Military News

Monday, September 06, 2010

Volk Field hosts NATO exercise

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

Thirteen NATO nations teamed up with the Air National Guard and Volk Field Air National Guard Base Aug. 21 through Sept. 3 to conduct an international exercise designed to increase target acquisition accuracy among member nations serving in Afghanistan, thereby reducing errant strikes.

Exercise Ramstein Rover 2010 provided training to more than 40 joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs, also referred to as forward air controllers by NATO) who will deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The JTAC's mission is to provide air-to-ground integration and coordinate close air support for coalition ground troops. They communicate with pilots in the air and commanders on the ground.

Col. Robert Redanz, Ramstein Rover exercise director from Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein, said all of the JATCs will deploy to Afghanistan in the next year - some in a few weeks - and he expressed NATO's desire to minimize the negative impact of combat in Afghanistan.

"One of our overarching priorities is to minimize civilian casualties," Redanz said. "We're trying to make sure when we hit that target, it's not women and children. We go to extreme lengths to make sure that doesn't happen. This training has been phenomenal."

Although all of the exercise participants have been trained by their respective countries, Ramstein Rover utilized scenarios seen in Afghanistan to provide more realistic training.

"The NATO guys, in their countries, don't necessarily get the kind of training that we're getting here," said Capt. Wes Hoeper, an F-16 pilot with the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing. The realistic scenarios at Volk Field will help the NATO service members when encountering similar situations in Afghanistan, he said.

"Obviously when things are going bad, and the ground commander needs weapons on the ground, then is not the time to see it for the first time," Hoeper said.

Controllers also gained experience in managing multiple platforms simultaneously. The Air National Guard provided F-16s from Iowa and Madison's 115th Fighter Wing and a KC-135 Stratotanker from Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing. The Air Force and Air Force Reserve provided a B-1 Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and A-10s from Missouri's Air Force Reserve Base, respectively. The Wisconsin Army National Guard also participated in the exercise with their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and multiple RQ-7 "Shadow" unmanned aerial vehicles.

Some of these airframes may be unfamiliar to participants from the NATO countries which included Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the United States.

Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, which includes nearby Hardwood Range, is one of four regional training centers in the Air National Guard. Despite consistent joint and international training at Volk, Ramstein Rover is the first NATO exercise to be held at the CRTC.

Col. Gary Ebben, Volk Field commander, said Volk Field is unique in that it controls its own airspace, maintains its own bombing range and can host thousands of service members at a time.

"We kind of look at ourselves as one-stop shopping," Ebben said.

Redanz agreed.

"There aren't many training ranges that allow us to do the live munitions and air control," he said. "The support and facilities here along with the availability of the aircraft has just been ideal for us."

Transforming Chief Selectees Aboard USS Constitution

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- USS Constitution wrapped up their 13th annual Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Heritage Weeks training for CPO selectees Sept. 3

Constitution's CPO mess designed CPO Heritage Weeks to instill pride in naval heritage and build esprit de corps while selectees lived and trained aboard the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.

"Constitution gives the opportunity to offer a historic training platform for the newest chief petty officers and the opportunity for our crew to show what we can do for the Navy," said Constitution Command Master Chief (SW/SS/AW) David C. Twiford. "It also gives 300 selectees from around the world a chance to be mentored by 40 handpicked chiefs from around the fleet."

CPO Heritage Weeks began Aug. 23 with Constitution's crew teaching selectees, including Coast Guardsmen and Sailors from the British Royal navy, a variety of time-honored maritime evolutions.

"Constitution has been a really great host to us," said Petty Officer Clearance Diver Richard Ellis, British Royal navy. "We hope to take away an appreciation of the training you guys go through and how you manage your Sailors. We have different platforms of leadership between our two navies, but we plan to try to cross-pollinate your methods back into our training platforms."

Selectees learned boarding pike and War of 1812 era gun drills using Constitution's traditional 24-pound naval long guns. They also learned small boat operations and how to climb the ship's shrouds.

Additionally, selectees supported the local community by helping at the New England Homeless Veterans Center, Old Soldier's Home in Chelsea, Mass., and Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown.

"The sense of heritage and the experience really hit me when we were out in public singing 'Anchors Aweigh,'" said Chief Electronics Technician (select) (SS/DV) John H. Vallas. "To see people coming up holding their hearts and you can see in their eyes, they were really proud."

Mentor CPOs guide and train selectees as they endure the rigors of the CPO induction process.

"As a mentor chief, I hope that I instilled what it is to be a chief and the importance of taking care of your Sailors," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (AW) Michael Pike. "The selectees are going through a mental challenge, changing their thought process from 'me' to 'we,' and if you want to be successful, you have to take care of your Sailors and everything will follow."

Constitution is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. She welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year.

Sailors, Marines Help Costa Rican Communities During Continuing Promise 2010

By Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Kent Zinkil, Continuing Promise 2010 Public Affairs

PUERTO LIMON, Costa Rica (NNS) -- Approximately 400 Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) participated in community relations projects Aug. 21-29 as part of Continuing Promise 2010 (CP10) in Puerto Limon and Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Iwo Jima, with embarked command element, Amphibious Squadron 6, and supporting elements, deployed to U.S. Southern Command's Area of Responsibility in July 2010.

