Monday, March 30, 2015

SERE: Helping flyers return home

by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich
15th Wing Public Affairs

3/30/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The worst-case scenario has the potential of becoming an overwhelming reality for flight crews that fly in the Pacific area of responsibility.

Tech. Sgts. Jeffrey Ray and Michael Garcia, 15th Operational Support Squadron Survival Evade Resist and Escape specialists, ensure all flight crews assigned to the 15th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam are prepared to handle emergency situations by conducting refresher SERE training.

According to Ray, training is conducted 12 months a year, including six unit-training assembly weekends for the National Guard and Reserve units. Every month, he teaches the Code of Conduct training that includes water survival, emergency parachute, conduct after capture, contingence SERE indoctrination, combat survival training, local area survival and radio familiarization training.

Ray said, because of Hawaii's geographic location and the Pacific Command's area of responsibility, the water survival training is one of the more important types of training.

"No matter where the aircrews are flying, they are over water at some point," Ray said. "If an aircraft were to go down in the ocean, it could be difficult for the recovery force to locate the crew. That is why it is important they know how to use their emergency equipment properly and know how to stay alive long enough for a personal recovery team to find them."

Equally important is the combat survival training, added Ray. This training simulates the aircrew going down in a hostile environment. The aircrew uses teamwork to conceal their location, evade opposition forces and practice proper recovery procedures.

"[Combat survival training] is very beneficial," said Maj. Dan Allen, 96th Air Refueling Squadron pilot evaluator. "It gives us the opportunity to practice survival skills we don't use a lot, like using the equipment, how to navigate, conceal, evade and how to get rescued."

All of the training provided by Ray is to make sure of one thing.

"We want to ensure all aircrew and high-risk personnel are prepared to survive, evade, resist and escape in every scenario worldwide and return with honor," Ray said.

Carter Outlines Future Force’s Needs at Fort Drum

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 – During a troop talk at Fort Drum, New York, today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter thanked the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and shared his vision for building what he calls “the force of the future.”

Carter said the United States has “the finest fighting force the world has ever known, and that’s you. But I must think ahead by one or two generations to make sure our country has what you represent: the best of the best in every generation.”

The secretary said he doesn’t want to lose the best people with the best skills, acknowledging that those people have other places in society where they can apply their skills. “If we want to keep you,” he said, “we need to think carefully and be innovative, because you have other choices.”

Military Must Be More Relevant

The Defense Department must be open for new ideas and keep the “wonderful traditions” it has as one of the nation’s oldest and most-respected institutions, the secretary said. But it also much change so the military is more relevant, attractive and exciting to service members and later generations, he added.

Carter outlined his thoughts on how to make the military force of the future more modern and attractive:

-- Bring in highly skilled people who can be rewarded and promoted based on performance and talent.

-- Use more 21st-century technology to enhance performance evaluations and to ensure that assignments fit life goals of service members and their families.

-- Broaden experience for service members by allowing them to gain experience outside the military so they can bring back more honed skills, or pause their service for education or family needs.

-- Blend retirement options to offer troops something similar to 401(k) plans, because “80 percent of our troops leave service before 20 years are up, which leaves them nothing,” he said. “We want to see if we can open up opportunities to get people to join and stay … and give us more of your excellent service [with] a future to build upon.”

Leadership Must Also Change

But for change to work, the secretary said, DoD’s military leadership must think more broadly and differently by preserving the best of the old -- honor, tradition, discipline and commitment to country -- and also commit to the concept of change in career. “People want choices, … and we need to compete if we’re going to succeed,” he said.

The secretary emphasized how much he appreciates what the service members do, and noted that in 14 years of two wars, only two months existed in which an element of the 10th Mountain Division did not deploy.

“That’s amazing history,” he said. “I deeply admire what you are doing for our country. It’s very much a privilege for me to be associated with you and this great mission and great institution. Please thank your families for their support of you.”

Advising, Assisting Iraqi Forces

Some service members have just returned from Afghanistan, and some are readying to deploy there, he acknowledged.

“And some of you –- and this is important -- will go to Iraq to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces so they can be the force that sustains the defeat of [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], after it is defeated, which it will be,” Carter said.

“To sustain that defeat, we need a force on the ground, and that’s what you’ll help create,” he said.

The world is changing rapidly, Carter told thee soldiers. “The threats to our world and our people change, [and] the face of terrorism is one of those challenges that changes all the time,” he said. “We can’t meet them in garrison. We have to be out there.”

That is why, Carter said, the military needs soldiers like those of the 10th Mountain Division engaged around the world. He added that he knows it’s not easy and the military and that he is asking a lot of them.

