges in Washington, D.C. June 29 during an event hosted by Atlantic Council.

The discussion was moderated by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter B. Slocombe and concluded with a question and answer session.

The PACOM Strategy is a forward looking plan based on the three tenets of partnership, readiness and presence, Adm. Keating explained. The strategy provides a simple, but not easy, framework for ensuring peace and stability in the region, he noted, by enhancing U.S. relationships and the capability of our allies and regional partners.

Adm. Keating praised the strong and enduring bilateral relationships that exist in the region while emphasizing and highlighting the importance of multilateral solutions to challenges.

The U.S. remains the reliable partner that can be depended upon in times of good or bad to ensure economic stability, Adm. Keating said.

C-SPAN televised the discussion and the video is available on the C-SPAN website.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Survey Ship Completes Vietnam Humanitarian Mission

The crew and scientists of the oceanographic survey USNS Bruce C. Heezen, together with embarked representatives from the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) completed their two-week support of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s (JPAC) latest mission in Vietnam June 23.

Heezen began the mission June 11 off the coast of Vietnam with a goal of speeding up the discovery of potential aircraft crash sites from the Vietnam War.

At least one site of particular interest was discovered by Heezen and its technologies, which are managed by the Naval Oceanographic Office. Reporting by Agence France-Presse and Vietnam Net following a media visit to the ship in Danang on June 25 during Heezen’s visit there notes the discovery of an object that could possibly be a helicopter.

JPAC will review all of the findings from the investigative mission and determine whether there is enough evidence to support a recovery mission associated with that information in the future.

Heezen was in support of a wider mission in Vietnam, JPAC’s 95th there since the 1980s, that ran from May 24 – June 24.

The mission of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of the nation's past conflicts.

Heezen’s participation marked the first time a U.S. Navy ship has been used to search for underwater wreckage off the coast of Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam authorizing this important mission highlights the expanding cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Civil Engineers Improve Ties, Infrastructure in Timor-Leste

U.S. Navy civil engineers completed two projects at schools in Dili, Timor-Leste on June 19 as part of an ongoing initiative to support the Timor-Leste government’s efforts to improve infrastructure and quality of life for the Timorese.

“Seabees” of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40 have been working with local government officials, the U.S. Embassy and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since February 2009 to identify priority education and health care infrastructure projects that their skill sets can best support.

According to a Navy news story, the recently completed projects included renovation of the electrical system and construction of a 25-square foot pump house that feeds a well water tank servicing school children and their families in the area of an intermediate school. Additionally, a water storage unit was installed, and an existing pump house repaired at a primary school. Both projects were funded by U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) through the Humanitarian Assistance program.

At the request of the Timor-Leste Government, an advance team of eight Seabees arrived in Dili in February to conduct coordination, and since April, more than 20 Seabees have been working at multiple sites and on multiple initiatives, including fostering military-to-military relationships and training opportunities with counterparts in the Timor Leste Defence Force.

As noted on the U.S. Embassy’s website, President JosĂ© Ramos-Horta visited the Seabees in late May for a first-hand look at the work they are doing, and to thank them for their efforts.

The Seabees’ presence in Timor Leste – which will continue throughout the year – supports PACOM’s goal of contributing capabilities, where possible, toward a whole-of-government approach that addresses shared concerns and needs, while cultivating military-to-military relationships and capacity building, resulting in projects that directly benefit the local populace.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Reagan Crew Recognizes Anniversary of Philippines Typhoon Assistance

The crew of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan recognized the anniversary of last year’s support of a Philippine government humanitarian relief effort June 21 by hosting a group of distinguished visitors onboard for a ceremony in waters off the central Philippine island of Panay, and with a community service project ashore.

Following destruction caused by Typhoon Fengshen, also known as Typhoon Frank, in June 2008, aircrews from the Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) flew 332 sorties and delivered more than 519,000 pounds of much-needed supplies such as food, water and medical supplies to typhoon victims on the island. According to an Agence France-Presse report, more than 1,000 died and over a million were left homeless in the Philippines as a result of the typhoon,

As explained in a Navy news story, to commemorate the anniversary a wreath laying ceremony took place on the ship that included the participation of Under Secretary Ernesto Carolina of the Republic of the Philippines' Department of Defense. A team of Sailors also flew ashore to help restore a high school that was damaged by the typhoon.

The 2008 relief effort on Panay was a cooperative effort between the men and women of the Reagan CSG and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Throughout the Pacific Command area of responsibility, through professional exchanges and training exercises that focus on or include an emphasis on disaster relief operations in support of civil authorities, U.S. military personnel and their regional counterparts are routinely strengthening partnerships and interoperatbility that may be tested by natural disaster, as was the case one year ago.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Regional Medical Exchanges Increase Expertise, Collaboration

U.S. military medical professionals from commands throughout the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) area of responsibility work regularly with counterparts from other nations to share expertise in a range of areas that ultimately benefit both military forces and civilian communities.

