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RECON: Secrets of the Sea

USS MONITOR STILL STEAMS ABOUT BROOKLYN

By: Terese Schlachter,  “RECON” Producer

 

The caps are natty – saucy, even.

Presumably conceived in the mid 1800’s, they can be seen these days perched upon the heads of many a Brooklyn elementary school student.  The fashionistas recommending the donning are the guardians of the USS Monitor Museum Road Show.

George Weinmann and his wife, Janice believe it’s important for children to learn about their community. Greenpoint, Brooklyn is the northernmost neighborhood in the NYC burough of Brooklyn.  It’s well stocked with German, Irish and Polish descendants of immigrant glass and pottery makers.  Singer Pat Benatar is from there.  It’s also where the USS Monitor, one of the nation’s first ironclad ships was built and launched.

If you watched the newest “RECON” on the Pentagon Channel (Secrets of the Sea) you know the USS Monitor was widely viewed as a comical little ship that would likely not even float once it hit the sea, as it was made of iron.  But only a few months after her successful launch in January of 1862 she took part in a decisive battle against the CSS Virginia, using her state-of-the-art rotating turret and guns to keep Confederate ships at bay at the Battle of Hampton Roads.  Victorious in war, she sank several months later in a storm off Cape Hatteras, not to be discovered on the ocean floor until 1973.

George Weinmann says she saved the Union.  When she went down, she almost took his cousin with her.

Grenville Weeks was the Surgeon General aboard who escaped, and later provided Atlantic Monthly with a beautifully told rendition of the little ship’s sinking.

“For an hour or more we watched … the lonley light upon the Monitor’s turret, a hundred times we thought it gone forever a hundred times it reappeared, ‘til at last about two o’clock Wednesday morning it sank and we saw it no more.”

“Weeks grew up in Manhattan… he went out west and was with the Indian wars taking care of the men out there, “ George told me during a luncheon for Monitor descendants on the day two sets of crew remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  “They said he was a little snobbish or whatever but that’s what doctors – they think they know pretty much everything.  He got along with everybody basically.”

George and Janice have a ship’s history without a port. So they pile their USS Monitor road show into their car and travel to schools and cemeteries – wherever anyone wants to learn about the nation’s semi- famous little ironclad and the man who designed her,  John Ericsson.   They bring the uniform hats, the jackets, a model of the ship and other teaching tools.  Eventually they hope to build a museum. 

To Watch Secret of the Sea part 1 click here.

To Watch Secret of the Sea part 2 click here.

Posted in Lifestyle.

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For a Kurd from Kurdistan, Iraq Freedom much more than a word

by Guest Blogger Zamawang Almemar, Air Force Contractor.

Zamawang Almemar stands next to a Bradley, what used to be her biggest fear, at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Zamawang Almemar stands next to a Bradley, what used to be her biggest fear, at Fort Carson, Colorado.

He kissed me on my forehead and said, “I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, but I have to go and fight for our freedom.” It was at that moment when I realized the true meaning of the word ‘freedom’, the reason for all the bloodshed, and why I may never see my brother again.

 The year was 1991, when the Kurdish uprising was taking place. It was the year when every Kurd from Kurdistan, northern Iraq, was fighting for his freedom against a regime that did not think twice about slaughtering its own people. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, enlisting in the military was not a voluntary act, it was mandatory, and those who refused were hanged. During his rule, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people were murdered, tortured, and chemically bombed. Being tired of his regime, the Kurds took to the mountains–the only friends they knew had their backs–to stand up and fight for their independence.Prior to the Kurdish uprising, and while our cities were being bombed by Saddam, my family and I sought refuge for days under a tree on the side of the road leading to the eastern border, along with thousands of other Kurds who were fleeing their homes. As I lay there on the ground, cold and barely holding on to life, with the only thing separating me from the soaked grass being a wet tarp, there was only one thing that kept me alive, Hope. Hope that someday Saddam would be gone and we would be free. Hope that my brother would come back and for us to live like a ‘normal’ family with no fear.

It was the year 1996 and the regime had announced a leave-or-die decree for those Kurds working with their American counter-parts. Upon his return from fighting a war, my brother started working with an American humanitarian organization that later helped us escape the tyranny of the regime. Arriving in Guam in 1997, there was only one place to relocate the many Kurds facing the atrocities of the regime, and that was Andersen Air Force Base, home of the 36th Wing. That was my first up-close and personal introduction to the American uniform. With the Soldiers smiling back at me, while the only English phrase I knew to communicate back to them was ‘Thank You!’ I knew that someday I would have much more interactions with the uniform.

