Military News

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Face of Defense: Air Guardsman's Entrepreneurial Approach Earns Safety Award

By Air Force Capt. Lynn Lee
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 11, 2009 - A revolutionary, entrepreneurial approach to safety program management has earned induction into the Air Force Safety Hall of Fame for an Air National Guard officer here. Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Vaughan, former deputy director of safety for the Air National Guard, was recognized at a ceremony here Feb. 6 for his "unique contribution to safety and the U.S. Air Force mishap prevention program ... resulting in enduring and significant advances to safety."

An F-16 fighter pilot, Vaughan previously served combat flying tours with Indiana and New York Air National Guard flying squadrons in Iraq. In 2008, he transferred to the Colorado Guard, but he's currently serving on active duty at the Air War College here, participating in the Center for Strategy and Technology's future studies think tank known as Blue Horizons.

Vaughan credits his "Disruptive Solutions Process" for his widespread success. DSP invests small amounts of resources in many innovative ideas from the field and develops those that show success and return on investment.

An entrepreneurial leader, Vaughan created the joint-service, see-and-avoid, civil and military mid-air collision avoidance Web portal used at more than 100 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps bases. He also created the online segment of Air Force and joint-service Maintenance Resource Management, which is credited with a 75 percent reduction in Class A accidents due to maintenance. A Class A accident involves loss of life or more than $1 million in damage.

Vaughan also leveraged the Air Force's existing bird aircraft strike hazard capabilities into an interagency avian flu tracking and predicting model. He built an unprecedented interdepartmental team, including experts from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Department of Agriculture, National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration, Centers for Disease Control, Federal Aviation Administration, Defense Department and others. The result is the dBird.us portal, scheduled for integration into existing pandemic prediction programs.

All combined, Vaughan's Air National Guard programs are credited with saving millions of taxpayer dollars, and at least several lives.

Last month, the Defense Safety Oversight Council approved funding to apply an Air National Guard fatigue mitigation program called FlyAwake throughout the Defense Department. The program is another spin-off of Vaughan's DSP process, which originated at the 201st Airlift Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard. This marks the eighth time since 2005 that the DSOC has supported an Air National Guard safety initiative.

Joseph Angello, executive secretary of the DSOC, said the Guard programs continue to receive his support because Vaughan's team reliably delivers.

Vaughan's DSP appears simple in its approach, but it achieves remarkable results.

"To tighten our [observe, orient, decide and act] loop, we've adopted a lean, asymmetric acquisition approach – Contracting 2.0, if you will – pursuing many small solutions from small firms in parallel, often capitalizing on existing commercial technologies," he said. "And by driving the funding requirements and time-to-market for all solutions toward zero, our failures are just as valuable as our successes. If even only one succeeds, then the whole portfolio is productive for the taxpayer."

Vaughan said his team evaluates the best ideas against existing military requirements and then executes the solution. That means working closely with contracting officers, finance experts, academia, the scientific community and other governmental departments to leverage existing capabilities against the new ideas efficiently and effectively.

"It may take the military many years to design, develop, fund and field a major weapons system, like an aircraft," he said. "The acquisition process for these huge programs is mind-numbing. So any opportunity we have to deliver fast, effective capability to warfighters right now is a must-do."

Vaughan, who in 2007 became the first Air National Guard member awarded the Air Force Chief of Staff Individual Safety Trophy, said these awards recognize the innovation, hard work and tenacity of the 106,800 men and women of the Air National Guard.

"Those dedicated warfighters, often deployed in harm's way around the globe, expect and deserve the best possible service from their National Guard Bureau," he said. "Our role is simply to bring their visions to a practical reality."

(Air Force Capt. Lynn Lee serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

USS Vella Gulf Crew Captures Pirates in Gulf of Aden

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 11, 2009 - The crew of the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf apprehended seven pirates in the Gulf of Aden today after responding to a distress call from a nearby merchant vessel. The event marks the first time Combined Task Force 151, a multinational effort to fight piracy in the region, has apprehended suspected pirates, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command officials said.

At about 3 p.m., the Marshall Islands-flagged motor vessel Polaris sent a distress call to all ships in the area, reporting that a small skiff containing seven suspected pirates had attempted a forcible boarding of their vessel using a ladder. Polaris crew members removed the ladder before pirates could come aboard, officials said.

Vella Gulf responded immediately and intercepted the skiff and several men on fitting the physical descriptions given by Polaris crew members. A Vella Gulf visit, board, search and seizure team conducted a consensual boarding and found several weapons.

