The Merlion Star FEBruary 3, 2017 - Volume 26 - Issue 3

Table Of Contents

  • Get to know your Commanding Officer - A Personal Interview with Capt. Jeffrey Hutchinson
  • The Opportunities and Challenges of Being the Most Junior Sailor
  • Tax Refunds for 2017 Undergo Policy Change
  • Hawaii Native Advances Career, Enriches Family Life in the Lion City
  • Navy Region Center Singapore selects 2017 Military Youth of the Year
  • Supporting Your Teen: Teen Dating Violence
  • NAVSUP (FLC) Singapore Contracting Officer makes Professional Strides
  • MWR Fit Bits!
  • Chaplain's Corner
  • Navy Region Singapore Video Clips

Get to know your Commanding Officer - A Personal Interview with Capt. Jeffrey Hutchinson

Story and video by MC2 Joshua Fulton, CTF 73 Public Affairs and Photos by Marc Ayalin, Navy Region Singapore

U.S. Navy Captain Jeffrey D. Hutchinson recently assumed command as the Commanding Officer, Navy Region Center Singapore. A native of Maine, Hutchinson graduated from the University of Maine, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and was commissioned in May of 1990. He was designated a Naval Aviator in April of 1992. His previous duty stations include Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 5 (HS-5), Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) pilot at HSWINGLANT Weapons Training Unit, CVW Staff Combat Search and Rescue/Sea Combat Officer at Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8), Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 15 (HS-15), Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) lead planner at United States Central Command Headquarters, Commanding Officer Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Atlantic, Navigator USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75), Officer in Charge (OIC) Isa Air Base, Bahrain, and Deputy Warfighting Requirements and Helicopter Requirements Officer COMNAVAIRLANT. He has deployed aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) while working with Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW-7), Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8), and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17).

Hutchinson brings more than 26 years of exemplary naval experience into his role as the NRCS Commanding Officer. He recently sat down with the public affairs department for a “Q and A” session, highlighting his unique experiences and his goals for his time in Singapore.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your backstory?

A: “Absolutely. So I grew up in the state of Maine, in the central part of the state near a ski area called Sugarloaf. There was not a lot of military or US Navy exposure in that area other than my father, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam timeframe in the early 1960’s. My background has been ski racing, but I realized that skiing was not the future for me so I started to look for something else and I really got interested in aviation. It happened to be in 1986 my senior year of high school that the movie Top Gun came out, and it kind of sunk in that desire to fly. I always wanted to fly, I had a desire to do something more and get out of Maine and experience the world. My choice was to go into aviation, and I am very happy that I chose that direction. It has brought me to this point now.”

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Q: How have your previous duty stations impacted your career?

A: “After finishing flight school going through Pensacola, Florida, I requested to stay on the East coast because most of my family and my wife’s family are on the East coast. I was selected for a squadron and went to Jacksonville, Florida where I stayed for almost 13 years, which is highly unusual in the aviation community to stay in one place for that long. I was deployed often, I spent a lot of time on aircraft carriers, which was a challenge that I accepted as a part of the career path that I chose. Later on, after completing the aviation type tours I was selected for installation tour and went overseas to run an installation in the country of Bahrain. That installation tour made a huge impact on me as well. I really enjoyed what I did there, the comradery and what we did to provide support was palpable. Supporting theater missions every single day, we supported flights in/out of the AOR, so that really made a huge impact on me and I wanted to stay in the installation enterprise. So after a short break from the installation world in Norfolk Virginia, I decided to go back into the installation enterprise and here I am in Singapore, back overseeing an installation.”

Q: What has been the highlight of your career?

A: “There are two aspects to that. One, obviously, was being able to fly in the US Navy. I can never take away from that experience and how thrilling it was and the things that I have seen and done. So aviation and flying off aircraft carriers was the first part of my naval career. The second part was being selected to command both in the aviation and installation enterprises. Being selected for command and leading people has been a tremendous experience.”

Q: In your opinion, what makes Navy Region Center Singapore a unique or important command?

A: “Unique is a great word to describe it here at NRCS because it is so different. Working with our host nation, understanding the culture, the dynamics of having partners from Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom all combined makes it a very unique command. This command also demands a good working balance between military personnel, civilian personnel and host nation employees which creates a unique dynamic not found in many other places.”

