Military News

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hawaii Training Credited with Honing Strike Group Readiness

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay C. Pugh, Pacific Missile Range Facility Public Affairs

KAUAI, Hawaii (NNS) -- As the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Feb. 17, the CSG's Air Wing Commander credited the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) with improving the group's readiness seven months earlier as it prepared to deploy.

"The Hawaii Range Complex provided realistic and challenging training opportunities for our air wing," said Capt. Dale Horan, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, embarked aboard Stennis.

The strike group returned to Hawaii on its way home from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation. Last summer, the strike group conducted more than 200 hours of training in Hawaii waters. On deployment, Horan believes the strike group demonstrating the value of the range complex to the Navy.

"It allowed us to further hone our strike and close-air support skills and procedures, helping us to operate at a high level of effectiveness throughout deployment as we provided support to forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

PMRF on Kauai, an element of the Hawaii Range Complex, continues to be an asset for the Department of the Navy due to the range's ability to provide integrated range services in a modern, multithreat, multidimensional environment, from space to the ocean floor that ensures the safe conduct and evaluation of training and test and evaluation missions.

"PMRF, located Hawaii, is ideally situated to support training to meet readiness requirements for Navy and joint forces based on Hawaii, as well as for U.S. Naval Forces transiting to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean for deployment. The range has capabilities to support training in all Navy primary mission and warfare areas," said Bob Kay, PMRF's deputy range operations officer. "As a diverse and important training, test and evaluation resource, PMRF furthers the Navy's ability to protect and serve our nation and our allies."

PMRF has also been the primary location for Missile Defense Agency testing since the 1990s and while these test and evaluation missions gather much of the spotlight, the critical training value of PMRF to U.S. and allied military forces is often overlooked. Last year, the Stennis Strike Group was just one of the groups to use PMRF. In 2011, PMRF supported 22,337 training hours which included 788 unit training events and 640 aircraft.

According to Kay, PMRF's training opportunities benefit not only the U.S. Pacific Fleet but also allies and friends of the United States.

The largest training exercise held in Hawaii waters is the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) multi-national event, which has been conducted since 1971. The RIMPAC 2010 exercise involved approximately 20,000 Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen from the joint services of 14 allied and partner countries. PMRF provided exercise participants the opportunity to conduct live-fire events. This opportunity is cited as a major reason many of the allied forces participate; because they do not have such capability at home.

"They are looking forward to the next RIMPAC training event because it brings their proficiency up as a real test of their capabilities," said Ron Sakoda, Sen. Daniel Inouye's Kauai field representative who embarked Stennis Feb. 16-17 as they made their way to Hawaii, to see, first-hand, the benefits of training.

"It was an experience second to none," said Sakoda, who observed flight operations as Stennis approached Hawaii. "The Sailors were very dedicated to their work and they bring our Navy to a higher level."

California Air Guard members go above and beyond to save lives

By Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge
California National Guard

FRESNO, Calif.  — Over the last several months multiple California Air National Guard members have been placed in scenarios - off duty - where their decisions and actions made the difference between losing a life and getting a second chance - here are their stories.

Saving a chief:
On Jan. 27, Airmen 1st Class Tod Miley and David Hutchason, both California Air National Guard members with the 144th Fighter Wing, were working at their civilian place of employment when they heard a car accident outside their building.

When they headed out to see what happened they saw a classic car crashed into a tree with an unresponsive elderly man slumped over in the front seat.

At that time, both airman acted instinctively and started administering self-aid and buddy care that they learned at the 144th FW.

Hutchason called 911 while Miley laid the driver on the front seat and began to initiate CPR. Hutchason stayed on the line with the 911 operator and was instructed to move the driver out of the car, while continuing chest compressions, and to lay him on the ground.

They continued to provide aid until paramedics arrived.

Miley says that he feel fortunate that he and Hutchason were around when the accident happened - because of their training.

“It was definitely being in the right place at the right time, we were there, did what we had to do and then walked away when the paramedics took over, he said. “We didn’t even know if he survived until much later when I received a call from someone at the 144th, telling us who this man was and that he had survived this accident.”