A 13th Air Force article about a medical laboratory surveillance workshop highlights one recent engagement that brought 40 interagency medical professionals from Laos, Thailand and the U.S. together to exchange ideas and lessons learned to collectively increase their capacity to effectively manage infectious diseases.

In the past year, PACOM medical professionals have conducted multiple workshops with partner nations on such topics as pandemic/avian influenza and HIV/AIDS. In April, military medical representatives from the U.S. and 18 Asia-Pacific nations met at the 19th Annual Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference in Seoul.

Through medically-oriented missions such as Pacific Partnership 2009, in conjunction with military exercises such as Balikatan, or in standalone events such as the Cambodian Interoperability Program, medical professionals are providing care to those in need, while also building important professional relationships and providing invaluable training opportunities.

In the coming months, workshops in various nations will focus on blast injury management and emerging infectious diseases.

By collaborating with regional partners, PACOM medical teams and their host-nation counterparts increase regional stability by more effectively identifying and responding to pressing medical issues and enhancing the ability to respond to crises if required.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Annual Indonesia Exercise Focused on Peacekeeping

Garuda Shield, hosted annually by Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), the Indonesian Armed Forces, opened June 16 and this year is serving is a Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) capstone exercise.

During the exercise in Bandung, Indonesia, training will focus on peace support operations (PSO), and will include a United Nations Force Headquarters computer-simulated command post exercise. A field training exercise will include events such as checkpoint operations, patrolling, securing a distribution site, and convoy operations. Several humanitarian and civic assistance projects are also taking place.

More than 20 nations are taking part in, or observing various aspects of the exercise, as reported by Antara news service.

Prior to Garuda Shield, military officers from 19 nations took part in three days of classes focused on United Nations policy and practices.

The goal of GPOI is to expand capability for PSO, and includes events to train and, as appropriate, equip 75,000 military PSO troops worldwide through 2010. GPOI objectives include developing transportation and logistics support arrangements to help troops deploy and to help sustain them in the field, as well as various capacity building efforts.

U.S. Pacific Command exercises like Garuda Shield strengthen regional peacekeeping capabilities that are applied worldwide, while also enhancing multinational relationships and collaboration.

Keep up with the exercise on the Garuda Shield website.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Joint Exercise Northern Edge Begins in Alaska

Alaska’s single largest annual military training exercise, Northern Edge, began today and runs through June 26, with more than 9000 active duty and reserve U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines taking part in the joint training both on and above the Central Alaska Ranges and the Gulf of Alaska.

As reported in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there will be more than 200 aircraft taking part, to include the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and her 70- plus aircraft air wing.

The regularly scheduled exercise allows U.S. military units to train in a joint environment and perfect tactics, techniques and procedures, while improving command, control and communication relationships associated with joint operations.

Alaska’s size enables the military to have the largest air-ground training complex in the United States.

U.S. Pacific Command-sponsored training exercises such as Northern Edge are designed to increase proficiency and provide effective, flexible, and capabilities-centered joint forces ready for deployment worldwide.

Keep up with the exercise on the Northern Edge website, Flicrk, and Twitter.


Friday, June 12, 2009

U.S. Navy Ship Supports JPAC Mission in Vietnam

The oceanographic survey ship USNS Bruce C. Heezen has joined the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s (JPAC) latest mission in Vietnam, marking the first time a U.S. Navy ship has been used to search for underwater wreckage off the coast of Vietnam.

As noted by the Associated Press, nearly 1,336 U.S. servicemen are still unaccounted for in Vietnam.

A joint JPAC-Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) team embarked Heezen June 11 to investigate underwater crash sites off the Vietnam coast. The JPAC mission, the 95th in Vietnam since the 1980s, began May 25 and runs through June 24.

A June 8 Joint Statement on U.S.-Vietnam Political, Security and Defense Dialogue released by the U.S. State Department highlights the increasingly cooperative relationships between the U.S. and Vietnam.

Likewise, U.S. Pacific Command’s military-to-military relationship with Vietnam continues to grow. As recently as last week, a delegation from Vietnam visited Hawaii to observe a hurricane response exercise and meet with Pacific military leaders. This week, three Vietnamese Navy officers are observing the Singapore phase of the maritime security exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).

Heezen’s participation in JPAC’s mission in Vietnam is the latest example of expanding cooperation, and could significantly speed up the discovery of crash sites, according to a JPAC news release.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pacific Partnership Gearing Up Social Media for Mission

As Pacific Partnership makes its way through Oceania over the next four months, social media will play a key role in telling the story of the annual, U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored humanitarian mission.

Set to begin later this month and conducted from USNS Richard E. Byrd, Pacific Partnership will travel to Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga.