“I want to let everyone know that I am dedicated to the mission. I understand our lines of effort as an installation command. I am here to continue to improve quality of life the best I can and support the mission here in Singapore." - Capt. Jeffrey Hutchinson

Q: How would you describe the mission of NRCS, and what is your vision for how this command should operate?

A: “The vision is pretty simple from an installation standpoint. We are here to provide critical support to sustain the fleet, enable the fighter and support the family. If you understand the CNIC lines of effort, that is what we are truly here to execute. It is my charge as the installation commanding officer to make sure that every mission here is supported and that we meet those mission requirements while supporting the families.”

Q: Do you anticipate any challenges that will need to be overcome?

A: “There will be challenges due to the unique working environment. Understanding the relationships here, understanding our host nation goals, our allied partners, and the dynamics of our support mission is critical. We are here to support the missions for 7th Fleet operations, so combining the need to get the mission done but also understanding the unique relationships required to get that accomplished is my challenge.”

Q: What are your goals and what would you like to accomplish as the new commanding officer for NRCS?

A: “First, it is understanding the mission. I have been an Atlantic sailor my entire career, so I have a good understanding of 5th and 6th Fleet operations. I am not as familiar with 7th Fleet, so understanding the support mission in its entirety is my first goal to accomplish. Once I get a firm grasp of the mission here and how to support that mission, it will then be looking out for our people and infrastructure. Making sure we take care of our most important assets, our people. Then enhance the quality of life and services we support here in Singapore.”

Q: In relation to living in Singapore, are there any personal goals or experiences you are excited to pursue?

A: “Oh absolutely. We discussed this as a family before we decided to take these orders and one of the main reasons we chose to come here was the experience for our family. Our family goal is to take advantage of our time here, get immersed into the Singaporean culture and become an active part of the community. An extra benefit is the unparalleled opportunities for travel that are available while living in Singapore.”

Q: Are there any final thoughts for the military members, family members, and DoD civilians stationed in Singapore you would like to share?

A: “I want to let everyone know that I am dedicated to the mission. I understand our lines of effort as an installation command. I am here to continue to improve quality of life the best I can and support the mission here in Singapore."

The Opportunities and Challenges of Being the Most Junior Sailor

Story and Photos by MC2 Joshua Fulton, CTF 73 Public Affairs

Seaman Apprentice Kiara Cromer is one of the newest editions to the Singapore military community as well as one of the newest editions to the Navy.

Cromer joined the Navy in March 2016, after being exposed to the military lifestyle through her father, an active duty Senior Chief Corpsman.

Following her completion of boot camp and Information Systems Technician (IT) “A” School, Cromer was assigned to Singapore for her first permanent duty station, becoming the only non-Petty Officer in the region as well as the only sailor in Singapore that is currently stationed at their first permanent duty station.

Cromer sat down with the Public Affairs Department to share her thoughts on the unique challenges and opportunities presented by being the only E3 and below service member stationed in the region.

Q: First, what inspired you to join the Navy?

A: I joined the navy on a whim. It was my senior year of high school in Japan, where my father was stationed, and I didn’t really have anything to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to travel, and seeing my dad travel all around the world throughout his naval career, I knew if I joined I would get that same opportunity. So I went back to Maryland, where I had spent the majority of time growing up, and decided to enlist.

Q: Can you tell me about your department?

A: I work for Naval Computer Telecommunications Station (NCTS) Far East Detachment Singapore. Our department is the local network service center, and we perform day-to-day operations on ONENET in order to support other commands in the region. It is very important work; you pretty much can’t do anything without a computer network.

Q: What your typical duties?

A: Right now, I am working on getting a few certifications so that I can become qualified and knowledgeable on the local systems. Once I complete those, I can start helping the team with information assurance, maintaining NIPR and SIPR connectivity, and ensuring the various departments in the region are able to communicate and perform their respective duties.

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Q: Did you know prior to your arrival in Singapore about your unique situation regarding the rank and experience commonly found in this region?

A: I found out when I got here that I was the only E-3 and below here, and I was a little apprehensive about being the lowest ranking person in an entire region. But it is a very unique opportunity that I doubt many other Sailors have received. I can learn a lot from everyone that I work with because they have experienced the navy and gained so much knowledge that I don’t yet know.

