Sunday, June 01, 2008

Gates Arrives in Singapore for Asia Security Summit

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 30, 2008 - Arriving here for the 7th annual Asia
Security Summit, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today he plans to assure regional allies and friends that the United States hasn't lost focus on or commitment to the region. It's a message Gate said will be the overarching theme of his fourth major trip to Asia during his 17 months as defense secretary. In addition to a visit yesterday and earlier today in Guam, the trip will include stops in Thailand and South Korea.

"One theme that connects the different stops is affirming that the United States is not distracted by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from our long-term interests here in Asia and the cultivation and strengthening of our relationships with allies, partners and others here in the region," he told reporters before leaving Guam.

Gates will reaffirm here that message during his keynote address tomorrow at the Shangri-La Dialogue, named for the hotel where it is held. The annual summit, sponsored by the London-based think tank International Institute of Strategic Studies, is recognized as a key event for defense and
security diplomacy for the region.

Delegations of defense ministers, chiefs of staff and other senior
security policymakers from the 27 invited countries will converge for the three-day conference. In addition to a full slate of formal sessions, Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will participate in several bilateral sessions.

Gates' address at the first plenary session tomorrow will set the stage for the next presidential administration, a senior defense official traveling with the secretary told reporters. Pointing to the longstanding U.S. commitment, Gates will assure regional nations of continued commitment, regardless of who wins the U.S. general election, the official said.

Face of Defense: Soldier Earns Battlefield Promotion

By Army Sgt. Jason Stadel
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 30, 2008 - Christian Stephenson has bided his time as a finance noncommissioned officer. Stephenson, who has been in the
Army for eight years, was promoted to sergeant four years ago and became promotable to staff sergeant three years ago. He said he's had 720 "promotion points" -- the maximum is 798 -- for a long time, but the cutoff for promotions to staff sergeant in his career field hasn't been below 775 for five years. "It was frustrating working so hard to get those points but never making the cutoff," the Emerald Isle, N.C., native said. "It had been at least six months since I'd even checked the scores. When they come out each month, I knew they wouldn't drop."

But a new promotion program started by Multinational Corps Iraq finally has given him the "rocker" stripe of staff sergeant rank. Stephenson, with the 3rd Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, received a battlefield promotion to staff sergeant May 24.

The battlefield promotion program is in a yearlong test phase that allows deployed soldiers to be recognized for their efforts and be promoted based on their duty performance and, more importantly, on
leader recommendations.

"You have to set yourself a mark above the rest," said
Army Master Sgt. Michael Flournoy, a Minden, La., native who is noncommissioned officer in charge of 2nd BCT's personnel and administration section and Stephenson's supervisor. "Your chain of command has to say that you're ready for the extra responsibility. In our case, Sergeant Stephenson has been performing in a manner well above his pay grade. He's an expert in his field."

May's battlefield promotion selections marked the first of four scheduled throughout the year. Each brigade was able to promote two privates first class to specialists, one specialist to sergeant and one sergeant to staff sergeant.

Battalions within the Spartan Brigade sent their recommendations for battlefield promotions to the brigade personnel and administration section. From there, the brigade commander,
Army Col. Terry Ferrell, and brigade command sergeant major, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane, decided which soldiers should receive the battlefield promotions. Their recommendations went forward to division level, and ultimately to the corps commander for approval.

Other Spartan soldiers selected for battlefield promotion were Sgt. Daniel Demer, from Company C, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment; Spc. Jessica Faaumu, Company B, 26th Brigade Support Battalion; and Spc. Bryan Walton, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

"Any time you are selected above your peers for anything, it is a huge honor," said 1st Sgt. Travis Bean, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT. He said Stephenson's promotion "could not have gone to a more deserving NCO."

Stephenson said he had heard of the battlefield promotion program but had no idea that he'd been recommended.

"I came to work the other day, and I looked at my [leave and earnings statement], and it was showing staff sergeant pay," Stephenson said. "I asked my NCO about it, and he laughed and said, 'You weren't supposed to know about that yet.'

"It was unexpected. I thought it would go to an infantry guy or something, and they probably deserved it," Stephenson said. "I'm just humbled to be given such an honor. All of the hard work has paid off."

Bean said the promotion program is a great way to recognize those who perform at a high level, no matter their job.

"It's important for all soldiers to realize that everyone on the battlefield plays a vital role, whether you are clearing a building, performing maintenance, working in a [tactical operations center] or ensuring that all soldiers' pay and entitlements are correct," said Bean, from Glennville, Ga.

With his promotion to staff sergeant, Stephenson said, he now would like to work at Fort Jackson, S.C., as a finance instructor in advanced individual training.

"This promotion puts my career in a whole new direction," he said. "I can't say it enough. ... I'm just humbled to be selected."