It was then when I began to understand what it is that makes the United States of America one of the most powerful nations in the world. It is not the millions of people that mutually coexist despite their cultural differences; it is the strength of the American military, and the resilience of the American Soldier. Enlisting voluntarily in the military, the American Soldier stands ready to sacrifice his life in the name of freedom. And for someone who knows the meaning of that term all too well, knows that is no small price to pay.  

The strength of the American military especially became evident to me while I was volunteering at Fort Carson – Colorado Springs, Colorado for a few years, the place where we first touched down onto American soil after leaving Guam and received warm welcome from the Soldiers. Today, walking around the corridors of the Pentagon, one of the most powerful institutions, in my opinion, I get overwhelmed with the strength of the American military. There is an unbreakable bond between all the branches of the military, which extends to building relationships with war-torn countries such as Iraq.

Having mastered the English language, there is still only one phrase that comes to mind that captures my sense of gratitude towards the military for saving my country and for saving its people from the most violent criminal, and that is ‘Thank You!’

As we celebrate Independence Day with friends and family, let us not forget the Soldiers in and out of uniform, serving at home or overseas. Let us also celebrate the lives of those Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, while protecting their country and feeing another. No matter what corner of the Globe we come from, we are all fighting for the same cause, Freedom. And if each of us takes on a responsibility and plays the role of a counter-terrorist, I’m certain that in time we can win this war against terrorism and allow more countries to get a taste of freedom.

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Summer’s Arrived and It’s Time to Think About Safety

101 Critical Days of SummerFrom our friends at Navy, a reminder that while you’re having fun this summer, remember to be safe!

 

Summer Safety


By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Laura Hoover

ATLANTIC OCEAN  (NNS) — With summer fast approaching, Sailors aboard aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) are outside enjoying the various recreational activities that come with the warm weather.
It is important for Sailors to remember to enjoy outdoor activities in a responsible and safe manner, according to Truman’s medical department.
“Sailors have been cooped up inside for months,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW) Christopher Zanetti, Medical Department’s leading chief petty officer.  “It is very important to take precautions during the summer months because people spend a lot more time engaging in outdoor recreational activities.”
Heat stress is a major concern during the summer months said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (SW/AW) James Cooley.
“Avoiding an initial heat stress episode is vital because once your body experiences one heat related injury, it is more susceptible to having another incident in the future,” said Cooley. “If it took four hours for the initial one to occur, it is likely that the next episode will occur in two or three hours.”
Hydrating frequently and taking rests from the heat is key to avoiding heat related injuries said Cooley.
“Always have water with you. I can’t stress that enough,” he said. “Limit your Monsters and other energy drinks and make sure you are drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day, especially in the heat. Also make sure you are taking breaks out of the sun when it gets too hot.”
Summer on the shoreline can offer many different activities involving watersports, added Zanetti.
“Take the safety courses offered by the boating marinas in town,” he said said. “Don’t swim in an area without a lifeguard on post, pay attention to the safety signs around beaches, and know what the current is like before you go swimming.”
Alcohol is a key contributor to many accidents that occur during the summer months, said Zanetti.
“As the weather gets warmer, the biggest mistakes Sailors start to make is mixing risky recreational activities with alcohol,” said Zanetti. “More Sailors get hurt because they are not paying attention and do not have a plan.”
Part of having a plan when drinking includes always having a sober person in the group.
“If you are drinking, you should always have one sober Sailor with you,” said Cooley. “They should be your designated driver. It is so important to have someone with you to get everyone home safely.”
According to Zanetti, Truman leadership is taking proactive measures to ensure Sailors are making smart decisions with the approaching summer season.
“We have a safety stand-down coming up in the first week of May,” he said. “They are going to put out some great topics and everyone should pay close attention. It is a great idea to have divisional conversations and talk about everyone’s plans.”
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.

To read more from USS Harry S. Truman click here.

 

Posted in Lifestyle.

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Service Academy Graduations: Video on Demand

The Pentagon Channel will post video on demand links for those viewers who would like to revisit any of the five US Service Academy Graduations.

 

coast guard academyWatch the US Coast Guard Academy Graduation (May 22, 2013) here.

