Northwest Military Blogs: Fleet Talk

October 20, 2016 at 3:18pm

Seahawks pass the 12th Man flag to Navy

U.S. Navy Photo Sailors, Marines, Seattle Seahawks football players and cheerleaders hold the 12th Man flag during the fifth annual USAA Change of Command ceremony at CenturyLink Field Oct. 11.

SEATTLE Marine Corps Security Force Battalion-Bangor passed the 12th Man flag to Navy Region Northwest as Sailors and Marines participated in the 5th annual USAA change of command ceremony at CenturyLink Field in Seattle Oct. 11.

The 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was the first military organization to carry the 12-Man honor in 2012. The unit inactivated in 2014. In 2013, the 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. transferred the 12th Man flag to the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Field.

Navy Region Northwest succeeded the Marines as the fifth command to carry the Seahawks 12th Man flag into the coming year. The change-of-command occurred during a day of fanfare when service members were given the opportunity to spend time with players and display various aspects of their missions, ranging from explosive ordinance and disposal to military working dog security.

During the main event, a ceremony resembling a classic military change-of-command ceremony, Marine Lt. Col. Scott M. Reed, MCSFBn-Bangor commanding officer, turned over the 12th Man flag to Rear Adm. Gary Mayes, commander, NRNW.

“I look forward to working with the Seahawks as the year progresses,” Mayes said before receiving the flag. “We plan to take the flag all over the region, which makes up 11 states. We’re going to get it on carriers, we’re going to get it in the air, and we’re going to get it on subs and get it below the surface of the sea. On behalf of the 37,000 Sailors and civilians that make up Navy Region Northwest, I accept the 12th Man flag.”

Through NRNW, the 12th Man flag will have the opportunity to be displayed on various platforms of the Navy’s mission in the Pacific Northwest.

Along with displaying the flag, the sponsored command is given a leading role in Seahawks military outreach.

“We had the opportunity to hang out with another pro organization,” said MCSFBn Command Sgt. Maj. David M. McKinley. “To see how they methodically come up with their plans to execute games is not much different (than) what we do; it’s just to a different degree. We had the chance to sit and watch their practices, go to their training facility and be invited to the NFL stadium, walk out on the field, hold the flag tight and allow all the fans to see us in uniform. It gives us appreciation for all the work the Marines are doing and the Sailors as well; just the recognition is great.”

Programs such as the 12th Man change-of-command sponsorship are designed to highlight the contributions service members make in their communities.

“Outreach programs like this allow the community to see our Navy and Marine Corps (and) to interact with them,” Mayes said. “We look for these kinds of opportunities so people can better understand what it is that we do on a day-to-day basis. The more events we do like this, the more they gain an understanding of their Sailors and Marines. It’s a great honor to have an organization like the Seahawks do these events.”

May 19, 2016 at 12:17pm

Kitsap team earns top chef honors

A team of military chefs representing Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) carved, shredded, and sautéed their way to an overall win in the 24th Annual Armed Forces Culinary Arts Competition, at Olympic College May 7. U.S. Navy photo by Airman Jane Wood

More than 50 servicemembers competed on teams from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), USS Nimitz, USS Michigan, USS Louisiana, USS Ohio, and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

"Every team did a phenomenal job," said Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Gagner, Trident Inn Galley leading petty officer at NBK. "The JBLM team won out in the main event; NBK won the overall award tallying up the most points in each event."

The mouthwatering competition featured numerous culinary specialties in which commands battled for best in appetizers, chili, ribs and chicken wings, Gagner said.

The highlight of the event was a chefs' battle, which involved 10 two-person teams cooking with "secret" ingredients (artichokes, French lamb racks, squid steaks, eggplant and Japanese sweet potatoes) in a race against the clock. Teams created an entire meal consisting of an entrée, two sides, and a salad or soup to present to a panel of judges.

During production, the teams were assessed on sanitation, safety and culinary techniques. They were additionally assessed on presentation, originality and flavor. If teams didn't complete their dishes within the allotted 60-minute deadline, their points were reduced.

"The event was enjoyed by all who participated and it turned out to be an exciting event both for training and competitive growth," Gagner said.

April 29, 2016 at 11:29am

USS Maine (B) officer receives Rear Adm. Willis A. Lent Award

Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Medlin, left, receives the 2016 Rear Adm. Willis “Pilly” Lent Tactics and Warfighting Award at the Washington State Capital from retired Capt. Will Lent. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith

Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Medlin, from Burlington, North Carolina, assigned to the Blue crew of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741), was presented with the Rear Adm. Willis A. Lent Award.

