Military News

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Hale, Woodson Detail Defense Health Reprogramming Request


By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2012 – The Defense Department’s June 29 request to Congress to move $708 million in excess funds from the military health budget to other budget areas does not shortchange military health programs, Pentagon officials said today.

Robert F. Hale, DOD comptroller and chief financial officer, and Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, participated in a conference call with reporters this morning to discuss the budget reprogramming process.

Congress must approve the movement of funds, known as reprogramming, from one appropriation to another.

“Two years ago, we made an estimate of the amount of funding we would need for the Defense Health Program, which pays TRICARE bills, and was approved by Congress,” Hale said.

Uncertainties inherent in such forecasting resulted in an estimate that was 2 percent, or $708 million, higher than the actual $32.5 billion budget for fiscal 2012, he added.

The fiscal 2012 enacted budget for the broader Military Health System is $52.8 billion, up from $19 billion in fiscal 2001.
“We believe these estimates were reasonable,” Hale said. “Given that we are [involved in a war in Afghanistan], we looked carefully at whether or not we had fully funded health care needs, and we believe we have, [with] the funds that we can use through fiscal year 2012.”

The Defense Department has other high-priority needs that must be met before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, the comptroller explained.

“For example,” Hale said, “we never anticipated the Pakistanis would close the ground lines of communication, [and] that has greatly increased our transportation costs. We’ve put another aircraft carrier strike group in the [U.S. Central Command] region at the request of the commander, [and] we had not budgeted for that. Fuel prices were higher than we had budgeted.”

Given those priorities, “we’ve asked Congress for the authority to move the money into other parts of the defense budget to meet these needs.”

Last week, in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, 24 members of Congress objected to moving funds from the TRICARE budget because of the “highest priority” of investing the funds to treat serious health problems facing military service members and retirees. They also objected to an increase in TRICARE fees proposed by DOD and rejected in the House version of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

Another objection to the reprogramming came this week from the Military Officers Association of America, whose leadership said the excess funds indicated that defense leaders who wanted to raise TRICARE fees were misrepresenting health care costs.

During the teleconference, Hale said the department believes that the issue of TRICARE fee increases is separate from the reprogramming issue.

“In 2001 through 2012, the overall military health care budget went up 175 percent, … and it is that growing trend line that has caused us to look at issues like changing the TRICARE fees and [finding] a way to reduce the growth in health care costs, as well as the fact that [TRICARE] fees haven’t been significantly increased for 15 years,” he said.

“We want to move back,” Hale added, “and we believe it’s appropriate to move back to the sort of cost-sharing [ratio] the Congress envisioned when it set up TRICARE.”

Woodson said the $708 million savings represents not a decline in health care costs but a decrease in the rate of the rise in the cost per TRICARE enrollee per year. Budget and cost forecasts are made years in advance of budget execution.

“In 2008, the total cost per [TRICARE Prime] enrollee per year was $3,035,” he explained. “In FY09, it was $3,280, in FY10 $3,418, in FY11 $3,518. So the absolute cost has gone up, although the rate of rise is reduced.”

In response to a question about whether some of the $708 million could be used for care for wounded warriors, Woodson said the Military Health System has fully funded all health programs for fiscal 2012.
“In fact, as part of the reprogramming, we have taken $6 million to fund additional research into wound care and into developing aerial medical support systems we utilize when we evacuate wounded warriors from the theater,” he said.
The broader issue, he said, is the limited time -- about eight weeks -- left in the fiscal year and how long it would take to reassign the funds to wounded warrior programs and execute the programs, including hiring people and developing proposals and research programs.
“We had $663 million requested this year for research, and Congress was very generous to us by plussing that up to $1.2 billion, and we are executing on schedule against that [funding],” Woodson said.
“We have another request in next year for $663 million and a set of proposals to continue to focus on these signature wounds of war,” he added, “and driving toward evidence-based answers to deal with these difficult problems like suicide, [post-traumatic stress] and [traumatic brain injury], both within the Department of Defense and as a collaborative effort with the [Veterans Affairs Department].”
Hale said Congress has been briefed on the reprogramming request. “We have some tentative answers, and I expect more in the next week,” he added.

AF officers join U.S. Olympic team for 2012 Summer Games

by Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs


8/1/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Two Air Force officers qualified for primary and alternate positions on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2012 Summer Games in London July 27.

Capt. Seth Kelsey, 310th Force Support Squadron supply officer from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., is competing in individual men's epee fencing and Capt. Justin Dumais, 157th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., is an alternate competitor in the men's three-meter synchronized diving event.

Kelsey is a two-time Olympic fencer and competed in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Dumais represented the U.S. at the 2004 Olympic Games and took sixth place in the men's three-meter synchronized springboard competition.

Kelsey and Dumais are a part of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program that is a two-year program providing regular Air Force, National Guard and Reserve Air Force personnel the opportunity to train and compete at national and international sports competitions with the ultimate goal of selection to the United States Olympic team. The WCAP targets athletes who achieve world class status in their sport.

For more information on the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, visit http://www.usafsports.com/WCAP.htm.

Tanzania: Texas National Guard members mentor Tanzanian soldiers

By Army Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (8/1/12) - Texas National Guard members - deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa - exchanged best practices with Tanzanian soldiers in the East African nation from early June to mid July.

Army 1st Sgt. Christopher Max, Charlie Troop, and Sgt. 1st Class Henry Aguirre, with the Texas National Guard’s 712th Military Police Company, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, participated in a mechanized infantry exchange hosted by the Tanzania People’s Defense Force from June 4 to 15.

Max, an instructor with the Combat Support Training and Evaluation Battalion at Camp Swift, Texas, discovered camaraderie between soldiers is the same regardless what country they are from.

“When you get down to it, it’s you and the soldier to your right and left,” Max said. “The U.S. Soldiers I mentor back home have a sense of pride and loyalty to those they train with, and this was evident here in Tanzania as well.”

At a separate exchange, Staff Sgt. Kevin Rubin and Sgt. Robert Willis, Bravo Troop, 3-124th CAV, shared their best practices with Tanzanian soldiers at a peace support operations soldier skills field training held June 4 to 29.

Together with Tanzanian instructors, Rubin and Willis helped mentor newer soldiers on skills ranging from base-defense operations to riot control. Willis, a squad leader in Bravo Troop, noticed significant improvements in the soldiers’ skills since day one.

“It was good to see how fast they picked up the information shared,” Willis said. “The most notable improvement was how they handled riot control. Between the experience the Tanzanian mentors and we shared, they were able to successfully accomplish the task by the seminar’s end.”

From June 25 to 29, Army Capt. Juan Jaimez, 712th MP Company, and 1st Lt. Laurent Escoto, 702nd MP Company, 3-124th CAV, were invited to participate in a garrison military police operations exchange hosted by the Tanzanians.

Escoto, a platoon leader in the 702nd MP Company, said the topics included military police intelligence operations, controlling civil disturbances, and working with military dogs. He said the exchange with the Tanzanian soldiers was an honor.

“It’s a great experience to be invited to participate in this exchange with fellow military police soldiers from Tanzania,” Escoto said. “It was just two years ago that I was learning these skills at basic officer leadership course; and now here I am, exchanging best practices on the subject.”

To wrap up the month-long exchange, TPDF soldiers invited Army Staff Sgt. Fabian Alban and Sgt. Patrick Horton, Alpha Troop, 3-124th CAV, to help mentor soldiers on crew-served weapons from July 2 to 13.

“At first, sharing our best practices was difficult due to the language barrier,” said Horton, a team leader in Alpha Troop. “However, we were able to pick up on some local weapons terminology to help with the process. We would say, ‘lengo’ for aim, ‘piga’ for fire, and ‘nzuri’ for okay. It was interesting to see how these simple phrases helped us better share our experience on the subject.”

The weapons the Tanzanian soldiers trained with were different than what the U.S. Soldiers use. Despite the differences, Alban was grateful to learn something new.

“This is another weapon system I can add to my tool box,” said Alban, a section sergeant with Alpha Troop. “This is why these exchanges are valuable – we are able to learn so much from each other.”

Throughout their deployment, Texas Army National Guard members will continue to conduct exchanges like these in support of CJTF-HOA, whose mission is to strengthen partner nation military capacity.

