Thursday, June 14, 2012

Panetta Praises Legacy on Army’s 237th Birthday

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 – In a message congratulating the Army on its 237th birthday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today praised soldiers who built the service’s legacy and those who now carry it forward.

Here is the text of the secretary’s message:

As we mark the birthday of the United States Army, I want to congratulate this great American institution for 237 years of distinguished service in defense of this country. The proud story of the American soldier is one of honor, valor, patriotism, and sacrifice in the service of their countrymen. From those earliest volunteers who stepped forward to join the ranks of the Continental Army to those who fought at Gettysburg, in the Argonne Forest, at Normandy, Bastogne, in Korea and Vietnam, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American soldier has shaped the course of world history.

I am proud of the opportunity I had to serve in the ranks of the United States Army. I¹ll always cherish those memories of Army life, and the honor I felt in being part of an extraordinary team.

For ten long years the Army has shouldered a heavy burden, fighting in Iraq¹s city streets and in the mountains of Afghanistan. And through it all, American soldiers stepped bravely forward, marched off towards the sound of the guns, and gave everything to provide for our security, to give all Americans a better, safer future. They have done everything this country has asked of them and more.

I have been deeply fortunate in my position as Secretary of Defense over this past year to have visited many Army installations and thousands of soldiers serving around the world, including those on the front lines. These soldiers, and their families, carry forward the proud and distinguished legacy we celebrate today, and because of their dedication, the United States Army will remain the strongest in the world.

U.S., South Korea, Japan to Conduct Naval Exercise

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 – The United States, South Korea and Japan will conduct a two-day, trilateral naval exercise June 21-22 in the waters south of the Korean Peninsula, the Pentagon announced in a news release issued yesterday.

The exercise will focus on improving interoperability and communications with the South Korean navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, which can facilitate cooperative disaster relief and maritime security activities in the future, according to the release.

The three navies will conduct this exercise beyond the territorial waters of any coastal nation, the release said.

The United States will then conduct a routine carrier operation with the South Korean navy in the Yellow Sea immediately after the trilateral exercise June 23-25, according to the release.

The George Washington Carrier Strike Group will make a port call in Busan, South Korea, after completing the two exercises, the release stated.

Airmen Missing from Vietnam War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling of Phoenix will be buried June 15 at Arlington National Cemetery. There will be a group burial honoring Walling and fellow crew member, Maj. Aado Kommendant of Lakewood, N.J., at Arlington National Cemetery, on Aug. 8 -- the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives.

On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C aircraft that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam. Other Americans in the area reported seeing the aircraft crash and no parachutes were deployed. Search and rescue efforts were not successful in the days following the crash.

In 1992, a joint United States-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team investigated the crash site and interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who had recovered aircraft pieces from the site. In 1994, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team excavated the site and recovered a metal identification tag, bearing Wallings name, and other military equipment. In 2010, the site was excavated again. Human remains and additional evidence were recovered.

Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and material evidence, along with forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA which matched Wallings living sister in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Departments mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at or call 703-699-1420.

Michigan Air National Guard unit bolsters activities at Estonian air base during exercise Saber Strike

By Tech. Sgt. Daniel Heaton
127th Wing

AMARI AIR BASE, Estonia (6/14/12) - An airfield has come to life.

“With this exercise, life starts at this airfield,” said Estonian air force Lt. Col. Roman Timofejev, commander of the Amari Air Base in Estonia.

During Saber Strike 2012 a variety of U.S. Air Force aircraft – primarily A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and KC-135 Stratotankers from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing – have been flown in and out from the base, along with several helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft operated by the Estonian air force.

The exercise, which took place over a two-week period in June, featured about 2,000 total military personnel from eight different nations operating from a variety of locations, primarily in Estonia and neighboring Latvia. The Michigan Air National Guard located about 150 personnel and a half-dozen aircraft at Amari.

U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft landed at Amari during the exercise to provide logistical support to the air operations at the base.

The Michigan A-10s are not only the first-ever A-10s to land at Amari, but are the first operational fighter aircraft from a NATO country, Timofejev said.

During the exercise, a variety of senior military and governmental leaders from many of the participating countries visited Amari to view the operations, including Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe. During his visit to Amari, Hertling spoke to Estonian military while flanked by the U.S. ambassador to Estonia, Michael C. Polt, and Col. Indrek Sirel, commander of the Estonian army.