Unbeknownst to them, the man the two airmen had saved was retired Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Pollastrini, who was on his way home from his civilian job at the 144th FW, when he suffered a heart attack.

“It was a huge relief finding out that what we did actually saved a life,” Hutchason said.

Pollastrini’s wife Kathy added that three cardiologists from the hospital had told her that he would not have survived the ordeal if Hutchason and Miley hadn’t responded the way they did.

A week after the accident Pollastrini told the young Airmen, “You guys did a good thing, my grandkids really appreciate it.”

Fast actions on vacation:
Just before Christmas 2011, another Airman from the 144th Maintenance Group was on vacation in San Diego, California. Air Force Staff Sgt. Scott Calhoun, an avionics specialist, was looking out at the bay and noticed something floating in the water.

Without hesitation, he leaped over the fence railing and headed for the water - yelling back at the crowd to call 911 as he entered the frigid water.

He swam approximately 40 yards to reach the individual and did an initial assessment of the victim.

“When I reached him, he was cold, blue and unresponsive. I grabbed him by his collar and pulled him back to shore,” Calhoun said.

Once they reached the shore, Calhoun assessed the situation and administered first-aid and buddy care to the victim.

“When I felt for a pulse, he spit up water and asked if he was in heaven,” Calhoun said.

He then treated the rescued man for hypothermia and shock by using sweatshirts from the on looking crowd and towels from the hotel pool.

The emergency medical service arrived on scene and transported the individual to a local hospital for further observation and treatment.

Calhoun credited his quick and calm reaction and self-aid and buddy care training, which he received as a member of the 144th FW and the Air National Guard, for knowing what to do in a life threatening situation.

Responding to the call:
Earlier in December 2011, Air Force Senior Airman Richard Sorondo, an Air Guard fire fighter with the 144th Civil Engineer Squadron and a full-time officer with the Fresno Police Department, was called to respond to an unresponsive victim.

Upon arriving to the dispatched residence, Sorondo was flagged down by a neighbor, Thomas Hite, and was directed to the incapacitated individual.

Apparently, the victim had fallen backwards off of his elevated porch on to the ground below where he remained until he was discovered by Hite.

After initial assessment, Sorondo determined that the individual required CPR, so he and Hite initiated the life saving technique until paramedics arrived.

Sorondo relied on the self-aid training instilled from the 144th FW and his police training to respond quickly and with appropriate action. The person whose life was saved is alive and well, thanks to the heroic actions of these two individuals.

USS Simpson Makes APS Port Visit in Ghana

By Lt. Cmdr. Suzanna Brugler, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

TEMA, Ghana (NNS) -- The flagship of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West 2012, USS Simpson (FFG 56), along with embarked staff, arrived in Tema, Ghana, Feb. 18 to begin their involvement with the APS 2012 Ghanaian hub.

The hub, taking place after a recent port visit to Nigeria, brings training designed to strengthen African maritime partnerships to improve maritime safety and security to more than 40 maritime professionals from the Ghanaian navy, as well as 10 ship riders from partner nations including Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Togo.

Simpson provides APS with a platform to give hands-on experience in a maritime working environment.

Simpson commanding officer, Cmdr. Leonard Milliken said the hub was an opportunity for him and his crew to build relationships, share knowledge with Ghanaian partners and show off their ship.

"The Simpson crew and I are excited about the opportunity of working with professionals from the Ghanaian navy," said Milliken. "It's an essential mission within our current maritime environment, bringing African solutions to global problems with international support."

Hub participants will attend courses on board Simpson in basic first aid and basic damage control. This training furthers APS objectives to strengthen maritime professionals and develop response capabilities while encouraging regional integration.

Milliken is scheduled to make office calls with senior leaders from Tema including Ghanaian navy base Command Operations Officer (COO), Cmdr. Emmanuel Kwafo; Tema Local Chief, Nii Adjei Kraku II; and Tema Mayor, the Honorable Robert Kempes Ofosuware.

Simpson Sailors will have the opportunity to partake in local cultural tours including a trip to nearby Akosombo, to embark on a day cruise on the world´s largest man-made lake, and to Kakum National Park, where they'll have the opportunity to look down on a rain forest from a canopy walk.

