Military News

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Panetta: DIA ‘Quiet Heroes’ Mark 50th Anniversary

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2011 – Every day the quiet heroes of the Defense Intelligence Agency collect, distill and distribute information that helps America’s warriors defeat its enemies, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

The secretary joined DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, and more than 500 distinguished guests at a ceremony here celebrating the agency’s 50th anniversary.

During the ceremony, defense officials from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom presented Burgess with gifts, and a tribute was made to fallen DIA colleagues.

“In commemorating this milestone,” Panetta said, “we all pay tribute to DIA’s half-century of extraordinary work defending our nation against a multitude of threats, a multitude of challenges, from the height of the Cold War to the post-9/11 conflicts.”

A lot has changed in the last 50 years, the secretary added, “but one thing that remains the same is that we cannot accomplish our military objectives -- it’s a fundamental principle -- … without good intelligence. The two have to work together if we’re going to achieve the ultimate victory.”

The DIA’s vital work makes the U.S. military vastly more effective and lethal, Panetta said, and America a stronger and more secure nation.

“As we take this moment to reflect on the last 50 years,” Burgess told the audience, “it is important to consider the decisions made by our nation’s leaders at a very different time and place, and how those decisions and deliberations influence our world today.”

In the summer of 1961, he said, during deliberations over the creation of DIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a report to then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that “‘national intelligence and military intelligence are indivisible in practice.’”

Burgess added, “This important statement remains as clear, urgent, and relevant on our 50th anniversary.”

Seven former DIA directors also attended, including Clapper, who led the agency from 1992 to 1995.

“We ought to give a thought to just how fortunate we are to have not one, but two secretaries of defense in succession who both served as directors of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Clapper said, “and who obviously understand, support and care about intelligence.”

Panetta said his own DIA connection began in the mid-1960s when he was an Army intelligence officer and one of his first assignments was to the DIA office in Washington.

“Since then,” he said, “I’ve always had a great respect for the work of DIA, which has become a central part of the military and intelligence community’s efforts around the world.”

DIA was born in an era when the nation faced down a single adversary, and the potential consequences of conflict with the Soviet Union were so profound that it was critical to have the most accurate, prompt information “to prevent what we all knew would be global calamity,” Panetta said.

Less than a year later, he added, DIA faced its first great test when the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a world war.

“I remember all of those scenes from that moment. The iconic photos of the surface-to-air missiles arranged across a Cuban airfield that provided direct evidence of the threat to our homeland,” he said.

“Those images,” the secretary added, “… shot by a U-2 reconnaissance plane, were done on flight paths determined by DIA analysis.”

Months after the crisis, Panetta said, President John F. Kennedy called on John Hughes, special assistant to the DIA director, to deliver a nationally televised briefing to reassure the nation that the Soviet missiles had been withdrawn.

“It was a moment that defined the DIA as a vital vehicle for keeping America safe,” he said. “And that sentiment is as true today as it was 50 years ago.”

Another defining moment for the United States and for the DIA was Sept. 11, 2001, Panetta said.

In the decade since the terrorist attacks, the secretary said, DIA has emerged stronger, better integrated and more integral to the fight against America’s terrorist enemies, and a driving force behind the comprehensive military-intelligence collaboration under way to defeat al-Qaida.

“We have come together as one to integrate the efforts among the DIA, DOD, CIA and all of the intelligence communities in the executive branch to become part of one great accomplishment of the post-9/11 era,” Panetta said, adding that the entire world saw the results of this teamwork with the operation that took down Osama bin Laden.

“Whether forward deployed overseas to support the war-fighting effort or from desks here in the Washington area, the men and women of the DIA stand more than ever at the center of our military’s efforts worldwide,” the secretary said.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Panetta added, DIA has provided essential tools and intelligence for battling insurgencies and locating high-value targets.

“All the while,” he said, “DIA has remained vigilant, never taking its eye off the emerging threats we face -– monitoring North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and looking at foreign military capabilities in space and cyberspace.”

This new era for DIA and the rest of the intelligence community builds on the proud traditions of the last 50 years, the secretary said, and extended to the agency his deep admiration for its achievements.

“I would like to say that as secretary of defense, and I would like to say that on behalf of the intelligence community that I had the honor to be a part of in my time here in Washington, a grateful nation … is safer and more secure due to your tireless efforts,” Panetta said.

“On behalf of the entire Department of Defense and on behalf of the American people,” he continued, “thank you for your continued outstanding devotion to duty to this country, thank you for your service, thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for all you do to protect this nation.”

If the test of DIA is whether or not it has made a difference, the secretary said, “I think that history will look at the DIA and say they did a job well done … and the result is that we have a safer and more secure life for our children in the future.”

