Military News

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

America Supports You: New Jersey Guardsmen to Benefit from Joint Event

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 21, 2008 - A day-long event Oct. 18, hosted by five branches of a major retailer, netted a plethora of items for Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon to pack up and ship to members of the
New Jersey Army National Guard. Food, personal care items, small electronics, entertainment items and cash donations were collected in bins placed in five Best Buy stores to benefit New Jersey units, said Alan Krutchkoff, Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon's president.

"We've found that people enjoy connecting with our troops, especially when their donations reach soldiers from the local area," he said. "Best Buy is helping us make that happen, and it's very exciting to partner with this community-minded organization."
The event was sponsored by the chain's "Women's
Leadership Forum."

"The WOLF mission is to engage and inspire female employees and customers and create new opportunities for
Leadership, networking and community service," said Amie Gustanski, senior project manager. "Supporting [Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon] not only fits in with this mission, but also enables our employees and customers to feel engaged and provide valuable community service to our local soldiers and their families."

Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon is included on the America Supports You Web site. America Supports You is a Defense Department program that communicates citizen support to military members and their families.

Gates Honors Career Civilian Employees for Service, Dedication

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 21, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today honored career civilian employees from throughout the department, crediting them with providing extraordinary support to warfighters and their families while improving efficiency and saving taxpayer dollars. Gates presented seven employees the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest department honor recognizing exceptional contributions by a
civil servant. He also presented the David O. Cooke Excellence in Public Administration Award that recognizes a nonmanagerial department employee who exhibits potential as a future federal executive.

"It has been an honor to work with the people in this department – professionals whose overriding priority is the defense of our nation," Gates told the honorees.

He noted the broad range of pursuits in which the group has excelled: providing housing for troops, fielding new weapons systems while ensuring support for troops in the field, teaching safety training to foreign partners, helping to stand up U.S. Africa Command, negotiating treaties with allies and training new
leaders.

Gates conceded that it's not always fashionable in Washington to honor federal government employees, and that some politicians have been elected by criticizing the people they seek to lead.

"During my career, however, I have dealt with governments all over the world, and have found that the United States has the most dedicated, most honest and most capable public servants of any," he said.

The secretary praised dedicated career employees he said provide stability through
leadership changes. "You are the foundation that allows the Defense Department, the largest and most complex organization on the planet, to operate smoothly and efficiently," he said.

"Public service can often seem to be a thankless job," he said, adding that he counsels young people to accept the challenges because, "in truth, the satisfactions far outnumber the difficulties."

Gates told today's honorees their decision to dedicate themselves to public service "is to the betterment of our 2.7 million men and women serving in the active and reserve armed forces and to our
leaders here."

Michael L. Rhodes, acting director for the DoD Office of Administration and Management and host of today's awards ceremony, said the award recipients demonstrate the tremendous dedication public servants take on every day.

The winners were selected through an extensive review process that culminated in 25 nominations, Rhodes said. Ultimately, those chosen for honors today "have truly set themselves apart and proved themselves worthy," he said.

Honorees awarded today were:

-- Stephen A. Fleet, director of Missile Defense Agency's Warfighter Support Center, who was recognized for excellence in leading the center through rapid changes while providing vital support to the warfighter community;

-- Steven M. Huybrechts, a director in the DoD Networks and Information Integration Office, for championing the strategy that provided precision targeting, secure unmanned aerial vehicle operations while denying these capabilities to the enemy;

-- Frank D. Kenlon, a director in the DoD Acquisition,
Technology and Logistics Office, for his roles as the lead negotiator on the Joint Strike Fighter memorandum of understanding and in drafting and negotiating the U.S.-United Kingdom and U.S.-Australia Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties.

-- Claudia S. Knott, the Defense Logistics Agency's acquisition management director, for leading programs that transformed the agency's business practices while improving customer service in its global logistics mission.

-- Barbara Estock Mays, deputy intelligence enterprise manager for the Defense Intelligence Agency, for applying innovative approaches to transfer responsibilities and design an intelligence enterprise for the new U.S. Africa Command.

-- John K. Russell, tactical safety specialist for
Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Base Safety Center, for developing the Marine Corps' forward-deployed ground safety program during Operation Iraqi Freedom II that provided a model for follow-on operations there; and

-- Edmund G. Zelnio, an engineer in the Air Force Research Laboratory's Sensor Automatic Target Recognition
Technology Division, for contributions leading to the successful deployment of new sensor and sensor exploitation technologies in numerous weapons systems.

