Changing times in Vietnam: 5 things troops need to know David Larter, Navy Times 9:29 a.m. EDT May 29, 2016

President Obama’s announcement Monday that the U.S. could start selling weapons to its former enemy Vietnam means changes ahead for troops.

The president made the announcement at a Hanoi press conference, which ended a half-century ban on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam, putting to rest one of the last foreign policy vestiges of one of the most divisive wars in American history.

Five things service members should know:

1. More visits. Port calls in Vietnam are likely to increase, something Obama previewed in the press conference. The president hinted at increased military-to-military cooperation for humanitarian assistance coordination, which would lead to more troops and sailors visiting Vietnam.

“There may be occasions in which that means more U.S. vessels might visit but I want to emphasize that we will do so only at the invitation and with the full cooperation of the Vietnamese government, fully respecting their sovereignty and their sensitivities,” he said.

U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February that he was pushing for more port visits in the country and that Vietnam was receptive to greater cooperation.

2. Strategic hotspot. One of the reasons Vietnam has fought so many wars is because of its unique geography, which is part of what makes it a valuable U.S. partner. It borders the disputed South China Sea and features one of the key deep-water ports in the the whole region: Cam Ranh Bay. That facility used to be a major U.S. operating base during the Vietnam War and Russia leased and expanded it throughout the 1980s and 1990s before leaving in 2002.

“Cam Ranh Bay is a crucial port in the region that strategic planners have missed since the day we left,” said Jerry Hendrix a retired Navy captain and expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Vietnam just opened an international port facility there and Pacific Fleet head Adm. Scott Swift told Navy Times in early May that he was looking to that facility as a way to increase U.S. engagement in Vietnam. Read more about that here.

3. Boots on the ground. With weapons sales to Vietnam on the docket, that also means the possibility of troops deploying to Vietnam as trainers to get the Vietnamese up to speed on their new gear.

The State Department is already working on an initiative that could bring ground troops to Vietnam. The Vietnam Peacekeeping Center is a joint effort with the Vietnam and the U.S. It’s a training center designed to help boost Vietnam’s ability to contribute to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

One thing the Vietnamese are interested in is the U.S. military’s advanced field medicine capabilities that have saved thousands of lives during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

4. China is watching. China and Vietnam have a tenuous relationship at the moment, mostly due to China’s aggressive pursuit of claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea. The two countries have fought each other in the past over their overlapping claims and China’s island building and aggressive tactics in the region are making them nervous.

For the U.S., that’s an opportunity to make an old enemy a new friend. President Obama made clear that he sees it as the natural end of a long process of normalizing relations with Vietnam.

With Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recent announcement that more U.S. troops and aircraft are going to be rotating through the Philippines, this new action on the other side of the South China Sea will have China concerned.

5. Changing times. The lifting of the arms sales ban underscores how much things have changed in the last half century. Adm. Bob Natter, a former U.S. 7th Fleet commander and a Silver Star recipient in the Vietnam War, captured it succinctly:

“Times change and we’ve got to adjust with the times,” Natter said. “We have more in common with Vietnam today than separates us, at least on a strategic level.”

Happy Memorial Day



Celebrate  Honor  Remember

Wall of Remembrance


Hiring and Support Summit

 To ALL transitioning service members, veterans, WWs and spouses

You are cordially invited to participate in the Dept of the Navy’s Veteran &
Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Summit on Thursday, June 2nd at the
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – Tampa Airport – Westshore, Tampa, FL. The
Hiring Fair is from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM and will run in conjunction with
veteran focused workshops.

-Updates and additional information also available on website above.
*WALK-INS are welcome
* Please bring employment support documentation IF ABLE (DD-214, Statement
of Service, Schedule A, Disability Rating, Transcripts etc.); not required

The Hiring Fair will be led by the Department of Defense’s Hiring Heroes.

The employers’ efforts will be focused on providing career opportunities as
well as on-site, interview opportunities for qualified wounded, ill,
injured, transitioning Service members, Veterans, their spouses, family
members and primary caregivers.

