Saturday, February 28, 2009

Marines, Sailors work together to improve smiles in the Maldives

Photos and Story by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

THE MALDIVES (Feb. 24, 2009) —Marines and Sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group provided community members of the Maldives with dental care and informational classes Feb. 20-23.

Dental care was given to both children and adults to improve their general state of dental health. Classes were also given to the community members to aid in providing the knowledge needed to keep a healthy smile.

In the dental building, the Navy staff was continuously busy with teeth cleanings, sealants and extractions; helping about 400 people in just four days, said Navy Lt. Angela M. Roldan-Whitaker, the 13th MEU dental officer.

The community members first went through a general screening process before they proceeded to the hygiene area to have their teeth flossed, brushed and treated with fluoride. If necessary, they were sent to the surgery room where dentists conducted extractions, said Jonathan N. Tofts, a Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class with Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

“We were recommended to provide the people with preventive education, so that’s what we aimed for,” said Roldan-Whitaker.

The classes were geared towards six and seven year-old children, but many adults attended as well. The dental staff used props with their instruction and gave out toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to the participants. They also provided fluoride treatments for everyone before the class ended.

“They get this kind of [dental] treatment once in a lifetime because we have the capabilities to treat [them],” said Tofts.

The Maldivian’s friendly chatter, kind eyes and big smiles showed how pleased they were to have the U.S. military members in their country, said Tofts.

“We were happy. We all pulled together like a team,” said Roldan-Whitaker.

After finishing with the clinic, the dental staff packed up and walked out to the boats, followed by a crowd of people who stood on the pier, smiled, said their thank-yous, and waved the dental staff goodbye.

Marines and Sailors provide aid in the Maldives

Photo and Story by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

THE MALDIVES (Feb. 24)—Marines and Sailors from USS New Orleans (LPD-18), USS Comstock (LHD-45) with elements from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group spent Feb. 19-24 in the Maldives to provide medical supplies and information and training in order to aid the Maldivian people.

U.S. Navy medical staff gave multiple basic Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation classes to the community members and two medical officers utilized rooms in the hospitals to see patients for basic medical care.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Cyrena L. Williams with USS Comstock, taught classes which enabled more than 80 people the ability to perform CPR.
“My goal was to teach basic first aid and CPR general knowledge to the people,” said the Livermore, Calif. native.

The students were delighted to have the medical team there--they asked many questions and everyone participated in the practical applications, said Williams.

Navy Lt. Martin W. Lunceford, the battalion surgeon for Battalion Landing Team 1/1, was one of the volunteering medical officers who saw patients.

Doctors saw men, women and children from the ages of four to 89 and were able to prescribe medicines and treatments to more than 100 community members, said Lunceford.

“The people are very warm and excited. I feel like a celebrity,” said Lunceford.

Mr. Faisal Ibrahim, the manager of five health centers in the Maldives, is extremely pleased with the Navy medical staff as well as the Marines who supported the event.

The medical staff also donated five adult and two infant CPR mannequins, guides and study materials, and eight medical books to add to their library.

“We are very happy with the donations; we would not have been able to get those items on our own,” said Ibrahim.

Experiences such as these can be incredibly rewarding for service members who participate and provide unique benefits to community members in the Maldives.

“This is the highlight of my career,” said Lunceford.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Exercise Coconut Grove wrap-up

The following is a press release from the US Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka about our time in the Maldives.
Embassy of the United States of America



U.S. Medical and Military Teams Work Together with Maldivian Counterparts to Enhance Skills and Goodwill

Colombo, February 27, 2009: - A team of United States Navy and Marine medical professionals, working with colleagues in the Maldivian public health care system and armed forces, completed a medical and dental assistance mission from February 20 to 23 that benefited residents of Naifaru, Lavivani Atoll.

This medical outreach initiative in Maldives by the Thirteenth U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) is the latest in a series of ship visits by U.S. forces intended to strengthen bilateral ties and foster goodwill between the United States and the Republic of Maldives.

The American group worked side-by-side with Maldivian medical personnel to augment local health care systems. Over five days the medical teams treated 268 medical patients, conducting examinations, giving vaccinations, and providing classes on emergency medical procedures. The dental team assisted a total of 400 patients with extractions of non-viable teeth, as well as training staff and giving presentations on dental hygiene to local students. Visitors received toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss as encouragement to continue healthy dental hygiene.

On February 19 and 20, a team of U.S. military personnel delivered donations of educational and recreational supplies to 41 children with special needs at the Care Society Child Development Center in Male’ and to 42 children at the Neglected Children’s Home in Vilingili. Gifts included children’s books, pens and pencils, writing pads, and assorted toys.