Gates also presented Umit A. Spencer the David O. Cooke Excellence in Public Administration Award. Spencer, housing maintenance contract monitor with the 354th Civil Engineering Squadron at Eielson
Air Force Base, Alaska, was honored for excellence in improving and maintaining 1,474 military family housing units, 48 playgrounds and five athletic courts.

Mullen Meets With Russian Counterpart in Helsinki

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 21, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with his Russian counterpart here today in the first face-to-face meeting between the two powers since Russia's invasion of Georgia in August. The Russians requested the meeting between
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Nikolai Makarov, officials said.

Makarov, who was installed as the chief of the General Staff in June, presided over Russia's incursion into Georgia over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhasia.

Mullen spoke on the phone with the new Russian
military leader when the crisis broke on Aug. 6, a senior U.S. military official, speaking on background, told reporters. The chairman appreciated the fact that there was an open line of communication between Washington and the Kremlin at that critical time, the official said.

The conversations covered the flight of U.S.
Air Force C-17 transport jets carrying Georgian troops serving in Iraq back to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, and later, the USS Mount Whitney carrying humanitarian supplies to the port of Poti. Makarov gave assurances that Russia would not interfere, the official said.

The two men disagree on many points, but they could still maintain a dialogue and are looking to work together where the two nations can, the official said.

Today's meeting is not a replacement for a formal visit, the official said. Mullen hosted the previous Russian defense chief in Washington in December, and had been invited to Russia for a reciprocal visit in July. The change in command stopped that visit.

With no set agenda, the official said, Mullen entered the meeting ready to listen to whatever Makarov wished to discuss.

Officials regard the meeting itself as a positive sign. Strategically, it is important to have a dialogue with Russia, and the United States and Russia must sustain a relationship, the official said. The two nations will disagree on some issues – Georgia would head the list now – but there are other areas, such as Iran, where there should be agreement, the official said.

Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons and is looking to deploy them. Those weapons would have the range to target Europe and Russia, and within seven to 10 years, could hit the United States, the official said.

Intelligence services in the United States and Russia know that Iran is developing these weapons, the official noted, adding that the threat emanating from Iran should be enough to convince the Russians that the missile defense system to be based in the Czech Republic and Poland is for defense against Iran and is not aimed at countering Russian weapons.

National Guard Gains in Full-Time Manning, Controlled Grades

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

Oct. 21, 2008 - An increase in full-time manning for the
Army National Guard and controlled grades for both the Army and Air National Guard were included in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Bush on Oct. 14. The increase in full-time manning for the Army National Guard authorizes an additional 3,564 personnel, including 2,110 Active Guard Reserve slots above the budget request.

National Guard officials said it is the biggest increase in the
Army Guard in 22 years.

"Full-time manning is a critical component to increasing readiness in the Army National Guard," said Army Col. Marianne Watson, the
Army National Guard's personnel chief. "The full-time manning increases will be targeted to support personnel readiness, transformation initiatives and increasing unit level readiness throughout all 54 states and territories.

"This growth, although significant, must be continued to fully support the transition of the ARNG from the strategic reserve construct to an operational force," Watson said.

The increase in controlled grades for full-time officers and senior enlisted members of the Army and Air National Guard will help to reduce delays in promotions. This applies to lieutenant colonels and colonels in the Air Guard, and first sergeants, master sergeants and sergeants major, as well as majors through colonels, for the
Army Guard.

"The increase in Air National Guard controlled grades and
military construction authorizations will provide needed flexibility to the ANG as it continues to bed down critical new Air Force missions to meet our responsibilities to the combatant commanders and our governors," said Air Force Col. Jeffrey A. Lewis, director of Manpower, Personnel and Services for the Air National Guard.

National Guard officials said this increase provides a total of more than 1,000 new Active Guard Reserve promotion opportunities across the National Guard.

Other major National Guard provisions included in the NDAA include:

-- Mobilized officers can be considered for unit vacancy promotions back at home.

-- The president and governors can consent to the appointment of a National Guard officer for "dual hat" status in advance of actually taking command of forces, which will guarantee continuity of command. This section of the legislation also specifies that they will not be subject to the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally prohibits federal
military personnel and units of the National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States.

-- The age limit for chaplains and medical officers increases from age 64 to 68, which equalizes the age limits between the reserve and active-duty components.

-- Funding was authorized for seven Army joint cargo aircraft, but none for the
Air Force program.

-- For fiscal 2009, Congress appropriated $22.9 billion for the National Guard, which is an additional $1.2 billion, or 5.4 percent, over the president's request of $21.6 billion.

