Stories from 5th Fleet

VMM-263 Maintains Excellence aboard Mesa Verde

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By Staff Sgt. Lukas Atwell

ARABIAN SEA – Since the first MV-22 Ospreys were deployed to Iraq in 2007, the Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 have built a reputation for overcoming adversity through teamwork and ingenuity.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) current deployment has become an opportunity for VMM-263 (Reinforced) Detachment A to continue that tradition aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) as they face the unique challenges of being the first Osprey detachment deployed aboard an LPD.

In order to form the detachment, the squadron had to split Osprey maintenance Marines and the usual supply of tools and equipment between USS Bataan (LHD 5) and the Mesa Verde.

“The split left us with a single shift of maintainers and a limited supply of equipment, which could have potentially harmed our readiness,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Cameron Hubbard, VMM-263 (Rein.) Det. A maintenance material control officer and native of Ozark, Mo. “The Marines here have been creative and innovative in maintaining these aircraft, at times working under the supervision of our quality assurance department to fabricate small components to maintain our readiness.”

In addition to limited parts and personnel, the detachment also battles an increased risk of corrosion from the sea.

The flight deck of the Mesa Verde sits approximately 40 feet above the water as opposed to much higher on larger ships like the Bataan, Hubbard said. The proximity of the water and the additional spray kicked up by an Osprey’s rotor wash when it launches from the flight deck exposes it to increased amounts of corrosive salt water.

“The corrosive effects of the salt water can cause significant damage to the aircraft in a matter of days,” Hubbard said. “It can be difficult to fight corrosion and perform routine maintenance for flight operations, but we have implemented corrosion control into our daily activities so we can focus on the mission while still fighting corrosion.”

As Marines inspect the aircraft, they look for evidence of corrosion and scrub it off wherever it is found. Additionally, nearly every member of the detachment participates in preventative wash-downs.

“We rinse our aircraft with fresh water daily and also wash it off with soap and water every week,” said Sgt. Richard Simpson, VMM-263 (Rein.) Det. A airframes division chief and native of Cincinnati. “Our administrators and operations Marines also pitch in to clean off the aircraft.”

According to Hubbard, through the first 50 days of the deployment, the detachment invested approximately 109 man-hours into corrosion control, and has also completed 131 corrosion prevention and treatment action forms..

This investment has allowed the detachment to maintain an average readiness level of 75 percent and the ability to participate in bilateral training exercises in Spain and Israel, the latter being where the detachment landed the first Osprey ever.

“We have had so much success because our Marines here understand the mission and are able to keep the aircraft ready to go,” said Maj. Mark Woodard, VMM-263 (Rein.) Det. A commander. “We have some great Marines in our department and our maintenance chief did a great job selecting a crew that was capable of maintaining these aircraft on the Mesa Verde.”

“At the end of the day, everybody in the squadron is working hard to support the mission and return to (Marine Corps Air Station) New River with all our people and fully functioning planes,” Simpson added.

The 22nd MEU is deployed with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout U.S. Central Command and the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Victims’ Legal Counsel Program Spans the Globe

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By Commander, Task Force 51 Public Affairs

ARABIAN SEA – The Navy’s Victims’ Legal Counsel (VLC) Program was introduced to forward deployed Sailors and Marines aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility, March 19, 2014.

Sailors and Marines assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) received information about the VLC Program, established to provide legal advice and advocacy to eligible victims of sexual assault.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cara Addison discussed the program’s details and her role as the Navy VLC stationed at Naval Support Activity, Bahrain. She explained the types of services provided, the attorney-client relationship and confidentiality, and the collaboration with other personnel available to assist sexual assault victims.

“I serve as legal counsel for the victim only, not for the government, nor for the accused,” Addison said. “I ensure that victims have the opportunity to be heard and informed, and are treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy.”

Addison spoke to separate groups, each with a special role in the prevention of sexual assault and processing of a report. She stressed the program’s focus on providing compassionate and coordinated support to victims.

Enlisted and senior leadership teams from the ARG, MEU, and USS Bataan, as well as, victim advocates, sexual assault response coordinators, chaplains, healthcare personnel, staff judge advocates and legal officers received interactive briefs about the independent VLC program.

"The VLC can help victims of sexual assault by giving them a voice in the legal process and sound legal guidance from a lawyer assigned to represent victims only," said Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Katherine Gutierrez, Bataan's chief master-at-arms. This ensures the victim is treated fairly and with dignity at all times."

The Navy established its VLC program, August 15, 2013. It is designed to complement the support provided by Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Victim Advocates (VAs) by offering legal advice, representation and, as appropriate, advocacy for victims of sexual assault. Navy VLCs help victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, advocate in court as appropriate for the victim's rights and interests, and provide legal advice to assist the victim.

“It is important for our Sailors and Marines to know that this program is available and that it provides an opportunity to have counsel that is focused solely on their interests as victims,” Commander, Task Force 51, Brig. Gen. Gregg P. Olson, said. “Lt. Addison’s zeal in seizing the opportunity to share the program with forward-deployed expeditionary forces is a tribute to her dedication and highlights the VLC Program’s commitment to providing comprehensive legal assistance to our Shipmates.”

Bataan is the flagship for the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Task Force 51 provides command and control of amphibious forces deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet.

For more information about the VLC Program, or to contact a VLC office, visit http://www.jag.navy.mil/legal_services/vlc.htm.

USS Firebolt Remembers, Rededicates

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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Sailors assigned to coastal patrol craft USS Firebolt (PC 10) held a remembrance ceremony and rededicated a memorial, onboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, on the tenth anniversary of the attack on Firebolt, April 24.

On April 24, 2004, an attack claimed the lives of Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Michael Pernaselli, Signalman 2nd Class Christopher Watts, and U.S. Coast Guard Damage Controlman 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal. The incident occurred near Iraq's oil terminals while conducting maritime security operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

Around 200 service members and civilians from around NSA Bahrain attended the ceremony.

“This ceremony and the actions of the fallen Sailors reminds us why we wear the uniform,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mitch McGuffie, commanding officer of Firebolt. “It’s the history that inspires and motivates us and it reminds us of the people who have gone before us.”

As part of the10 year anniversary, Coastguardsmen assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) lead an effort to raise money and rebuild the memorial, which stands in Main Street Park on NSA Bahrain.

“The previous memorial was weathered and was in need of repair,” said Store Keeper Chief Kevin Couture, assigned to USCG PATFORSWA. “We wanted to focus on one meaningful project to make the memorial look better. We contacted the crew of Firebolt and we worked together to create something more befitting. In the end, we have something we hope the families and service members will see and remember well into the future.”

 The new memorial, which was designed by Information Technician Chief Mike Church, assigned to USCG PATFORSWA, contains an encased U.S. flag, the medals awarded to the service members, and rank insignia. An orange life ring from Firebolt hangs below. Sailors assigned to Coastal Patrol Squadron (PCRON) 1 cut out sections of the steel railing and replaced it with white braided rope to represent lifelines found along the outer edge of weather decks aboard Navy ships.

“We lost three of our shipmates ten years ago and even though we have never met these Sailors, we see their names on the bulkheads in Firebolt’s passageways every day,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Jose Valencia, assigned to Firebolt. “We see their names and we know who they are. We are a tight-knit crew and they are a part of our family. It is an honor to be here today and recognize their sacrifice.”

Bahraini Students Explore and Learn During U.S. Navy Day

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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Components of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain provided more than 200 Bahraini middle school students with tours, equipment displays, and demonstrations during U.S. Navy Day at Mina Salman Port, April 16.

The event provided kids from the local community an opportunity to learn about the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard as part of the U.S. Embassy Manama, Bahrain’s annual American-Bahraini Friendship Week Program.

“The U.S. Embassy is proud to be working with the U.S. Navy on a whole host of events for the American-Bahraini Friendship Week Program,” said Timothy Pounds, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Manama, Bahrain. “I believe that today’s ‘Navy Day’ event is one of the best ways we can show that the U.S.-Bahrain relationship is not just about formal diplomatic or military ties, but about our strong people-to-people ties.  The over two hundred students that attended today’s event not only have a better understanding of how the U.S. Navy works with their Bahraini partners to maintain security and stability in the region, they also had a chance to meet face-to-face with a number of Sailors and U.S. Navy personnel. These personal interactions provide the solid foundation that allows our two nations to better work together at all levels of the bi-lateral relationship.” 

As the students arrived, they were greeted by Sailors and issued a personnel qualification standard (PQS) worksheet. This PQS listed items the students would learn about and experience as they made their way around the pier to each unit’s exhibit. Each stop would earn them a signature. Once all the signatures were collected, they would be given a special completion certificate.

The first stop was aboard the mine countermeasure ship USS Gladiator (MCM 11) where students interacted with Sailors as they climbed ladders and explored passageways.  Their tour guide led them up to the pilothouse and then through the ship, arriving all the way back aft, to see the equipment used in counter-mine operations.

  “This was a great opportunity to show our hosts what the Navy in Bahrain is all about,” said Lt. j.g. Joseph Giuda, navigator of Gladiator. “By showing them what life is like aboard the ship and teaching them about our mission, it creates an understanding between us and helps continue our strong relationship.”

Back on the pier, the Marines of Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company Central Command displayed several weapons systems and explained their use. The Marines also held a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) demonstration and provided instruction on basic techniques.

“It’s amazing to be out here and talk to the kids,” said Lance Cpl. Brandan Wilkerson, assigned to FAST Company, Charlie Company, 4th Platoon. “Myself and the other Marines are happy to show the kids what we do and the kids are genuinely interested and excited to learn about us.”

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) Sailors displayed diving equipment and an underwater bomb detection robot. The students were also able to have a hands-on experience by controlling a bomb-retrieval robot.

“I didn’t know anything about the Navy before and this was definitely a new experience for me,” said Rakan Abu Shultiats, 8th grade student. “I think it’s important to see how the Navy works and how they are protecting everywhere.”

Other displays earned students signatures toward their completed PQS, such as equipment demonstrations by NSA Bahrain’s Fire and Emergency Services first responders. Naval Security Force (NSF) Bahrain master-at-arms also engaged the students with a personal defense class where the kids could practice some of the techniques.

“We are very pleased to be able to participate and the kids are enjoying an experience they have never had before,” said Juan Lewis, principal of Modern Knowledge Schools. “Events like this teach the students there are good relationships that bring us together for a common cause.”

NFL Players Touchdown on Harpers Ferry

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – Three NFL players visited Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, March 5.

Wide receiver Pierre Garcon of the Washington Redskins, tight end Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, and punter Brandon Fields of the Miami Dolphins signed autographs, posed for photos and talked with Harpers Ferry Sailors and Marines during the USO sponsored event.

“I was anxious to meet [the players],” said Ship’s Serviceman 3rd Class Kristopher Wilson, from Memphis, Tenn., “They were in Afghanistan before they were here. They said it was different because they were on land and there were a lot of Marines and a few Sailors but it wasn’t like it was on the ship.”

The NFL players took a tour of ship and visited Sailors and Marines on watch, shaking hands and thanking them for their service.

“I made sure they got to experience ship life and got to know the crew,” said Information Systems Technicians 1st Class Tamika Williams, from New Orleans. When they got here, I saw a lot of people smiling ear to ear and rushing out to see them. It was a good experience overall for everyone involved.”

Wilson said he talked to the players about growing up and related to their similar backgrounds. “These guys are role models for me,” he added.

The players thanked Harpers Ferry crew members and expressed their gratitude for what they do every day. They also presented the ship with a football signed by all three players.

“I know they were tired, but it shows how good of a sport they were. Showing up improved morale so much,” said Williams.

Harpers Ferry is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU), is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Sailors, Marines Participate in Bataan Death March Remembrance

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark Hays

GULF OF ADEN – Sailors and Marines participated in a 63 lap hangar-to-flight deck run and a moment-of-silence April 9, 2014, commemorating the 72-year anniversary of those lost, and those who survived the Bataan Death March.

The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) is one of two U.S. naval vessels to have borne the name “Bataan” which memorializes the valiant resistance of American and Filipino troops on the Bataan Peninsula in the dawning days of World War II and the rigorous Bataan Death March that followed in April 1942.

“It’s important to remember the bravery and sacrifices of the service members who came before us,” said Capt. George J. Vassilakis, commanding officer aboard Bataan. “What an honor to remember the ship’s namesake while we’re deployed serving our nation.”

U.S. Sailors, Marines and Soldiers fought alongside Philippine forces in defense of the Bataan peninsula before surrendering to the Japanese military in April 1942.

Over 7,000 of the 72,000 prisoners of war died from exhaustion, disease and malnourishment during the 63-mile forced march from Mariveles to San Fernando, which occurred during the hottest month of the year. Also, during the march if the prisoners could not keep up due to injuries, they were shot or bayoneted. The Bataan Death March was later known as one of the most brutal war crimes of World War II.

Bataan Sailors and Marines paid their respects by volunteering to run/walk relay style to equal 63 trips up the flight deck ramp. The crew split into teams of three and each member ran the ramp 21 times. Each team completed a lap for every mile of the death march. Afterward, Sailors and Marines gathered on the ship’s flight deck for a ceremony and moment-of-silence paying tribute for the sacrifice the Americans and Filipinos made those brutal days in April.

“This is an important piece of Bataan’s history, said Interior Communications 2nd Class Matthew Pawlus, of Pueblo, Colo. “Sometimes you have to take a time out and remember the sacrifices that were made to have the country we have today.”

Each year Bataan Sailors and Marines remember her namesake by participating in various events to pay tribute not only to the ones lost but the ones still living today. With Bataan deployed, it was no different as Sailors and Marines gathered as one unit supporting the same cause while they perform their missions each day.

 “It’s an honor to participate in this commemoration of the Death March,” Pawlus said. “I participated last year and plan on continuing to participate each year.”

