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Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

Ocean Search

April 23, 2014, 9:39AM

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cameron H. Depue scans the ocean from the back of an MV-22 Osprey aircraft to assist South Korea's search operations for the Sewol, the ferry that sank off Jindo island. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Henry AntenorU.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cameron H. Depue scans the ocean from the back of an MV-22 Osprey aircraft to assist South Korea's search operations for the Sewol, the ferry that sank off Jindo island. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Henry Antenor

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program personnel demonstrated five technologies under development to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the secretary's conference room yesterday.

DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar provided the secretary with a demonstration of the agency's latest prosthetics technology.

The wounded warrior demonstrating the device was Fred Downs Jr., an old friend of Hagel's who lost an arm in a landmine explosion while fighting in Vietnam. Hagel hugged him and shook his mechanical hand, with Downs joking, "I don't want to hurt you."

"He and I worked together many years ago," said Hagel, who earned two Purple Hearts during his service as an enlisted soldier in Vietnam. "How you doing, Fred? How's your family?"

Downs demonstrated how he controls movements of the arm, which appeared to be partly covered in translucent white plastic, with two accelerometers strapped to his feet. Through a combination of foot movements, he's able to control the elbow, wrist and fingers in a variety of movements, including the “thumbs-up” sign he gave Hagel.

It took only a few hours to learn to control the arm, Downs said.

"It's the first time in 45 years, since Vietnam, I'm able to use my left hand, which was a very emotional time," he said.

Dr. Justin Sanchez, a medical doctor and program manager at DARPA who works with prosthetics and brain-related technology, told Hagel that DARPA's arm is designed to mimic the shape, size and weight of a human arm. It's modular too, so it can replace a lost hand, lower arm or a complete arm.

Hagel said such technology would have a major impact on the lives of injured troops.

"This is transformational," he said. "We've never seen anything like this before."

Read more here.

Hot Topics for April 23

April 23, 2014, 8:19AM |

Army units heading to Eastern Europe (Military Times)

Career Curveballs: No Longer A Soldier (Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Linkedin)

Recruits trending older in U.S. military (USA Today)

Boston crowds roar for Tacoma runner who lost leg in Afghanistan (Tacoma News Tribune)

U.S. Tech Vets links military veterans with civilian jobs (Christian Science Monitor)

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine (San Diego Union Tribune)

Running Security

April 22, 2014, 9:43AM

Army Spc. Brandon Smith provides security at the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon. About 600 Massachusetts National Guardsmen assisted local authorities to ensure the event would be as safe as possible. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry SaslavArmy Spc. Brandon Smith provides security at the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon. About 600 Massachusetts National Guardsmen assisted local authorities to ensure the event would be as safe as possible. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Saslav

Dropping In

April 17, 2014, 9:55AM

U.S. Special Forces soldiers and Honduran paratroopers descend to the drop zone after jumping out of an AC-130 aircraft during a partner nation static line jump on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven K. YoungU.S. Special Forces soldiers and Honduran paratroopers descend to the drop zone after jumping out of an AC-130 aircraft during a partner nation static line jump on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven K. Young

Air Insertion

April 16, 2014, 8:36AM

Air Force Senior Airman Sean Meehan, left, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Kane Lawlor provide cover after a tactical air insertion by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during training on Warren Grove Gunnery Range, N.J. National Guard photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matt HechtAir Force Senior Airman Sean Meehan, left, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Kane Lawlor provide cover after a tactical air insertion by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during training on Warren Grove Gunnery Range, N.J. National Guard photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht

A Kiss for Good Luck

April 15, 2014, 10:34AM

Air Force wounded warrior August O’Neill interacts with his service dog, Kai, during the cycling portion of the Air Force Warrior Games Trials on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jette CarrAir Force wounded warrior August O’Neill interacts with his service dog, Kai, during the cycling portion of the Air Force Warrior Games Trials on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jette Carr

Road Runners

April 14, 2014, 9:34AM

Marines participate in a three-mile training run along a fitness test track at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ali AzimiMarines participate in a three-mile training run along a fitness test track at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ali Azimi

Seattle Salute

April 11, 2014, 10:13AM

Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, a Medal of Honor recipient, waves to fans while being honored during a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels in Seattle on April 8. Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, a Medal of Honor recipient, waves to fans while being honored during a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels in Seattle on April 8.

Sky Scanner

April 10, 2014, 2:07PM

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher K. Jordan scans the horizon while flying a combat sortie mission to support Afghanistan's presidential elections. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason RobertsonU.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher K. Jordan scans the horizon while flying a combat sortie mission to support Afghanistan's presidential elections. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason RobertsonU.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher K. Jordan scans the horizon while flying a combat sortie mission to support Afghanistan's presidential elections. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson

Since he has traveled around the world and served on 11 deployments, some might think Command Master Chief Petty Officer Juan Lopez would be winding down in his Navy career.

He says otherwise.

