Helping our Nation’s Military & Their Families in Their Local Communities
As Written by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.,
Friday, July 04, 2014
As we celebrate Independence Day, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women and their families who serve our nation at home and abroad. Thank you for all you do to help keep America safe.
When the Declaration of Independence was signed 238 years ago, 56 patriots pledged their lives and their sacred honor to defend our inviolable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They left a legacy that lives on today through generations of Americans who have made that same pledge to boldly stand up against tyranny, oppression, and persecution. Their devotion to duty is just as strong, as is their willingness to risk their lives for each other and our country.
Those who serve in our armed forces, and their families, have given so much to defend the ideals and free institutions we often take for granted. Their dedication reminds us that preserving America’s liberties comes with a heavy cost. Today, as we celebrate our nation’s birth, let us honor their service and strive to be worthy of their tremendous sacrifices.
God bless you, our great nation, and all who endeavor to defend it.
Happy Fourth of July!
By Elaine Sanchez DoD News, Defense Media Activity
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, July 3, 2014 – When doctors told Yesenia Ruiz-Rojo she was terminally ill, the pregnant 21-year-old put all thoughts of herself aside. Just save my baby, she asked.
Less than four months into her pregnancy, Ruiz-Rojo was facing aggressive liver cancer and given two to four months to live. But rather than give up, the Army wife and her team of providers at Brooke Army Medical Center here decided they were going to beat the odds.
Four months later, Ruiz-Rojo gave birth to a healthy boy named Luke.
“I love spending time with my son; he’s beautiful,” she said over the phone from a hospice center in California. “I’m so thankful for him.”
She shared a picture of her family on Easter. Her 5-year-old stepson close behind her and with her baby, in a mini suit and tie, cuddled on her lap. Luke, who turned five months old in June, has received the gift of his mom’s care for longer than anyone expected.
Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raul Palacios, BAMC’s chief of interventional radiology, calls Ruiz-Rojo’s case “a medical miracle.”
“She told us all she wanted was for her baby to live,” Palacios said. “She was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen.”
Ruiz-Rojo arrived at BAMC in her 15th week of pregnancy. Previously healthy, she had become alarmed by a severe bout of abdominal pain and vomiting and went the emergency room at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas. Tests revealed a tumor covering more than 65 percent of her liver. She was transferred to BAMC two days later.
When BAMC providers heard about the case, they knew the situation was dire. Based on current literature and case reports, a pregnant woman with this type of aggressive cancer hadn’t lived very long, let alone long enough to deliver a healthy child.
“There was nothing out there we found in conventional medicine that would offer her any hope,” Palacios said. “We weren’t aware of anything in the past that had been tried successfully before.”
Unwilling to give up, experts from more than a dozen specialties met to explore every possible treatment option.
They couldn’t remove the tumor because of its size and location, and traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, would cause harm or terminate the patient’s pregnancy, explained Army Col. (Dr.) Stephen Harrison, BAMC’s chief of hepatology and consultant to the surgeon general for gastrointestinal and liver diseases.
Palacios suggested they try a fairly new therapy called selective internal radiation therapy with Y-90, which places tiny radioactive particles in the patient’s artery that feeds the liver tumor which then either shrinks or dies, he explained.
BAMC is the only Defense Department facility that uses this treatment, he noted, which is FDA approved to treat primary liver and colon cancer.
“After meticulous consideration, the entire team felt there would be minimal risk to the patient and her baby,” Palacios said. “We held our breath, acknowledged Mrs. Ruiz-Rojo’s desires, and made the best educated decision with what we knew at the time.”
Interventional radiology completed her Y-90 treatment in six weeks, after which there was nothing left to do but monitor her health and pregnancy, Palacios said, noting some early encouraging signs that the tumor was responding. Ruiz-Rojo returned to the hospital at 32 weeks and delivered her baby on Jan. 9.
Her providers were thrilled at the outcome.
“The fact that at a moment’s notice everyone dropped everything to come up with a plan speaks volumes about BAMC’s dedication and commitment to care for our patients,” Palacios said.
“If the team hadn’t looked outside the box, we wouldn’t have had the chance to give her a viable baby,” added Army Col. (Dr.) Scott Kambiss, chief of OB/GYN. “Just the idea that someone would have that opportunity to bring forth life … that was incredible for all of us. Every day is a day she didn’t have before.”
Shortly after, Ruiz-Rojo moved to California to spend time with her family and new baby while relatively symptom-free. She has lived there since mid-March creating happy memories her son can view in pictures and videos as he grows up.
“She didn’t want cancer treatments that would impair the quality of time she has left with her baby,” Palacios said.
Ruiz-Rojo’s journey may end soon, but because of a caring team of BAMC providers, her baby now has a shot at a long and happy life, Palacios said.
“I hope someone tells Luke someday how brave his mother was to allow doctors at BAMC to participate in her health,” he said.