In the end, he added, “there can be no greater legacy.”

Face of Defense: Soldier Seeks to Help Vets

By Rachel Park
III Corps

FORT HOOD, Texas, Sept. 29, 2011 – Army Spc. Alfred Newman feels at home at the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Medical Center, part of the Veterans Affairs Department in Temple, Texas.

Newman is one of the many Warrior Transition Brigade soldiers from Fort Hood taking part in Operation Warfighter internships around the state. The Defense Department developed the internship program to help wounded warriors gain job experience at government agencies.

Currently assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion here, Newman is interning in the VA’s human resources department.

"It was a fit for me. Prior to coming to the military, I worked in an office setting," Newman said. "I knew from my experience that I had to prepare myself to get back into the workforce. For me, it's all about preparation."

Newman was older than the typical recruit when he joined the Army in 2007.

"I came in when I was 41," he said. "I turned 42 in basic [training]. You have to want to do this, and I was a guy who wanted to do this. I wanted to do something challenging."

Newman deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq, in 2008 with the 404th Aviation Support Battalion. While deployed, he sustained some injuries, one while rendering aid to another soldier. Although serious, the injuries didn't impact his ability to perform his job and he finished the deployment with the unit.

He came here in May 2010, and while his medical issues were being resolved he began looking toward his future. Newman heard about the internship program, dusted off his resume and interviewed for the position at the VA. After a few months in the position, Newman believes he's found his future career.

"I like what I do," he said. "It's something that I will do when I transition out. First, [I'm going to] go to school, finish out my degree -- and then, human resources."

His supervisor, Houston Johnson, a human resources specialist at the Temple VA, said Newman is an excellent fit at the office.

"It's been a pleasure having [him in] the program," Johnson said of Newman. "For me, personally, being a veteran and a disabled veteran myself, to see [the WTB interns] come in, just to watch these guys grow, is great."

Newman has taken on a variety of tasks in the office, including personnel action reports and aiding the human resources specialists with their paperwork. He's performed the work so well he's even been mistaken for a new employee.

Johnson said he's not surprised Newman has done so well. He said the soldier’s work, especially with personnel actions, has improved the productivity of the entire department.

"With our personnel shortages and some of the slowdowns in the hiring with the budget, we're short a lot of positions," Johnson said. "Some things you have to put on the back burner, but it's very important you get these [personnel action reports] in a timely manner."

Newman said the internship doesn't just give him a job, it gives him a path for the rest of his life, and that's helped him professionally, emotionally and physically.

"Being through the WTB you're given the opportunity to heal," Newman said. "And I think one of things of healing at the WTB is being able to challenge yourself, being able to get into programs such as this one that can heal you not only physically, but mentally.

"Being here has helped me get back to the real world," he added. "I'm just trying to get back to my own self and being able to relate to each individual."

Anthony Thomas, the WTB transition coordinator, said he's excited about the program’s future at the VA.

"I appreciate Mr. Johnson and what the VA has done to bring our soldiers in here, because it's been a great opportunity," Thomas said. It's an opportunity that Thomas hopes will only continue to grow and develop.

Johnson said human resources and other directorates at the VA are enthusiastic about the program and hope to bring in more wounded warriors.

"We want you at the VA," he said. "A lot of the skills that soldiers learn make them excellent employees. They have that discipline. They have that teamwork and they understand that mission. This has made us really look at how we're doing business and really grow too. We're excited about it."

Newman said the internship through Operation Warfighter has given him a clearer picture about his future.

"I know what I can do and I think once I do transition out, [the VA] is where I want to be," he said. "It is helping people, so this is what I want to do."

‘Team Mullen’ Highlights Troops’ Service, Sacrifices

Admiral Mullen is a Vietnam veteran.  Discover these Vietnam War books written by veterans who fought there.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2011 – As “Team Mullen,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and his wife, Deborah, have championed the needs of service members and their families during the admiral’s four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The chairman is the principal military advisor to the president, vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense. Mullen turns over the chairmanship to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey tomorrow.

The Mullens have worked as a team to tell senior U.S. government officials, members of Congress, and influential business and civic leaders around the country about the efforts and sacrifices made by U.S. service members and their families, and how the public can connect with them. They also worked to improve military family programs, to improve care for wounded warriors, and, especially, to reach out to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Much of this went on mostly behind the scenes as operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya captured the headlines. The chairman found time for these personnel issues, even as he wrestled with budgetary pressures, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, a change in administrations, the Quadrennial Defense Review and countless other programs that demanded his attention.

The admiral and his wife spoke about their interest in the well-being of service members, their families and veterans during a recent interview.

