Archive for March 2017

First American Woman in Space!

March 15, 2017


This American Female Space Pioneer inspired millions of women to study #STEM, and she even has a U.S. Navy research vessel named after her. This evening, we salute Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. #WomensHistoryMonth

 DoD News

OC Veterans Annual Report

March 15, 2017


Orange County Veterans Initiative (OCVI) was launched in 2011 and then expanded in 2015 based on new findings from The State of the American Veteran: The Orange County Veterans Study, a report commissioned by OCCF to bring much needed attention to the challenges facing Orange County veterans. The first-ever comprehensive report on the needs of local veterans, it confirmed that many servicemen and women coming home to Orange County are significantly under-prepared for civilian life, – experiencing significant challenges ranging from not knowing where to find services, to lacking secure employment, to unmet physical and mental health needs.

OCVI aligns donors, businesses and community leaders to focus on three critical areas of need:

  • Transitioning to civilian life
  • Employment readiness and job skills
  • Health services, with an emphasis on mental health needs – in October 2015, with support from our generous donors, OCCF delivered $500,000 to seven nonprofits to support programs that provide a focused approach for transitioning veterans and their families.

The initiative’s key goal is to improve critical and fundamental services so that veterans:

  • Know where to go in Orange County to get the services they need
  • Develop trusting relationships with community providers
  • Are connecting early and proactively to services they and their families need
  • Obtain employment in career-oriented opportunities and positions
  • The funding allows high-performing nonprofit veteran service organizations to build their capacity to serve a broader audience.

See the full publication of the Orange County Veterans Study here: OC-Veterans-Study_USC-CIR_Feb-2015.pdf

Newsletter from Supervisor Todd Spitzer, OC District Three, Vol. 5 Issue VI

Iran Poses Threat to Centcom’s Area of Responsibility, Votel Says

March 9, 2017

Iraqi security forces and U.S. Army monitor progress, day one of the battle to liberate West Mosul

By Lisa Ferdinando

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2017 — Iran poses the most significant threat to U.S. Central Command‘s complex area of responsibility, Centcom Commander U. S. Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Centcom has dealt with a number of significant challenges over the past 12 months, including in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and the Sinai, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, he said.

“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” the general said at the hearing on the posture of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.

“It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world,” Votel said.

Iranian activities of concern, according to Votel, include “malign influence across Iraq and Syria,” and efforts to prop up the Syrian regime and exploit Shia population centers.

‘Highly Complex Area’

The Centcom area of responsibility, which covers four million square miles from the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia, remains a “highly complex area, widely characterized by pervasive instability and conflict,” he said.

The region is “increasingly crowded” with external nation-states, including Russia and China, that are pursuing their own interests in attempting to shift alliances, Votel said.

“The central region has come to represent the nexus for many of the security challenges our nation faces,” he said, “and, most importantly, the threats in this region continue to pose the most direct threat to the U.S. homeland and the global economy.”

Violent extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are taking advantage of the fragile security environment of heightened ethno-sectarian tensions, economic uncertainty, and weak or corrupt governance, Votel explained.

“These groups have clearly indicated their desire and intent to attack the U.S. homeland, our interests abroad and the interest of our partners and allies,” he said.

Progress in Counter-ISIS Fight

The coalition against ISIS continues to build momentum in defeating the terrorists in Iraq and Syria, and is pressuring the terrorists on multiple fronts and across all domains, according to Votel.

He highlighted the importance of working with coalition members and partners on the ground.

“As you are seeing clearly demonstrated in Iraq and Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere throughout our area of responsibility, we have adopted a ‘by, with and through’ approach that places a heavy reliance on indigenous forces,” Votel said.

The counter-ISIS campaign, now in its third year, is on track with its military plan to defeat the terrorists in Iraq and Syria, according to Votel.

“While we must take the necessary actions to counter immediate threats, such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” Votel’s written statement to the committee said, “we also need to find ways to address these and other root causes of instability if we hope to achieve lasting positive effects in that part of the world.”

Afghanistan Update

The Afghanistan’s security forces are beginning their third year with full responsibility for security, with limited U.S. or coalition support, Votel pointed out.

While the Taliban made gains in 2016, the Afghan forces quickly responded and reversed some Taliban gains, he said. It is essential, according to the general, for the United States to continue to assist the Afghan forces in addressing capability gaps, including in aviation.

Votel said he and Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, are developing advice and recommendations for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the way forward in Afghanistan.

“I do believe it will involve additional forces to ensure that we can make the advise and assist mission more effective,” Votel said.

