Military News

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mullen Urges Academy Cadets to Become Leaders

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

May 3, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told graduating cadets at the U.S.
Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., that they will join an Army under severe stress, but one that is performing magnificently. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, himself a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., spoke to the cadets yesterday. He told them that they are well-prepared to join the force, and that they must become leaders once they are part of it.

The academy has given the cadets great technical and tactical skills, but the chairman said his highest expectation of the young men and women is they must push themselves to lead.

"One of the reasons I push this so much is in the toughest situations I've seen, when there were no obvious solutions, great leaders made the difference," he said. "Great
leaders, some surprisingly so, stepped up."

Mullen told the cadets to treat every one with respect.

"You are joining a
military that is more diverse, more representative of our country than any military we've ever had," he said. "There is great strength in that, great benefits. And we are a military that must represent our country."

Many of these cadets will be leading platoons in Afghanistan and Iraq by this time next year, Mullen said, and they will be part of an
Army at war, and engaged in growing and changing. Where the United States military is fighting and how it is fighting are only two parts of the whole. The young officers must help build a force that has to be rapid, lethal, agile, flexible and able to evolve against a constantly changing enemy. "And that enemy is going to be out there for decades," Mullen said.

The chairman noted progress made by the surge of troops in Iraq, pointing out that the surge's success was made possible by the hard work and sacrifice of troops on the ground.

"Quite frankly, the success of the surge, is because of the young men and women fighting in the trenches out there – the young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have given their lives to make that surge succeed," he said.

The chairman took questions from the cadets. One asked what the
Navy and Air Force is doing to help in the fight against radical extremism. Another asked if the billions of dollars spent on the F-22 Raptor and Joint Strike Fighter – conventional weapons – isn't money wasted in a counterinsurgency war.

"I was in the
military at a time when we broke the military," Mullen said. "We had one-year deployments, we had a very unpopular war, we deployed differently in the sense that it was individuals rather than units, it was a draft force rather than an all-volunteer force. But we put enormous pressure on our military and it broke."

Mullen discussed the nature of joint operations, and noted that he served as Chief of Naval Operations prior to becoming chairman. He told the cadets that when he took that job, "I was intent to push as many sailors as I could into Iraq and Afghanistan, and both the
Navy and the Air Force have stepped up to that."

There are 6,000 sailors, for example, on the ground in Iraq, and they are joined by thousands of their
Air Force colleagues. He also told the cadets that Air Force and Navy special operations forces are contributing quietly, but forcefully to the fight.

The
Navy and Air Force also have direct crucial roles to play in supporting combat operations. "You will find that we can't do much without strong logistics support," Mullen said.

"You will find that we can't do much without tactical and strategic lift," he said. "You will find we can't do much medically out there and the miracles which have occurred over the last seven years without
Navy and Air Force personnel who have saved so many lives on the battlefields."

Mullen said all members of the armed services will become more "special forces-like" in the future. "That's what's going on right now against this asymmetric foe that we have and we need to continue to adapt," he said.

The chairman said he "lives in the future" and has to ensure America has what it needs to defend itself five, 10, 20 years from now. It isn't a choice of concentrating on counterinsurgency or conventional capabilities. "We've got to be able to do both," he said.

In aviation, the clear U.S. technological advantage is not what it used to be. The country must invest in these state-of-the-art platforms, because the United States has not been particularly good at forecasting where and when it must fight.

He reminded the cadets that when Robert McNamara was being confirmed as defense secretary in 1960, no one mentioned Vietnam. When Dick Cheney was in front of the Senate for his confirmation hearings as defense secretary in 1989, no one mentioned Kuwait. And when Donald Rumsfeld was being grilled in 2001, no one mentioned Afghanistan.

The U.S.
military must have world class counterinsurgency personnel and operations, he said, and it must have world class conventional capabilities. The country can't afford to "bet it all on one number."

The chairman called for a debate in the United States about the proper funding of the
military. He has suggested 4 percent of gross domestic product might be about right.