Kentucky Air Guard member earns National Guard Bureau top flight-safety award


Kentucky National Guard courtesy report

LOUISVILLE, KY. (8/2/12) - The National Guard Bureau has selected a Kentucky Air Guard. Lt. Col. Todd Lally, chief of the 123rd Airlift Wing Safety Office, for the 2011 recipient of the Air National Guard Outstanding Individual for Flight Safety Award, Guard officials said today.

The award is given annually to the top safety professional in the Air National Guard, according to Col. John D. Slocum, director of safety for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

“Colonel Lally has far surpassed his peers in showing his exemplary commitment to safety,” Slocum said in announcing the award. “His far-reaching contributions in leading various safety investigation boards has helped improve procedural operations across the Air Force.

“Colonel Lally has proven himself as being dedicated to safety, thus enriching the well-being of those around him.”

Slocum added that Lally’s selection is a “direct reflection of the professionalism and culture” of the 123rd Airlift Wing that “sets the bar for other wings and safety professionals in the Air National Guard.”
Lally joined the Kentucky Air National Guard as an enlisted fuel specialist in 1988. He later cross-trained to become a C-130 loadmaster before earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace studies. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1994 and completed undergraduate pilot training the same year.
He has deployed numerous times to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom; and to Panama in support of counter-drug and U.S. Embassy-support missions.

Lally became the Air Operations Officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group in 2009 before assuming his current post this year.

As an aircraft mishap investigator, he  has investigated Class A, B and C mishaps in Afghanistan and the United States. His latest investigation involved the Class A mishap of a remotely piloted aircraft that collided mid-air with a C-130H at a forward operating base in Afghanistan.  He also served as investigating officer of the 13-member Safety Investigation Board.

In his civilian life, Lally serves as a pilot with United Parcel Service.

Missouri Guard shares homeland response process with Chilean officers

By Matthew J. Wilson
Missouri National Guard

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (8/2/12) -- Senior officers from the Chilean Army recently met with members of the Missouri National Guard for a briefing on homeland response and how to work with nongovernment organizations in times of crisis.

Maj. Gen. Mario Puig, commander of Engineers for the Chilean Army, and Col. Andres Silva, director of the school of engineers for the Chilean Army, were at Fort Leonard Wood - home of the U.S. Army Engineer School - for a week to observe the training of American engineers.

During their stay, they spent a morning with Missouri Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade on post, for a briefing by Army National Guard Capt. Seth Nelson, who is in future operations for the Missouri Guard’s Homeland Response Force.
“The Chilean officers were here to engage the engineer school and get a better understanding of how our engineers are organized as well as our education of engineers - that was their main objective,” Alewel said. “In addition to that, they asked, ‘How does the military respond or react to civil emergencies?’

“That’s what kind of drove the request for the 35th Engineer Brigade to talk about the Missouri Guard’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission and how we’re different from the active component of the Army.”

The Region 7 Homeland Response Force, which consists of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska Guard members, is under the command and control of the Missouri Guard’s 70th Troop Command, headquartered at historic Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County.

The force is one of 10 military rapid response teams established by the U.S. Department of Defense to aid civil authorities in the event of a natural or manmade disaster that exceeds their response capabilities.
Each Homeland Response Force consists of 570 Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard with expertise in search and extraction of disaster victims, incident site security, decontamination, medical treatment and command and control of the mission.

Under Defense Department guidelines, each response force must have a six to 12 hour response capability to receive validation.

Nelson said his goal was to simply give the Chilean officers an overview of the force.

“I just wanted to give them an overall idea of the concept of the Homeland Response Force and how we apply our capabilities to support civilian authorities,” he said. “We tried to give them any information that we could share with them to help them develop their response to save lives and mitigate suffering.”

Because the national language of Chili is Spanish, translators were available to help bridge any communication gaps, but for the most part were not needed.

“I was expecting everything I said to be translated, but I think they mostly understood me,” Nelson said.
Alewel called the brief was a success.

“Brigadier General Puig said it was very helpful for them to understand our homeland response process,” Alewel said. “Our two systems are slightly different in regards to them being under the federal side of the house - their president is the only one who can mobilize them. They understood that we have the governor that has the authority to mobilize the National Guard without the presidential authority.”

The Chilean Army does not have a reserve or guard component and Puig said he found the information in the brief valuable to the South American country whose military could be called upon to respond to anything from earthquakes, to volcanoes and landslides.

“We are a country with frequent emergencies,” Puig said.

Acting Under Secretary of the Air Force visits basic military training


8/2/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO -- LACKLAND, Texas -- Acting Under Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Jamie Morin visited with Air Force basic military training officials and trainees here July 30.

During a trip to San Antonio, Morin met with the 37th Training Wing leadership and toured the BMT campus.

In June, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., Air Education and Training Command commander, appointed Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward to lead a command-directed investigation into BMT and technical training throughout the command following reports of misconduct by some military training instructors at BMT.

"Sexual assault is a serious crime and is deeply corrosive to military readiness," Morin said. "It is all the more so at Basic Military Training, which is foundational to everything our Air Force does. The men and women entrusted with molding civilians into Airmen must maintain the highest standards of professionalism in discharging their duties--both in how they treat trainees and how they handle reports of mistreatment.

"While the vast majority serve with honor, those who have betrayed the sacred trust we place in them will be held to the most stringent levels of accountability," he continued. "I know that Gen. Ed Rice and Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward will continue aggressively investigating these crimes and will work with senior Air Force leadership to take all necessary steps."

Airmen Stories webpage

Air Force Recruiting Service

7/31/2012 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE -- Each year, thousands of men and women join the U.S. Air Force and their lives are changed forever. Now, those Airmen have the opportunity to tell their stories in their own videos known as Airmen Stories.

The videos will give potential Air Force recruits a chance to hear Airmen share their personal stories firsthand, unscripted and unrehearsed, according to Air Force Recruiting Service commander, Brig. Gen. Balan Ayyar.

Airmen are free to talk about what they like about the Air Force, what they've learned about themselves and how the Air Force has helped them meet their goals.

Airmen Stories may be featured on such social media as the AFRS Facebook page, the Airmen Stories YouTube page or other venues.

Please read the information located on the Airmen Stories webpage, and you'll be on your way to making your video!

FHA Loans


Mortgage Solutions Financial’s website has considerable information on FHA Loans.   There website is well organized and easy to navigate.  In addition to providing information on FHA Loans the site also provides information on a number of other different types of home loan programs.  Such as 203K Loans, Non Conforming Loans, Rural and Agricultural Loans, USDA Loans and VA Loans.

While readers of this blog will likely be more interested in the VA Loan programs, they might also be interested in the information on 203K loans.  The 203K program was created by the Federal Housing Administration as a “tool for community and neighborhood revitalization.”  The primary purpose of the program is “restoration and preservation” of existing housing.  For the typical borrower, these loans are used for renovation of a home at time of purchase.  So, if you are thinking about buying a “fixer upper” these loans may be helpful to you.

On the website you can also find other useful tools and information.  As an example, the site contains a mortgage calculator, a glossary and a link to seminars.  Even if you have made a real estate purchase before or if you were thinking about buying rental property, the glossary on the site is a good place to bookmark.  You may want to come back to the glossary and double check words and phrases your agent uses, you find in your contract or you see on any advertisements.   The glossary can assist you in becoming well informed and thus a more savvy buyer.

humanitarian aid to those affected by violence in Syri

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today pledged to explore ways to continue U.S. help in providing humanitarian aid to those affected by violence in Syria.

A meeting between Panetta and King Abdullah in Amman, Jordan, focused on regional security challenges, most notably Syria and recent refugee flows into Jordan, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
“They talked not only about how to deal with the current crisis that is being fueled by the intolerable acts of the Assad regime,” Little said in a written statement, “but also the prospects for political transition in a post-Assad Syria.”

Panetta and King Abdullah agreed that strong international pressure must be sustained to make it clear that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must go, and that the Syrian people deserve to determine their own future, the press secretary said.

Panetta also reiterated the U.S. commitment to its strategic relationship with Jordan and to the strong defense relationship between the two countries, Little added.

In Washington, President Barack Obama today approved an additional $12 million in humanitarian assistance to further help the estimated 130,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries to escape the violence in Syria. A statement released by White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the aid is in addition to $76 million in food, water, medical supplies, clothing, hygiene and other humanitarian relief already provided to those most urgently in need.

JTF-Bravo mentors medical students

by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz
Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs


8/2/2012 - SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- "We probably got more training in these two weeks than we will in our whole surgery rotation next year," said Ensign Kelly Haeusler.

