Saturday, July 11, 2020

9th Mission Support Command Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic


The 9th Mission Support Command, headquartered in Honolulu, has mobilized close to 400 personnel throughout the Pacific to assist in defense support of civil authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 9th MSC is the most geographically dispersed command in the Army Reserve, and it provides U.S. Indo-Pacific Command with capable forces at key points. The command spans two U.S. states, two U.S. territories, a commonwealth and two foreign countries across seven time zones.

''As a U.S. Army Reserve geographic command designated as a principal ready force unit, and based on our wide array of forces across the Indo-Pacific theater, the 9th MSC prepares for such contingencies year-round,'' said Army Col. Joseph Thomas Jr, the 9th MSC deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training. ''The 9th MSC was more than ready to answer the call, mobilize, and in some cases, forward-deploy forces in order to execute and command and control validated [Federal Emergency Management Agency] mission assignments and other Theater Joint Force Land Component Command requirements in support of COVID-19 response efforts.''

A soldier wearing a mask cleans a door handle.

The 9th MSC proved their training effective as they seamlessly transitioned from steady-state operations to their efforts in support of civil authorities. It activated its crisis action team, or CAT and immediately began working with the joint force land staff to match capabilities against emerging requirements.

''The CAT was immediately stood up through an initial team huddle of all personal staff and special staff,'' said Army 1st Lt. Lauren Brown, with the COVID-19 fragmentary order team. ''The COVID-19 FRAGO team ensured the information pertaining to [9th MSC] from Army Headquarters, [U.S. Army Pacific] and U.S. Army Hawaii was documented.''

The command quickly organized personnel and supplies to match the need of the mission, people and location, eventually resulting in 376  personnel completing seven FEMA mission assignments and Theater Joint Force Land Component Command and U.S. Army Hawaii taskers.

''Mobilization of 9th MSC forces started with multiple tactical-level units to provide Joint Reception Staging and Onward Movement for other joint and interagency partners, and to operate federal staging areas in American Samoa, Guam, and Saipan,'' Thomas said. ''We then mobilized a team of planners to augment Task Force West in Guam, a team of nurses to provide medical augmentation in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and additional staff personnel from 9th MSC headquarters and its subordinate theater support group to round-out those operational-level staffs and keep pace with planning, reporting, and command and control requirements.''

Soldiers transfer duffel bags lined up on the ground into a truck.

In addition to mobilizing nurses, medical planners and staff personnel, soldiers with the 9th MSC smoved 273 personnel, four pallets, 16 boxes, eight bags of medical equipment and cargo and more than 11,500 units of personal protective equipment into Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. The command exercised emergency preparedness liaison officers in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

The 9th MSC also provided personnel to support increased Force Protection/Health Protection Condition measures on installations across U.S. Army Hawaii’s area of operations, and it provided COVID-19 cleaning tand contact tracing teams.

''With COVID-19 being a condition that is new, it did present the challenge of lack of knowledge on how to keep everyone safe while maintaining a workflow,'' Brown said. ''At times it has almost been like building a ship while it is flying.''

Throughout this pandemic, the 9th MSC adapted to these conditions.

''In the end, the 9th MSC enterprise rose to the challenge and completed all requirements while executing in a COVID-19 environment with social distancing, virtual collaboration and facing other unforeseen circumstances and challenges,'' Thomas said.

(Air Force Maj. Melodie Tafao is assigned to the 9th Mission Support Command.)

Chapels at Camp Arifjan Reopen for In-Person Gatherings


After months of being closed due to COVID-19, chapel doors have reopened for in-person services at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Services were halted earlier this year in response to COVID-19.

A man seated in a pew holds a book open during a chapel service.

With social distancing implemented, attendance capacity is limited to 25 personnel, along with limited seating. Despite these restrictions, Army Chaplain (Maj.) Jung Lee, assigned to the 595th Transportation Brigade, noticed the pandemic did not deter attendance.

"We are starting to see new faces; there is steady growth," Lee said. "This was a pleasant surprise." Lee led the contemporary services June 20.

Along with seeing new faces in the crowd, a new sense of fellowship fostered amid the precautionary changes in typical services, the chaplain said.

"We talk with a mask on, but there is conversation now, and eye contact," Lee said. "There is a sense I can just feel. People enjoy the atmosphere of community."

Army Chaplain (Capt.) James Johnson, deployed with the 3rd Medical Command and a member of the praise team, also participated in the reopening day of contemporary service.

Soldiers and civilians attend worship service.
Soldiers attend worship service.

"You can be in great shape and have a great education and still lose your connection to meaning while on mission," Johnson said. "Connecting with the community is a wonderful way to stay connected with meaning. [In-person] chapel services help to provide that."

During the temporary closure, chaplains within the Area Support Group Kuwait provided service members and Defense Department civilians access to online fellowship.

"Some services were already being recorded; however, virtual services will continue even after the pandemic," Army Sgt. Jamel King, a chaplain assistant and the ASG-KU Operations noncommissioned officer in charge of chaplain services, said. "It is our job to offer our service members and civilians these services. The pandemic did not disrupt our battle rhythm."

DOD Announces $84.4 Million in Defense Production Act Title III COVID-19 Actions

Today, the Department announces seven Defense Production Act Title III actions to help sustain and strengthen essential domestic industrial base capabilities and defense-critical workforce in the small unmanned aerial systems, space technology, and shipbuilding industries.  These actions will help to retain critical workforce capabilities throughout the disruption caused by COVID-19 and to restore some jobs lost because of the pandemic. The Department remains closely partnered with FEMA and HHS, providing almost $2.9 billion in life-saving medical services, supplies and equipment to service members and federal agencies in the nation's whole-of-government approach to the coronavirus pandemic.