Bataan is the flagship for the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Master Chief Serves on 12th Deployment Spanning 27-year Career

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By Cpl. Clay Beryersdorfer

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – After 11 deployments and traveling around the world, one could say Command Master Chief Juan Lopez is winding down in his career in the U.S. Navy.

He says otherwise.

“The day I ‘have’ to do something is the day I will leave,” Lopez said. “I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I love what I do, I could never get tired of this.”

Lopez is currently serving on his 12th deployment, this time as the command master chief of the Role 3 NATO Multi-National Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

As the senior enlisted advisor to the command group at the hospital, Lopez acts as the “voice” for all the enlisted Sailors serving there.

“Any need they may have, I make sure it gets taken care of,” he said. “I take care of everything that may cause an issue for them, that way they can go focus on their jobs here.”

He also oversees the Chief Petty Officer 365 program, which is designed to help chief petty officers advance in their careers and eventually become senior chief petty officers and above.

Lopez talked about his motivation to emphasize the CPO 365, as well as the importance of being a chief petty officer.

“I want someone to eventually take over for me and be able to succeed at this position,” he said. “Once you become a chief, senior chief and master chief, it’s not about you anymore, it is about your Sailors. It

isn’t a ‘job’ anymore, you have to be there and help guide these young people.”

Lopez has had a great deal of guidance from his family, most notably his father, who was a colonel in the Nicaraguan army.

His father, who Lopez said was a “highly decorated officer,” served in a multitude of positions – including as a liaison at the Pentagon.

“He was the youngest colonel to be that decorated and have the positions he had,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of history behind his name.”

Growing up in Nicaragua, Lopez was one of eight children in the family, but the only one who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving in the military.

Before joining the Navy in 1986, Lopez lived with his sister in West Covina, Calif.

“She pushed me and helped me stay out of trouble, and supported me when I decided to join,” he said.

Since that time, Lopez has served in many different places, including, but not limited to Iraq, Haiti, Panama, every country in South America, Greece, and once before to KAF, serving as a corpsman with a Marine expeditionary unit.

Lopez talked about the difference between his first time at KAF and now.

“Back then I slept in a two-man tent and none of this was here,” he said. “Now coming back, I get here and just say ‘wow.’ It is crazy to think I will see the very beginning and the end of this place.”

Lopez said he is glad to give back and serve his country.

“I know we are all contributing to peace, and not giving the bad guys a chance,” Lopez said. “I am proud to be a part of that process.”

As he advanced in his career and traveled the world, Lopez has kept one particular thing in mind.

“You’re always contributing, no matter where you are at,” he said.

Looking back over his positions throughout the years, Lopez said his time as a command master chief has been his “favorite.”

“Being able to guide junior Sailors is very rewarding,” he said. “There is no greater feeling than seeing them succeed. I wouldn’t change serving here and being in the Navy for the world.”

As far as advice for any Sailor who he may come into contact with, he keeps it short and simple.

“Live by your Navy Code,” Lopez said. “Honor, courage, commitment and integrity.”


USS San Jacinto Transits Suez

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan

MEDITERRANEAN SEA – The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) transited the Suez Canal, March 28, departing the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) and entering the U.S. 6th Fleet AOR.

San Jacinto made its way through the Suez Canal with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG).

“San Jacinto has done a great job as a command in the 5th Fleet AOR,” said Command Master Chief Anthony McDuffie, CMC of the San Jacinto. “Transiting through the Suez Canal gets us one step closer to seeing our loved ones.“

San Jacinto was in the 5th Fleet AOR for more than seven months conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and supporting missions for Operation Enduring Freedom, while serving as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.

“Our mission was accomplished through the consistent and superb performance every day,” said Capt. William P. McKinley, commanding officer of the San Jacinto.

While in the 5th Fleet, Sailors were able to enjoy liberty in places like Bahrain and Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.

“The ports were a great experience,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Dexter J. Hanauer. “The best part was being able to go out with the people I work with everyday and have a good time.”

As they near the end of deployment, San Jacinto Sailors are looking forward to getting home to see their families and loved ones.

“I’m very proud of the crew and what we have accomplished on this deployment as a team,” said McDuffie.

San Jacinto is part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) which consist of Carrier Strike Group 10; aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64); guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) and USS Mason (DDG 87); embarked 1st Combined Destroyer Squadron staff; and embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 and its squadrons: Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 32 “Swordsmen,” VFA-37 “Ragin’ Bulls,” and VFA-105 “Gunslingers,” Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 “Checkerboards,” Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 “Seahawks,” Electronic Attack Squadron 130 “Zappers,” Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7 “Dusty Dogs,” and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74 “Swamp Foxes.”


Four for Four: Successful Griffin Missile Test Fire in U.S. 5th Fleet

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By U.S. Central Forces Command Public Affairs

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – A flotilla of coastal patrol (PC) ships launched four missiles at target sleds last week to test the operational capability of the system.

Each missile fired resulted in a successful test of the system and destruction of the target.

The U.S. Navy recently completed the installation of the Griffin Missile System (GMS) aboard  USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USS Typhoon (PC 5) and USS Whirlwind (PC 11), which represent four of the eight U.S. 5th Fleet PC force.

PC crews are quickly mastering the new weapon.

“The entire Griffin system has proven to be a reliable and accurate weapon system that has a relatively low training threshold requirement,” said Capt. Joe Naman, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 50.  “After only a few days of hands-on training, operators are confident in their ability to operate and execute engagements with the Griffin missile.”

GMS not only significantly extends the range of the PC's self-defense capability, but also enhance s the performance of core mission sets like maritime infrastructure protection, escort duties and defense of commercial shipping. 

"The coastal patrol force greatly enhances U.S. Navy capacity to conduct more partnered and more complex operations and exercises with our Arabian Gulf allies and other coalition members," said Naman.  "We continue to modernize our patrol boat force to match our partners and maximize our defensive capabilities"

Guided missiles like the Griffin give a greater punch to the PC's and will be used alongside existing crew-served weapons and the 25mm MK 38 Mod 2 stabilized chain guns. This layered defense provides PC crews with an enhanced capability to defeat small boat threats.

GMS consists of a government-designed launcher and weapons control system, Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) Systems' BRITE Star II sensor/laser designator, and Raytheon's Griffin B (Block II) missile.

Adapted from aviation and special operations platforms, the 43-inch-long, 33-pound missile has proven itself to be lethal against small boat threats.

All ten Bahrain-based PCs will be outfitted with GMS by 2016.

PCs are in Bahrain based on a strong demand signal for increased Maritime Security Operations in this region. The cost effective ships are ideal platforms for conducting regional engagements with our regional partners.


New Orleans Mardi Gras at Sea

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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Granger Jr., USS New Orleans Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) were treated to a "Mardi Gras" themed dinner, March 4.

Sailors and Marines enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet with a presentation of foods commonly enjoyed in the city of New Orleans during the celebration. The menu included chicken jambalaya, gumbo, macaroni and cheese, cheese grits, stuffed shrimp, and king cake.

Louisiana native Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Joseph Rials said he appreciated the hard work put into the event.

“The dinner was amazing,” said Rials. “I couldn’t be home for Mardi Gras this year and the way they prepared the food really is a touch of home for me.”

The Mardi Gras menu planning started weeks before the event and gave the Culinary Specialists more opportunities to try new recipes in the galley.

"We went all out and have been preparing pretty hard," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Jose Hernandez. "We did our best to try and recreate the taste experience of Mardi Gras."

It was an experience to remember aboard a ship at sea by her crew and embarked Marines said the Food Service Officer Lt. j.g. Jeff Morgan.

“When you ask a Sailor or Marine what they’re going to do when they finally get the chance to go ashore, they will nine times out of ten tell you where they’re going to go eat,” said Morgan. “Judging by the longer than normal chow lines today it shows that even though Culinary Specialists cook every day, they truly made an impression on the crew and had them coming back for more.”

"I really appreciate that they did this,” said Rials. “It's definitely a morale booster."

New Orleans is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

For more news from USS New Orleans (LPD 18), visit: https://www.facebook.com/BigEasy18


George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Enters 5th Fleet

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shaun Griffin, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

RED SEA – More than 5,000 Sailors serving in the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (GHWB CSG) arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) following a routine transit through the Suez Canal, March 19.

While in the 5th Fleet AOR, CSG 2 and its accompanying units will continue to provide a wide range of flexible capabilities in theater security cooperation and maritime security operations.

Commanded by Rear Adm. DeWolfe Miller, GHWB CSG 2 is comprised of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron, guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103), and guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80).

"Recent operations in the 6th Fleet AOR coupled with a lot of hard work and training over the last year has prepared us well" said Miller. "Our presence here will help maintain stability, security and safety in the region."

GHWB CSG 2 is deployed as part of the ongoing rotation of forward-deployed forces to support maritime security operations and operate in international waters across the globe, along with other coalition maritime forces. The strike group is prepared to conduct a variety of missions, including forward naval presence, maritime security operations, and crisis response and theater security cooperation.

"We're ready to take the watch," added Miller. "Harry S. Truman has done a remarkable job, and we're ready to execute a seamless transition."

USS Truxtun remains in the Black Sea conducting theater security cooperation activities with NATO allies and will join the strike group after its operations there are complete.

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. NAVCENT's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.


5th Fleet Sailors Focus on SAPR Awareness

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Danielle Brandt, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain – U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) concluded three days of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training with a SAPR stand down aboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, March 19.

Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces; addressed his Sailors before kicking off the training.

“Being here and being part of this stand down is a personal commitment to ensure that together we stay strong in our commitment to the prevention of sexual assault,” said Miller. “Every day is sexual assault prevention day – not just one day in March each year.

NAVCENT Sailors broke off into small groups for two-hour sessions facilitated by NAVCENT officer and senior enlisted leadership. The sessions were open forum and were divided into two parts which first covered the scope of the sexual assault problem, and then the ways in which service members can help prevent sexual assault.

NAVCENT Sailors also participated in base-wide SAPR training hosted by U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) March 11-12. This training included workshops designed for specific groups.

“The trainers were able to tailor each training session to the target audience,” said Chief Fire Controlman Eric Shaffer, NSA Bahrain drug and alcohol program advisor (DAPA). “For instance, the workshop for the program managers was tailored so that the program managers were able to ask the questions and get the information that a program manager would need to successfully run his or her program.”

The training team included four personnel from USFF's SAPR office, chaplain staff and Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program. They also brought along former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple and comedian Mike Domitrz, who performed a one man show entitled “Can I Kiss You?” for all hands.

“The information provided is useful for all hands as it emphasized the importance of mental, spiritual and physical health,” said Shaffer. “If we can learn to embrace the importance of  ‘self’ and actually pursue things that are healthy for ourselves and work on improving our own selves, we end up living a positive life surrounded by positive people, thereby drastically reducing the possibility of ending up in situations that are harmful to ourselves or others.”

Capt. Doyle Dunn, USFF fleet chaplain, set aside time to separately address religious ministries personnel. He talked about their duty to provide confidential ministerial support and counseling to service members and families in need. He also talked to program managers about their role in helping people.

"In order for you to do your job and to do it well in your command, you depend on people knowing what you do and aware of the services that you help to provide,” he said. “If they don’t know, they won’t get the help they need. In order to really take care of our people, it is extremely important that they understand the resources that are available to them in all of the featured areas.”  

Schaffer said the training was brought to Bahrain as part of U.S. Fleet Forces’ annual "world tour" of training, and the workshops are intended to provide leadership and program managers with available resources and assistance in implementing OPNAV and USFF requirements in the execution of SAPR and suicide prevention policy as well as gaining additional tools in the role substance abuse plays in sexual assault and incidents of suicide behavior.

“At Fleet Forces we’re not just looking at SAPR and attacking it as a unified stovepipe,” said Marie Parker, USFF's SAPR program manager. “We’re looking at sexual assault and destructive behaviors because you can’t just go out and attack one behavior. If you’re only focusing on one, you’re missing things that contribute to sexual assault. You need to start thinking of prevention and not always be reactive with our programs. You need to start thinking left of these incidences.”

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.  NAVCENT's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Female Students Exchange Cultures in Bahrain

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Danielle Brandt, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain – Eight female students from the Honors College at West Virginia University visited Bahrain as part of a cultural exchange with women from the Royal University for Women in Riffa, March 9-16.

“Our university has a strategic partnership with West Virginia University,” said Dr. Vivien Exartier, International Programs Officer at Royal University for Women in Riffa, “Both of our Institutions are involved in several collaboration initiatives pertaining to all of our four faculties: Business, Law, Art and Design, and IT.”

The Royal University for Women (RUW) is the first private, purpose-built, international university in the Kingdom of Bahrain dedicated solely to educating women.

During their time in Bahrain, the students toured the country, debated with students from the Royal University for Women and attended classes and events including a presentation at the U.S. embassy. The visit also included tours of the coastal patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) and mine countermeasure ship USS Devastator (MCM 6).

“I thought it could be valuable for them to learn about the work of the base, the strategic location in Bahrain, and the multilateral efforts with other navies present at the base,” said Exartier.

“I now understand why America has forces everywhere,” said Christine Garbutt, a chaperone with the group. “I am sure the girls feel so much more protected knowing that there is somebody watching out, to make sure that everyone is safe, not just in the U.S. but abroad as well.”

The tour included a visit to USS Thunderbolt’s bridge, as well as a lesson on a rigid-hull inflatable boat and its uses.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” said Lori Koebick, a student from the Honors College at West Virginia University. “This is an awesome country with an amazing culture, and I definitely want to come back here to study.”

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.  NAVCENT's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Sailor Strums Stress Away on Deployment

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes, Boxer Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Hill, from Steeleville, Ill., is an imposing man, stone eyed and walks with a straight back. He plays his guitar dressed in all black; black beanie, black shorts, and a black Harley Davidson sleeveless shirt.

“Playing guitar brings back memories of my dad, my old band - home. I went off to boot camp and I haven’t seen them since,” said Hill.

