Military News

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

U.S. Commander in Japan: Alliance Strong, With Room to Grow

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, July 25, 2012 - Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella spent much of his second day as commander of U.S. Forces Japan with one of his bosses: the Pentagon's second-highest official, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.

Carter visited Japan last week as part of a 10-day Asia-Pacific tour that continues through tomorrow. Angelella, who has served five previous assignments over six years in Japan during his career, said the deputy secretary's visit was an example of the strategic importance the United States places on the country and the region.

U.S. military leaders in Japan have a perspective on what the nation's objectives are in the Asia-Pacific region and what the increased U.S. strategic emphasis there involves, Angelella said in an email interview with American Forces Press Service.

"But having an opportunity to ask and discuss face-to-face allows us to fully appreciate the Defense Department's objectives," he added. Carter's visit, he said, "ensures our critical work and cooperation with Japan is on track."

That synchronization is especially important in Japan, he noted, as the nation is a "cornerstone" ally of the United States.

"I also appreciated him taking time to meet some of the outstanding service members we have serving in Japan; they are the ones executing the mission day in and day out, and his visit to them shows them their efforts here in Japan are not taken for granted," the general said. Carter spoke with sailors on the 7th Fleet command ship, the USS Blue Ridge, during his visit.

Angelella, who is the senior commander for the roughly 40,000 U.S. service members and civilian employees in Japan, noted that the U.S.-Japan alliance, while very strong, still has room to grow.

"Even the greatest of teams have to continually evaluate where they are and where they want to be in the future," he said. "So, there is still much work to do in jointly increasing cooperation between our nations."

Two areas he intends to focus on, the general said, are building up the program of U.S.-Japan exercises and further enhancing information sharing.

"The recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake and, more recently, preparing for the North Korean missile launch demonstrated what we can do together already, but we did learn lessons on areas we could improve," the general said. "Through exercises and information exchange, we can become even better."

Angelella said he's looking forward to building on and moving forward the "outstanding work" that his predecessor, Air Force Lt. Gen. Burt Field, did leading U.S. Forces Japan.

"I welcome this opportunity to once again serve alongside our [Japan Self Defense Forces] partners and friends as we lead this alliance into the next 50 years," the general said.

Carter Takes Part in India Defense Industry Talks

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

HYDERABAD, India, July 25, 2012 - A visit here yesterday for talks and tours proved "very instructive," Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told Indian defense industry leaders.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, right, and David W. Tucker, chief operating officer of Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures, tours a Lockheed plant that manufactures parts for the C-130 Hercules in Hyderabad, India, July 24, 2012. Carter is on a 10-day Asia Pacific trip to meet with partners in Hawaii, Guam, Japan Thailand, India and South Korea. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Carter said the daylong visit was a chance to take "practical steps" to further U.S.-India defense cooperation. In a New Delhi speech to Indian defense industry representatives earlier this week, the deputy secretary stressed the U.S. desire for closer military cooperation between the United States and India.

The main event here for Carter was a roundtable discussion in which six senior Indian defense industry leaders provided their perspectives on U.S.-India cooperation.

Defense cooperation issues between the two nations reach into the government, military and business sectors of both countries, the deputy secretary said.

"It's not enough when arrangements -- cooperative [research and development], cooperative production arrangements -- make governmental sense," he said. "They have to make strategic sense, then they have to be bureaucratically nonimpaired. But they also have to be economical."

Carter said the United States, with the world's most advanced military, and India, which has perhaps the most accelerated timeline for military modernization of any nation, must work to advance progress in all three areas if they are to realize the full potential of their possible defense cooperation.

"My own thinking about this ... is that you have to work in parallel on the practical, individual project [level] and the big bureaucratic front," the deputy secretary said. And the notion that the United States must change its acquisition system and export controls and India must change its defense procurement system before companies in the two nations launch more partnership ventures doesn't hold water, he added.

"It's not going to happen that way," Carter said. The realistic view of defense cooperation, he added, is that concrete progress will encourage the two governments to make systemic changes in areas such as technology transfer and export controls.

The delegation to Hyderabad included the senior U.S. diplomat in India, Ambassador Nancy Powell, U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad Katherine S. Dhanani, and regional and industry policy experts from the departments of Defense and State.

The conversation here between the deputy secretary's delegation and the half-dozen Indian defense industry leaders made clear how complicated the nexus of government regulations and restrictions, defense acquisition timelines and industry ramp-up processes can be. When partnered U.S.-India production efforts are involved, as they increasingly are here, six different sets of rules and regulations may apply.

Carter said he got that message "loud and clear" during his visit. The two nations' business and security regulations, he said, include rules that are well-intended, but have unintended consequences. The United States is working to simplify and streamline bureaucratic guidelines, he noted, and he's encouraged that India also is adjusting its regulations and restrictions to further its cooperation with the United States.

The Hyderabad discussions explored several of the topics Carter raised in his New Delhi speech, including limits to foreign direct investment in Indian companies, and offset requirements under which companies supplying military equipment to India must, in return, invest a certain amount in particular Indian industrial sectors.

Indian industry leaders here noted their government and Defense Ministry either are discussing or already are making changes in both foreign direct investment caps and offset restrictions, which will increase incentives for American companies seeking to do business in India.

The business leaders urged Carter to help loosen U.S. defense acquisition timelines and technology export regulations to better allow Indian firms to compete in the U.S. defense arena. They said Indian companies seek "clarity, stability and predictability" in their dealings with the United States.

"We have to earn progress in that area," the deputy secretary responded. "That is, there has to be enough volume and promise and real activity that is being impeded ... to make the case that it is unacceptably detrimental to us to retain those restrictions."

Increased defense cooperation will drive regulation reform, which in turn will lead to additional partnered opportunities, Carter noted.

"The more we do together the easier it becomes to do more. ... It's something that exponentiates," he added.

Carter also toured three facilities where Indian and U.S. companies are jointly producing and assembling parts for U.S. military and commercial aircraft that are used in India and around the world.

Carter said repeatedly during his visit that such joint efforts can and should expand further, and that U.S defense leaders want to move beyond a buyer-seller relationship and increase cooperation with India on high-value technologies.

The deputy secretary's central message in this country, he said July 23, is that the United States considers partnership with India critical to its strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

"We want to knock down any remaining bureaucratic barriers in our defense relationship, and strip away the impediments," Carter said during his New Delhi speech. "And we want to set big goals to achieve."

The insights Indian industry leaders shared with him here, Carter said, are helpful in understanding how "we can structure defense cooperation so that it is successful in business terms."

The deputy secretary left India earlier today en route to South Korea, the final stop on a 10-day Asia-Pacific tour that has also included visits to Hawaii, Guam, Japan and Thailand.

Flight schedulers master art of change

by 1st Lt. Zach Anderson
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- It was 4 a.m. and already Master Sgt. Miranda "Mindi" Beyer had a problem. Or rather, an aircraft had a problem, which essentially meant Beyer had a problem as well.

"The phone rang and I was told one of our jets was broken and wouldn't be flying," said Beyer. "Then I was asked, 'So how do we want to handle this?'"

Beyer, a traditional reservist assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group here, is a flight scheduler. It's her job, and the job of other schedulers, to build flying missions, coordinate with other units for the air refueling of receiver aircraft, and ensure the timing all works out right.

It's also the scheduler's job to come up with a solution when something goes wrong.

Case in point: A tanker with a maintenance issue that prevents it from making its scheduled flight.

"That's when you have to get creative," said Master Sgt. Warren "Bear" Bearup, a 931st refueling boom operator who also works as a long-range scheduler. "Sometimes you have to cancel the sortie until you can get the jet fixed, but you try to do as much as you can to avoid that."