Thank you for your service and we look forward to seeing you there!

Annual Memorial Day Observance

American Legion Cemetery in Tampa, FL.   3810 W Kennedy Blvd Tampa, FL 33629

AmerLegion_color_EmblemMonday May 30, 2016Memorial Day 

         10:45-11:00 a.m  Organizations laying wreaths
         11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon Memorial Day Observance (rain or shine)
         12:00 noon-1:30 p.m.  Luncheon in the Legion Hall

This is an annual event conducted since 1922

American Legion Post #5 Event Details


‘Cannibalization is Routine’ to Support Navy Deployments

By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Navy captains from the aviation, surface, submarine and construction communities told Congress May 26 that budget and personnel reductions have restricted their ability to surge forces to meet a crisis and often require them to “cannibalize people as well as parts” to support forward-deployed units.

Capts. Gregory McRae, deputy commander Submarine Squadron Six, and Scott Robertson, commander of the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, both used the term “cannibalize” to describe the recurring necessity to strip components or to transfer trained personnel from vessels in port to allow other subs or warships to continue on deployment.

Capt. Randy Stearns, commodore of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, said “cannibalization is routine” to provide replacement parts for his legacy F/A-18 Hornets to support the one in four of his squadrons that is considered fully combat ready.

Capt. Paul Odenthal, commander Naval Construction Group Two, said his Seabee units are fairly well equipped because the construction forces have been cut from 21 battalions to 11, but can only meet 80 percent of the combatant commanders’ (CoComs’) requirements, even with activated Reservists, and would have to draw heavily on the Reserves to respond to any crisis.

For the Navy to be fully ready, commander of Fleet Forces Command Adm. Phillip Davidson said, it must be able to “rotate the fleet out on routine deployments,” to “surge” forces in time of crises, and to maintain and modernize the fleet “to ensure it is credible” for any possible future fight.

“If there are not enough resources to do all three at once, we will emphasize readiness for deployment,” Davidson told a joint meeting of the House Armed Services’ seapower and projection forces and readiness subcommittees.

Davidson and the captains detailed how years of constrained budgets, reduced personnel levels, high operational tempos and slowdowns in depot maintenance have left them with no combat ready vessels or squadrons at home stations to respond to a crisis.

Seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said the problem was even broader, because the Navy was only able to meet 56 percent of the CoComs’ requests for aircraft carriers, 54 percent for amphibious ready groups, 42 percent for attack submarines and 39 percent for cruisers and destroyers.

That data shows “we are not currently providing our Navy with the resources needed to do what we’ve asked. At least not without burning out our ships and our planes and our Sailors and undermining our long-term readiness,” Forbes said.

Readiness subcommittee chairman Rob Wittman, R-Va., expanded the scope of the problem even more, noting that “every service branch today is suffering from readiness shortfalls.”

Stearns said that because the strike fighter community must put all its spare parts, maintenance and trained personnel into supporting the deploying carrier air wings, “if you wanted to surge more than we have deployed, it would take me six to 12 months to get another wing ready.” Earlier in his career, Steans said, it would take 60 to 90 days to get another air wing ready to deploy.

“As of today. we don’t have that surge capability,” he said.

The strike fighters are short of combat-ready aircraft partly because the maintenance depots are not only trying to keep up with regular overhauls but are struggling to extend the flying hours of the legacy Hornets far beyond the expected service life, Stearns said.

And the shortage of aircraft in the non-deployed squadrons prevents the pilots from getting the flight hours they need to maintain combat proficiency, he added.

McCain amendment adds $17 billion to defense, increases pay

McCain amendment adds $17 billion to defense, increases pay

By Scott Maucione | @smaucioneWFED

May 26, 2016 1:30 pm
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to add $17 billion to the defense budget and force senators to take sides over defense on the Senate floor next week.

McCain’s amendment to the 2017 defense authorization bill would suspend the drawdown of the Army and Marine Corps and increase the pay raise for active duty troops to 2.1 percent.