U.S. Army Spc. Matt Schultz, a member of the U.S. Army advise and assist team, and members of the 9th Iraqi Army Division watch a tactical unmanned aerial system while commanding and controlling airstrikes and tracking the progress of brigades clearing the village of Bakhaira, Iraq, on the first day of the battle to liberate western Mosul, Feb. 19, 2017.U. S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Timothy Irish 

U.S. Army Unit Bolsters Abrams Tanks With ‘Reactive’ Armor

March 7, 2017


By U. S. Army Capt. (Chaplain) Malcolm Rios

4th Infantry Division

GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany, March 7, 2017 — Tank and maintenance crews from the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment assigned here are giving their M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks a buffed-up look that improves the tanks’ overall defensive capabilities.

The crews, with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which is serving as the initial ABCT rotational force in support of Atlantic Resolve, began installing the Abrams Reactive Armor Tile system Feb. 28 to tank hulls and turrets.

Reactive Armor ‘Adds Extra Layers of Protection’

“The ARAT adds extra layers of protection to the tank and the crew members,” said Army 1st Sgt. Ryan Dilling, senior noncommissioned officer of Bravo Company, the first unit to install the tiles.

The tiles “are placed on both sides of the hull and turret,” Dilling said. “The reactive tiles prevent penetration [by] various weapon systems, such as rocket-propelled grenades.”

Beefing up U.S. armor also serves as a greater deterrent to acts of aggression against NATO nations as the combat team rolls out stronger tanks to conduct training with allies throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Dilling said.

The addition of the angled tiles to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment’s tanks has been a cooperative effort with the Army’s Warren, Michigan-based Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command, said Army Maj. David Campbell, battalion operations officer.


“TACOM maintenance workers welded the brackets to hold the tiles on the tanks. After completion of the bracket welding, tank crews are then responsible for installing the reactive tiles,” Campbell said.

Deflecting the Blast

“Depending on what terrain you’re in, whether you’re in rural or urban terrain, the purpose of angled tiles is so that a blast will go down or upwards, which will allow the impact to deflect outward rather than at the tank crew,” Dilling said.

He said the angles of the tiles can be repositioned depending on the situation.

“If you have dismounts on the ground and they’re working in close proximity of the tank, you’d want to angle the tiles down so if there was a blast, it would go out and down to minimize the effect against soldiers nearby,” he said.

Dilling added, “If you were in an urban environment and you had adversaries shooting from second or third stories or even on rooftops and the tiles were activated, the blast would push out and upwards toward the threat.”

U.S. Army Capt. James England, Bravo Company commander, said the ARAT system adds protection while not inhibiting tank speeds.

“The ARAT looks like a good package,” England said. “In our current operating environment, should we have to engage a near-peer threat, we have to retain that mobility.”

Tank and maintenance crews with 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, install reactive armor tiles onto a M1A2 Abrams tank at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 28, 2017. The installation of the Abrams Reactive Armor Tile system will enhance the tank’s defensive capabilities, providing a greater deterrent against aggression as the 3rd ABCT maintains a persistent presence in Central and Eastern Europe as the rotational ABCT for Atlantic Resolve. U. S. Army photo by Capt. (Chaplain) Malcolm Rios


March 6, 2017


The U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea. The ship and its carrier strike group are on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers (Released) 170302-N-GD109-208

Talking to America’s Sailors

March 3, 2017

President, POTUS, Donald J. Trump, PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN78)

President Donald J. Trump speaks to U.S. Sailors at an all-hands call inside the hangar bay of the future USS Gerald R. Ford in a visit to Newport News, Va., Mar. 2, 2017. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Sheppard

From Gerald R. Ford Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS (NNS) — President Donald J. Trump addressed Sailors from Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and shipbuilders from Huntington Ingalls Newport News during a visit to the first-in-class aircraft carrier March 2.

“This carrier and the new ships in the Ford class will expand the ability of our nation to carry out vital missions on the oceans and to project American power in distant lands,” Trump said to an audience of over 3.500.

The president landed on the flight deck on Marine One accompanied by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They were welcomed aboard Ford by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Capt. Richard McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer.

“It was an honor to welcome aboard our commander-in-chief,” said McCormack. “My Sailors have put tremendous work and energy into making Ford an operational asset to the fleet, and I could not be more proud to have him here to see this team.” Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and the ship’s sponsor, who greeted Trump on the flight deck and welcomed him into the captain’s inport cabin, where he met with Ford Sailors and shipbuilders for a roundtable discussion. Following a brief tour of crew habitability spaces and unique technology, Trump descended to the Ford’s hangar bay via an aircraft elevator for an “All Hands Call” with Ford Sailors and shipbuilders.