 

 

 

 

 

USNAWatch the US Naval Academy Graduation (May 24, 2013) Part One here.

Watch the US Naval Academy Graduation (May 24, 2013) Part Two here.

Watch the US Naval Academy Graduation (May 24, 2013) Part Three here.

 

 

 

West Point

Watch the US Military Academy Graduation (May 25, 2013) Part One here.

Watch the US Military Academy Graduation (May 25, 2013) Part Two here.

Watch the US Military Academy Graduation (May 25, 2013) Part Three here.

 

 

Air Force Academy

Watch the US Air Force Academy Graduation (May 29, 2013) Part One here.

Watch the US Air Force Academy Graduation (May 29, 2013) Part Two here.

Watch the US Air Force Academy Graduation (May 29, 2013) Part Three here.

 

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Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

SAPRO_Ribbon_Artwork_RGB_300dpiCommander in Chief, Barack Obama has proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.  From the Presidential Proclamation:

Each victim of sexual assault represents a sister or a daughter, a nephew or a friend.  We must break the silence so no victim anguishes without resources or aid in their time of greatest need.  We must continue to reinforce that America will not tolerate sexual violence within our borders.  Likewise, we will partner with countries across the globe as we work toward a common vision of a world free from the threat of sexual violence, including as a tool of conflict.  Working together, we can reduce the incidence of sexual assault and heal lives that have already been devastated by this terrible crime.

Read more information from the Department of Defense here.

DoD Safe Helpline: https://www.safehelpline.org

SAPR websites:

 

Posted in Lifestyle, Operations.

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Four ‘Present-Day’ Historic Landmarks for Military Women

By Elliott Fabrizio

Call it the glass camo-netting, or maybe the glass overhead for the Navy—Whichever you go with, women in the military are shattering it and all gender-related restrictions are crumbling away in today’s armed services.

Women have served alongside men in the military since the revolutionary war, but at first they were limited to non-combat, un-uniformed support roles. But women just couldn’t be kept out of the fight.

In 1779, Margaret Corbin manned a cannon during the Revolutionary War in place of her fallen husband until she, too, was wounded. For her valor, Congress bent the rules and granted her a military pension in 1779 (141 years before she could vote). The courage women displayed in combat defied the stereotypes of the times.

Through heroic acts like this, military women marched their way to gender equality one battlefield at a time.    

Now, if you pay attention, you’ll notice military women are wrapping up the final loose ends. March is Women’s History Month and, in honor, The Pentagon Channel blog presents the top 4 modern-day, historic landmarks for military women.

1.      Pentagon rescinds ban on women in combat units

We’re already in combat,” says Catherine Ross of Fort Carson. In her editorial on army.mil, Ross explains that policy does not prevent women from being in combat when they are forward-deployed despite whether their unit is combat or not.

The Pentagon was not blind to this fact.  Former defense secretary Robert Gates began the process of examining this disparity.

In a Q&A session with troops Gates said “I had some women complain to me in Afghanistan…that because they’re not in a combat [military occupational specialty], they haven’t had combat training, but they’re on combat patrol.”

Former defense secretary Leon Panetta made it official on Jan. 24, 2013. He announced the elimination of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for female service members.

“I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability, qualifications and on performance,” Panetta added.

2.      DoD designs body armor specifically for female Soldiers

BodyArmor

Now that women are officially in combat, it’s time to get them some body armor that fits.

Classed among TIME magazine’s best inventions of for the year 2012, female body armor is strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.  Sorry… that’s a deodorant slogan.  How about this?  Strong enough to save your life in combat, but made to fit securely and comfortably. 

Lynne Hennessey, as cited in army.mil, says she has received nothing but positive feedback from women testing the new body armor.

“We actually took a picture of one Soldier hugging her vest, like she was immediately in love with it,” Hennessey added.

3.      Women Sailors excel aboard subs

On December 5, 2012, three female officers became the first women to receive Dolphins—the nickname for the submarine warfare insignia.

The ban on women in submarines was lifted in 2010. And you can imagine the first women to go through the program were being watched carefully by all levels of brass and civilian media.

The professionalism and commitment that these female submariners demonstrate by earning their qualifications prove they’ve always had the ability to serve in these roles. It’s the policies that are catching up with them.

“Qualifying is a huge accomplishment for any submariner, and it feels no different for me, said Noonan.  

