Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Aleasha Gatewood, assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet Staff embarked on the flagship USS Blue Ridge, had a rare opportunity to spend time with her aunt, Navy Lt. j.g. Aricka Faulkner, while underway in support of the ongoing Key Resolve 2014 exercise.
This is the second visit the two have had on board Blue Ridge in the last seven months, as Faulkner participated in the joint U.S.-South Korea exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian in August.
“It was fantastic to see her, and I am so proud of what she has accomplished since she has arrived on board as an E-2 three years ago and is now a second class petty officer,” Faulkner said. “I have only heard positive reactions from the people she works for.”
Faulkner is a Navy reserve officer assigned to the Navy Reserve Component Command for 7th Fleet based out of Fort Worth, Texas. When taking a break from her full-time career as a flight operations manager for FedEx, she fulfills her naval commitments by spending four weeks a year participating in 7th Fleet exercises. Gatewood, a culinary specialist, is permanently assigned to the 7th Fleet team and has worked in the flag mess since 2011.
“It was great to see her during this exercise, as we live so far away,” Gatewood said. “She gives me advice about my naval career.”
The two are from a proud family of female veterans, with another aunt, as well as Gatewood’s own mother, all serving in the Navy.
“As the junior-ranking member of my family serving in the Navy, I only wish to be as great as my mother and aunts, who have accomplished so much in their careers,” Gatewood said.
Throughout their busy schedules, the aunt and niece said, they managed to spend quality time together catching up Faulkner said she plans on treating Gatewood and her friends to a nice meal while on liberty in the next port visit.
The Pentagon’s chief information officer discussed on Thursday the vast opportunities mobile computing provides and its critical role in improving support for the Defense Department’s 600,000 mobile device users.
During the 4th annual MobileGov Summit at the Newseum in Washington, Teresa M. Takai said operational mobility pilot programs are a success story across the Defense Department’s components.
“The goal is to ensure the warfighter has access to information, anywhere, any time, on any device, and the DOD is making progress in achieving this goal,” she said. “These pilots allow DOD to gather lessons learned, identify cost reductions and improve productivity.”
Takai cited an example of mobility pilot program success in the Air Force’s electronic flight bag program.
“This electronic information management system is an iPad loaded with mobile applications, … and it replaces paper-based reference materials that can weigh between 30 and 110 pounds,” she explained, adding that hard-copy navigational charts and flight manuals soon could be obsolete as a result.
The electronic flight bag, she noted, can host applications to automate other functions, such as performance and takeoff calculations.
“This will allow flight crews to perform flight management tasks more easily and efficiently, with less paper -- all while increasing security and efficiencies,” Takai said. Not only could the EFB program amount to about $1 million annually in fuel by reducing the weight of paper-based reference materials, she added, but new layers of security and encryption can augment protection of data.
Progress also includes improving the way in which certification occurs for mobile devices to operate on DOD networks, she reported. So far, the latest Apple, Android and Blackberry operating systems have been approved, with the green light pending for Microsoft devices. But challenges remain, such as considering how to effectively vet new applications and how to better control network access, Takai said.
“The idea is to adapt DOD software and data sources to enable mobile applications and design cloud-based services that will support disconnected scenarios,” she explained.
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Because Defense Department leaders believe personal financial readiness equals mission readiness, officials want service members to “set a goal, make a plan and save automatically” in the Military Saves Week campaign that starts today, a senior Pentagon official said.
Military Saves is a yearlong campaign with DOD partner the Consumer Federation of America as part of the larger America Saves effort, said Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department’s office of family policy and children and youth.
“DOD over last 10 years has had a very robust financial readiness campaign,” Thompson said of the total-force program, which began in 2003.
Military Saves encourages service members and their families to take a pledge to reduce debt and set up automatic savings programs for necessities such as retirement, emergency and contingency savings.
“The first step in attaining financial security is making a commitment to changing personal spending and savings habits,” Thompson noted.