When he plays his guitar, he finds himself back at home, far away from the stresses of the Navy, and able to unwind after a long night of work.

He said writing lyrics to a song lets him leave his troubles on the paper and walk away. “It’s not terrible anymore. It’s a good feeling because I wrote them and it’s about my life. It’s the reason why I play guitar,” Hill added.

The creation of a song is a challenge putting emotions on paper and tying it into the guitar parts, said Hill. “You’re an inventor or a creator, creating something that no one else has done,” he said. “Trying to make my own genre or my own songs sound like myself and no one else.”

He plays his songs in front of Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) during command sponsored events like a picnic in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. “It was the first time I got up in front of a crowd in 2 1/2 years. It was a rush to get up and play in front of more than just friends,” said Hill.

The command had asked him to play but he didn’t think they really meant it. Hill said the next thing he knew, he was setting up and about to play.

“I see him playing songs and singing pretty often.  He’s very good. I’ll see him playing after work,” said Culinary Specialist Cheemeng Her, a coworker. “He’s a good guy too, if you need help we all know you can ask Hill.”

Because Hill works nights in the Harpers Ferry galley, the odd hours allow him time for song writing.

“I’ve gotten better in the past four years in the Navy because I have more time to concentrate on my skill as a whole,” said Hill. “It’s a big difference having a band to carry you because you don’t have to carry yourself.”

Hill said he started a band called Rawhide with his dad and a couple of his friends. “We would go to local venues and play classic country. We played some new country and they would let me do some covers myself,” said Hill.  A year and a half later, he started his own band and became the singer.

“I played with my band all the way up until I joined the Navy. When I joined the Navy I didn’t have my own equipment, so I bought a guitar,” said Hill. He joined the Navy to get money for school and to use the experience to build character.

“It’s got its up and downs. I definitely don’t regret it, I have learned a lot from the Navy. It’s been a pretty good experience so far,” said Hill.


Gettysburg Assists Mariners in Distress

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By Lt. Ryan de Vera, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN – Guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) provided humanitarian assistance to three Iranian mariners on an adrift dhow in the Gulf of Oman, Feb. 16.

Gettysburg stopped to render assistance at approximately 7:30 a.m. after being signaled by the mariners aboard the vessel, approximately 45 miles north of Muscat, Oman. According to the mariners, they had run out of food and drinking water, and had an inoperable engine.

Gettysburg Sailors initially provided food and water for the mariners using a rigid-hull inflatable boat.

"Our ability to help our fellow mariners is absolutely vital," said Ens. James Barksdale, boat officer. "In this case, we were able to provide food and water to allow these mariners to return home safely. For that crew to know that they can trust us and that we are here to help means that we did our job today."

At approximately 5:30 p.m., the mariners were transferred to Gettysburg and seen by medical professionals to ensure their health and safety. The mariners were assessed as being dehydrated and given food and water. They were also provided facilities to shower and were given fresh clothing.

Capt. Brad Cooper, USS Gettysburg commanding officer, led the on-scene assistance efforts.

"Today is another great example of what U.S. Navy forward presence does to add to the stability of the region," said Cooper. "We are so pleased to have been in a position to help our fellow mariners who would otherwise have been in a potentially life-threatening situation."

The mariners will remain on Gettysburg overnight while arrangements for their safe return ashore are being made.

Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, commended Gettysburg for their efforts.

"This is another example of why U.S. naval presence in this region is so vitally important," said Sweeney. "Through humanitarian acts like this one executed so professionally by the crew of the Gettysburg, we continue to build trust and confidence throughout the Gulf region."

Gettysburg is currently deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U. S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

For more news from USS Gettysburg (CG 64), visit www.navy.mil/local/cg64/. .


From the Fighting Irish to the Fleet

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By Ensign David Copley and Lt. j.g. Alex Cornell de Houx, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Although Lt. j.g. Tommy Smith no longer plays football in front of 100,000 screaming University of Notre Dame fans on Saturdays, his new job as a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician is not exactly short on adrenaline, either.

Assigned to Task Group (TG) 56.1 in Manama, Bahrain, Smith works as part of an elite team of Sailors tasked with keeping the waterways of the Arabian Gulf cleared for passage and protecting coalition forces from explosive threats.

While not many athletes transition from a major college football program directly to the military, Smith always knew he wanted to be a Sailor.

“I had an ROTC scholarship to Notre Dame first, so the Navy certainly came before football for me,” said Smith. “I knew since I was in eighth grade that I wanted to serve my country in the Navy and be a part of a team again, something bigger than myself.”

Smith is a third generation University of Notre Dame alumnus. Growing up in South Windsor, Conn., he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and play football at the university.

A three-sport athletic star in high school, Smith was unable to earn a football scholarship to Notre Dame but refused to abandon his dream and recognized he would be competitive for a slot as a walk-on.

By his sophomore year, Smith made the team and retained his position as a Safety for his remaining years at the university. Between 2009 and 2011, Smith played alongside Notre Dame superstars and even suited up for the historic Sun Bowl game against Miami.

His Notre Dame team compiled a 0-2 record against Navy football, a fact his current EOD brothers, particularly the Annapolis graduates, refuse to let him forget.

“Most of them hate Notre Dame,” said Smith. “I tell them Navy is my second favorite football team. I root for them every weekend except for one.”

Smith also believes the physical rigors and challenges of playing football at Notre Dame prepared him well for a career in EOD. Navy EOD technicians are part of the Navy’s Special Operations community and go through a strenuous 18 month training process that includes dive school, airborne school and advanced combat skills training.

“What’s unique about Navy EOD is that we’re the military’s only special operations capable EOD force,” said Lt. Andy Serfass, operations officer for TG 56.1.

Upon completing EOD training, Smith was assigned to EOD Mobile Unit 11 out of San Diego. He is currently forward deployed to Bahrain.
 
In describing the unit’s mission, Lt. j.g. Dominic Valentini, assistant operations officer for TG 56.1, said, “We train to conduct counter-IED operations, render safe explosive hazards and disarm underwater explosives, such as mines. EOD technicians can handle chemical, biological and radiological threats, and are the only military EOD force that can both parachute from the air to reach distant targets or dive under the sea to disarm weapons.”
EOD’s other missions include disposing of old ordnance and working with allied militaries throughout the Arabian Gulf. 

“We also do a lot of military-to-military engagements. We share demolitions techniques and help to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and our allies,” said Serfass.

While Smith misses college football, he describes EOD as having a similar camaraderie and sense of excitement.

“EOD is a brotherhood,” said Smith. “I have the best job in the Navy. I am lucky to be a part of it.”

U.S. Navy EOD provides operational explosive ordnance disposal capability as required for the location, identification, rendering safe, recovery, field evaluation and disposal of all explosive ordnance, including chemical and nuclear weapons.

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. NAVCENT's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Harry S. Truman Wins Battle ‘E’

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

GULF OF OMAN – The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) was announced as the East Coast aircraft carrier battle efficiency winner by Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Feb. 14. 

The Battle ‘E’ is awarded annually to the ships that display the maximum condition of readiness in their group and for their capability to perform their wartime responsibilities. 

“We qualified for Battle ‘E’ by excelling throughout the ship,” said Harry S. Truman’s Command Master Chief (CMDCM) Raymond Kemp Sr. “Through our various departments and the hard work of the crew, we have revealed our ability to maintain battle and mission readiness.”  

Kemp added that it was an especially notable accomplishment given Truman’s relatively short time in service.

“Being commissioned for  only 15 years and earning our eighth Battle ‘E’ shows that we have been doing really well,” he said. “For the ship and its Sailors, this means that we have proven measures of our battle excellence to be the best on the East Coast.”

Sailors assigned to the USS Harry S. Truman not only earn another ribbon on deployment but also earn the pride of being on a battle efficient aircraft carrier.

“I would say this is a pat on the back for us,” said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Orazali Aydogdiyev. “It shows that our teamwork and hard work really matters. You see the product that you’ve created and now we’ve reached the finish line and received the reward.”

Within the framework of the Battle ‘E’ award are departmental awards, given to mark excellence in individual ship departments throughout the TYCOM. Truman departments were recognized with the following awards:

•           Air – yellow ‘E’
•           Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance  -- black ‘E’
•           Combat Systems – green ‘CS’
•           Deck – black ‘D’
•           Navigation – a white ship’s wheel
•           Operations – green ‘E’
•           Reactor/Engineering - red ‘E’
•           Security – black ‘S’
•           Supply – blue ‘E’
•           Weapons – black ‘W’

Truman also received a blue ‘E’ for Health Services, a red ‘DC’ for it’s damage control readiness, and the Environmental Protection and Energy Conservation award.

Those letters and symbols, along with a white battle ‘E’ signifying the overall ship efficiency award, will be painted on Truman’s superstructure, joining past awards.

“This crew exhibits tremendous energy, professionalism, and dedication every day, and they have done so since the day we left last July,” said Capt. Bob Roth, Truman’s commanding officer. “The teamwork within the ship and our enduring partnership with the warfighters of Carrier Air Wing 3 made this award possible. I am incredibly proud to be associated with this superior crew. Their work ethic and unselfishness are truly inspiring.”

Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, (HST CSG)  his congratulations to the ship and its crew.

“Winning the Battle ‘E’ is a tremendous accomplishment,” he said. “The Sailors of USS Harry S. Truman have demonstrated their commitment to teamwork and excellence on a daily basis throughout an incredibly demanding year that started with certification for deployment in January 2013, five months of sustainment training when the deployment was delayed due to sequestration and finally six months of flawless operations while deployed to both the 5th Fleet and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. I could not be more proud of these young men and women.”

The USS George Washington (CVN 73), forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, won Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific’s Battle ‘E’ on the West Coast.

Harry S. Truman, flagship for the HST CSG, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy News Service page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.


Coastal Command Boat (CCB) Arrives in Bahrain

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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTVITY BAHRAIN – The Coastal Command Boat (CCB) arrived in its homeport of Bahrain on Feb. 8.

The CCB, a one-of-a-kind platform, was originally built in Washington in 2011 and is assigned to Commander Task Group (CTG) 56.7 of Commander Task Force (CTF) 56.

As the first and only vessel of its kind, some of the CCB’s capabilities include increased payload capacity for maritime interdiction operations (MIO), Sea Ports of Debarkation (SPOD) defense, Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) control, and other littoral and coastal maritime missions.
The CCB can reach speeds in excess of 35 knots, as well as enter well-deck modes for transportation. She can also function as a platform for various unmanned vehicles.

Cdre. Joseph A. DiGuardo Jr., Commander, Task Force 56, said the CCB has a range of more than 500 nautical miles.  Having such an extended range, more so than current patrol and riverine boats, will allow the CCB to be more of a centerpiece in “blue water operations,” that take place at a greater distances from land..

“It greatly improves our ability to reinforce blue water operations to a much greater extent than we have been able to,” said DiGuardo.  “The CCB gives us that greater reach with more speed and longer time on-station.  It gives us a greater capability to dominate the littorals and give the 5th Fleet commander more options to achieve his objective.”

With the CCB comes many new things for the crew to learn.

“Everything about this boat is an upgrade from previous boats I’ve been on,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Aaron Braithwaite, a Sailor from the CCB’s 25-man hybrid crew consisting of Reserve and active-duty Sailors.  “But once you grasp the concept, it’s real easy.  It’s modern and efficient, and the morale here is real good with everyone doing their part.”

Braithwaite explained that he and the rest of the crew were selected and formed as the first CCB deployment team after a Reserve Component Fleet Introduction Team (FIT) delivered the boat to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) one year ago.  The FIT’s task was to prepare the boat and  crew for deployment whereas the current deployment team is responsible for many proof-of-concept operations and training follow-on waves of deployers.

“I’m pretty excited to be here and bring something new from the U.S. Navy to Bahrain,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Devin Cress, who said he’s previously served aboard a frigate, but nothing like the CCB.  “This is a whole new type of mission and deployment for me, but we’re more than ready to fulfill the needs of the Navy.  I’m excited to see that happen.”

The CCB is a precursor to the MK VI patrol boats that will be delivered to the Navy and NECC in the future.  Both the CCB and MK VI patrol boats are a result of dynamic requirements that are unique to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Navy Reservist Identifies Maintenance Malfunction That Stumped Experts

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Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – Recently, in the waters off Bahrain, a highly qualified Reservist had the opportunity to bring his unique civilian experience to the betterment of forward deployed Naval operations.

For months in the fall of 2013 the coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) had been sitting pier side in 5th Fleet area of responsibility due to a mechanical gearbox issue that left crew members and technical representatives puzzled. With personnel from the Fleet Technical Support Center (FTSC) also onboard, the Firebolt had been regularly scheduling days out at sea to diagnose the stubborn mechanical propulsion gearbox issue, with little insight to solving the abnormal vibrations and noises.

Civil Engineer Corps officer Capt. Joseph M. Hinson, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) reservist, completing his annual training in Bahrain, had requested through U.S. Naval Forces, U.S. Central Command to visit a ship that was scheduled to go underway prior to his retirement later in the year, and USS Firebolt was the ship that would take him out to sea for his first and last underway of his career.

“Two months were spent collecting vibration readings and tearing the gearbox apart searching for the cause of the loud metallic noise that kept us pier side,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mitch McGuffie, commanding officer of USS Firebolt.

USS Firebolt was scheduled to get underway for additional testing and to collect further rounds of vibration analysis in hopes that the result would identify the gearbox malfunction.

“I was only along as a guest of the commanding officer,” said Hinson. “When I learned the purpose of the underway I informed the Commanding Officer, chief engineer, and technicians that I had 38 years of considerable background experience from my civilian job in diagnosing problems related to various gearboxes, oil systems, and hydraulics, and more specifically to the rotating gearbox, which was the exactly the issue the USS Firebolt was experiencing, and that maybe I could help.”

While underway, Hinson spent most of the day observing tests on the gearbox, reading technical manuals in the engine room, talking with the crew and expert technicians who had been flown on to the ship from the United States to deal specifically with this situation.