With a national election looming, a cadet asked about the "don't ask, don't tell" law and what would happen if someone took office who wants to change it. "It's a law, and we follow it," Mullen said. Should the law change, the military will carry that out too, he said.

"We are a
military that is under the control of our civilian elected leaders," he said. "It has served us well since we've been founded. That is a special characteristic of our country and I would never do anything to jeopardize that."

Military leaders must remain apolitical. "It's what the American people expect," he said. "My personal opinion on this – whatever it is – is irrelevant."

The cadets entered West Point in the summer of 2004. The U.S. Army was fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers were serving in the far reaches of the Pacific and training emerging democracies in Africa.

"You made a conscious decision to serve. It's an important decision for you individually, but also for our country," he said.

"You are at a point where through your service you are writing history – even here you are writing history. You will look very quickly at the future. That future holds combat for many of you, it holds
leadership positions for every one of you and it holds a dedication and a duty and an honor that is incredibly special because of who you are and what we expect of you," he said.

Gates Calls Families, Community Supporters 'Power Behind the Power'

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates paid tribute here last night to what he called "the power behind the power" -- the families and community members who stand behind the troops engaged in the
war on terror. Speaking to local and military family group leaders at the Officers Club, Gates praised Fort Bliss soldiers who, along with their comrades throughout the military, have been "giving their all" in the fight against extremism.

That's been possible, he said, because of the support troops receive from their families, as well as the support they and their families get from their
community.

Gates pointed to the key role families play in their soldiers' success and the day-to-day challenges they endure during long deployments.

"America owes a great deal to those who are 'the power behind the power' -- the spouses, children, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of our men and women in uniform," he told the group. "They, too, make a contribution and pay a price in the cause of protecting our country."

They demonstrate "grace and patience and an amazing ability to organize and rely upon one another" when their loved ones are gone, he said.

"Army families take care of their own, and Fort Bliss families are no exception," he said. "They are strong. They endure. They are bound together by their shared experiences, by sacrifice, and by the pride they rightly feel in the noble work their soldiers do."

Gates thanked to the local
community that recognizes that contribution through support to Fort Bliss soldiers and their families.

This support has been particularly evident during the post's expansion, during which the
community has welcomed the incoming 1st Armored Division soldiers with open arms, and local businesses and educational groups have rallied to assist, he said.

Meanwhile, individual volunteers have made contributions to the Fort Bliss
community that Gates said "don't always get the attention they deserve." They range from helping families prepare their tax forms to decorating barracks doors for single soldiers returning home from Iraq.

"I can tell you that every bit of help matters," Gates told the group. "This is a tough time for our troops and their families. What you do is noticed and deeply appreciated."

Civilian appreciation for the
military wasn't always so evident, Gates said. He recalled El Paso Mayor John Cook's description of his own homecoming experience from the Vietnam War, when a protestor threw an egg at his bus.

Determined not to let that happen when the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team and 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, returned to Fort Bliss, Cook hosted a "Welcome Home
Heroes Parade" through downtown El Paso in February. Thousands of local residents turned out to cheer on the 4,000 troops and honor the 31 cavalry troops killed during the deployment.

The American people are divided about the war, Gates conceded. "Yet despite this, Americans are united in their admiration of our men and women who have volunteered to serve at such a challenging time," he said.

Gates called it "heartwarming" to see gestures of support and simple thank yous to the troops. "The appreciation is real; it is sincere; and it bridges any political divide," he said.

All Americans look forward to the day when every deployed soldier can return home, Gates said, noting that he expects continued force reductions in Iraq in light of the improved
security situation there.

"Until then, Fort Bliss soldiers and families and this generous community will continue to step up and do right by this country and by each other," Gates told the group. "We are, after all, members of the same family -- the American family. You all have my deepest appreciation and gratitude."

Community and family members said they felt honored that Gates came to thank them personally for their support.

"This is the coolest thing. Having him come here is a really big deal for
El Paso," gushed Cindy Ramos-Davidson, chief executive officer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The military and civilian communities here are intertwined. We all support each other."