Through the Pacific Partnership blog, and with a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (including a Flicrk group), and its portals on the Pacific Fleet and Navy websites, new audiences will be introduced to the mission and will have an opportunity to interact with the mission staff and participants.

Pacific Partnership works by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and other U.S. Government agencies to execute a variety of humanitarian civic assistance projects.

Thousands have benefitted from Pacific Partnership since its inception in 2006 when it operated from the hospital ship USNS Mercy, and was known as the Mercy Mission.

In addition to providing humanitarian civic assistance, missions such as Pacific Partnership provide valuable opportunities to build relationships and to learn from mission partners. These types of experiences also help ensure a smoother assimilation of U.S. military support into disaster and civil relief efforts when the need arises.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Annual Maritime Exercise with Singapore Underway

The 15th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the U.S. Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) kicked off June 8 in Singapore.

As reported by the Straits Times, approximately 1,500 personnel, dozens of aircraft and ships from both navies are taking part. For the first time in the exercise’s history, submarines from both navies will be operating together in a submarine tracking event.

The exercise began with a ceremony at the RSN’s Changi Naval Base. The Singapore Ministry of Defence has posted a video report on the exercise’s opening.

CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in the Southeast Asia region. The purpose of the exercise series, in keeping with the U.S. Pacific Command strategy, is to improve cooperation and interoperability with each CARAT partner in a variety of mission areas of mutual benefit.

Exercises such as CARAT improve partnership and readiness among regional nations to effectively respond to crises.

For more on CARAT, visit the exercise website.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Remembering the Battle of Midway

Sixty-seven years ago this week, the Battle of Midway, considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific, was fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway.

Adm. Chester Nimitz, who was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time, and a namesake of U.S. Pacific Command’s Nimitz-MacArthur Command Center headquarters building, called the June 4-7, 1942 battle “A glorious page in our history.”

The Naval Historical and Heritage Center website includes an extensive overview of the battle.

Each year at this time, the U.S. Navy leads commemorations to recognize the sacrifice and accomplishments of those who fought, Navy heritage, and the strategic significance of the battle.

From the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. to Yokosuka, Japan, where U.S. and Japanese Sailors recognize the anniversary side-by-side, a pause is taken to reflect on a past that will not be forgotten.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vietnam Military Delegation Visits Hawaii, Explores Response Capabilities

A delegation of military officers from Vietnam is visiting Hawaii this week to observe hurricane exercise Makani Pahili 2009, receive briefings, and witness demonstrations associated with search and rescue (SAR) and disaster management capabilities of the U.S. military, Hawaii National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard.

The delegation, led by Lt. Gen. Tran Quang Khue, standing vice chairman of the Vietnam National Search and Rescue Committee, arrived in Hawaii June 1 and its itinerary includes discussions with U.S. military officials from Pacific Command (PACOM), senior leaders from PACOM’s service component commands, the Hawaii National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as visits to various military facilities.

Lt. Gen. Khue and his delegation were received at the PACOM headquarters June 2 with a military honors ceremony – headed by Adm. Timothy Keating, PACOM’s commander – that included the playing of the Vietnam and U.S. national anthems by the Pacific Fleet Band.

SAR and disaster management operations, which includes humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, presents an opportunity for military forces from nations throughout the region to assist one another in support of civil authorities, when needed.

PACOM is continually exploring opportunities to strengthen and expand the U.S. military-to-military relationship with the armed forces of Vietnam, which includes occasional port visits by U.S. Navy ships, joint professional exchanges and visits, and mutual participation in multinational exercises and training events.


Monday, June 1, 2009

English Education Workshop Part of Comprehensive Approach to Philippines Counter-terror Effort

A recent Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-sponsored English education workshop in the Southern Philippines is an example of a continuing focus on increasing opportunities for those in areas traditionally affected by violent extremism.

A Philippine Information Agency news release explains the English program, designed to support a Philippines initiative to strengthen English as a second language in the nation’s education system.

At the request of the Government of the Philippines, approximately 600 U.S. service members are deployed to the Southern Philippines in an advisory role in support of the Philippines’ effort to eliminate terrorist safe-havens by increasing the capacity of the AFP, and through civic and humanitarian projects in coordination with other U.S. and Philippine Government agencies.

During his May 30 remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security summit in Singapore, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stressed the value of a defense strategy that places ever greater emphasis on capacity building and a mix of so-called “hard” and “soft” elements of national power – where military, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and humanitarian elements are integrated seamlessly.

The Pacific Command (PACOM) Strategy links PACOM activities and operations, such as those conducted in the Philippines and throughout Asia-Pacific, to U.S. Government policy and the strategic objectives outlined by Secretary Gates.

Secretary Gates visited the Philippines June 1, following the Shangri-La Dialogue, and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to supporting the Philippines’ efforts to defeat terrorists and extremists.


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