“Capt. Hinson went out of his way to help us diagnose a problem that had troubled the technical experts for months,” said McGuffie. “Our day underway was suppose to be about him, showing him what life at sea was like, but he insisted on spending his time helping us fix our engineering issue. “

The crew, technicians and Hinson were not able to arrive at a final solution while underway that day.

“With the lack of hard data available, I have tried to take the anecdotal evidence available and reason through what might have occurred with the gearbox,” said Hinson. “After returning from my day at sea I spent time considering the problem and what I knew of it trying to determine the source, which allowed me to submit my findings to the Lt. Cmdr. McGuffie on what I believed to be the issue.”

Following his visit, Hinson provided USS Firebolt with a full report detailing his discoveries and theories on what caused the gearbox maintenance issue, which was then forwarded to the technicians assigned to address the malfunction.  The technical community agreed that Hinson’s diagnosis was plausible and, over the next few weeks, numerous corrective measures were taken to repair the issue.

“It is important that I be able to use my experience, because this was a problem for the ship, and they were kind enough to allow me to go underway with them, any help that I could provide would be a benefit to the Navy,” said Hinson.

“The impressive work of Capt. Hinson represents how the estimated 60,000 reserve component members bring their civilian skills and continued support to the fleet globally everyday,” said Rear Adm. Kelvin N. Dixon, Vice Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, U.S. Central Command. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated and talented Sailors in our Navy.

“I remain deeply indebted to Rear Adm. Dixon, and Lt. Cmdr. McGuffie for my day at sea aboard USS Firebolt,” said Hinson. “It will always be one of the highlights of my Navy career.”

USS Firebolt is assigned to Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, with the primary mission of coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance, in the Arabian Gulf, which is a fundamental piece of the operations outlined in the Navy’s maritime strategy. Now that USS Firebolt is completely operational it can continue its mission of protecting our nation’s coastline, ports, and waterways in support of the war on terrorism.


21st Century Sailor Office Director Visits Harry S. Truman

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

GULF OF OMAN – 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 SITE TV.

“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.

For more information about the 21st Century Sailor initiative visit www.navylive.dodlive.mil/category/navy-life.


Sailor Becomes Marine Martial Arts Instructor

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe Bishop, Boxer Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Armando Arias hunts down signatures to complete his long list of qualifications needed aboard USS New Orleans (LPD 18).  After talking with a few helpful shipmates he returns to his desk in the library and sits down. It’s just about lunchtime and Marines begin to trickle in to use the Internet.  He loves talking with the Marines and reminiscing about his previous deployments with them, i.e., the green side of Navy operations implanted in Marine units. 

Arias is interested in a number of Marine Corps programs, and particularly in their martial arts program.

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is essential part of a Marine curriculum, in which every Marine partakes. The Marine Corps created the martial art program in 2006 to aid Marines in hand-to-hand combat.  Since Arias craves all things Marine, he yearned for the opportunity to work his way up to black belt in MCMAP.

“With the Marines I was doing great things,” said Arias. “A year ago I was a Corporals’ Course instructor. I was a black belt. I got a Navy Commendation Medal. I was personally selected for bodyguard duties for Colonels going to dangerous places.”

Arias misses his adventures with the Marine Corps, but he has a plan to share his green side skills with Sailors aboard New Orleans.

Arias has roots that connect him to the Marine Corps.

Nearly every person in Aria’s family was a Marine, including every one of his cousins and brothers-in-law.  Even his wife was a Marine, stationed at Miramar Marine Corps Base in San Diego. For Arias, joining the military was something of a family tradition, so it was an easy decision.

“My wife was going to get out and finish her degree, and I was going to enlist and change my life, “ said Arias. “The Navy gave my everything, including $10,000 to be a Religious Programs Specialist for five years.”

After boot camp, Arias went to Religious Programs Specialist A-school for training in his rate. His instructors informed him of his orders to the 1st Marine Logistics Group in Camp Pendleton, Calif. But first he needed to attend the field medical training school at Camp Johnson, N.C.

Part of the curriculum at Camp Johnson focused on MCMAP. The program uses a belt rank structure with a colored hierarchy. The belts begin with tan, move up to green, brown, then to black. Once students are able to instruct at a particular level, they wear a tab on their belts of the color they are permitted to instruct.

“Part of the greenside training required us to earn our tan belts,” said Arias.

Thus, Arias went on to earn his belt.

It was October of 2009, Arias, the novice tan belt, was fresh out of A-school and ready for the field. His first deployment was to a small, remote forward operating base in a dangerous area of Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“I needed to get out of San Diego and go on deployment,” said Arias. “I had to start from scratch. I had to buy a house, buy a car, all that stuff. So, deployment was good to me, and it gave me a little experience.” 

Conditions were rough during his first deployment to Afghanistan and there wasn’t a single MCMAP instructor on base. After a year deployed, he returned to San Diego, where he lived the following year. Arias was then deployed again to Afghanistan. This time he was stationed at a much larger base, Camp Leatherneck, with many more amenities, including MCMAP instructors.

When I got to Afghanistan, I replaced a chief RPC [Chief Religious Programs Specialist],” said Arias. “Everything was going well and I realized I had a brown belt; I needed to get that black belt.”

The first sergeant hand-selected Arias to be a Corporal’s Course instructor. Luckily, one of the other instructors was a MCMAP instructor. So, Arias would physically train and teach courses in the morning and train in MCMAP in the afternoons. Every day, two hours a day, he would train until he finished. He earned his black belt in April. 

One goal remained unachieved for Arias. He needed to complete a 15-day course to become a MCMAP instructor. When he returned to Camp Pendleton, he enrolled in the instructor’s course, along with 22 other Marine students. He was the only Sailor.

The students, in their tan camouflage uniform and no boots, were split into two squads. Arias’ squad sat together on the red and black gym mats inside the huge gym in Camp Pendleton. Sgt. Hancock, a bald ten-year Marine veteran with half of his arm tattooed, led the exam.

Sgt. Hancock called Arias for his turn to take the test. He stood before Sgt. Hancock, who paced around him with a binder in his hands. He begins by asking Arias to execute a leg sweep. Arias executes a leg sweep on his opponent. Sgt. Hancock writes some notes in his binder. The instructor orders him to execute a counter to a bear hug. Arias executes. The instructor again marks the binder.  Arias performs five more random moves from each of the four belt levels.

“I tried to test out one day early and failed,” said Arias. “They stopped me at green belt. I went home and I began to worry. I’ve been doing this for two weeks straight now. What if I don’t pass tomorrow? What if I don’t have a good day? I was already in a lot of pain and taking Motrin.”

On the final day Arias was again ready to be tested. The instructors stood before him with their binders and pens. Arias executed one move after another, each move getting more complicated. He finished all the moves, and, after a moment, the instructor finished writing in his binder. They left the room, and when they returned they congratulated him.  Arias graduated along with only 17 other students.

My forearms were killing me,” said Arias. “I was in so much pain, but I was so excited.”

After his achievement, Arias looked for advice on what do next.

Arias hesitated to tell his instructors that he received orders to USS New Orleans (LPD 18) – to the blue side of ship operations at sea. He knew they put a lot of work and time into training him, and he didn’t want to squander his opportunity that could have been used for another potential Marine instructor.

“When you go and do these trainings, you’re taking up a space that another Marine could fill,” said Arias. “They need those positions to make themselves promotable. A Marine could be in that class training, but the Marine Corps will take you if you have what it take to be an instructor.”

Arias waited in the schoolhouse thinking about how to break the news. He walked up to his red tab instructors and cautiously posed the question: “Gentlemen, I got orders to USS New Orleans,” said Arias. “You’ve been instructing instructors for a while. Let me ask you this: what’s your opinion about implementing MCMAP on the ship for Sailors?”

It took the instructors two seconds for the response: “Do it! That’d be awesome!” The Marine Corp has been trying to popularize MCMAP throughout the military since its inception in 2001.  This was a great opportunity to spread the program.

Now when Arias isn’t chasing down signatures for qualifications, he’s training New Orleans Sailors in Marine martial arts. The command has supported him with mats and other resources, and the crew is excited to have the opportunity to be a part of MCMAP. By running the program for Sailors, Arias is able to preserve his hard-earned instructor tab and share his enthusiasm for what he loves.


Navy Lawyer Expands Horizons at Sea Practicing Operational Law

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By Lt. Theresa Donnelly

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – From leaving the turmoil of a war-torn nation following the break-up of the Soviet Union, to now teaching thousands of Navy and Marine Corps operators in the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (BOXARG) the international law of armed conflict,  Lt. Givi Tibaneli, a Navy Judge Advocate, is on an eight-month deployment practicing a unique and specialized form of his profession.

Emigrating at the age of 10 from the country of Georgia, Tibaneli says his experiences witnessing lawlessness and corruption propelled him to direct his studies to law and policy as well as contribute to his new country.

“I’ve always held the rule of law in high regard and how those laws were implemented throughout the world,” said Tibaneli. “Serving my country was a way for me to give back to the United States for the opportunity that this country provided my family,” he said.

Giving back to others has always been a part of Tibaneli’s life. While attending University of California, Hastings College of Law, Tibaneli volunteered with the “Hastings to Haiti Partnership,” an organization that was devoted to advancing the rule of law and human rights in Haiti by supporting the country’s legal education and engaging in human rights advocacy. He helped the group through fundraising for annual working trips to the country, hosting clinics and performing legal research.

“The whole idea there was that if you were to empower and plant a root in the legal education sector, to these students who would one day be the future judges and prosecutors in that country, they could influence change by affecting the way laws are implemented and enforced,” said Tibaneli.

After graduating from law school, Tibaneli chose to join the Navy because he wanted to serve and practice operational law. Operational law encompasses multiple legal areas such as international treaties, the law of the sea, rules of engagement, environmental law, as well as administrative law and ethics.  It also involves cooperation and coordination with host nation governments and U.S. embassies in order to successfully implement and enforce liberty policies.

Operational legal counsel is crucial in the Navy, which deals with complex missions and politically sensitive topics such as disputed territories, strait transits and multiple Status of Forces (SOFA) agreements with host nations.

Following his studies in law school, Tibaneli served for approximately a year and a half as trial counsel (prosecutor) at Navy Base Ventura County. While stationed there, he honed his skills practicing law in the courtroom, but his ultimate goal stayed intact.

Recognizing his interests and potential, Tibaneli was nominated by his commanding officer at the Navy Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) to leave his first tour early and report as the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) for Commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR1).  CPR-1 is composed of three amphibious assault ships that carry Marines and aircraft in order to perform missions across the full spectrum of military operations.

“My experiences here have been very positive. I’ve enjoyed it both professionally and personally. I particularly enjoy operational law because it’s something that is unique and can’t be practiced outside the Navy,” said Tibaneli.

Shortly after the Boxer left for deployment, Tibaneli took on the challenge of qualifying as the Officer of the Deck (OOD) in an effort to better understand the circumstances naval officers face while operating a warship. He has already completed initial watchstander qualifications and time permitting, hopes to become fully qualified by the end of deployment.

Obtaining his OOD qualification means that Tibaneli will have a first-hand perspective of the legal challenges ship handlers face while operating at sea.

“I noticed when I was giving briefs to watchstanders about Rules of Engagement and various scenarios that people listen more carefully when you have your own experiences to draw upon, which makes you a better lawyer. Studying for OOD makes me a better legal advisor and naval officer,” he said.

Tibaneli hopes that his approach to his trade will encourage more operators to proactively seek legal counsel and understand how his services can be used as a valuable resource for the staff.

“Providing good legal advice offers the commander a much more comprehensive analysis of the problem prior to making a decision. It’s a misperception when people think that you can only go to legal when the situation has gone bad,” he said.


NSA Bahrain hosts 21st Century Sailor All-Hands Call

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTVITY BAHRAIN – Director, 21st Century Sailor Office held all-hands calls with Sailors and Marines aboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Feb. 6.

Rear Adm. Sean Buck spoke about topics ranging from suicide prevention to fitness during four separate sessions held for E-6 and below, E-7 and above, one for the Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD), and one for Naval Support Activity
(NSA) Bahrain Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Victim Advocates (VAs).

Buck said two of his main objectives are to provide Sailors with an update on how the Navy is doing in reducing destructive behaviors that his office oversees and to solicit feedback from Sailors.

"It's one thing for me to perceive how the Navy is doing; it's another thing to listen to you all and see what you are thinking out in the fleet," he said. "The most important thing I can do is to come here and listen to you."

Buck led off his discussions by talking about resiliency.

"Resiliency is our total health," he said. "It's all aspects of our well-being; our mental health, our physical health, our spiritual health and our social health."

Buck said there are a lot of things that impact resiliency and eventually break down Sailors to the point where they are not operating at their full potential. He said 10 to 11 straight years of combat, fighting two wars and family separation have had the biggest impact on resiliency for the Navy.

"All of that begins to break us and our families down," he said. "Then we are not as safe as we can be, and we are not as mission effective as we need to be to always fight the fight that wins the fight. That's what our Navy and our nation needs us to do."

He also addressed destructive behaviors and their impact on mission readiness. He spoke about suicide, sexual assault and alcohol and substance abuse in the Navy. He said alcohol related incidents (ARI) are the underlying cause of most destructive behavior.

"I'm convinced that if we reduce ARIs, we will have a significant impact on reducing all the other destructive behavior," said Buck. "As I look at all the statistics, 70 percent of all sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use. Alcohol related incidents are probably one of the easiest things we can tackle."

Buck focused his question and answer sessions on hearing feedback directly from the Sailors he serves. Topics ranged from input on ways to better communicate with Sailors through social media venues, to ways to improve training that Sailors find to be redundant.

NSA Bahrain CSADD President, Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Harold Howard, said he enjoyed the open discussion with the admiral.