Michi Carl, a Fort Bliss school liaison and
Army wife, said it felt good to hear Gates pay tribute to military families. The Army has made huge strides in its support for military families, she said, particularly since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and continues moving in the right direction.

"Now things are phenomenal, and they are getting better all the time," she said. "Spouses and families are listened to."

Just as gratifying, she said, is seeing the secretary recognize the local community for its support for Fort Bliss and its soldiers. "This
community is amazing," Carl said. "The community truly cares."

With Troops' Freedom to Choose Beneficiaries Comes Greater Responsibility

American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - Starting in July, servicemembers can choose to whom a $100,000 death gratuity will be disbursed if they're killed in action. Currently, troops can assign half the posthumous payment to recipients of their preference, with the remainder paid according to a hierarchy determined by the Defense Department: first to the spouse, or if unmarried, to children, then grandchildren, followed by parents and, barring these antecedents, the next of kin.

But when the policy shift becomes effective July 1, troops should use caution while exercising their new freedom to bequeath, one Pentagon official warned.

"I think that members need to realize that, with this added flexibility, there is responsibility," Gary McGee, a program analyst for the Compensation Directorate in the Office of
Military Personnel Policy, said in an interview yesterday. "They need to act in a mature manner when they make these decisions."

Congress established the first death gratuity in 1908, stipulating that survivors of
Army, Navy and Marine personnel killed in service receive the equivalent of six months of the servicemembers' pay. The original purpose was to help fill the financial gap resulting from the lack of a government life insurance program at that time, according background papers on military compensation.

Survivors of
military personnel who die as a result of hostile actions in a designated combat operation or combat zone or while training for combat or performing hazardous duty are eligible for the benefit.

The payout grew from a $3,000 minimum in 1956 to a standard $6,000 benefit for families of fallen Persian Gulf War participants, to a $12,420 disbursement in 2004. In a dramatic leap the next year, a retroactive gratuity was established to pay $100,000 to survivors of those who died since Oct. 1, 2002, covering the more than 4,450 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lawmakers decided to increase the gratuity's dollar amount, McGee said, to more closely resemble the large payments being disbursed to families of Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attack victims. The six-figure disbursement is distributed by the Defense Financing and Accounting Service, which aims to pay beneficiaries within 48 hours of a servicemember's death.

When the policy takes effect this summer, each service branch will adopt a revised version of Department of Defense Form 93, known as the Record of Emergency Data. Troops will then be able to select up to 10 beneficiaries -- regardless of relationships -- allotting the whole of the $100,000 in 10-percent increments.

Mark Ward, the senior program manager of the Casualty, Mortuary and
Military Funeral Honors section of the Pentagon's Military Community and Family Policy Office, said the new procedure could have good or bad repercussions, depending on whether troops uphold the death gratuity's "true intent."

"Take the case where you have a spouse and two children, and yet the member says, 'Well, I had 10 great buddies on my baseball team in high school; I'm going to give each of them $10,000,'" he said an interview yesterday. "So now all $100,000 is paid to his buddies, and he's still got a wife and kids, and they've got no money."

Single-parent servicemembers without a spouse heir may embrace the new policy more readily than their married counterparts in the armed forces. The most recent available data shows that 249 single-parent troops have died in U.S. operations since October 2002, and 15,922 are deployed.

Ward said the new policy allows greater flexibility to all demographic groups of the armed forces who die serving their country. "The overall thrust is to give the servicemember the greatest latitude to determine who gets his or her benefits upon their death," he said.

Leaders Should Step Up, Receive Mental Health Care if Needed, Chairman Says

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - The nation's top
military officer today called on military leaders across the services to set the example and get mental health care if they need it. "You can't expect a private or a specialist to be willing to seek counseling when his or her captain or colonel or general won't do it," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference.

Mullen praised the Defense Department for changing a question on its security form that asks about applicants' mental health care. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the change this morning. Officials believe the question's wording was needlessly preventing some people from seeking counseling.

The Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National
Security Positions, asks applicants to acknowledge mental health care in the past seven years. Officials said surveys have shown that troops feel if they answer "yes" to the question, they could jeopardize their security clearances, required for many occupations in the military. Applicants no longer have to acknowledge care for marital or grief counseling or care related to service in a military combat zone.

Mullen called it a "significant change" and a step in the right direction for DoD in reducing the stigma within its ranks associated with receiving mental health services.

"Psychological health and fitness is no different than physical health and fitness. Both are readiness issues. Both are l
eadership issues," Mullen said. "Good people, many of who have seen combat up close, ... whose courage is absolutely unquestionable, and who deserve only the best physical and mental health care we can provide, are actually willing to deny themselves that care out of the fear that doing so hurts them and their families in the long run. Nothing could be further from the truth."

The chairman said the long war in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken its toll on the minds of U.S. servicemembers, as well as on their bodies.

"Reaching out for help is, in fact, one of the most courageous acts and one of the first big steps to reclaiming your career, your life, and your future," he said.

Also on hand at the news conference was
Army Dr. (Col.) Loree Sutton, chief of the newly formed Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

"Seeking help is a sign of strength," the
Army psychiatrist said. Early intervention is the key to successful care, she noted, and leaders are looking at ways to change the stigma attached to getting mental health care in hopes that troops will come sooner than later.

"Stigma is really just a toxic, occupational, work-related hazard. For any other such hazard, we would take immediate action. That's what we're doing," she said.

Plans are in the works for senior
military officers to be part of a national awareness campaign aimed at reducing the stigma. In the campaign, officers will come forward as having received care in an effort to demonstrate a "top-down" approach to mental health care.

"We can change the policy. We can talk about how important it is. But ultimately, troops and families want to see
leaders walking that walk," Sutton said.

She said DoD officials hope this change will remove some of the fear that has blocked servicemembers from getting care they know they need, but are afraid to get.

Army Col. Patricia Horoho, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, compared psychological fitness to physical fitness.

"Our goal is to build resilient forces and families, both physically and mentally," Horoho said. "Just as we encourage our servicemembers to work out and maintain physical fitness, so too we must encourage them to go to the psychological 'gym' to maintain their psychological health."

DoD
security officials said no one has been denied a security clearance based solely on the fact they received mental health counseling, but the perception that receiving care would jeopardize a security clearance, combined with the stigma of having to acknowledge the care on the form, may have been preventing some from receiving needed care.

About 1 million security forms are submitted annually within the Defense Department. Of those, less than 1 percent receive unfavorable determinations based solely on mental health issues, officials said. Of those denied, factors besides simply receiving counseling are considered.

America Supports You: Organizations Join Forces for Military Families

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - Gift cards can make a stay away from home while a loved one recovers easier for servicemembers and their families. The Fisher House Foundation, which provides living quarters at or near major
military medical facilities for families visiting hospitalized servicemembers, frequently provides its residents with such cards, using donated money to purchase them.

"We have purchased American Express, (
Army and Air force Exchange Service), CertifiChecks, Target, Wal-Mart, Giant and Safeway [cards]," said Jim Weiskopf, executive vice president of communications for Fisher House Foundation. "As you know, some of these gift cards have fees associated with them."

This fact meant that a portion of the donations used to purchase gift cards was used to cover fees that can run about $4.95 for a $100 card.

"We wanted either a Visa or a MasterCard debit card for universal use and found no way to avoid the service fees," Weiskopf said.

In fact, the foundation capitalized on an American Express special platinum card, which waived processing fees. The foundation purchased a large quantity of the cards, saving a substantial amount of money. But specials like that don't happen frequently enough to truly benefit organizations like the Fisher House, Weiskopf said.

Now, Bank of America's
Military Segment is helping fix that problem for the Fisher House Foundation.

As part of its continued support of the foundation, the bank has agreed to cover the cost of processing fees, setup charges and shipping fees on cards purchased by the Fisher House Foundation.