4.      First female four-star Army general retires

Dunwoody

After 38 years in uniform, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody retired on August 15, 2012.

Her retirement represents the realization of a significant milestone for women in the military, and is proof positive of the equal opportunity now available in today’s military.

Gen. Ray Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, said the following during her retirement, regarding her professional achievement and rank: “It wasn’t because you were a woman. It was because you were brilliant.”

For women in the military, barriers, restriction and limitations are falling away quickly and it’s the perfect time to etch your name in military history.

It’s only a matter time before we find out who will be the first female Submarine Captain, the first female in our current conflicts to be awarded the Medal of Honor, or the first female secretary of defense.

Posted in News.

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Sequestration and You: What You Need to Know

Pentagon BriefingDefense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has notified Congress that the Defense Department is prepared to implement furloughs for civilian personnel in response to the threat of sequestration.  From defense.gov reporter Jim Garamone:

In a memo to all employees, Panetta vowed to continue working with Congress to avoid sequestration, which would add $470 billion to the $487 billion in defense spending cuts the department already is making over the next 10 years. If Congress cannot agree on an alternative deficit reduction plan, the cuts go into effect March 1.

“In the event of sequestration, we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States,” Panetta wrote in the memo, “but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.”

Civilian employees will be furloughed if sequestration is triggered. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said last week that civilian employees could lose 20 percent of their normal income through September.

“Our most important asset at the department is our world-class personnel,” Panetta wrote. “You are fighting every day to keep our country strong and secure, and rest assured that the leaders of this department will continue to fight with you and for you.”

Learn more by clicking on the following links:

Read the Defense.gov web special on Sequestration here.

Read the Navy’s Rough Seas Ahead web special here.

 

Posted in Featured, News.

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Medal of Honor: Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha

President Barack Obama placed the Medal of Honor around the neck of former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha during a ceremony Feb. 11 in the East Room of the White House.  From Defense.gov:

Romesha is the fourth living service member to receive the medal for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. The former Soldier earned the Medal of Honor for actions Oct. 3, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.
On that morning, Combat Outpost, or COP, Keating, manned by only 53 Soldiers and situated at the bottom of a steep valley, came under attack by as many as 300 Taliban fighters.  During the fight, the perimeter of COP Keating was breached by the enemy. Romesha, who was injured in the battle, led the fight to protect the bodies of fallen Soldiers, provide cover to those Soldiers seeking medical assistance, and reclaim the American outpost that would later be deemed “tactically indefensible.”

“When I called Clint to tell him that he would receive this medal, he said he was honored, but he also said, ‘it wasn’t just me out there, it was a team effort,’” the president said. “And so today we also honor this American team, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Included among those who died in the fighting that day in Afghanistan were, Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, Sgt. Christopher Griffin, Sgt. Joshua Hardt, Sgt. Joshua Kirk, Spc. Stephan Mace, Staff Sgt. Vernon Martin, Sgt. Michael Scusa, and Pfc. Kevin Thomson.

“Each of these patriots gave their lives looking out for each other,” Obama said. “In a battle that raged all day, that brand of selflessness was displayed again and again and again, Soldiers exposing themselves to enemy fire to pull a comrade to safety, tending to each other’s wounds, (and) performing ‘buddy transfusions,’ giving each other their own blood.”

The president said on that day, it wasn’t just Romesha who earned recognition for his actions, it was dozens of Soldiers. From that battle, Soldiers earned 37 Army Commendation Medals, 27 Purple Hearts, 18 Bronze Stars and nine Silver Stars, the president said.

“These men were outnumbered, outgunned and almost overrun,” Obama said. “Looking back, one of them said, ‘I’m surprised any of us made it out.’ But they are here today. And I would ask these Soldiers, this band of brothers, to stand and accept the gratitude of our entire nation.

“God bless you, Clint Romesha, and all of your team,” the president said. “God bless all who serve. And God bless the United States of America.”

Watch the Hall of Hero’s Ceremony here.

Watch the Army tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha here.

Watch TPC coverage here.