A friendly, unofficial soccer match with the Ghanaian navy is also scheduled for Simpson Sailors as an integral hub event, providing a means to enhance and enrich the APS training through fostering teamwork and camaraderie on the field and off.

The hub will end with a reception on board Simpson, co-hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, the Honorable Donald Teitelbaum, and Milliken.

Simpson will then depart Tema and participate in a scheduled passing exercise (PASSEX) with the Ghanaian navy ship Anzone, which will involve shipboard maneuvers out at sea, completing the hub´s APS training.

APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.

Simpson is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Sixth Fleet area of responsibility.

Alaska Air Guard members rescue head-on collision victims

Alaska National Guard Courtesy report

CAMP DENALI, Alaska — In a joint effort with the Coast Guard, the Alaska Air National Guard successfully rescued two injured men after their vehicles collided head-on Wednesday.

At 2:45 p.m. Alaska Standard Time Wednesday, the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center received a request for assistance from the Coast Guard in rescuing two 61-year-old men who had multiple life-threatening injuries, to include one with a fractured pelvis, said Air force Maj. Alex Lang.

At 3:42 p.m. Alaska Standard Time, an Alaska Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and an HC-130 “King” aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, both with “Guardian Angels” from the 212th Rescue Squadron on board, launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, tasked with transporting the victims from the Providence Seward Medical & Care Center to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

“We spoke with the doctors at the hospital in Seward, validating the need for immediate transport to Anchorage,” Lang said. “We were the only ones who had the capabilities to fly in the adverse weather at the time.”

According to the RCC, LifeMed Alaska launched its helicopter in an attempt to pick up the second patient but returned to base within the hour because of the white-out conditions.

“Our helicopters have more capabilities, to include two engines and air-refueling, that gives us the ability to fly confidently in more severe weather,” Lang said. “And because of that, we were able to successfully complete the mission.”

The Alaska Air National Guard was awarded two saves for the mission.

Dempsey Discusses U.S.-China Relations, Middle East Challenges

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – The military’s strategic shift to the Pacific region provides an opportunity to improve U.S.-China relations, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

"In our re-strategy, we've taken a decision to rebalance ourselves toward the Pacific," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. "I think this is more opportunity than liability to improve our relationship with China and I am personally committed to having that as the outcome rather than get into an arms race or into some kind of confrontation with China."

Dempsey also discussed security challenges in the Middle East and said Egypt may produce the first democracy borne out of the Arab Spring civilian uprising that began a year ago.

"I do think that the Arab Spring can produce a democracy and I'd be eager to see a competition of ideas actually play out," he said. "But I'm concerned because in some ways I think the competition of ideas may be somewhat stymied."

The chairman, who visited Egypt earlier this month, said he spoke with senior Egyptian leaders regarding the release of 19 Americans being held and how it could impact relations.

"I can tell you we came to a very clear understanding of how serious this is," he said. "And also a clear understanding that our relationship would be somewhat stalled until this particular issue is resolved.”

That said, Dempsey said he reinforced the importance of U.S.-Egyptian military relations. "I do believe that Egypt is, in many ways, a cornerstone of the future of the region in that if this Arab Spring is to have a positive outcome, I think we'll see it first in Egypt. The stakes are extraordinarily high and I made that clear."

Dempsey said he believes Egyptian military leaders are eager to cede power, although they maintain some vested interests. "I think that the various parties in Egypt are kind of circling each other trying to determine just what they intend to do," he said.

"My personal observation is I think that the military is actually eager to cede power because they've experienced how challenging it can be to, as they describe it, manage the street, manage the media, manage a judiciary."

Although the military has largely run the country for decades, Dempsey said, “they haven't been under the unblinking eye of the people in the media in this new world in which they find themselves."

Dempsey also discussed Israel's relationship with Iran and its potential to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. "I think that Israel has the capability to strike Iran and delay the capability of Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons status probably for a couple of years," he said. "But some of the targets are probably beyond their reach, and of course that's what concerns them."

