Northwest Military Blogs: Fleet Talk

January 14, 2016 at 11:24am

Military decorations and awards program changes

Courtesy photo

The Pentagon has made a number of changes to the military decorations and awards program to ensure servicemembers receive appropriate recognition of their actions, according to a statement released Jan. 7.

The changes come after a long and deliberate review, a defense official told reporters in a Jan. 6 background briefing.

Then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel initiated the review in 2014 to improve the military awards program by harnessing lessons learned from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said.

"He wanted to ensure that we're appropriately recognizing our servicemembers for their services, actions and sacrifices," the defense official added.

The Pentagon statement points out key changes to the decorations and awards program:

  • Implementation of new goals and processes to improve timeliness of the Medal of Honor and other valor awards;
  • Standardization of the meaning and use of the Combat Distinguishing Device, or "V" device, as a valor-only device to ensure unambiguous and distinctive recognition for preeminent acts of combat valor;
  • Creation of a new combat device, to be represented by a "C" worn on the relevant decoration, to distinctly recognize those servicemembers performing meritoriously under the most arduous combat conditions;
  • Introduction of a "remote impacts" device, signified by an "R" to be worn on the relevant decoration, to recognize servicemembers who use remote technology to directly impact combat operations; and
  • Adoption of a common definition of Meritorious Service Under Combat Conditions to determine eligibility for personal combat awards.

Service Cross, Silver Star Review

To "ensure that those servicemembers who performed valorously were recognized at the appropriate level," the defense official said that Defense Secretary Ash Carter has directed the military departments to review Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, and Silver Star Medal recommendations since Sept. 11, 2001, for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are approximately 1,000 Silver Star and 100 service cross recommendations under review, the official said. While there is a possibility a medal could get upgraded, no servicemember will have the award downgraded, he said.

The defense official noted "unusual Medal of Honor awards trends," as one reason for the review.

The first seven Medal of Honor awards for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were posthumous, he said. There may have been a perception that only a fallen servicemember could receive the Nation's highest military award for valor, he said.

After the Defense Department clarified the "risk of life" portion for the Medal of Honor's criteria in 2010, all 10 recipients have been living, he noted. The review is to ensure that no one deserving of a higher honor has been overlooked, the defense official said.

The results of the reviews are due to the secretary of defense Sept. 30, 2017, he said.

January 7, 2016 at 11:51am

Naval Hospital Bremerton welcomes first baby of 2016

Shawnee Kraften holds Isabella Rose Kraften, born at 11:23 p.m. Jan. 1, 2016. Photo credit: Douglas Stutz

It took Isabella almost the entire day into the new year to join her parents, but make it she did as the first baby born at Naval Hospital Bremerton for 2016.

Naval Hospital Bremerton's Northwest Beginnings Family Birth Center assisted in the delivery of Isabella Rose Kraften at 11:23 p.m. to Shawnee and Jason Kraften on Jan. 1, 2016.

Isabella weighed six pounds, 14.2 ounces and is 19 inches long.

Jason is a machinist mate 3rd class assigned to USS Ohio (SSGN 726) from El Paso, Texas, and Shawnee is from Spanaway.

Newborn Isabella and mother are doing well.

"I came in around 8 p.m. but wasn't completely ready. But then two-and-an-a-half hours later I was. The water broke and she was here," said Shawnee.

The Northwest Beginnings Family Birth Center staff were busy helping with deliveries throughout December. There were 48 new babies for December. Overall, Naval Hospital Bremerton recorded 710 births for 2015, an average of approximately 59 per month.

"The staff here were excellent. I couldn't have asked for any better. They were very helpful and patient with me," Shawnee said.

January 7, 2016 at 11:36am

LinkedIn-like for the Navy

The Chief of Naval Operations' (CNO) Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) recently developed a basic prototype for an information system that will promote more collaboration between sailors and commands during the job detailing process.

"Our goal is to build a process that is transparent, flexible and gives more influence to commands, so they can build better teams, as well as to sailors so they can have more say over their lives," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Mabrey, CRIC project lead.

Their clickable prototype represents the progress achieved after a two-day workshop with digital-services consulting group 18F, who strive to bring the best practices from top tech companies and startups to government systems.

"User-centric design is a huge tenet at 18F; we want to build technology with end users in mind," said Alex Pandel, a user experience designer at 18F. "We gathered as many of the end users in the room as possible for these two days to sketch potential interfaces for this tool to help align user needs and get something tangible that we could start building off of."

This initiative advances the Department of Defense's vision for all the services to create smarter, more collaborative detailing systems.

"We're going to launch LinkedIn-style pilot programs that help match up servicemembers looking for their next assignment with units who are looking for qualified people to fill an opening," said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in a recent interview on his Force of the Future initiative.