"The fact that Rear Adm. Buck came out here and asked us what we think, is a really good thing," said Howard. "It says a lot for someone of his rank to come out and speak to us. You never really know what Sailors are thinking until you ask them directly. Having open discussions with groups turns out even better because everyone will be willing to join the conversation."

The 21st Century Sailor office is responsible for total Sailor fitness, resilience and readiness. The office is also the Navy lead on suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention and response, hazing prevention, fitness and nutrition, personal and family readiness, and the "Keep What
You've Earned" campaign.

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.  NAVCENT's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

For more information on 21st Century Sailor and Marine, visit www.21stcentury.navy.mil.


Education Opportunities Soar At Sea

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By Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Knight, USS Boxer (LHD 4) Public Affairs

ARABIAN SEA – Taking college courses at sea can often be a challenge for service members because of the long hours and demanding schedule. Aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), a tutoring program has been established to help Sailors attending college courses succeed during deployment.

“The tutoring program is a volunteer program aboard Boxer set up to help our shipmates that are taking college courses,” said Chief Navy Career Counselor Jane Epaloose, from Central Islip N.Y., one of the tutors aboard.

Lt. j.g. Chelsea Irish, from Phoenixville, Pa., the program coordinator, started the program to help Sailors and to provide an opportunity for assistance.

“I jumped at the opportunity to create a tutoring program aboard Boxer because to me there is no better way to use my time,” said Irish.

Tutors are available to offer help in a wide variety of subjects.

“We have 25 tutors available aboard Boxer, that have bachelor's degrees or higher, for subjects such as math, science, history and social sciences,” said Epaloose.

The program has no schedule restrictions and is set up so each Sailor can receive as much help as needed to ensure success.

“Tutoring is available around the schedule of the tutor and the student, as long as both members have the time,” said Epaloose.

A student that worked with Epaloose enjoyed the extra help needed for her classes.

“I was really struggling with my English and with the stressors of work it really helped to go to her and have the help,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Joni Bills, from Stockton, Calif.

Bills initiated the idea of a tutoring program by making a suggestion in the commanding officers suggestion box.

“I was struggling, and I was going to people asking questions. I thought if only we had a program that streamlined people that want to help to the students it would help me and others in the same situation,” said Bills.

Bills feels appreciative of having her tutoring idea turn into a realization.

“It takes the stress off. When one is struggling, rather than panic about it you know where to turn to and what to do, and it feels good knowing that there may be other people in my situation who will have a place to turn to for the help,” she said.

At sea, students have limited resources and don’t get the same opportunities that traditional college students get.

“I think a tutoring program is important because most of our degree programs in the Navy are online, and sometimes the student might need a little hands on instruction to help them understand the subject matter more clearly,” said Epaloose.

Irish says Sailors are motivated to get the help they need through tutors standing by to assist them in reaching their goals.

 “In today’s world a college education is essential. It opens the door to a multitude of opportunities. Knowing that my shipmates have a place to turn for help with their studies is rewarding for me,” Irish said.

Earning an associate's degree earns a Sailor two points on the Navy Advancement Exam, and a bachelor's degree earns a Sailor four.

“Every Sailor should take the maximum benefits they can while serving their country.  The only barrier to achieving your dreams is you,” said Epaloose.

Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Boxer’s Creativity Fights Against Complacency

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert R. Sanchez, USS Boxer Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – Deployments can bring many hazards to servicemembers. Danger is always present, whether it’s working on the flight deck, conducting well deck operations or working down in the engineering spaces, and one constant danger is becoming complacent.

Complacency is when a person loses awareness while performing the day-to-day tasks which can result in an injury or preventable mishap.

Aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), the Safety Office decided to stand up against complacency and get the ship’s crew involved by holding a safety poster contest, Dec. 3-27.

“This was the perfect time to get the word out,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Matthew Vitello, assigned to Boxer’s Safety Office. “Mid-deployment is when a lot of us get into a routine and that is when complacency strikes. Being aware of complacency is the first step to avoid becoming a statistic of it.”

The rules for the competition were: one entry per contestant, the poster had to be work-related, and be made in good taste.

“We [Safety Office] thought all the entrees were great,” said Vitello, from Charleston, W. Va. “There are a lot of talented people onboard. Some were coming to us for statistics on accident and injury reports. Others were setting up scenes to capture a complacency situation in a picture. I was surprised how involved everyone was.”

Boxer Sailors and Marines voted for their favorite entry, and the top six posters received prizes ranging from a night in the commanding officer’s guest stateroom to getting a duty day off.

“The competition was a great idea,” said Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Levi Horn, first place winner. “Many of my duties as a Gunner’s Mate require me to stay focused in order to avoid hurting myself or others.”

The winning poster is now seen around the ship as a reminder to the crew about hazards in the workplace.

“No one wants to get hurt out here and our routines don’t really differ from day to day, which is why complacency is a very real hazard to all Sailors and Marines,” said Horn, from West Jefferson, N.C.

“We must always remind ourselves and our shipmates not to cut corners and always maintain situational awareness.”


US, French Navies Conclude Combined Operations

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson

GULF OF OMAN – Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) and French Navy Task Force 473 concluded five weeks of combined carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), Feb 2.

The two strike groups began conducting integrated operations Dec. 26 in the Gulf of Oman and have operated together in the North Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf to enhance regional maritime security and stability.

Ships participating in the combined operations included USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), the guided-missile cruisers USS Gettysburg (CG 64) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) and USS Mason (DDG 87), all assigned to HST CSG. French ships included French aircraft carrier and Task Force 473 flagship FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), destroyers FS Forbin (D 620) and FS Jean de Vienne (D 643) and replenishment oiler FS Meuse (A 607).

“We executed a wide array of operations together with the Charles de Gaulle strike group,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander HST CSG. “We conducted combined flight operations from both Truman and Charles de Gaulle as well as carrier landing qualifications on both aircraft carriers.”

Lt. Cmdr. Rob Littman, an F/A-18 pilot assigned to the “Ragin Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, is a U.S. Navy pilot who had the opportunity to land on Charles de Gaulle.

“Landing on Charles DeGaulle was a terrific experience,” said Littman. “It was remarkable how similar it was to landing on the Truman.  The French were extremely professional and the transition was seamless.”

Capt. Bob Roth, Harry S. Truman’s commanding officer, said it was a unique experience being able to execute flight operations with jets and pilots from the French carrier.

“Planning and conducting actual missions together in this region brought our two fighting units closer together,” said Roth. “Our carrier aviation cultures are very similar, so the mutual real-world missions were executed using familiar tactics, but with a unique mix of platforms. Carrier Air Wing 3 Hornets and Rhinos flew seamlessly from Charles de Gaulle, just as the Rafales and Super Etendards landed and launched effortlessly from Truman. We are a good team and I look forward to the next opportunity to operate with our trusted French allies.”
Sweeney said operations weren’t limited to just the aircraft carriers.

“We conducted helicopter deck landing qualifications on our smaller ships. We executed boarding exercises, live-fire gunnery exercises, air defense exercises and combat search and rescue training – all types of missions we could be called upon to do at any moment. We even executed what we call a ‘shotgun swap’, which had the Forbin providing actual air defense control for Truman and the Gettysburg providing the same defense for Charles de Gaulle.”

Sweeney highlighted that the combined operations not only improved interoperability between the French and U.S. navies, but they also provided reassurance to regional partners.

“These operations were designed to enhance our levels of cooperation and interoperability,” Sweeney said. “Just as importantly though, it helps promote long-term regional stability and through our continuous presence, we build trust and confidence throughout the region.”

Capt. Bill Combes, HST CSG chief of staff, echoed the significance of conducting the combined operations in the region.

“Regional stability and these cooperative relationships both contribute to safeguarding the region’s vital links to the global economy,” said Combes.

Personnel from most of the U.S. and French ships also had the opportunity to visit other ships to meet with counterparts and learn how they do their jobs on their respective ships.

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Kathryn Bustos, spent three days aboard the French carrier.

“The [French] sailor I was partnered with was the equivalent to a U.S. Navy electronics technician,” said Bustos. “We repaired hydra radios and headphones worn by French sailors on the flight deck and performed maintenance on other electronic equipment together.”

Bustos said it was an experience she would remember forever.

“It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Bustos said. “I met people aboard Charles de Gaulle that I will keep in touch with even after our deployment and joint operations are finished. The French sailors were very welcoming and friendly.”

HST CSG is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.


US, French Naval Aviators Cross Skies, Decks Together

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson

ARABIAN GULF – U.S. and French aircraft embarked on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) began conducting combined flight operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, Jan. 14.

The flight operations are part of an ongoing period of overall combined operations between the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) and French Task Force 473.

As part of combined flight operations, aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing 3, embarked on board Harry S. Truman, and aircraft from Charles de Gaulle, have launched and landed on both aircraft carriers.

"The experience was similar to landing on Harry S. Truman but since Charles de Gaulle is just a little smaller, the sight picture was a little different," said Lt. Cmdr. Bex Boyd, an F/A-18 pilot assigned to the "Gunslingers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, who also serves as the squadron's training officer.

Boyd also noted that some of the hand signals used by flight deck personnel were slightly different from those used on American aircraft carriers and that they used flags instead of lights to signal for the aircraft to launch.

He said that while there were some differences in the way things are done, the experience was a positive one and credited Charles de Gaulle's crew for their professionalism.

"They were very professional and it was a great experience," he said.

Boyd and Cmdr. Forrest Young, VFA-105's commanding officer, were the first two U.S. Navy pilots to land on the French aircraft carrier during the current period of operations.

French aircraft also took advantage of combined operations to land on and launch from Harry S. Truman.

"It's a great opportunity to test our interoperability through this kind of experience," said a French Rafale pilot known as "Pronto." "I have already landed on an American aircraft carrier but it was the first time for me to do it with a Rafale F-3."

The Rafale F-3 is a single-seat jet fighter and the most advanced in France's fighter inventory.

Like Boyd, Pronto noted the difference in the size of the two flight decks and a few operational differences. However, he said he faced no challenges in landing on Harry S. Truman.

"There were no difficulties," he said. "The main difference is the size of the deck and the fact that it's full of planes when we land. Some of our procedures are also different."

In addition to launching and recovering on their counterparts' flight decks, U.S. and French pilots have also participated closely together in air defense, a war at sea exercise, and a variety of other operational and training scenarios.

HST CSG and French Task Force 473 will continue operating together throughout the month of January to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual defense capabilities and promote long-term regional stability.

For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.


5th Fleet Conducts Change of Office for Command Master Chief

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) bid farewell to the NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet Command Master Chief during a combined retirement and change of office ceremony held aboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, Jan. 22.

Command Master Chief James DeLozier served at 5th Fleet for fifteen months and is capping off a 30-year naval career. Command Master Chief Scott Fleming relieved DeLozier.

“Thank you for your role in the greatest fleet, in the greatest Navy to ever sail,” said guest speaker Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces. “Every single day, Master Chief DeLozier helps me lead thousands of 5th Fleet Sailors as they conduct persistent maritime operations to advance U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment in the USCENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] area of responsibility.”

During the ceremony, Miller presented DeLozier with a Legion of Merit medal for his service with NAVCENT and 5th Fleet.

“This has been a great tour,” said DeLozier. “I feel like we did some great things out here and impacted a lot of Sailors. I’m proud of what we do on a daily basis here.”

Delozier said his father and his uncle were his inspiration for enlisting in the Navy in 1984. His father served in the Vietnam War, and his uncle served in the Korean War.

“I was fascinated with their sea stories and their cruise books with pictures of far away ports that helped convince me there was more to the world than Deepwater, Miss.,” said DeLozier. “I know my dad would be really proud of my career, and I wish he was still here to help me celebrate my 30 years of service.”

Previous tours of duty for DeLozier include USS Chandler (DDG 996), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and USS Constellation (CV 64). He will now head to San Diego where he will have a retirement ceremony that will include his wife and children.

Fleming is reporting from NAVCENT Forward Headquarters Afghanistan where he served as the command master chief. He enlisted in the Navy in 1986, and previous tours of duty include USS Thach; Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Executive Assistant to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.  NAVCENT’s mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Coast Guardsmen Serve Bahrain Community on MLK Day

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Coast Guardsmen assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) commemorated the life and accomplishments of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a community relations (COMREL) project in front of Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, Jan. 20.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed each year on the third Monday of January, a date selected for its close proximity to King's Jan. 15 birthday.

The cleanup began with a speech from U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Robert Hendrickson, commodore, PATFORSWA, commander, Task Group (CTG) 55.1, who praised his Guardsmen for participating in the event.  Hendrickson reflected on the achievements of King and stressed the importance of giving back to the community.

More than 60 Coast Guardsmen representing six patrol boats and several departments throughout the PATFORSWA command were in attendance. Their goal was to fill at least 30 bags of trash from the streets surrounding NSA Bahrain.

“I think it’s great that so many people came out to this event.  It really shows that we care about the observance of this day, and it looks really great for our command,” said Storekeeper 2nd Class Justin Hinkle.  “Events like this are important because it helps bring the team together, and it shows the local community that we are here to help out and do as much as we can.”

PATFORSWA is the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the U.S. and has played a key role in maritime security and maritime infrastructure protection operations with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).  PATFORSWA is comprised of six 110’ cutters, shore side support personnel, Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment, Advanced Interdiction teams, Maritime Engagement Team, and other deployable specialized forces operating throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.


HMCS Toronto Interdicts Heroin Shipment Off Tanzania

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By Combined Maritime Forces

INDIAN OCEAN - Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ship Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Toronto has seized approximately 280kg of high-grade heroin off the coast of Tanzania, close to Zanzibar Island.

The illicit narcotics were seized after HMCS Toronto intercepted and boarded a suspect dhow. An extensive search of the vessel revealed 280.7kg of heroin hidden onboard. The narcotics were catalogued before samples were taken for further analysis and the remainder destroyed.