“For those deploying soon, I hope you know now I’m behind you 100 percent each and every day,” the secretary said. “You’re what I think about from the minute I wake up, [and] I’ll try to make sure everyone in Washington remembers that.”

Carter: New Generation is Future of National Security

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 – On the first day of a two-day domestic trip, Defense Secretary Ash Carter today visited the high school he attended in Abington, Pennsylvania, to speak with students whose generation, he said, represents the future of national security.

Carter -- Abington class of 1972 -- got a standing ovation as he took the podium. After he spoke and answered a round of questions from students in the packed high school auditorium, they stood, clapped and cheered as he thanked them for their attention.

On his first domestic trip as defense secretary, Carter is also scheduled to visit Fort Drum in Jefferson County, New York -- home of the 10th Mountain Division. There, he plans to meet with troops who recently served in Afghanistan.

Before traveling back to Washington, the secretary will stop at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, to discuss the department’s commitment to building what he calls the “force of the future.”

Joining the Military

In his remarks, Carter referenced the 150-plus Abington graduates who had joined the military before and after attending college since 2000.

The secretary mentioned of some of his favorite high school teachers and coaches, some of whom were in the audience. He also named Lt. Matt Capps, a Navy helicopter pilot and 2000 graduate, whose mother Carole, a school employee, was in the audience.

“Movies like ‘American Sniper,’ video games like ‘Call of Duty’ and TV commercials with troops coming home are most likely where you see our military in your everyday lives, unless you have a family member or friend who is serving,” Carter said. Those images are somewhat true, he added, but they’re only part of what the 2.3 million men and women in uniform do every day in their jobs and in their lives.

The Future of National Security

“I wanted to come here today because your generation represents the future of our country and the future of our national security,” Carter told his audience.

“We now have the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” he said to applause, “and they’re not just defending our country against terrorists in such places as Afghanistan and Syria and Iraq -- they’re helping defend cyberspace, too.”

Service members work with cutting-edge technologies such as robotics and in fields such as biomedical engineering, the secretary said.

When disaster strikes, military forces deliver aid all over the world, he added, from the 2011 nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan to super storm Sandy in the United States. And they mobilized to Africa to save thousands of lives, helping to keep the deadly Ebola virus disease from spreading around the world.

Evolving Military Missions

“Our country’s military missions continue to evolve rapidly as our world changes and technology continues to revolutionize everything we do,” Carter said, “and … the institution I lead, the Department of Defense, must keep pace with that change as well to keep our nation secure.”

The secretary told the students that some people join the service right after high school and pursue a college education over time while serving. Some in college participate in the ROTC, a college-based program for training commissioned officers.

“In all cases, college and higher learning are encouraged, because we need our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to be the best and the brightest this country has to offer,” Carter said.

Nearly 40 percent of military officers come from ROTC programs at colleges and universities, he added, noting that the services send many members to top-notch graduate programs, such as civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, medical school at Stanford University, and business school at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

The New GI Bill

Everyone who serves, Carter added, can get college benefits through the GI Bill –- now called the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 -- which over the past five and a half years has helped more than 1.3 million Americans pay for college.

“You don’t have to join the military to serve your country –- I didn’t,” Carter said. “But Matt and all those other Abington graduates are the foundation of our future force.”

The future force has other pieces too, he added, such as having the best technology and the best planes, ships and tanks. “But it all starts and ends with our people,” he added. “If we can’t continue to attract, inspire and excite talented young Americans like you, then nothing else will matter.”

To help build the future force, the department must be able to attract young people and put the current generation’s command of technology to work for the nation, the secretary said.

Building the Future Force

Carter mentioned the kind of data-driven technology that allows Netflix to suggest movies and TV shows, Twitter to suggest who to follow and Facebook to suggest who to add as a friend. He said the same technology could be applied to chart how people are doing every day in all aspects of their jobs.

“We also need to use 21st-century technologies –- similar to LinkedIn and –- to help develop 21st-century leaders and give our people even more flexibility and choice in deciding their next job when they’re in the military,” he added.

The department has internships, fellowships and pilot programs that allow people to pause their military service for a few years while they get a degree, learn a new skill or start a family, the secretary said, but he added that such programs are still small.

“These programs are good for us and our people, because they help people bring new skills and talents from outside back into the military,” Carter said. “So we need to look not only at ways we can improve and expand those programs, but also think about completely new ideas to help our people gain new skills and experiences.”

Equal Opportunity, Better World

Carter said the department also plans to keep making sure that anyone who is able and willing to serve their country has a full and equal opportunity to do so, drawing talent from a range of gender, racial, religious, cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds.

“Whether you’re a man or woman, gay, lesbian or straight -- no matter what walk of life your family comes from -– we’ll make sure you’re treated with dignity and respect,” Carter told them.