On their first day they witnessed a 14-year-old boy die, and an 18-month-old girl medically evacuated to the capital city's hospital. Finishing their first year of medical school, and 2,000 miles away from home, four students experienced tragedies and challenges in Honduras that would prove a summer program to be more valuable than expected.

"It was shocking," Haeusler said. "It grounds you really fast. We came here to learn, get our hands dirty and have some fun - but lives are always at stake and that's the reality of the situation."

Accompanied by Assistant Professor Deborah Maynard, the group recently visited Joint Task Force-Bravo to participate in a two-week "Summer Operational Experience" program. Mandatory for all first-year students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., the goal of the SOE is to "provide a military experience to junior officers to enhance their understanding of the service branches and life as a military medical officer."

"People go to med school and come out doctors - but a military doctor has another side and role they have to fulfill," said Maynard. "We're trying to help students develop into exceptional medical military officers."

As the first group ever to conduct an SOE with JTF-Bravo's Medical Element, the students joined members of MEDEL's Mobile Surgical Teams to provide care to local patients in Comayagua, Honduras.

"The whole mission of the school is to provide care in austere environments where you don't have all the resources," said Ensign Patrick Engelbert. "I've worked at an ER in California - on a busy day we'd see maybe 120 patients. In Comayagua, they were seeing over 1800."

On top of being immersed in challenging conditions, the opportunity to actually treat patients added unexpected value to the students' experience.

"We've done surgery shadowing where you're standing 30 feet away from the patient -- you can't really see anything," said Army 2nd Lt. Henry Yu. "I never thought we'd actually be physically making decisions, suturing patients and getting our hands dirty - overall we learned tons from this experience."

Throughout the two weeks, the students not only gained real-world medical experience, but also were exposed to what they can expect after their four years of education.

"We're kind of in our own little world focused on studying," said Ensign Kristen Birmingham. "It's good to get out and see more of the actual military side of things."

MEDEL Surgeon Lt. Colonel Scott Rehrig was a key mentor during the program as he fully immersed the students into every aspect of the medical operations. Rotating them through various positions on the team, he emphasized that knowing each job is crucial in being a medical military officer. In his opinion, the program was very successful.

"They did very well and showed great maturity and compassion," Rehrig said. "This is the perfect place to send medical students. They saw the good, the bad, and the ugly - what it means to be a health care provider and everything that comes with it."

Rehrig also expressed gratitude to his counterparts in the Honduran medical community.

"We're so thankful to the Honduran people and have the utmost respect for them," he said. "They have excellent skills and knowledge working in a challenging environment with very limited resources."

Looking back on the two weeks, Maynard is hopeful to continue the program with MEDEL next year and afford more students the experience of coming to JTF-Bravo.

"It was amazing," she said. "I don't know of any other SOE that had the variety and amount of opportunities than this one."

As the curriculum specialist looks forward to next summer, she expressed tremendous gratitude to the leadership of JTF-Bravo and the MEDEL staff.

"We were extremely pleased with MEDEL and the command here," Maynard said. "Dr. Rehrig was exceptional, as was Maj. Jeanette Rodriguez - really, I could list the entire staff. They were all just so phenomenal."

USUHS medical students complete their four-year medical preparation in a compressed period of time and the SOE course may be the only opportunity the future physician has to become involved in military life prior to graduation and residency.

Gunfighters go green with turf installation

by Staff Sgt. Roy Lynch
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


8/2/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Synthetic turf was recently installed at the Mountain Home Air Force Base Fitness Center's athletic field, ultimately saving the base 145,000 gallons of water and thousands of dollars per year.

According to Richard A. Holmes, 366th Force Support Squadron fitness center director, the upgrade was necessary because it was hard to keep grass growing on the field due to the high amount of use by the community.

The new turf is an inch-and-a-half of plastic grass which is then packed with small rubber pellets, making it a flat surface. The field can be used year-round, allowing another location for squadron physical conditioning.

"This is a true playing surface that is low-impact on ankles and knees," said Holmes.

Additionally, more than 300 man-hours will be saved on maintenance.

