Friday, June 15, 2012

Face of Defense: Airmen Save Drowning Man

By Airman 1st Class Mariah Tolbert
4th Fighter Wing

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C., June 15, 2012 – "Help!" someone faintly calls out.

You look out to the ocean and see a man's arms flailing about, half a mile into the surf, struggling to stay afloat as waves crash down on him. What would you do, knowing lifeguards are not close enough to save him?

Three 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen assigned here found themselves in this situation while spending the day at Atlantic Beach, N.C., and on June 2 saved the life of a 49-year-old man.

Airmen 1st Class Dylan Seng, Ashley Irelan and Alexis LoBasso went to the beach to relax, soak up some sun and hit the waves. However, they were thrown into a life-or-death situation.

"LoBasso, Irelan and myself decided to go into the ocean," said Seng, a native of Palmyra, Pa. "While we were swimming, LoBasso and I heard a man weep for help. We thought it was a joke at first but we heard him for a second time, so LoBasso swam straight to the man and asked if he was okay. The man immediately replied, 'No.'"

As LoBasso reached the man, named Michael, Seng and Irelan followed. After realizing Michael had been struggling and could no longer keep his head above water, the three airmen assisted him to shore. Once there, lifeguards took control and checked everyone to ensure no one inhaled any water.

When asked why they’d risked their lives to save Michael, all responded similarly.

"I helped Michael out of pure instinct," said LoBasso, a native of Yonkers, N.Y. "We were all being good wingmen to Michael by coming to his rescue, and to each other for playing an important role to help him swim back to shore. The situation also embodies the Air Force core values because we used service before self by ensuring the safety of others before ourselves and doing our best to make sure no one was hurt, representing excellence in all we do."

That deed did not go unrecognized by others, including Thomas Daly, the captain of Atlantic Beach Fire Department Guard Unit 41.

"These three put the life of another above their own," Daly said. "Their quick actions, working together as a team, and sound resolve, should be a reflection of great pride to their supervisor, the Air Force and our country. It was an absolute pleasure working with them."

Irelan, a native of Toccoa, Ga., said he’ll always remember what Michael said when he thanked the trio: "You didn't just save my life; you gave my boy more time with his father."

‘Bold Quest’ Promotes Coalition Interoperability

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 – Representatives from every military service and their counterparts from 11 other nations are wrapping up an exercise designed to improve their ability to work together to more effectively engage targets while minimizing the risk of friendly fire.

About 440 participants in Bold Quest 12-1 converged on the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center and other venues in Indiana earlier this month for the Joint Staff-led exercise to assess how they gather and share combat identification information, John Miller, operational manager for the exercise, told reporters yesterday.

During 10 days of exercises and data collection, participants are putting to the test, not only their different technologies, but also their tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure they’re interoperable.

The premise, Miller explained, is that coalition members that operate together need to develop and test their capabilities together before they employ them on the battlefield.

The scenarios for this year’s Bold Quest center largely on how coalition members provide close-air-support to warfighters on the ground, Miller explained.

“You have combat effectiveness and fratricide avoidance as big elements of what we are trying to achieve here,” he said. “And we are trying to [address that] with technologies and with procedures.”

The results can have an immediate impact on warfighters. For example, a new combat identification server demonstrated last September during Bold Quest 11 proved so effective that it was deployed to Afghanistan within months after the exercise. The system collects and maintains the locations of U.S. and coalition forces in a single server that air crews can access as they provide close-air support.

Joint terminal attack controllers - those on the ground who direct close area attacks - have also used the Bold Quest exercises to certify the equipment they use to communicate with air crews before deploying to Afghanistan, a coalition participant reported.

Air Force, Navy and Indiana National Guard air assets are providing close-air support for the exercise, with joint terminal attack controllers from several countries directing these operations on the ground. In addition, Army and Marine ground forces are using unmanned aerial systems to support their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. Special operators are testing techniques and tactics for Special Operations Command.

The annual Bold Quest exercises have evolved since the first operational demonstration in 2003, Miller said. The original focus was highly technical -- identifying the best combat identification technologies for sorting friendly ground forces from enemies within the designated battle space. Subsequent exercises focused on improving friendly forces’ ability to identify each other -- armor units and both mounted and dismounted ground elements.

While continuing to validate the technologies involved, the Bold Quest series has expanded to also address how coalition members share combat identification information.

Joint doctrine isn’t enough to ensure seamless operations in a joint environment, said Marine Capt. Michelle Augustine of the Marine Air Combat and Control Experimental Squadron. “The crux of the problem really lies in interoperability, and how people come together to execute that doctrine in a way that helps support those forces on the ground without their safety being compromised,” she said.