The seizure happened after CMF air assets, including a US Navy P3C 'Orion' maritime patrol aircraft and Her Majesty's Australian Ship (HMAS) Melbourne's embarked 'Seahawk' helicopter, observed the suspect dhow in the north Indian Ocean. They relayed the dhow's location to HMCS Toronto which was able to board and investigate the vessel as it neared the Tanzanian coast.

Commander Matthew Bowen, Royal Canadian Navy, Commanding Officer, HMCS Toronto said: "It is the collaboration with our multi-national partners that has enabled us to achieve a positive outcome in seizing these illegal narcotics. Our combined efforts serve to disrupt the funding of terrorist organisations, which is the heart of our mission with CTF 150."

Commodore Daryl Bates, Royal Australian Navy, Commander CTF 150 said: "I congratulate the Royal Canadian Navy, and the men and women of HMCS Toronto in particular, for another job well done."

During her year-long deployment with CMF, HMCS Toronto has seized 2,327 kg of heroin from smuggling dhows. In December 2013, the ship seized 539kg of heroin from a single dhow - the largest heroin interdiction ever by a CMF unit.

This latest heroin seizure follows two previous interdictions by HMCS Toronto in the same region: On 15 April last year, Toronto's boarding team discovered almost 500kgs of heroin hidden aboard a dhow off Zanzibar Island. On 9 May, 317kgs of heroin were taken from another smuggling dhow situated118 miles off the Tanzanian coast.

Cdre Bates added: "Through hard work and persistence, Toronto has adversely affected the operations of those who wish to use the maritime environment for illicit activities. We know that such activity funds terrorism and violent extremism so we are pleased this cargo was intercepted."

HMCS Toronto is currently deployed within Combined Task Force (CTF)150, one of three task forces operating under CMF. CTF 150 is currently led by an Australian command team based at the CMF headquarters in Bahrain. Its mission is to promote maritime security across over 2.5 million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.


HST Carrier Strike Group Commander Visits French Carrier, Counterpart

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By Lt. Ryan de Vera, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN – Commander, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) visited French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle while the ship was operating with USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Dec 30.

Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney visited the aircraft carrier to meet Task Force 473 commander French Navy Rear Admiral Eric Chaperon, and to gain additional insight on the operations of the Charles de Gaulle.

 “Our two aircraft carriers and associated ships are operating together now here in the Gulf of Oman,” said Sweeney. “Being able to conduct strike group operations side-by-side will ultimately help improve regional maritime security and stability and also strengthen trust and confidence with our partners in the region.”

While board, Sweeney met with Chaperon, visited with French staff, and learned more about the capabilities of the embarked Rafale and Super Etendard jet fighters and how they operate, launch and recover.

 “It was certainly an eye opening experience to see how one of our closest allies employs a carrier strike group and how we can build a more effective partnership,” said Sweeney.

“The aim of the mission is far beyond conducting a couple of exercises; it is about developing the ability of the two CSG to realize integrated operations should the need arise,” said Chaperon. “This is a huge challenge but all the conditions are met to overcome it.”

In addition to its flagship Charles de Gaulle, Task Force 473 is comprised of the destroyers FS Forbin (D 620) and Jean de Vienne (D 643), and replenishment oiler FS Meuse (A 607).

HST CSG is comprised of its flagship, aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman; the guided missile destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), the guided missile cruisers USS Gettysburg (CG 64) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56); and the embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 which includes Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 32 “Swordsmen,” VFA-37 “Ragin’ Bulls,” and VFA-105 “Gunslingers;” Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 “Checkerboards;” Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 “Seahawks;” Electronic Attack Squadron 130 “Zappers;” Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7 “Dusty Dogs;” and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74 “Swamp Foxes.”

HST CSG is the only continental U.S.-based carrier strike group forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR where it is conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.


US, Japanese, S. Korean Navies Participate in Counter Piracy Exercise

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN – The guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) participated in a counter piracy exercise with ships from the Japanese and South Korean navies, Dec. 11.

Japanese destroyers JDS Ariake (DD 109) and JDS Setogiri (DD 156) and the South Korean destroyer ROKS Choi Young (DDH-981) worked alongside Bulkeley.

“I don’t know of many East Coast ships that get to work with the Japanese and South Koreans, especially at the same time,” said Lt. j.g. David Going, navigation officer aboard Bulkeley and assistant planning officer for the exercise. Going added that even though the exercise was only one day, having ships from different countries work together helped to strengthen the cooperation.

The planning for the exercise began several months prior and as the date drew near, more events were added to increase collaboration between the three navies, said Going.

Events ran continuously throughout the day and included counter piracy focused events such as a boarding exercise with Bulkeley’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team, the U.S. Coast Guard’s advanced interdiction team (AIT) 5, and Japanese and South Korean boarding teams. Other events included medical training, flashing light signaling, search and rescue, and deck landing qualifications.

Ensign Nadine Harrison accompanied Bulkeley’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Matt Phillips, to the Setogiri for a meeting with the commanding officers of the four ships.

“This was a good experience for junior people like myself but also for the experienced Sailors who haven’t worked with either of these navies,” said Harrison. “It was really interesting to see how many ways our navies are similar.”

All units involved gained valuable experience to increase readiness when facing an actual piracy scenario, said Going.

Throughout deployment, Bulkeley has worked with Ukrainian, Georgian, Omani, British and French navies on multiple exercises.

“Having worked with so many countries this deployment really makes the world feel smaller,” said Going. “This month we are working with the Japanese and South Koreans. Who knows who we’ll be working with next month?”

The exercise ended in the early evening with a signal and flashing lights exercise. In this exercise, Bulkeley and Setogiri communicated with signal flags and morse code via flashing lights.

“The Japanese are the epitome of varsity level flashing lights,” said Going. “Our quartermasters haven’t really been trained in signaling since the signalman rate went away, so any opportunity to practice with the best is excellent.”

Bulkeley is deployed as part of Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


USS San Jacinto Reaches Mid-Deployment

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan, USS San Jacinto Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) departed Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 12, following a weeklong port visit that allowed the crew to conduct mid-deployment maintenance and take part in some well-earned liberty.

The port visit marked the approximate midpoint of San Jacinto’s eight to nine month deployment in support of maritime security operations (MSO) and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR).

MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as compliment the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations also deny terrorists use of the maritime environment as a means to the illegal transport of personnel, weapons or other material.

“Although we have not executed a mission in combat, our presence has made a real impact,” said Capt. Bill McKinley, commanding officer, San Jacinto.  “San Jacinto’s performance during the 2013-2014 deployment has been superb.”

San Jacinto has played a key role in medical evacuations and mariner assists this deployment, providing assistance to a Turkish sailor, a Philippine merchant and two Yemeni fishermen.

“Each of these rescues were successfully conducted in challenging sea conditions with great danger to the Sailors involved,” said McKinley.

The crew looks forward to the second half of deployment. The halfway point helps Sailors realize that they are much closer to being reunited with family and friends.

“We’re halfway home,” said Quartermaster 1st Class Brain D. Drenning. “It’s exciting to think we’re about four months from home, but I can’t let that keep me from focusing on the mission in front of me.”

“At sea, the crew has never failed to perform their critical missions,” said McKinley. “In liberty ports, they have represented the U.S. Navy and their country well. Overall, I could not have asked for a better performance from a crew.”

San Jacinto is currently deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR.


NAVCENT Millionaire’s Club Leads Sailors to Financial Success

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Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT) Millionaire’s Club educates Sailors and civilian personnel on ways to avoid or overcome indebtedness and financial misfortunes while leading members on a pathway to economic stability and enlightenment.

The Millionaire’s Club was created for members to share their ideas and thoughts about ways to improve each others financial independence, stability, creditworthiness, and overall knowledge of today’s money markets.  Members meet once per month and the club is open to anyone interested in attending.

NAVCENT Command Master Chief (CMDCM) Eddie Knight said Sailors need to spend more time investing in themselves and their future.

“Only five percent of enlisted personnel are investing in the Thrift Savings Program (TSP),” said Knight. “TSP is an avenue that allows us to save money over a period of time that is set aside for our future; why not take advantage of this opportunity?”

According to American Family Financial Statistics, the average American household has a savings of $3,800, while maintaining a debt of $117,000.  More than 40 percent of Americans are not saving for retirement and have a credit card debt of $2,200.

Attendees not only gain information from each other, but are also visited by representatives from Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) and the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC).

NFCU offers financial programs designed to help Sailors, including free counseling that focuses on productive, preventive, and remedial forms of financial management.  FFSC offers one-on-one financial counseling where Sailors learn about budgeting, home buying, checkbook management, and how to successfully manage finances during deployments.

“We want to set people up for success,” said Knight.  “If someone doesn’t save or decides not to properly invest their earnings, then what would happen if the Navy says that we no longer need your services because of downsizing and that person is out of a job.  There are three things that I look for when a service member decides to get out of the military.  I ask them if they have at least a two-year college degree, a vehicle that is paid for, and at least $25,000 to $50,000 in liquid assets.  This way, at least that person is prepared for what awaits them in the outside world.”

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.  NAVCENT’s mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


LCU Sailors Transport Marines

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes, Boxer Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait – Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1648, attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), transported Sailors and Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to the shores of Camp Patriot, Kuwait, for sustainment training exercises, Oct. 18-19.

The evolution lasted two days and involved the ship-to-shore movement of service members along with their equipment and vehicles.

“Our job is to take the Marines from the ship to the beach. The first offload has the BMU (Beach Master Unit), and we stay on the beach while the LCU goes back to the ship,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Allen Soto. “The LCU can carry a lot of equipment back and forth, but they [Marines] have so much stuff, it takes a couple days to complete.”

To speed up the transfer of equipment and cargo from Harpers Ferry to the LCU, a “stern-gate marriage” process is sometimes used. This is where the boat and ship connect gate-to-gate, creating a platform where vehicles and passengers can enter the LCU without the LCU entering the ship.

LCU Sailors worked from sunrise to sunset making sure the job was completed successfully.

“Yesterday we started at 3 a.m. We transferred roughly 66 pallets today, and we’re getting 267 people from the ship,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Pamela Burns. “We can fill up the main deck and fit about 330 people on an offload.”

LCU 1648 is equipped with living accommodations including berthing for 15 personnel, bathrooms and a galley. Some missions require Sailors to stay overnight aboard the craft, while most nights it returns to its home in Harpers Ferry’s well deck.

Harpers Ferry is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th MEU, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


PHIBRON Deputy visits Harpers Ferry

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes, USS Harpers Ferry Public Affairs

ARABIAN SEA – Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) leadership visited the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), Dec. 2, to tour the ship and gain insight from Sailors.

Capt. Keith Moore, deputy commander, Amphibious Squadron One (PHIBRON 1) exchanged a typical ship tour for a comprehensive walkthrough aimed at finding out more about the Harpers Ferry Sailors. He asked them questions about morale, day-to-day operations and what his team could do to help them more effectively carry out their missions.

“On a scale of one to 10, I would give this ship a 12.5,” said Moore. “I walked around and all the Sailors seemed happy. Everyone was motivated. That means leadership is doing their part.”

Moore brought a team of leading chiefs and petty officers with him who also talked with Sailors and toured the spaces.

PHIBRON 1 Senior Enlisted Leader Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Shane Lazio said that after touring the engineering plant he could see many improvements.

“It’s a beautiful space down there,” said Lazio. “You can really tell the Sailors are motivated and take pride in what they do.”

Sailors got a chance to interact with Moore and his team and answered questions about improving the ship and building morale.

“It was a really cool thing that he just stepped into our lounge and looked around and asked what improvements would make it better,” said Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Joycelyn Bullard. “I really felt honored to give my feedback.”

Moore and his staff shadowed berthing inspections, engineering spot checks, and flight deck operations.

“I’m very proud of the Harpers Ferry Sailors,” added Lazio. “These guys are really rocking and rolling.”


U.S., French Navies Work Together to Ensure Security, Stability

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By USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN – Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) began combined operations with the French navy’s Task Force 473 in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) Dec. 29.

HST CSG, comprised of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); guided-missile cruisers USS Gettysburg (CG 64) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56); and guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Hopper (DDG 70) and USS Mason (DDG 87); is operating with the French navy’s Task Force 473 to enhance cooperation and interoperability in the region.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our ships, Sailors and Marines to work together and gain a better understanding of each other,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander, HST CSG. “Our operations with Task Force 473 will increase both of our maritime capabilities while helping promote long-term stability in the region.”

The French ships include aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), destroyers FS Forbin (D 620) and FS Jean de Vienne (D 643) and replenishment oiler FS Meuse (A 607).

"This mission is a big challenge,” said Rear Adm. Eric Chaperon, commander, Task Force 473. “France and the USA have been partners for a longtime, but with this new and rare opportunity to integrate two CSGs, our cooperation is becoming ever closer. All of our sailors are really proud to have a role to play in building the operational interoperability of our two nations."

In addition to conducting combined maritime security operations, ships from the two navies have participated in a variety of training and operations together including visit, board, search and seizure training; live-fire gunnery exercises, small boat operations, deck-landing qualifications, underway replenishments, combat search and rescue training and air defense exercises. U.S. and French personnel have also traveled to visit counterparts on the other ships, sharing techniques and experiences.

“Not only is this a great opportunity to conduct operations with a close and trusted ally, this is a great time to learn from each other,” said Sweeney. “There are a lot of similarities in the way we operate across the different platforms, but there are also some differences.
Understanding those differences will make both of us better, stronger, and enable us to operate with each other, and with other navies, more effectively. Our presence goes a long way in reassuring our regional partners and allies.”

The commanding officers of both aircraft carriers also recognize the opportunity the two navies have to learn from each other.  

 “This mission is a decisive opportunity to share knowledge and build upon our friendship in order to be able to successfully handle future contingencies together,” said Capt. Pierre Vandier, commanding officer, FS Charles de Gaulle. It is also an opportunity to check our interoperability that allows a lot of common procedures and aircraft exchanges."