The award, which is also known as the Pilly Lent Award, was sponsored by the Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the Navy League and given to Medlin because of his outstanding tactical performance, individual achievements, and excellence in leadership as the best performing tactical submarine department head in the U.S. Pacific Submarine Force. This is the first time the award has been presented.

"Lt. Cmdr. Medlin was selected for this award because, after competing with over one hundred highly qualified submarine department heads, he was considered the best in fulfilling the warfighting and leadership skills of Rear Adm. Pilly Lent's legacy," said retired Capt. Will Lent, son of Rear Adm. Pilly Lent. "The selection was most comprehensively carried out by many experienced submarine officers, up through the submarine squadron commander level and approved by Rear Adm. Frederick Roegge, commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC). I have met Lt. Cmdr. Medlin, and being a long time submariner myself, I fully concur with the selection, and believe him to be a most impressive young man."

Medlin was recognized for his achievements by the Mayor of Bremerton, Mrs. Patty Lent, and the Secretary of State, Mrs. Kim Wyman. His name was also engraved on a plaque that was presented to him at the Washington State Capital. Medlin will be honored again at the annual Armed Forces Day Gala Dinner, May 21.

"The award comes at the most perfect time to celebrate its namesake, Rear Admiral Willis Lent, one of the most outstanding submarine commanding officers of WWII," said Mayor Lent. "Especially due to the christening of the newest Virginia-class submarine USS Washington (SSN 787) joining the fleet in 2016, this award will have a historical legacy for sailors serving on Pacific Fleet submarines. It is very special that the first recipient is actually based here at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor."

April 22, 2016 at 10:34am

Still focused on Pacific

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, second from left, toured the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it sailed the South China Sea, April 15. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

As part of its role in the ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, the Defense Department is making new investments in the region and linking its bilateral relationships there to bilateral and trilateral arrangements, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week.

The secretary was on a two-week trip to visit with leaders in India, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to the sailors and marines aboard the Bremerton-based aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it sailed in the South China Sea, Carter said America's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, which President Barack Obama announced five years ago, now aims to sustain the progress already made.

Carter was joined aboard the Stennis by Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Next Phase of the Rebalance

"Militarily," Carter said, "the Department of Defense is operationalizing the next phase of the rebalance and rebalancing it for the long term. We're bringing our best people, people like you and our best platforms like the Stennis, forward to the Asia-Pacific."

The department is making new investments in key capabilities and platforms, deepening bilateral relationships, strengthening long-time alliances like the one that exists with Philippines and deepening ties with newer partners like India, the secretary noted.

"But in a large and interconnected region we're taking an additional step," Carter said.

As the region changes, the United States is linking its bilateral relationships with bilateral and trilateral arrangements, weaving the partnerships together to more effectively bolster American and regional security, he added.

"This is the network - peaceful, principled and inclusive - that America continues to stand for and stand with," Carter said.

Close Friends and Allies

In his brief remarks, Gazmin said his nation relies on the strong bond of sympathy and mutual ideals shared with the United States - "close friends and allies to fight side by side against the threats of external aggression as we (have) in the past."

Carter told the crew that, with many partners and allies like the Philippines, the United States has for decades stood tall for enduring rules and principles, including the peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, and the ability of countries to make their own security and economic choices free from coercion and intimidation.

"Americans like you have helped provide the necessary security and stability for this ... region to thrive with our strong defense engagements here. The United States has long provided the necessary reassurance, an attractive and appealing reassurance, and worked to keep the peace here in the Asia-Pacific," he said.

Since World War II, hundreds of millions have been lifted from poverty in the region, Carter added, and though there's room for improvement, democracy and freedom have spread across the region and economic miracles have occurred in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

Answering the Call

Today, China and India also are prospering, he said.

"That progress creates opportunities for the region and for America to continue to grow," Carter said. "But those changes also can produce some negatives, and recently not all the news out of the Asia-Pacific has been positive. Indeed, in the South China Sea, China's actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions."

"And we're answering that call," the secretary said. "We're standing with those countries and standing up for those rules and principles, making important new investments in defense technology, and we're continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows."

April 21, 2016 at 10:54am

Commitment to community

EMC Marvin Frilles (left) and GMC Greg Waite, both assigned to Nimitz, remove overgrown shrubs at the American Legion in Bremerton during a campus cleanup in honor of the birthday of the Chief Petty Officer. Photo credit: MCSN Erickson Magno

As members of the military, we all make an oath to protect our nation from enemies, "both foreign and domestic." However, the military profession binds its members to many other roles. We are civil servants and members of a tax-funded organization that puts its members in an exceptional position to go above and beyond for their community. Communities and sailors alike benefit from such programs, whether parks are being cleaned up, new trees are planted, or sailors are helping out those in need.

For sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), serving their local community can benefit them personally and professionally.

Operations Specialist 1st Class Kyle Novak is one such sailor. For him, giving back to his community has become a huge part of his life. Novak has logged more than 641 documented hours of community service since joining the Navy.

"I first started getting involved in the community on the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor," said Novak. "I remember kids would come up to me and want to take pictures with me in my dress whites, and veterans would come up to me and thank me for my service. That's what really made me stick with it."

Later throughout Novak's career he continued to give back wherever he could. He spent 360 hours establishing the first United Service Organization (USO) in Iraq, and continued to take sailors out to community relations events while stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and while stationed on Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Today, Novak is heavily involved with planning and implementing community relations events that bring Nimitz sailors and veterans from Retsil Washington Veterans Home together.

Nimitz sailors have many options when it comes to giving back to their community.

"I don't really mind going out and picking up garbage or planting trees in parks, but I definitely prefer going out to the community and working with people," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Davarihan Alonzo. "Like what we've been doing lately, coming out to the VA home and spending time with the veterans. Some of them lighten up when we come and it just feels good."

Seeing the impact a sailor can make on their community can also leave a positive impression on civilians. It's also a great way to show the community one of the Navy's oldest traditions, teamwork.

"Teamwork is a tradition, and also one of the most important aspects to what we do on the ship. What's even better is getting groups of sailors together to support the community to send a great message to the people around us. It gives us the chance to show them what we can do when we work as a team," said Novak.

Community outreach options are all around, whether it be through organized functions put together by Nimitz members, or opportunities found while surfing the web. No sailor needs to give everything to their community, but every sailor can give something.

April 14, 2016 at 11:03am

Ink to the past

Legalman 1st Class Christopher Ash, from Bartlett, Ill., displays his tattoos aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

Tattoos have long been a part of culture and tradition around the world.

According to Tattoo History Source Book by Steve Gilbert, Ancient Egyptians used them as therapeutic or medicinal remedies. Japanese Samurai, who were forced to disband and burn their armor, used full body tattoos to replace the armor stripped from them, according to Margaret Lock in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures "Japanese" volume. Maori leaders of New Zealand used their personal family facial tattoo, or "moko," to symbolize achievements and sign treaties according to National Geographic article "Tattoo Pigments of Imagination" by Cassandra Franklin-Barbajosa.

Tattoos are an evolving art form and sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) have a variety of tattoos ranging from traditional to modern.

"I am Hawaiian, Samoan, Filipino and Japanese and all those art forms are on my body," said Hospitalman Tre Kobota, from Hauula, Hawaii.

In Samoan culture, full body tattoos are considered a rite of passage. They take multiple sessions and can be extremely painful.

"It's the pain that shows not only physical but emotional strength," said Kobota. "Tattoos, positive or negative, are a form of expression, and that pain is a reminder."

Sailors around the globe are responsible for tattoos' migration and popularity in Western society. The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word "tatau," which Capt. James Cook introduced into the English language from his expeditions to Polynesia in the late 1700s (Franklin-Barbajosa).

Tattoos became popular among American sailors following the Revolutionary War. They would get tattoos to distinguish themselves from British sailors and avoid being forced into public service for British Royal navy ships (Gilbert). As tattoos moved around the globe, their symbolism evolved over time.

Tattoos of swallows represented a safe journey home; they also represented every 5,000 nautical miles a sailor traveled. A dagger through the heart symbolized the end of a relationship due to unfaithfulness, and was commonly adorned with a ribbon saying "Death Before Dishonour." Some of the more common Navy tattoos are simply sailors' rating badges.

"I have a tattoo of the helm wheel because it deals with my rate as a quartermaster, which is one of the oldest (rates)," said Senior Chief Quartermaster Henry Nicol, from Hemet, California. "I have tattoos that represent who I am as a sailor and as a chief."

Tattoo artists like Norman Keith Collins, aka "Sailor Jerry," created a standard for traditional Naval tattoos in the late 1960s. With technological advances, like evolving from boar's tusks to needles, artists are able to create tattoos with more details and color.

"Some people like the old style of tattoos with solid black lines (and) little color or shading," said Legalman 1st Class Christopher Ash, from Bartlett, Illinois. "Then there are those of us who like the modern day art with more detail and shading."