Polaris met up with Vella Gulf, and the crew provided positive visual identification of the suspected pirates. The suspects were brought onboard Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they are transferred to a temporary holding facility onboard the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command news release.)

Organization Plans 'Valentines for Veterans' Concerts

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 11, 2009 - A nonprofit organization and officials from four Veterans Affairs hospitals joined forces to plan four free "Valentines for Veterans" concerts to show appreciation to veterans and their families. "Our hope is that the concerts will boost awareness of local VA medical centers, increase understanding of the issues facing severely wounded veterans as well as their families, and encourage people to visit hospitalized veterans or consider volunteering at their local VA," Mike Lynch, executive director of Help Hospitalized Veterans, said.

The free concerts -- scheduled for four cities over three days, starting tomorrow -- are for veterans and their families only, Lynch said.

The concerts are part of National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week, an official VA program that is celebrated at Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country. Formerly called No Greater Love Week, it dates back as far as 1978. The Valentines for Veterans concert series started in 2007, and was inspired by a love story between a severely wounded Iraq combat veteran and his wife.

Concert organizers met the young man and his wife on Valentine's Day 2006 when he was being treated at the VA medical facility in Prescott, Ariz. They were so compelled by the couple's story that they wanted to do something the following Valentine's Day to honor the two and all the young men and women who have been injured from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the success of prior concerts and the overwhelmingly positive reception from veterans, their families and community members alike, concert organizers said they've have already begun looking to add additional cities across the United States for the 2010 series.

This year's concert schedule kicks off tomorrow in Tampa, Fla., where The Spinners and Little Anthony and the Imperials will perform at the Florida State Fairgrounds for an anticipated crowd of 5,000 veterans and family members.

Two concerts are scheduled Feb. 13. More than 1,000 people are expected to enjoy The Tams and The Embers at the Cultural and Civic Auditorium in Charleston, S.C. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, more than 800 people are expected to enjoy Little Anthony and the Imperials.

On Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, the concert series concludes in Prescott, Ariz., where about 1,500 people are expected to see Russell Thompkins Jr. and The New Stylistics at Yavapai College Performance Hall.

In addition to the Valentines for Veterans concerts, Help Hospitalized Veterans sponsors several other national events with VA, such as the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival and the National Veterans Golden Age Games.

For complimentary concert tickets and more information, contact Lovell Henderson at 216-701-6511.

Air Force Reinstates Good Conduct Medal for Enlisted Members

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 11, 2009 - The Air Force has reinstated its Good Conduct Medal for exemplary service by enlisted airmen, senior military officials announced here today.
Reinstatement of the medal is effective today, officials said. The Air Force Uniform Board announced on Feb. 6, 2006, that the Good Conduct Medal would no longer be awarded. It was thought at the time that the award wasn't needed because nearly all Air Force members are exemplary performers. Previous awardees were permitted to wear the medal.

Meanwhile, the other armed services continued to award Good Conduct Medals to their enlisted members, said Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, chief of the Air Force's manpower, personnel and services directorate.

Airmen -- who often serve in war zones alongside their Army, Navy, and Marine Corps counterparts as part of the joint-force team -- also deserve recognition for their good service, Newton said.

"Airmen are striving to do the very same thing that their battle buddies are doing in other services," the three-star general said.

Award of the Good Conduct Medal to deserving airmen, Newton said, also is part of the Air Force's illustrious heritage.

The idea to reinstate the Good Conduct Medal surfaced during an awards and decorations meeting on Jan. 7, 2008. Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley signed off on the change on Nov. 22.

Airmen generally are eligible to earn the Good Conduct Medal if they exhibit exemplary behavior over a three-year period. The award features a sky-blue ribbon with two vertical red, white and blue stripes. Suspended from the ribbon is a round, golden medal featuring the image of an eagle, around which are inscribed the words, "Efficiency," "Honor" and "Fidelity."

Subsequent awards of the medal are represented by a "cluster" device.

After reintroduction of the Good Conduct Medal was approved, time was required to work out administrative procedures, said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley, the Air Force's top noncommissioned officer. Qualified airmen, McKinley said, will receive the award retroactively to 2006.

Some airmen felt that the discontinuance of the Good Conduct Medal was an act of "taking something away" from them, he said. "This is an enlisted medal," McKinley said, "and we are taking care of the enlisted force."

