Vice Admiral Avoids Charges in ‘Fat Leonard’ Probe


By Debbie Gregory.

Unlike Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau, who was convicted of lying to federal agents about receiving bribes in the “Fat Leonard” scandal,  the U.S. Department of Justice decided not bring charges against Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch, the former director of Navy intelligence.

Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard” because of his size, has admitted to bribing Navy officials with more than $500,000 in cash, prostitutes and more.  He wanted classified information to help his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, that supplied food and fuel to ships.

Prosecutors allege that he overbilled the Navy by more than $34 million.

The Navy has closed its review with appropriate administrative action for Branch.

“The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch and forwarded his matter to the Department of the Navy’s Consolidated Disposition Authority,” said Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka.

“The last three years were extremely difficult for my family and me, but we are glad now to turn the page,” said Branch.

Branch served in the Navy for 37 years. At the time the case was opened, former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and his admirals felt that they couldn’t fire Branch from his intelligence post, so they left him in his job but they stripped him of his security clearance.

At the time, Branch said, “Probably the most important point is, I am not a danger to national security, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, and the idea that I would be is insulting.”

No one thought the case would drag on for months, let alone years.

“As time went on, they (at the Department of Justice) questioned us, ‘Why aren’t you replacing him?’ But we were in a horrible position,” Mabus said. “They made us aware of potential problems, but we had no grounds to relieve him.”

Branch, a highly decorated career aviator, retired from the Navy on October 1st. He received multiple recognition for combat valor over the skies of Grenada, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq.

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Secretary Mabus Makes Recommendations for Medal of Honor


By Debbie Gregory.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is recommending that two service members, either Sailors or Marines, be upgraded to the Medal of Honor following an extensive review of medals awarded since Sept. 11, 2001. The names of the two service members were not made public.

To end his near-record seven-and-a-half year tenure, Mabus has made the recommendations as part of a Defense Department review of all service crosses and Silver Stars awarded to troops to determine if any of them are eligible for upgrade.

Some 1,100 combat awards meet those criteria.

The Pentagon’s official military awards database shows that nine sailors and 38 Marines have received the Navy Cross.

Among those being considered for the upgrade are: Navy Cross recipient Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who posthumously received the award in 2008 for throwing himself on a grenade in Fallujah to save the lives of fellow Marines during a 2004 battle; Navy Cross recipients Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, who sacrificed their lives to keep a truck loaded with explosives from entering the base they were guarding in Ramadi, Iraq in 2008; and Navy Cross recipient Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson, who courageously engaged enemy fighters as a turret gunner in Afghanistan in 2008 despite sustaining grievous wounds to his leg.

Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, a member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during a December 2012 raid in Afghanistan to rescue an American doctor, Dilip Joseph, who had been captured by the Taliban. Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers Jr., another member of the team, received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in subduing the Taliban captors and rescuing Joseph.

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First Vessels in Navy’s Great Green Fleet Launch

green fleet

By Debbie Gregory.

The Great Green Fleet (GGF) is a Department of the Navy initiative that demonstrates the sea service’s efforts to transform its energy use. Carrier Strike Group 3 and its flagship, the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis, are the first vessels to deploy using alternative fuels.

Named after President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the concept of the GGF seven years ago.

“Diversifying our energy sources arms us with operational flexibility and strengthens our ability to provide presence, turning the tables on those who would use energy as a weapon against us,” Mabus said in a written statement.

The Navy is a leader when it comes to decreasing the U.S. armed forces dependence on fossil fuels. President Obama helped push the goal of curtailing fossil fuel dependence with his 2011 national energy strategy called the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

The shift from fossil fuels to alternative fuels includes nuclear power for the carrier, and a blend of advanced biofuel made from beef fat and traditional petroleum for its escort ships. These biofuels are certified as “drop-in” replacements that require no engine modifications or changes to operational procedures, and can be produced from a variety of sources.

The third-generation drop-in fuel contains much less oxygen than in ethanol and biodiesel, but holds the same energy “density” as petroleum fuels. That means the energy released is equal to its fossil counterparts.

Throughout 2016, other Dept. of Navy platforms including ships, aircraft, amphibious and expeditionary forces, as well as shore installations, will participate in the GGF by using energy efficient systems, operational procedures, and/or alternative fuel during the course of planned mission functions worldwide.

The Navy hopes to have one half of its energy from alternative fuels by 2020

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Military Connection: Women on SEAL Teams? By Debbie Gregory

SEALSMilitaryConnection previously reported that the U.S. Army is deciding whether or not to proceed with a pilot program to integrate female soldiers into the elite Army Ranger school. Apparently, U.S. Navy leadership is also deliberating on whether or not to integrate women into their Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman units. A report from a U.S. Special Operations Command was due in July, 2014, but the completion of the report or its findings have not been confirmed.

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus has made a deliberate effort to expand the inclusion of women Navy-wide. Mabus has supported admitting women to SEAL teams, as well as other Naval Special Warfare (NSW) units. The NSW community remains the last area in the Navy that prohibits women from joining. Within the past year, the Navy opened the  Coastal Riverine Force, as well as the attack submarine community, to women.

In March, 2014, the Navy opened up 267 riverine billets to women, with 21 more billets for the joint terminal attack controller enlisted classification added in September. The first female attack sub officers will report to the USS Virginia (SSN-774) and the USS Minnesota (SSN-783) in January, 2015.

In a meeting with the press on September 30, 2014, the SECNAV stated that he hadn’t heard whether or not a report had been submitted to the DOD about adding women to SEAL teams. But he did express his opinion on the subject.

“In my opinion, if people meet the qualifications, I don’t think gender should matter,” Mabus said. He later added, “The thing I keep saying about SEALs, about special warfare, is eighty percent of men don’t make it. So we know what the standards are. If you can make it, I don’t see where gender has much of a place.”

The current push to integrate women into all communities and occupations in all branches of the U.S. Military began in February, 2012. When then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the DOD would allow women in the ranks to fill billets in ground combat units at the battalion level. This opened over 14,000 billets to women across all branches of service. In 2013, the Navy began opening up the last jobs closed to female sailors.

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Military Connection: Women on SEAL Teams? By Debbie Gregory