“The fact that she is able to be with her child and experience this time with him is amazing,” Harrison added. “It’s heartwarming for all of us.”
Ruiz-Rojo’s mother, Olivia, expressed her gratitude in Spanish while at her daughter’s bedside in hospice.
“Luke is a beautiful baby — so active, so playful,” she said over the phone. “All my daughter wanted was to have her baby and have some time with him. She was able to do that, thanks to the caring doctors at BAMC.”
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2014 – The joint operations center opened by U.S. forces in Baghdad to help the Iraqi government combat Sunni insurgents is fully operational and assessments of Iraqi units have begun, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren said today.
Warren provided Pentagon reporters with an update on the 180 personnel who arrived in Baghdad to establish the operations center.
“The six teams of advisers are on the ground beginning their assessment of Iraqi units in and around Baghdad,” Warren said.
President Barack Obama ordered the teams to Iraq earlier this month following gains made by Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who have overrun towns and cities across Iraq’s northern and western provinces as they move closer to Baghdad.
The JOC team provides synthesis of information provided from the six assessment teams and conducts liaison coordination, the colonel explained.
“These are very well-trained personnel that are used to operating in these types of environments,” Warren said of the six assessment teams. “They are very skilled at protecting themselves.”
Additionally, the colonel said, the JOC is sharing information with the Iraqis as assessments are made.
“We’ve long had an information-sharing arrangement with the Iraqis,” Warren said. “That arrangement continues.”
There is a tentative plan for a second operations center to be positioned in the north, he added. But that, he said, hasn’t happened yet.
“Right now, the JOC is collecting the information being provided by the six assessment teams [and] collating it, so we’re still in the assessment phase now,” Warren said.
“To be clear, we’re providing
Navy News Service
ARLINGTON, Va., July 1, 2014 – Michelle Janine Howard today became the first woman to attain the rank of four-star admiral in the Navy’s 238-year history during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office.
“Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is an historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position,” Mabus said. “Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves — a nation where success is not born of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability.”
Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, noted Howard’s success through more than decades of service. “Michelle’s many trailblazing accomplishments in her 32 years of naval service are evidence of both her fortitude and commitment to excellence and integrity,” he said. “I look forward to many great things to come from the Navy’s newest four-star admiral.”
Howard, who most recently has served as the deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, will relieve Navy Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III as the 38th vice chief of naval operations later today.
Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998 with a master’s degree in military arts and sciences.
Her initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley and USS Lexington. While serving on board Lexington, she received the secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins Award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership.
She reported to USS Mount Hood as chief engineer in 1990 and served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant on board the USS Flint in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the executive officer of USS Tortuga and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African training cruise, where the ship’s sailors, with embarked Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.
Howard took command of USS Rushmore on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. She was the commander of Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 2 from April 2009 to July 2010. In 2009, Howard deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater, where she commanded the Task Force 151 multinational counterpiracy effort and Task Force 51 expeditionary forces. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for Baltic operations under 6th Fleet.
Howard was the USO Military Woman of the Year for 2011 and the NAACP Chairman’s Image Award recipient in 2013.
By Navy Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes Commander, Submarine Group 9
BANGOR, Wash., June 30, 2014 – The Trident strategic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania manned by its “Gold” crew returned home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor here June 14 following a 140-day, record-breaking patrol.
Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. The Pennsylvania set a new record for the longest patrol completed by an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.
The Ohio-class submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea usually for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.
The Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew patrol, which began in January, is not only the longest for an Ohio-class submarine, but the longest since beginning of the Poseidon C3 ballistic missile program in the early 1970s, according to records maintained by the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Weapon System Evaluation program.
“It’s an honor. It was a challenge. The job kept calling for us to stay at sea but we were ready, willing and able. So we stayed at sea and finished the mission,” said Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, the Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew commanding officer.
“I’m incredibly proud of my crew,” Pittman added. “I’ve been amazed by their resiliency throughout the entire time, and not only the crew, but the families. We leave and we serve, but they stay home and they serve as well.”
Trident submarines — nicknamed “Boomers” — carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy’s inventory.
The Pennsylvania’s Navy hull classification symbol is SSBN 735. The SS denotes “Ship, Submersible.” The B denotes “ballistic missile,” and the N denotes “nuclear powered.”
As Pennsylvania emerged from an extended maintenance period in 2013, the patrol had originally been planned to be longer than is considered normal for Trident strategic missile submarine. The crew spent nearly the entire patrol underway, since unlike most other Navy vessels, Trident submarines don’t make routine port visits except when returning to home port.
“USS Pennsylvania ‘Gold’s’ patrol is an exceptional example of the flexibility and capability of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. We had always expected this to be a longer than normal patrol and a highly-capable crew made it happen,” said Navy Capt. Mark VanYe, chief of staff at Commander, Submarine Group 9. “When operational commitments changed, we knew the exceptional sailors serving on Pennsylvania and their families back home were up to the task.