Financial readiness is equated with mission readiness within DOD, she added, because when a service member has financial difficulty, it can affect job performance.
“DOD feels so strongly about [financial readiness], every major installation and family support center will have personal financial managers to provide counseling and education to service members and their families,” Thompson said, adding that installation banks and credit unions also are committed to increasing financial literacy.
Taking a pledge to reduce debt and save money has become a tradition for service members, families and DOD civilians to make a commitment to themselves, Thompson said. The pledge can be taken online or publicly during a major installation event during Military Saves Week.
“Last year, we had over 29,000 [people] take the pledge, and that’s exciting,” she noted.
The traditional Thrift Savings Plan and its Roth IRA TSP counterpart offer painless avenues to automatically save, and the TSP plans are among DOD’s pillars of its military family readiness campaign, Thompson said.
“The TSP gives you an opportunity to think about your long-term future … [such as] retirement, because we think it’s far away, but it’s not,” she said. “Every day, you need to start thinking about saving for retirement.”
The Military OneSource website is another resource for help with financial planning, offering online financial tools and up to 12 sessions per monetary issue for face-to-face or telephone financial counseling, she said.
About 65 percent of troops and families have emergency savings plans, Thompson said. “That’s important. Our message is getting across about how important savings is,” she added.
“Your financial stability is going to make sure your family is secure, and that you don’t have to worry unnecessarily about something you do have control over,” she said.
Some kids dream of becoming like their parents in one way or another. Marine Corps Pvt. Thomas J. Shevlin patterns his life after his father’s.
Shevlin, a member of Platoon 3249, Company L, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, sets his life goals by drawing inspiration from his father’s life accomplishments.
His father left his home after being thrown out by his parents when he was a teenager. He was constantly on the move from house to house. Shevlin said his father made the choice to enlist in the Marine Corps, where he found a career.
For Shevlin, his father’s choice to become a Marine became his motivation.
“I was inspired by my father [to become a Marine]. I have never met a man better than my father,” said 19-year-old Shevlin. “He was able to make something of himself after going through a rough time.”
As a result, Shevlin, who hails from Bend, Ore., enlisted and shipped off to recruit training on Nov. 4, 2013. Before he departed for recruit training, Shevlin said his father told him, “I don’t know if you are trying to follow in my footsteps. If you are, you’ve made me the happiest and proudest father on the face of the earth.”
Shevlin grew up around Marines at different Marine Corps installations, including Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii and Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“The Marine Corps is embedded in me and it’s a part of my nature, how I grew up,” Shevlin said. “The Marine Corps is a lifestyle and it stands above the rest.”
Shevlin said his father, now a retired gunnery sergeant, deployed many times and was often absent. However, he added, his father always managed to spend time with the family regardless of his schedule; he was always present at his football games. His father was equally committed to his work and to his family.
According to Shevlin, he learned a lot from his father, not only about commitment, but also attention to detail. While growing up, Shevlin was indirectly being trained by his father. He instilled many traits and routines of a Marine such as proper customs and courtesies, discipline and leadership.
“He definitely had a good base when training started. He has the ability to lead from the front and that is important,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Elias R. Jimenez, a 26-year-old senior drill instructor. “People have to be able to trust you; they won’t trust you if you can’t do things you are asking them to do.”
For Shevlin, his father was not only a mentor, but also a friend.
“I’ve always had a close bond with him,” Shevlin said of his father. “Our relationship was close, as if I had come across somebody at school and knew I had found a best friend.”
Shevlin said his father now serves as a police officer, and he’s still very competitive, a trait which most Marines possess. According to Shevlin, even after retirement, his father aspires to be the greatest in everything he does. That’s something Shevlin said he also attempts to mirror in his life.
“I picked him to be one of my squad leaders because he stood out amongst recruits in the platoon. He is determined and you can tell he wants to be here,” Jimenez, who hails from Miami, said of Shevlin. “You can tell who is moving as fast as they can and who is giving 100 percent effort. He was one of those.”