The secretary said the services will be competing hard around the country for talent like that represented by the students at Abington.

“I know that not everyone here is thinking about military service, and that’s okay,” he said. “If you’re like I was and you’re still interested in serving your country and making a better world, we need to be ready to help with ways you can serve as a civilian. Right now that’s not something our local recruiters offer, but we have to rethink that.”

The department wants people to consider military and public service because, “when it comes to working in national security, no matter what you do –- military or civilian –- you will be better off for having been a part of this incredible mission,” Carter said. “Whether it’s the people, the skills or the experiences, nothing else compares. I guarantee it.”

AFWA re-designated as 557th Weather Wing

by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
55th Wing Public Affairs

3/30/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- The Air Force Weather Agency became the 557th Weather Wing in a re-designation ceremony March 27 at the Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Moorman building.

"This is a momentous occasion; we are about to close a chapter in weather history and start a new one," said Ralph Stoffler, U.S. Air Force acting director of weather, who spoke at the event. "What you are seeing here today is not just a name change, but a fundamental philosophy change  of how the weather community is doing business ... I want to make sure that everyone in this organization knows, whether you have the weather badge or a communications badge or a supply badge, that you have done phenomenal work."

While still AFWA, the agency was considered a Field Operating Agency. As a wing, they will now fall under Air Combat Command and the 12th Air Force.

"Weather is critical to the mission," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, 12th AF commander. "The reason this wing is being dedicated back into an operational realm is because threats are only increasing. The accuracy, the precision, the synchronization and the decision capability weather provides is not going to change. What it will provide is a joining together of eight other wings, 53,000 Airmen and 661 airplanes."

We are the only Air Force in the world who does what we do and you are the only wing in the world who brings it all together to support and enable those world-wide operations, he added.

The change, although an Air Force organizational decision, gave the wing an opportunity to showcase their rich heritage within the armed forces. This became evident while deciding the numeric portion of their title.

"It was noted that the year of the Army Air Force's weather wing stand-up, 1943, added to 17, the same year as the establishment of the Weather Service within the Army Signal Corps, 1917," said U.S. Air Force Col. David Bacot, 557th WW vice commander. "Five fifty-seven was a wing number available to AFWA and also summed to 17."

The 557th WW will be responsible for all operational weather support for the Air Force and Army, making them home to nearly 80 percent of all weather forces.

Structurally, not much will change. They will still house the 1st and 2d Weather Groups and their respective squadrons. The main difference will be the addition of the 17th, 21st, and 28th Operational Weather Squadrons to the 1st WXG, increasing their size by approximately 400 personnel.

Another modification will be the Latin verbiage on the bottom of their shield. It will now read "Coelum Ad Prelium Elige," meaning "Choose the weather for battle."

"There is so much pride that I have with everyone in this room and this organization," said U.S. Air Force Col. William Carle, 557th WW commander. "Last year, I professed my confidence in the Airmen in this organization. We knew we had this challenge to reorganize and be more operations focused. Today is the culmination of all of that hard work, dedication and perseverance. I am blown away. Thank you very much for what you have done. I am truly humbled and honored to be your commander."

CSAF thanks RPA Airmen, highlights RPA mission importance

by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/30/2015 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and his wife, Betty, visited the Airmen of the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing to discuss the importance of the ISR mission during their visit to Creech Air Force Base, Nev., March 24.

Among his stops to various locations around base, Welsh met with RPA pilots, senior non-commissioned officers, and the squadron and group commanders of the 432nd Wing and 799th Air Base Wing to discuss changes within the Air Force, such as the new enlisted performance report system and force management, as well as the importance of the RPA enterprise.

In addition, Welsh held an all-call, during which he thanked and highlighted the successes of the men and women of Creech AFB.

"I'm here really just to say 'thanks,'" Welsh said. "Thank you for how proud you make me every day, but more importantly, thank you for what you're doing."

The general went on to say that the RPA enterprise in total, from those who support it, to those who maintain and operate it, have been completing a mission, making significant personal and family sacrifices for more than a decade.

"It's absolutely stunning. The story of the last 15 years for the U.S. Air Force is going to be absolutely rich but the centerpiece of that story is going to be the development of an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance enterprise that the world has never seen before," Welsh said. "Every combatant commander wants you, which is a compliment, but you also understand the strain it inflicts."

Welsh highlighted the effects the RPA enterprise has on joint and coalition war-fighting capabilities, and the important role it has played in helping defeat and deter enemies.

"Thank you for the things you have done and for the success you've had and the success it has enabled," said Welsh. "Thank you for the feeling of security you give men and women on the ground."

