Military News

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gates: North America Needs Security to Reach Full Potential

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

June 16, 2008 - The United States, Canada and Mexico must establish
security to realize their full potential, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. "We cannot achieve resilience or reach our full potential without security," he told the audience at the fourth North American Forum here. "This is tremendously important, given the kind of threats the North American continent faces at the dawn of the 21st century."

While the "openness" of the nations, which share nearly 7,500 miles of border and together constitute the world's largest free-trade zone, is a celebrated feature of the multilateral relationship, Gates said, it also makes them vulnerable to
security threats.

"Nourishing these relationships is our mutual respect for and interest in free markets, democratic practices, and the rule of law," he said. "But what we celebrate as North Americans -- the very openness of our three societies -- is also, perhaps, our biggest vulnerability."

Providing a safe environment for the entire hemisphere is a collective responsibility, the secretary said. He urged officials to capitalize on security and defense interests shared by
Canada, Mexico, and the United States, without infringing upon each country's sovereignty.

Gates praised the new
Canada-U.S. Civil Assistance Plan, which provides a framework for emergency planning and response to natural and man-made disasters. The plan, which will enable Canada and U.S. militaries to support the armed forces of the other country during a civil emergency, is "a step in the right direction," he added.

The secretary recommended the contiguous countries also focus on expanding the Security and Prosperity Partnership, and continue improving cooperation on counter-
narcotics.

Gates outlined several threats stemming from the continent's open societies, including widely available Internet access that connects transnational
gangs and supplies operational information to the illegal arms and drug trades.

"In too many instances, these groups are better financed and equipped than some elements of our three governments assigned to combat them," he said. "Freedom of movement allows a nexus between narco-traffickers and
terrorists, a security concern made more alarming by weapons of mass destruction."

Drug runners employ low-flying airplanes to transport contraband, and also are building homemade, semi-submersible vessels that are hard to detect on the open seas. "If they can transport drugs, imagine what else they could carry," Gates said.

In recent years, the United States has made important changes to combat such threats, such as the creation of U.S. Northern Command and Department of
Homeland Security. In addition, Gates said, government at the federal, state, and local levels has put more effort into protecting America's resources, infrastructure and citizens.

"We also have greater cooperation and integration between military and civilian authorities, to include, for example, stronger ties between the National Guard, the state governors, and the federal government," Gates said.

But the secretary warned against nearsighted analyses of threats to the continent that consider only domestic security issues.

"When it comes to transnational threats, the 'far fight' is in many ways inseparable from 'near fight,'" he said. "What happens in the streets of a distant capital in Asia or Africa can affect citizens in Mexico City, Ottawa and Washington, D.C."

Gates praised
Canada for its steadfast contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where nearly 3,000 Canadian troops are deployed. Eighty-five members of Canada's military have died in Afghanistan, he added.

"The role of Afghanistan in the 9/11 attacks reminds us that this is no hypothetical scenario. We fight there now and in other distant lands to prevent another attack here at home," he said.

Gates said interactions between the United States and Mexico are few and far between. He said that in the future, he hopes to see more interaction and cooperation between the armed forces of Mexico and those of the United States, where some 30 million Americans list their ancestry as Mexican.

"Close to home, both in and out of government," Gates said, "we are looking to strengthen existing ties and forge new ones with our neighbors to the north and south."

Chairman Launches Four-Day Tour of Western Installations

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

June 16, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff landed here today at the start of a four-day tour of western-U.S.
military installations. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will visit airmen here and at Creech Air Force Base, about 50 miles northwest of here, and McChord Air Force Base, Wash. He also will travel to visit Marines and sailors at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., and soldiers and family members at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Although this trip has been planned for some time, this will be the first opportunity for the chairman to talk with airmen face-to-face since the June 6 resignations of
Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

This is Mullen's first visit to each of these installations as part of the his overall effort to reach out to many of the of the U.S.
military bases, but officials expect the topic of the resignations to surface during the "all-hands" meetings scheduled with hundreds of airmen.

In a Pentagon Channel interview last week, Mullen said he had great admiration for Moseley and Wynne, and, while he conceded the service faces some challenges in revamping its nuclear mission, he praised the work of
Air Force members.

"Airmen are really making a difference. They're in this global fight. They're pressing hard against the terrorists, [and] they've made a big difference in so many places," Mullen said.

Today, the chairman received mostly operational briefings from senior officers at Creech
Air Force Base. The sensitive briefings were closed to the media.

Creech is home to DoD's joint unmanned aircraft systems center of excellence, which overlsees the use of sensors and intelligence gathering assets of U.S. forces in combat. The center was organized there in 2005. Creech also is the training ground for the MQ-1B Predator, the unmanned aircraft used heavily in combat for both attack and reconnaissance.

Since becoming chairman in October, Mullen has traveled frequently to
military bases worldwide, hosting candid meetings in which he allows servicemembers to ask questions and voice opinions. He has faced tough questions about combat tour lengths, dwell time at home stations between deployments, and other family support issues. He also frequently visits wounded warrior treatment facilities.