Capt. Bob Roth, commanding officer, Harry S. Truman, fully appreciates the opportunity to work closely with a longtime partner.

“It’s a rare and very fulfilling experience to sail alongside and operate closely with another aircraft carrier, especially a CVN from a navy with whom we have so many lasting personnel exchange programs,” he said. “I think we’re going to further develop our already deep trust and mutual operational understanding.”


CMC, SGTMAJ Visit 13th MEU

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By Sgt. Jennifer Pirante, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps; Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, the 17th sgt. maj. of the Marine Corps; and distinguished guests visited the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), Dec. 27, to thank Marines and Sailors assigned to 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), for their service.

Just days after visiting troops in Afghanistan during Christmas Eve, Amos, with his wife Bonnie, Barrett and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer continued their holiday venture to wish a Merry Christmas and happy holidays to the Marines and Sailors deployed halfway around the world aboard Boxer.

Marines and Sailors gathered on the flight deck where Amos spoke to them about warrior ethos and praised them for their selfless service during the holidays.

“We want you to know that we care deeply for you and the fact that you are away from your family,” Amos said.

Bonnie Amos, “First Lady of the Marine Corps,” thanked the Marines for their service and reminded Marines and Sailors to thank loved ones back home who also serve on the homefront while their warriors are away.

“There’s no other place on the planet that we want to be or that we should be during this special time of the year than right here,” Barrett said. “We’re privileged that we get to serve in this capacity, and we’re humbled that you do serve because you could be doing anything that you wanted in your life; so I’m blown away and I’m humbled.”

The Commandant’s visit coincides with his “Reawakening Tour,” during which he and Barrett seek to “return to our roots…to those time-tested policies and orders that we intuitively know are right.”

Barrett said that out of an estimated 310 million Americans in the United States, four percent of the nation wears a military uniform and less than one tenth of a single percent will ever wear the uniform of the United States Marine.

“You chose to be tougher people and to make a difference,” he said. “The great tragedy in life is not death; it’s not having a purpose. If you look at our young history – 237 years old,” he continued. “That’s how old our nation is. This is the first time we have ever been at war this long; we are going on our 13th year. Never in our nation’s history have we fought this long with an all-volunteer force.”

Meyer, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, also addressed the crowd. When asked about his award, Meyer admitted that he did not want to accept it because “it’s not about me,” he said.

“It’s just as much yours as it is mine,” Meyer said as he insisted that anyone who wears the uniform would have done the same thing in that situation.

Marines and Sailors took turns taking photos with Amos, Barrett, and Meyer before their departure.

Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer ARG and, with the embarked 13th MEU, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Chief of Navy Reserve Visits Sailors in Bahrain

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Lt. j.g. Alex Cornell de Houx and Ensign David Copley, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Vice Adm. Robin R. Braun, chief of Navy Reserve, commander, Navy Reserve Force, arrived in Bahrain Dec. 22, as part of a region-wide trip to thank mobilized Sailors for their service and listen to ideas from the fleet.

Following a stop in Djibouti, Braun spent two days in Bahrain meeting with Sailors and holding question and answer sessions.

“I’m here to thank all of you. It’s the holiday season, and you’re out here doing the work your Navy and your country, have asked you to do,” said Braun during an all-hands call with Reserve Sailors.

More than 3,000 members of the Navy Reserve are currently mobilized, leaving behind their families, friends and civilian jobs to support the Navy across the globe.  

"Navy Reserve Sailors have continued to answer the call. Almost 80 percent of our mobilizations are filled by volunteers. It really shows the commitment of our Sailors," said Braun.  

In discussions with Sailors, Braun emphasized how the Reserve community is working hand in hand with active duty Sailors to achieve the three tenets of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

“The CNO expects our priorities to be warfighting first, operating forward, and being ready. My goal is to get the skill sets in places the Navy needs. We need to have every Sailor ready to go if the Navy calls on us; whether it’s for one Sailor or 1,000 Sailors," said Braun.

Another major purpose of her trip was to hear the views of mobilized Sailors and Marines.

"The best ideas always come from the deckplate, not from the halls of the Pentagon," said Braun. “We are always looking at ways to improve and provide the tools necessary for Sailors’ quality of work, life and service.”

Braun also explained how the Navy’s “Total Force team” of active duty and Reserve Sailors, their families and employers combine to help Sailors effectively accomplish their mission. 

Following her discussion with Sailors and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) leadership, Braun departed Bahrain to continue her Middle East tour.

NAVCENT is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. NAVCENT’s mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. Central Command AOR.


Mason Cruises Through Halfway Day

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rob Aylward, USS Mason Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN - The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) reached the approximate midpoint of its deployment, Dec. 6, while conducting maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden.

Halfway day is often celebrated aboard a ship with a cake cutting ceremony, relaxing at a steel beach picnic or sitting down to a special feast in honor of the deployment milestone.  However, Mason Sailors were busy and hard at work.

“The crew lives up to their motto of ‘proudly we serve’ every day,” said Command Master Chief Eric Hovik. “These Sailors have shown tremendous resilience and continue to capitalize on every opportunity to showcase their talent and professionalism.”

Mason’s deployment has been a myriad of different events and operations including multi-national counter piracy exercises, including the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), a combined search and rescue exercise (SAREX) with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, and maritime security operations.

“Watching U.S. and partner nations’ sailors work side by side during the counter piracy exercises was fantastic,” said Cmdr. Wilson Marks, Mason’s commanding officer. “We may come from different places and speak different languages, but at the end of the day, we illustrated our common interest in protecting the maritime domain.”

“HSM-74’s leadership and I saw an opportunity to do some unique training,” said Ensign Timothy McDaniel, Mason’s deck division officer. “It’s satisfying to take an idea for an exercise like SAREX, put a plan on paper, and see the events executed with such competency right before your eyes.”

For many Sailors aboard Mason, the first half of deployment has been an opportunity to gain skills in their career field as well as complete qualification programs. Since leaving Norfolk on July 22, 21 Sailors have earned the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualification and 13 who joined Mason’s crew during deployment have re-qualified their ESWS for the guided-missile destroyer platform.

“I’m very happy with the ESWS program participation so far,” said Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ryan Markham, Mason’s ESWS program coordinator. “We are ahead of our goal for this point in the cruise. I believe we can double the current numbers by the time we return home.”

Mason Sailors are taking full advantage of their deployment.

“Deployment is a great time to get qualifications since the ship is at sea and fully operational,” said Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Electrical) 2nd Class Samie Paloukos. “There are fewer qualifications I can earn when the ship is moored in Norfolk so I’m focused on making my time out here count.”

As busy as the first half of deployment has been for the crew, it has not been without opportunities to experience culture and strengthen maritime partnerships. Mason has completed port visits to Amsterdam, Netherlands,; Eilat, Israel; and Aqaba, Jordan.

“To see the site of the crucifixion in Jerusalem and walk through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jason Noah. “Bobbing in the Dead Sea with my shipmates was also a lot of fun. I’m glad our morale, welfare and recreation team was able to make arrangements for us.”

While many Sailors are taking a moment to measure the distance to homeport on their calendars, nourishing a team mentality for the mission ahead remains the focus for the crew and its leaders.

“I believe we will continue to become an even more efficient, tightly knit command throughout the remainder of deployment,” said Hovik. “This cohesion will help prepare us for the post-deployment maintenance phase in the yards, which is often the most challenging period in a ship’s life cycle.”

McDaniel echoed Hovik’s thoughts.

“The team I work with has a fire that’s infectious,” said McDaniel.  “Their level of motivation amazes me. I’m excited to be closer to heading home but I’m also excited to be out here doing my job with these Sailors.”

Mason is currently deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Bulkeley Reaches Midway Point in Deployment

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN –, The guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) reached the halfway mark of its deployment with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG), early December.

Bulkeley and HST CSG left their homeport in Norfolk, July 22, for a nine-month deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

From maritime exercises involving both civilian and international partners to helping maintain diplomatic ties with partner nations, Bulkeley has participated in several exercises, strengthening the partnerships with regional nations while conducting operational training in and out of the Arabian Gulf.

“There has been an extremely high demand on the crew based on the number of exercises with naval units of multiple countries,” said Lt. Cameron Ingram, Bulkeley’s operations officer. “The crew has done outstanding handling the extra responsibilities.”

Ingram says the numerous exercises Bulkeley took part in have had a positive impact on the crew.

“We’re certainly more ready, tactically and operationally, for any sort of requirement we may be tasked with,” said Ingram. “Our watchstanding proficiency has greatly increased because we have been able to exercise our skills.”

Thus far, Bulkeley has conducted diplomatic visits and training exercises with the navies and governments of Ukraine, Georgia, South Korea, Japan and Egypt.

“I’m confident we’re going to finish this deployment as strong as we started it,” said Cmdr. Matt Phillips, commanding officer of Bulkeley. “We have completed several, large-scale international exercises over the last four months and the crew has performed exceptionally.”

Bulkeley had the opportunity to host Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili as well as Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili along with several local government and military officials aboard for a reception.

During port visits, Bulkeley Sailors participated in volunteer projects with local communities. These included helping to restore an orphanage in Sevastopol, Ukraine, and a public park in Batumi, Georgia. In addition, Bulkeley’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team traded tactics and training with boarding teams from both nations.

“It was a learning experience to see how other people operate,” said Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Benjamin Wagner, a member of Bulkeley’s VBSS team. “We learned that everybody does things differently, from movement to tactics all around the world.”

Although deployment for Bulkeley has been challenging with so many exercises, Sailors like Wagner feel a sense of elation and accomplishment with the end in sight.

“I’ve been told the second half of deployment goes a lot quicker so we’ll roll right along until we’re home,” said Wagner.

Bulkeley is currently deployed as part of HST CSG conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


USS Mason VBSS Completes MIO Phase

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By Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Kristen Nicolas

GULF OF ADEN - The visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) completed their maritime interdiction operations (MIO) phase in the Gulf of Aden, Nov. 25.

Mason’s VBSS team patrolled the area in rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), conducting approach and assist visits as well as compliant boardings aboard fishing dhows in the vicinity.

“We strive to increase relations with local mariners by keeping the waterways safe,” said Lt. j.g Jeffery Fasoli, Mason’s gunnery officer. “Not only do we offer assistance, but our goal is to combat piracy, terrorism, and both human and drug trafficking.”

To guarantee a safe and secure environment, intelligence from local mariners is used to search for suspicious activities.

“When performing a boarding, we are building a relationship and learning about the needs of that particular crew,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Doug Sinclair. “When you’re able to gain a boat master’s trust, they are more willing to give you information.”

VBSS team actions not only deter acts of aggression in the gulf but also assist in creating a more complete intelligence picture for strike groups and task forces operating in the area.

“Mason’s VBSS team’s mission is to support the maritime strategy of our country,” said Chief Gunner’s Mate James Bangert. “With piracy being a constant threat on the high seas, we do our part in ensuring the sea lanes are open for trade while protecting our allies' interests as well as our own.”

In preparation for Mason’s MIO phase, the team conducted several training evolutions that included exercises with the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56).

“Working together with San Jacinto is a testament to our unity in training and execution,” said Bangert. “We provided realistic scenarios that forced each team to enhance their training. This training enabled us to reinforce compliance of ship personnel during boardings and ensure everyone is safe while executing the mission.”

Mason is currently deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


CTF-52 Begins Mine Countermeasures Exercise

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By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

ARABIAN GULF – Commander, Task Force (CTF) 52 began a mine countermeasures (MCM) exercise with Royal Navy forces in the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 8.

The exercise will be conducted in the Gulf and will go through Dec. 18.

During that time, CTF-52 will be continuing to improve skills in a mix of manned and unmanned MCM systems, like SeaFox, MK 18 underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) and other emerging MCM technologies.  Bilateral exercises improve the teamwork between the U.S. and its partners, bolstering an already strong MCM presence in the region.

CTF-52 is the commander of mine warfare forces in the region.  They conducted nine exercises last year, eight of which were alongside their Royal Navy counterparts.

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) area of responsibility encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea.  This expanse includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.


CVW-3 Changes Command

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By USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY - Command of Carrier Air Wing 3 changed hands during a change of command ceremony on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Dec. 22.

Capt. Sara Joyner, commander, CVW-3 (CAG), was relieved by the air wing’s deputy commander (DCAG), Capt. George Wikoff, during the ceremony.

Joyner led CVW-3 through pre-deployment carrier qualifications and more than half of  Harry S. Truman’s 2013-2014 deployment, during which, the air wing’s squadrons have flown more than 8,900 hours and 1,500 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. CVW-3 has logged more than 19,700 flight hours and 7,000 sorties since the start of Harry S. Truman’s deployment July 22.

While she said there are many memorable moments of the deployment, Joyner said it was the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group’s  delayed deployment in February that truly defines the spirit of the air wing and strike group. The delay was a result of sequestration and a change in aircraft carrier requirements in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“I  asked that we make the best out of what was no doubt a huge challenge for us but also an opportunity to increase our readiness, better prepare our families and deploy as a better, more capable team,” she said. “When I flew aboard in an FA-18 July 22, to begin our deployment, the energy was back, the teamwork was there and there was no doubt that our warfighting capabilities were honed. I can’t be more proud of the Battle Axe and Truman team - they weathered the storm, seized the opportunity and triumphed over adversity.” 

Joyner spoke highly of Wikoff as he prepared to take command of CVW-3.

“Capt. Wikoff is one of the most dedicated and capable officers I have had the pleasure of working with during my 24-year career,” she said.  “I know that he along with his DCAG, Capt. [Jeffrey] Anderson, will make an incredibly effective team.  He has clear vision, understands where to take the air wing next and sets a high bar.” 

Joyner will be assigned to Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

Wikoff, who has deployed six times on four different aircraft carriers, had previously served as commanding officer for Strike Fighter Squadron 122, and both attended and instructed at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as “Top Gun”.