With the growing demand for RPA capabilities, Welsh acknowledged some of the additional stressors that have been placed on RPA Airmen and discussed his goal for stabilizing the mission to allow manning to steady, while still allowing those wishing to enter the ISR community an opportunity to do so.

"There are some things [about the RPA mission] that clearly have to change. We have got to get ahead of the training curve, we have got to get fully manned, and we have got to slow down the operational demand long enough to produce new pilots and crewmembers so that when others leave, the enterprise isn't adversely affected," he said.

Welsh assured Airmen everything that can be done is being done to stabilize the force while continuing to complete the mission. He also acknowledged that demands for the RPA capability will continue to grow.

After reassuring the Airmen, the general continued his remarks by outlining a fundamental practice that is required.

"We have to listen to our people and offer ideas," Welsh said. "We have to care about the mission and our people now more than ever."

U.S. Air Advisors reach milestone in Air Drop Training with Colombian Air Force

by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Hannen
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

3/30/2015 - BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- Members of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron from Travis Air Force Base (MSAS) finalized their training with members of the Colombian Air Force while observing their performance of an air drop mission near Bogota, Colombia, March 4, 2015.

The successful air drop concluded a month-long Air mobility Command Building Partner Capacity mission. The mission of BPC is to build stronger international air force cooperation, interoperability and mutual support in coordination with 12th Air Force's (Air Force's Southern)continued engagements in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility of Latin America and the Caribbean.

571 MSAS pilots and loadmaster instructors observed five Colombian parachute jumpers and two pallets successfully land within the recommended target range during two passes in a Colombian Air Force Casa 295 aircraft. This successful airdrop concluded a month-long Air Mobility Command Building Partner Capacity mission.

According to Maj. Justin Allen, 571 MSAS Colombia mission commander, this was the first air drop mission where 571 MSAS instructors were allowed to go on the aircraft and fly with the Colombians.

"In the past we taught classes, set up an exercise and then let them go execute the mission," said Allen. "That is very similar to simply telling someone how to drive a car, then giving them the keys and say alright go at it. Again, we don't know what we don't know until we sit there and watch them. Just as they don't know what they don't know until we tell them. As observers we can't see what happens inside the aircraft until we get to fly with them. The air observer piece was extremely important and very beneficial to our understanding of how they conduct their operations and what areas can be improved," Allen said.

The MSAS Airmen have been teaching seminars and advising the Colombian Air Force twice a year since August of 2012, but until recently, the Colombian Air Force had little experience in air drop procedures. In the last six months, the Columbian airmen have been able to leverage more air drop missions from the Army and have been able to conduct the operations safely and successfully.

"Prior to this they (the Colombians) didn't have any airdrop missions other than when we visited and prepared a training mission for them," said Maj Allen.

Colombia is a very large country with few roads and the military operates about 12 bases throughout the country. Smaller countries in the region use helicopters as their primary means of transporting people and cargo. Helicopters cannot carry enough cargo, nor do they travel fast enough, so they are not the preferred method of military transport in Columbia. Colombia is currently battling the Transnational Criminal Organizations, their war against the FARC Revolutionary Armed Forces and their war on drugs.

"Our efforts here are specifically helping them to conduct air drop operations that will allow them to resupply troops and forward operating bases throughout the country," Allen said. "They can resupply those troops with additional personnel if needed."

Staff Sgt. Peter Salinas, Loadmaster, has been an air drop and rigging instructor in Colombia on five 571 MSAS trips and has taught 30 students.

"I would say this drop went very, very well," said Staff Sgt. Salinas. "The success was a collaboration of the navigators, pilots, loadmasters and jumpers. They went from not being able to air drop and now they can air drop Container Delivery System bundles. We are still taking baby steps in order for them to get completely proficient and effective in the air drop, but we are happy with their progress," Salinas said.

According to Salinas, there are still steps needed to increase the capability of the Columbian air force.

"We only come in for four weeks at a time twice a year and they don't get a lot of airdrop experience in between those seminars," Allen said. "They can only get certain air drop operations and we are trying to raise that level of excellence. Some of their procedures and some of the things they are doing, it is just lack of experience, but it is not a lack of motivation or will. These guys are super energetic and they really want to learn how to get the mission done."

Another measure of success is the fact that the Colombian airmen are taking the knowledge the 571 MSAS has taught them on air drop and rigging procedures, and have gone to additional exercises in South America to train others.

"They are definitely taking the skills that we are teaching and they are providing training for other countries," Allen said. "They are providing airmanship, air drop, maintenance and other skill sets to other countries."

The BPC mission is to build stronger international air force cooperation, interoperability and mutual support in coordination with. The MSAS Airmen, based out of Travis Air Force Base, Calif., have been teaching seminars and advising the Colombian Air Force for a month twice a year since August 2012 to help them grow.