DoD Announces $13.4 million DPA Title III Investments in U.S. Small Unmanned Aerial System Industrial Base

As part of the national response to COVID-19, and to support the domestic small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) industrial base, the Department of Defense awarded contracts totaling $13.4M to five companies to sustain the capabilities of this critical domestic industrial base. Using funds authorized and appropriated under the CARES Act, these DPA Title III investments will further enhance the U.S. warfighter’s situational awareness, improve human-machine teaming, and provide engineering support for aiding the integration of sUAS capabilities into DoD programs.

The DPA Title III funds across five companies saved 14 jobs, created 20 new positions, and will support continued advancement of capabilities providing the companies additional paths for recurring revenue. The following is an overview of each company’s award:

  • AirMap, located in Santa Monica, California, received $3.3M to aid product development and engineering support for integration of sUAS mission planning, post-mission analysis, and unmanned traffic management software.
  • ModalAI, located in San Diego, California, received $3M to develop their next generation U.S.-made flight controller that will enable advanced autonomy including GPS-denied navigation, and all-environment obstacle avoidance. 
  • Skydio, located in Redwood City, California, received $4M to improve the flight controller hardware/software and data link for their sUAS so that highly capable components can be purchased and used across U.S. Government unmanned systems.
  • Graffiti Enterprises, located in Somerset, New Jersey, received $1.5M to modify their commercial data link for DoD’s sUAS use including operation in restricted frequency bands, reduction in the size, weight, and power of the hardware, and software developments to improve security and resiliency of their data link.
  • Obsidian Sensors, located in San Diego, California, received $1.6M to build a low-cost, dual thermal sUAS camera that can be mounted onto a stabilization gimbal and then integrated and flown on small, packable, ISR systems.

The five awards were provided under Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU’s) Commercial Solutions Opening. DIU is leading the Department’s UAS framework development intended to provide secure, trusted sUAS capability to the Department of Defense and other Federal Government stakeholders.

DoD announces $15 million Defense Production Act Title III Agreement with LeoLabs to Strengthen Domestic Space Industrial Base

As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense entered into a $15 million agreement with LeoLabs, Inc. to ensure the continued viability of space surveillance capability through the operation and maintenance of a world-wide highly capable phased-array radar network.  The ability to surveil and analyze spacecraft in low earth orbit is essential to national defense. LeoLabs, Inc. is the only domestic commercial supplier with demonstrated capability in this critical area.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the CARES Act, this DPA Title III investment will offset direct workforce and financial distress brought about by the coronavirus pandemic to a sole-source capability within the defense industrial base and ensure resultant critical capabilities are retained within the U.S.

LeoLabs, Inc. is based in Menlo Park, California, with operating locations throughout the United States.

DoD announces $56 million Defense Production Act Title III Agreement to Strengthen Domestic Shipbuilding Industrial Base

As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense (DoD) entered into a $56 million agreement with ArcelorMittal Inc. to sustain critical domestic industrial base shipbuilding capability and capacity.  This investment will expand ArcelorMittal’s plate processing footprint and heat-treating capability, subsequently increasing its alloy steel plate production and ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long-term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the CARES Act, this DPA Title III investment will protect jobs in a region hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure critical capabilities are retained in support of U.S. Navy operational readiness.

ArcelorMittal is a steel and mining company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The principal place of performance is at ArcelorMittal’s facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

Website resources:

DoD Coronavirus update:    

DoD Industrial Policy:

Joint Acquisition Task Force:  

Defense Production Act Title III:

Crafty Marines

Marines in inflatable crafts participate in a squad competition after a small-boat exercise at Kin Blue Beach, Okinawa, Japan, July 7, 2020.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

San Diego, California Man Sentenced To Federal Prison For His Role In Million Dollar Scheme Targeting Thousands Of U.S. Servicemembers And Veterans

A federal judge in San Antonio sentenced 32-year-old Trorice Crawford of San Diego, California, to 46 months in federal prison for his role in an identity-theft and fraud scheme that victimized thousands of U.S. servicemembers and veterans, the Department of Justice announced today.

In addition to the prison term, Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ordered that Crawford pay $103,700 in restitution and be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.

On December 5, 2019, Crawford pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.  By pleading guilty, Crawford admitted that from May 2017 to July 2019, he conspired with Robert Wayne Boling, Jr. (a U.S. citizen), and others to steal money belonging to U.S. Servicemembers and veterans.  By pleading guilty, Crawford admitted to recruiting at least 30 individuals (aka “money mules”) who provided their bank account information to receive funds stolen from military affiliated individuals.  On average, each unauthorized transfer from a victim’s accounts ranged from between $8,000 to $13,000.  Crawford kept a percentage of the withdrawn funds for himself and oversaw the transmission of the remaining amounts by means of international money remittance services to Boling and others in the Philippines.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud on America’s warfighters and veterans,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis of the Department’s Civil Division.  “Working with our partners and using all tools available, we are committed to protecting those who protect us.”

In October, Crawford’s co-defendant Frederick Brown, age 38 of Las Vegas, NV, pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with this scheme.  Brown, a former civilian medical records administrator for the U.S. Army at the 65th Medical Brigade, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, admitted that while logged into the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application, he illegally captured on his cell phone personal identifying information (PII) of thousands of military members, including names, social security numbers, DOD ID numbers, dates of birth, and contact information.  Brown further admitted that he subsequently provided that stolen data to Boling so that Boling and others could exploit the information in various ways to access Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs benefits sites and steal millions of dollars. 

