PACIFIC OCEAN July 18, 2014 -- Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Arthur Bowlby, from Alton, Ill., peers through his sights during an M16 rifle qualification aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan is participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Jacob Estes
NPC Customer Service Center helping Sailors
From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy Personnel Command's (NPC) Customer Service Center (CSC) is the Navy's human resource point of contact, providing information and support to Sailors and families globally.
"The customer service agents field a large number of questions from a wide variety of constituents concerned about programs, current policies, pay and detailing," said Fred Chambers, Customer Relations Management Division director, CSC. "Our goal is to answer or find resolution to these questions in a timely manner."
CSC ensures that every Sailor and family member can interact with an agent to provide answers and guidance on a wide variety of career-related concerns in a timely and accurate fashion, no matter where the Sailor is deployed.
The CSC started screening calls for detailers in early 2010. Their aim was to help Sailors get quick answers to their detailing questions, while simultaneously reducing detailers' call volume.
"CSC points the Sailor to the Subject Matter Expert who can answer their question so that they can get the bottom line up front; we are the Navy's human resource center," said Chambers.
Sailors' social security numbers may be required when calling to access Privacy Act records. Providing the social security number is voluntary; however, failure to do so may result in an inability to get immediate help with a problem.
The CSC can also be contacted by e-mail at UASKNPC@navy.mil for general inquiry questions and routine correspondence, such as record request inquiries, Fitness Report/Evaluation questions, detailer and Career Management System-Interactive Detailing information. DoD policy requires e-mail correspondence containing Personally Identifiable Information to UASKNPC@navy.mil to be encrypted.
CSC agents are available Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. (CST) to answer questions at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (1-866-827-5672). Overseas Sailors may wish to email UASKNPC@navy.mil or contact via DSN (882-5672), as the Toll Free number is not available outside the United States. Sailors may also post questions or concerns on the Navy Detailers Facebook page, the official Facebook page for NPC.
WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA (July 19, 2014) Cmdr. Thomas J. Zerr, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100), supervises from the bridge during a bilateral exercise with the Republic of Korea navy. Kidd is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Declan Barnes
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Navy's Air Boss announces improvements to Blues' selection process
From Commander, Naval Air Forces Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The commander of Naval Air Forces announced July 22 several policy and procedural changes designed to strengthen the selection process for future Blue Angel teams.
The process improvements are being made and codified in both governing instructions and practice for the future.
"I am committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism while preserving the tradition of excellence that is the hallmark of the Blue Angels," said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander, Naval Air Forces. "My focus is on ensuring that the Blue Angels team, our Navy and Marine Corps' elite Flight Demonstration Squadron, is made up of the most qualified and professional aviators."
One of the organizational changes that Vice Adm. Buss has directed is the establishment of an executive officer (XO) billet for the Blue Angels. As part of the leadership command triad in Navy operational squadrons, the XO is second-in-command, a near peer for solid backup to the commanding officer. The XO ensures that Navy policies are carried out properly and day-to-day business is executed smartly. The XO will be a naval aviator but will not be a flying member of the demonstration team. A new XO will be named with the announcement of the 2015 Blue Angels Team.
"The 'Command Triad' is the leadership core of any Navy ship or squadron, consisting of the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and Command Master Chief, who support, reinforce, and challenge, when appropriate, each other in all aspects of leading a unit. The Blue Angels have never had a complete 'Triad' as they've never had a dedicated XO; we are seizing this opportunity to fix that," said Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley, commander, Naval Aviation and Training.
Additionally, changes to the application and selection process have been implemented to assure the team continues to be made up of the best Naval Aviation has to offer. Specifically, additional oversight has been included so that Navy Personnel Command will review finalists and the Chief of Naval Aviation Training will have final approval authority of the team. The new selection process changes are being used during the selection of the 2015 team.
"Every individual selected to join the Blue Angels is chosen based on their individual merits," said Cmdr. Tom Frosch, commanding officer of the Blue Angels. "I couldn't be more proud of the great talent and professionalism of the current team, and we remain committed to selecting the most talented and qualified individuals for future Blue Angel Teams. As we continue to incorporate changes, we will carry on the Blue Angels tradition of excellence."
The 2015 Blue Angel Team announcement is expected later this week and will represent the talented range of both Navy and Marine Corps officers who applied this year.