-- The
Army Guard's operations and maintenance account and the Air Guard's personnel account were funded below the president's request, but all other accounts were appropriated more than requested, National Guard officials said.

-- The law also authorizes a 3.9 percent pay raise for servicemembers, to take effect Jan. 1. This represents a 0.5 percent increase over the president's initial request.

-- Funds were appropriated to continue action on recommendations of the president's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors. Defense Department officials said the funds will ensure world-class health and rehabilitative care to warfighters who are wounded, ill or injured in service to the nation.

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

Mullen Offers Reassurance to Baltic Republics

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 21, 2008 - Following a meeting this morning in Helsinki, Finland, with his Russian counterpart, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff traveled here to discuss defense issues with Latvian officials.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, accompanied by Latvian Brig. Gen. Juris Maklakovs, the chief of defense, discussed defense and NATO issues with Latvian President Vladis Zatlers, Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins and Defense Minister Vinets Veldre.

The Baltic republics – all members of NATO – are nervous following Russia's invasion of Georgia in August. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all want more precise NATO defense plans in the wake of the Russian action in the Caucasus. Mullen said his trip is designed to assuage some of the nations' concerns.

"One of the reasons I am here is to send a very visible message of reassurance," the chairman said during a news conference with Zatlers.

Alliance members are having discussions on the Russian actions and all nations remain committed to staying unified on the Georgia invasion, the chairman said. "It's been pretty clear across the board that NATO was not accepting in any way, shape or form what Russia has done in Georgia," he said.

"All of us are concerned by the recent invasion into Georgia of Russia," Mullen said. "In my past experience in NATO, I've always tried to understand the views of the Baltic [republics] because of the history and how they view what has happened. Those are part of the conversations we have had today. I think it is very important that ... NATO recognizes what the alliance means and the responsibilities and obligations that go with it."

NATO fighters guard the Baltic nations' airspace and perform the peacetime air defense and air
policing function. U.S. Air Force F-15 aircraft based at Lakenheath, England, currently have that mission as part of NATO.

The mission over the Baltic republics is an important one, Mullen said. The alliance had a recent exercise of that mission, he noted. All nations realize its importance to the alliance and to the Baltic nations, he said, though he would not go into specifics about air police plans or specific scenarios used to train the NATO flyers.

"It is a NATO mission that many nations have stepped up to in the past and will continue, certainly through 2011," Mullen said.

The chairman thanked Latvia for its support in the Balkans and for sending personnel to Afghanistan.

Dialogue With Russian Defense Chief Encourages Mullen

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 21, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he is encouraged that his Russian counterpart reached out to keep the dialogue between the two countries open.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen met Russian army Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the General Staff, here this morning. The mood of the meeting was positive, Mullen said during an interview with reporters traveling with him following the meeting.

The chairman would not discuss the specifics of the meeting, but did sketch the general nature of the talks. He told reporters he went to listen and wanted to hear what Makarov had to say and what concerns he has.

The two men discussed Georgia, operations in the Black Sea, Afghanistan, and the relationship between NATO and Russia. While Russia has isolated itself with its invasion of Georgia in August, the United States and Russia have been able to cooperate in other areas, Mullen said. Russia, for example, has supported the U.S. position on Afghanistan in the United Nations Security Council, he noted.

"The most important part of [today's meeting] was the dialogue and the commitment to continue the dialogue ... into the future and not put us into an all-on or all-off situation," Mullen said. "Obviously, the relationship has changed because of what happened in Georgia, but by no means does it – or should it – end."

Mullen said he does not believe the two countries have cut off all relations, "nor do I believe that it should resume on the old plan, like Georgia didn't occur." The relationship should be somewhere in the middle of that continuum, he said.

"As I pointed out during the meeting, even in the darkest days of the
Cold War, we were talking to each other," he said.

The chairman said his Russian counterpart was personable and engaging. "I would characterize these as discussions," he said. "[They were] not by rote or by reading a script. So it was an engagement, and it was a meaningful engagement across a lot of important areas."

The two men covered other areas of mutual concern including the threat of Iran, counter-terrorism, counter-drug strategy and combating weapons of mass destruction, Mullen said. Concrete proposals would come out of the meeting, he added, but he wouldn't discuss them.

The chairman said he was encouraged by the opportunity to speak face-to-face with Makarov, and that he is pleased that his Russian counterpart wants to stay engaged and involved.

"It's also very important for all of us to walk the walk, not just talk the talk," he said.