If passed, the amendment will reconcile some of the most glaring differences between the House version of the bill and Senate version of the bill. That could save lawmakers a lot of arguing if the bill makes it to conference further in the legislative process.

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has already said he is supportive of the amendment.

McCain’s amendment authorizes the Army to keep its active duty troop levels at 475,000, the Navy at about 326,000, the Marine Corps at 185,000 and the Air Force at 321,000.

That’s a big change considering the Army is planning to bring its active duty levels to 450,000 by 2018. In the past year, a majority of those involuntarily separated from the Army have been experienced officers and enlisted soldiers with 20 years or more of experience.

The amendment also stops drawdowns in the National Guard and Reserves.

Justin Johnson, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said adding those troops will be a costly endeavor. He estimates the price tag at $1.5 billion to $2 billion just for 2017. That doesn’t include enduring costs.

The amendment increases procurement for the services. It calls for an additional 10 Apache helicopters, consistent with the recommendation by the National Commission on the Future of the Army. Those helicopters would cost $71 million.

The amendment increases funds for Navy aircraft procurement, Army tank modernization and adds nearly $2 billion for Navy ship building and conversion.

McCain also wants to give hundreds of millions of dollars in procurement funds for Israel’s missile defense programs.

Last week, McCain said he was unsure of the amendment’s fate.

“I don’t know whether or not the amendment will succeed, but the Senate must have this debate and senators must choose a side,” McCain said.

McCain’s Democratic counterpart on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), is in favor of increased defense spending, but he would want to see an increase in domestic spending to go along with it, said a committee staffer.

Last year, President Barack Obama vetoed the defense authorization bill over concerns that it raised defense spending without increasing domestic spending. It’s possible many Senate Democrats will feel the same way about increasing the defense caps this year.

McCain did not say whether he supported an increase in the domestic spending caps, but said he would like to see more funding for agencies like the FBI, CIA and Director of National Intelligence.

The House defense authorization and defense appropriations bills have already built in extra funds for DoD through some budgetary acrobatics, a move critics have called a “gimmick.”

The House Armed Services Committee plans to take $18 billion from Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and move it into the base budget. That $18 billion would be used to fund an increased military pay raise and to bolster troop levels by 27,000.

What would be left in OCO is $41 billion, instead of the original $59 billion requested by the President. That’s enough to cover the wars until April 2017.

At that point, if the new President wants more money, he can ask Congress for an additional wartime fund.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has already expressed his displeasure over how the House plans to increase the defense budget.

“It’s gambling with warfighting money at a time of war — proposing to cut off funding for ongoing operations in the middle of the fiscal year. Moreover, it would spend money taken from the war account on things that are not DoD’s highest priorities across the joint force,” Carter said during a speech this week. “And it’s another road to nowhere, with uncertain chances of ever becoming law, and a high probability of leading to more gridlock and another continuing resolution — exactly the kind of terrible distraction we’ve seen for years, that undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles friends and emboldens foes.”

The White House said the President would veto the House plan if it came to the President’s desk.

Adm. Michelle Howard picked to lead U.S. Navy forces in Europe

President Obama has nominated the Navy’s highest-ranking woman to lead U.S. Navy forces in Europe.

Adm. Michelle Howard is tapped to head U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command, in Naples, Italy, according to a Thursday Defense Department announcement.

Navy’s first female admiral lined up for another 4-star post

Howard, a 1982 Naval Academy graduate, has had a storied career. She was the first black woman to command a U.S. warship and would later oversee the counter-piracy task force that freed civilian Capt. Richard Phillips, which was the subject of the movie “Captain Phillips.” She also was the first woman to reach the rank of 4-star admiral.

Howard receives fourth star, makes history

The daughter of an Air Force master sergeant, she said she confronted prejudice early in her naval career; peers say she built a career by taking tough jobs. She has served for two years as the vice chief of naval operations.

If confirmed, Howard will replace the outgoing Adm. Mark Ferguson, who has led NAVEUR since 2014.