Q: What are some of the challenges associated with being the only person of your rank in the region?

A: The challenges include having to stay professional all the time, because everyone is so much higher ranking than me. I feel like it would be weird or awkward for me to socialize too much. It is difficult for me to establish camaraderie because of that difference in rank. It would be much easier if there was another seaman or another E-3 and below; it wouldn’t be as weird for me. We are trained all through boot camp and “A” School to have proper respect for differences in rank, while at the same time there is no one of my rank category in the region.

Q: Have you had any help or guidance in adjusting to these challenges?

A: Everyone I work with is very nice and friendly and they try to include me in things and make sure that I feel ok, that I am not feeling any type of isolation. Their mentorship will definitely ease the transition into my role here.

Q: What goals do you have for your time here in Singapore?

A: I am going to try and get my Enlisted Information Dominance Warfare Specialist pin, and any military or civilian certifications that I can get. I am also looking into college classes. In my personal life, I am really looking forward to the travel opportunities that are available here, and getting to experience all the different cultures I would not be exposed to otherwise.

Q: As you approach your one-year anniversary in the Navy, have you considered making the Navy a career?

A: I am open to the possibility of staying in the Navy and making it a career, but I am not sure if I have experienced enough of the Navy to decide that now. I really want to leave a good legacy and actually accomplish something while I am in the Navy.

Tax Refunds for 2017 Undergo Policy Change

Story by MC3 Madailein Abbott, CTF 73 Public Affairs

With the holiday season over, many Department of Defense employees and military service members may be anxious in receiving their tax refund as soon as they file their 2016 taxes. However, there are some things different this year that Navy Region Singapore (NRS) members should know.

Although the W-2’s for most U.S. Navy sailors have been released, filing taxes and receiving refunds may not be the same or be returned as quickly as they have in previous years. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, signed into law December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds which include Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15, 2017. Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.

“If you typically file your taxes early, this change may result in a slight delay in your refund. However, it is part of the larger statutory scheme that assists the IRS in ensuring information integrity and reducing the risk of identity theft and fraud.” - Cmdr. John Bauer

What does this mean? Beginning this year the IRS, by law, must hold the entire refund - even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC - until at least Feb. 15. The change helps ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

“If you typically file your taxes early, this change may result in a slight delay in your refund,” said Cmdr. John Bauer, temporarily assigned to Commander Logistics Group Western Pacific. “However, it is part of the larger statutory scheme that assists the IRS in ensuring information integrity and reducing the risk of identity theft and fraud.”

This change in policy allows additional time to help prevent revenue lost due to problems such as identity theft, refund fraud related to fabricated wages and withholdings. Under the new law, the IRS cannot release the part of the refund that is not associated with the EITC and ACTC. Taxpayers should file as they normally do, and tax return preparers should also submit returns as normal. The IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins and W-2’s become available. Refunds are still expected to be returned in less than 21 days as usual, though IRS will hold refunds for EITC and ACTC-related tax returns filed early in 2017 until Feb. 15.

This is one more step the IRS is taking to ensure taxpayers receive the refund they are owed. Although “early filers” won’t receive a refund until after Feb. 15, they will still receive their refund in its entirety.

"This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don't want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years."

For NRS members filing their taxes, there won’t be much change from the process of previous years. Only the date on which the refund is received will change for early bird filers. For more information on tax refunds for the 2016 year, please visit www.irs.gov.

Hawaii Native Advances Career, Enriches Family Life in the Lion City

Story by MC3 Madailein Abbott, CTF 73 Public Affairs

It can be a daunting task for American citizens to pack up and move to Singapore. The tropical climate and culture are among many changes that await newcomers. While the tropical weather wasn’t much of a change for Dawn Szewczyk, a Hawaii native, the prospect of moving to Singapore was an exciting opportunity and she hasn’t looked back.

A Filipino-American, born and raised in Hawaii, Szewczyk attended Punahou High School in Honolulu and studied at Loyola Marymount University in California. As a registered professional engineer, she entered the U.S. civil service in 2010 and landed a job with the U.S. Air Force at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Her talent and ingenuity allowed her to quickly rise through the ranks of federal service.