In this case, Beyer was able to quickly coordinate swapping a working aircraft for the broken one, which kept everything flowing smoothly and the missions running as scheduled.

It may sound a bit hectic, but it's the routine for the men and women in the 931st scheduling office.

"It's the kind of job where you have to be able to see the big picture and understand the different factors involved in order to make the decisions on how to get things to work out right," said Beyer.

While the most visible part of the 931st flying mission may be the actual air refueling, scheduling is what makes that possible. Day in and day out, schedulers are constantly in contact with receiver aircraft units around the globe coordinating missions, working to set refueling times, and essentially planning when and where 931st aircraft will be on any given day.

Bearup deals primarily with long-range scheduling, which means any mission that is off-station.

"I work on missions such as coordinating with the C-5 school house at Lackland Air Force Base or with the aeromedical evacuation school house at Pope Field," he said. "I also go out and schedule our business efforts."

Missions known as "business efforts" involve a 931st aircraft staying at another base for a designated period of time to support local air refueling missions.

"Lately we've been doing a lot of those in Alaska," said Bearup. "There is only one tanker unit up there, and the units at Elmendorf Air Force Base need help. We'll send an aircraft up there for a week at a time to support them."

These types of missions require a high degree of communication and coordination, Bearup said.

"It's a lot of back and forth," he said. "I'm constantly exchanging e-mails with the unit in Alaska. They will send me their schedule of what they need to be doing that week, and then I work on building the missions to meet those needs and get their refueling taken care of."

Beyer works in the short-range scheduling department, where the focus is on local missions that originate and end at McConnell. The short-range schedulers average around twenty local flights per week, which means plenty of organizing, planning and constant adaptation to change.

"We will contact the receiver units if they haven't already contacted us to schedule the air refueling," said Beyer. "The receiver will schedule the actual airspace itself, and then it's really just a matter of going off our planning sheets and building the mission in the Global Decision Support System for the world to see."

She continued, "Once you start to understand the airspace and how the planes maneuver, you can make sure it is planned appropriately and that the airspace is scheduled right. Then it's just working with mission plans to build the mission."

That is when everything goes as planned. However, in the world of scheduling, everything running as scheduled is a rarity.

"Change is always happening and the missions evolve all the time," said Bearup. "Some are easy to deal with and some are very time consuming, where you are on the phone, trying to contact people and figure out what they need, what needs to happen when, that type of thing."

Beyer said that's the challenge that keeps the job interesting.

"The changes really kind of make it fun. It keeps you on your toes, and you aren't doing the same thing day in and day out. It's always different day-to-day," she said.

The ability to successfully adapt to a sudden change is the ultimate in job satisfaction for schedulers.

"Doing something like this, people are relying on you," said Bearup. "If something gets really messed up and I can come in and fix it and get it hammered out so that everyone is pleased with how things end up working out, that's a really good feeling."

Beyer agrees it's enjoyable to be able to help make a mission happen when things seem to be unraveling.

"When things fall apart and you put them back together again, that's the best part of the job," she said. "When you can scramble and find one of our tankers and receivers already in the air, coordinate with them on who is going where and when they need to be there to do a refueling, that's pretty cool."

New civilian pay system on the way

by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo
Air Force Public Affairs Agency


7/25/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- All Air Force civilian employees are slated to be using a new, standardized Air Force pay system by June 2013.

The Automated Time Attendance and Production System will standardize the pay method across the service and will be implemented first at Air Force Global Strike Command and Air National Guard bases on July 29.

According to Doug Bennett, associate deputy assistant secretary for Air Force Financial Operations, the system will be implemented service-wide in eight waves during the next year and is meant to save time so personnel can focus on accomplishing the Air Force mission.

"It allows folks to focus on the mission, and allows the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force to make informed decisions about where we need to spend our money," Bennett said.

Along with better accountability and efficiency, the system also eliminates paper use. Currently, many Air Force civilians manually report their hours using the old paper-based system, Bennett said. ATAAPS will allow a user to enter his or her time and have the supervisor approve it electronically, providing an audit trail, while increasing the accuracy of financial statements.

"It's a lot easier to trace timecards when it is centrally located," said Benjamin Yarish, Air Force Financial Management Information Technology Portfolio manager.

According to an Air Force study 50 percent of the Air Force's civilian timecards were not properly approved by supervisors, or entered into the Defense Civilian Personnel System in a timely manner.

These inaccuracies have resulted in overpayments, underpayments, or, in some cases, no payments, according to the study.

"This standardized system will provide transparency and auditability," said John Koski, director of Air Force Information Systems and Technology.

"When your boss spends two hours every other week signing time cards, that's time that person isn't making sure that aircraft are being repaired or ready to fly," said Bennett.
The Air Force is not the first service branch to use the system.

"This system has been around for about 10 years. Army is already using it. Navy is looking to use it," said Yarish. "Therefore its track record provides confidence to use the system Air Force-wide."

The first bases to receive the ATAAPS system are Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Minot Air Force Base, N.D., F.E. Warren, Wyo., and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

"I think this is a great step forward," said Bennett. I hope folks approach this system with an open mind and embrace this opportunity."

Navy to Christen Amphibious Transport Dock Ship Somerset

The Navy will christen the newest amphibious transport dock ship, Somerset, Saturday, July 28, 2012, during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, La.

The ship is named in honor of the courageous passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93. Their actions prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their destination only to have the airplane crash near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa., Sept. 11, 2001.

Patrick White, president of the Families of Flight 93, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Mary Jo Myers, the wife of Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the ship’s sponsor, and in accordance with Navy tradition, will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.

During the weeks following the Flight 93 crash, recovery personnel retrieved more than 95 percent of the airplane’s wreckage from the crash site. An American flag was hoisted on the top of a power shovel or “dragline” on a hill dominating the area. The dragline had been used in coal stripping at one time, and the equipment with the flag became a symbol of the effort.

In the summer of 2008, steel from the dragline’s bucket was melted down and cast into Somerset’s bow stem. Somerset is the final of three ships named to honor heroes of the September 11 attacks, joining the USS New York and USS Arlington, respectively.

Designated LPD 25, Somerset is the ninth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. These versatile ships incorporate both a flight deck to accommodate CH-46 helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles. The San Antonio class’ increased vehicle space and substantial cargo-carrying capacity make it a key element of 21st century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Joint Task Forces.

Somerset will provide improved warfighting capabilities, including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features. The ship is capable of embarking a landing force of up to 800 Marines.

The future USS Somerset will be the fifth U.S. naval vessel to carry the name Somerset. The four previous ships of that name were a side-wheeled ferryboat (1862-1865), a motorboat (1918), a transport (1945), and a patrol escort (1944-1955).
The ship will be led by a crew of 360 officers, enlisted personnel and Marines. The 24,900-ton Somerset is being built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, La. The ship is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, and a navigational draft of 23 feet. Four turbo-charged diesels power the ship to sustained speeds of 22 knots.

Social Workers Join Movement to Support Military Families

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 - Social workers today became the latest field of professionals to sign on to help service members, veterans and their families in a broad effort as part of the White House's "Joining Forces" campaign.

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Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, speaks at the National Association of Social Workers annual convention in Washington, D.C., July 25, 2012. Biden announced the association's commitment to help military families and veterans as part of the "Joining Forces" campaign. White House photo by Melanie Kaye

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, made the announcement in a speech here at the annual convention of the National Association of Social Workers. Biden started Joining Forces with First Lady Michelle Obama last year to mobilize all sectors of American society to support the military community.

"We have asked a lot of our military since Sept. 11, 2001," Biden, whose daughter is a social worker, told the audience. "They -- and their families -- have responded to the need for more frequent and longer deployments. As they have done in the past, our troops and their families have answered the call with no complaint.

"But they shoulder a tremendous burden," Biden said.

She added that one Marine Corps wife recently told her, "People have no idea what 10 years of war will do to a family. All my kids have ever known is war."

"For the 1.3 million Americans who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, some of the toughest challenges don't come on the battlefield," Biden said. "They come months -- even years -- after they come home."

Biden told of servicemen and women who are highly skilled on the battlefield, but who struggle to translate their skills to civilian education or job applications; who can communicate with Afghan tribal leaders, but not their own families; and whose lasting emotional reactions to war "are natural, human responses" that challenge relationships.

"They are not a sign of weakness, ... and they should never be a source of shame or stigma," she said. "But they are very real, and left untreated, can have drastic consequences."

Still, only about half of the nation's veterans seek care through the Veterans Affairs Department, instead relying on civilian providers in their communities, Biden said. "That is why all of you are so important to making sure these heroes don't fall through the cracks," she said.

Social workers are "uniquely positioned" to reach service members, veterans and their families "because all of you are exactly where they are -- in every single county in the nation," she said.

Similar to agreements doctors' and nurses' associations have made with Joining Forces, the NASW, which represents more than 650,000 social workers, has pledged support beginning this fall, including:

-- Launching a free, online training course for all social workers so they can better understand the unique needs of veterans and military families that will count toward continuing education requirements for practitioners;

-- Offering a professional Credential for Social Work with Veterans and Military Families for social workers who work primarily with service members and military families; and

-- Providing a set of standards for working with veterans and military families.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, NASW Director Elizabeth Clark said the association will work to train social workers in issues common to veterans and military families, including deployment stress, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, unemployment, suicide, homelessness, and those specific to female veterans.
Of about 1,000 social workers who attended the conference, 200 already are specialized in military family issues, she said.
 

Foundation for Success: Charleston Airman returns from deployment

by Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs


7/25/2012 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SC -- Organizing a medical supply closet that was overflowing with random dental supplies, providing emergency care for patients, as well as being the first, and only, Air Force dental advisor in the battle-scarred region of Afghanistan were just some of the challenges faced by Maj. Courtney Schapira from the 628th Medical Group at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., who recently returned from her six-month deployment to the blistering valleys of the Middle-East.

We first told you about Schapira in January. While assigned to a medical embedded training team as chief dental advisor at the Paktia Regional Military Hospital, Schapira told us about her mission and discussed the challenges of building a successful foundation for the Afghans she was mentoring. Her story inspired people from all around the world.

"The responses I received after the story was published were overwhelming," said Schapira, who was in Afghanistan when it was released. "Receiving supportive messages from so many people was encouraging."

Another thing that helped her through her deployment was the common respect that she and the Afghan dental team had for each other as professionals. Not only did they learn from her, but she was able to learn from them as well.

"Traumatic cases came through the hospital often," said Schapira. "However, one case really stands out. A man was rushed in with multiple severe jaw fractures, and his condition seemed beyond the level care that we would be able to provide, and I was a little nervous as his condition was far worse than I had ever seen or treated. But, the Afghan dentist on call that night wasn't ready to give up and together we treated the patient as a team and it resulted in a very successful recovery."

Working alongside the Afghan dentist whom she had dedicated herself to training, Schapira witnessed his display of confidence and knowledge to effectively treat such a difficult case. She knew, in that moment, that even though they may have insufficient medical supplies when compared to the western world, the Afghan dentists would be 'just fine' without her.

The event was also a learning experience for Schapira. The Afghan dentists taught her to have resiliency no matter how challenging the situation seemed. The confidence from the Afghan doctors helped reassure the confidence she has, in herself, as a medical professional.

According to Schapira, she left Afghanistan a better dentist and person than when she arrived. In addition, she was able to accomplish all of the goals she had set at the beginning of her deployment.

"The logistical side of the dental clinic is not only better organized, but we've set them up for a 350 percent increase in available supplies and materials than when I originally arrived," said Schapira. "The Afghan dentists are more up-to-date on modern dentistry techniques and by mentoring the Afghans, we minimize the need to send more Airmen in our place."

Schapira felt conflicted toward the end of her deployment. On the one hand, she wasn't fully ready to leave the dentists she was mentoring; however, she knew her portion of the mission was over and she was excited to return to the dental clinic at JB Charleston and do her part in keeping our own Airmen healthy.

"I take pride in being able to say 'I take care of the men and women that take care of America'," said Schapira. "Serving in the Air Force lets me work and learn from some of the best dentists in the world."

Schwartz: Air Force Will Thrive Despite Fiscal Challenges

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 - The Air Force has reinvigorated the service's nuclear mission, incorporated unmanned aerial capabilities and made progress in acquisition, the service's chief of staff told reporters here yesterday.

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who finishes a four-year term in office shortly, said he believes the Air Force will continue to thrive despite fiscal challenges.

President Barack Obama has nominated Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh to replace Schwartz. If the Senate approves the new chief, Schwartz will retire next month.

Going forward, Schwartz said, the Air Force will get smaller. "We're putting together the [fiscal 2014] program as we speak," he said during his final briefing in the Pentagon press studio. "Clearly, we have indications from the Congress on what they believe is executable." Congress took the service to task for cuts that impacted primarily on the Air National Guard.

But even as the Air Force gets smaller, the pressure to maintain the quality of the team will remain. "There are still going to be hard decisions," the general said. "We will do our best to ensure that those decisions are properly vetted, that the rationale for them is well understood, and while ... not everyone may agree with them, ... they have a greater chance of surviving contact [with Congress]."

It is obvious today that everybody in the Air Force is needed, Schwartz said -- not only pilots, but also all members of the service. "While we should be proud of who we are, what we do, and how we 'grew up' in this great institution," the service needs everyone to contribute, he said.

"It's about active-duty. It's about Guard. It's about Reserve. It's about all the dimensions -- air, space and cyber -- that allow us to have the best Air Force on the planet."

This is a different Air Force from the one of four years ago, Schwartz said. In 2008, the Air Force was providing air support for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as worldwide operations. Unmanned aircraft were not as significant in the service's arsenal. There were problems with the service's nuclear mission, illustrated by mistakes in transporting and accounting for materials in 2008. Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked for the resignation of Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and nominated Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Schwartz for the positions.

Fixing the nuclear stewardship issue was the most important task for the new leadership team. Gates said that nuclear deterrence was going to become more critical, not less -- in part because of the rising threat of nuclear proliferation. A second important task facing the Air Force was getting its modernization program back on track.

The modernization program has improved, Schwartz said, but the whole process throughout the Defense Department is plagued by a shortage of qualified contracting personnel. The specialties needed to push contracts through are unique and important skills, he said, and it is going to take time "to build back that bench of folks who can run major programs, who can tell the difference between a good deal and ... good advertising, and, ... understand what it takes to manage the tradeoffs between cost, schedule, and capability."

The new KC-46 tanker program has been a success, the general said, but there have been disappointments as well. For example, he said, the light air attack strike aircraft for Afghanistan's air force has not gone well.

"I think the lesson here is that it's ... just like the Washington Nationals, instead of playing Atlanta, playing somebody else, and perhaps relaxing," he said. "In this business, there can be no relaxing."

The Air Force is changing in basic ways, Schwartz told reporters. "We're training ... more [remotely piloted aircraft] aviators than we are bomber and fighter pilots," he said. "Ultimately, it is conceivable that the majority of aviators in our Air Force will be remotely piloted aircraft operators."

Still, the general said, he believes there will always be a mix. "Manned aviation will be a part of the chemistry here, because at least for the near term, the remotely piloted aircraft capability is not for contested air space," he said. "It is a benign-airspace capability."

The Air Force's people, Schwartz told reporters, give him the most confidence for the future of the service.
"They are talented, they are dedicated, and they will handle today's challenges and tomorrow's contingencies in the manner that has earned America's and the joint team's trust over the years," he said.

Combat medic shares story about 'just doing his job'

by Staff Sgt. Sara Csurilla and Airman Tara A. Williamson
18th Wing Public Affairs


7/25/2012 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- "We were used to getting hit," said Staff Sgt. Warren Williamson Jr., a medic with the 18th Medical Operations Squadron. "But that day...that day was different."

Of the 300-plus combat missions he was a part of while deployed last year, Williamson recalls a day he will never forget, a day he could have lost everything, but gained so much more.

For his second 365-plus day deployment to Afghanistan, he was sent to a forward operating base located in the Laghman Province of Afghanistan to be the sole medic for a group of soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Bravo Company.

"I was the primary doctor, the sole provider there," said the Chesapeake, Va., native. "Dismounted elements wouldn't leave the truck without the doc, without me. I escorted all dismounted missions away from the convoy."

Williamson said the day began like any other.

"That morning we headed out on a mounted combat patrol to a green district, meaning there wasn't a whole lot of Taliban activity," he explained.

"The mission was for our team to provide security for a few civil engineer officers to check out a courthouse in a local district that had been rocketed by the Taliban," Williamson continued. "At the same time, I was to meet with the district hospital medical provider there and discuss some medical issues."

The courthouse mission lasted roughly two hours. They parked the convoy inside the district and dismounted. The engineers walked the perimeter of the district, and measured it, ending the fairly smooth mission around 10 a.m.

"We were getting ready to mount back up and continue on for my mission to meet the doctor," he said. "But first we had to maneuver our trucks so that they weren't blocking traffic. So although some soldiers were in the trucks, most of us were still on foot, guiding the trucks and pulling security."

"As we were prepping to move the trucks, we were caught off guard," he continued. "Before we knew what was happening, an Afghan had gotten on his motorcycle, road right through our formation, and detonated a vehicle-borne IED, instantly killing himself, injuring my guys and killing a bunch of his."

More than 10 people were killed that day.

"We were knocked unconscious. I'm not sure how many of us were on the ground, to be honest, but when I looked up, it was just...chaos. I can't describe it any other way."

He and his team were no strangers to getting attacked. But, Williamson said he knew this time was different. It was the worst they've experienced in the six months they had already been deployed.

"When I came to, the dust hadn't even settled yet and all I could hear were screams and a group of my guys dragging one of the soldiers closer to me screaming 'doc, doc!'," explained the medic that spent two years training with Air Force pararescuemen. "As they got closer I got to my feet and helped get that soldier to the safest place I could to treat his wounds, because at that point we had started taking small arms fire as well."

Behind a small dirt wall, shielded from incoming fire, Williamson did everything he could to keep his soldiers alive.

"I used gauze and bandages, gave him drugs and fluid, and right after I applied a tourniquet to his arm, that's when," he paused, this time with a deep breath. "I heard them calling for me again."

"So I put on the tourniquet and ran over to my first sergeant, who I thought was dead," he remembered. "I didn't see him breathing, I didn't see him yelling or screaming. I just saw huge holes in him. He was laid out."

Williamson knew he had to take action, and quick. But as they started taking fire once again, Williamson did the only the only thing he could and hurled his body over his first sergeant, knowing he had to protect him.

"I didn't know where the attack was coming from and it was just my first reaction," Williamson humbly explained. "It's my job to keep those guys healthy."

"But we found a way to move my first sergeant to a safe place and I got to work, trying to save this man's life," he continued. "I used everything I had --QuikClot, tourniquets, bandages, drugs, and every last drop of the fluids I had. All I could think was 'stop the bleeding, save this person's life'."

"Gosh, it's been just over a year ago, now, and I've only ever told that story once," he said.

The incident lasted about 10 minutes. Williamson said when he looks back on this event it feels like he's watching an "old slow-motion movie reel," but at the time it, it seemed like mere seconds.

Thanks to quick thinking, dedication and selflessness, not only did every soldier survive that day, they survived every mission, and returned home to their families.

His actions that day has earned him the Army Accommodation Medal with Valor and as a result, the Non-Commissioned NCO Association Vanguard Award, an award that recognizes NCOs who have performed a heroic act, on or off duty, saving lives or preventing further injury.

"It's kind of weird that somebody submitted me for an award that involves saving a life when that's really what my job is to do," the 10-year veteran. "They did their job, keeping me safe, so I just kind of returned the favor, I think."

Williamson recently travelled to Las Vegas to receive the award at the Non-Commissioned Officer Association Vanguard Tribute Banquet during the NCOA 2012 Annual Convention.

He and four other winners of the Vanguard Award, one from each branch of Service, were recognized by Lee Greenwood, a country music singer, at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, July 12.

But the highlight of the night for Williamson was reuniting with an old friend, the first sergeant he helped save.

"I was honored to be at the Vanguard ceremony when Staff Sgt. Williamson received the award," said Army Master Sgt. Chris Demars, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry, and first sergeant of Williamson's deployed team. "Monday before the award ceremony was the first time I was able to see Staff Sgt. Williamson since the day he saved my life on the battlefield."

"From an outsider perspective, seeing two grown men hugging with tears in their eyes might have seemed unorthodox," Williamson said. "But for us, in that moment, it was a perfectly normal response."

Seeing him now healthy, Williamson said, conjured up emotions he didn't think he'd ever felt before. He said he feels lucky to have spent four days with Demars and his family.

"Master Sgt. Demars was and always will be a mentor, and more than anything, a friend for life," Williamson said.

Alpha Battery Soldiers complete Combatives training

by Senior Airman Jessica Hines
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Soldiers from the Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Air Defense Artillery here participated in Combatives training July 24 at the Wolf Pack Fitness Center.

Created to prepare Soldiers to face hand-to-hand combat situations, the training emphasizes subduing an enemy without a weapon.

U.S. Army Sgt. Quintez Williams, Level III Combatives instructor, reminded Soldiers they may not always be at their physical best when faced with a hostile force. He emphasized that factors such as their environment, fatigue and stress greatly affect how they engage the enemy.

"The training helps people know that if they were ever put in a stressful situation, they would have the knowledge and the know-how to get out of that situation and protect themselves," said Williams.

The Soldiers in Williams' class completed Level I training: moves and techniques. He hopes the participants will take away an understanding and appreciation for the skills which are meant for use in combat, not the streets.

"A lot of people who join the Army have never been in a fight, never been hit in the face," he said. "Combatives teaches how to handle that stress and still be able to accomplish the mission."

Encompassing different styles of martial arts, Combatives was implemented into the Army in the mid-1990s in response to the ever-changing demands of the American Soldier.

"You're not always going to have that weapon or weapons system at your disposal," said Williams.

Soldiers can achieve a Level IV status through the courses and even go on to compete in tournaments.

For Spc. Terrelle Mills, Combatives student, the training was a refresher course to ensure he can correctly execute the moves.

"It's not about trying to hurt anybody; it's for protection, a last resort if needed," said Mills.

"If it ever comes down to it, we have the know-how to get through a hand-to-hand combat situation," Williams added.
by Senior Airman Jessica Hines
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Soldiers from the Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Air Defense Artillery here participated in Combatives training July 24 at the Wolf Pack Fitness Center.

Created to prepare Soldiers to face hand-to-hand combat situations, the training emphasizes subduing an enemy without a weapon.

U.S. Army Sgt. Quintez Williams, Level III Combatives instructor, reminded Soldiers they may not always be at their physical best when faced with a hostile force. He emphasized that factors such as their environment, fatigue and stress greatly affect how they engage the enemy.

"The training helps people know that if they were ever put in a stressful situation, they would have the knowledge and the know-how to get out of that situation and protect themselves," said Williams.

The Soldiers in Williams' class completed Level I training: moves and techniques. He hopes the participants will take away an understanding and appreciation for the skills which are meant for use in combat, not the streets.

"A lot of people who join the Army have never been in a fight, never been hit in the face," he said. "Combatives teaches how to handle that stress and still be able to accomplish the mission."

Encompassing different styles of martial arts, Combatives was implemented into the Army in the mid-1990s in response to the ever-changing demands of the American Soldier.

"You're not always going to have that weapon or weapons system at your disposal," said Williams.

Soldiers can achieve a Level IV status through the courses and even go on to compete in tournaments.

For Spc. Terrelle Mills, Combatives student, the training was a refresher course to ensure he can correctly execute the moves.

"It's not about trying to hurt anybody; it's for protection, a last resort if needed," said Mills.

"If it ever comes down to it, we have the know-how to get through a hand-to-hand combat situation," Williams added.

U.S. Air Force Weapons School veteran visits Nellis

by Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99 Air Base Wing Public Affairs


7/25/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Retired Col. Ronald E. Catton, a graduate and instructor of the weapons school, visited the U.S. Air Force Weapons School Airmen July 13 to share his knowledge and experiences.

Catton attended the then Fighter Weapons School more than 50 years ago. He was the first of only two students ever to complete the course with a 100 percent score in all academic subjects. Catton also flew with Col. John Boyd, then the chief of academics at the Weapons School.

The chief of academics in the Weapons School was a man by the name of John Boyd. The man Boyd hall here on Nellis was named after. He was known as "40-second Boyd" because he boasted that starting from a position of disadvantage, he could defeat any opposing pilot in air combat maneuvering in less than 40 seconds.

"I can remember consciously thinking on my way out to Nellis to be a student here that I was going to [beat him], and I was going to perform well enough to be an instructor in the weapons school," Catton said.

Catton got his chance but was unable to outmaneuver col. Boyd. One of col. Boyd's tactics was to flat plate the F100 to slow the airframe and reappear behind his adversary.

"I think it was about 13 seconds later, he was on my tail," Catton said. "It appeared as he was doing a barrel roll when in fact he was flat plating the aircraft and you would flush forward on him. And, he didn't do that to show off. He did that because his primary platform subject was air combat maneuvering and you had to be able to walk your talk.

"It was important he had a way to get your attention, and I'll tell you, that got your attention, "he said.

Of Catton's class of 10 students three returned to the Weapons School as instructors and two continued on to become Thunderbird pilots. Catton was one of those students who did both.

"Nellis is near and dear to my heart as you might imagine after those wonderful experiences."

Catton warned students of the Weapons School not to take lightly the challenges they faced ahead of them.

"The lesson that I took away from my Weapons School student experience was to never ever, ever, ever give up on yourself or your instructors or the school itself," Catton said. "It was a tough school then and it's a tough school now, and it's in a very tempting environment being so close to Las Vegas."

Catton's experiences gave the Airmen attending the Weapons School a glimpse at the way it began and developed. He said there were three things that stood out to him as notable changes to the school, the first of which is the amount of participants.

"We were just a very small organization here perhaps 10 instructors and 10 academic instructors all of whom flew," Catton said. "I think we had 10 students per class in the Fighter Weapons School, and it lasted about six months or so as it does now," Catton said.

Secondly, Catton said he noticed that with so little students the school had a different focus.

"It was focused on fighter close-air support and air combat maneuvering," he said. "Of course today, it's the full spectrum of war fighting. Maybe, the third and most important thing [that's changed] is the people.

Coming from a world view of military members changing from the Vietnam era to today, Catton said it's good to see the way things have come.

"I sense an enthusiasm for the mission here that is very positive," Catton said. "It's very uplifting to someone who has been out of the military for 40 years now."

Catton said he's impressed with the pride and work ethic of not just Air Force Airmen, but all service members.

"The old dogs, like myself, we're very proud of you young war fighters and how you stepped up to be counted. We didn't anticipate that given what we got coming back from Vietnam."

From taking on Boyd to acing the Weapons School to touring as a Thunderbird Catton said he's enjoyed his time at Nellis.

"I think it was Pericles who said, 'We must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.' And now at almost age 80, I've had a splendid day," Catton said. "The Air Force and Nellis and the Weapons School, the Thunderbirds and combat experience and all of that put together - it's just been a splendid day for me."

Protect yourself this summer

by Airman 1st Class Mariah Tolbert
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/25/2012 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. - -- "Everybody, hydrate!"

This is a saying that is drilled into the minds of Airmen from the day they arrive at Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

However, dehydration and other heat related injuries continue to be major issues during the summer months.

"Prevention is key," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Amy Santos, 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron superintendent. "If you wait until you are thirsty, then typically you are already dehydrated."

Since physical fitness is part of any military career, Airmen should learn how to stay protected while working out. The 4th AMDS works to provide Airmen with proper heat advisory and flags to know what they should or shouldn't do when the mercury rises. To ensure Airmen are aware of heat conditions, green, yellow, red and black flags are placed outside of the fitness center.

Under green flag conditions, it is okay to perform PT tests and work out outdoors. Yellow flag stops fitness testing and alerts Airmen to be cautious when working out. Red flag also stops fitness testing and suggests Airmen carry out activities with caution, and black flag means no fitness testing and no unit PT outside.

"You don't always have to go running outside for miles to increase endurance and stamina," said Senior Airman Jerad Perea, 4th Force Support Squadron fitness supervisor. "Circuit training increases this as well. Your body doesn't like change, so mix it up!"

Airmen should understand symptoms of heat related illnesses that can be found in the Airman's Manual. Along with dehydration, sunburns and heat exhaustion are also concerns on base.

"Take breaks as needed during hot conditions," Santos said. "Know your limits and stay safe. Even, young, active and healthy Airmen are at risk for heat related conditions or illnesses. Also, use sunscreen when outdoors, the most dangerous hours for exposure to the sun's harmful rays are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m."

With the upcoming operational readiness exercises, the 4th Fighter Wing safety office believes Airmen should start preparing days prior to participating.

"Airmen, especially those who typically don't work outside, should start hydrating days in advance to make sure they remain hydrated during the exercise," said Staff Sgt. Lawrence Robinson, 4th FW safety specialist. "Mission oriented protective posture gear alone can increase the temperature five degrees; once a gas mask is on it is increased 10 degrees. It's not just an Airman's responsibility to stay hydrated and protected, the Airman's supervisor should be aware of an Airman's condition."

Like all good things, balance is important.

According to Perea, a good way to track your hydration is by checking urine.

"It should have a slight yellow tint to it," Perea said. "But if it's dark and has an odor you are dehydrated. If it's clear like water, you may be over hydrated."

With the summer months here, it is important to stay hydrated, protected and knowledgeable to heat related illnesses. For more information refer to the Airman's Manual pages 180-184 or contact your unit safety representative.

SERE training teaches valuable survival skills

by Staff Sgt. Chuck Broadway
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/19/2012 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape: those words are the foundation for enduring and defeating adversaries if aircrew members are forced into a life-threatening game of hide and seek.

If an isolation or capture situation ever occurs, aircrew members fall back on the skills they learned during SERE training.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Pishner, 4th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist and instructor, has the responsibility of ensuring each member who comes through the training is as prepared as possible for a real-life occurrence.

All aircrew members receive initial SERE training at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The 19-day course teaches students the basics of survival in isolation and capture. Pishner, however, teaches shorter, specialized courses tailored for F-15E Strike Eagle aircrew members.

Students attend the water survival training every 36 months and the combat refresher training annually. A majority of the training involves performing hands-on familiarization and scenario execution.

"We have to figure out the most logical and beneficial information to teach them," he said. "Students are trained on everything from egress from the aircraft to evasion and recovery actions on the ground."

Seymour Johnson's SERE shop is equipped with a model of an F-15E cockpit, a flight simulator and raised parachute harnesses to teach aircrew how to properly egress. A customized computer simulator uses virtual reality to assess students' ability to navigate to the ground following egress.

During the field portion of the annual training Pishner utilizes the base's surrounding terrain and employs augmentees to simulate enemy aggressors in an attempt to provide realistic training to better prepare his students.

"I make them operate under some pressure," Pishner said. "I even get the (F-15E crews) to participate so aircrew members can have direct ground-to-air communication and also play multiple roles during training. There's very little room for error when you're talking about an aircrew's life and it's important to get it right and we make sure the aircrew fulfill their requirements."

Capt. Kyle Meyer, 335th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations, has taken both the combat refresher training and water survival courses while assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing and said he's more prepared than ever before.

"The hands-on training was good, as were the instructors who made it fun," Meyer said. "The training is a smaller group here and you get more interaction, more hands-on and more time with the instructors to ask questions. It makes it a lot easier because you're almost one-on-one with them. "

Pishner said he measures his success as an instructor through prevention and recovery. He does what he can to prevent an aircrew member from being isolated and the next-best case, someone who can positively affect their recovery.

"If we can prevent a military member from being isolated, we did our job," he said. "If somebody does become isolated, it's my job to make sure that person has the necessary skills to survive and be rescued. That's our ultimate goal at SERE."

Optometry keeps Andersen's eyes on the mission

by Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddehham
36th Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- -- It is common knowledge that flying a plane requires near perfect eyesight. A common misconception for those looking to join the Air Force is that a person is required to have 20/20 vision.

Before entering the Air Force, routine tests are conducted to qualify individuals for various career fields. Vision-testing can determine which career recruits are best suited for, and there are several options for those without perfect eyesight.

Depth perception and color-blindness are two very common problems found during vision tests. Both can hinder career choices for those looking to join the service.

"Depth perception is the visual ability to see things in three dimension," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Karash, 36th Wing Medical Operations Squadron optometry technician. "To have true depth perception requires both eyes working together at the same time."

A problem frequently found during testing is a lack of depth perception. This can cause one to misjudge movements during daily activities such as driving and picking up objects.

Career fields such as boom operators, pilots, load masters and vehicle operators would not be able to perform their tasks accurately with a lack of depth perception.
Along with depth perception, color is another attribute of vision that is assessed.

"While depth perception can sometimes be corrected, colorblindness cannot," said Sergeant Karash. "Approximately one out of 13 million people is truly colorblind."

Being completely color blind means only seeing color shades between black and white and one other color. Color defects are usually passed through genes and often mistaken for color blindness. Having a color deficiency means the individual lacks a certain type of pigment in their color-sensing receptors in the back of their eye. The color they are deficient in seeing depends on the color of the pigment they are lacking.

"When I took the armed services vocational aptitude battery test, I scored highest in electrical," said Tech. Sgt. Rudy Villegas, 254th Force Support Squadron personnelist. "I am completely color blind, and an electrical job deals with a multitude of color-assorted wires. Because I was color blind, my recruiter found me a job as a personnelist instead."

36 EAMXS breaks records

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron have been breaking records and exceeding expectations on Andersen Air Force Base since their arrival from Minot AFB N.D., in April.
The 36 EAMXS has achieved an outstanding maintenance scheduling effectiveness rate of 99 percent, surpassing the standard of 95 percent.

"The maintainers on this rotation have met all the challenges that they have been given and have consistently provided quality maintenance," said Capt. Meghan Bailey, 36 EAMXS officer in charge. "From the feedback we've been getting from permanent party leadership, they couldn't ask for more than the performance that the maintainers have given."

The 36 EAMXS went two consecutive months, May and June, where zero sorties were lost due to maintenance. The 36 EAMXS also contributed to surpassing the standard B-52 Mission Capable Rate at Andersen.

"The small numbers of sorties lost in those months were due to weather, none were due to maintenance," said Captain Bailey. "We made everything we were scheduled to do."
The praises and accolades came after the hard work. The 36 EAMXS constantly face and overcome challenges, such as material availability and manning.

"One of the main challenges has to do with the availability of certain parts," said Tech. Sgt. Roger Phelps, 36 EAMXS aircraft section chief. "Over in Minot there are more assets and tools available. We usually have to wait a number of days to receive the parts coming from the United States."

"Because the B-52 is an old aircraft, there are parts the Air Force doesn't have contracts for anymore," he continued. "For those situations we have to adjust and find the parts and outsource these parts to different vendors. Some materials, like brackets, we locally manufacture with our machines."

In addition to aircraft issues, Sergeant Phelps said the limited manning and 12-hour shifts can sometimes take a toll on the maintainers, but just as they overcome operational obstacles, it's nothing the Airmen can't handle.

"At home its eight-hour shifts and there are a lot more people available," he said. "The 12-hour shifts affect the Airmen after a period of time. Once they get into the routine, the Airmen adjust very well. Recently, we did a shift swap so that a number of people don't have to stay on night shift the entire duration of the deployment."

The 36 EAMXS adaptability and quality performance contributed in the successful accomplishment of the following the exercises and events they have participated in, including 36th Wing Combat Ammunition Production Exercise, U.S. Marine Corps Exercise Geiger Fury, Australia B-52 Air Show Fly Over and Rim of the Pacific 2012.

"Just this month, we are participating in a Rim of the Pacific exercise, a large force exercise that requires us to have B-52s fixed and ready to fly long duration sorties from Guam and back while simultaneously sustaining local sorties," said Captain Bailey.

B-52s are attempting to fly 20 consecutive sorties without a maintenance abort during a deployment. So far, two B-52s have achieved this "Nine-O-Nine" Award; a testament to the hard work and outstanding maintenance the 36 EAMXS have put forth everyday.

"We've had fighter aircraft maintenance fill manning slots in Minot, so we've been getting people who've had years of mechanical experience," said Sergeant Phelps. "Some of the guys brought different perspectives on solving problems. It's a different mentality, but they have done a good job in adapting."

Sergeant Phelps attributes the squadron's success to the diverse background and experience of the 36 EAMXS Airmen. He also said that the recent influx of fighter aircraft maintainers filling in slots in the bomber side also helped the squadron become more resourceful, proficient and expeditious.

A little over half-way through their deployment, the 36 EAMXS have also accumulated a total of four individual and team wing level awards.

"Many of these guys have never been here before," said Captain Bailey. "It's a different working environment and climate. The way they've adjusted and made the mission happen in a short amount of time is remarkable. Our maintainers just come in on their shifts, click on all cylinders, take off and make it look easy."

"They have met everything they were tasked to do," she said. "This is because we always have a plan, we stick to that plan and execute with flying colors."

Scott AFB cyclist's ambassadors at longest bicycle tour in world

by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


7/25/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- A group of four cyclists from Scott Air Force Base left July 20, to participate in the 40th Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, July 22 to 28. RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world and has been a tradition for U.S. Air Force members for 16 years now.

The group from Scott consists of four cyclist and two support members who will carry equipment. The six members will meet up with the rest of the Air Force Cycling Team members before the ride. Although the Air Force officially sponsors the AFCT, it only provides support transportation. The cyclists pay for most of the trip including registration fees, camping fees, jerseys, transportation to Iowa and food. Each year the route is different.

According to Capt. Rob Lounsbury, Scott AFB AFCT lead, the Air Force has more than 40 riders participating in this year's annual event.

Lounsbury is licensed category 4 road cyclist who has participated in three RAGBRAI events since 2008, and this will be his fourth year. He has more than 20 years of service and has been riding since 1995, beginning exclusively as a mountain biker and picking up road riding in 2007.

"We [Air Force participants] act as ambassador's for the Air Force," he said. "While riding, we hope to serve as positive role models to the public by telling our stories and assisting riders in any way possible during the adventure across Iowa ,for example, as first responders and assisting with mechanical issues," said Lounsbury.

As military participants they will be the face of the Air Force for more than 10,000 RAGBRAI riders and spectators.

"This is not a race, rather, an adventure," said Maj. Jamie Cornett, first time RAGBRAI participant. "We will ride our bicycles for seven days, averaging 67 miles per day and leaving as many people possible with a positive impression of the Air Force. We will also be passing out free Air Force swag."

Even though the Air Force members participating are fit, they still take time to indulge along the way.

"The best part is the new people you will meet and the pie," said Lounsbury. "If you lose weight during this ride you are doing something wrong. Everywhere you go people are usually eating pie and good food. Because the route is different each year many people look forward to watching us ride through their town in this once in a lifetime event,"

Spoken Statement on DOD-VA Collaboration before the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees

Thank you very much.

Chairman McKeon, Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Smith and Ranking Member Filner, dear former colleagues of mine, I appreciate the opportunity to be here.  And I also want to pay my respects to the members of both committees.  This is a unique event.  It's an important event.

And first and foremost, I want to thank all of the members of both the Armed Services Committee and Veterans Committee for the support that you provide the Department of Defense, our men and women in uniform, and our veterans.  We could simply not do the work that needs to be done in protecting this country and in serving those who are our warriors and their families – we just could not do it without the partnership that we have with all of you.  And for that reason, let me just express my personal appreciation to all of you for your dedication and for your commitment to those areas.

I also want to thank you for the opportunity to appear this morning alongside Secretary Shinseki.  He is a great public servant, a great military leader and a great friend to me and to our nation's veterans, and I appreciate the opportunity to appear alongside of him.

I'm pleased to have this chance to discuss the ways that the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working together to try to meet the needs of our service members, our veterans and their families.  This hearing comes at a very important time for our nation and for collaboration between our two Departments.

DoD and VA are in the process of building an integrated military and veteran support system.  It's something that should have been done a long time ago, but we are in the process of trying to make that happen and develop a support system that's fundamentally different and a lot more robust than it's been in the past.

Today, after a decade of war, a new generation of service members, of veterans, are coming home.  Our nation has made a lifetime commitment to them for their service and for their sacrifice, for their willingness to put their lives on the line for this country.  These men and women have shouldered a very heavy burden.  They've been deployed, as you know, time and time and time again.

They've fought battles in Iraq.  They've fought battles in Afghanistan.  They've been targeted by terrorists and by IEDs.  They've been deployed from Kuwait to South Korea, from the Pacific to the Middle East.  Many are dealing with serious wounds, as well as with complex and difficult problems, both seen and unseen.  They fought, and many have died, to protect this country, and we need to fight to protect them.

We owe it to those returning service members and to the veterans to provide them with a seamless support system so that they can put their lives back together, so that they can pursue their goals, so that they can not only go back to their communities but be able to give back to their communities and to help strengthen our nation in many ways.
None of this is easy.  It takes tremendous commitment on the part of all Americans – those in government, those in the military.  It takes tremendous commitment on the part of those in the private sector, our business leaders and frankly all citizens across our country.

There is no doubt that DoD and VA are working more closely together than we have before.  But frankly, we have much more to do to try to reach a level of cooperation to better meet the needs of those who have served our nation in uniform, especially our wounded warriors.

Since I became Secretary a little over a year ago, Secretary Shinseki and I have met on a regular basis in order to personally guide efforts to share resources and expand cooperation between our departments.  The partnership between our departments extends to all levels, led by a joint committee co-chaired by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Senior military leaders have been deeply committed to this effort.  This is about the care of their troops, but it's also about recruiting and retaining the very best military force in the world.  When it comes down to it, caring for those who have served and their families is not only a moral imperative, it is a national security imperative as well.

For those who have fought for their nation, we need to protect their care and their benefits, but we also need to protect their integrity and their honor.  It's for that reason that before I discuss the specifics about DoD and VA collaboration, I want to announce an important step that my Department is taking in order to help maintain the integrity of the awards and honors that are earned by our service members and their veterans.

You're all aware of the Supreme Court decision that determined that free speech allows someone to lie about military awards and honors.  Free speech is one thing, but dishonoring those who have been honored on the battlefield is something else.

For that reason, today we are posting a new page on the Defense Department's website that will list those service members and veterans who have earned our nation's highest military awards for valor.  Initially the website will list the names of those who have earned the Medal of Honor since 9/11, but in the near term, it will include the recipients of the Services Crosses and the Silver Star since 9/11.  We'll look at expanding that information available on the website over time.

This effort will help raise public awareness about our nation's heroes and help deter those who might falsely claim military honors, which I know has been a source of great concern for many veterans and members of these committees and members of the Congress.  I want to thank you for your concerns and for your leadership on this issue.  And our hope is that this will help protect the honor of those who serve the United States in battle.

Now let me discuss the five priority areas that DoD and VA are trying to work on to enhance collaboration.
The first is this transition program, the Transition GPS program.  At the Department of Defense, our goal is to provide a comprehensive transition assistance program that prepares those who are leaving the service for the next step – whether that is pursuing additional education, whether it's trying to find a job in the public sector or the private sector, or whether it's starting their own business.

On Monday, the President announced the new "Transition GPS program" that will extend transition preparation through the entire span of each service member's military career.  The program will ensure that every service member develops their own individual transition plan, meets new career readiness standards and is prepared to apply their valuable military experience however and wherever they choose.

The second area that we focused on is trying to integrate the Disability Evaluation System.  We've overhauled the legacy disability evaluation system in trying to make improvements with regards to developing a new system.  In the past, as you know, service members with medical conditions preventing them from doing their military jobs had to navigate separate disability evaluation systems at both DoD and VA.  We've replaced that legacy system with a single integrated Disability Evaluation System that enables our departments to work in tandem.  Under the new system currently in use, service members and veterans have to deal with fewer layers of bureaucracy, and they are able to receive VA disability compensation sooner after separating from the military.

But let's understand as we try to do this, this is a tough challenge to try to make this work in a way that can respond to our veterans effectively.  After all, veterans have rights.  They have the right to ensure that their claims are carefully adjudicated.  But at the same time, we need to expedite the process, and to ensure that as we do that we protect their benefits.  And that's what we're trying to do with this system.

The third area is to try to integrate – as was pointed out – a new Electronic Health Record system.  We're working on a major initiative to try to do that. For too long, efforts to achieve a real seamless transition between our health care systems have been hamstrung by separate legacy health record systems.  In response to the challenge that was issued by the President – and frankly, presidents in the past who have tried to address this issue – DoD and VA is finally working steadily to build an integrated Electronic Health Record system.  When operational, that system will be the single source for service members and veterans to access their medical history and for clinicians to use that history at any DoD and VA medical facility.
Again, this is not easy, and so the way we're approaching it is to try to see if we can complete this process at two places – San Antonio and Hampton Roads – and then try to expand it to every other hospital.  It's tough, but if we can achieve this, it would be a very significant achievement that I think could be a model not only for the hospitals that we run but for hospitals in the private sector as well.

Fourthly, we need greater collaboration on mental and behavioral health.  Beyond these specific initiatives that I mentioned, we are trying to focus on enhancing collaboration in areas that involve some of the toughest challenges we face now, related to mental and behavioral health.  Post-traumatic stress has emerged as a signature unseen wound of this last decade of war.  Its impact will be felt for decades to come, and both the DoD and VA must therefore improve our ability to identify and treat this condition, as well as all mental and behavioral health conditions, and to better equip our system to deal with the unique challenges these conditions can present.

For example, I've been very concerned about reports of problems with modifying diagnoses for post-traumatic stress in the military disability evaluation system.  Many of these issues were brought to my attention by members of Congress – and I appreciate their doing that – particularly the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray, who addressed this issue because it happened in her own state in a particular way.

To address these concerns, I've directed a review across all of the uniformed services.  This review, led by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Erin Conaton, will help ensure that we are delivering on our commitment to care for our service members.  The review will be analytically sound, it will be action-oriented and it will provide hopefully the least disruptive impact to behavioral health services for service members.  The effort here is to determine where those diagnoses take place, why they were downgraded downward, what took place, so that we know exactly what has happened.  I hope that the entire review will be completed within approximately 18 months.

The last area is an area that has really concerned me, which is the area of trying to prevent military suicides.  We've strongly focused on doing what we can to try to deal with this issue, which I've said is one of the most frustrating problems I have come across as Secretary of Defense.  Despite increased efforts and attention by both DoD and VA, the suicide trends among service members and veterans continues to move in a very troubling and tragic direction.  In part, it is reflective of the larger society.  The fact is, numbers are increasing now within the military.

In close cooperation with the VA, DoD is taking aggressive steps to try to address this issue, including promoting a culture to try to get people to seek the kind of help that they need, to improve access to mental and behavioral health care, to emphasize mental fitness and to work to better understand the issue of suicide with the help of other agencies, including the VA.

One of the things that I'm trying to stress is that we have got to improve the ability of leadership within the military to see these issues, to see them coming and to do something to try to prevent it from happening.  Our efforts to deliver the best possible services depend on the dedication of our DoD and VA professionals who work extremely hard every day on behalf of those who have served in uniform, and I extend my thanks to all who help support our men and women in uniform today, to our veterans and to our families.

Let me just say, we are one family.  We have to be one family at the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, a family that supports one another and all those who have answered the call to defend our country.  Together, we will do everything possible to ensure that the bond between our two Departments and between our country and those who have defended it only grows stronger in the future.

Let me also say this.  As a former Congressman – now as Secretary of Defense – and someone who's spent over 40 years involved in government in some capacity or another, I am well aware that too often the very best intentions for caring for our veterans can get trapped in bureaucratic infighting.  It gets trapped by conflicting rules and regulations.  It gets trapped by frustrating levels of responsibility.

This cannot be an excuse for not dealing with these issues.  It should be a challenge for both the VA and DoD, for the Congress and for the Administration to try to meet that challenge together.

Our warriors are trained not to fail on the battlefield.  We must be committed not to fail them on the homefront.  I realize that there have been a lot of good words and a lot of good will and a lot of good intentions.  But I can assure you that my interest is in results, not words.  I'm grateful for the support of the Congress and particularly these two committees.  And I thank you and look forward to your questions. 

Panetta, Shinseki Warn of Stress on VA From Wars, Budget

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki warned Congress today that looming budget cuts as well as the surge of troops returning from a decade of wars will further challenge the government's ability to provide for veterans in a timely manner.

Both testified before a joint session of the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Panetta told lawmakers troop drawdowns as well as the impact of wars over the last decade will, for years to come, place additional strain on an already burdened system charged with caring for veterans.

"We're going to be adding another hundred thousand per year. And the ability to be able to respond to that in a way that effectively deals with the heath care issues, with the benefits issues, with all of the other challenges, that is not going to be an easy challenge," he said, adding that the current system is already "overwhelmed."

Shinseki, whose agency is attempting to process a backlog of veterans' claims within a bureaucracy that he described as still largely unautomated and "paperbound," further laid out the daunting task ahead.

"Our history suggests that VA's requirements will continue growing for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are ended," he said. "Over the next five years, there is the potential for 1 million serving men and women to either leave military service or demobilize from active duty." Of the roughly 1.4 million veterans who have returned from both wars, nearly 70 percent, he said, currently rely on the VA.

Rep. Howard McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, noted if an additional round of draconian budget cuts known as "sequestration" takes effect next year, 100,000 additional service personnel will be leaving the military and likely would add to the strain on resources that DOD and VA are providing to current veterans.

Shinseki told lawmakers he has been informed that VA would be largely exempt from sequestration, and that only "administrative costs" would be affected. He told the panel he doesn't yet have a definition of administrative costs, and he offered to provide that information later.

Sequestration is a federal budget maneuver written into legislation passed last year that raised the U.S. debt ceiling. Unless lawmakers take action to prevent it, the measure will slash spending across the federal budget beginning in January, taking an additional $500 billion from defense accounts. Panetta has said the cuts would be a disaster, and told lawmakers today that such a move would make it "near impossible" to do the kind of work the departments are trying to do.

New Website Honors Service Members' Valor

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 - The Defense Department unveiled a new website today that honors service members' highest acts of valor.

The site -- at http://valor.defense.gov -- is designed to raise awareness of service members' heroism and to help deter those who falsely claim military honors, officials said.

Recognizing those who have served so honorably remains the crux of the DOD effort, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said. "One of the most important things we can do for all veterans is to honor the service of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty," he added.

Ultimately, officials said, the intent of the website will be to honor soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who received the highest valor awards in operations since Sept. 11, 2001. These are the Medal of Honor, service crosses and the Silver Star. The listing covers only awards since Sept. 11, 2001. The site currently lists only those awarded the Medal of Honor, and will expand to include the other awards, officials said.

"It is essential that we honor and recognize our service members' achievements, while maintaining the integrity of our award data," said Erin C. Conaton, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. "We are working quickly to compile accurate information on the heroes of the post-9/11 conflicts. At the same time, we will work with the military services to identify and seek to address the challenges associated with compiling data from earlier conflicts."

Colorado Reserve C-130s, crews continue aerial fire fighting

by Ann Skarban
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130s from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing here, moved operations to Boise, Idaho, to continue to provide aerial fire fighting support to the U.S. Forest Service as fires continue to rage in the Rocky Mountain area.

Aircraft have been operating out of Boise Air Terminal, Idaho, since July 11.

"Our aircrews have been flying on a number of fires from Colorado to Wyoming, in South Dakota and now in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada accomplishing primarily initial attack operations on new starts. It's been a busy start to this year's MAFFS season. We've been successful in swapping out crews and will continue to provide support as needed by the U.S. Forest Service," said Lt. Col. Luke Thompson, chief of Aerial Fire Fighting for the 302nd AW.

On July 17 the U.S. Forest Service reduced its MAFFS request for assistance from six aircraft and crews to four. Two C-130s from California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing, moved operations from Utah to join the 302nd AW in Idaho. MAFFS C-130s and aircrews from the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing returned to their home station at Cheyenne, Wyo.

The MAFFS-equipped C-130s and aircrews have supported the Rattlesnake, Lucky, and Owinza fires in Idaho, and Chimney fire in Nevada. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise reports moderate fire activity with 218 new fires nationwide and 29 uncontained large fires as of July 24.

Prior to the July 24 request, Air Force aerial firefighting units flew 315 drops, discharging 769,952 gallons of retardant since the first U.S. Forest Service request for assistance on June 24.
MAFFS are operated by four C-130 wings: The 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

Four Airmen assigned to the 145th AW died during a MAFFS mission on the White Draw fire in South Dakota on July 1. The accident currently is under investigation.

The MAFFS program is a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense. The forest service owns the MAFFS equipment and supplies the retardant. DoD provides the C-130 aircraft, aircrews, maintenance and support personnel to perform the mission.

MAFFS provides a surge capability that can be used to boost wildfire suppression efforts when commercial airtankers are fully committed or not readily available.