"I am fully confident in the current Blue Angels team and that future teams will continue the proud tradition of excellence, discipline, and teamwork, as they represent our Navy and Marine Corps around the nation and around the globe," said Vice Adm. Buss.
US, ROK build relationships to increase Allied interoperability
by MC2 Declan Barnes, USS Kidd Public Affairs
USS KIDD, At Sea (NNS) -- The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100), in cooperation with members of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, participated in a bilateral exercise with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy, July 15-19.
"We are allies and close friends, and this exercise is absolutely critical," said Capt. Shan Byrne, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15. "ROK navy has continued to build state-of-the-art technology to align to U.S. capabilities over the past six to seven years, and this has transformed the way we operate together at sea. The purpose of these exercises is to prepare, and help grow their naval capabilities as we get closer and closer together while working at sea."
The exercise is one of many held annually to strengthen interoperability and teamwork between U.S. and ROK navies, while enhancing the security and readiness in the entire Korean theater of operations.
"This allows our navies to refine techniques to integrate surface and air weapons, sensors, and communications," said Capt. Fred Kacher, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, embarked on Kidd. "Just as importantly, operating together at sea reaffirms the enduring partnership and alliance between our nations that has spanned six decades."
The exercise affords a unique training opportunity to watchstanders of all ranks and rates as they worked side-by-side with ROK navy exchange officers to improve command and control between the two navies.
"These coordinated events are a fantastic opportunity to train both bridge and combat information center watch standers alike through maneuvering tactics, foreign ship familiarization, international communications, and air asset coordination," said Cmdr. T.J. Zerr, Kidd's commanding officer.
To increase the interoperability, ROK navy liaison officers embarked on board U.S. Navy ships.
"Having the chance to work together with the crew on board Kidd has been extremely valuable to me," said Lt. Dong-Hoon Lee, a ROK navy liaison officer embarked on board Kidd. "Through this exercise, our two navies have formed a formidable team on the water."
During the events, Kidd played an essential role in controlling U.S. and ROK aircraft, coordinating anti-submarine tactical training, and employing advanced sensors in co-operations with the ROK.
"This exercise provides a highly integrated and fast-paced air control environment for both U.S. and ROK pilots," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Andrew Petrie, one of Kidd's air warfare coordinators. "Our teams worked together to build a highly effective and extremely capable combined surface and air naval force."
Fostering diplomatic relations with allies through bilateral operations at sea is part of America's maritime strategy to build a joint coalition force of allies capable of ensuring maritime security.
"[DESRON 15] ships spend a lot of time in and around the Republic of Korea," said Byrne. "It's one of our primary missions since they are a critical ally. We are there not only to conduct exercises with ROK navy, but working on our personal relationships with all the different ROK navy fleets. Our Sailors get a lot out of it, and we have spent enough time there for them to get to really know their counterparts and build the relationships. I think it is one of the many unique experiences a forward-deployed Sailor can get; working with our allies up close and personal. The other side of that is being able to host ROK sailors on our ships and see the special friendships develop. Even beyond normal friendships, we are building trust and capability."
Kidd, home ported in San Diego, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
USS Gary demonstrates capabilities during RIMPAC 2014
by Ensign Michael Singer, USS Gary Public Affairs
USS GARY, At Sea (NNS) -- Working alongside multinational naval forces during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, the Oliver Hazard Perry-Class guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) demonstrated her proficiency in gunnery, maritime interdiction operations, helicopter operations, small boat operations, navigation, communication, and ship handling.
Gary began her involvement transiting the Pacific Ocean during a group sail including USS Cape St. George (CG 71), USS Sampson (DDG 102), USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751), USNS Rainier, CNS Blanco Encalada (FF 15), HnoMS Fridt Jof Nansen (F310), and HMCS Calgary (FFH 335).
Operations Officer Lt. William Hessell coordinated most of Gary's participation in RIMPAC.
"Gary was fortunate to participate in DESRON [Destroyer Squadron] 9's multinational group sail en route to Hawaii," Hessell said. "It was an excellent opportunity to work with our coalition partners and rehearse exercises we would conduct during RIMPAC. The highlight was the cross-deck program, which allowed sailors to spend a week on other nations' ships and gain valuable experience in the process."
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Bradly Ingram said participating in the group sail was a unique experience.