"The key point is that for donors, a dollar donated is worth a dollar given to a servicemember or his or her family," Weiskopf said. "There are no administrative fees."

Through the partnership, the Fisher House Foundation initially provided the four Fisher Houses at Brooke
Army Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston, Texas, with 400 gift cards, each worth $50. Since that distribution, the Fisher House Foundation has bought an additional $220,000 worth of Bank of America gift cards and is in the process of distributing them.

"We continually look for ways to assist our
military servicemembers and their families, and this is just one example of our continued commitment," said Pat Rainey, Bank of America's senior Military Segment executive.

The Fisher House Foundation is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. Bank of America is a corporate supporter of the Defense Department program.

Guard Stands By to Help Storm-Lashed Missouri Residents

American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - National Guard troops are standing by to assist storm-lashed
Kansas City, Mo., residents, a Missouri National Guard official said today. "The Missouri National Guard is prepared and ready to support the citizens of Missouri when called," Army Capt. Tamara Spicer, public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard, said in a statement.

Up to 80 mph winds, rain and hail reportedly pelted areas north of
Kansas City last night and early today. The storm uprooted trees, damaged homes and businesses and caused an areawide power outage. There have been no reports of fatalities, but several people were injured.

Parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas also experienced damage from heavy winds, hail and rain, according to news reports, and the storm system continues to move eastward across the nation's midsection today.

Gates Views Massive Expansion Effort at Fort Bliss

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates got a firsthand look yesterday at the massive growth under way here to prepare for the arrival of 1st Armored Division in one of the
Army Corps of Engineers' largest-ever construction projects. Army Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg, the post commander, gave Gates a tour of the $4.1 billion expansion program that will bring an additional 30,000 soldiers to Fort Bliss by 2012.

The lion's share of the incoming troops will be "Old Ironsides Division" soldiers moving from Germany as part of the Defense Department's global reposturing strategy and the
Army's modularization effort.

Gates told
military family leaders and community supporters last night that he considers the building boom nothing short of "awesome."

"Today, this post –– which encompasses an area larger than the state of
Rhode Island, and most of which is in New Mexico -- is transforming itself to serve a nation and a military facing the strategic challenges of this century," Gates told the group.

He called the Fort Bliss expansion part of a wider transformation effort across the military to ensure the
Army, and the military as a whole, can protect the security, prosperity and freedom of Americans for the next generation.

A six-year construction boom that began in October 2006 will transform stretches of mesquite brush and sand dunes on the post's eastern side into state-of-the-art living and training facilities.

Ultimately, the expansion will include new headquarters and administrative spaces, aircraft hangars, arms rooms, unit storage facilities, barracks, dining facilities, fitness centers, medical and dental facilities, motor pool areas, maintenance facilities, and wash racks, Clark McChesney, director of the post's transformation office, told American Forces Press Service.

Gates toured one of the first facilities to be completed for the incoming 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade yesterday. The first of the unit's soldiers already are at Fort Bliss, with the rest to arrive in time for the brigade's official activation Aug. 16.

The secretary noted that $207 million of the expansion funds will go toward new construction at three training range complexes in
New Mexico. The plan will tap into space and capabilities at neighboring White Sands Missile Range, N.M., collectively offering 800,000 acres of on- and off-road maneuver area, McChesney said.

"Future expansion means that the ties between the region's installations -- Fort Bliss, Holloman
Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range -- will also continue to grow," Gates said. "This region will continue to be known by the twin hallmarks of partnership and cooperation."

A brigade combat team to be based at White Sands will share Fort Bliss's "robust new training facilities," he noted.

Another big part of the expansion is dedicated to housing, child-care facilities, shopping areas and other quality-of-life facilities for the incoming soldiers and an expected 40,000 family members, he said.

Gates told senior noncommissioned officers attending the
Army Sergeants Major Academy earlier yesterday that he decided to temporarily delay moving some 1st Armored Division troops to Fort Bliss partly because their housing facilities weren't yet ready for them. "It would have been unacceptable for soldiers and their families to live and work under those conditions," he said.