The Mullens are, of course, a military family -- the admiral was commissioned in 1968 after attending the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to serve in the Vietnam War. Their two sons are also serving in the Navy.

But understanding the stress the wars have put on families was key in elevating their interest. Early in his tenure, Mullen and his wife traveled to three Army posts and an Army event in Denver. At Denver, “I stood in front of my very first group of Army spouses and I told them that I knew next to nothing about the Army and I asked them to educate me about their lives -- tell me about being an Army spouse,” Deborah Mullen said.

They did, and Mrs. Mullen still corresponds with some of the spouses from that meeting.

“It was the beginning of a long time of learning about not just the Army, but the other services and what they had gone through up to that point,” she said.

In 2007, many military spouses already had seen their husbands or wives head off for one or two year-long deployments. The admiral’s wife said the other military spouses told her about what the strain of deployments meant to their families. They spoke of spouses learning new jobs, she said, which meant new uncertainties to their families. They spoke of the need for new programs and facilities to handle these new stresses.

“[What] these spouses were experiencing was something entirely different, and that was a year with their loved ones in harm’s way, every day,” Mrs. Mullen said.

The Mullens’ goal was to find ways to make differences for these families, but they did not want to step on the toes of the service military leaders. “We don’t see ourselves as activists, but as advocates for those who have carried the burden,” the admiral said. “This has been in our heart and soul forever. It’s frankly why we stayed in the military, because of the people.”

The two wars and the long deployments have highlighted the roles of military families. Ten years ago, few military or civilian leaders discussed family matters. Today, it is rare for a senior military or civilian leader to not mention families. First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, have been very involved in reaching out to military families.

“That’s critical,” Mullen said. “It has a way of focusing everybody and making it a priority and making it much more difficult to drop the money out of it.”

This is not to say there won’t be changes. “The Army is famous for if you’ve got a problem, generate a program,” the admiral said. “I have said in many forums: I don’t need more programs. I need the ones we have to work, and the ones that are not working to go away.”

Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and current Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said they do not want to see family programs dry up for lack of funding.

“In a budget crunch, they are usually the first to go,” Mullen said. “I would argue that we keep the money the same and feed it in to programs that work and get rid of those that don’t.”

The Mullens have focused on the hand-off from DOD to the Veterans Affairs Department. DOD’s people, the admiral said, are its most precious asset. Yet, when their military terms end or when they are wounded, he noted, “we hand them off to another department that we really don’t know that much about.”

The admiral praised the Marine Corps for its Marine for Life program. The other services, he added, are also moving in that direction.

Mullen said the nation’s wounded warriors and veterans deserve prompt, quality services devoid of bureaucratic practices.

“These young ones who are in the wounded world, they want their lives back,” Mullen said. “They want to be as medically sound as they can be and continue to achieve the American dream. They deserve it.”

Mullen said early in his tenure as chairman that the money for wounded warriors and for the families of the fallen should come right off the top of the budget. “It’s a debt we can’t repay. These people deserve everything we can do for them,” he said.

The Mullens have visited wounded troops and their families, and have reached out to the families of the fallen. Both have visited Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., countless times. They have met with families and have formed bonds with them, and they tell Americans what the families of the fallen really want. “They ask us not to forget their loved ones and their service,” Mrs. Mullen said.

When the Mullens meet the families in Section 60 or other cemeteries around the country, the families carry pictures of their loved ones and tell stories about their service members, she said.

“They want you to know what happened to their loved ones, and they want to bring them alive to you,” she said. “They want to share the real person with you so when you walk through Section 60, you know that family and that person. Maybe we never met them, but we know who they are. For us that’s a sacred trust and promise we’ve made to the families who have lost someone.”

The admiral remembered meeting a family in Boise, Idaho.

“The mother came up to me and said, ‘We’ll never forget them, but please don’t you ever forget them,’” he said.

Mrs. Mullen had a family email her about a picture they saw online of their loved one’s headstone in Arlington. “They noticed right off that something that looked like a chip in the stone, and they asked me to look at it,” she said. “I went and it was a little spider web that was dark and looked like a chip. I brushed it off and sent them a picture to reassure them that it looked exactly as it was supposed to look.

“This is where their son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father is buried and it’s important to them that it’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Mrs. Mullen continued. “These requests are representative of the families. We need to honor their sacrifices.”

Getting the American public to understand the extent and scope of the sacrifices made by service members and military families is difficult. Less than 1 percent of Americans are serving in the military. Fewer and fewer Americans personally know of people who have served.

“It’s not that they don’t love and respect the troops, but they don’t know what the troops and their families have been through,” the admiral said.

