Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Face of Defense: Air Force Officer Tackles NFL Dream

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Valencia
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., April 25, 2012 – At 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 305 pounds, Air Force 2nd Lt. Ben Garland looks more like a football player than a typical officer.

That’s because he's a defensive lineman contracted to play for the NFL’s Denver Broncos. Garland will attend the team's conditioning and tryout camps which last through mid-June.

The 23-year-old Air Force Academy graduate has been approved to be released from active duty through the Air Force’s Palace Chase program, which offers qualified active duty enlisted members and commissioned officers the opportunity to petition for transfer to National Guard or Reserve status.

Meanwhile, Garland has spent his time here performing a disciplined balancing act to meet Air Force and NFL physical fitness requirements.

"To play defensive lineman you have to be a pretty big guy. I need to be around 300 pounds to stay competitive and that's not really the Air Force body type where you're going to run a mile and a half really fast and you're going to have a small waist," said Garland, who served here as the 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs chief of media operations. "Even with the pushups and sit-ups, you're pulling and pushing a lot more weight than the average Air Force member so it makes the testing extremely difficult."

But, Garland's no stranger to achievement, as he aced his most-recent fitness assessment with an overall score of 90.4, though he admits that meeting the waist measurement is the toughest part since it does not take into consideration height or body composition. For maximum points, his waist needed to be less than 35 inches, and in order not to fail it had to be no more than 39 inches. He measured 38 inches.

"I know a lot of people who struggle with the waist measurement; it has been difficult trying to maintain standards and be competitive in football," said Garland, a Denver native. "But it's one of those things you have to take and push through. You have to take the Air Force standards and make them your No. 1 priority."

Garland said the Air Force has been his top priority ever since he dreamed about becoming an Air Force officer. He had received athletic scholarship offers from several top-ranked football schools but instead worked to earn an academy appointment purely on academics and leadership.

"I wanted to earn it. I did not want to be given a waiver or an exception because I was a football player. I wanted to be evaluated and accepted in every area and get in on my own merit
-- it meant more to me that way," Garland said.

During his successful career at the academy where he majored in systems engineering management and became well known for his on-field intensity, several professional football teams showed interest in signing him.

Air Force 1st Lt. Tyler Weeks, a fellow academy football player, described Garland as “a relentless, physical, and dominating football player who gives 100-percent effort on every play” and never quits.

“Ben has always been a loyal teammate who motivates others to perform at their highest potential. His example and encouragement lift the play of those around him and make Ben a valued member of any team," said Weeks, a former offensive lineman who now serves as Air Mobility Command’s financial management and comptroller executive officer.

Though Garland had been preparing to become a pilot, when the opportunity came to play professional football, he made "the tough call."

"I dreamt of flying for the Air Force ... and playing in the NFL for the Broncos ... it was a tough choice but I ultimately decided to play for my home team," Garland said.

The Broncos gave him a three-year contract and placed him on inactive reserve status so he could complete his Air Force commitment. As an academy graduate Garland was committed to serving two years active duty before being eligible to separate. After graduation he served as a strength and conditioning coach at the academy until the Air Force sent him to become a public affairs officer with his first duty station here.

He arrived here in July 2011 and it didn't take too long for people to start noticing the big guy around the base.

"I didn't think anyone was aware of my intentions to be a professional football player," Garland said. "No one let on they knew and if they did, I didn't see it at first. But, then I would be training at the gym, and people would ask me questions about football, about Tim Tebow, [former] quarterback for the Denver Broncos, or someone would just ask for fitness tips."

If there is a perception that football players are just "dumb jocks" then getting to know Garland breaks that perception very quickly, according to his supervisor here.

"We absolutely adore Lieutenant Garland!" said Karen Petitt, chief of public affairs. "He's this big gentle giant with a great laugh, strength of character, and genuine interest in his team. He's got this amazing gift for details and a memory that keeps us on track with all the taskings that come our way.

“Everyone just naturally looks to him as a leader,” Petitt continued, “but not because he's the 'office linebacker' like you see on those TV commercials, but because he's got integrity and charisma, and they know they can depend on him."

Weeks agreed, noting that Garland is a humble, easy-going person who gives back to the community and mentors young athletes.

"Ben's athleticism and sheer work ethic stand out the most,” Weeks said. “Some players rely on athleticism alone to be 'good' players. Ben has become a 'great' player because he dedicates every fiber of himself to becoming a better athlete every day."