America Supports You: 'GI Java' Supports Foundation

American Forces Press Service

June 16, 2008 - The relationship between servicemembers and their coffee is so storied that the hot black liquid has a role in nearly every war movie ever made. With a desire to support the troops and an understanding of that relationship, the mother and daughter team of Tamra Gravitt and Crystal Espiritu started GI Java. The coffee shop serves its brew to each customer with honor, integrity and excellence above the call of duty, according to a news release from the coffee shop.

The company, with five locations in Washington state, offers coffee in
military-themed sizes: the small is called a private, and the large is a sergeant. A portion of all sales goes to U.S. Wounded Soldiers Foundation, and donations for the foundation are accepted in all five shops.

U.S. Wounded Soldiers Foundation provides for the needs of servicemembers wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 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.

Guard Members in Two States Prepare for Rising Rivers

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen G. Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 16, 2008 - More than 600 National Guard members in
Illinois and Missouri are continuing sandbagging operations along the Mississippi River today in an effort to thwart the flood waters that are subsiding in Iowa. The Illinois and Missouri rivers flow into the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis. Flooding on those rivers is not as bad as the record levels of 1993, according to local news reports. In St. Louis, flood waters are expected to crest at 39.4 feet June 20, about 10 feet below the 1993 record.

In
Illinois, 400 Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized over the weekend to work on the levees north and south of Quincy, Ill. About 100 Air National Guard personnel from 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, and 126th Air Refueling Wing from Scott Air Force Base were mobilized yesterday and directed to the Sny Island Levee, which stretches for more than 50 miles in Adams and Pike counties.

The soldiers and airmen are expected to fill 500,000 sandbags today as they help fortify levees along a 15-mile stretch on their side of the swollen Mississippi River near Quincy.

"Guardsmen are working with local volunteers,
Illinois Emergency Management Agency personnel, local authorities and other state agencies making heroic efforts to protect critical infrastructures and lives," said Army Maj. Gen. William Enyart, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. "[We] have the full support of the governor, state legislators and federal official in coping with the largest flood since the record-breaking flood of 1993."

Enyart said more National Guard troops are available if needed.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has declared 15 Illinois counties as disaster areas.

"We're at a very critical juncture in the fight against the Mighty Mississippi, and I am committed to providing every possible state resource we can to help protect these threatened communities," Blagojevich said. "In addition to our many National Guard troops and other personnel and assets already in the region, I am encouraging my state agency directors to allow their employees who are certified as American Red Cross volunteers to help out during this emergency. We all need to pull together and help our fellow Illinoisans during their time of great need."

In
Missouri, about 200 soldiers are monitoring the levees in Canton and West Quincy and sandbagging in Canton, Hannibal and Clarksville. Liaison officers are working with officials in Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike and Lincoln counties.

An additional 65 soldiers will be mobilized today to support the communities of Clarksville and Hannibal, said
Army Capt. Tammy Spicer, the state public affairs officer. Missouri National Guard units supporting the flood response efforts include 1438th Engineer Company from Macon and Kirksville, 1138th Transportation Company from Jefferson Barracks and Centertown, 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion from Jefferson City, and 70th Troop Command and 1035th Maintenance Company, both from Jefferson Barracks.

"The
Missouri National Guard has a trained, disciplined force ready to meet the challenge of the rising waters," said Army Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. The mobilizations are a result of an executive order signed by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt on June 11. They will remain on duty until released by local authorities and the governor.

"We remain engaged with local officials along the river, working to anticipate future needs," Spicer said.

(
Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen G. Krenke serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

America Supports You: D.C. United Soccer Team Honors Troops, Veterans

By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service

June 15, 2008 - Hundreds of troops and their families were treated to a professional soccer match on Flag Day during D.C. United's 9th Annual Armed Forces and Veteran's Appreciation Day at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in the nation's capital. "A whole night dedicated to servicemembers makes me feel good," said
Army Spec. Devin Calcote, a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard," who presented the nation's colors at the beginning of the match between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.

The team provided 1,000 free tickets for active-duty servicemembers. Discounted tickets for military identification card holders and their families were also available.

"It is a privilege and an honor for D.C. United to host a special night for
military
personnel and veterans each season," said Stephen Zack, D.C. United's executive vice president. "We respect the courage and commitment these individuals display and hope to share with them our support."

Support was on display in the stadium parking before the game.
Military recruiters, the U.S.O. and America Supports You greeted troops and soccer fans on their walk from the parking lot.

"I wrote thank you for being in the troops and keeping our nation safe," said D.C. United fan Timothy Murnin, 12, describing what he wrote on a greeting card to the troops at the Department of Defense America Supports You booth.

America Supports you is a Department of Defense program that connects individual citizens, troop-support organizations and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. America Supports you and its local, non-profit homefront groups have been involved with D.C. United's
Military Appreciation Night for the past two years.