"I enjoyed working alongside the foreign nation's ships so closely," he said. "It gives you a kind of bird's-eye view that only the participants could see."
During group sail, the ships performed gunnery exercises, tactical shipboard maneuvers, underway replenishments, helicopter operations, anti-submarine operations, and a passing exercise. Following the group sail, Gary pulled into Pearl Harbor for the RIMPAC in-port phase.
During that time, Gary Sailors served as tour guides and gave more than 90 tours of their frigate. Ship's Serviceman Seaman Joshua Ronquillo not only gave tours, but visited many other ships.
"The best part for me was being able to go see the other ships from different countries on the waterfront," Ronquillo said. "Seeing their traditions, uniforms, and sailors was a very unique opportunity that I will remember for the rest of my life."
Lt. j.g. Andrew Walter was grateful for the opportunity to interact with other sailors from around the world.
"Being able to participate in the Hawaii portion of RIMPAC has been a huge help in understanding the other navies of the world and how they work," he said. "Meeting sailors from different navies in the Navy Exchange, at the sporting events, ship tours, and fun times around Oahu have given personality to the ships we operate with."
Gary crew members enjoyed their liberty in Hawaii, including hiking, scuba, kayaking, and RIMPAC sponsored sporting events with other countries such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, and tennis.
"It's never a bad time to be in Hawaii!" Hessell said.
After the in-port sea phase, Gary departed Pearl Harbor for the at-sea phase portion of RIMPAC.
Lt. Jean-Christophe Berger of the Belgian navy, a foreign exchange officer serving on board Gary, said he's found the exercise both challenging and rewarding.
"RIMPAC gives international participants many opportunities to collaborate together, to demonstrate their material, capacities, and, most importantly, how they operate in a group sail," Berger said. "The main opportunity that RIMPAC represents for these foreign countries is the possibility to work with the U.S. Navy. It is a chance to observe how the most powerful force at sea is able to work with others. Communication is the key to successfully completing the exercises and is an essential element allowing multiple countries to reach shared goals."
Cmdr. Steven McDowell, Gary's commanding officer, said the exercise has provided invaluable training for his ship and crew.
"RIMPAC offers a unique opportunity to meet and work with our international counterparts in an effort that unifies our collective force and enables it to respond more effectively when a crisis arises," he said. "The value of the partnerships that are built and sustained is well worth the effort that goes into planning and executing RIMPAC."
Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
CARTAGENA, Colombia July 17, 2014 -- Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, welcomes Gen. Juan Pablo Rodrguez Barragan, commander, Colombian Military Forces, aboard the future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). America is traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility on her maiden transit. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco. U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Huey D. Younger Jr.
America departs Colombia, continues course to San Diego
by USS America (LHA 6) Public Affairs
CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA (NNS) -- The future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) departed Cartagena, Colombia, July 19 after a three-day port visit.
This was the crew's first stop on the ship's maiden voyage, "America Visits the Americas," as the ship makes its way from Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi to its homeport of San Diego.
While in Colombia, the ship hosted a welcome reception in the ship's hangar bay. Distinguished guests included Dr. Kevin Whitaker, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia; Gen. John F. Kelly, commander, U.S. Southern Command; Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno, Colombian Minister of National Defense; Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, commanding officer, Colombia Military Forces; as well as local Colombian civilian dignitaries and military officials.
During the visit, the ship's military and civilian crew had the opportunity to experience their host nation and to serve as goodwill ambassadors.
"I enjoyed exploring the culture and tasting some local food while touring the city," said Marine Cpl. Jessica McGinnis, landing support specialist assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 13.
While anchored off the coast of Cartagena, the crew offloaded 52 pallets of medical supplies and toys to children suffering from terminal illnesses in the city. The supplies were delivered as part of Project Handclasp, a Navy program that accepts and transports educational, humanitarian and goodwill material donated by America's private sector for distribution to foreign nation recipients.
"Shipping this amount of cargo into Colombia would have cost a fortune for any charity organization. America on the other hand, did this at no extra cost to the taxpayer or to the volunteer organizations that provided the donations," said Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Cox, America's assistant supply officer. "Just knowing where these items are headed, and knowing our crew has made a direct, positive impact on peoples' lives here in Colombia, was a powerful reminder that the Navy really is a global force for good."
Also during the visit, America's soccer team played a friendly match against the local Colombian naval team.