"Think of a (sailor) logging on, setting up a profile, seeing what they're qualified for, and selecting what they want to do, while the unit looking to bring someone on sees the profiles that fit their criteria, and chooses who they're interested in," Carter said.

This prototype and the CRIC's work are at the forefront of the Navy's early efforts to develop a system in line with the DoD's Force of the Future that also strengthens the Navy team.

CRIC Project Lead Lt. Cmdr. Rollie Wicks describes the platform as a "talent marketplace" and identifies three distinct user groups: sailors, commands and Naval Personnel Command (NPC).

In collaborative detailing, Mabrey said sailors will have the ability to see the same job opportunities that the detailer sees and will have additional information on the specific requirements of the assignment as provided by the command itself.

The CRIC team also aims to create a simpler platform for sailors to maintain and update their online record, so commands have the most accurate information on their skills, experience, and needs.

"Navy personnel records exist across more than one hundred different systems right now, and so it's very difficult to update the Navy on the profile of you," said Wicks. "We're trying to fix this so the Navy can better understand who you are, what your skills are, and can then recruit you into a job that's going to match those skills."

As a separate user group, Mabrey said commands will have the ability to search these profiles, reach out directly to sailors, and use this information to put together the most compatible team for their specific mission requirements.

As the final user group, NPC's role would be to reconcile the needs and wants of both commands and sailors with any broader Navy requirements and other manning considerations, said Mabrey.

Wicks added that the CRIC is also working to leverage the modern mobile functionality already familiar to most sailors.

"We grew up using computers," said Wicks. "We want to be able to take a picture of our awards from our smart phone and use that to update our record online. We want online cloud computing services and mobile devices that make our lives easier."

After further development, the CRIC will test the system by using the information dominance corps as a trial community in the fall of 2016.

"We're going to allow them to use this information platform and we're going to work with commands, sailors and NPC to pilot this new talent marketplace concept," said Mabrey. "From the information that we'll gain over one year, we'll be able to give some good data points to senior leaders and let them decide if we can scale this up to the broader officer pool and eventually the enlisted detailing process as well."

The CRIC was established in 2012 to provide junior leaders with an opportunity to identify and rapidly field emerging technologies that address the Navy's most pressing challenges.

December 23, 2015 at 2:38pm

Marines host reading event

Marine Corps Security Force-Bangor MWR members dressed as elves and reindeer give out toys and books as presents during the command’s Christmas reading event at the Leatherneck Lounge. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cory Asato

Marine Corps Security Force Battalion-Bangor (MCSFBn) hosted a Christmas reading event at their Leatherneck Lounge on Naval Base Kitsap, Dec. 18.

The event is one of several held throughout the year and coordinated by the battalion's Family Readiness staff targeted at the families who support their marines and the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific sailors they work alongside.

"These events we host highlight our families and the crucial support they provide to our marines and sailors keeping them mission ready," said Meaghan Bourgeois, MCSFBn Family Readiness Officer.

The battalion's Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Scott Reed, read "The Polar Express" to the children attending the event.

"Our families our important and we want them to know that," said Reed. "We're getting them involved, getting the children together and weaving our web of family support."

Children were given cookies, hot chocolate and stockings filled with jingle bells, magnets and rubber duckies, which represented how their support helps to keep their sailors and marines afloat.

"We really appreciate these family events because they allow families to have better familiarity with each other and support each other while their service member is gone or under the wire," said Marine Corps Capt. Kees Punter, a Ravenna Michigan, native stationed with MCSFBn. "This is a great opportunity for the spouses to make connections."

The event was a chance to scope interest as the battalion chain-of-command is interested in bringing the military child coalition to the area, whose mission is, "To ensure inclusive, quality educational experiences for all military-connected children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition," according to their website.

"We care for our marines, sailors and their families and remain a resource for them," said Bourgeois. "We're here to strengthen bonds between each other and families."

The night closed with each child receiving gifts of toys, books and a picture with Santa.

For more information about the military child coalition, visit www.militarychild.org/.

December 23, 2015 at 2:33pm

USS Nimitz extending stay in Bremerton

The Nimitz will remain in Bremerton through fiscal year 2019. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael D. Cole

The Navy announced Dec. 22, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) will remain stationed in Bremerton, Washington, through fiscal year 2019 as part of a decision that avoids the possibility of three homeport changes over a four-year period for the ship's crewmembers and families.

Nimitz, the Navy's oldest aircraft carrier in service, arrived at Bremerton's Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in January for a 16-month extended planned incremental availability (EPIA).

Nimitz was scheduled to shift her homeport to Everett, Washington, in the summer of 2016, return to Bremerton in fiscal year 2018 for another extended maintenance period, and move back to Everett in 2019.