Before the game, thousands of soccer fans witnessed a swearing-in ceremony for some two dozen new recruits headed into the
Marine Corps, Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Coast Guard.

"It's great to be honored here on Flag Day and to enlist some youngsters. The support tonight for servicemembers from all branches in unbelievable," said
Marine Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps, before he administered the oath of enlistment.

For one new recruit who will report to the Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, S.C., on June 23, being enlisted into the
Marine Corps by a three-star general, in front of thousands of people, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"It hit me right in the heart. I really felt like America appreciated me, and I couldn't believe that all those clapping hands were for me," said Dayron Nibblins, an aspiring aviation electrical technician.

A driving rain began pouring down in the minutes between the enlistment ceremony and kickoff, but that didn't stop the action on the field. Some
military spectators from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center Wounded Warrior Battalion stayed out of the rain and enjoyed a bird's eye view of the game from the Champion's Club overlooking the field.

"It's great to have the opportunity to come here and relax with my family. I know a good part of the country is behind the soldiers because everywhere I go I get that sentiment, people are positive," said
Army Maj. David Hanes, an armor officer.

Hanes was a victim of a roadside bomb in October 2006, and has suffered through a litany of broken screws and plates, along with an infection in his right femur.

"The good news is that I hope to be going back on duty in the next month or two," said Hanes as his son, Colin, clung to his side.

For men and women like Hanes eager to serve their country, appreciation for their service can be summed up with the sage words of a an 11-year old soccer fan.

"The troops are fighting for our country and making us free. I want to make them feel appreciated," said Danny Zilevicius as he filled out an America Supports You greeting card for the troops.

By the end of the night, D.C. United and its fans were rewarded for their appreciation of the armed forces and veterans with a 4-1 win over
New York.

Navy Base's Safety Record Goes From Worst to First

By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service

June 13, 2008 - After being called one of the 100 worst federal workplaces in the United States in terms of safety, Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., now is ranked as one of the best. In a ceremony yesterday at the Key West air station, the installation received its "Star Status" flag, the highest recognition in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.

NAS Key West is the first Defense Department installation to receive this status.

"It is very gratifying to be a part of something that makes such a significant difference in the workplace,"
Navy Capt. J.R. Brown, NAS Key West commander, said. "Not only did it change how we look at safety, it also changed how we interact with each other. It opened communications even more. We all have taken time to pat ourselves on the back, but excellence in safety is about vigilance."

Ron Cooke, safety manager at NAS Key West, volunteered the naval air station in 2002 to take part in the defense employee Worker Safety Demonstration Program, a congressional mandate to help enforce better safety and health practices among
military and civilian employees. The naval air station also used an integrated management system to evaluate and identify problem areas and then effectively and safely run the installation, Cooke said.

With the integrated management system providing management tools and laying the groundwork for progress, Cooke said, mishaps at the installation were reduced by 50 percent in the 2003-2004 time frame.

With the groundwork in place, the installation could take part in OSHA's pilot Voluntary Protection Program, which outlines the requirements needed to develop and implement effective safety and health-management systems through incremental steps.

An OSHA administrator helps lead pilot program participants in stages, checking on progress and evaluating steps taken to improve the workplace.

Any challenge comes with obstacles, the first being a resistance to change. "At first, there was resistance to the kind of change we wanted [employees] to do," Cooke acknowledged.

Cooke also explained that the installation had problems in the retention of personnel and had language and education barriers to overcome.

"We met in the middle," Cooke said. "The management was working down while employees were working up. We were working for the same common goal: going home the way you came to work."

In October 2005, as the installation was preparing to submit paperwork to progress into the second stage of the program, Hurricane Wilma hit. The hurricane flooded the installation, and the paperwork for VPP was lost. But officials recovered from the setback, and on March 2, 2006, they were ready to once again submit paperwork. By Nov. 3, 2007, the third and final stage was complete.

NAS Key West then was recommended to receive a Star Status rating in the Voluntary Protection Program.

"We paved the way for the challenge program," Cooke said. "I think people are proud of the recognition. I think the people are proud of what they do."

Cooke admitted there was a time when he was embarrassed to go to work, but said he became excited about the challenges that VPP would bring. He credits all the installation's employees for bringing about such a profound change in the workplace climate.

"Without [NAS Key West employees], we could have never accomplished this," he said. "This was my goal, but I could never have done this without their help."

Cooke also credited Robert Barnikow of the VPP Center of Excellence for his help in mentoring the naval station. Cooke said he cannot say enough about Barnikow and what he has done for NAS Key West and other military installations.

"I think we are all taken aback somewhat at how successful VPP has been for us," Brown said earlier this week as he prepared to turn over command of the naval air station in a ceremony today, the installation's 350th straight day without a lost work day caused by a work-related safety issue.

"Every day we see the counter at the main entrance reminding us," he said. "We feel great about working at a place that has a safety program that we are all a part of."