As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen has often been in the news. He has appeared many times on Sunday morning talk shows, been the subject of a “60 Minutes” profile and has had a constant and two-way communication with the Pentagon press corps. But he and Deborah have reached out beyond the normal information conduits. They both appeared on “The View,” and the admiral appeared three times on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” They have traveled the length and breadth of the United States to speak with the American people, to meet with veterans groups and help families.

“The American people want to help their service members and their families,” the admiral said. “There is a sea of goodwill out there for them. They need to know how they can help.”

The Mullens will step back a bit after the admiral retires tomorrow. Earlier this month he spoke of “taking a long winter’s nap” following his retirement. But both said they want to remain involved with service members, veterans and their families.

And the couple said they’ll do their best to connect the American people with their military.

Face of Defense: Airman Improves Dust Storm Predictability

By Air Force Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
47th Flying Training Wing

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Sept. 28, 2011 – Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Jenkins refused to accept during his deployment in Iraq that the region’s dangerous dust storms could not be better predicted. As his squadron’s weather flight noncommissioned officer in charge, he took it upon himself to change that.

Jenkins, with the 47th Operations Support Squadron here, recently was deployed to Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, when he decided to give himself a research project before devising a plan to improve dust storm forecasts.

In the United States, he said, "we typically work with water-based weather such as rain, snow and thunderstorms. When you're out in [U.S. Central Command areas], you don't typically see that much. It's more blowing dust and sand storms. Because our models aren't built to work with that, it tends to be … more unreliable than what your typical weather forecast would be.”

That problem gave the military unit only about 10 to 15 percent accuracy in predicting dust storms, he said.

After about five months of research, Jenkins said, he devised a math formula that launched predictability to 80 percent accuracy for predicting dust storms. While the improved accuracy may not be needed much stateside, he said, it will be vital in many areas of Centcom.

"In the field, it will make sure [warfighters] will have air support for whatever immediate mission they are on, and have it more reliably," Jenkins said.

"Blowing dust and dust storms can provide huge impacts to missions and to ground personnel," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Aragon, the weather operations flight’s noncommissioned officer in charge. "Personnel can even be lost in an unforecasted event. So, having better tools to forecast these events can work to our advantage by being able to predict occurrences with the same accuracy as with forecasting rain and thunder, or even fog."

Every tool available is needed in a hostile location, Aragon said. "Everything we do is so time-sensitive and element-critical that we need every available tool, product and method that we can spare," he said. "It is something that is proven enough that the National Weather Service and Army research agencies are interested in its applications. This tells me that we need it in the field yesterday."

In the past year, Aragon helped Jenkins show his findings to people who would allow them to prosper and move toward implementation, including officials at the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

With the research completed and with the weather agency’s stamp of approval, training and field distribution is to begin next year, Jenkins said.

That accomplishment speaks volumes about Jenkins, Aragon said.

“When an airman comes up with an idea or concept and works to test its usefulness, it speaks highly of their dedication to the mission,” Aragon said. "When you have the mettle to push it further, to ensure that it reaches as many eyes as possible with the goal of making it commonplace for how we conduct standard [operations], that speaks volumes about character."

Check out the best Air Force books written by Air Force vets who made a difference!

Guam Sailors Volunteer to Clean Up Local Parks

By Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Claire Farin, USS Frank Cable Public Affairs

AGAT, Guam (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) and various commands of Naval Base Guam (NBG) gathered together for the International Coastal Cleanup of Local Parks Sept. 24.

Sailors, along with their family members, picked up trash along the coastal line, cut bushes and trimmed invasive vegetation to clear the pathway while others planted tree seedlings in the area.

"It's a great opportunity to give back to the community," said Chief Navy Counselor John Jeffries, assigned to NBG, the overall volunteer coordinator for this local event. "It's a good time to go out and meet interesting people in the community and the different commands."

Along with Frank Cable and NBG, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC 25), the Naval Hospital and the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) also joined the coastal clean-up effort.

"I think everybody is pitching in no matter what their level of motivation is," said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Joel Glanz from HSC 25. "It's definitely been a positive outcome."

A major part of the clean up focused on maintenance of Asan Beach Parks and the War in the Pacific National Historical Park at Ga'am point. Located in the southern coast of the island of Guam, Ga'am point was one of the landing sites used by U.S. forces to liberate Guam during World War II.

"This site was a very significant point during the battle to liberate Guam in 1944 where the fiercest fighting of the battle was done," said Ben Hayes, the local park ranger. "There are pretty significant cultural resources here including guns and pillboxes, which we are helping to maintain today."

"I am really happy and honored that we have such a big turn out for the National Public Lands Day," said Hayes.

Frank Cable conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.