"The prospect of successive homeport changes and the inevitable impact on sailors and their families resulted in my decision to extend the temporary stationing of USS Nimitz in Bremerton," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Nimitz has completed three homeport changes in the past five years, including a move from San Diego to Bremerton in December 2010 for a yearlong maintenance period, a homeport change from Bremerton to Everett in December 2011, and the move from Everett to Bremerton in January.

The vast majority of Nimitz's approximately 3,100 sailors and their families reside in the Bremerton area due to the duration of the ship's current EPIA.

"Sailors can now continue to focus on training and getting the ship ready for future missions without the added stress of relocating themselves and their families," said Nimitz Commanding Officer Capt. John Ring.

In addition to eliminating back and forth moves between Bremerton and Everett, the decision to keep Nimitz in Bremerton through fiscal year 2019 alleviates a four-hour roundtrip commute between Bremerton and Everett for sailors and families who may have stayed in Bremerton to avoid the multiple moves.

Nimitz is scheduled to return to the Navy's installation in Everett at the earliest possible opportunity following completion of her scheduled 2018-2019 docking planned incremental availability in Bremerton. Naval Station Everett is a deep water port that never needs to be dredged, providing unobstructed access to the Puget Sound for the Navy's largest vessels.

In September, the Navy announced plans to move destroyers USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sampson (DDG 102), and USS Kidd (DDG 100) to Everett next year.

Naval Station Everett currently supports USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Momsen (DDG 92), and approximately 2,000 Navy personnel. The installation is scheduled to support five destroyers by the end of 2016.

December 23, 2015 at 2:28pm

USS Nimitz sailors return home after global cruise

USS Nimitz (CVN 68) welcomed home 54 of its sailors returning to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton (NBK), Dec. 19, after helping the USS George Washington (CVN 73) shift homeports from Yokosuka, Japan to Norfolk, Virginia.

The sailors flew into Joint Base Lewis-McChord and were shuttled to NBK, where a homecoming event was held in their honor. Capt. John Ring, commanding officer, Capt. John Boone, executive officer and fellow sailors from Nimitz, greeted the returning crew members.

"The cruise was a lot of fun," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Michael Sloginski. "We got to see everyone around the Navy helping each other out."

The sailors, sent from various departments on board Nimitz, were gone for more than three months.

Being underway with George Washington not only provided support for the GW crew while shifting homeports, it allowed the Nimitz sailors to earn underway qualifications they wouldn't be able to get while Nimitz is in the shipyard.

"I thank them for their flexibility in order to support this mission and help out our other ships and shipmates," said Senior Chief Personnel Specialist Joseph O'Malley, a Nimitz coordinator for the deployment.

December 22, 2015 at 2:13pm

Navy Announces USS Nimitz Extending Stay in Bremerton

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy announced Dec. 22, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) will remain stationed in Bremerton, Washington, through fiscal year 2019 as part of a decision that avoids the possibility of three homeport changes over a four-year period for the ship's crewmembers and families.

Nimitz, the Navy's oldest aircraft carrier in service, arrived at Bremerton's Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in January for a 16-month extended planned incremental availability (EPIA).

Nimitz was scheduled to shift her homeport to Everett, Washington, in the summer of 2016, return to Bremerton in fiscal year 2018 for another extended maintenance period and move back to Everett in 2019.

"The prospect of successive homeport changes and the inevitable impact on Sailors and their families resulted in my decision to extend the temporary stationing of USS Nimitz in Bremerton," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Nimitz has completed three homeport changes in the past five years, including a move from San Diego to Bremerton in December 2010 for a yearlong maintenance period, a homeport change from Bremerton to Everett in December 2011 and the move from Everett to Bremerton in January.

The vast majority of Nimitz's approximately 3,100 Sailors and their families reside in the Bremerton area due to the duration of the ship's current EPIA.

"Sailors can now continue to focus on training and getting the ship ready for future missions without the added stress of relocating themselves and their families," said Nimitz Commanding Officer Capt. John Ring.

In addition to eliminating back and forth moves between Bremerton and Everett, the decision to keep Nimitz in Bremerton through fiscal year 2019 alleviates a four-hour roundtrip commute between Bremerton and Everett for Sailors and families who may have stayed in Bremerton to avoid the multiple moves.

Nimitz is scheduled to return to the Navy's installation in Everett at the earliest possible opportunity following completion of her scheduled 2018-2019 docking planned incremental availability in Bremerton. Naval Station Everett is a deep water port that never needs to be dredged, providing unobstructed access to the Puget Sound for the Navy's largest vessels.