For the next step in his training, Shevlin will attend the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to become a rifleman and continue in his journey to emulate his father.
“I have what it takes to be like my father,” Shevlin said. “I want to make it a full 20-year career because I’ve been around the Marine Corps my whole life and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
As the Defense Department looks for ways to ease the difficult process of transitioning from service member to civilian, it’s also seeking out companies in the private sector who can help lead the way in training and hiring veterans, said Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
One of those organizations, the NBA, was already searching for ways to broaden their interaction with service members, said Kim Bohuny, Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations-International for the NBA.
The NBA has a 10-year history of helping active duty service members, veterans and their families through the Hoops for Troops program, Bohuny said.
Since 2004, Hoops for Troops has been the NBA’s umbrella organization for volunteer projects directed at military members and veterans, she said. As part of the program, NBA teams and USA Basketball arranged their own volunteer opportunities during the playing season.
“Because of the tremendous success we’ve seen with our troops … our new commissioner Adam Silver said, ‘I want to make this a year-round program with NBA-WNBA-USAB programming,’” Bohuny said.
So, earlier this year the NBA reached out to the Defense Department, and over All-Star Weekend in New Orleans -- Feb. 14-16 -- launched the expanded Hoops for Troops program with Battaglia’s help.
Thousands of troops, veterans and family members were honored guests at events throughout the weekend, including concerts, visits from current and former NBA and WNBA players, on-court activities and the opportunity to attend the All-Star game itself.
Along with several hundred service members and veterans, Battaglia also volunteered to work on six homes in need of repair in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans -- including four homes belonging to veterans. And players from the NBA’s developmental league as well as current NBA players worked side-by-side with the troops.
The volunteer work was the highlight of the weekend, Battaglia said.
He said he was particularly touched by one of the homeowners, an Air Force veteran named Louis Banks, who, despite being in his late 70’s, was not the kind of person to ask for help. So, Battaglia said, rather than offering a handout -- something Banks was unlikely to accept -- his fellow veterans and Hoops for Troops offered a hand up.
“Even though Louis was too humble to ask for help, the help came to him,” the sergeant major said. “Though he no longer serves, he still feels ‘Airman.’ And that was a priceless award we wear in our chest, not on it.”
As the relationship between the NBA and the DOD grows, some “very exciting” plans are in the works, Bohuny said.
“What we’d like to do is put forth ongoing programing to take care of ... our men and women all over the world,” she said.
A number of similarities exist between service members leaving the military and basketball players transitioning out of the league, Battaglia said.
“We’re all ambassadors,” he said. That ambassadorship is one that makes NBA players representatives of America not just overseas, but with America’s youth, Battaglia noted. Service members carry the same responsibility.
“If you play in the NBA or the WNBA, you are the best in your craft,” Bohuny said. Similarly, she added, U.S. service members are the best in the world. “We take great pride in our craft … We both know what we’re doing on behalf of our country. I think it brings us together.”
“We think there are some ideas and sharing that can take place there. Collaboration is limitless,” Battaglia said. “I think where we’re going to take the next step is how we can improve each other’s [transition] programs.”
For the NBA, the outreach is an opportunity for its personnel to understand the true costs of citizenship and service, Bohuny said.
“I can’t tell you how deeply it affects our players and coaches, especially sometimes when they see how young some of our men and women are that lost their lives on behalf of our country,” she said.
“We want to do this [outreach] on behalf of our men and women to say thank you, but what they give back to us … is to learn what it is to be American,” Bohuny said.
The DOD and the NBA and will continue to look for ways to help the troops together, Battaglia said.
“A lot of our efforts right now are focused toward the transition [process], because we have so many service members -- approximately 250,000 a year -- that are transitioning out of the service,” Battaglia said.
“It’s a growing demand,” he said. “We have to exhaust every effort in the Department of Defense to ensure that we return America’s sons and daughters into society as productive members.”