"Prior to the field, I would have to cut and chalk the lines," Holmes said. "Now I just need to put the markers out and the field is ready to play on. We will sweep the field once every couple of months after the initial maintenance, and we have extra turf and 5,000 pounds of pellets if something were to rip or wear down."

The three-month undertaking started May 1, but finished two-and-a-half weeks early July 18.

The athletic surface is more durable, expected to endure the elements and last more than seven years, according to Holmes.

Although the field will be 5 to 15 degrees warmer than a traditional field, frequent field patron Grant McCormick doesn't mind.

"The field is a lot better than before," said McCormick. "We now have a flat surface where a variety of sports can be played without the concern for rolling an ankle."

President announces nomination for AF under secretary

8/2/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- President Barack Obama announced Aug. 1 that he intends to nominate Eric Fanning to be the next Under Secretary of the Air Force.

Fanning is the Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of the Navy, previously holding positions with the House Armed Services Committee, the White House, CBS News, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, Business Executives for National Security, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this Administration to serve the American people," President Obama said of Fanning and four other new nominees. "I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.

"I am honored by the President's announcement, and look forward to working with the Congress and continuing to serve the Department of Defense during the confirmation process," said Fanning.

The Air Force Under Secretary is responsible for Department of the Air Force affairs on behalf of the Secretary of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 333,000 active duty men and women, 178,000 Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve members, 182,000 civilians, and their families.

The under secretary also serves as the Chief Management Officer of the Air Force, the senior Air Force energy official, and the focal point for space within Air Force Headquarters.

If confirmed by the Senate, Fanning will follow Erin Conaton, who left the Air Force Under Secretary position in June to assume the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Dr. Jamie Morin currently serves as the Acting Under Secretary of the Air Force, a position to which he was appointed July 3.

(Courtesy Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)

Azerbaijan’s cooperation with military efforts helps save lives

by Staff Sgt. Amber R. Kelly-Herard
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs


8/2/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Air Mobility Command and the 618th Air and Space Operations Center briefed the ambassador of Azerbaijan here recently on how his country is making a big difference in saving the lives of aeromedical evacuation patients.

Over-flight clearance from the Azerbaijan government reduces Air Mobility Command aeromedical evacuation flights by nearly 1 hour and 45 minutes, saving lives, officials say.

"It can make a tremendous difference to patients that are already compromised due to injury or illness," said Col. Jennifer Kimmet, the chief of Aeromedical Evacuation Operations here.

"A shorter flight decreases the potential risk of complications from exposure to the stress flying puts on a patient," she said.

Since January of 2012, more than 150 aeromedical evacuation flights have flown over Azerbaijan, rushing more than 2,200 patients to a higher level of medical care.

United States' casualties have a 95 percent chance of survival once they enter the theater medical system. Air Mobility Command officials said the continued use of Azerbaijan airspace is contributes to the high survivability rate.

"Airspace clearance from Azerbaijan has been crucial to the success of Air Mobility Command's en route care system and saving lives," said Brig Gen Bart Iddins, Air Mobility Command Surgeon General.

SSgt promotion list released



Air Force Personnel, Service and Manpower Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – RANDOLPH, Texas – More than 13,400 senior airmen - 40 percent of those eligible - have been selected for promotion to staff sergeant, said Air Force Personnel Center officials who released the list today at 8 a.m. central time.


Staff sergeant is the first noncommissioned officer rank. Those selected will be promoted beginning in September, depending on their promotion sequence number. Selections are tentative until the data verification process is complete, which is no later than 10 days after the promotion release date.

The average score for those selected was 283.30, with an average time in grade of 1.93 years and time in service of 4.45 years. Weighted factor point averages were 131.59 for enlisted performance reports, .98 for decorations, 70.35 for the Promotion Fitness Exam and 57.33 for the Specialty Knowledge Test.

Allen Meets With Pakistani Military Chief

From an International Security Assistance Force News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 2, 2012 – Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, met in Islamabad, Pakistan, today with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s chief of army staff.

The meeting was another in a series of opportunities for the commanders to continue building upon the growing operational cooperation among the Afghan national security forces, the Pakistani military and ISAF, officials said.

In a written statement recapping the meeting, ISAF officials said all three parties share many interests, including a commitment to expanding opportunities for coordinated action against terrorists on both sides of the border who threaten Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region. They also are committed to support Afghanistan’s security, stability, and reconciliation efforts and share a responsibility for protecting Afghan and Pakistani soldiers working in the border region, officials said.

The talks also recognized the importance of future opportunities for key Afghan, Pakistani and ISAF senior military leaders to continue to explore ways to expand their vital partnership, the statement said.
Kayani said the U.S.-Pakistan relationship should be based on mutual trust, respect, and transparency, and that today’s meeting helped to improve strategic and operational understanding between the Pakistani military and ISAF.

“I look forward to these visits and am pleased with the upward spiral in our relationship they represent,” Allen said. “We are making significant progress toward building a partnership that is enduring, strategic, carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of the region.”

Honduran and U.S. Airmen achieve interoperability milestone by working together

by Staff Sgt. James Stewart
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs


8/1/2012 - TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Tech. Sgt. Mateo Escareno can hardly restrain the satisfied grin on his face.

"This is exactly what we are here to accomplish," he said as he nodded his head positively.

Escareno is an air advisor for the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron; he's been in Honduras since the middle of July. Escareno is also a crew chief and he's been working with other Honduran crew chiefs sharing ideas about aircraft maintenance. He's beaming today because what he is watching on the flightline at Hernan Acosta Mejia Air Force Base is a milestone for his mission and his Honduran crew chief counter parts.

"We've all been working together to bring the aircraft maintenance and fuels specialties to the table," say Tech. Sgt. Filiberto Rodriguez, a fuels technician with the 571st MSAS. "I've been working together with the Honduran fuels guys and Escareno and his team have been sharing ideas with the maintenance guys."

At first the two groups were working independently of one another.

"That's the way we have always been," said Sub-oficial II Maestro Enrique Hernandez-Sanchez, a helicopter mechanic and section leader for the Honduran air force. "We've worked this way from generation to generation, the maintenance crews don't fuel the aircraft."

Fueling the aircraft was the sole responsibility of the fuels technician. One man used to handle the job of fueling the aircraft.

"That's what worked best for the Hondurans," Rodriguez said. "But they got the idea to work together by sharing experiences with us. They asked us how we fuel our aircraft. They came up with some ideas they wanted to implement based on what we shared. As an Air Advisor I'm really excited to see them work together."

Prior to now, the fuels technician would handle all of the fueling responsibilities: grounding the truck, pumping the fuel, monitoring the pressure, everything. According to both Escareno and Rodriguez, their Honduran associates were interested in the safety implications of one man handling refueling aircraft. As a team the Hondurans understood if something went wrong the entire group could rapidly respond to the incident rather than risk one man being hurt or loosing valuable assets.

In the United States Air Force the fuels technician stays with the fuel truck and monitors the refueling while the crew chief stays with the aircraft monitoring the fueling on the opposite end. It is every bit a team effort.

"Interoperability is important to us and it is great to see the Hondurans embrace the concepts and really run with it," said Escareno. "They are really promoting a system where they can work together and it's great to be part of that."

Hernandez and Auxiliary Jose Anibal Espinal are the first two Hondurans to run through the new fueling process. Hernandez stands ready at his helicopter and Espinal at the fuel truck. Both men clutch a checklist in their hand containing the steps for the new process. The Hondurans created the checklist while working with their U.S. counterparts.

"This new checklist increases our communication and makes safety a top priority," said Hernandez. "It's a benefit for future maintainers and I'm proud to be a part of creating this process."

Rodriguez lent his experiences to the Hondurans while they developed their new checklist for the fueling process.

"This is what success feels like," Rodriguez said. "My Honduran partners are implementing their ideas and developing new tools that they have come up with to amplify their capabilities."

Escareno and Rodriguez watch the Hondurans perform the fueling operation. Every once in a while the Hondurans paused to discuss the checklist with each other to iron out the details. In the end they performed three aircraft fueling dry runs.

"These guys have been working hard to promote a system where they can work together," says Escareno. "And that makes me smile."

