News: Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) visits MCB Hawaii
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay - Marines, sailors and civilians of Marine Corps Base Hawaii attended a presentation by Juan Garcia, the assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, at the base theater, Sept. 11.
Garcia has recently visited various military installations, including Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, to spread the word to service members about upcoming policies and answer questions.
In light of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he also wanted to extend his gratitude to the service members for “their work and service in what’s been a demanding tempo over the last 11 years.”
In addition, Garcia introduced the Marines and sailors to the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative which is designed to help Marines and sailors with their health, safety and work efficiency. Through the program’s website, Marines and sailors have easier access to many of the already-established programs such as tobacco cessation and motorcycle safety.
They will also be able to explore new initiatives in nutrition and alcohol. Soon, the Navy will be introducing breathalyzers into the workspaces “to ensure the health and safety of our sailors and units by identifying potential alcohol abuse,” according to the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative website. The Marine Corps will also be introducing breathalyzers.
“I’m glad that I attended the brief because it’s always nice to hear information that affects military pay and personnel directly from the source,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Denis Lebreton, a personnel offi cer with the Installation Personnel Administration Center. “I was also glad to learn that (potential) sequestration will not affect the portion of the DOD budget that covers military pay and medical benefits. I’m sure my family, as well as other families, would be relieved to know this information.”
Chief Warrant Offi cer 2 Levi Muniz, the command support branch officer in charge at IPAC was among many attending the presentation. Muniz said she was concerned about not having retirement benefits.
“I was actually relieved to hear that whoever is wearing the uniform right now will be grandfathered in,” Muniz said. “Especially (since) I have a little one … (I need) to be able to provide for her once I retire.”
She mentioned there was new information about the Career Intermission Pilot Program. This four-year program, according to Navy Personnel Command, started in 2009 and continuing through this year, allows service members to leave active duty on a temporary basis, becoming part of the Individual Ready Reserve without losing healthcare coverage. Only 20 officers and 20 enlisted service members are eligible each year. Muniz said she appreciated the CIPP, which can benefit families with dual-active duty parents.
“It’s a hard decision between what I love doing and my family,” Muniz said. “(CIPP will make it) easier.”
Garcia had more reassuring news for each of the branches. All services can expect a 1.7 percent increase in pay in 2013, according to “The Budget for Fiscal Year 2013,” on the White House website.
For the Marines, he said a “drawdown will be executed without breaking faith,” reassuring them of the eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan.
There are also changes planned for working-age retirees with regard to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. With regard to the Navy, Garcia told the sailors that there aren’t currently any plans for future enlisted retention boards, a process which could potentially cut qualified sailors to adjust a manpower quota.
For Lt. Cmdr. Chad Norris, the operations officer for Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 51, much of the information was not new to him, but was extra confirmation.
“He verified 100 percent of (Navy) individual augmentees
for the war are going to be transitioning to the Navy reserve,” Norris said.
Norris said this would be beneficial because the opportunity for employment has increased for these Navy IAs.
Garcia also shared what were perhaps inspirational stories with the audience, including one from 2010 about a German vessel called the Magellan Star. The Magellan Star was taken over by pirates and the German sailors had welded themselves into the engineering room and were sending out a satellite signal for help.
When American service members overpowered the pirates and took back the vessel, they had a difficult time convincing the German sailors that they could emerge from their hiding place. Garcia said the German sailors only needed to see a single American flag patch slid through a hole to convince them they were safe.
Another story was about an Iranian ship hijacked by pirates earlier this year. The USS Kidd used a 20-year-old sailor who could speak Urdu, enabling the fishermen to tell the sailor all they needed to know without fear of the Somali pirates, who didn’t understand the language. Garcia said this helped the U.S. sailors take the vessel back from the pirates, and when they left, the Iranian fishermen were smiling and waving goodbye despite having been taught all their lives negative sentiments about Americans.
“A 20-year-old sailor changed the course of events,” Garcia pointed out.
For more information about the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative, visit http://www.21stcentury.navy.mil.