“CAG Joyner will leave a legacy of leadership grounded in a genuine respect and  appreciation for the contributions by every member of the Battle Axe Team,” he said. “ I am excited to be a member of this high performing team and look forward to the next 18 months as CAG.  We will remain focused on the tasks at hand, supporting Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors on the ground in Afghanistan with the precision in execution demanded on every sortie.”

Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.


Gettysburg Sailor Receives Surprise Gift from Non-profit Organization

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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson, Public Affairs, USS Gettysburg (CG 64)

GULF OF OMAN – Three volunteers from the non-profit organization Operation Gratitude visited Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) Dec. 12.

Each Sailor aboard Gettysburg received a care package during the visit.

The volunteers, including the organization’s founder, Carolyn Blashek, presented Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW) Brook Oekerman with their one-millionth care package assembled for donation to service members, veterans, wounded warriors and family members around the world.

“This was an event ten years in the making,” said Capt. Brad Cooper, commanding officer, USS Gettysburg. “It’s an incredibly selfless act for these individuals to volunteer their time to travel around the world to provide for Sailors.”

The one-millionth care package included a new Ford F-150 pickup truck, a home entertainment system and various other gifts.

“This was truly unexpected; I’m honored to be the one-millionth person to receive a care package from Operation Gratitude,” said Oekerman. “I know so many Sailors are deserving of this honor and such an amazing gift.”

Carolyn Blashek founded Operation Gratitude in 2003. The non-profit organization sends nearly 100,000 care packages a year to deployed service members, veterans, wounded warriors and families. Each care package contains snacks, hygiene products, letters and entertainment. Blashek said the boxes serve to improve the moral of each service-member.

“These care packages are a way for us to show support and gratitude to all our veterans, wounded warriors and service-members protecting our freedoms and way of life in America,” said Blashek. “Our mission at Operation Gratitude is to lift the moral of each service-member by providing them a care package as a small token of appreciation for all they do.”

Oekerman said she hopes that Operation Gratitude can continue the trend of providing for service-members and their families for years to come.

“Receiving a care package shows that someone cares, and that’s important when away from family,” said Oekerman. “I would tell them to keep doing what they’re doing because their contributions are making a difference within each branch of service.”

Gettysburg is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


Ponce Holds Change of Command

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By Commander, Task Force 51 Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – The afloat forward staging base (interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) held a change of command ceremony in Bahrain, Dec. 5.

Capt. Dale Maxey relieved Capt. Jon Rodgers as commanding officer of the ship.

Brig. Gen. Gregg P. Olson, commander, Task Force (CTF) 51, delivered the welcoming remarks and praised Rodgers.

“Your crew’s accomplishments have been nothing short of exemplary,” said Olson. “I have valued your service. I’m proud of your ship and your crew, and I wish you the very best as you graduate to a well-earned major command.

Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, presented the presiding officer address and commended the crew’s accomplishments.

“J.R., you can be very proud of what you and this amazing crew have accomplished in a very short time,” Miller said.  “I am very fond of this ship, very proud of your success and very appreciative of your tireless devotion to your crew and this mission. Thank you.”

Under Rodgers, Ponce continuously provided a platform for fleet and other service components to exercise capabilities and ensure safety and security for mariners and partners in the region. Rodgers credited his crew for his successful tour.

“When I think back to the state of this ship 20 months ago and then look at it today, I simply burst with satisfaction,” Rodgers said. “Her success is because of the hard work, maturity, and patriotism of the people. Always bet on the people!”

Miller welcomed Maxey and shared encouragement with the crew.

“Captain Maxey, I know you are ready for this command and eager to embrace the future as we continue to integrate and expand this capability into our fleet,” Miller said. “To the crew of USS Ponce, you too should be proud of these accomplishments. You provide an invaluable option to our nation. Stay committed to the mission; stay dedicated to our role here in this vital region.”

After assuming command, Maxey thanked Rodgers for leaving the ship well prepared and announced to leadership that Ponce is ready for duty.

“We’ll pick up the ball, build on what’s been done and take it to the next level,” Maxey said. “General Olson, Admiral Miller, Ponce is ready to answer all bells.”


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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 21, 2014) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) Airman Chelsey Fucito gathers a fuel hose on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 16, 2014) Sailors and Marines run a 5k on the flight deck on board the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 16, 2014) Airman Mark Spencer, right, and Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Airman Drayton Pelham, assigned to the “Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron 32, wash an F/A-18F Super Hornet on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 13, 2014) Seaman Maverick Melton grinds paint off a railing on the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 12, 2014) Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Jordan Varneau attaches a pendant to a cargo pallet on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a replenishment-at-sea. Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Feb. 12, 2014) Vice Adm. John W. Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, center right, speaks with Lt. Austin Long, CCB officer in charge, about the deck capabilities of the coastal command boat (CCB) during a visit. The CCB allows for greater capability to dominate the littorals, reinforce the blue water and gives the 5th Fleet commander more options to achieve these objectives. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Danielle Brandt/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Feb. 10, 2014) Electronics Technician 2nd Class Andrew Garcia, right, and Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Chris Stout, handle a line while the Coastal Command Boat (CCB) is lifted from the pier and into the water. The CCB arrived in its homeport of Bahrain Feb. 8 The CCB allows for greater capability to dominate the littorals and reinforce the blue water by providing the 5th Fleet commander more options to achieve these objectives. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Feb. 10, 2014) Chief Engineman Sam Pona checks the generator and main diesel engines in the engine room aboard the Coastal Command Boat (CCB), before conducting a refueling run. The CCB arrived to its homeport of Bahrain on Feb. 8. The CCB allows for greater capability to dominate the littorals and reinforce the blue water by providing the 5th Fleet commander more options to achieve these objectives. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 1, 2014) Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Timothy Lumpkin practices "Taps" on the aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Feb. 1, 2014) Lance Cpl. Thunder Higginbotham, assigned to the “Checkerboards” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, performs maintenance on the nose landing gear on an F/A-18C Hornet in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 31, 2014) American and French aircraft fly above the aircraft carriers USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91). Harry S. Truman, part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with units assigned to French Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor DiMartino/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 29, 2014) Rear Adm. James T. Loeblein, deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, stands inside an information systems room during a tour aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui (WPB 1304). Loeblein spent the morning visiting Maui and the patrol coastal ship USS Typhoon (PC 5). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 28, 2014) Cpl. Charles Floyd, assigned to Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Company, Central Command (FASTCENT), 3rd Platoon, practices counters of chokes and holds as part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). FASTCENT's mission is to provide limited duration expeditionary anti-terrorism and security forces in support of U.S. 5th Fleet operations, to protect vital naval and national assets. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 28, 2014) Marines assigned to Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Company, Central Command (FASTCENT), 4th Platoon, Charlie Co. participate in small boat training with Coastal Riverine Squadron 3. FASTCENT's mission is to provide limited duration expeditionary anti-terrorism and security forces in support of U.S. 5th Fleet operations, to protect vital naval and national assets. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Danielle Brandt/Released)

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ARABIAN SEA (Jan. 23, 2014) Lt. Cmdr. Pamela Donovan and Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Matthew Vitello, inspect a space during a zone inspection aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Knight/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan.22, 2014) A Riverine Command Boat assigned to Commander, Task Group 56.7, transits the Arabian Gulf during exercise Falcon Defender. Falcon Defender is a multinational exercise in which Bahrain, U.K. and U.S. forces work together to protect a high value unit against small boat threats. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon E. Renfroe/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 21, 2014) Members of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Corps Drums perform aboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain. The band performed throughout Bahrain as part of GREAT British Week, an event to commemorate the unique friendship and working relationship that exists between the U.K. and Bahrain. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 20, 2014) U.S. Coast Guardsmen assigned Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) remove trash during a cleanup effort in front of Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain. The community relations (COMREL) project commemorated the life of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique/Released)

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MANAMA, Bahrain (Jan. 20, 2014) Seaman Travis Brownlee removes a line from bitts in the forecastle aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenan O’Connor/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 19, 2014) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Jerrell Cunningham reenacts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony on board the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 18, 2014) Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Zachariah Roberts, assigned to the “Seahawks” of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126, maintains slack on tie-down chains while an E-2C Hawkeye is lifted on jacks in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (JANUARY 17, 2014) Lance Cpl. Joshua Barnett, a machine gun team leader assigned to 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provides security with his M240B medium machine gun while conducting training at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The 13th MEU is deployed with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 17, 2014) Sailors fight a simulated fire during a general quarters (GQ) drill in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). GQ drills prepare Sailors for the highest state of readiness in the event of actual casualties. Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Blagoj B. Petkovski/Released)

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MANAMA, Bahrain (Jan. 17, 2014) Vice Admiral John Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, speaks with Bahrain Minister of State for Defence Affairs, His Excellency Lt. General Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, a representative for the king of Bahrain, during a reception held aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) for the Bahrain International Air Show. USS Boxer is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steven A. Zurell/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller speaks to Marines during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller greets a Sailor during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller greets a U.S. Marine Corps pilot during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller speaks a Marine Corps pilot during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller speaks to Marines during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014)- Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller holds a conversation with His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller answers media queries, during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014)- Deputy Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Rear Adm. James Loeblein boards a vintage fighter jet during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller greets Sailors during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller speaks to a U.S. Marine Corps pilot during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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SAKHIR AIR BASE, Bahrain (Jan. 16, 2014) - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John W. Miller speaks to Marines during the Bahrain International Air Show 2014. The air show enables the U.S. military to cultivate relationships with military members from partner nations, as well as industry professionals, while enhancing our interoperability and demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 15, 2014) Super Etendards, attached to the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), fly above the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with units assigned to French Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 15, 2014) Sailors assigned to the crash and salvage team transport the mobile salvage crane on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 14, 2014) Sailors take a Navy wide advancement exam on the mess decks of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenan O’Connor/Released)

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 14, 2014) First class petty officers and observing chief petty officers, prepare for the start of the cycle 222 active-duty exam. More than 35,000 active duty first class petty officers are scheduled to take the exam Navywide. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright/Released)

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ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 13, 2014) An EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron 130, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

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CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait (Jan. 12, 2014) Equipment and Marines are offloaded from the landing craft utility (LCU) 1648 during a ship-to-shore transfer from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) while conducting training in Kuwait. Harpers Ferry is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes/Released)

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GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 12, 2014) A rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) transits toward the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) prior to a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). Mason is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rob Aylward/Released)

USS MASON (DDG 87)_140112-N-PW661-042

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 12, 2014) A Marine assigned to 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), performs a search aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) during a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise. Mason is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rob Aylward/Released)

USS HARPERS FERRY (LSD 49)_140112-N-TQ272-143

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 12, 2014) Sailors tighten chains in the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). Harpers Ferry is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes/Released)

USS MASON (DDG 87)_140112-N-PW661-077

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 12, 2014) A Marine assigned to 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), provides security aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) as his teammate boards the ship from a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) during a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise. Mason is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd ClassRob Aylward/Released)

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)_140110-N-ZG705-334

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 10, 2014) F/A-18C Hornets, assigned to the “Checkerboards” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, prepare to be transported from the aircraft elevator to the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140108-N-RY581-034

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 8, 2014) Seaman Maverick Melton removes primer from a railing on a weather deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Emily M. Blair/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140107-N-LH273-015

USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56)_140107-N-LN619-061

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 7, 2014) - Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team members aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) practice rifle-handling techniques on the fantail. San Jacinto is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan/Released)

USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56)_140107-N-LN619-035

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 7, 2014) –Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Kenneth Marsh, left, and Damage Controlman 2nd Class Isaac Adams, both part of the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), prepare to enter a hatch during a VBSS training exercise. San Jacinto is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan/Released)

USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56)_140107-N-LN619-032

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 7, 2014) – Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Yza Evangelista, part of the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) looks though the scope of an M-4 assault rifle during a VBSS training exercise. San Jacinto is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140105-N-ZG705-1245

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 5, 2014) Airman Isaac Grosfeldkatz, assigned to the “Seahawks” of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126, washes an E-2C Hawkeye on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

USS HARPERS FERRY (LSD 49)_140105-N-TQ272-056

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 5, 2014) Sailors assigned to the visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) come along a dhow near Harpers Ferry in the Arabian Gulf. Harpers Ferry is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140105-N-ZG705-401

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 5, 2014) Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Stephen Temple scrubs the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karl Anderson/Released)

USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56)_140105-N-LN619-205

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 5, 2014) Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Shane Hempfield signals the pilot of an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter to launch from the flight deck of the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56). San Jacinto is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan/Released)

USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56)_140104-N-LN619-242

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 4, 2014) – The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) sails through bioluminescent algae in the Arabian Gulf. San Jacinto is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan/Released)

USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56)_140104-N-LN619-106

U.S. 5th FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Jan. 4, 2014) –The Charles de Gaulle, flagship for the Task Force 473, front, and the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) transit of the Straits of Hormuz. San Jacinto, part of the Harry S. Strike Group, is conducting operations with ships assigned to French Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Preston Paglinawan/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140103-N-CL550-491

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 3, 2014) The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) sail alongside the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550), left, and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), flagship for Task Force 473. Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140103-N-IG780-065

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 3, 2014) The Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550), right, sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shane A. Jackson/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140103-N-QI228-508

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 3, 2014) The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), flagship for Task Force 473, sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550) . Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan M. Schumacher/Released)

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75)_140103-N-CL550-634

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 3, 2014) The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), flagship for Task Force 473, sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550). Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino/Released)

USS GETTYSBURG (CG 64)_140102-N-PL185-016

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 2, 2014) Operations Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Jones plots a course on board the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). Gettysburg, part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with ships assigned to French Task Force 472 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson/Released)

USS GETTYSBURG (CG 64)_140102-N-PL185-047

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 2, 2014) Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 2nd Class Cori Johnson performs maintenance on an emergency diesel generator on board the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). Gettysburg, part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with ships assigned to French Task Force 472 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson/Released)

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