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Panetta Extends New Year's Wishes to Deployed Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta kicked off 2012 today making phone calls to four deployed service members to extend New Year's greetings and thank them for their service and sacrifices, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little reported.

Panetta placed calls to a soldier, Marine and airman deployed to Afghanistan and to a sailor aboard USS Mesa Verde in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of responsibility.

“He wished them and their families a Happy New Year, and praised them for being outstanding examples of service to the nation,” Little said. “The secretary asked about their families and expressed his appreciation to them for the sacrifices they make, especially during the holiday season.”

Panetta and two service members traded insights on college and professional football, including recent college bowl games. During one call, the secretary said, “I never cease to be amazed at how dedicated people are” in the military, Little reported.

Panetta ended each call reiterating his thanks to the service members for their service and wishing them a safe 2012, Little said.

Service members who received Panetta’s New Years calls today were:

* Army Sgt. 1st Class Neal H. Bryant, an infantryman with 19 years of service, currently deployed to Afghanistan.  Based in Kabul, he is currently assigned as personal security officer for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command's sergeant major. Bryant served two tours in Iraq, in Mosul from 2004 to 2005 and in Baghdad from 2009 to 2010.  He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge in Iraq, and the Combat Action Badge in Afghanistan, for actions under hostile fire.

* Marine Corps Cpl. Jake W. Porter, who currently serves as a financial management resource analyst in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  During five years and eight months of military service, Porter has been deployed to Afghanistan for the past 10 months.  He was recently selected as Marine of the Quarter for Task Force Belleau Wood for his exceptional service as the non-commissioned officer in charge of travel orders and claims.

* Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Tabor, a boatswain’s mate who has been as on active duty since 2008. Tabor deployed in March 2011 aboard the amphibious ship USS Mesa Verde. The ship’s crew is currently supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

* Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles Heathman, who is serving the third month of his third deployment to Afghanistan.  Heathman is a rotary wing maintenance supervisor who has supported security missions for Afghan loya jirgas, or grand assemblies, and trained Afghans on the maintenance of aircraft and other equipment.  Based in Kabul, he supports critical quality assurance and supply functions.

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Leon E. Panetta


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