In 2014, with her husband Mike and two boys by her side, Szewczyk accepted a job with the U.S. Navy in Singapore as a regional leader for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which oversees all aspects of U.S. Navy facilities at installations across the globe.

“I had a friend in senior leadership of the NAVFAC branch in Hawaii that recommended I consider taking an overseas tour,” said Szewczyk. “When he told me there was a vacancy for a new position here in Singapore, I went for it. I knew it was a great opportunity and it would be good for my career.”

Szewczyk works as the Assistant Regional Engineer, supervising renovations and upkeep of offices and military housing while managing company contracts with local workers. Szewczyk said her work allows her to make a difference in the lives of U.S. military members, fellow civil service employees, and their families serving overseas.

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“Being in Singapore is very rewarding both professionally and personally,” said Szewczyk. “I’ve learned a lot about the business aspect of facilities management and contracting and it’s exposed me to working with people from diverse sectors. I've worked with more military and local national employees here than I have at my previous jobs, which I enjoy very much. It’s a whole different dynamic working with a wide variety of people here, but our individual strengths and shared experience only contribute to the mission, and make my work very rewarding.”

Two years into her Singapore journey, Szewczyk reflects on how the expat experience has enriched her family and career.

“It was exciting but also scary to move to Singapore, I won’t lie, especially heading over here sight-unseen” said Szewczyk. “This has certainly been a great opportunity for my kids, the schooling and education here is amazing. My husband is thriving as a personal fitness trainer and works in our gym facility that serves our service members and families.

Singapore offers a unique experience to those living abroad, from its rich culture and diversity to delicious food and distinctive architecture. Although tourists flock to the city every year, few Americans receive the full experience of what Singapore and Southeast Asia have to offer.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people here, both local and military, that make this experience very meaningful. I’m really grateful for all the wonderful experiences Singapore has offered my family. I look forward to what lies ahead during our remaining time here in the Lion City.” - Dawn Szewcyk

“We’ve been exposed to so many different cultures traveling around the region such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia to name a few,” said Szewczyk. “It’s been great having access to so many cultures, which we wouldn’t have been able to experience if we hadn’t come here.”

Between traveling Southeast Asia and experiencing the everyday life of Singapore, Szewczyk and her family have memories that will last a lifetime.

“Moving here has broadened my horizons on the vast diversity and culture of Singapore and the region,” said Szewczyk. “I’ve met so many wonderful people here, both local and military, that make this tour very meaningful. I’m really grateful for all the wonderful experiences Singapore has offered my family. I look forward to what lies ahead during our remaining time here in the Lion City.”

Navy Region Center Singapore selects 2017 Military Youth of the Year

Story and Photos by Marc Ayalin, Navy Region Singapore

Navy Region Center Singapore (NRCS) recognized its 2017 Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) Military Youth of the Year recipient during an awards ceremony held at NRCS’ Terror Club Jan. 27, 2017.

This year’s winner was Ryan Walker, a high school student currently attending the Singapore American School. The installation BGCA Military Youth of the Year program is an annual program in which every Navy Child and Youth Program (CYP) selects a military youth of the year, who then goes on to participate at further levels of competition.

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This year, NRCS CYP invited a panel of community leaders to judge interviews, a letter of reference, speeches, and application portfolios of candidates competing for the national title. For Walker, being selected to represent NRCS is an opportunity for developing personal growth while bringing awareness to giving back to her community. This branding helped her in earning this year’s title.

“My personal brand and my goal, for the community, was bringing us all together and giving back to both the Sembawang military community and the Singapore community,” Walker said. “Both communities have given so much to us and I think it’s important that we not only give back to the people we see every day here on the installation but also to those in the Singapore community who have given us a place to grow and to thrive.”

“Both communities have given so much to us and I think it’s important that we not only give back to the people we see every day here on the installation but also to those in the Singapore community who have given us a place to grow and to thrive.” - Ryan Walker

In terms of the competition, Walker will go on to compete at the state of level competition in Japan this year. State winners each receive a $5,000 scholarship and advance to regional competitions. Regional winners receive an additional $10,000 college scholarship, renewable for four years up to $40,000. Six youth, including five regional winners and a military winner, advance to the National Youth of the Year competition for a chance at an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable up to $100,000 for four years.