As asserted in the federal grand jury indictment, Boling, together with his Philippines-based co-defendants Allan Albert Kerr (Australian citizen) and Jongmin Seok (South Korean citizen), specifically used the stolen information to compromise a Department of Defense portal designed to enable military members to access benefits information online. Once through the portal, the defendants are alleged to have accessed benefits information.  Access to these detailed records enabled the defendants to steal or attempt to steal millions of dollars from military members’ bank accounts. The defendants also stole veterans’ benefits payments. Evidence of the defendants’ scheme was detected earlier this year, advancing the investigation that led to the indictment.

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are coordinating with the Department of Justice to notify and provide resources to the thousands of identified victims.

Boling, Kerr, and Seok are charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  Boling, Kerr, and Seok remain in the Philippines.  Measures are being taken to effect their transfer to the Western District of Texas.  Brown remains in federal custody awaiting sentencing scheduled for 10:30 am on September 17, 2020, before Judge Garcia in San Antonio. 

It is important to note that an indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The United States is represented by Trial Attorneys Ehren Reynolds and Yolanda McCray Jones of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Blackwell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas. The matter was investigated by agents of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and counsel Matthew Freund, along with substantial investigative support from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Benefits Protection and Remediation Division. The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Philippine law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the District of Nevada, the Southern District of California, and the Eastern District of Virginia also provided assistance. Resources from the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative and its Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force aided in the matter’s investigation and prosecution.

Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors.  In particular, in March 2020, the department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep.  The department has likewise conducted hundreds of training's and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.

Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts can be found at  For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, visit its website at Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative is available at; information on the Servicemember and Veterans Initiative is at

Leap Frogs

Members of the Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a tethered flag with smoke brackets during a demonstration in San Diego, July 4, 2020.

Howitzer Training

A member of the West Virginia National Guard mans a self-propelled howitzer during training at Camp Dawson, W.V., June 17, 2020.

EOD Team Sharpens Skills, Maintains Proficiency During Pandemic

July 9, 2020 | BY AIR FORCE TECH. SGT. DELLA CREECH , 315th Airlift Wing

The 315th Civil Engineer Flight's explosive ordnance disposal team held a live-explosives demolition training at the EOD range near the Naval Weapons Station Charleston, South Carolina.

Training evolutions like the live-explosives demolition help the reservists with the 315th CEF maintain mission readiness while gaining training time imperative to mission and unit proficiency, giving them the ability to answer the nation's call when needed — even during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"This demo will help the EOD team to protect others in the event that an explosive runs the risk of detonating," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brendan Mcavey, the explosive ordnance technician team lead with the 315th CEF, said. "Our technicians can accomplish a myriad of assignments, so these demolition exercises are crucial to learning how explosives work and how to perform the mission."

An airman wearing a face mask and holding some yellow wire in his left hand cups his right hand to his face to yell an instruction.
An airman wearing a face mask kneels next to a large spool of yellow wire.

With a vision to be integrated, experienced and relevant, the 315th CEF conducts monthly explosives training to remain proficient in tackling any task, domestic or abroad. The tasks can range from defusing Civil War- era relics to safely disposing of improvised explosive devices.

The variety of experience held by these EOD reservists range from every day skills to the unique expertise to be able to determine the required safety distance from an explosive if it should detonate.

"Due to the nature of the work, there is no way to train our airmen virtually to properly dispose of explosives," Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Johnson, the EOD program manager with the 315th CEF, said. "The live-contact approach provides them important time using the tools needed to do the job, ensuring that they stay on the leading edge of what they do."

This proficiency demolition training used a remote detonation barrel to pinpoint a mock IED to sharpen the reservists' skills. This is a hands-on irreplaceable skill to the EOD team. Many of these skills strengthen the EOD airman both on and off of duty, Johnson said.

"The professionalism from EOD, and the discipline from the military, help me to stay focused on our goals during COVID in my civilian life working cybersecurity at Bank of America," Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Keskinen, an explosive ordnance technician with the 315th CEF, said.

Airmen wearing face masks walk side by side. One is carrying equipment, and the other is carrying a rolled-up length of yellow wire.

Keskinen not only sharpens his skills with the 315th CEF, but also transfers them to his rotational master's degree program. Keskinen explained that in cybersecurity, staying on the cutting edge and sharpening his skills as much as possible makes all of the difference when the pressure is on. He uses this discipline to strengthen the 315th CEF EOD team as well.

"I appreciate having the opportunity to train through such crazy times and remain qualified," Keskinen said. "Plus, I love blowing stuff up."

Task Force Boosts Spirits With Mail During COVID-19 Pandemic

July 9, 2020 | BY ARMY SGT. ANDREW WINCHELL , Task Force Spartan

Not rain, snow, sleet, extreme heat or even COVID-19 can stop the mail.

"There are 58 mailrooms here on [Camp] Arifjan alone," Army Staff Sgt. Robert Harris, the mail operations noncommissioned officer in charge for Task Force Spartan, said. "We alone are responsible for 1,300 people."

Harris and his team start their day at 8 a.m. and play a critical role in getting the mail to service members and civilians who serve Task Force Spartan, among other organizations.

Soldiers work in a mailroom.

"We start our day picking up the mail from the main mailroom," Harris said. "The main mailroom sorts things out by the smaller mailrooms we have on post. Then we come and pick it up to sort it out by person."

"When we arrive to pick up the mail, we never know how much there will be — could be just a few packages or over 200 packages," he continued. "There was a short time when COVID really started shutting things down, and we didn't see much coming in, but that was a very short time."