Tattoos can mean a lot to an individual, so figuring out what to get can take some thought.

"Each one of my tattoos symbolizes something significant in my life," said Ash. "I take what I observe and what I do and put it into my artwork to be reflected onto my body." Attitudes and Navy policy about tattoos have changed over time as well.

On March 31, the Navy updated its tattoo policy with the release of NAVADMIN 082/16. The instruction, which goes into effect April 30, allows sailors to have one tattoo on their neck that does not exceed one inch in any direction and have visible tattoos below the elbow or knee, with no restriction on size or amount. The policy update will also allow sailors with arm length tattoos, or sleeves, to be assigned to Recruit Training Command and Recruiting Command positions, which was previously not allowed.

"The instruction clearly states it was changed to allow more people to join the military," said Nicol. "Before, having a tattoo was kind of taboo, and now almost everybody has a tattoo."

The tattoo policy will not only allow more people the opportunity to serve but will also open up more opportunities for those already serving.

"More and more people are coming in with not only tattoos, but tattoos that are visible [in uniform]," said Ash. "The Navy allowing us to have these visible tattoos means that they are not only starting to embrace the cultural shift but also recognize that people can come in and still do a job despite what ink they have on their skin."

Tattoo art has been engrained in sailor culture since the first days of the Navy. The art has changed over time with trends, culture and advances in technology. With the update to the Navy's tattoo policy, sailors will be able to put links to their past on themselves and carry a permanent reminder with them to the future.

April 8, 2016 at 2:33pm

Pilot tutoring program

Online tutoring brings the classroom closer for no cost, anytime, anywhere. File photo

Officials with the Defense Department Voluntary Education Program and the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) announced the launch of a pilot tutoring program that will provide servicemembers with tutoring support at no cost, anytime, anywhere.

"If a servicemember is struggling with a college course or simply needs help with a homework assignment, this DoD-funded tool offers a place to go to get answers," said Jeff Allen, the DANTES director.

The program provides around-the-clock, online tutoring services for active-duty servicemembers, Coast Guard members, and full/part-time National Guard and Reserve component members. Some family members are also eligible to use the tutoring services.

The program is available online at www.tutor.com/military, and provides one-on-one tutoring with educators in more than 40 college subjects, including algebra, statistics, physiology and more. The tutors provide help with all types of homework assignments and test preparation. Tutors and students communicate in a secure online classroom using text chat and by drawing on an interactive whiteboard. There are no webcams or telephones used and no personal information is shared between the tutor and student.

Students can access the online service using any Internet-enabled device, including smart phones and tablets. If it's just a quick question, tutors are available on-demand, or students can schedule future tutoring sessions or upload papers for offline review.

"The Defense Department wants servicemembers to be successful in pursuing professional development," Allen said. "DoD currently maintains a variety of education resources to help members pursue their education. Tutoring services are being piloted to further explore the addition of this type of tool as another way to help servicemembers succeed in their military careers."

Find out more about DoD's pilot tutoring program by going to tutor.com. For more information on tutoring services and other DoD education resources, visit the DANTES website.

April 7, 2016 at 10:58am

NBK Commanding Officer receives civic award

Naval Base Kitsap Commanding Officer Capt. Thomas Zwolfer received the Hyas Tyee award at the Kitsap Golf and Country Club from the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce March 31.

The Hyas Tyee award is given to someone who was selected by past presidents and current board of directors of the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce and must have served in a position of significant leadership while making significant contributions to the community and be an exemplary role model.

"Receiving the award is a testament to the valuable work done by the military personnel and civilian workforce of Naval Base Kitsap," said Zwolfer. "I have the privilege of leading their impressive commitment to serving the fleet, fighter and family. We are a part of the local community and always do our best to be good neighbors."

He continued, "Although the award bears my name, I consider this award a show of appreciation for the efforts of the entire NBK team."

Hyas Tyee means "great leader" in the language of Chinook. The ceremony, in the past, was conducted in both English and Chinook.

Gena Whales, Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, said, "Zwolfer was selected for this award for his service to community."

Zwolfer is involved in the community in many ways including; regular Government-to-Government consultations with local tribes, serving on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and participates in public meetings regarding land use issues, and participating in Poulsbo's Touch-a-Truck event, National Night Out and other community events.

"The Hyas Tyee award is an honor many military leaders in our area are familiar with," said Zwolfer. "Given the quality of our local military leaders, receiving the notification of the award was a humbling moment."