CP10's mission is to conduct human civil assistance, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support and disaster response to partner nations and show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America.

Sailors cleaned rusty metal bars and applied a fresh coat of paint at the Westphalia School in Puerto Limon.

"I wanted to do find out what Continuing Promise is all about," said Aviation Boatswains Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Thomas Spegal.

Sailors also installed new playground equipment at the Westphalia School.

"It was great to get out from behind the computer and help these kids out even if it is just for one day," said Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas McDaniel, from Office of Naval Intelligence Fleet Intelligence Detachment.

Marines assisted non-governmental organization (NGO) volunteers from Project Handclasp to deliver 336 backpacks and 60 stuffed animals to the elementary school students of Hone Creek School.

"I just wanted to help out," said Marine Corps Cpl. Bryan Smith, Special Marine, Air, Ground Task Force, embarked on board Iwo Jima for CP10. "That's why I joined the Marines."

While the Marines distributed items to students, Sailors painted the school building and helped to build a volleyball court.

The CP10 team of Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen, along with doctors, nurses and NGO volunteers, concluded the 10-day portion of CP10 in Costa Rica on Aug. 29 with a Friendship Ceremony at the Westphalia School.

The CP10 team participated in a local civic parade, Dias del Negro, Aug. 31.

Mullen: News Can’t Convey Scope of Pakistan Floods

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 3, 2010 – Media coverage is inadequate to convey the scope of the floods that have ravaged Pakistan for more than a month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen yesterday toured flood-stricken areas of Pakistan with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff.

During this morning’s flight from Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad to Kabul, Mullen told reporters he was taken aback by the scope and the massive scale of what he saw.

“The pictures [and] reporting just don’t capture it,” the chairman said. Along with his own observations of flooded areas, he added, a briefing slide Kayani showed him helped him to understand the disaster’s magnitude.

“It said that effectively it’s like flooding the entire East Coast of the United States,” he said. “I think it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to recover from that.”

The chairman said Kayani told him 70,000 members of the Pakistani military are engaged in the flood response effort, and no reserve call-up has been necessary. Mullen added that he asked the Pakistani general whether insurgent activity had picked up with the military focusing so much attention on the floods, and that Kayani told him no significant outbreak of insurgent activity has taken place.

“I [also] asked about the support from the charitable-organization fronts for the extremist organizations,” Mullen told reporters, “and he said, ‘Not much.’” The chairman said Kayani explained that while those organizations do a pretty good job of strategic communications, they haven’t had much of an impact.

Mullen said Kayani asked for satellite imagery taken before the flood began so current images and images taken after the waters recede can be put together in a database for purposes of comparison, but that the Pakistani general made no other requests.

Earlier this week, the chairman emphasized the U.S. commitment to provide whatever support or assistance the Pakistani government requests and said he believes a significant, sustained commitment from the international community almost certainly will be required to help Pakistan recover. More U.S. helicopters and ships should arrive in about a week, he added.

Veterans History Project Highlights Pioneering Women Pilots of World War II

Today more than 60,000 women serve in the United States Air Force. A select group of women pilots paved the way more than 65 years ago: the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). During World War II, they became the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft. The Veterans History Project (VHP) in the Library of Congress American Folklife Center recognizes these extraordinary women with a new presentation at www.loc.gov/vets/ titled "The WASP: First in Flight." Nine candid, first-person accounts from the VHP collection tell of the remarkable service of these extraordinary women.

"The Veterans History Project is honored to share these stories of heroic women who played a pivotal role in World War II," said Veterans History Project Director Bob Patrick. "Civil servants during the war, they have since been rightfully recognized as veterans. Their crucial duties helped secure victory for our nation."

Margaret Ray Ringenberg and Virginia Shannon Malany Meloney are two of the veterans featured. Raised an Indiana farm girl, Ringenberg dreamed of flying, but until WWII her gender prevented her. Once war erupted, she was trained to fly by the Civil Air Patrol and ferried military planes up and down the East Coast. She kept flying after the war, pulling off her first around-the-world flight at the age of 72. Meloney got what she calls a "crash course in aviation" on a college date with a young pilot. She ferried planes out of Sweetwater, Texas, where she watched a fellow WASP die in a plane crash. She escaped a close call herself when she climbed to escape an ice storm only nearly to black out from lack of oxygen.

Though they logged more than 60 million miles between 1942 and 1944 ferrying planes, towing targets, and testing and training aircraft, the WASPs were nearly forgotten for more than 30 years. In 1977, Congress passed legislation to belatedly give the WASP veteran status. In 2009, surviving WASP veterans were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. More information can be found at www.wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/.

Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 as a national documentation program of the American Folklife Center (www.loc.gov/folklife/) to record, preserve and make accessible the first-hand remembrances of American wartime veterans from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. More than 70,000 individual stories comprise the collection to date. The project relies on volunteers to record veterans’ remembrances using guidelines accessible at www.loc.gov/vets/. Volunteer interviewers may request information at vohp@loc.gov or the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848. Subscribe to VHP’s RSS on the VHP home page.