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New USO Center Opens on Fort Belvoir

The USO opens it’s doors to a new center – designed especially for recovering troops, their families and caregivers.  The following is from blogger Sarah Camille Hipp:

More than 40,000 troops have been visibly wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 300,000 troops suffer from invisible wounds, like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury. In addition, the Pentagon said the military reached a record high of 349 suicides in 2012, highlighting the need for increased mental and emotional care for America’s returning troops. While these numbers are upsetting, we have to face the fact that returning troops need us now more than ever. It is a particularly important time for recovering troops to have a stress-free and supportive environment as they heal and reintegrate into civilian life.

Since 1941, the USO has been there for our troops. As we continue to adapt to meet the needs of our military and their loved ones, we are thrilled to open the doors to a new center – designed especially for our recovering troops, their families and caregivers – in just a few days.

Located steps away from the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., will offer activities for recovering troops, their families and caregivers that will help them relax, have fun and reintegrate into society.

A second USO Warrior and Family Center is currently being constructed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and is scheduled for completion in early 2014. The Warrior and Family Centers at Fort Belvoir and in Bethesda are possible because of the USO’s Operation Enduring Care campaign and our generous volunteers. We could not do this without you!

Watch TPC News’ story about the USO opening here.

In addition, TPC offers you a look back at the USO through the years on Battleground.  Click here to watch!

 

Posted in Lifestyle.

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RECON: A Sneak Peek

Guardian Angel Guides Descents

By:  Terese Schlachter,“RECON” Senior Producer   

 

It’s hard to keep a good man down- especially one who’s holding the world record for the highest parachute jump.  In 1960, then Captain Joseph Kittinger floated in a balloon gondola nearly 103- thousand feet above earth, then jumped out.  He was testing parachute systems and other gear. What it didn’t seem to test were his nerves.

“I’d made the jump a thousand times in my mind so when it came time to go I said a silent prayer, hit the button and jumped,” the retired Colonel told SSgt Josh Hauser.

He couldn’t have known that a dozen years later his nerves would be tested again, in a very different descent.

“I was leader of a (mission) over in Hanoi … probably 100 airplanes … and I started chasing a MiG.  I was very close to getting him- to shooting him down – when another MiG crawled up my rear and shot me down,” recalls Col Kittinger.  “I was immediately hog tied, thrown into a vehicle and taken … to the Hanoi Hilton.”

He spent eleven months there as the senior ranking officer among the newest captives, who were kept separate from those who’d been taken prisoner earlier.

“You have to make decisions that affect other men’s lives in a very hostile environment.”  But Kittinger says they were able to maintain discipline and seniority and it became like another tour of duty.  He spent 30 days in solitary confinement. 

“When the US started bombing Hanoi and I heard that first bomb come down I knew it was the B-52s.  I knew the war was over.   I was in the deepest, darkest dungeon there was in Hanoi and they needed that area for the B-52 crews they were shooting down so they moved me into another prison cell.”  He wound up with American POW’s who’d been held for six or seven years.  “It was like Rip Van Winkle,” Kittinger says, “For the next 40 days I was interrogated by the guys in that room about hair styles and what was going on in the world!”  He was released in March of 1973, but calls the experience one of the greatest of his life.  “Every one of us was a better person when we came out of there.”

The Colonel retired in 1978. But the former POW and record-holder wasn’t finished accumulating titles.  In 1984, he was the first solo balloonist to cross the Atlantic Ocean.   One early morning, during that passage, he made radio contact with a random nearby commercial flight.  Turns out, his wife, Sherry  and his crew were on board.  The pilot let them chat for a while.  Sherry and the crew were all in Italy a day and a half later when he landed – grounding it at about 30 miles per hour.

“I got knocked out of the gondola and fell about ten feet and hit the only rock within a half mile and broke my foot,” he told Josh.   “But it was an awful lot of fun.”

Of all of his adventures he counts as the “hairiest” the 1989 Gordon Bennett Cup- the premier event of world balloon racing.  Somewhere over Baja he stalled and ran out of ballast.  The water temperature was 59 degrees. “If we went in the water we were dead.  We finally started drifting and about four o’clock in the morning we landed on an uninhabited island, and that saved us.”    

The name of the island: Guardian Angel.  Probably not the first time Kittinger’s run into his. 

 

In 2012 Kittinger played a key role in the Red Bull Sratos launch in which Austrian Felix Baumgardner broke the Colonel’s own record.  Kittinger currently lives with this wife in Orlando.  His story and other adventures in military ballooning are featured in “RECON: Lighter Than  Air”.  Click here to watch! 

Posted in Recon EXTRA.

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