U.S. officials have told the Israelis that "it’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran," Dempsey said. "That's been our counsel to our allies, the Israelis," he said. "We also know, or believe we know, that the Iranian regime has not decided that they will embark on the efforts to weaponize their nuclear capability."

"I'm confident that they understand our concerns," Dempsey said, "that a strike at this point would be destabilizing and wouldn't achieve their long-term objectives.” He added that he understands Israel’s unique national security challenges.

On a recent trip to Israel, Dempsey said, he had candid conversations with senior Israeli leaders.

Dempsey said he believes it would be premature to use the military option for Iran while diplomacy is effective. "I think that the economic sanctions and the international cooperation that we've been able to gather around sanctions is beginning to have an effect," he said. "I think that our diplomacy is having an effect, and our preparedness."

U.S. officials believe Iran is “a rational actor,” and as long as that is the case, Dempsey said, “we think the current path that we're on is the most prudent at this point."

President Obama's Milwaukee visit begins, ends at Wisconsin Air Guard base

By Air National Guard 2nd Lt. Nathan Wallin
Wisconsin National Guard

MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin Air National Guard's 128th Air Refueling Wing was part of a collaborative effort between government, law enforcement and military agencies supporting President Barack Obama's visit here Wednesday.

For three specific 128th Airmen - Air Force Col. Mike Mayo, 128th Vice Wing Commander; Air Force Senior Airman Justin Gruber, a KC-135R Stratotanker crew chief and Air Force Airman 1st Class Darla Tokarski, a cargo specialist for the 128th's Small Air Terminal - the day was particularly memorable. Each in their own way had direct contact with either the president or Air Force One.

Mayo, a 128th KC-135 Stratotanker command pilot and 25-year Air Force veteran, was struck by how apprehensive he didn't feel, and was perfectly comfortable when he greeted the president.

"It was a very comfortable atmosphere," Mayo said.

The president shook Mayo's hand twice, gave him his personal presidential coin and thanked Mayo for his service to our country. Looking back, Mayo said that walking up to Air Force One and greeting the president of the United States was special.

"It's one of those things [that are] kind of surreal," he said. "But it's an honor."

While Mayo's task was to welcome the president, Gruber was tasked to "chock" Air Force One - that is, place large and long blocks at the front and back of the aircraft's front wheel to keep the aircraft in place while it's parked on the ramp.

Gruber, who enlisted in the Wisconsin Air Guard in 2007, was mildly awestruck by the enormity of Air Force One and a presidential visit, yet he remained focused on doing his job well.

"Chocking an aircraft is chocking an aircraft. It's not a hard task, but you feel like you have to perform more," he said.

However, Gruber was acutely aware of the extra security presence and media attention. "I looked behind me and there's about 10 cameras, all eyes are looking at you," he said.

This wasn't the first time Gruber had chocked Air Force One, or interacted with the president - he'd twice previously met the president and shook his hand on both occasions - the significance of the day's events were not lost on the 24-year-old Airman.

"Looking out at that plane, and what it stands for, that's the real neat part about it," he said.

Tokarski has been in the Air Guard a mere 14 months and she's only been fully trained and certified on her job duties for seven months. Nonetheless, she was deemed by her supervisors to drive the stair truck to Air Force One.

Driving the stair truck at a slow pace towards the aircraft, she didn't take her eyes off the Air Force One staffer motioning to her with hand signals.

"They told me not to look at the plane, just keep your eyes on the crew chief," she said.

Once Tokarski had placed the stair truck next to Air Force One and she had the vehicle in position, only then did she allow herself a brief glimpse at the enormous Boeing 747 aircraft only a few feet away.

As she looked upwards at the jet and saw the oversized presidential seal on the side of the fuselage, she heard and felt a "tap-tap-tap-tap" above her head. A secret service agent at her side next to the stair truck leaned in and told her, "He's at your six."

"I looked in the mirror and, sure enough, he was right there," Tokarski said. "Most people don't get that close to the president. Had they told me, when I met with the recruiter, that I'd be doing this, it's too good to be true.

"It was a great day," she said.