According to Nina Delucchi, CYP Leader for NRCS, this program and event supports fostering strong leadership, good character and a commitment to service, academic excellence, and a healthy lifestyle.

"This is our third annual event and our teen candidates just keep getting better and better,” Delucchi said. “Any of today's youth would make a wonderful Singapore Military Youth of the Year because they are all kindhearted, level headed independent individuals with strong voices and messages. The Child and Youth Programs of Singapore are lucky to have such great teens in our small military community. "

Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is BGCA's premier recognition program for Club members, promoting service to Club, community and family, academic success, strong moral character, life goals, and poise and public speaking ability.

Supporting Your Teen: Teen Dating Violence

By Dulcy Stout, Clinical Counselor for Fleet and Family Readiness Singapore

Adolescence is the period between childhood and adulthood and is generally divided into three groups - early, middle, late - which span ages 11 to 21. A child’s major tasks during the adolescent years are to define him/herself (i.e. establish own values, personal characteristics, style, friends, etc.) and learn to function independently of his/her parents. Changes take place in many spheres of an adolescent’s life to include biological, physical, sexual, and relational.

Adolescence is understandably a stressful time for both the adolescent and her/his parents. Unfortunately, on top of the normal stresses, some adolescents and their families have to confront the reality of teen dating violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2012 to 2013, 13% of female high school students and 7.4% of male high school students experienced physical violence in a dating relationship and 14.4% of females and 6.2% of males experienced sexual violence in a dating relationship. Emotional and psychological abuse has been found to be even higher among high school students involved in dating relationships. Different studies estimate the presence of emotional and psychological abuse to be between 20% to 76%.

What is the best way for a parent to support and help an adolescent who is involved in an abusive relationship? First, parents need to recognize the warning signs that suggest an adolescent may be in a violent relationship. There may be physical signs such as unexplained physical injuries; more than likely, however, the signs will be behavioral and emotional. Some behavioral signs to be aware of include an adolescent who suddenly does not want to go to school or who starts to bring home failing grades, who begins to use alcohol and/or drugs, or who exhibits changes in eating (possible eating disorder).

"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2012 to 2013, 13% of female high school students and 7.4% of male high school students experienced physical violence in a dating relationship and 14.4% of females and 6.2% of males experienced sexual violence in a dating relationship." - Dulcy Stout

Emotionally, an adolescent may experience depression, exhibit decreases in self-esteem, or become suicidal. Additional signs to look out for: adolescent stops hanging out with friends and family, changes behavior to appease boy/girlfriend, or is tense and fearful around boy/girlfriend. The increase in the use of and the technology available on mobile devices has given offenders a new platform on which to monitor and control their partners. Parents should be mindful of an adolescent who unexpectedly stops using her/his mobile device; who appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after texting, chatting, or using social media; or who uses her/his mobile device at all hours of the night. None of these signs in and of themselves means an adolescent is necessarily involved in an abusive relationship, but they should alert parents that something is probably amiss with their adolescent. Second, parents should not assume that an adolescent involved in an abusive relationship will go to them for help. There are many reasons an adolescent may remain quiet. An adolescent may feel embarrassed or ashamed, may fear punishment from a parent or that the parent will tell her/him to stop seeing the abuser, or may not recognize the behavior as abusive.

Parents should take the initiative to begin a conversation with their adolescent when they observe one of the above signs. How do parents have what will definitely be a difficult conversation with their adolescent? Most importantly, parents should approach their adolescent in a caring, respectful, and non-judgmental way. Criticizing, preaching too, and interrogating will only shut down an adolescent. Parents can communicate their concerns by focusing on the changes in behaviors or emotions they have observed in their adolescent. After this, it is vital that parents listen to their adolescent. This may require allowing moments (or minutes) of silence. This can be difficult, especially during tense and anxious times when it is common to talk just to avoid awkward silence. Another difficult, yet essential, task for parents is to refrain from bad mouthing the abuser. Parents may discuss specific behaviors of the abuser, but personal attacks may cause an adolescent to defend the abuser and push her closer to him. Although this may be the ultimate goal and what is best for the adolescent in the long run, parents should never insist that an adolescent stop seeing the abuser. Like bad mouthing, this may just push her closer to the abuser.