Garland said he's not bothered by football player stereotypes.

"Everyone who plays -- even at the college level -- is continually analyzing and thinking multiple steps ahead of what they're going to do and how it will affect the game,” he said. “To understand the schemes and understand what goes into the full game, you have to be intelligent even if you're only intelligent in the ways of football.”

When he's wasn't leading the public affairs office’s 27-person shop through mobility exercises, crisis response situations or media events, Garland traded in his uniform for PT gear to put in another five hours at the gym to keep competitive for the Broncos training camp. Though he has signed a contract with the Broncos, he said, there's still a vigorous selection process.

Garland said he kept his workouts consistent no matter what obstacles got in the way. Even when tired or sick, or after a long day, he pushed through to get his workout in.

"Some days I might work a 12-hour shift, go home and eat a full meal until I'm stuffed, and then I go work out as hard as I can because I know there's some other guy out there working as hard as he can to beat me out for that roster spot,” he said. “I also know there is someone who is training hard to line up across from me, so I need to stay on top of my game for that.”

Garland said he must consume between 6,000 and 8,000 calories a day to fuel his body. A typical day's worth of food, he said, consists of different combinations of lean meats, vegetables, protein and good fats such as nuts and avocados. Eating that much food is expensive and his average grocery bill reached $200 a week.

"My diet is nowhere near the average airman's," Garland said. "I have to eat so much food that it can be tough scheduling it around working out and the full-time commitments of the Air Force. But, it's all about discipline. You have to balance everything while keeping focused on your end goals."

With what remained of his spare time on the weekends, Garland read books on football defense and studied the game -- always looking for ways to improve. Those who know Garland believe he’ll achieve his goal of becoming an NFL player. Garland gives credit to the Air Force.

"The Air Force has influenced me on the football field in every aspect from work ethic to teaching me how to work as a team member to just being disciplined," Garland said. "In the Air Force it’s, ‘Excellence In All We Do,’ and on the football field you put that same excellence into every play. If your job is to hold this gap, then I'm going to do everything in my power to be in that gap."

Meanwhile, Garland’s supporters here say they’ll cheer him on throughout the Broncos tryouts.

"I work hard and served the best that I could," Garland said. "I dedicated myself to serving my country ... and now it's time to play some football!”

Lucky Mariner 2012 Kicks Off in Arabian Gulf

By Lt. Greg D. Raelson, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- In an effort to combat against mining threats in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), personnel from Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS), Military Sealift Command and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) arrived for exercise Lucky Mariner 2012, April 15.

Exercise Lucky Mariner 2012 is an annual U.S. Navy, coalition, and commercial shipping NCAGS exercise in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR designed to integrate the civil-military response to a global shipping threat, and concludes April 28.

The ongoing exercise flexes the mobilization and expeditionary nature of NCAGS, a component of U.S. Fleet Forces, while integrating with the Maritime Liaison Office, United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization, U.S. Maritime Administration and the commercial shipping industry to execute crisis response plans for strengthening civil-military cooperation. The goal of these partnerships is to ensure a coordinated response in the event of a naval mine threat to the safety and freedom of navigation of merchants who deliver goods and energy resources throughout the world.

"The free flow of commerce is vital to the global economy. Mines pose a threat to all maritime traffic, regardless of nationality or purpose; we can, and will, respond to any threats or disruptive behavior by those who wish to interrupt freedom of navigation," said Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander, NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces. "Exercise Lucky Mariner is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the synergy between the U.S. Navy and the international maritime industry."

The weeklong exercise focuses on the threat of waterborne mining to shipping, and includes a variety of conferences to discuss how to best ensure safety and stability of the seas for international commercial traffic.

"One of the main goals during Lucky Mariner is to focus on the growing emphasis and importance of collaboration amongst all parties involved, with particular attention to our work with commercial shipping partners to better understand their requirements, concerns and expectations during a crisis situation." said U.S. Navy Capt. Lance Snider, commanding officer, Navy Reserve NCAGS Chicago.

Panetta Calls for Closer Military Relations With Brazil

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2012 – The relationship between the United States and Brazil is between two global powers, and American officials welcome the warming ties with the South American powerhouse, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during a speech to Brazil’s Superior War College in Rio de Janeiro today.

The speech comes a day after Panetta and Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim conducted the first U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Dialogue meeting in Brasilia.