The broad range of technical systems participants bring to the mission adds another complication. So as part of Bold Quest, evaluators are ensuring these technologies adhere to a set of broad user guidelines referred to as standards and stricter and more specific profiles, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Hall from the Joint Staff’s Joint Deployable Analysis Team.

“The purpose is to make sure they are interoperable with each other,” he said. “We would like to be able to exchange targeting and sensor position indication information between aircraft and JTACs, regardless of what nation or service they come from.”

Interoperability problems identified at Bold Quest often can be fixed on the spot, Hall said.

Miller called Bold Quest a rare opportunity for U.S. and allied warfighters, technicians and analysts to come together in one venue. “It’s a rare opportunity for them to exchange information, identify issues on site and fix some of those things, in progress,” he said.

The exercises, he added, ensure that the highly technical standards that U.S. and coalition forces craft actually work in an operational setting.

“Until you put people together, face-to-face to do that, you just don’t have that high assurance,” Miller said.

“You may have a very voluminous technical standard written,” he added, but that may not be enough to ensure that it “is being implemented effectively and works in a scenario.”

“That is why these groups need to come together,” he said.

Panetta Salutes Gay, Lesbian Service Members’ Dedicated Duty

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 – The pursuit of equality is fundamental to the American story, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a video message released today to thank gay and lesbian service members and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civilians for their dedicated service to the nation.

Recognizing June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, the secretary also thanked the families of gay and lesbian service members and LGBT civilians.

Diversity is one of the department’s greatest strengths, the secretary noted.

“During Pride Month, and every month, let us celebrate our rich diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality for all,” he said.

In his video message, Panetta emphasized the military’s diversity. “The successful repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ proved to the nation that, just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values and different beliefs,” he said. “But together we form the greatest military force in the world.”

Integrity and respect are the cornerstones of military culture, the secretary added. “The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force implemented the repeal with a focus on respect and individual dignity,” Panetta said.

Addressing the service members who now can serve openly regardless of their sexual orientation, the secretary lauded their service before the repeal. “Before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he said, “you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself.” Today, he added, they can be proud not only of serving their country, but also of who they are when in uniform.

The president also recognized June as LGBT Pride Month, noting that throughout the nation’s history, ordinary Americans have advocated for change and have “led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness and full equality under the law – not just for some, but for all.”

When the president signed the repeal act into law in December 2010, he said, “We are not a nation that says, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.’ We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today.”

When the repeal took effect in September 2011, Panetta said anyone who is capable of serving in uniform should be able to do so, and he re-emphasized that belief in his video message.

“Going forward,” Panetta said, “I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America’s military a model of equal opportunity, to ensure all who are qualified can serve in America’s military, and to give every man and woman in uniform the opportunity to rise to their highest potential.”

South Korea, U.S. Hold Defense, Foreign Affairs Talks

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – The U.S.-South Korea alliance is a force for peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the world, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today at the start of the “Two-Plus-Two” talks with South Korea.

Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta hosted talks with their counterparts in the South Korean government -- Kim Sung-hwan, minister of foreign affairs and trade, and Kim Kwan-jin, minister of national defense – at the State Department.

The meeting covered a full range of issues from combating piracy in the Indian Ocean to investing in development in Africa to promoting democracy and the rule of law around the world. “It would be difficult to list all the ways we are working together,” Clinton said.

The two nations agreed to increase cooperation on cybersecurity and will add realistic cyber portions to bilateral exercises, Panetta said.

“The talks strengthen our cooperation,” Clinton said. “We enjoy unprecedented coordination on a number of bilateral, regional and global issues.”

The talks are an example of the close, regular conversations on mutual issues and on developments in North Korea, Clinton said. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Republic of Korea allies in the face of threats and provocations,” she said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kim said through an interpreter that the meetings are necessary to keep pace with the changes in the security environment. “It is significant that we are here today to review the changes that we need to continue making,” he said.

Underlying the alliance is the solid trust between the United States and South Korea, he said.

Kim said North Korea continues to be a threat. In 2010, the North sank the South Korean ship Cheonan and shelled a South Korean island. Earlier this year, Pyongyang tried to launch a missile over the objections of the international community.

The U.S.-ROK alliance has “shown an almost perfect cooperation,” he said. “We have also handled some complex alliance issues such as the operational control transition or the base relocation.”

But the allies must not become complacent, Kim said. “Hopefully, today’s meeting will not only strengthen our alliance and send a clear message to North Korea, but also try to seek what we can contribute to the region and the world,” he said.