Army Sgt. Jason Stadel serves in the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)

Gates Honors 66-Year Federal Employee at Retirement

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 30, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates paid tribute to a legendary figure here who was retiring from the federal government with 66 years of service. Gates lauded Seikichi "Mr. Paul" Kaneshiro for embodying the principles of Americanism during Kaneshiro's retirement today as the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron's vertical repair superintendent during ceremonies at the base theater.

"Our country is only as strong as its citizens and their willingness to serve the greater good," Gates said. "In this respect, Mr. Paul is an example to us all -- an example of the extraordinary service required to keep our nation safe, prosperous and strong."

A native of Hilo, Hawaii, Kaneshiro joined the
Army in 1943 and served for three years with 522nd Field Artillery in Germany, France and Italy. His unit was part of the famed 442nd "Go for Broke!" Battalion made up of Japanese-American soldiers who collectively earned 20 Medals of Honor and seven Presidential Unit Citations.

After the war, Kaneshiro began working as a woodcraftsman at Hickam Air Depot in Hawaii. He came to Guam in 1946 for what he expected to be a two-year stint helping to rebuild the island after Typhoon Querida.

But 62 years later, Kaneshiro is still in Guam, where he rose through the ranks to become Andersen
Air Force Base's vertical repair superintendent.

Gates hailed Kaneshiro as "a man who traveled halfway around the world to fight for freedom on Europe's battleground and who spent the rest of his career supporting generations of men and women devoted to keeping the world safe from tyranny."

Kaneshiro's handiwork is everywhere at the base. "He has helped construct Andersen from the ground up, literally," Gates said.

He designed and built countless storage cabinets, conference room tables and display cases -- most from solid oak. He has designed and overseen the construction of several buildings, including the Airman
Leadership School and the command post, which took two and a half years of planning.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Douglas H. Owens, commander of 36th Wing here, praised Kaneshiro for his "distinguished and long-serving career." Owens noted that Kaneshiro recently restored the base's dedication plaque -- one originally dedicated when he was on duty here in April 1950 -- for the Air Force's 60th anniversary.

"He has been a valued team member who represents the history of Andersen
Air Force Base," Owens said.

Mullen Cites Value of Hotline, Military Contacts With China

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

May 30, 2008 - In the wake of the first operational use of a new hotline linking U.S. and Chinese
military leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he hopes military-to-military ties between the countries continue to increase and evolve. In an interview with a Chinese television crew here, where he's attending the Shangri-La Dialogue -- a conference focusing on the security challenges in Asia -- Mullen called the hotline he suggested last year that became operational this year "a very positive step forward."

A May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan province that killed more than 68,000 people resulted in the hotline's first use, Mullen noted. He used the opportunity presented by the Chinese television interview to express condolences.

"I'd certainly like to offer my condolences and heartfelt sympathies to all of the Chinese people, and particularly those families who lost loved ones in the earthquake," Mullen said.

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command used the new hotline to reach out to Chinese counterparts immediately after the earthquake, it facilitated speedy U.S. relief efforts, he added.

"It really was the use of that hotline by Admiral Keating that allowed immediate contact in a crisis, which is one of the things the hotline was for," he said. "It created clear communications so the United States could offer assistance and the Chinese government could accept assistance."

Because the line is still new, Mullen said, he would like to see it mature before suggesting changes to the process. But he said it's an example of the growing military-to-
military contacts between the United States and China.

"It's important that we stay engaged to create a better understanding of what our intentions are and our goals are," the chairman said. "I've expressed concern before about the increased defense budget in China and the technologies it's focused on. All of this argues for the need for us to stay in discussion so we can understand strategic intent."

Chinese strategic intent -- why China is developing these capabilities and how the country intends to use them once they're developed -- remains unclear, Mullen said, adding that he'd like to see communications between the U.S. and Chinese militaries continue to improve.

Noting that
leadership exchanges already take place between the U.S. and Chinese militaries, Mullen said he would like to see a similar investment for the countries' younger officers, "so that when they grow up to be senior officers and run the military, they have that kind of background."

Mullen said he wants to continue education, training and exercise cooperation between the United States and China, "and small steps taken at the very senior level between the leaders and between the militaries ... that work together. At this stage of our relationship, doing that to create a better understanding is critical."

Mullen also answered questions about tensions between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. He said the United States has not changed its position on the "One China" policy, but that he hopes "with the tension being low, over time, the Taiwan issue would become much less of an issue."

The One China U.S. position is reflected in the Three Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. The United States does not support Taiwan's independence and insists on the peaceful resolution of differences between Beijing and Taipei.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who took office May 20, said in his inaugural speech that he wants to be a peacemaker, and not a troublemaker, with Beijing.

"[The Taiwan Straits] is a critical area," Mullen said during the interview. "Historically there has been tension, and I'm hopeful that tension will reduce to a level that sends a signal for the long run it will stay very low."

Mullen said the United States will continue its current arms sales policies toward Taiwan, stressing that the arms sent to Taiwan are defensive.