“We support Brazil as a global leader, and seek closer defense cooperation, because we believe that a stronger and more globally engaged Brazil will help enhance international security,” Panetta said in prepared remarks released by the Pentagon.

The United States and Brazil have cooperated in real-world operations and have expanded joint training and exercises. “The United States military has been receiving more requests to participate in Brazilian-hosted military exercises and attend Brazilian military schools,” the secretary said.

U.S. military personnel are again training at the Brazilian Army’s Instruction Center for Jungle Warfare. U.S. ships and personnel exercise and patrol together from the shores of Rio de Janeiro to the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Africa. Two years ago, the U.S. Air Force participated for the first time in the Brazilian Air Force’s CRUZEX multinational air exercise. The Brazilian Air Force will return the favor and participate in the American Red Flag exercise next year.

Brazilian and U.S. personnel worked together following the Haiti earthquake. The Brazilians have also participated in a number of United Nations missions around the world.

“Still, I think we can all agree that there is much more we can do together, and that it is in all of our interests to pursue a shared vision of deeper defense cooperation that advances peace and security in the 21st century,” Panetta said. The defense dialogue seeks to find ways to deepen and extend military cooperation between the two nations.

Panetta wants to expand sharing technology with the Brazilians. “I would like to find a way for our defense institutions to improve cooperation on research through exchange programs between our scientific establishments and joint research projects,” he said.

One area of immediate concern is in cybersecurity. Both the United States and Brazil face severe threats from cyber attacks. “I believe both of our nations must leverage our extensive technical expertise and exchange more information on cyber policies, training and best practices,” he said.

These exchanges could help Brazil as the country gears up for soccer’s World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, the secretary said.

Looking overseas, Panetta thinks the United States and Brazil can cooperate on other continents. “Both of our nations have historic connections to Africa and have a strategic interest in stability on the continent,” he said. “We should explore ways for our two militaries to work together to assist African militaries, such as by conducting combined exercises and other forms of training.”

The United States and Brazil have cooperated to help areas affected by natural disasters. Panetta called on the two militaries to work even more closely together.

Panetta also wants growth in trade in the defense arena. “The United States seeks to increase high-tech defense trade, flowing in both directions,” he said. “Perhaps the most prominent example of our willingness to partner with Brazil on advanced defense technology is the United States government’s offer to provide our Super Hornet fighter aircraft to the Brazilian Air Force.”

The offer has strong support in the U.S. Congress. “But this offer is about much more than providing Brazil with the best fighter available,” he said. “With the Super Hornet, Brazil’s defense and aviation industries would be able to transform their partnerships with U.S. companies, and they would have the best opportunity to plug into worldwide markets.”

Panetta said he believes that increased military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Brazil would benefit both nations.

“I do believe that our common interests are so great, and the possibilities that come from our cooperation are so tangible, that we must seize this opportunity to build a stronger defense partnership for the future,” he said.

Minnesota Guard weather flight conducts joint training exercise

By Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Jessica Reller
Minnesota National Guard

STILLWATER, Minn. (4/25/12) -- In rainy conditions, the Minnesota National Guard’s 208th Weather Flight, 133rd Airlift Wing, conducted a joint field training exercise with Marines at William H. O'Brien State Park April 13 to15.

Sixteen Guard members, along with three Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 471 U.S. Naval- Marine Corps Reserve Readiness Center Minneapolis, participated in valuable hands-on training. The purpose of the training was to keep the Airmen in the flight familiar with field conditions. The flight primarily provides support for the Army which, if deployed, may establish a forward operating base.

Members of the unit used their skills in tactical weather observations, self-aid buddy care, identification of improvised explosive devises and unexploded ordinances along with enemy detainment during their seven mile land navigation course.

This course was designed by Air Force Master Sgt. Kyle Mack and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Uhl.

More training took place in their weather forecasting tent back at camp. Throughout the weekend, the team practiced how to continue their job during different mission oriented protective posture levels in case of an attack.

Marine Cpl. Kyle Morman was not new to working with the 208th Weather Flight, but this was his first off-site field training exercise with them. He said that he was excited to be working alongside the Air Force and out in the field,

“For weather, we get better training just coming over dealing with the Air Force because they are more equipped with support,” Morman said.

The Airmen and Marines were able to enjoy a hot meal despite the cold and rainy weather thanks to Mack. “I wanted to build the guys' morale even though that's not always how it is in the real world,” he said as he prepared pancakes and bacon for their Saturday morning breakfast.