COVID-19 has affected the world and changed the way many businesses operate, so it comes as no surprise that it would affect mail delivery also.

"COVID only slowed down mail for a short time, maybe a week or so," Harris said. "Getting mail to service members and contractors is of the utmost importance, especially during these times when people look forward to packages from home or something they've ordered like a book to help pass downtime."

Receiving mail can help boost morale not only for service members and civilians overseas, but also for friends and family members who get mail from loved ones abroad.

"Sorting the amount of mail we receive sometimes can become overwhelming," Harris said. "We have had to shut down the mailroom twice since being here. We never want to make that call, but when we get over five or six bins full of mail, it can be very difficult to get it sorted in time for pickup that day."  

Soldiers work in a mailroom.

There can be many reasons for mail to be delayed, especially due to the restrictions during a worldwide pandemic. 

"Mail may be delayed sometimes, but my team and I make sure that when we get things in, we process it and update the roster as quickly as possible," Harris said. "With so many things closed down because of COVID-19, mail is one of the few morale-boosting things left."

Harris and his team work hard every day to make sure service members and civilians get their mail.

"At the end of the day, we are here to make sure people are getting their mail with as little delay as possible," Harris said. "For some getting a letter or package from home can turn a bad day or week around."

The soldiers of Task Force Spartan are being led by the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division. The mission is a unique, multi-component organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by Army Reserve support units.

Through Operation Spartan Shield, Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen defense relationships and build partner capacity.

Taking Aim

A member of the West Virginia National Guard participates in small unit tactics training at Camp Dawson, W.V., June 15, 2020.

Tactics Training

West Virginia National Guardsmen participate in small unit tactics training at Camp Dawson, Kingwood, W.Va., June 15, 2020.

Guardsmen Protected Americans' Rights of Speech and Assembly, Esper Says

July 9, 2020 | BY JIM GARAMONE , DOD News

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper told the House Armed Services Committee today that National Guardsmen protected Americans' right to peaceably assemble and petition the government in the wake of some violent protests following the death of George Floyd. A Minneapolis police officer has subsequently been charged with his murder. 

Esper emphasized that while active duty forces were on alert to help civilian authorities, no active duty forces were used.

A man sits speaks into a microphone.

In prepared remarks, the secretary praised National Guard personnel for their actions. The Guard has been subjected to unprecedented use in the coronavirus pandemic. More than 60,000 guardsmen, active duty personnel and reservists have supported state and federal civilian agencies in the battle against COVID-19, Esper said. Service members undoubtedly saved lives as the United States faced the pandemic and Esper said he is ''incredibly proud of their dedication and service.''

The secretary called Floyd's death in May, ''a tragedy we have seen repeated too often in our nation. His death evoked public outrage and illustrated a painful truth that racial injustice continues to afflict our country to this day.''

Americans across the country took to the streets to ''exercise their First Amendment rights by voicing their anguish, frustration and longing for change,'' he said. ''Although many of these protests were peaceful and law-abiding, it is clear that some individuals exploited the situation to sow chaos and commit acts of violence, destruction and theft.''

There were clashes with police in many cities including Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Louisville and Washington. The violence included buildings and vehicles that were set on fire and vandalized, the looting of stores, and injuries to law enforcement personnel and innocent bystanders.

The respective governors called upon their National Guards to restore order and safeguard communities, businesses, monuments and places of worship. ''In doing so, the National Guard once again demonstrated its commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting life and liberty, so that the violent actions of a few do not undermine the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens, or jeopardize the livelihood of hard working Americans,'' Esper said.

The secretary emphasized that all members of the armed forces swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, ''and we commit to doing so in our longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical.'' The secretary himself served in the Army National Guard.

Freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed by the Constitution, ''and in cities across America, National Guard personnel were devoted to protecting these sacred rights, despite the risk to their own safety and personal well-being,'' Esper said. 

Esper stressed that he firmly believes the National Guard is best suited to provide domestic support to civil authorities, in support of local law enforcement.

A man speaks into a microphone.

''Using active duty forces in a direct civilian law enforcement role should remain a last resort, and [be] exercised only in the most urgent and dire of situations,'' he said. ''I want to make very clear that no active duty military units engaged protesters or otherwise took a direct part in civilian law enforcement or federal protection missions in the District of Columbia or anywhere else in the country.''

At the height of the civil unrest, more than 43,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel in 33 states and the District of Columbia were called upon to assist federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in restoring and maintaining order, protecting communities, and defending the rights of all Americans to protest safely and peacefully, he said.

''At the peak of response efforts in the District of Columbia, more than 5,100 National Guard personnel from the District of Columbia National Guard and 11 States – Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah – were authorized by their respective governors to provide support,'' he said. ''The D.C. National Guard supported the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Marshals Service and the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department.''

The guardsmen's authorized duties included protection of federal property; point security, crowd management, and access control; acting as a quick response force; medical support; and transportation of personnel and supplies. ''The out-of-state National Guard personnel protected federal functions, persons and property in collaboration with federal law enforcement agencies,'' he said.

At the height of the protests, it became obvious that there were not enough guardsmen in Washington. Neighboring states were contacted, but it was unclear whether the personnel would arrive. ''I then placed approximately 1,700 active-duty military personnel on alert in Maryland and Virginia in the event that out-of-state National Guard personnel could not arrive in time,'' Esper said. 

These included local active duty forces and military police units based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Drum, New York; and Fort Riley, Kansas. 

''I subsequently ordered them to be pre-positioned at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, where they remained on alert,'' Esper said. ''These active duty personnel remained outside of the District of Columbia.''

