Friday, June 29, 2012

More Firefighting Aircraft Activated for Colorado Effort

From a 153rd Air Expeditionary Group News Release

CHEYENNE, Wyo., June 29, 2012 – Beginning tomorrow, eight military C-130 aircraft, each equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, will be operating out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to assist with firefighting efforts in the Rocky Mountain region.

Two MAFFS-equipped C-130s from the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing and Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing have been working out of Peterson Air Force Base, located in Colorado Springs, Colo., since June 25.

Yesterday, the U.S. Forest Service requested that the remaining four MAFFS units be activated for the Rocky Mountain region. U.S. Northern Command, the Defense Department organization responsible for providing civil support, approved the request and agreed to activate the units late last night.

The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, from Channel Islands, and the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, from Charlotte, will join the 153rd and the 302nd.

This is the first time since 2008 that all eight military aircraft have been activated at one time, said Air Force Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander. In that year, the aircraft were stationed at McClellan Airpark in Sacramento, Calif., to fight fires in that state.

Champlin, a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard, has tactical control over the MAFFS aircraft.

Although all eight C-130s will operate from Peterson Air Force Base for now, where they will drop fire retardant depends on the daily situation in the region, officials said. The U.S. Forest Service also may choose to base one or more aircraft in other operating areas.

“They are assigned to fires on a priority basis for each day,” said Scott Fisher, with the U.S. Forest Service. “Air tankers may also be reassigned during the day, based on a shift in priority for the Rocky Mountain coordination center.”

During the first five days of the military’s activation, the four MAFFS-equipped C-130s have dropped 138,398 gallons of fire retardant on two fires in Colorado: the Waldo Canyon Fire, near Colorado Springs, and the Flagstaff Fire, near Boulder.

The C-130s are aiding the effort through a joint Defense Department and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service’s needs.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

Panetta: Partnerships Bolster National Security

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2012 – Collaboration, as much as military might, should play a key role in national security, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here last night.

In remarks as part of the United States Institute of Peace’s Acheson lecture series, Panetta outlined a blueprint for building 21st-century partnerships and improving security cooperation across several areas.

“We must be bold enough to adopt a more collaborative approach to security, both within the United States government and among allies, partners, and multilateral organizations,” he said, adding that the United States must place even greater strategic emphasis on building the security capabilities of others.

Panetta underscored the need to maintain comprehensive and integrated capabilities in key regions to confront critical security challenges.

"Unlike past defense drawdowns when the threats the country was facing appeared to diminish, we still confront many challenges,” the secretary said.

Destabilizing behavior of nations such as Iran and North Korea, the rise of new powers across Asia and the ongoing need to deter aggression in the Middle East and North Africa, Panetta said, have made partnership a critical component of peaceful and cooperative international order.

“Our new strategy prioritizes the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East – the areas with the most significant security challenges,” he said. “We will retain … our military presence, … but we are also going to help more nations share the responsibilities and costs of providing security by investing in alliances and partnerships.”

These partnerships will include engagement in exercises, training and innovative rotational deployments, the secretary added.

Panetta acknowledged that the United States must face these challenges while grappling with a deficit and debt problem that has led Congress to seek nearly half a trillion dollars in defense savings over the next decade. This, he added, requires reshaped priorities that will include a leaner, agile and quickly deployable force on the cutting edge of technology while continuing to develop key capabilities.

“We will … continue to invest in the capabilities of the future such as cyber, unmanned systems, space, special operations forces, and the ability to quickly mobilize and maintain our industrial base,” he said.

Panetta said his strategies built on many enduring philosophies put forth by Dean Acheson, for whom the lecture series is named. As secretary of state from 1949 to 1953, Acheson was a leading proponent for bolstering America’s military might and was a principal architect of America’s foreign policy.

“Acheson strongly believed that America should not seek to shoulder the burden and costs for global security alone,” the secretary said. “Instead, he understood that a key part of a strong defense was to build the security capacity of allies and partners.”