Defense Language Institute Rolls Out New Programs

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 11, 2009 - The Defense Department's premier language school in Monterey, Calif., has launched several new initiatives designed to foster language and cultural outreach from as close as its backyard all the way to troops stationed in South Korea. One domestically focused program the Defense Language Institute, or DLI, rolled out recently is a weekly AM radio program called Salute to the Armed Forces.

The host, Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Lamar, said the show is designed to connect military and civilian cultures.

"I want to show the local community that servicemembers are not only defending our nation, but are also real people with families who have many of the same problems in life," he said.

Lamar will interview uniformed servicemember guests on Wednesdays, discussing a range of topics that span military life. In the show's debut last week, two military moms spoke about the difficulties of balancing their military and family lives.

Tonight, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kristi Folowell is slated to speak about her career as a military linguist and her experience in Iraq. A live stream of the show can be heard from 6-8 p.m. at http://www.knry.com/StreamingMain.htm.

Meanwhile, DLI has launched two linguistic and cultural programs that now are accessible to the public.

"Legends and Folktales" is an interactive Web site that features animated versions of stories that form the cultural foundations of nearly three dozen countries. Short, narrated flash-animation films give viewers a rudimentary understanding of some of the ancient stories that still resonate strongly in national identities today. The films are available at http://fieldsupport.lingnet.org/products/LF1.

Similarly, DLI's "Countries in Perspective" is a Web-based tool designed to provide basic facts about countries and their geography, history, economy, society and security arrangements. The program, available at http://www.lingnet.org/areaStudies/perspectives/default.asp, is objective and fact-based, and doesn't editorialize, according to a DLI news release.

DLI officials also announced they've begun testing its Beta version of a Korean language and culture guide. These guides, known as Headstart Programs, already are available in Iraqi, Dari, Pashtu, Farsi and Chinese. The kits provide nonlinguist servicemembers a computer-based, self-paced method of receiving the equivalent of the first two weeks of training that students receive at the DLI campus.

The self-guided program takes 80 to 100 hours to complete, according to a DLI news release, and can be obtained at https://lmds.dliflc.edu/home.aspx.

"After completing the course, soldiers should be able to hit the ground in a new country with enough language skills to conduct business and have limited communication with civilians in the local language," the release states.

End Strength Mitigates Army Guard's January Recruiting Shortfall

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

Feb. 11, 2009 - The Army National Guard missed its recruiting goal for January, but it remains slightly over its congressionally mandated end strength of 358,200, an Army Guard official confirmed yesterday. "We're paying a success dividend," said Army Lt. Col. Ron Walls, chief of recruiting and retention for the Army National Guard. "Our numbers are off the program goal, but that's OK, because of where we are with our end strength. We have never been more whole than we are right now from a readiness perspective."

According to figures the Defense Department released yesterday, the Army Guard signed up 4,913 new soldiers, 88 percent of its goal of 5,577 enlistees. The Air National Guard got 896 new airmen, 127 percent of its goal of 703 enlistees.

With 366,009 soldiers currently assigned, the Army Guard is at 102 percent of its end-strength goal for this fiscal year.

Walls said the Army Guard has been able to drive up end strength through its innovative recruiting programs, such as G-RAP and Active First, and re-enlistment rates that have remained steady despite an increasing operational tempo.

"We will focus on where we are," he said. "And right now, we are above in end strength, and our quality marks are stronger than ever, and we will use that to our advantage."

Walls added that the Army Guard's quality marks have not been this high since 2003.

"We are now fine-tuning what we have," he said.

While going after this quality market, Walls said, the Army Guard will continue to "shape our incentives based on funding availability and focus heavily on soldiers in formations already."

"They pay the price," he said. "They are part of a team already, and there are dollars associated with them from a training perspective." Keeping trained soldiers helps with readiness, and "there is goodness in that as well," Walls said.

In the future, Walls predicted, the Army Guard will continue to provide incentives to a variety of populations from high-schoolers to 40-year-olds.

"We're looking at that now as far as innovative measures to reach those populations and give them the opportunity to serve in our formations," he said.

With the nation's focus shifting to the economy, Walls said, the Army Guard must come up with new incentive programs that don't involve money to gain accessions.

And because of that, he said, the Army Guard will not rest on its laurels.

"The ingenuity of the team that we have here at the Guard Bureau is never ending," Walls said. "It's about what we do with what we have right now. And we always have more innovative programs in the hopper."

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