The active duty forces were not needed as additional guardsmen arrived and Esper subsequently ordered the active duty troops to return to their garrisons.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

American Contractor Pleads Guilty to Stealing Government Equipment on U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan

An American military contractor pleaded guilty today to his role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko made the announcement.

Larry J. Green, 43, of Chesapeake, Virginia, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit theft of property of value to the United States worth over $300,000; one count of theft of property of value to the United States; and one count of aiding and abetting the submission of false statements.  Sentencing is set for Nov. 19, 2020.

Green admitted that, between April 2015 and July 2015, he and others conspired to steal and did steal property of value to the United States including generators and a truck.  Green negotiated the sale of the stolen property with a third-country national middleman, who facilitated the sale of the items to unknown persons off of the military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  In order to effectuate the theft of a truck, Green admitted that he drove the truck off the military installation. 

Green also admitted that, in order to effectuate the theft of generators, he aided and abetted one of his co-conspirators, a security badging and escort pass supervisor, in creating false official documents to facilitate both the entry of unknown and unvetted Afghan nationals and their vehicles on to the military installation, and the removal of the stolen property from the installation.  The falsified documents were used to deceive security officers and gate guards and compromised the security of U.S. military and civilian personnel on the military installation.

SIGAR investigated the case with help from Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and the 939th Military Police Detachment of the Indiana Army National Guard. Trial Attorneys Sasha N. Rutizer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Rosaleen O’Gara of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

Ohio National Guard Provides Lifeline to Assisted Living Facility


Two months after the novel coronavirus began spreading throughout Ohio, a team of 20 airmen and soldiers was activated to help in caring for residents at an assisted living facility that was being overwhelmed by the virus.

After residents and staff began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, Carlin House Assisted Living directors Mindy and Chad Bailey decided to advocate for facilitywide testing. The testing revealed that nearly 65% of the residents and 37% of the staff had contracted COVID-19.

As fears began to rise, many of the staff chose to self-quarantine. With only six nurses remaining on the team, the facility was on the brink of a crisis.

Rather than displacing residents to alternate facilities, the Baileys decided to shelter in place and reach out to the Ohio National Guard for additional support and resources. Within six hours of receiving the call, the Ohio National Guard dispatched a 20-person team with medical and ancillary staff capabilities.

An airman wearing full protective gear takes the temperature of a COVID-19 patient.

The guard’s medical staff consisted of medics and nurses who were responsible for tasks such as administering medications, assessing conditions, taking vital signs and transferring residents throughout the facility. The ancillary staff provided support through cleaning, laundry services, delivering meals and assisting trained medical personnel with resident care needs.

Once they arrived on scene, the guardsmen were oriented to the facility, situation and the residents. The members worked to cordon off wings of the facility based on which residents tested positive for COVID-19. They then created an internal protocol that included personal protective equipment for each section. The PPE protocol was instrumental in promoting safety and decreasing cross-contamination between those who had tested positive for COVID-19 and those who had not.

The guardsmen valued interacting with and learning from their civilian counterparts about the facility and residents. The assisted living facility staff provided the team with valuable input on their operations and residents' care needs. These needs varied greatly from resident to resident.

There's not enough words to express our gratitude that they are taking care of our residents how we would, and how they deserve to be taken care of.''
Chad Bailey, co-director, Carlin House Assisted Living

''They've helped me by serving my meals, with personal care and just being there for me,'' said Kathy Russell, a resident at the Carlin House Assisted Living. ''They’ve been very good to us. They stepped in and stepped up greatly to be here and to take care of us. They've done a great job, and I am thankful for them.''

While the work environment was unique to the guardsmen, who typically train to operate in a tactical and combat medicine environment, many of them were able to draw from their military and civilian experiences to provide professional care for the residents.

Army Maj. Richard Binks, a registered nurse with the Ohio Army National Guard Medical Detachment, was no stranger to working with patients who had contracted COVID-19. Binks had worked with COVID-19 patients in his civilian job as an intensive care unit nurse and for his mission assignment in April caring for inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio.

''I think [my experience there] prepared me for this because I have a better understanding of the proper PPE to use, what precautions and prevention methods to take, the overall understanding of how COVID-19 can present, knowledge of the interventions being done for patients with COVID-19 and knowledge of the treatment plans for COVID-19 positive individuals,'' Binks said.

All members of the team played an instrumental role in providing the residents with companionship and assessing their mental and emotional well-being during the quarantine. Their mental and emotional well-being is parallel in importance to their physical well-being during this crisis. Simply keeping the residents in good spirits is what the guardsmen aimed to do.

An airman wearing personal protective equipment sits and chats with a woman who is seated and holding a cat on her lap.

''I've seen their demeanor, and I've heard the compassion in their voices as they speak to and take care of our residents,'' said Chad Bailey, one of two directors of Carlin House Assisted Living. ''There's not enough words to express our gratitude that they are taking care of our residents how we would, and how they deserve to be taken care of.''

During their time at the assisted living facility, the guardsmen also experienced the unfortunate reality that the virus can be fatal. Through this experience, a services airman who was part of the ancillary staff was able to take the lead in providing mortuary affairs services for the residents who had died.

''When a resident passes, I treat them as if they were my family members,'' said Air Force Airman 1st Class Chelsea Winteringham, a services airman with the Ohio Air National Guard's 179th Airlift Wing. ''It's tough at first, but then you realize you're doing it to respect the deceased and their family members.''

Although their time together was only two weeks, the death of a resident can take a toll on the guardsmen who performed the mission. The guardsmen formed personal connections with the residents and got to know each of them on an individual level. During a daily meeting, members had the opportunity to talk to the group about how they were feeling and were able to look to one another for support.