Panetta praised Acheson’s forward-thinking in policy from Western Europe and NATO to South Korea, from the Truman Doctrine to the Nixon Doctrine, and the statesman’s involvement with key allies and regional partners to build a sound U.S. national security strategy after World War II.

Macedonia: Vermont Army National Guard takes part in NATO training exercise

Story by Senior Airman Victoria Greenia
158th Fighter Wing

MACEDONIA - Soldiers with the Vermont Army National Guard’s 124th Regional Training Institute and 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team joined a dozen other countries in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia recently for a two-week NATO training exercise designed to enhance interoperability between participating countries.

Named Cooperative Lancer and Longbow, the Vermont Army Guard Soldiers worked with fellow military men and women from more than a dozen NATO countries and NATO-partner countries.

The exercise was set up as a small base camp with Soldiers from each participating country housed in barracks together. Tents provided classrooms for the first day of training, but for the following days training was moved outside for a more practical hands-on approach.

The Vermont instructors worked hard to help lay the foundation for a common ground among the troops. Sand tables were used for larger-scale operations, such as base defense, which was detailed out with miniature buildings, vehicles, and toy soldiers.

An instructor set up a series of events and then invited the soldiers of the other countries to show how they would approach the situation. Then he would show them how the U.S. military would approach it.

“The purpose wasn’t to tell a foreign nation that their military tactics were wrong,” said Army Capt. Gene Enriquez, who was involved in the planning of the exercise. “It was to show other possible ways to complete a military task. We learned too.”

Army Staff Sgt. Vernon Edmonds, an instructor with the 124th RTI, said a crawl-walk-run system of training was used that started off slowly going through the tasks and then moving at a faster pace as students became more proficient. And he said he would draw on the experiences of those he was teaching to further emphasize certain points.

“Some countries have been in many conflicts over the years and our training wasn’t new,” he said. “But for everybody I teach, I assume they have no prior knowledge. If they are quick to learn or have obvious experience, I adjust my approach and speed.”

And many of those participating appreciated the role the Vermont Soldiers played in the exercise.

“The Vermont (Soldiers) have a high level of training and leadership,” said German army Col. Hans Reimer. “I see it in their skills, capabilities, appearance, instruction, and caring for the troops. They managed to integrate with the other troops and yet still direct. I can see they love their job and they make the U.S.A. National Guard shine.”

Reimer also said that if the idea of the exercise was to enhance interoperability between troops of different cultures and language, the success was also evident during off-duty time when impromptu volleyball or soccer games would take place. When the warm day cooled into night, the troops would often mingle at a nearby cantina and joke with each other while talking about the day’s training.

Spc. Gary Whitt, with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), spent almost all his personal time at Cooperative Lancer making friends with the international soldiers. They would have coffee, talk about each other’s homelands, play games, and trade interesting items. He said the personal friendship aspect is something that teaches things beyond tactical skills.

“What you learn here goes beyond tactical knowledge,” he said. “You learn social skills that are invaluable for any deployment. In today’s joint army there’s people from all over the world. If you don’t have the personal skills to overcome language barriers, you’re putting the mission at risk. It’s essential to be able to find common ground, even if it’s mainly by pointing and using facial expressions.”

Enriquez agreed that missions like Cooperative Lancer boil down to the ability to form relationships and work with anyone the Soldiers are paired with. Knowing how to compromise and adapt in a multi-national military setting will make any mission a success.

“I would like to see events like this with even more people,” said Enriquez, adding he would like to see a battalion-sized element from the Vermont Army Guard involved in something like this. “How much more valuable is it to have a 100 of our lower enlisted be able to live with a 100 of the lower enlisted from Macedonia – to sleep in the same area, eat at the same tables and the same food, and hang out at the same place after work. We would impact each other from the ground up and form real relationships.”

And building relationships was the greater point of the exercise.