Although the America team didn't win, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) 2nd Class Luis Garcia said playing against the local soccer team was a great experience.
"Soccer is the number one sport in this country. Their national team recently made the final 16 during the 2014 World Cup," said Garcia.
America is also scheduled to visit Brazil, Chile, Peru and Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the crew will continue enriching partnerships through a variety of interactions with host nations, acting as goodwill ambassadors and participating in community relations projects.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command , U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. Marine Forces South support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
America is currently traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility on her maiden transit, "America Visits the Americas". America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious assault ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The ship is scheduled to be ceremoniously commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco.
PRC vice admiral tours Mercy during RIMPAC 2014
by MC3 Pyoung K. Yi, USNS Mercy Public Affairs
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) hosted the commander of People's Republic of China, People's Liberation Army (Navy) [PLA(N)] South Sea Fleet July 15 while the ship was underway for Rim of the Pacific's (RIMPAC) 2014.
While aboard, Vice Adm. Weilie Jiang toured Mercy's facilities including casualty receiving, the ship's operating room complex, intensive care unit and the pilot house.
During the tour, Jiang stressed to Mercy's hospital staff about the importance of exchanging ideas with PLA(N)'s hospital ship Ark Peace's (T-AH 866) crew about medical practices and how to coordinate future humanitarian relief and disaster response efforts.
"I think Vice Admiral Jiang's presence aboard Mercy sends a pretty strong signal that we're committed to exchanging ideas and technological expertise, especially in the field of health care, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," said Capt. Michael Taylor, commander, Military Sealift Command Pacific. "Both Ark Peace and Mercy have similar missions and it's very beneficial for us to share ideas and exchange thoughts."
One of the main topics discussed during Vice Admiral Jiang's tour aboard Mercy was the idea of exchanging knowledge between medical personnel aboard Mercy and Ark Peace.
"During the subject matter expert exchanges scheduled, there are areas in which we are well-versed and can pass on what we've learned," said Dr. Xiaodong Zhang, the infection control officer aboard Ark Peace. "On the flip side, there are subjects in which the Mercy's crew are probably very knowledgeable, and we can learn what they have to share in those subjects. It's important for us to cooperate and improve each other's capabilities."
Jiang expressed interest in Mercy's capabilities during his tour of the hospital ship and exchanged command ball caps and command coins with Mercy's mission commander and commanding officer.
RIMPAC 2014 is scheduled to have the largest medical presence in its 24-exercise history - with two hospital ships, symposiums, subject matter expert exchanges and over 20 medical exercise events. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.
MCPON visits USS Gridley
by MC2 (SW) Zachary Bell,
Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens visited the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101) July 17 during a four-day trip to the Navy Region Southwest.
"It was a great opportunity for my Sailors to hear from the most senior enlisted leader. His billet was created to be the link between the junior Sailors and senior leadership," said USS Gridley Commanding Officer Cmdr. Mark Nieswiadomy. "These generations of Sailors are well connected so this is a great opportunity to ask questions and have their voices heard."
During an all-hands call with Sailors aboard Gridley, Stevens spoke about budget changes, Navy-wide morale, and the return of the Navy ball caps. He also held a question and answer session to receive feedback from the Sailors.
"It is important for me to get out and about to hear what is on the minds of Sailors and their families," said Stevens. "When I get back to Washington, D.C. and offer my advice and recommendations to those things that are going to better help our Navy, I am doing so with what Sailors and their families have told me."
Stevens asked the Sailors to pull out their wheel books or notepads and write down his three rules to live by.
"No matter who you are, what rank you are, or what job you hold in the Navy, I say work hard, stay out of trouble, and be a good and decent person. That's what I call the 'Foundation of Success," said Stevens.
He also took time after the all-hands call to speak with junior enlisted Sailors.
"The visit from the MCPON was a really awesome experience. He was very personable and listened to what we had to say," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Todd Protonentis. "Knowing that he started as a Seaman and worked his way to the highest enlisted position really inspires me and gives me faith that I can do the same."
While in San Diego, Stevens not only visited Gridley, he also spent time on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and he made a trip to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to visit with Sailors and Marines.
The MCPON serves as the senior enlisted leader of the Navy and as the advisor to the chief of naval operations and to the chief of naval personnel in matters dealing with enlisted personnel and their families.