The Hyas Tyee award is one of two civic awards presented by the Bremerton Chamber, the other being the Thunderbird award. The first individual to receive the esteemed Hyas Tyee, or Great Leader, award was Adm. E. W. Sylvester. Sylvester received the award in 1950.

"This is the most welcoming community I have been a part of in my twenty-eight years in the Navy," said Zwolfer. "I hope to continue my personal involvement in the local community when I move on in September to my next position as Chief of Staff, Navy Region Northwest. The culture at Naval Base Kitsap is one of providing exceptional service to the fleet, fighter and family and to engage with our neighbors in the local community, so I'm confident that strong culture will continue when I depart."

April 7, 2016 at 10:55am

Play ball!

“When Baseball Went to War,” the story of Navy baseball. Photo credit: Jodi M. Ubelhor-Strauch

Baseball is widely known as "America's Pastime." Everyone knows that, but what you might not be aware of is the deep connection between baseball and the United States Navy.  "When Baseball Went to War," Puget Sound Naval Museum's latest exhibit, explores the history of Navy baseball and the important role America's Pastime played for our sailors from the late 1800s through World War I and II.

In a time when sailing ships were being replaced by steamships and once hard laboring sailors were becoming technicians, Navy leadership recognized the need for athletics and physical exercise to keep sailors fit and agile, and so, toward the end of the 19th century, commands began forming baseball teams and leagues to meet the need. Baseball quickly caught on, and even the U.S. Naval Academy formed an organized baseball program in the 1860s. Before long it was said that a man could judge a command by the excellence of their baseball team.

By the time the United States entered into World War I, baseball was deeply entrenched in the culture of the Navy. The War Department adopted slogans such as "Every American soldier a baseball player" and distributed wartime posters depicting Uncle Sam with a bat that read, "Get in the game with Uncle Sam." Young men enlisted in droves and brought along their love of the game.

Shipboard commands the world over played America's game and rivalry between crews was common, but these weren't just simple pickup games played by off-duty sailors. During World War I, over 440 major and minor league baseball players left professional baseball careers behind to serve their country. In World War II, those numbers swelled to over 4,000. Many of baseball's biggest heroes like Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, and Red Sox legend Ted Williams, stepped away from home plate to join the United States Navy.

Bob Feller, celebrated Cleveland Indians pitcher, enlisted just two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Feller is the only Chief Petty Officer to ever be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and even years after his service ended was quoted as saying, "I am still a Navy man at heart."

According to one exhibit piece, in 1943, Sgt. Dan Polier was quoted in Yank: The Army Weekly as saying, "You could throw a baseball anywhere on the station and at least two big leaguers would try to catch it."

"When Baseball Went to War" shares an interesting insight into the history of Navy baseball. As you walk through the exhibit with baseballs, uniforms, and other artifacts on loan from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and Naval History and Heritage Command, and an interactive display of some of Navy baseball's biggest names, you can easily see the magnitude of what baseball brought to the Navy. Baseball may have started out as a way to keep sailors fit, but since then it has served to give them what they most desire no matter how far away the Navy takes them: a little piece of home.

Puget Sound Navy Museum, open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Tuesdays, 251 1st St., Bremerton, 360.479.7447, www.pugetsoundnavymuseum.org.

April 1, 2016 at 11:00am

Mail call, mail call

Every day underway, sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hope for an announcement over the 1MC telling them their mail has been delivered.

Mail is one way sailors can stay connected with home and get anything they need underway. The postal clerks from supply department's S-1P division facilitate that need.

According to Logistics Specialist Seaman Devan Rodriguez, from Quanah, Texas, the mail must change hands many times before reaching Stennis.

First, all military mail is screened in Chicago. If Stennis is underway, a mail routing instruction is used to fly the mail aboard or a fast combat support ship delivers it during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS).

Foreign civilian post offices not associated with the U.S. military often handle the mail while Stennis is away from homeport.

"We use kilograms instead of pounds because the mail is going to go to a lot of different foreign places," said Rodriguez. "The ports that we'll be in, for instance ... won't actually use a military postal service."

Once the mail gets to Stennis, Rodriguez said processing it out to the crew can be difficult. Sailors sometimes order items online such as exercise equipment, and their families often send care packages. This usually leads to heavy mailbags that can be physically demanding to move and process, but the postal clerks don't lack for helping hands. The rest of supply and sailors from other departments pitch in during working parties.

"It comes together in an all-hands effort," said Rodriguez. "We usually do pretty well getting about eighty people from all over the ship to come help us with that."