In addition to the medical assistance and community outreach, U.S. forces from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Maldivian National Defense Force (MNDF) conducted joint exercises to develop professional skills and interoperability on Addoo Atoll. Training included classes in the U.S. Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, a Combat Lifesaver Course given by U.S. Navy corpsmen, and MNDF members teaching U.S. Marines jungle survival skills.

During the scheduled training events, MNDF, U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy personnel were called on to assist in a real-world medical evacuation when a local man who suffered a severe head injury in a traffic accident required emergency transportation. The man was in a life-and-death situation due to limited local medical facilities and the distance he would have to travel by boat to receive appropriate care.

“The call came in and we wanted to do everything in our power to ensure this man did not die because of something we were unable to do,” said a U.S. Marine Corps spokesperson.

Thanks to the quick reaction and immediate planning efforts by joint MNDF-U.S. Military teams, U.S. Marine helicopters were able to transport the victim to hospital in Male’ within two hours of the initial request.

The United States hopes to continue these bilateral training and medical support opportunities in various Maldives locations in future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BLT 1/1 Marines train to max MCMAP

Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

USS NEW ORLEANS, At sea -- While learning
new techniques on ship, Christopher easily flips another Marine over his shoulder and onto the ground during martial arts training.

Christopher R. Boyette, a tank crewman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, began a course, along with about 30 other Marines, with hopes to ascend through the different colors and skill sets of belts within the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).

The training started mid-January and takes about two to three hours per day, Monday through Saturday. The course begins at the lowest level and will allow the students to keep going up through the syllabus until they reach their max belt for their rank. Some may choose to continue through to black belt.

“I try and make the course physically challenging,” said Capt. Brian R Von Kraus, commanding officer of Company A, BLT 1/1. “I show them new techniques and new ways of physical training.”

Not only are the students learning and upgrading their MCMAP belts, they are also given courses in ground-fighting, boxing and kickboxing, said Von Kraus, who is one out of three instructors involved with the course.

“I haven’t had anything this physically intense since boot camp,” said Boyette.

Everyone is learning new moves to prepare themselves for challenges they might face as well as improving on the skills they have already acquired. All the participants seem to enjoy the course as well, said Von Kraus. “I think it is a good thing for Marines on ship,” said Boyette. “To help, not only on the battlefield, but to keep them in shape while on deployment,” said Boyette.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Ice Cream Theory

Editorial and Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly

Aboard US Naval vessels it is a common practice to serve “real” ice cream after extended periods at sea or on special occasions. On one previous such occasion, I saw Sailors and Marines alike serving up their junior counterparts, in most cases, scoops [mounds] of the cold stuff, with choice toppings. Everyone, the servers, the recipients or anyone within 100 feet of the social, had big smiles on their faces. After closer examination of these people, it seemed these permanent grinning expressions were coming from a subconscious place, a place where sweeter memories prevailed—at least, that’s how I perceived it.

Anyway, I started thinking of what ice cream meant to me. When I think of ice cream, I think of many things. Maybe I imagined walking through the zoo with my friends, visiting an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with my parents or grandparents, hanging out at the park with my kids or perhaps just hanging on the couch, watching my favorite program with my wife. As I write, my mind’s eye points to one common factor in all previous stated events—Family.

So I have to ask myself, “What is it about ice cream that makes most people happy [barring those who have allergic or adverse reactions to dairy products]?” And when I say a lot, I’m saying 1.6 billion gallons produced annually in America alone. We all know it’s a comfort food that has no cultural or ethnic barriers in the United States, or in any semi-developed country for that matter. I mean, everyone loves ice cream. So is it safe to say most people share these same memories? If so, could it also be assumed when service members have ice cream, they are conjuring up memories of times past, times with their families and friends. I would like to think so…. But until we actually find an answer, we’d like to say: Family and friends, take heart, your Marines and Sailors are thinking of you on those sweet, ice cream occasions.

Keep serving it up Skipper!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Marines return to Guam to train

Photos by Lance Cpl. Jesse Leger

USS BOXER, At Sea – The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted sustainment training on the U.S. Territory of Guam in U.S. Forces Pacific Command, Jan. 31 - Feb. 5, to enhance their military skills prior to entering the Central Command area of operations as part of their scheduled six-month deployment as the nation’s force in readiness.

The 13th MEU seeked to maximize training opportunities in unfamiliar sites in Guam, which offers terrain that builds unique skill sets that enhance the MEU’s ability to work in a myriad of environments.