“The day I ‘have’ to do something is the day I will leave,” Lopez said. “I don’t see that happening any time soon. I love what I do. I could never get tired of this.”

Lopez is serving on his 12th deployment, this time as the command master chief of the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

Navy Master Chief Petty Officer is the senior enlisted advisor to the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer Navy Master Chief Petty Officer is the senior enlisted advisor to the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer As the senior enlisted advisor to the hospital’s command group, Lopez acts as the voice for all enlisted sailors serving there.

“Any need they may have, I make sure it gets taken care of,” he said. “I take care of everything that may cause an issue for them. That way, they can go focus on their jobs here.”

He also oversees the Chief Petty Officer 365 program, which is designed to help chief petty officers advance in their careers and eventually become senior and master chief petty officers.

Lopez talked about his motivation to emphasize the CPO 365 program, as well as the importance of being a chief petty officer.

“I want someone to eventually take over for me and be able to succeed at this position,” he said. “Once you become a chief, senior chief and master chief, it’s not about you any more. It is about your sailors. It isn’t a ‘job’ any more. You have to be there and help guide these young people.”

Lopez said he has had a great deal of guidance from his family, most notably his father, who was a colonel in the Nicaraguan army. His father, who Lopez said was a “highly decorated officer,” served in a multitude of positions, including as a liaison at the Pentagon.

“He was the youngest colonel to be that decorated and have the positions he had,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of history behind his name.” He is the only one of the eight children in his family who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving in the military, he added.

Before joining the Navy in 1986, Lopez said, he lived with his sister in West Covina, Calif. “She pushed me and helped me stay out of trouble, and supported me when I decided to join,” he said.

Since that time, Lopez has served in many different places, including Iraq, Haiti, Panama, Greece and every country in South America. He also has served here before as a corpsman with a Marine expeditionary unit.

Lopez talked about the difference between his first time here and his current deployment.

“Back then, I slept in a two-man tent and none of this was here,” he said, referring to the airfield’s infrastructure. “Now, coming back, I get here and just say ‘Wow.’ It is crazy to think I will see the very beginning and the end of this place.”

Lopez said he is glad to serve his country. “I know we are all contributing to peace, and not giving the bad guys a chance,” Lopez said. “I am proud to be a part of that process.”

As he advanced in his career and traveled the world, Lopez said, he has kept one particular thing in mind.

“You’re always contributing, no matter where you are at,” he said.

Looking back over the positions he has held through the years, Lopez said his time as a command master chief has been his favorite.

“Being able to guide junior sailors is very rewarding,” he said. “There is no greater feeling than seeing them succeed. I wouldn’t change serving here and being in the Navy for the world.”

Lopez said he keeps the advice he gives to sailors short and simple. “Live by your Navy Code -- honor, courage, commitment and integrity,” he said.

Saved at Sea

April 8, 2014, 9:34AM

Sailors from the frigate USS Vandegrift help rescue a family with a sick infant in the ship's small boat as part of a joint U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard effort in the Pacific Ocean on April 6. U.S. Navy photoSailors from the frigate USS Vandegrift help rescue a family with a sick infant in the ship's small boat as part of a joint U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard effort in the Pacific Ocean on April 6. U.S. Navy photo

Mickey Rooney, the Hollywood icon whose career spanned more than 80 years, died Sunday at his North Hollywood home. He was 93. 

From 1939 to 1941, Rooney was the biggest box office attraction in the country, with starring roles in Boys Town, Babes in Arms and the 15-part Andy Hardy series. Only his Army service during World War II could slow his runaway success on the silver screen.

Rooney served 21 months in the military, earning a Bronze Star and entertaining more than 2 million troops with the famed Jeep Theater, a traveling entertainment brigade that performed for small groups across Europe—usually on the front lines. 

He also embarked on many USO tours during the wars in Korea and Vietnam to support American troops fighting overseas. 

Read more about Rooney’s illustrious career here.

Pfc. Mickey Rooney imitates some Hollywood actors for an audience of Infrantrymen of the 44th Division in Germany in April 1945. Army photoPfc. Mickey Rooney imitates some Hollywood actors for an audience of Infrantrymen of the 44th Division in Germany in April 1945. Army photo

School of Rock(ets)

April 7, 2014, 7:46AM

U.S. Marines fire a practice rocket from a high-mobility, artillery rocket system during a live-fire exercise on Rodriguez range in South Korea. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lauren WhitneyU.S. Marines fire a practice rocket from a high-mobility, artillery rocket system during a live-fire exercise on Rodriguez range in South Korea. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lauren Whitney

Relentless Efforts

April 4, 2014, 8:44AM

An American flag flies at half-staff in the rubble as the search continues for survivors in Oso, Wash.,, following a deadly mudslide. Washington National Guard photo by Army Spc. Sarah M. BookerAn American flag flies at half-staff in the rubble as the search continues for survivors in Oso, Wash.,, following a deadly mudslide. Washington National Guard photo by Army Spc. Sarah M. Booker