''[The Ohio National Guardsmen were all] very caring and receptive to understanding how the residents are feeling, how the families are feeling, and how we as staff members are feeling,'' said Mindy Bailey, one of two directors of Carlin House Assisted Living. ''They are more than just responding to a crisis. They were completely engaged in the entire body, mind and soul of the entire mission.''

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Amber Mullen is assigned to the 178th Wing.)

Fighting COVID-19 by Countering Complacency

July 8, 2020 | BY Douglas Stutz , Naval Hospital Bremerton

Call it the COVID-19 complacency conundrum.

As Navy Medical Readiness and Training Command Bremerton in Washington state continues efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19, staff members remain vigilant to any potential lapses.

A sailor poses for a head-and-shoulders shot while wearing surgical scrubs, a face mask and a face shield.

"Now, more than ever, it is important to continue to practice social distancing, best hygiene practices and continue to wear our facial coverings when in public establishments or in group settings," Navy Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, the command's COVID-19 czar and public health emergency officer, stated.

Navy messaging is blunt and to the point regarding the possibility that any inaction and inadvertent action by anyone related to in-place mitigation measures can put the fleet, fighter and/or family at risk. The overarching Navy goal is to not let one sailor, civilian or family member become imperiled by complacency, especially after more than three months of restrictive measures, followed by a gradual lessening of those measures in some areas.

"We have been more fortunate than most with regard to the number of cases we have seen," Uniszkiewicz said. "But we have started to notice an increase in the number of cases since moving to Phase 2 in the local communities. This was not unexpected, but clearly shows that we must remain vigilant as COVID-19 is still in our community. People become comfortable and, often inadvertently, ease their protective measures, let down their facial covering and are lulled into a false sense of security. This would be a mistake. While it is exciting to be able to go out in town for the first time in months, enjoy the summer weather, ... we must continue the personal safety measures that have proven effective for our community."

Mike Pearson, the safety and occupational health manager at NMRTC Bremerton, said complacency on the job has always been a concern, and is even more of a concern during this time of COVID-19 in a military treatment facility.

Two sailors wearing face masks and camouflage uniforms compare notes.

"Now is not the time to be complacent by anyone," Pearson said. "Preventing COVID-19 from spreading isn't somebody else's job. It's everybody's job."

NMRTC Bremerton has proactively required all staff, especially active duty, to understand the current — and mandatory — Health Protection Guidance, or HPCON, Bravo measures in place.

HPCON Bravo requires that when people are close to others, they follow the 6 feet of physical distance requirement, and to wear cloth face coverings when with others for 15 or more minutes and when physical distancing can't be maintained.

"Those measures are how we can protect ourselves and how we can protect others," Pearson said.

HPCON Bravo also calls for practicing strict hygiene guidelines, such as frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, no handshaking, fist bumps, or high fives and limiting get-togethers to no more than 10 people with physical distancing in place.

"We also want everyone to avoid close contact with sick people, stay home if sick to reduce contact with others as much as possible; cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; don't touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to avoid spreading germs; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs," Pearson added.

A sailor wearing a face mask and a camouflage uniform stands with his arms folded in a medical waiting room.

For Terry Lerma, the emergency preparedness manager for NMRTC Bremerton, just being able to see the changes the command has established to streamline care for patients during COVID-19 helps maintain his awareness of the task at hand.

"Constant vigilance and preparedness is the price of safety and security for our MTF staff and beneficiaries," Lerma said. "We all get visual reminders just driving in and seeing that initial screening tent, our sailors with their cloth face masks directing traffic and even how our normal routine now has such things like plastic shield guards in place where needed. Every little bit helps."

Uniszkiewicz emphasized the role of face masks. "My cloth face covering protects you. Your cloth face covering protects me," he said.

Urban Operations

Marines perform an explosive breach without cover using a water charge during an urban operations course at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 26, 2020. Marines learn tactics including combat marksmanship, dynamic breaching, close quarters battle and room clearing.

Flight Formation

Aircraft from the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force follow a B-52 bomber as they conduct integrated joint air operations over the South China Sea, July 4, 2020.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

North Carolina Guard Helps to Feed the Hungry

July 7, 2020 | BY Army Spc. Hannah Tarkelly

Soldiers from the North Carolina Army National Guard's 875th and 883rd Engineer Companies helped to sort, prepare and distribute food at the Mountain Area Nutritional Needs Alliance Foodbank.

Eight soldiers from the Tar Heel state joined together in the mountainous terrain of Asheville to aid in providing emergency relief to families struggling during COVID-19. The food bank is a nonprofit organization that works with more than 200 agencies to distribute food and basic necessities to 16 counties across western North Carolina.

A soldier sorts cardboard boxes at a food bank.
A soldier places boxes of food onto a pallet at a food bank.

"Our mission is to get food out to anyone who needs it across these 16 counties, reaching even the most remote areas of our region," Mary Nesbit, the food bank's chief development officer, said. "The National Guard stepped in almost immediately to help us."

The guardsmen have been working for more than 60 days to help process donated products, conduct inventory, sort and prepare produce and distribute it to partnered agencies and local families. The donated products include fresh produce, canned and bagged goods and basic necessities such as cleaning and hygiene products.

"It's more than just food," Army Sgt. Jonathan Greene of the 883rd Engineer Company, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the Asheville emergency relief team, said. "It's a joy and a privilege. We're making a difference. … We're helping a community."