“When we train together in missions like Lancer, both sides win,” said Enriquez.

Synthetic Drug Testing Catching Sailors

By Lt. Lauren Gammache, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- The Navy's urinalysis testing program for synthetic compounds has been underway for several months, and those who choose to violate the Navy's policy against substance abuse are being held accountable.

Since testing began in March, 47 Pacific Fleet Sailors have tested positive for synthetic compound use.

As of April, 10 of those cases have resulted in members being discharged.

A positive test result may initiate a criminal investigation and any resulting evidence from that investigation may be used by commanders to take disciplinary or adverse administrative actions.

"Urinalysis testing is one of several tools that commanders can use to deter the use of all synthetics - Spice, bath salts, Salvia," said John Croce, U.S. Pacific Fleet director of Quality of Life and Quality of Service Programs. "We also emphasize more frequent barracks inspections, more intrusive leadership, bystander intervention, as well as education and awareness of both the career implications and health risks associated with synthetic drug use."

Teaching Sailors about the possible side effects of some of those drugs is a great deterrent.

There can be immediate career implications as well. Health, safety, and security actions that can be taken following a positive urinalysis result for synthetic compounds include revocation of security clearance or loss of flight status.

"Sailors need to understand if they choose to use illegal drugs, we will catch them and remove them from our winning team. Everything they worked so hard to accomplish will be lost," said U.S. Pacific Fleet Master Chief John Minyard. "We will continue to educate our Sailors on the harmful effects of using this drug, but I would hope that our Sailors would feel a stronger commitment to themselves, family and shipmates and not even go down this road."

"The word is getting out and Sailors are seeing that they are being held accountable. People are being discharged for it and they're learning more about the bad stuff that can happen to them as a result," Croce said.

Introduction of the MV-22 Aircraft into Japan

The Department of Defense, in close coordination with the Government of Japan, is moving forward with the introduction of the MV-22 aircraft to III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan.

The DoD provided host nation notification to the Government of Japan in Tokyo June 29 that it will make a fleet upgrade to replace CH-46 helicopters with MV-22 Osprey aircraft.  The aircraft will arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for unloading in late July.

At the request of the Government of Japan, the DoD has provided facts and preliminary findings from ongoing investigations of recent mishaps involving an MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft.

In the case of the April 11, 2012 MV-22 mishap in Morocco, flight data information indicates that the aircraft performed as expected and described in the MV-22 Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) FlightManual.  The U.S. Marine Corps has determined the aircraft did not suffer from a mechanical or material failure and there were no problems with the safety of the aircraft.

In the case of the June 13, 2012 CV-22 mishap in Florida, a preliminary review of the incident has not uncovered any information which would preclude the continued operation of the aircraft.  The Department of Defense, including senior U.S. Air Force leaders, stands behind the CV-22’s reliability and is convinced that the aircraft is safe for operations.

Based on these preliminary conclusions, and in close coordination with the Government of Japan, the DoD decided to proceed with the shipment of MV-22 aircraft.

In recognition of the remaining concerns of the Japanese government about the safety of the aircraft, the DoD will refrain from any flight operations of the MV-22 in Japan until the results of the investigations are presented to the Japanese government and the safety of flight operations is confirmed.  The Defense Department anticipates presenting this information to the Japanese government in August.

During this period, Japan will be the only location worldwide where the United States will suspend MV-22 flight operations.  The United States will continue uninterrupted flight operations of the MV-22 and CV-22 elsewhere around the world, including over the continental United States.

The MV-22 Osprey has an excellent safety record, and has surpassed 115,000 flight hours. About one third of the total hours were flown during the last two years.  The Osprey achieved these flight hours performing combat operations, humanitarian assistance, training, and test and evaluation missions.  Basing the Osprey in Okinawa will significantly strengthen the United States’ ability to provide for the defense of Japan, perform humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and fulfill other alliance roles.