Because the post is smack in the middle of
El Paso, one of Texas' biggest cities, success of the expansion depends heavily on cooperation with state and local officials, McChesney said. That includes not just the city and county government, but also five local school systems expected to absorb about more than 12,000 school-age children from Fort Bliss, business developers, homebuilders, realtor associations and transportation officials, among others.

Gates said he's impressed by the local community's support and the way its citizens have embraced the incoming soldiers and their families.

"The mayors of
El Paso, Las Cruces and Alamogordo and their respective chambers of commerce have been partnering with the Army to try to prepare for this growth," he said.

He noted that the post's welcome center is permanently staffed by a team from the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce that helps arriving soldiers and their families find housing and arrange for their children's schooling and child care.

"As the population of Fort Bliss continues to grow, the residents of West Texas and
New Mexico have stepped up to welcome the newcomers," Gates said. "And I know you will continue to do so as the post population increases by an astounding 300 percent by 2012."

Face of Defense: Sailor to Meet Bone Marrow Donation's Recipient

American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - When he's in
Cincinnati tomorrow to receive an award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a senior enlisted sailor will meet the girl whose life he saved with a bone marrow donation. Navy Chief Petty Officer Willie H. Corey, a submarine fire control technician, will be recognized for his participation in the National Marrow Donor Program.

Corey, a native of
Newport News, Va., has been a donor on the NMDP's registry since fall 2006.

"When I found out that the potential recipient was a little girl, it was a no-brainer to donate; I have a daughter myself," Corey said. "The NMDP really respects the privacy of the recipient. They wouldn't tell me her name, but they told me her age. If both parties agree, identities are exchanged after 12 months."

For a successful transplant, the tissue type of a bone marrow donor or a cord blood unit needs to match the patient's as closely as possible. The closer the match, the better it is for the patient.

The NMDP is a nonprofit organization that facilitates marrow and cord blood transplants between unrelated people as a single point of access. It connects doctors, donors and researchers to the resources they need to help more people live longer and healthier lives. A collaborative network of leading national and international medical facilities is involved in the marrow and cord blood transplantation process.

"Every day we have 6,000 men, women and children worldwide that search the NMDP registry for a life-saving match. These patients have leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases," Kristen Spargo, NMDP spokeswoman, said.

Earlier this year Corey and the bone marrow recipient were introduced over the phone. "I talked to her and her aunt. They sent me before and after photos from the operation. The positive changes in her were incredible."

(From a Naval Sea Systems Command news release.)

Druid's Dance Exercise Yields Major Training Milestone

By Army Spc. Andrew Orillion
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - A forward air controller spots an enemy target during a
training exercise.
Using a standard-issue radio, he relays the coordinates for an air strike to a pilot. Communications are sent back and forth until the target is locked on and eliminated.

It all sounds very ordinary until you realize the controller is standing on the Salisbury Plain west of London and the pilot is flying a simulator at the Joint Warfighting Center here.

As little as two years ago, this scenario would have seemed almost unimaginable, Steve Kostoff, communications planner for the Joint Warfighting Center, said. With recent advances in live virtual constructive training and network connectivity, communication between allies has improved
training dramatically, he explained.

"We've demonstrated this capability before in the United States. But now, we're extending it from a U.S. network into a British network," Kostoff said. "It's taken us a long time to solve that problem effectively, but we pretty much have solved it in the case of training. 'Druid's Dance' is the first time we have done this network connection with the United Kingdom."

Druid's Dance is a joint United Kingdom and U.S. Joint Forces Command
training exercise designed to train a battle group of soldiers to deploy to the Afghan theater. U.S. forces are experiencing Druid's Dance as a simulation, but U.K. troops are living it as a live exercise.

The new network capability provides better and more cost-effective
training by allowing the U.S. and U.K. forces involved in Druid's Dance to communicate through normal methods of communication without having to be in the same area of operations or needing special equipment in the field.