We are delighted to have this opportunity to thank all of the members of the National Guard who have come out to help us during this pandemic."
Mary Nesbit, chief development officer, Mountain Area Nutritional Needs Alliance Foodbank

The soldiers' daily efforts also include serving packaged meals during food drives as well as serving local schools to help feed the children of Buncombe County. They work closely with cafeteria workers and administrators to help in packaging and distributing meals.

"We are operating beyond maximum capacity through this crisis, so had it not been for the National Guard, ... we would not have been able to do what we have been able to do," Nesbitt said.

The pandemic brought an astronomical hardship, particularly to the Asheville community. The MANNA Food Helpline experienced a 73% increase in calls compared to the pre-pandemic weekly average.

"When COVID hit hard in mid-March — with the necessary closing of non-essential businesses — we saw the need across our region skyrocket nearly overnight with so many people plunged into economic crisis," Nesbitt said.

A soldier moves pallets of food at a food bank.

An average of 95,000 people were served weekly in March through May, including a distribution of 6 millions pounds of food and 5 million meals.

"We're breaking records," Nesbitt said.

The food bank's operations and workload have skyrocketed as a result of COVID-19. The Guard has been able to help support this large increase and help make the mission possible by reaching every individual in need across western North Carolina.

"We are delighted to have this opportunity to thank all of the members of the National Guard who have come out to help us during this pandemic," Nesbitt said.

(Army Spc. Hannah Tarkelly is assigned to the 382nd Public Affairs Detachment.)

New Special Operations Outdoor Training Facility Allows Safe Workouts


U.S. Special Operations Command Central has opened a new outdoor human performance facility at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, providing the opportunity for safe and socially distant workouts while allowing a venue to maintain personal wellness.

An outdoor fitness facility.

Officials deemed it necessary to open the outdoor facility during a time where most public fitness facilities were closed due to COVID-19.

Navy Rear Adm. H. Wyman Howard III, the Soccent commander, cut the ribbon to open the facility June 3.

''This is a great moment for us to be able to expand the [human performance] facilities,'' Howard said. ''With this new workout area, our teammates will have ample room to perform workouts necessary to keep the team fit for the fight.''

Service members working out.

The facility is nearly the length of an American football field; stretching 247 feet, with half of the flooring made of synthetic turf and the remainder made of rubber matting for the equipment workout area. New lighting and industrial fans were installed throughout the facility, which also includes a purified drinking station. The open-air, yet covered, space allows athletes to work out without being exposed to the direct sunlight.

After the ceremony, Mike Renteria, Soccent's strength and conditioning coach, invited a small group of personnel to stay for the initial workout session at the new facility.

This workout area is the first expansion phase of the human performance facilities, with plans for two more buildings on the Soccent campus to be converted as indoor facilities.

A rendered image of an outdoor human performance facility.

''The expansion of our Human Performance Training Center is going to be a world-class facility, with the best trainers, for the best warriors in the world,'' said Army Maj. Juan Salas, the headquarters commandant for Soccent. ''It will serve as the pinnacle for all special operations forces while stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.''

The expansion and renovation project for the workout areas, physical therapy and rehabilitation facilities will span three fiscal years: 2019, 2020 and 2021.

''The project is moving nicely,'' Salas said. ''The gym equipment will be installed in the new buildings by September of this year.'' The project is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2020.

(Army Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin is assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command Central.)

Sports Heroes Who Served: WWI Soldier Helped Desegregate Baseball

July 7, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Almost every sporting event in the United States has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help fill the void, this series looks at sports heroes who also served in the military.

Branch Rickey was an Army officer in the Chemical Warfare Service during World War I. In his unit, coincidentally, were future baseball greats Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson. Rickey would also take a place in baseball history, thanks to his decision to do the right thing.

Man poses for a photo.

In October 1945, as general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rickey signed infielder Jackie Robinson, an African American, for the Dodgers' minor league organization. Robinson's later success with the Dodgers from 1947 to 1956 led other owners to seek Black talent.

This was before the U.S. military integrated, which happened July 26, 1948, after President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the then-segregated military.

Man ready to hit baseball

At the time, no statute barred Blacks from playing professional baseball. However, it was an unwritten rule among club owners that they were not welcome.

Rickey was said to have appreciated the service and sacrifices African Americans made during World War I and II, and he was eager to enlist their services in baseball.

Man poses for photo

He also remembered a Black player from the baseball team he coached at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1903 and 1904 who was denied hotel accommodations. The incident was said to have made him furious, and he personally intervened to let the player spend the night there.

Rickey later said: ''I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball.'' Then there was the business-practical element. The Negro leagues had a lot of talent, and this didn't go unnoticed by Rickey.

Baseball great Jackie Robinson poses for a photo.

Incidentally, Rickey and Robinson were brothers — that is, brothers in arms. Robinson served in the Army during World War II.

Among Rickey's many accomplishments and milestones:

  •  In 1902, he played professional football for the Shelby Blues of the Ohio League, which later became known as the National Football League.
  •  In 1904 and 1905, he stayed busy at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, coaching baseball, basketball and football, as well as teaching English literature and history.
  •  He played in the major leagues in 1905 and 1906 with the St. Louis Browns.
  •  He was manager and general manager of the St. Louis Browns from 1913 to 1915 and in 1919.
  •  He helped to devise the farm system of training ballplayers in 1919.
  •  He was manager and general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1919 to 1942 and helped to create the team’s logo, which is still in use today.
  •  He was general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers 1943 to 1950 and of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1950 to 1955.
  •  His teams won World Series championships in 1926, 1931, 1934 and 1942 and National League pennants in 1928, 1930, 1947 and 1949

Sea Crossing

The USS Ronald Reagan steams through the San Bernardino Strait, July 3, 2020, crossing from the Philippine Sea into the South China Sea.