A few highlights from the training schedule included:

February 1: The off-loading of more than 80 vehicles, 649 tons of equipment, and 330 Marines at Reserve Craft Beach by Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicles from USS Boxer (LHD-4), and an external lift of an M777 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer by a CH-53E helicopter. The 13th MEU will also conduct a simulated helicopter raid at the Naval Communication Station with Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

February 2-3: Patrolling operations, explosive ordnance disposal training and Jaws-of-Life training, similar to that of our nation’s fire and rescue personnel, by the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) team.

These events exercised the MEU’s ability to conduct anything from large-scale combat operations to humanitarian assistance anywhere around the world. While transiting through the Western Pacific region, the MEU serves as the nation’s “9-1-1 force”; able to execute any mission, any time.

Following the sustainment training, Marines were given on-shore liberty to gain both a cultural and historical appreciation of the island of Guam.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Marines conduct marksmanship training while aboard ship

Story by Lance Cpl. Megan E. Sindelar
Photo by Lance Cpl. Jesse Leger

USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea – With all of the advancements made towards improving the quality of life while under way, it is also important to remember to create better training tools.

The New Orleans is the first commissioned, San Antonio Class ship to include the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer system (ISMT). The ISMT system aboard USS New Orleans, run by the ship’s combat cargo section, consists of two screens with eight different weapon systems ranging from small arms to heavy machine guns. The ISMT is being used for the Navy weapon’s qualifications as well as Marine Corps training while at sea.

It can be difficult to maintain basic rifleman skills, but the ISMT, in addition to training conducted throughout the deployment, only increases the opportunities to build on those skills while aboard ship for months at a time.

Not many have used the program so far because the ship is still in its early stages of deployment and everyone is still settling down, but eventually Marines and sailors will start using the ISMT as the deployment goes on, said Gunnery Sgt. Ty W. Jones, the senior combat cargo assistant for USS New Orleans.

Due to weather, flight operations and the sea state, it can be a challenge to find opportunities to fire weapons.

“While at sea, it is hard to conduct live fire exercises,” explained Staff Sgt. Tony Serrano, a combat cargo assistant with USS New Orleans. “This system will allow for real-life combat scenarios and familiarization with the weapons—it is practice that can only help and benefit Marines [and sailors].”

“I think it’s a good thing to have aboard,” said Lance Cpl. Greg E. Lane, a rifleman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1/1. “There’s a wide variety of weapons to shoot—I’m enthusiastic about it.”

By having the ISMT aboard, USS New Orleans is setting the footprints for the San Antonio Class, modern day ships.

“This [training] can save lives,” said Serrano.

Marine recognized with Copernicus Award

Story by Lance Cpl. Megan E. Sindelar

USS BOXER, At Sea--A Marine with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit was selected to receive the 2008 Copernicus Award which recognizes individual contributions to naval warfare in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, information systems and information warfare.

Major Gregory A. Wyche, the communications officer for the 13th MEU, found out during the first week of his current deployment that he was one of three Marines selected to receive the award, which is sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA).

Wyche, a Pensacola, Fla. native, said he does not know why he was selected for this award, as it was his Marines who did all the great work.

“I think he definitely deserves this award; he is good at his job and very knowledgeable,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon S. Moubray, a network administrator with the 13th MEU.

A panel of Navy judges review nominations sent in from Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Commanding Officers or Officers in Charge. The judges choose from nominations of active duty servicemembers and civilians with C4I/IT-related jobs and present them with the award at an annual conference held in San Diego each winter.

The award was established in 1997 by the then President and Chief Executive Officer of AFCEA International, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. C. Norman Wood, and the late Vice Adm. Art Cebrowski, a Navy communications officer.

It was named after the Copernicus Architecture; the blueprint for the future C4I structure of the Navy.

Constantly mentoring, Wyche has more than 50 Marines under his charge, said Moubray.
Wyche feels privileged to receive this award, but he still feels that it was his Marines’ work and that they should receive the credit.

“There are no individual awards in a team sport. It’s like in football, if the offensive line doesn’t block, it’s hard for the quarterback to look good. If the wide receivers don’t run good routes and catch a poorly thrown ball every now and then, it’s hard for the quarterback to look good. If the defense doesn’t keep the other team off the scoreboard, it’s hard for the quarterback to look good. If the running backs don’t establish a viable running game, it’s hard for the quarterback to look good. So this isn’t my award, it is the offensive lines, the receivers, the defense and the running backs. This is the team’s award,” said Wyche.