More importantly, however, leaving an abusive relationship is a very dangerous time and not something that an adolescent should do without talking it through with a trusted adult and making a safety plan. Safety plans are available at www.loveisrespect.org. If at any time an adolescent is found to be in physical danger from the abuser, a parent must insist on involving law enforcement. In Singapore, the first call a parent should make would be to NCIS. The Special Agent can assist the parent and adolescent in contacting and communicating with the Singapore Police. NCIS can be reached during the day at 6750-2400 and after hours at 9012-6162.

Teen dating violence can be a traumatic event. Recovery is certainly possible for adolescents as well as their families. An individual therapist can help with the healing process as well as provide additional support and guidance. Clinical counseling is available at the Family Service Office (6750-2319). On-line resources are also available at Loveisrespect (www.loveisrespect.org) and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org/).

NAVSUP (FLC) Singapore Contracting Officer makes Professional Strides

By MC1 Micah Blechner, CTF 73 Public Affairs

Ms. Jennifer Muñoz, a contracting officer with Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, Site Singapore (FLC), recently completed the Navy Understanding Industry Management course offered at Darden School of Business- University of Virginia.

The intent of the course is to deliver a concentrated business curriculum to enhance the student's awareness of industry vitality (structure and strategy), financial metrics, corporate culture, decision-making drivers and processes, and collaboration and business management techniques to improve their ability to interact with corporations.

“My experience at Darden was one of the most memorable that I have ever had in a learning environment,” Muñoz said. “As a Contracting Officer, we often face challenging decisions that can impact the Navy’s mission. Now, I am able to understand industry’s point of view, robust financial data, organizational change, and will become a better negotiator.”

According to Munoz, the Darden program was also an excellent networking opportunity for both, her civilian career and Supply Corps Navy Reserves.

“I am very confident that I was sitting next to future Admirals and SES's,” Munoz added. “We are the future leaders of the U.S. Navy, and know that we can make a difference in our industry.”

Here's a few notes from the MWR Fitness team for this month:

- Pickup Basketball starts March 27 @ 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

- The A/C in the Tot room and Racquetball court are completed and both rooms are open for business!

- Please join us for Aqua Jog every Monday and Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. and SPLASH! on Saturday mornings at 9:15 a.m.

- Pilates: We will host a free trail class on January 30 at 0900 for anyone that wants to try it out.

- Fitness Clinic: On February 25, come and get a little taste of all classes taught at FFC

Please call the Fleet Fitness Center for more information at 6750-2482.

The 2017 Admiral's Cup kicked off in January with a bang! Come out and support this awesome year-long sports event. For more information, please contact mwrsportsspecialist@gmail.com

Happy Lunar New Year,

As you read this, Chinese New Year celebrations and are ongoing here in Singapore, it is worth a few moments to reflect on the importance of this holiday for the overwhelming majority of those residing in our host nation. The traditional greeting you may hear often in the next few weeks and translates as “congratulations and be prosperous.” While the January 1st New Year tends to focus on personal goals and improvement of one’s individual life, the Chinese New Year has a distinct family focus. The first day of the New Year is one where one’s elders are honored and families visit the senior members of their extended families. The Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner is called a reunion dinner with a menu and family attendance comparable to our Thanksgiving feasts every year.

During the celebrations there will also be many lion dances and lighting of simple red firecrackers in the hopes of warding away any evil spirits so as to keep the house prosperous over the next year. We will see an abundance of red banners, lanterns, and clothing throughout the city as this too is symbolic of scaring off a mythical beast called the Nian.

Those of us who have traveled many miles to live and work here in Singapore have a tremendous opportunity right now to truly immerse ourselves in the local culture. If you hear drums, follow the sound and you just might stumble upon a home or business receiving a blessing from dragon dancers, which is a wonderful and fascinating ritual to watch. This is probably the most anticipated holiday of the year meaning most everyone will be involved in some way or another with Chinese New Year and will be happy to explain how they celebrate this important holiday. It is my hope that we take away some of the traditions and culture from our time here, and Chinese New Year is a great way for us to rededicate ourselves to our families both near and far with a renewed hope and prayer for their safety and prosperity.

Blessings,

Chaps

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