“They have excelled across their entire mission set,” VanYe added. “We are glad now to have them home and congratulate them on a job well-done.”
Upon their return home, Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew was greeted by Commander of Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who wanted to personally thank them and congratulate them on a job well-done.
“The SSBN strategic deterrent patrol is the most important unit mission in the submarine force and vital to the defense our nation,” Sawyer said. “The Pennsylvania ‘Gold’ crew was on the front line of deterrence, conducting critical missions from the time the ship got underway until returning home and I couldn’t be prouder of what they have accomplished.”
The USS Pennsylvania, part of the nation’s strategic deterrence forces, is one of eight Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2014 – President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for overseas contingency operations is significantly less than last year, but still provides the resources needed to protect the United States and its interests, Defense Department officials said.
The request calls for $58.6 billion for the Defense Department in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2014.
“This is nearly $21 billion less than last year’s OCO request, representing a 26 percent reduction in OCO funding as our nation concludes 13 years of war and our mission in Afghanistan transitions to a training, advisory, and assistance role post-2014,” Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a written statement issued yesterday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel fully supports the request, saying it protects the broad range of U.S. national security interests.
The request funds temporary and extraordinary expenses associated with military operations in Afghanistan. It also funds counterterrorism efforts.
The request covers funding for DOD, the State Department and other government agencies not covered by the base budgets of these organizations.
The request covers some high-profile and quick-trigger initiatives.
It calls for $5 billion for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund. The fund builds on authorities to respond to a range of terrorist threats and crisis response scenarios. It is designed to help build the counterterrorism capacity of partner states from South Asia to the Sahel.
If approved $500 million will be used to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition. This would allow moderates in the country to defend themselves against attacks by the Assad regime and would weaken extremists groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
In light of Russian actions regarding Ukraine, the budget request calls for $1 billion for the president’s proposed European Reassurance Initiative.
“These funds will help us improve the security of our NATO allies and partner states by increasing exercises, improving European infrastructure and allowing us to enhance the prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe,” Kirby said in the statement.
The request does reflect the transition in Afghanistan, according to officials. The costs are dropping, but not precipitously. The department will still incur significant costs to transport personnel, supplies and equipment back to their home stations.
Funding is also needed to sustain Afghan security forces.
Officials said that funding will help the U.S. military re-set from over a decade of fighting to repair and replace equipment and munitions.
Congress must pass the OCO request.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 23, 2014 – President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor on July 21 to former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts for conspicuous gallantry in Afghanistan, White House officials announced today.
Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor at the White House for his courageous actions while serving as a forward observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, near Wanat Village in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, on July 13, 2008.
He will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Pitts separated from the Army on Oct. 27, 2009, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he works in business development for the computer software industry.
He enlisted in the Army in August 2003 as a fire support specialist, primarily responsible for the intelligence activities of the Army’s field artillery team. After completion of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and follow-on parachutist training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to Camp Ederle, Vicenza, Italy, as a radio operator with the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade, where he deployed to Afghanistan.
His final assignment was with the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment “The Rock,” 173rd Airborne Brigade, as a forward observer, which included a second combat tour to Afghanistan.
His personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with bronze clasp and two loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 4, the NATO Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award, the Combat Action Badge, the Pathfinder Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
Pitts will be joined by his family at the White House ceremony, officials said.
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Eric Keenan Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2014 – Retired Marine Corps Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter received the nation’s highest military honor from President Barack Obama at the White House today.
Carpenter received the Medal of Honor for his actions while deployed in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2010. He became the third Marine and the 15th overall recipient of the medal for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“With that singular act of courage, Kyle, you not only saved your brother in arms, you displayed heroism in a blink of an eye that will inspire for generations — valor worthy of our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor,” Obama said.
On Nov. 21, 2010, Taliban insurgents initiated an attack on Carpenter’s squad, part of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. Carpenter, the squad automatic rifleman for his fire team, and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio were holding a rooftop security position when a hand grenade was thrown their way.
Without hesitation, Carpenter reacted, rushing toward the grenade in an attempt to shield his brother-in-arms from the blast.
Carpenter and Eufrazio survived the attack but not without sustaining severe injuries. After two and a half years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Carpenter was medically retired from the Marine Corps on July 30, 2013.
“You notice Kyle doesn’t hide his scars. He’s proud of them and the service they represent,” Obama said.
Carpenter was born in Flowood, Miss., and resides in South Carolina. He is now a full-time student at the University of South Carolina.
Carpenter’s awards include the Purple Heart Medal, the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one bronze star, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal International Security Assistance Force, and now the Medal of Honor.
Created during the American Civil War, the Medal of Honor was and is awarded for gallantry in combat. Over the years, the honor evolved. Now a much more strict and regulated selection process with a separate medal for the Army, Navy and Air Force exists. In the medal’s history, there have only been 3,469 recipients.