Kostoff said the only field equipment required is a standard radio, replicating the real-world experience. The forward air controller uses a radio to send out a signal. Software converts the signal to data sent through a U.K. network and relayed to the network in Suffolk. A pilot at a work station here receives the transmission and responds with a simulated air strike.

All this happens in real time, with the controller and the pilot in constant communication.

U.S.
Air Force Lt. Col. Joe Schulz, an action officer with the Air/Ground Combat Division of Air Combat Command, is one of the pilots who provides simulated close-air support for Druid's Dance and had high praise for the new network and its potential to improve training.

"It's nothing but a positive. I used to be stationed over in
England and did a lot of work with the U.K ground FACs. Now, we have the ability to do the same type of work from the United States," Schulz said. "We crawl into our simulator; we make contact with the U.K. forward air controllers and run through a fairly realistic scenario from our home bases. That is going to allow everyone's training to be exponentially better."

The network not only brings better
training, but also helps conserve training dollars.

"It costs a lot of money for a jet to get up in the air and fly around for an hour or two to do training. This will never supplant [live] training, but you can do it a lot more often. You can train with greater frequency when you can do it this way, as well," Kostoff said.

Kostoff said the
technology used in Druid's Dance is not completely new. Talisman Saber, a joint exercise last year with the Australian armed forces, used a similar network.

"This is the first time we have ever had this kind of network-to-network connection with this ally," Kostoff said. "I was very satisfied that we were finally able to see success come out of two years' effort; it was a lot of hard work. But here we are, and we were talking to the British this morning over the radio. When you do that, it's nice to see the payoff."

Schulz added that the British deserve much of the credit for making the new capability a success.

"We'd be remiss if we didn't really thank the British for all the hard work they put in on their side to make this happen," Schulz said.

Druid's Dance will wrap up May 16. If it proves a success, Kostoff said, the Joint Warfighting Center will expand the program to other allies.

"We plan, by next year, to be able to extend the same capability to Canada. And then after that, we're looking at NATO," Kostoff said. "We have a sister installation at NATO called the Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway. It's very much like the Joint Warfighting Center. And we've begun work on how we can make connections with that installation and train with them."

Kostoff also is looking beyond just close-air-support training. NATO battle staff and naval warfare
training could be the next areas for the new capability, he said.

(
Army Spc. Andrew Orillion serves at U.S. Joint Forces Command Public Affairs.)

Face of Defense: Air Force Reserve Pilot Breaks Own Aviation Record


By Air Force 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2008 - An
Air Force Reserve pilot deployed here broke his own world record for hours spent flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon when he surpassed the 6,000-hour milestone today. Lt. Col. Michael Brill, a pilot assigned to 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, has been breaking world aviation records since 1993, when he surpassed the world's first pilot to fly 3,000 hours in the F-16. In August 1998, he became the first pilot to fly 4,000 hours and, in November 2002, he was the first pilot to attain 5,000 hours.

"The sustained effort required to spend 6,000 hours flying the F-16 is phenomenal," said Brig. Gen. Burton M. Field, commander of 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, of which the 421st EFS is a part. "Six thousand hours equates to 250 days in the cockpit -- not counting all the time in ground ops before and after the flight. That is an incredible amount of time in a high-G [force], high-speed, high-stress arena.

"Flying fighters is mentally and physically challenging. The environment, threat, systems, weapons and the mission set are constantly changing and require a disciplined program of study and practice to remain on the cutting edge," said the general, who graduated with the colonel in 1979 from the
Air Force Academy. The two attended F-16 training together at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in 1980.

Despite the challenges of flying the F-16 almost constantly since 1980, Brill said he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love to fly. I don't remember ever wanting to do anything else. There is a communication between me and the machine. Flying an airplane is like being on a roller coaster that you can steer," said the colonel, who grew up on various
Marine Corps bases, but calls Virginia home.

Brill, who is deployed from Hill
Air Force Base, likened the evolution of the missions F-16 pilots fly and the development of precision-guided weaponry to the strides that have been made with computer technology over recent decades.

