Friday, November 26, 2010

Donley Lauds Air Guard's Capability, Reach

By Air Force Tech Sgt. John Orrell
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 – The Air Force’s senior civilian said the Air National Guard leads the way in providing "maximum combat power when and where the nation needs it, with the absolute best value for each and every taxpayer dollar."

"Our nation's global reach, as it exists today, would be impossible without the contributions of the Guard," Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said last week during remarks at the Air National Guard's 2010 Senior Leadership Conference here.

Donley, the conference’s keynote speaker, focused on the role the Air Guard has in the Air Force and the future of the total force initiative.

"As the guarantors of the Air Force's contract with the American people to keep our skies safe, you have been annually responsible for 94 percent of our alert sites and up to 60 percent of the active intercepts of performing the air sovereignty mission," he said.

Donley also acknowledged the operational importance of the Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan missions. "Your contributions were critical to the movement of over five million tons of cargo and 13 million passengers to Afghanistan," he said. "And that was before the surge even began."

In addition to bringing global vigilance and reach, the Air Guard also provides global power to the fight with 29 percent of the Air Force's fighter attack aircraft.

"Guard fighters provide close air support, dominating the high ground through armed watch over ground patrols and sometimes shaping insurgent behavior with simply a loud and timely show of force," Donley said.

"Supporting the joint fight ... the Guard has been providing 25 percent of all remotely piloted aircraft sorties," he said. "Not to mention the processing, exploitation and dissemination of the information that they collect."

Finally, Air Guard rescue units have deployed repeatedly and performed heroically by recovering servicemembers with critical battlefield injuries from hot landing zones, he said.

"These missions and others that the Guard is performing are critical to our success in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we are counted on by our joint and coalition partners to provide global vigilance," he said. "In a similar fashion ... over half of our airlift and refueling fleet is operated by the reserve component, with 40 percent of our air-refueling capability alone residing in the Guard.

"Each of you and your units has contributed to the success of our total force," he said.

Donley also recognized that all of these missions were accomplished by traditional Guardsmen, who have families back home.

"Many of you are accomplishing all of this while balancing a full-time civilian job and family," he said. "I still don't know how you do it all."

One key is the Guard's Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides information, services, referrals and proactive outreach opportunities.

"I am especially impressed with your rapid deployment of airmen and family readiness program managers," Donley said. "You find unique and innovative ways to reach out to family members that are often disbursed geographically across your state."

Donley said he also is impressed with the reach of the Air Guard with 106,700 members in 88 wings and 200 geographically separated units around the country.

"Your geographic footprint ... can also help make us a more diverse and stronger Air Force," he said. "In some states, Guard installations represent the only Air Force presence, making you a critical link from the total force to the state and local communities.

"Beyond your geographic reach, you're also bringing diversity because of the civilian perspectives and varying skill sets you bring to your work," he said.

Donley said the Air Force's senior leadership is proud of the Air Guard's commitment to the states and the country.

"It is the sustained commitment of the National Guard that has helped give meaning to the term ‘total force’ in communities across America," he said.

Veterans' Reflections: Friendships Formed in Battle

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 – Servicemembers and veterans savor the friendships they make with comrades during wartime, said John Teetz, an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Teetz served in the Army from 2001-2004. Now living in Philadelphia, Pa., Teetz said he originally looked to the service for guidance. College wasn’t giving him what he wanted, and he’d learned the merits of service from his family.

“I was in college, and I wanted something to do with my life,” Teetz said. “My father was ‘in,’ my grandfather was ‘in’ … Navy both of them. I’m not much on boats, and I wanted to do ground stuff, so I joined the Army.”

Teetz enlisted in August 2001 –- his tenth day of basic combat training was Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, he said, the attitude at basic training changed drastically. For him, it meant a new drive.

“It made me train harder,” Teetz said. “A lot of people got scared, a lot of people got more focused –- I guess I was one of the ones that got more focused.”

In 2003, Teetz deployed to Iraq to perform ground surveillance reconnaissance duties. It was in that dangerous, austere environment, he said, that he made some of his closest friends.

“When we finally got electricity up and running, everybody sent off for different things we wanted. I sent for an Xbox, my friend sent for a TV, and pretty soon we had a ‘Madden’ season going.”

But his tour wasn’t all fun and games. During his deployment, one of Teetz’s close friends was hit by an improvised explosive device.

“He had just had a kid, and it took a while to find out that he was okay. It was a scary time,” Teetz said.