Secretary Mark T. Esper Message to the Force on Accomplishments in Implementation of the National Defense Strategy

July 7, 2020

Today, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper released a video address to thank the members of the Department for their hard work and contributions as a team to achieve the goals of the National Defense Strategy over the past year. The Secretary addressed the progress made through three main lines of efforts: lethality and readiness of the force; strengthening allies and build partners; reforming the Department for greater efficiency and accountability. He also addresses his personal priority line of effort: service members and their families.

In addition, the Secretary outlined ten targeted goals to support implementation of these lines of efforts.

“Soon after I came into office, civilian and uniformed leaders across the Department and I met to develop detailed plans to implement these lines of effort.  We created a list of ten targeted goals, each with sub tasks, and we set out to accomplish most of these by the end of 2020. They are as follows:

  1. Review, update, and approve all China and Russia plans;
  2. Implement the Immediate Response Force, Contingency Response Force, and Dynamic Force Employment enhanced readiness concepts;
  3. Reallocate, reassign, and redeploy forces in accordance with the NDS;
  4. Achieve a higher level of sustainable readiness;
  5. Develop a coordinated plan to strengthen allies and build partners;
  6. Reform and manage the 4th Estate and DoD;
  7. Focus the Department on China;
  8. Modernize the force—invest in game changing technologies;
  9. Establish realistic joint war games, exercises, and training plans; and,
  10. Develop a modern joint warfighting concept, and ultimately, doctrine.

I am proud to report that we’ve made real progress on these goals, with most on track to be accomplished on time. I will soon be posting an extended list of what we’ve achieved over the past year on the DoD website, but today I want to highlight several standouts, and celebrate what we have accomplished together.”

Secretary Esper’s full video message can be found here. The transcript can be found here.

Australia-Japan-United States Defense Ministers’ Meeting Joint Statement

July 7, 2020

Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, Japanese Minister of Defense KONO Taro, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper convened a virtual trilateral defense ministerial meeting on July 7 (Washington).  The ministers reaffirmed their joint commitment to enhance security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region in keeping with their shared values and longstanding alliances and close partnerships.  This was the ninth meeting among the three nations’ defense leaders.

The ministers concurred that the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of a rules-based international order in setting the conditions for our nations to address this shared threat in a way that is transparent, accountable, and resilient.  As a measure of the strength and adaptability of the trilateral partnership, the ministers discussed collaborative efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.  They committed to:

(1) Continue to share information, best practices, and lessons learned about measures taken by defense authorities toward mitigating the impacts of COVID-19, including as part of whole-of-government efforts;

(2) Further develop a mutual understanding of the threat environment in the Indo-Pacific region, including the potential effects of the spread of COVID-19 on their respective defense policies and preparedness; and

(3) Promote vigorous trilateral defense cooperation and exchanges that make tangible contributions in support of a free, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

The ministers reinforced their strong opposition to any destabilizing or coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East China Sea.  They expressed their intention to continue to coordinate closely on the security environment in this region, with a view to deterring such actions.

With regard to the South China Sea, the ministers reinforced strong opposition to the use of force or coercion to alter the status quo, and reaffirmed the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight.  They expressed serious concern about recent incidents, including the continued militarization of disputed features, dangerous or coercive use of coast guard vessels and “maritime militia,” and efforts to disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities.  They emphasized the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, in particular as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and called for all countries in the region to take meaningful steps to ease tension and build trust.  The ministers also called for any Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to be consistent with existing international law, in particular as reflected in UNCLOS; not to prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of any State under international law; and to reinforce existing inclusive regional architecture.

The ministers also expressed their deep concern over Beijing’s imposition of a national security law upon Hong Kong.

The ministers shared their strong concern that North Korea’s series of ballistic missile launches pose a serious threat to international security and condemned the repeated violations of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).  They expressed concern about North Korea’s announcement that it no longer considered itself bound by its moratorium on nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.  The ministers again called upon North Korea to cease actions that increase tensions and undermine regional stability, to comply with its international obligations, and to take clear steps to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programs of all ranges in accordance with UNSCRs.  To this end, they commended ongoing diplomatic efforts to engage North Korea, and called on North Korea to return to the negotiating table and make a sustained commitment to dialogue.  In the meantime, they reaffirmed their commitment to implement and enforce sanctions against North Korea, including through ongoing cooperation to monitor and deter illegal ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum, coal, and other sanctioned goods.

The ministers underlined the instrumental role of ASEAN in facilitating regional dialogue and establishing norms of behavior that support stability, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and recognized the importance of supporting partners in South and South East Asia.  The ministers emphasized their ongoing support for ASEAN centrality as a key contributor to regional security and prosperity.  The ministers undertook to continue to coordinate closely on their support to the region, in order to maximize the benefits of their national and combined engagement activities in a transparent, efficient, and effective manner under their shared strategic vision.

The ministers underscored their unwavering commitment to work closely with their Pacific partners to support a Pacific region that is prosperous, secure, and respectful of sovereignty.  They decided to continue their trilateral capacity-building efforts in the Pacific through joint defense initiatives with regional partners.  The ministers welcomed and acknowledged the significance of each country’s military-to-military activities, particularly when those activities contributed to whole-of-government engagement with Pacific nations.

In reference to the 2019 Australia-Japan-United States Trilateral Strategic Action Agenda, the ministers directed their respective officials to continue to pursue avenues for practical engagement, cooperation, and interoperability in a time of geostrategic change.