"It's been a constant challenge -- nothing has stayed the same," he said. "The development of the aircraft and missions requires constant emphasis and effort to go to the books. In aviation, the precision weapons that we use now compared to those in the past are more of a revolution rather than an evolution."

Brill has personally experienced these changes while flying nearly 225 combat hours and more than 65 combat sorties. His combat experience includes three tours in support of Operation Northern Watch, two in support of Operation Southern Watch, two in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In addition, he led the first F-16 strike into Afghanistan following Sept. 11, 2001, a 10-hour mission he described as an "eye-opening experience."

The more recent combat missions he has flown since arriving in Iraq in March have been a lot "quieter," because fewer munitions have needed to be dropped -- an indication that the global war on
terrorism is being won, the colonel said.

Many of the missions flown by pilots in Iraq are reconnaissance missions, in which information is gathered using high-tech cameras to identify potential ground threats.

"Our primary mission [as flyers providing close-air support for ground units] is to make noise," he explained. "We are up there to let the bad guys know what we're capable of and to keep them hunkered down. This allows the [ground personnel] to work to establish good relationships with the people who are helping us. The impact of the air power is knowing that the airplane overhead gives people on the ground an umbrella of safety that is basically irreplaceable."

Brill's active-duty assignments have taken him to Holloman
Air Force Base, N.M.; Hill Air Force Base;, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; and Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

In 1990, Brill became an air reserve technician, which basically is a full-time reservist position. He has been assigned to 419th Fighter Wing at Hill since then and is chief of the safety Office.

His status as a deployed reservist is an example of the
Air Force's integration of personnel from all military branches -- active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard.

"The
Air Force has been over here in Southwest Asia for 17 years," Field said. "To accomplish our mission, we have needed the Guard and Reserve every single day of those 17 years. They bring experience, judgment and maturity to the fight in a variety of different mission sets and you can't tell them apart from the active-duty [airmen] by their appearance, dedication, pride or job performance."

Reserve airmen do not move to new locations at the same three to four-year frequency that active-duty airmen move; their long-term presence at a base is another way reservists positively affect
Air Force operations, Brill said.

"We give continuity to active-duty personnel because of our longevity in a location," he explained. "We help facilitate programs and provide cradle-to-grave support. We bring a stabilizing influence to a rapidly changing world; it's the very nature of total force integration. We are seamlessly integrated with our active-duty counterparts."

Along with program support, Brill said, he enjoys supporting another, even more precious
Air Force asset: the service's newest flyers.

"The opportunity to pass along my ideas and philosophy is profound. The energy new pilots have fires me up too. It's very synergistic," he said.

Brill's record gives new flyers a goal and shows what long-term commitment can accomplish, Field noted.

"These kinds of accomplishments, achieved by sustained effort over time, give our next-generation airmen a goal to shoot for and an example to emulate," the general said. "There is opportunity in the Air Force to pursue your dreams, whether to fly fighters for 6,000 hours or to excel in the myriad of other career fields required by the Air Force to provide the air power for America."

Pilots alone cannot accomplish the Air Force's mission, Brill said.

"The fact that I've flown 6,000 hours of incident-free flying is a testament to an amazing machine and our dedicated maintenance support airmen," the colonel said.

Field agreed.

"Everything we do in the Air Force is a team effort," he said. "'Brillo' has been working with a great team for years -- first while on active duty, then in the reserves, including the crew chiefs, back shops, pilots, [petroleum, oil and lubricants specialists], and the rest of the airmen we need to generate sorties and execute our mission. He shares this accomplishment with all those airmen who have been a part of every mission he has flown."

Though Brill is the only person to surpass the 6,000-flying-hour mark in an F-16, he's already looking to the future. With five years left until his retirement, he said, he doubts he'll be able to hit 7,000 flying hours, but he's willing to give it a try.

"If they want to throw that many sorties at me, I'll take them," he said. "I never say no when they ask me to fly. I love it."

(Air Force 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek serves in the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office.)