After his Iraq deployment ended, Teetz was able to visit his friend in Germany.

“He was still limping around on crutches, but it was good to see him and ‘catch up,’” he said.

That camaraderie, Teetz said, is what made going to war worth it for him, noting he still keeps in touch with his battle buddies from Iraq using online networks like Facebook.

Teetz said his military service benefited him in another way.

“The military made me the man I am today,” he said. “I’m more on point, more responsible. It basically changed my life.”

(Veterans' Reflections is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm and present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veteran's Day.)

Today in the Department of Defense, Friday, November 26, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

Mullen Cites North Korea’s Unpredictability

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010North Korea’s artillery assault on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island yesterday is an issue of concern in a region that wants stability, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today on ABC’s “The View” television show.

Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, appeared on the daytime talk show to discuss a range of issues, including the situation on the Korean peninsula.

“There is worrisome leadership in North Korea,” Mullen said. “[North Korean President Kim Jong Il is] a very unpredictable guy, a very dangerous guy. This [attack] is also tied, we think, to the succession of his young, 27-year-old [son] who’s going to take over at some point in the future, and he continues to generate these kinds of events.”

Mullen said Americans should be concerned about North Korea’s volatile posture, but he noted that the United States has 28,000 troops in South Korea, where “we are very much aligned with in supporting them.”

“They are a strong ally. We need the region to stay very stable,” Mullen said. “[Kim Jong Il] is a guy who creates instability routinely. I think it’s very important, certainly with the Japanese and the South Koreans, but I also think it’s important for China, to lead. The one country that has influence in Pyongyang is China, so their leadership is absolutely critical.”

North Korea has worked hard to develop nuclear weapons, Mullen said, calling last week’s revelation of the uranium enrichment facility there “a big deal.” He said the facility has been described as sophisticated and modern.

“So, [If Kim Jong Il] continues on that path with nuclear weapons, or his son does, it could be a very dangerous outcome in the long term and it will at least destabilize an important part if the world,” the chairman said.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Mullen backed the idea of high-level screenings and pat downs at airports.

“The recent events of the two cargo planes that had bombs on them, and certainly the bomb in Times Square, the Detroit bomber [Christmas Day 2009], were all very real and indicative of the threat that’s out there,” he said. “[Terrorists] are still trying to kill as many Americans as they can, so it’s not going to go away.”

Turning to the possible repeal of the military’s so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Mullen said it is difficult to know what the outcome will be.

“For me,” Mullen said, “it’s been my personal view it is very difficult for an institution that values integrity like the military does to have people show up at work every day and lie about who they are.”

Deborah Mullen said she works with families of returning veterans. She’s also concerned about military’s suicide rate, noting that it is the “most devastating loss to a family.”

“Suicide is taboo in the civilian world. Nobody likes to talk about suicide,” she said. “There really have been no studies done on suicide, and the military is going to lead the way on this because they began a study on suicide about a year ago on a five-year study.”

What the military learns about suicide will be shared with the rest of nation and the world, she said.

Veterans’ Reflections: Third-Generation Sailor Recalls Service

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2010 – As a third-generation Navy man, John Gainer knew what kind of commitment and dedication it would take when he accepted a commission in 1992.

“Service to our country is one of the most important things you can do as a citizen of the United States,” he said. “It’s one thing my father taught me, and his father had taught him. It was something that was taught to us through our family -- that service and dedication to the cause of freedom is something to be upheld.”

While he was serving aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf following Operation Desert Shield, Gainer said, he was reminded almost daily of that dedication to service as he oversaw maritime intercept missions. He and his crew were a part of the Mideast Force’s naval blockade in 1994. If an incoming ship was thought to have cargo violating United Nations sanctions on Iraq, it was up to them to go through the ship’s hold to find it.

Gainer said some of his most vivid memories come from long days and nights, watching his crew dig through boxes and crates searching for contraband.

“Sometimes we would spend eight, 10, 12 hours out on a ship, going through crates and boxes, making sure there was nothing illegal being transported to Iraq,” he said. “Their dedication to that mission was most impressive to me.”

But the best glimpse into Gainer’s own dedication to his country comes in his humility about it. While some brag and boast of the great things they did while in uniform, Gainer said he was just happy to be able to work for the nation and, as he put it, “the cause of freedom.”

“I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to serve -- to serve the American people and to defend the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

(“Veterans’ Reflections” is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veterans Day.)