“The U.S. government is committed to maintaining a strong operational presence in Europe,” the general said during his June 12 visit. “This exercise is an example of that commitment.”

As part of the Saber Strike 2012 exercise, the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing working in partnership with the Estonia air force to help the Estonians gain expertise and operational experience at the air base, which was used by the military of the Soviet Union when Estonia was under Soviet control during the Cold War era. In 1994, the last Soviet troops left Estonia and the Amari Air Base and the air field fell into disrepair for several years, said Timofejev.

The Amari base was re-established under Estonian control in 1997 and in 2006 an agreement was reached to prepare the base to support NATO operations. Construction began in 2008 and local operations have been going on for several years. Timofejev said Saber Strike is by far the largest operation to happen to date at Amari.

“This is a great opportunity for my folks to learn to run base operations,” Timofejev said. “I have a few people who have experience and expertise, but many of my folks are brand new. We don’t even know what we don’t know.”

Air Force Lt. Col. William Henderson, a 127th Wing pilot who is serving as the Michigan detachment commander at Amari, said the Estonians opened their arms to welcome the American airmen.

“They worked the relationships within their own government to build the higher-level partnership and then have been very accommodating to us to work at the airman-to-airman level,” Henderson said.

And that means not only a greater exchanging of information but also a quicker mission turnaround, said Henderson.

“They have created a facility here where, tactically speaking, a unit can come in and very quickly be able to begin flying missions,” he said.

Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led theater security cooperation exercise conducted in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The exercise focuses on command and control, as well as interoperability with regional partners.

Wyoming Air Guard members exchange aeromedical evacuation knowledge with Tunisian partners

By Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Natalie Stanley
153rd Airlift Wing

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (6/14/12) - Two Wyoming Air National Guard members flew to Bizerte, Tunisia May 22-24 to participate in the Medlite 2012 exercise in an effort to help Tunisian military medical personnel train for the aeromedical evacuation of large-casualty events.

The three-day exercise consisted of lectures, round table discussion of mass casualty scenarios and a full scale exercise.

The Wyoming National Guard has been a partner state with Tunisia through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program since 2004.

“The Libyan crisis really woke up the Tunisians to logistics of how to handle mass causalities,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Shane Ryan, a flight nurse with the 153rd Airlift Wing. “In Tunisia, the medical corps is it for life flights including water, desert and civilian rescues; they don’t have a civilian system in place like America does.”

A variety of topics were covered during the first two days by both U.S. Air Force and Tunisian military participants. Ryan and Air Force Maj. Janice Weixelman, a flight surgeon with the 153rd AW, presented power point presentations on equipment utilized by aeromedical evacuation teams, duties of a flight surgeon in a combat environment, and the echelon of aeromedical evacuation levels for a combat environment.

“It was very educational and worked out well,” Ryan said. “I still had all the regulations and [Air Force instructions] in my head from flight school this past August.”

The first two days also incorporated various demonstrations, such as the aeromedical evacuation procedures of the Tunisian HH-3 helicopter, raising and lowering of both personnel and littered patients into a hovering helicopter, and familiarization with equipment used to transport patients.

Military doctors, nurses and nursing students got hands-on training on day three with an exercise scenario involving a simulated airplane crash with 33 casualties, 13 dead and 20 injured.

Participants processed the exercise wounded and deceased through a casualty collection point and sent off to transport via helicopter to the Aeromedical Staging Facility.

The casualty collection point was set up to receive patients from the crash site where doctors and nurses with four litter attendants began their assessment of the severity and number of injured. Initial first aid and triage were also accomplished before patients were placed into ambulances and transferred to the first aid station.

The exercise helped participants get a better understanding of the complexity which can occur with a disaster situation.

“The ability of personnel to interact with each other, as well as understand the role of the counterparts improves the capacity of a team to prepare for more than just their own sequestered role,” Weixelman said.”

“The majority of participants had never had the experience of working in or around helicopters or [a] C-130 [Hercule]s” she said, “this exercise gave them an invaluable opportunity to understand the complexity and extent of aeromedical evacuation.”

“I definitely learned way more than I taught and it was an honor to be able to be a part of this exercise,” said Ryan.