Panetta said the alliance has been built on shared sacrifices that began during the Korean War and continue today. “As we face the many security challenges and opportunities on the horizon, on the peninsula regionally and globally, we must forge a common, strategic approach and address these issues collectively – rooted in friendship and in mutual interest,” he said.

Korea is a lynchpin of the new defense strategy that rebalances U.S. forces to the Pacific. “One of the cornerstones to our ability to effectively implement that strategy is the close partnership and relationship that we have with the Republic of Korea,” Panetta said. “That’s why it is so important for us to come together to meet, to discuss our common views on the shared security challenges we face and to forge a common strategic approach to those challenges.”

Defense Minister Kim said the alliance between South Korea and the United States is “developing into a multidimensional strategic alliance addressing not only security issues of the Korean peninsula but moves out into the Asia-Pacific and the world.” He added that more than 80 percent of Koreans agree with that.

In defense issues, the two nations have managed well during the transition in North Korea following the death last year of leader Kim Jong Il “through a policy of very close military cooperation, especially in intelligence sharing,” Kim said.

This was the second “Two-Plus-Two” meeting, so named because it combines foreign affairs and national security chiefs. South Korea hosted the first meeting in Seoul in 2010. All parties said the Two-Plus-Two talks will continue.

Winnefeld: Time for U.S. to Join Law of Sea Convention

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Accession to the longstanding United Nations Law of the Sea Convention will have a positive impact on U.S. operations across the maritime domain, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. called himself a career sailor and former combatant commander who has come to his own judgment on the value for the United States of the treaty’s legal framework governing uses of the oceans.

Winnefeld appeared before the panel with five of the nation’s top military officers.

It is “a privilege to appear alongside another generation of military leaders,” he said, “as we join in sharing the view that now is the time for the United States to join the Law of the Sea Convention.”

The treaty opened for signature in December 1982 and became effective in November 1994, after 60 countries had signed. Today, 162 parties -- including most close U.S. allies -- have ratified the Law of the Sea Convention.

“The convention improves on previous agreements, including the 1958 Geneva Convention,” Winnefeld said.

The treaty will protect U.S. access to the maritime domain, fortify U.S. credibility as the world's leading naval power, the admiral added, and will allow the United States to bring to bear the full force of its influence on maritime disputes.

“In short,” he said, “it preserves what we have and it gives us yet another tool to engage any nation that would threaten our maritime interests.”

But not everyone agrees that the treaty will benefit the United States, Winnefeld acknowledged, adding that defense officials take these concerns seriously.

“Some say that joining the convention would result in a loss of sovereignty for the United States. I believe just the opposite to be true,” the admiral said. “Some would say … that joining the convention will open U.S. Navy operations to the jurisdiction of international courts. We know this is not true.”

In 2007, the Senate proposed what it called “declarations and understandings” to the treaty that specifically express the right to exempt military activities from the convention, Winnefeld said. “Many other nations that have acceded [or ratified the treaty] have already exempted their military activities from the treaty without dispute,” he noted.

Some believe the convention would require the United States to surrender its sovereignty over warships and other military vessels, the admiral said.

“I can assure you that we will not let this happen and the convention does not require it,” he told the Senate panel. “If anything, it further protects our sovereignty in this regard well before we would have to resort to any use of force.”

Winnefeld added that joining the convention will protect the United States from “ongoing and persistent efforts on the part of a number of nations, including those with growing economic and military power, to advance their national laws and set precedents that could restrict our maritime activities, particularly within the bounds of their exclusive economic zones.”

The term “lawfare” describes such efforts to erode the protections of customary international law, he said.

“It's a trend that's real and pressing and that could place your Navy at legal disadvantage unless we join the convention,” the admiral said. “And the nations that would challenge us in this and other ways are, frankly, delighted that we are not a party to the convention.”

Winnefeld told the senators that along with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he finds it awkward to suggest that other nations should follow rules to which the United States has not yet agreed. Ratifying the treaty will give the United States the ability to influence key decisions that could affect the nation’s sovereign rights and those of its partners and friends in the Arctic and elsewhere, he said. “This grows more important each day,” he added.

The real question, Winnefeld said, is whether the United States will choose to lead in the maritime environment from the inside or follow from the outside.

U.S. military leaders over two decades have studied the problem closely and arrived at the same conclusion, Winnefeld said: “that ratification is in our best interests.”

“I join these officers, including every chairman of the Joint Chiefs since 1994, in giving my support to the Law of the Sea Convention and in asking for your advice and consent,” he said.