The presidential visit marked a week full of “firsts”. It was Trump’s first visit to an aircraft carrier, and the first time the aircraft carrier, named in honor of the 38th president, Gerald R. Ford, had ever received a president. Earlier that week, an MV-22 Osprey marked a critical milestone in the life of the ship by becoming the first aircraft to land on Ford’s flight deck, making Ford the only ship to receive an aircraft before its commissioning while in the shipyard.

“It was a great opportunity to be a part of the ship’s history,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate [Handling] 3rd Class Marcus Arduini, an air department Sailor from Houston. Arduini has the distinction of being Ford’s first tower supervisor, and helped assist Ford’s air Boss in ensuring a safe aircraft recovery. “It’s just been a great experience to see everything finally come together.” Sailors expressed their pride in being able to show their ship to the President and senior military leaders.

“It’s an exciting experience to get the ship prepared,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Frederick Cobbin, a communications specialist from Charleston, South Carolina, assigned to Ford’s combat systems department. “I got here in 2014, when everything was pretty much bare metal – it’s amazing how far we’ve come.”


Face of Defense: U.S. Marine Helps Families of Fallen Service Members

March 3, 2017

Sgt. Alicia Hojara Superhero Unmasked

By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

U.S. MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., March 3, 2017 — Superheroes come in all sizes and all kinds of disguises — Marine Corps Sgt. Alicia Hojara is living proof of that.

In mid-December, the diminutive Marine was surrounded by a theater full of children and their families, their expressions changing from anticipation to hope to laughter in the flickering glow of the big screen. The movie, a new animated feature with comical animal characters and lots of hopeful vocals, seemed to be just what some of these families need at the moment: an escape from real-world worries to a place where they could just relax.

Hojara had left her uniform home, replaced by a different kind of camouflage — casual clothes, hair at ease, and a gentle expression that put her young charges at ease when they need it the most.

Most other days, you can find Hojara at the front of a classroom of young Marines as they navigate their way through the intricate details of aviation ordnance handling at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit here. There’s no kid’s play here; this is serious work that will prepare the next batch of aviation ordnance Marines to load teeth onto the modern-day dragons that squat across Marine Corps flight lines around the world.

But, from time to time, Hojara slips away like Clark Kent to take on another heroic mission, volunteering her time to help families who have lost an active-duty loved one. Hojara routinely makes time to volunteer for different organizations, such as local humane societies for the protection of animals; Snowball Express, which provides support to families of deceased service members; and her favorite, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, otherwise known as TAPS.

As Hojara sat in the shadowy theater on a mission with Snowball Express, draped in her invisible cape of good will, she feels the kind of satisfaction that superheroes must experience every time they swoop down and pull a victim a little further from despair. Chalk up one more for the good guys.

Maintaining Military Ties

“I work at the Good Grief Camps and seminars for children,” Hojara said. “It’s the child’s connection to the military, because a lot of times when they lose that family member who’s in the military, they get separated from the military lifestyle. They don’t live on base anymore, and a lot of them go back home, so it’s just kind of that connection to the military for those kids. We are mentors for the weekend, and we take them on campouts and do different things in different cities.”

“The rewarding feeling I get from giving back to these families, seeing that child’s face light up and seeing the bond that’s created between the military mentor and that child is completely worth it to me,” she said. “The connections we make last more than a weekend. … Some mentors stay in that child’s life. We go to graduations, important events like a recital or sporting event, help them pick out colleges. We become a part of their support network and are welcomed as family.”

“If something were to happen to me, I would want those resources for my family,” Hojara added. “These families don’t have that connection anymore, and we are that resource for them.”

Volunteer Award

Her attitude and dedication earned Hojara the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce’s Service Person of the Quarter award, which is given to a service member who has given up personal time to give something back to the community. At the Feb. 10 award luncheon in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, she stressed that others should get out and volunteer.

“Find something that you love. People are always looking for volunteers in the local community,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how you volunteer. It doesn’t have to be with kids, and it doesn’t have to be with pets. If you enjoy getting to know older people’s stories, go to a nursing home and spend time with them.”

But in that almost-magical theater, Hojara wasn’t thinking about awards and speeches to come. She just focused on shining eyes and the big smiles on the faces of those truly thankful for her superhero-like gesture. Later, she would don her familiar green and khaki uniform, adjust her laser-like focus to her “daytime” mission, and mentor young Marines on the challenges that lie ahead. Unlike some superheroes, this Marine shows her strength whether she is wearing her cape or not.


U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Alicia Hojara, center, an instructor at the Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., holds the flag she received as the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce’s Service Person of the Quarter, Feb. 10, 2017. Master Sgt. Christopher McGuire, left, and Lt. Col. Garrett Randel, right, nominated Hojara for her dedication to giving back to the local community. Randel is the school’s commander and McGuire is the aviation ordnance chief. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons