Military News

Thursday, July 26, 2012

McRaven: Special Operations More Than Just Combat

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

ASPEN, Colo., July 26, 2012 - The nation expects special operations forces to be successful every time they are called upon, but they're not wholly about combat, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said here yesterday during a discussion moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the Aspen Institute's annual security forum.

"We get a lot of notoriety for the raids, for the rescue operations, and frankly we're very proud of that," Navy Adm. William H. McRaven said. "But the fact of the matter is that's a small portion of what we do."

The discussion, titled "At the Point of the Spear: The Role of Special Operations Forces in America's Post-9/11, Post-Iraq/Afghanistan Defense Strategy," opened the annual three-day forum. Topics ranged from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to what made McRaven decide to become a Navy SEAL.

McRaven said special operations forces are deployed to 79 countries, and the majority of those deployments are for partner capacity-building, not for combat missions.

"We're trying to teach other nations how to deal with their own problems so they don't grow violent extremists," he said. "We're building wells in places. We're doing civil affairs operations. ... There is a whole spectrum of things that special operations do that rarely get the press's attention because it's not 'sexy.'"

Some nations have not followed the extremist route because special operations forces have been working there for decades, McRaven said.

The admiral also presented his views on a variety of topics that came up during the wide-ranging discussion:

-- Pulling together defense and civilian agencies to make the bin Laden raid happen was easy, he said, because the interagency team has been built steadily over the last decade. "I've got to tell you, today it hums," he added.

-- "At the end of the day, all we care about is whether you carry your rucksack and you do your job," he said when the discussion turned to gays in the military.

-- On the Arab Spring: "What I know is democracy is hard," he said. "I've watched it as we've tried to build democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... It took us a long time as a nation to build a strong democracy, and it will probably take them some time."

-- On Afghanistan's forces: "When you spend time with the guys that we spend time with, you realize they are just as patriotic, just as committed, just as tough, just as courageous as the American soldier that's partnered with them," McRaven said. "For the folks that we work with, I don't think trust has ever been an issue."

-- Women have proven to be up to the task of serving in the nation's special operations forces, the admiral said. "We have a lot of females who serve in special operations," he noted. "They do a fantastic job across the board. ... We couldn't do the job without them."
-- McRaven credited a Green Beret soldier with helping him decide to become a SEAL. "This young Army captain came to meet my sister for a date," he said. "My sister, as usual, was late, so I had an opportunity to talk to him for a little while. ... He said, 'If you're going to go in the Navy, you ought to be a Navy SEAL.'"

Grand Forks AFB firefighters undergo hazardous materials response training

by Senior Airman Susan L. Davis
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Grand Forks Air Force Base Fire and Emergency Services members took part in a two-day emergency response training session this month at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad yard in downtown Grand Forks.

Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER) - a voluntary, nationwide outreach effort created to help communities prepare for and respond to hazardous material transportation incidents - hosted the July 19-20, 2012, training sessions.

The focus was teaching safety officials and emergency responders how to prevent or mitigate incidents involving anhydrous ammonia, a toxic, pungent and colorless gas frequently used in fertilizer and other agricultural products.

Base officials said the training is useful from a practical standpoint as well.

"While this particular training was more central to anhydrous ammonia, what our members learned could come into play for future base exercises and activities," said Grand Forks Air Force Base Fire Chief Roy Bergh. "It offered greater insight into the properties and uses of anhydrous ammonia, and how to contain a potential leak.

"Also, because the training was conducted by instructors from BNSF, it offered more familiarization with railroad equipment used locally, the structure of various tank cars, and their different configurations," Bergh said.

He also explained how the training was constructive to the base as a partner in the community, particularly in a time of declining budgets and manpower.

"We are fortunate to have a mutual service agreement with six surrounding areas of Grand Forks including Northwood, Emerado, Thompson, Grand Forks International Airport, Grand Forks and East Grand Forks," Bergh said. "The Grand Forks Fire Department has a vast array of training and equipment that they can share with us, and we can trade off by sharing with them our chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training.

Senior Airman Shane Holland, Grand Forks Air Force Base fire inspector, said he found the training useful and informative.

"I thought the training was excellent and well-planned, the instructors were very knowledgeable, and the delivery was very fluid," he said. "I'm studying a hazardous materials career development course for my next skill level, and a lot of the material discussed in Friday's training coincided with what I'm studying. I learned quite a bit."

Grand Forks was the fifth location on an eight-stop tour through the state.

According to Heather Patch, assistant state coordinator for TRANSCAER, Friday's event had one of the best turnouts TRANSCAER has seen in North Dakota, with nearly 50 people in attendance representing Grand Forks AFB, Grand Forks Fire Department and other emergency agencies from surrounding areas.

"We've got a good number of folks out here today, so this is a good response," she said. "TRANSCAER conducts training like this on an almost constant basis all over the country."

Patch explained that while this year's training sessions were focused on anhydrous ammonia, next year's will concentrate on chlorine and ethanol products.

Base firefighters also took part in an additional training day July 23, 2012, in Devils Lake, N.D

Panetta To Visit The Middle East Next Week

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will travel to Middle East next week with stops in several nations that have seen governments toppled in the Arab Spring, including key ally Egypt.

In addition to Egypt, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little announced today that Panetta will visit Jordan, Tunisia and Israel.  While in Egypt, Little said Panetta will meet with President Muhammad Mursi and Defense Minister Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who both hold power more than a year after mass demonstrations led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. ally.

Little told reporters Panetta will "affirm the commitment of the United States to the security and stability of the Middle East and North Africa."  While in Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, "he will affirm the support of the United States to continued reforms." 

While in Israel and Jordan, Little said Panetta will discuss the violence in Syria as well as what he called "the destabilizing behavior" of Iran.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to step down, accusing his regime of unacceptable and deplorable violence, while raising concerns about the country's stockpile of chemical weapons. On Monday, Little warned the Syrian government that "they should not think one iota" about using such weapons.

Job-hopping Veteran Finds VA Retraining Program

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., July 26, 2012 - Cheryl Blackburn was raised in a strict sergeant major's family, and when she enlisted right after high school, she planned on an Army career.

But plans changed, and Blackburn got out of the Army after four years. And she was not prepared for what she found in her first venture into the civilian employment world.

"It was kind of difficult, because I wasn't sure about what my options were," she said, adding that she joined the Army Reserve for a year and a half, but the transition to civilian employment was not easy.

Eventually, Blackburn went to a local law enforcement academy, where she got her training in contract security. She then worked at the State Department for a few years and did odd jobs until she injured her hand and couldn't fire a gun.

With two daughters to support, Blackburn said she had to become creative, so she opened a day care business and ran that for five and a half years. She then went to Texas and worked in the corporate office of a large department store.

Blackburn then returned to the Washington area and worked as a customer service manager for a store in an outlet mall, and at the same time, took custody of a granddaughter.

"I drove back and forth to D.C., and was late picking her up [from day care], and the late fees started adding up," she said. "So, I had to make another change."

Her next position was as an apartment complex leasing agent, which lasted three and a half years until she was laid off.  "I went to another apartment complex, and was there a few months last year until the company was bought out," she said. Blackburn and three other employees were then laid off.

During two rounds of unemployment, Blackburn said, she has been frustrated by trying to pay bills and raise children on what she described as a half or a quarter of her former paycheck.

"You really have to step back and reassess everything," she said. "I had to pay off a lot of bills with my bonus money and my income tax. It would've been harder if I hadn't had that. [Unemployment] is difficult, and the struggle is rough." Eventually a friend convinced her to go the Veterans Affairs Department to seek help.

Now, she said, she sees a counselor who has helped her in other ways.

"The counselor said, 'How can we get you from Point A to Point B? If you want to go back to school, we can help you with that,'" she said of the counselor's advice. "It was very helpful."

Blackburn's contact with the VA led her to its Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which offers up to 12 months of education for unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60 who also meet other criteria. After completion of VRAP, the Labor Department will offer employment assistance. Blackburn said she's found other resources and support at VA as well.

After she completes her VRAP training and receives her information security certificate, Blackburn plans to continue her education and get her degree.
She has advice for fellow veterans adjusting to civilian life. "If you have the desire to go to the next level, stick to it regardless of how you feel," she said. "But you have to work harder at it. It's not as difficult as it seems, but it does require a lot of work."

Building international partners through music

by Senior Master Sgt. Jenn Pagnard
U.S. Air Force Band


7/26/2012 - JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA - BOLLING, WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFNS) -- This week, the U.S. Air Force Band welcomed international guest conductor Capt. Abiodoun Patrick Odjo from the Republic of Benin.

Captain Odjo is the commander of the Music Squadron and Mobile Squadron for the National Gendarmerie in Benin. Prior to this position, he served as the commander of the Fourth Platoon, which supports security for the U.S. Ambassador's residence.

Odjo has been a member of the national gendarmerie since 1996. From 1999 to 2003, he attended noncommissioned officer training. Throughout his career, he has completed cadet training, as well as many other training courses including technical intervention and advanced gendarmerie training. Odjo was also involved in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Cote d'Ivoire in 2009.

He conducted the Concert Band in performances on Fri., July 20 at the Air Force Memorial, Mon., July 23 at the Bowie Center for Performing Arts in Bowie, Md., and Tues., July 24 on the west steps of the Capitol Building.

The theme for these concerts was "An International Celebration." The program featured works by Britten and Wagner, as well as selections from Benin conducted by Odjo. In the second half of the concert, the talents of the Singing Sergeants were highlighted in an opera medley.

Col. Larry Lang, the commander and conductor of the Band, spoke highly of this international collaboration. "This has been a very interesting and exciting exchange with Captain Odjo. It's also been a wonderful international relationship-building opportunity for the Air Force."

Members of the Band's officer staff accompanied Odjo to the Benin embassy to meet with Defense Attaché, Col. Pascal Tawes. Maj. Scott Guidry, the Band's director of operations, said, "It was clear throughout the meeting that Col. Tawes knows well the value of music as an international language, and the benefits of bringing two cultures together on a small level as a model for diplomacy on a much larger scale."

In August, The Air Force Band will host an international guest conductor from Ghana, Col. Sampson Paa-Kwesi Ebonyi who is the director of music and bands of the Ghana Armed Forces.

Job-hopping Veteran Finds VA Retraining Program

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., July 26, 2012 - Cheryl Blackburn was raised in a strict sergeant major's family, and when she enlisted right after high school, she planned on an Army career.

But plans changed, and Blackburn got out of the Army after four years. And she was not prepared for what she found in her first venture into the civilian employment world.

"It was kind of difficult, because I wasn't sure about what my options were," she said, adding that she joined the Army Reserve for a year and a half, but the transition to civilian employment was not easy.

Eventually, Blackburn went to a local law enforcement academy, where she got her training in contract security. She then worked at the State Department for a few years and did odd jobs until she injured her hand and couldn't fire a gun.

With two daughters to support, Blackburn said she had to become creative, so she opened a day care business and ran that for five and a half years. She then went to Texas and worked in the corporate office of a large department store.

Blackburn then returned to the Washington area and worked as a customer service manager for a store in an outlet mall, and at the same time, took custody of a granddaughter.

"I drove back and forth to D.C., and was late picking her up [from day care], and the late fees started adding up," she said. "So, I had to make another change."

Her next position was as an apartment complex leasing agent, which lasted three and a half years until she was laid off.  "I went to another apartment complex, and was there a few months last year until the company was bought out," she said. Blackburn and three other employees were then laid off.

During two rounds of unemployment, Blackburn said, she has been frustrated by trying to pay bills and raise children on what she described as a half or a quarter of her former paycheck.

"You really have to step back and reassess everything," she said. "I had to pay off a lot of bills with my bonus money and my income tax. It would've been harder if I hadn't had that. [Unemployment] is difficult, and the struggle is rough." Eventually a friend convinced her to go the Veterans Affairs Department to seek help.

Now, she said, she sees a counselor who has helped her in other ways.

"The counselor said, 'How can we get you from Point A to Point B? If you want to go back to school, we can help you with that,'" she said of the counselor's advice. "It was very helpful."

Blackburn's contact with the VA led her to its Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which offers up to 12 months of education for unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60 who also meet other criteria. After completion of VRAP, the Labor Department will offer employment assistance. Blackburn said she's found other resources and support at VA as well.

After she completes her VRAP training and receives her information security certificate, Blackburn plans to continue her education and get her degree.
She has advice for fellow veterans adjusting to civilian life. "If you have the desire to go to the next level, stick to it regardless of how you feel," she said. "But you have to work harder at it. It's not as difficult as it seems, but it does require a lot of work."

Korean War Fighter Jet Pilot Recalls Missions

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 - He flew fighter planes his entire career, and as a wingman during the Korean War in 1952 and 1953, he flew 100 missions and extended his tour to perform 25 more.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. William Earl Brown Jr. spent 34 years in the military, but his experiences as a young pilot in the Korean War left a lasting impression, he said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.

In Korea, Brown said, he flew the F-86 Saber fighter jet, the first operational swept-wing aircraft in the Air Force inventory.

"Our mission was to prevent the MiGs from attacking the other aircraft. The MiG-15s were being flown by the Chinese communists and by active-duty Soviet fighter wings."

A typical mission took up to two hours. "If we were lucky, we'd run into the MiGs and manage to down a few of them," he added.

As a wingman, Brown flew with a more-experienced major or captain in the lead, many of whom had World War II experience. They flew in flights of four, in "fingertip" formation with a leader and a wingman, and an element leader and a wingman, he explained.

"The wingman's job was to look to the rear and protect the leader from any aircraft closing [in] to shoot him," Brown said. "And the second lieutenants were invariably assigned to the jobs as wingmen, while the captains and majors would shoot down the MiGs."

Brown said he was fortunate to fly with some good aviators in the Korean War.

"I'd been flying maybe 10 or 15 missions and never saw a MiG," he said, "Except one day, ... I was No. 4 in a flight. A MiG-15 that was obviously flown by a guy who was superior to me in skill latched onto me."

The MiG was so close, Brown said, he could hear the sound of its guns firing. It had two 23 mm cannons in addition to a larger one, compared to the Americans' six machine guns – three on each side of the aircraft.

Brown said he is alive today because his element leader came in behind the MiG, and while it shot at Brown, the element leader poured bullets into the MiG and shot the aircraft down. "That encounter really got my attention," he said. "Up until that point, I had no real understanding of what it meant to have some guy really try to kill you."

Brown, an African-American, said he didn't face any discrimination during the Korean War.

"I never ran into the kinds of discriminatory practices that the Tuskegee airmen had to face when they began flying in the Air Force," he said. "One thing about flying in fighters [is] when you don the fighter pilot's helmet and don the oxygen mask and pull down the visor, no one can see what color you are. All they can see is how you position your aircraft. Is it where it should be? Do you drop the weapons? Do they strike the target?
"I guess I was fortunate," he said.

North Carolina Removes Licensing Hurdles

By Air Force Capt. Amber Millerchip
4th Fighter Wing

GOLDSBORO, N.C., July 26, 2012 - North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue signed legislation here July 24 making it easier for military members, spouses and veterans to obtain the necessary occupational licenses required to work in the state.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, 4th Fighter Wing commander, speaks at a July 24, 2012, ceremony in Goldsboro, N.C., in which North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue signed legislation making it easier for military members, spouses and veterans to obtain the necessary occupational licenses required to work in the state. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Colette Graham

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

The new law streamlines the procedure for those already licensed elsewhere to apply to work in the same occupation in the state. During the bill-signing ceremony, Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, 4th Fighter Wing commander, addressed the legislation's significance to the military community.

"As our nation continues to field an all-volunteer force, it is critical to address the challenges that are inherent in military service, and North Carolina House Bill 799 does just that," she said. "This bill removes many of those obstacles and affords service members and their families opportunities to obtain North Carolina licensing in reduced time, allowing them to more quickly enter the civilian workforce."

However, the law requires all military or out-of-state qualifications meet or exceed North Carolina's licensure standards. A licensing board will determine eligibility based on training, experience and competency. For example, applicants must have been actively practicing their occupational specialty for two of the last five years.

"This bill helps streamline the procedures, so military spouses in North Carolina can get the certification they need to work," Perdue said. "We owe it to them to provide this kind of support. As one of the most military-friendly states in the nation, I am proud to sign this bill."

These same rules apply to military spouses interested in transferring certifications and licensing, such as teachers, nurses, and cosmetologists. They are also required to demonstrate competency in the occupation through means determined by the respective licensing board, such as continuing education credits.

When her husband was assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base a year ago, Ashley Butler wasn't able to transfer her Florida cosmetology license to North Carolina. Her frustration with the licensing process finally led her to pursue a different career as a child care provider, in which certification can be obtained with military assistance.

"I think the bill is great, because it's hard enough as it is moving state to state and picking up and starting over," she said. "That's the whole reason I'm doing child care -- it took too long, with too many hoops to jump through, to use my cosmetology license here."

North Carolina officials said more than 100 different occupational licensing agencies and each licensing board will be required to implement the new statute within a year.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Colette Graham and Air Force Airman First Class Mariah Tolbert contributed to this article.)

Pride in ownership: Airmen wash dorms at Grand Forks AFB

by Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The home of the Warriors of the North will be getting a new look soon.

However, that new look will depend on the choices individual Airmen make.

As part of an effort to encourage pride in base facilities, three Airmen from the 69th Reconnaissance Group volunteered recently to wash the exteriors of the dormitory buildings.

Using a new power washing system, the Airmen cleaned an entire building in the space of a day. According to Master Sgt. Michael Bender, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron dorm superintendent, the system will save $4,000 a year in contracted cleaning costs.

"We heard they wanted to test this new pressure washer," said Airman 1st Class Jacob Davidson. "We did the first building so quickly Sergeant Bender just said 'OK, let's move to the next one!'"

Davidson added that maneuvering the power washer along the upper floors provided some impromptu physical training sessions. His fellow volunteers cited other reasons why they stepped up.

"It's cleaning the dorms I live in," said Airman Xevious Alde. "Why wouldn't I want them to look nice?"

Airman 1st Class Gregory Aikn added that during the job they've been able to meet people they don't normally see.

"They're doing a great job," Bender said of the Airmen, adding that the system will be made available to other base agencies who wish to clean their buildings.

This project is only the beginning of a renewed emphasis on pride in ownership, stated Chris Powell, 319th CES housing manager.

"We want people to start looking for ways to improve things," Powell said. "You can't buy pride; it's got to come from within."

In an era of declining budgets, Powell added Airmen will have to look to each other to keep their home and workplace looking its best.

"If you see a bush with a piece of trash in it, pick it up," Powell said.

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

by Ann Skarban
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130s from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., 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.

Vigilant Eagle board selects 82 command candidates


by Debbie Gildea
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – The Space and Missile Vigilant Eagle Operations Squadron Commander Selection Board has selected 82 lieutenant colonels and lieutenant colonel-selects as command candidates for projected 2013 vacancies, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.

 Candidates will be matched to command vacancies at Air Force Space Command, Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the National Reconnaissance Office, said Maj. Genevieve Minzyk, AFPC space and missile force development chief.

 In addition, she said some candidates may also be selected for wing-level chief of safety positions or recruiting and training squadron command positions.

 Not all candidates will be matched to a space and missile position, Minzyk said. Those who are not could possibly be matched to 365-day extended deployment squadron command, recruiting and training squadron command or wing chief of safety positions. Matches will be announced in late August or early September

Military Judge Fines Hasan for Contempt

FORT HOOD, Texas, July 26, 2012 – A military judge here ruled that an Army psychiatrist accused in a November 2009 shooting rampage here is in contempt for his failure to comply with an order to appear in court clean-shaven and within Army grooming standards.

In an Article 39A hearing, Army Col. Gregory Gross fined Maj. Nidal Hasan $1,000, the maximum fine the court could impose under the court-martial contempt statute.

Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder during a shooting spree at a deployment processing center here.

After the contempt hearing, Hasan refused to voluntarily shave and watched the remainder of the hearing outside the courtroom via a close-circuit television feed. Gross informed him that if he did not voluntarily shave, he likely would compel a shaving so Hasan could attend forthcoming court-martial hearings in person.

The remainder of yesterday's hearing focused on discovery and expert matters. Gross said he would review for relevancy an unredacted copy of a recently released report to the FBI's director on the shooting incident. The judge also requested an update on whether the Senate maintained any notes or summaries of interviews the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs may have taken or made in support of its report on the shooting.

Gross also deferred ruling on whether the defense should have access to military investigations taught in a class at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., and he took under advisement and deferred ruling on defense-requested experts in religious conversion and social science methodology.

The judge also authorized further government funding for already appointed defense experts in jury selection and mitigation and found that federal district courts have exclusive jurisdiction over matters raised under 50 U.S. Code Section 1806. He also said he would sign an order transferring any such matter to the federal district court in Waco, Texas.

Field guidance helps ensure seamless personnel, pay support

by Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center


7/26/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Because of guidance released July 24, base-level military personnel and finance sections will be better able to seamlessly serve military members' needs during the December Military Personnel Data System upgrade, Air Force Personnel Center officials said today.

MilPDS is a records database for personnel data and actions that occur throughout every total force Airman's career. MilPDS is also used to initiate Airman pay actions, maintain Air Force accountability and strength data and support a host of interactions with other Air Force processes and systems that rely on personnel data.

Air Force Personnel Operations Agency officials here are upgrading and transferring MilPDS to the Defense Information Systems Agency's Defense Enterprise Computing Center in December. The upgrade project is scheduled to take about 23 days to complete and MilPDS will not be available during the upgrade phase.

To help prevent problems, AFPC fielded a guidance package that includes detailed information and instructions on processing critical total force personnel and pay transactions during the MilPDS upgrade. It also includes tailored briefings that MPSs will use to educate base leadership and Airmen.

"We collaborated with our total force partners to develop Air Force guidance that highlights critical timelines and processes local personnel and pay offices must follow to ensure Airmen are taken care of during the upgrade," said Lt. Col. Sean McElhaney Pahia, the Total Force Service Center-San Antonio operations support division chief.

The upgrade will ensure MilPDS performs at optimum levels to give personnelists, pay representatives and other MilPDS users access the data they need to complete customer transactions, said Anthony Delgado, AFPOA's MilPDS R12 functional manager.

In the coming months, Air Force officials will release additional information and guidance to the Air Force's manpower, personnel, services and pay communities and total force Airmen to continue to educate them on how the service will perform critical personnel and pay tasks during the upgrade.

Nellis welcomes new USAF Warfare Center commander

by Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Maj. Gen. Jeffrey G. Lofgren assumed command and responsibilities of the United States Air Force Warfare Center from Maj. Gen. James W. "Bill" Hyatt during a change of command ceremony July 20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. General Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, presided over the ceremony.

Lofgren's objectives as the USAFWC commander are to focus on tactics, testing and training. Lofgren said the USAFWC's goals will be to, "focus on excellence, because that's what's demanded out there."

The new commander's motto is "It's all about teamwork," and he wants everyone to remember it.
"We are a team, and we're going to work together to make that happen. That team is not only our Air Force family, but our joint family," Lofgren said.

The mission of the USAFWC is to shape the way the U.S. Air Force fights through advanced training, operational testing and tactics development in air, space and cyberspace at the operational and tactical levels of war. To execute its mission, the USAFWC oversees the operations of the 57th Wing; 99th Air Base Wing; the Nevada Test and Training Range; the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla.; and the 505th Command and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The USAFWC oversees approximately 11,000 active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve service members and civilians located in 21 states and 31 different locations.

The USAFWC Airmens' responsibilities may seem overwhelming at times, Lofgren said, but we can accomplish them.

"We must have a 'can-do' attitude if we're going to get things done, and we will at the warfare center," he added. "We can make it happen, and you guys are the right folks to do that."

Hyatt welcomed his successor by welcoming him to the "coolest assignment you'll ever have" and thanked Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, for the opportunity to lead the men and women here.

"To the men and women of the warfare center, you guys rock," Hyatt said. "Thank you very much for what you do, keep doing it. Do not forget that our number one job is warfare. Keep your eye on the ball."

He also asked that they provide the same support to Lofgren as they did for him.

Hostage, presiding official, said it was a pleasure to be at Nellis, the "tactical crown jewel of the Unite States Air Force," in the presence of the men and women of the US AFWC.

"I last saw [Lofgren] only a year ago when I presided over his assumption of command of the critical
missions supporting our nation's efforts in the Middle East and the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing," Hostage said. "He was the right leader then, and he is the right leader now. There was never any doubt in my mind when presented with the list of candidates who I wanted to pick."

Lofgren is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours in the F-16, KC-10 and training aircraft. Most recently, he was the commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia.

Ellsworth Airmen deploy to Southwest Asia

by Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Approximately 350 Airmen bid farewell to their families, friends and co-workers July 21, as they prepare to deploy to Southwest Asia to support missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Ellsworth Airmen will conduct B-1 missions designed to rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against adversaries. Airmen in non-aviation roles will be conducting a wide range of tasks to ensure the success of providing critical, long-range capability in that region of the world.

"The nature of our missions in Southwest Asia is very important," said Col. Gentry Boswell, 28th Bomb Wing vice commander. "We have a very clear focus to eliminate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda threats to our ground forces out there, and we take it seriously."

Boswell added that this deployment is the beginning of a commitment by Ellsworth to conduct vital operations in Southwest Asia. Between January 2011 and January 2012, Ellsworth B-1 aircrews from the 37th Bomb Squadron and 34th Bomb Squadron tallied an impressive 99.83 percent mission effectiveness rate, filling more than 3,000 joint tactical air requests while responding to 432 "Troops in Contact" situations and destroying 321 targets. Boswell anticipates that level of success will continue.

The colonel added that while Ellsworth Airmen are taking care of business in Southwest Asia, the base will be focused on supporting the families of those waiting at home.

"While our Airmen are out there supporting the fight on the ground, our job is to take care of their families and make sure they have everything they need," Boswell said.

Ellsworth has a variety of programs to support families of Airmen who deploy, including the Airmen and family Readiness Center and Ellsworth family advocacy.

This was the first real world deployment done in the base's new deployment center. The modern, $15 million dollar facility with many state-of-the-art processing functions is designed to conduct deployment operations more efficiently and

F-35 maintenance training spawns USMC's first air FTD

by Dan Hawkins
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- It's no surprise much of the military these days operates in a joint environment. With the introduction of the Department of Defense's newest fifth-generation fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the joint effort is at the forefront of the aircraft's maintenance training needs through the efforts of the 372nd Training Squadron Field Training Detachment 19.

Although based in the Florida panhandle at Eglin Air Force Base, the detachment is part of Air Education and Training Command's 82nd Training Wing, headquartered at Sheppard Air Force, Texas.

One of the unique features of the detachment is the stand-up of the U.S. Marine Corps' first-ever aircraft maintenance FTD by combining F-35 maintenance training operations with the Air Force and the Navy.

Utilizing the FTD will allow the USMC to train the initial core group of F-35 maintenance cadre to staff the creation of new F-35 maintenance squadrons throughout the Corps.

"We (USMC) decided that the Air Force model for maintenance training was the right way to do business," said USMC Capt. John Park, 372nd TRS commander. "The Marine Corps, when we go to a platform, we stay there for our whole careers...so this is new to us. Having Marines move to the F-35 from the F-18 Hornet or AV-8B Harrier is unheard of, so it's a big change in our training process."

With crew chief, egress and environmental, avionics and airframes training, the 372nd TRS ensures Air Force and Marine Corps trainees are fully-qualified to work on the DoD's newest weapons system.

"We have 10 Marines here right now as instructors," Park said. "Right now we are focused on training and transitioning experienced Airmen and Marines to the F-35 from other airframes, getting the maintenance foundation set so they leave us to head to the field fully task-qualified."

All the Marine instructors came to Eglin from the F-35 testing unit at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where they gained three years experience on the jet. The Navy is currently scheduled to start its own maintenance program over the next few months, with 10 instructors set to join the detachment.

Classes at the FTD range in duration from 45 to 90 days, depending on the specialty. Although trainees are transitioning to the F-35 from other airframes, the long-term plan is to send Marines through the initial training pipeline to build up the overall military specialty manning numbers.

Being able to train in-residence at Eglin, as opposed to out in the fleet in an on-the-job training environment, speeds up the Marines' overall learning curve.

"We are trying to take a learning process that usually takes three to five years of on-the-job training in the Marines Corps and turn it into a 90-day or less class," said USMC Staff Sgt. Chris Johnson, power line (crew chief) instructor. "It's incredible what we can do with the best people and training in the world."

Maintaining one of the most advanced weapons systems the military has ever seen is a source of pride for the instructors.

"My dad calls me probably every day and asks about the F-35," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeff Kakaley, F-35 crew chief instructor. "I tell him I'm proud to work on it, and he's proud to have a son who works on the F-35, too."

"Being around this aircraft on a daily basis, both here and at Pax River (NAS), has been awesome," said Johnson. "There's nothing I'd rather do."

The 372nd TRS, part of the 982nd Training Group at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, has 28 detachments around the globe. The 982nd TRG conducts hands-on aircraft, munitions and communications-electronics training at 46 locations worldwide, including Europe, Alaska and the Pacific theater.

We do it better than anybody

by Maj. Michael Meridith
18th Air Force


7/26/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- "We bring the word 'rapid' to rapid global mobility. We do it for allies, we do it for partners, and we do it for friends. We do it because we have to, because it is what Americans do, and we do it better than anybody," said Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay when he assumed command of the 18th Air Force here Sept. 23, 2011. Since that time the command's Airmen have continued to embody that creed, answering the call to help others prevail in an often challenging operational environment.

During Ramsay's command, the Airmen of the Air Force's largest Numbered Air Force (and Air Mobility Command's only NAF) have excelled in their global mission of strategic airlift and air refueling, flying more than 87,000 airlift sorties; transporting more than 1.5 million passengers, approximately 10,500 patients, and 500,000 tons of cargo; and offloading more than 297 million pounds of fuel in support of commanders worldwide. But these numbers only tell part of the story.

"The most important parts of the story of our global mobility enterprise are represented in the lives of the aeromedical evacuation patients that are alive today because of our Airmen, or the troops at remote bases in Afghanistan that were able to accomplish their mission after we airdropped critical supplies, or the air crews that were able to continue and complete their critical missions when we were there to refuel them. We live by a simple premise: nothing happens unless something moves. It is why we exist," Ramsay said.

A potent example of the power of that enterprise came early in Ramsay's tenure as he oversaw AMC's efforts to finish support of NATO's Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR over Libya. Through a total force effort of active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard Airmen, 18th Air Force tankers flew nearly 4,700 sorties offloading more than 173 million pounds of fuel to 12,000 aircraft - by far, the majority of fuel provided for the operation. However, according to Ramsay those numbers pale in comparison to their impact: thousands of innocent civilian lives saved from former Gadhafi regime attrocities.

Ramsay's time as commander was also characterized by fiscal uncertainty for the military and the Nation. In the midst of those uncertainties, 18th Air Force Airmen once again "did it better", with innovative planning efforts that opened a historic new non-stop northern polar overflight route from the U.S. to Afghanistan last September. By cutting time off of traditional routing the new route not only enhances the ability of air mobility forces to rapidly respond worldwide but supports ongoing Department of Defense efficiency initiatives by providing both an increase in airlift velocity along with a reduction in fuel consumption and our mobility footprint.

Another effort enhancing the mobility air forces capability to respond rapidly across the globe was the October 2011 surge of AMC's C-5 Galaxy fleet. This historic "surge" of the nation's largest military airlifters was a total force effort that more than doubled the fleet's normal day-to-day workload, demonstrating the global mobility enterprise's flexibility and readiness in times of very high demand on its capacity.

The flexibility demonstrated by the surge was an important key to the success of other major accomplishments of the mobility enterprise, including last year's massive effort returning more than 34,000 tons of equipment and 95,000 personnel from Iraq at the end of Operation NEW DAWN; multimodal operations worldwide which partnered air mobility forces with their sea and land counterparts to efficiently and rapidly move Army Combat Aviation Brigades in and out of Afghanistan; and Mobility Support Advisory missions in South America and Africa that enhanced U.S. relations with partner nations by enhancing those partner's own mobility capabilities.

"In what we do, you have to be able to move quickly and adapt to rapidly changing requirements. We can do that thanks to a team of amazing innovative Airmen who look around corners, analyze what they see on the horizon, and set our mobility enterprise for success," said Ramsay.

The success of the 18th Air Force team is in part a result of the strength that comes from its diversity, said the General, who praised the command's seamless integration of Air Reserve Component and active duty Airmen. Enhancing that integration has been a continuing focus under Ramsay's tenure, highlighted by a Total Force Integration Summit in April, in which General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force noted, "Total Force Integration allows us to leverage Air Reserve Component experience, improve access to aircraft, encourage retention, and increase total force effectiveness."

When General Ramsay departs the command August 6 bound for his next assignment as Director, Joint Staff Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment Directorate, he will take with him a feeling of accomplishment and a great deal of pride in the men and women he says he has been honored to serve with here.

"It was a humbling privilege to serve with the amazing Airmen of this command. I am very proud of what we accomplished together - and what the Airmen of the 18th Air Force will continue to do for our nation, Allies and partners. There is nothing more rewarding than answering the call to help others, and by so doing we make America stronger and our fellow citizens safer," Ramsay said.

Feature - Red Flag: female crew chief joins AF for new challenges

by Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha
23d Moody Air Force Base Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev -- Turning wrenches and checking the fluids on an A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft might not be a dream job for some women, but one 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief faces the challenge head on.

Growing up with four brothers, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Grace Wheeler feels at home working hand-in-hand with mostly male crew chiefs on the flight line. After joining Air Force a little over a year ago, Wheeler now calls Moody Air Force Base, Ga., home. Moody being her first base, she has gained a lot of experience and training with the A-10s. In the past seven months, she has launched more than 100 A-10 sorties and performed numerous of aircraft inspections.

Wheeler, one of two female crew chiefs in the unit, is attending Red Flag 12-4 exercise, two weeks of air combat training, which simulates a wartime environment for military units at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. As an A-10 crew chief at Red Flag, Wheeler must inspect the A-10s before and after a missions at the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range. She typically works up to nine hours per day, launching at least one sortie per day.

Never having been deployed, she said she is looking forward to gaining more experience and training from this exercise. She hopes Red Flag will prepare her for future deployments and give her some insights on what to expect in a deployed environment.

There are 39 other crew chiefs from Moody participating in Red Flag -- all having a mission and a number of sorties to launch.

While stationed at Moody, Wheeler has learned a lot from her Air Force brothers. With no maintenance background and not knowing the difference between wrenches and hex tools, being a crew chief began as a challenge for her. Excited to take on the challenge, Wheeler said she is eager to learn about the A-10 Thunderbolt II and all of the maintenance that comes along with being an crew chief.

"When I joined the Air Force I wanted something that would be challenging; something that I've never done before," she said.

Although being a crew chief was sought as a challenge for the Valencia, Calif., native, she is now able to perform pre-flight, through-flight and post-flight inspections and recover A-10s on her own. The 27 year old completed her career development courses quickly and is on her way to receiving her five-level certification.

"Wheeler can hold her own when it comes to mechanics," says U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Nelson, 23d AMXS, 74th AMU A-10 crew chief. "She's a top Airman with a great work ethic. She's always the first one out of the truck ready to work and is the first one to volunteer for any task, even if it's taking out the trash."

Overall, Wheeler said she enjoys being a crew chief and working on the A-10 is a fun job.

"I never wake up not wanting to come to work," she said. "I get along with everyone and I enjoy working with the guys; it's better than working with a bunch of girls. It's like having 37 brothers," Wheeler joked. "Every day I learn something new, even if I'm only watching."

317th AG bids farewell to C-130H sim

by Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


7/20/2012 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Members from the 317th Airlift Group bid farewell July 12 to one of Dyess' greatest assets, its C-130 Hercules simulator, as it's slated to be moved to Little Rock AFB, Ark., later this year.

"Today marks the end to 29 years of history for the C-130 H-model simulator at Dyess," said Capt. Eric Blakely, 317th Operations Support Squadron during the ceremony. "For the last three decades, this simulator has provided Dyess aircrew realistic training while preparing them for success in both contingency and humanitarian missions."

Throughout its years at Dyess, the simulator has been used to train thousands of aircrew from the 463rd Airlift Wing, 7th Bomb Wing and 317th Airlift Group.

Additionally, the simulator has saved the Air Force millions of dollars throughout its tenure, with fuel cost savings alone in excess of $139 million.

"This is a sad day in the 317th Airlift Group. It's the turning of a page for a facility and a mission that has been here for 29 years," said Col. Walter Ward, 317th AG commander. "We have progressed exponentially through the years and seen a lot of changes that have helped make our crews safe and effective. Many of the great things that our Airmen have done in the airplane had the seeds planted right here in the sim."

During the ceremony, Ward honored several contractors and instructors who have worked at the facility.

"These individuals are some of the most talented and dedicated instructors you will find anywhere on the planet," Ward said. "They put us in that box, and challenged us to the very limits of what we thought we had and beyond. Anyone who has ever had a dangerous mission, been shot at and handled it well, and brought us home to our families, we owe you a round of applause. You will hold a very special place in the history books of Dyess."

As one chapter in the Dyess history book comes to an end, another begins with the scheduled arrival of a C-130 J-model simulator late next year.

The closing of the H-model facility and the opening of the J-model facility are all part of the ongoing transition the 317th AG is making to the newer aircraft. The H-model era will come to an end later this year when the last C-130H will be withdrawn from service.

The fleet of 33 H-models will be replaced with 28 new C-130Js, making the 317th AG the largest J-model unit in the world.

Crew chiefs launch jets in desert heat for Red Flag 12-4

by Master Sgt. Sonny Cohrs
23d Wing Public Affairs


7/25/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Red Flag 12-4, an air combat exercise known for its realistic combat training missions, also provides a certain realism for maintainers on the flightline- desert sands, 100 degree heat, and an increased operations tempo generating aircraft around the clock.

The 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., has more than 160 maintainers here and 153,000 pounds of equipment. In their care are 14 A-10Cs, which are flying combat training missions at the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range.

"Right off the bat, the importance of this Red Flag was hammered home to everyone ... to let them know itis a much bigger thing than what we're providing for the pilots and ops," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Neal Owens, 23d AMXS, 74th AMU first sergeant during the exercise. "We try to paint a better picture of what the pilots are doing up there and how important it is that they get this training. We briefed a lot of slides ... for the kind of operations that were being doing here and the amount of training being done -- the broader scope."

For U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Nelson, a 23d AMXS, 74th AMU crew chief, Red Flag is a learning experience that he compares to his recent deployment to Afghanistan. He said Red Flag is as close as you can get to the "real thing" without being deployed to the Afghanistan area of responsibility.

"I like that it's more than just flying a training sortie like we do back home," he said. "It's more of an exercise and more of a real life thing - actually what you're going to be doing in the AOR. When you get back from a temporary duty like this, you always get closer as a unit."

Out on the flightline, Nelson and his fellow crew chiefs perform pre-flight, post-flight, and through-flight inspections on the aircraft. Their walk around begins two-and-a-half hours before the pilot shows up, and they complete another walk around inspection with the pilot before takeoff.

"We're responsible for the aircraft," Nelson said. "We're responsible for inspecting and making sure the aircraft is ready for the next mission. That's our job in a whole ... whether it's servicing the aircraft with fuel, hydraulics, oil or calling out the respective specialties to come and fix something - that's our job."

Nelson, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., said he loves being a crew chief and knows he is "making a difference" when he's "crewin' a jet." He joined the Air Force after being pushed toward the military by his father-in-law, an Air Force retiree.

"He wouldn't let me marry his daughter unless I found a good job," Nelson said. "It was definitely worth it."

As a retired avionics troop, a career field notorious for having friendly rivalries with crew chiefs, Nelson's father-in-law specifically told him not to become a crew chief. However, Nelson knows he made the right choice of careers, will reenlist soon, and plans to make a career in the Air Force.

Overall, morale is high for the 74th AMU both at home station and during Red Flag, according to Owens. He credits a recent influx of new leadership and the amount of preparation that has gone into making Red Flag a success for everyone involved.

"Morale is definitely high," Owens said. "We've been preparing for this and talking about Red Flag. The amount of organization that went into it has been phenomenal. We've done everything we can to bring the right people, the right equipment, the right supplies - everybody is doing the job they're supposed to do."

Carter Visits South Korea, Last Stop on Asia-Pacific Tour

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, July 25, 2012 - Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter arrived here today for the last leg of his 10-day Asia-Pacific tour.

Tomorrow, Carter will meet with senior U.S. military commanders and diplomats, including Ambassador Sung Kim.

He will also attend meetings with South Korea's Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan, National Security Advisor Chun Yung-woo, and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.

Carter then will visit Camp Humphreys, where he will tour the installation and receive a briefing on its transformation. By agreement between the U.S and South Korean governments, Camp Humphreys will be the new base for some 17,000 U.S. service members, civilian employees and their families now based at Yongsang Garrison, located on Seoul Air Base. The South Korean government is the final authority on decisions relating to the move.

The deputy secretary will visit and speak with U.S. troops during his visit to Camp Humphreys.

Carter left India this morning, after meeting with Indian defense industry leaders in Hyderabad and delivering a speech on U.S.-India defense cooperation. The deputy secretary has also visited Hawaii, Guam, Japan and Thailand

Post Deployment Stress Management Tips

Posted by: Health.mil Staff
Managing stress is a vital part of total fitness, say experts from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Real Warriors campaign. A recent article highlighting post-deployment stress reactions, notes that if you have recently come home from a deployment, it can be a shock to the system. While you are happy to reunite with loved ones, the change in atmosphere can be difficult. There are some key steps you can take to help manage and even alleviate your reintegration stress.
  1. Make a coping plan before attending a big event
  2. Decide what aspects about your deployment you’re comfortable talking about
  3. Take a time out and a deep breath to control your emotions
  4. Start a new exercise routine to reduce tension
  5. Ask for help
Health professionals say that using these tactics to manage your stress and feelings of anger can help you reach the goal of total fitness.

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.