In September, the Navy announced plans to move destroyers USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Kidd (DDG 100) to Everett next year.

Naval Station Everett currently supports USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Momsen (DDG 92) and approximately 2,000 Navy personnel. The installation is scheduled to support five destroyers by the end of 2016.

December 17, 2015 at 3:48pm

Navy beat JBLM 3rd straight year

The Army and Navy teams wait in anticipation to see who will win the coin-toss during the Army-Navy flag football game at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Seth Coulter

Sailors of Navy Region Northwest won their third consecutive flag-football game 21-0 against the Army and Air Force team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord during the 16th annual Army-Navy flag football game at Naval Base Kitsap (NBK)-Bremerton Dec. 11.

The event also included the inaugural Women's Flag Football Game, a tailgate party between games and halftime entertainment from Klahowya Secondary School Marching Band and Drill Team.

"The Army-Navy flag football games are a unique way to highlight the talented and physically fit military personnel in our area while boosting morale and enjoying a good-spirited, classic rivalry," said Capt. Tom Zwolfer, commanding officer, NBK, from Wood Dale, Illinois. "It's also a great opportunity to ramp up team spirit the day before the Army-Navy collegiate game."

Sailors of the Navy Region Northwest flag football team meet at Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor in preparation of the Army-Navy flag football game. This year marks the 16th anniversary of the Army-Navy flag football game in the Pacific Northwest, which includes sailors from different installations throughout Washington against soldiers and airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Seth Coulter
_________________________________________________________________________________________

Even with inclement weather, fans of both sides showed up in great numbers to support their respective teams.

"I love playing football with these guys on the team," said Master-at-Arms Seaman Patrick Gannon, Marine Corps Security Force Battalion - Bangor, from Huntington Beach, California. "This is a great opportunity to play against the Army squad and I couldn't be happier to have been a part of it this year."

Among the celebrations there was a somber note; Navy Head Coach Dannie Burleigh, from Beaumont, Texas, decided this would be his last year with the team.

"The game has always been about the sailors and soldiers and I'm blessed to have been here since the very beginning back in 2000," said Burleigh. "They played for each other tonight, twenty-eight guys from twenty-eight walks of life coming together as an amazing team to play a great game against the Army. This is definitely one of the most talented teams I have ever had the honor of coaching."

As the game came to a close, the trophy was presented to Coach Burleigh and the team from Capt. Zwolfer.

December 17, 2015 at 3:39pm

Happy birthday, Stennis

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) was commissioned and entered service 20 years ago in a ceremony held at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.

Two decades is a significant amount of time in any life cycle. The ship's life during that time includes a rich history.

While conducting sea trials in January 1997, Stennis recovered and launched an F/A-18F Super Hornet, becoming the first aircraft carrier to qualify the airframe. After completing that workup cycle, Stennis left Norfolk for her maiden deployment to the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 26, 1998.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, when Stennis was five years old, she began conducting missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle off the U.S. West Coast. As the first carrier to launch strikes against al-Qaida militants in Afghanistan, she was at the forefront of the War on Terror that November during her deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

Three years later in 2004, Stennis proved that she could operate anywhere in the world, participating in exercises Northern Edge in the Gulf of Alaska and Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in U.S. 3rd Fleet's AOR with, now decommissioned, aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) before deploying to the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR.

On another deployment in 2007, Stennis joined Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Arabian Gulf, marking the first time since 2003 that two aircraft carrier strike groups were in the area simultaneously. On that same deployment, in May 2007, Stennis, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and seven other ships passed through the Strait of Hormuz as part of the largest movement of U.S. Naval ships since 2003.

The intervening years provided Stennis the opportunity to show how versatile she and her crew are. In 2012, Stennis faced pirates and led a rescue operation of the Iranian fishing vessel Al Mulahi and its crew. All 13 hostages were freed and all 15 pirates were captured without any casualties.

Stennis completed a 16-month docking-planned incremental availability in November 2014 and began a very busy work-up cycle in 2015, where her crew earned a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) figure of merit score of 88 percent - the highest achieved by an aircraft carrier in five years.

The ship was named after Sen. John Cornelius Stennis, who was born Aug. 3, 1901 in Kipling County, Mississippi. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (1969-1980), Stennis stood firm for U.S. military superiority and consistently supported American servicemembers. A strong Navy, second to none in the world, was always at the top of Stennis' agenda earning him the "Father of America's Modern Navy" moniker from President Ronald Reagan.

Currently, Stennis is in port conducting training and maintenance in preparation for an upcoming deployment. As always, the sailors aboard Stennis will be ready for any challenge thrown at them or any adventure over the horizon.

For more news from USS John C. Stennis, visit www.stennis.navy.mil or www.facebook.com/stennis74.