Face of Defense: Army Couple Deploys Together


By Army Capt. Monika Comeaux
13th Sustainment Command

CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan, Aug. 2, 2012 - Some families have a son, daughter, mother or father deployed, but for some, a deployment is a complete family affair
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Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Latch and Army Staff Sgt. Carmelita Ann Latch at Camp Eggers, Afghanistan. They deployed from Fort Hood's 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in December 2011 on their second deployment together. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Monika Comeaux

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Latch, the mobility noncommissioned officer in charge, and Army Staff Sgt. Carmelita A. Latch, an integrations noncommissioned officer, both work here in support operations for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. They deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, with the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. 

Being a married Army couple has both its advantages and disadvantages, but the Latches focus on the positives to help them through their second deployment together.

"There is always somebody there to talk to, which is really helpful," Stephen said. "It is always nice to have that moral support with you, no matter what. We are permanent battle buddies."

The couple is together practically 24/7, as they work together and are housed together. They said if they weren't on the same camp, they would worry about each other constantly.

"There are times when he gets on my nerves because he picks on me," Carmelita said. "But as far as us getting mad at each other and have to be away from each other, we have never been like that. ... We are one of those couples who function better together than apart."

The couple left three kids back home, who they miss dearly: Loni, 20, Rudy, 19, and Lexi, 11. Loni and Rudy are house-sitting family homes in two different states while Loni attends college full-time in Virginia. Rudy has a full-time job in Texas, and Lexi is staying with her grandparents. Being the youngest, Stephen said, it is hard for her to deal with her dad being away, but she copes well.

" [Lexi] is a trooper," he said. "This is the fourth deployment that I have been on since she has been alive. She is getting kind of in the zone now where she understands. ... When she does get to missing me a lot, normally I either try send her a necklace or something she can look at -- give her something that she can hold and touch -- and that helps her a lot."

The two older kids shared their views via email about not having either parent around.

"I love them and miss them more than anyone could know, and I can't wait to see them again," wrote Rudy-Allan Kaech Jr., Carmelita's son. "It gives me a sense of independence living on my own, with the sense of security that they will still be there for me... if I need them."

"Both of my parents being deployed is very hard," wrote Loni Marie Kaech, Carmelita's daughter. "When I need to talk or need anything, they are not here." She started her message with how having to talk about her parents being gone actually brings her to tears. She also misses the double dates she used to go on with her husband and parents, she said.

The Latch family set goals to make the deployment go by faster. They've paid off most of their bills and are saving up for their mid-tour leave. They have also been working on college courses.

"It has been a long deployment," Carmelita said. "We both started college out here. He has done 20 college credits since we have been out here. I will have finished 25 college credits, and I have also raised my General Technical score out here, so I am excited about that. We have accomplished a lot here, and it has been amazing," she said.

"I had no college at all, it is a really big step for me," Stephen said.

Loni is also working toward a degree using Stephen's Post 9/11 GI Bill. Her mom set an incentive to inspire her: "I promised my daughter I'd take her anywhere in the world when she graduated college," Carmelita said with a broad smile. "Now she wants to go to Greece, so I am trying to save up for that."

"A little bit of suffering on our part to get her ahead of life -- I think it is all worth it," Stephen added.
The couple will leave Afghanistan shortly and plans to enjoy the Texas hunting season. They will keep their eyes on their goals not only for the duration of the deployment, but also for their future.

"My goal is to retire as a sergeant major [and to be] the first female sergeant major of the Army," Carmelita said. But their biggest goal, they said, is always to safely return to their children.

They emphasized professionalism, trust, patience and communication as the keys to a successful deployment for a married couple.

Air Force officials release E-5 promotion list

Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

8/2/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- More than 13,400 senior airmen -- 40 percent of those eligible -- have been selected for promotion to staff sergeant.

To see the list, go to http://www.afpc.af.mil/promotions/ssgt.asp.

Staff sergeant is the first noncommissioned officer rank. Those selected will be promoted beginning in September, depending on their promotion sequence number. Selections are tentative until the data verification process is complete, which is no later than 10 days after the promotion release date.

The average score for those selected was 283.30, with an average time-in-grade of 1.93 years and time-in-service of 4.45 years. Weighted factor point averages were 131.59 for enlisted performance reports, .98 for decorations, 70.35 for the promotion fitness exam and 57.33 for the specialty knowledge test.

Help arrives in my darkest hour

Commentary by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


8/2/2012 - ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England (AFNS) -- I want the nightmares to stop!

That's one thing I told Dr. Jeffery Peterson, a 48th Medical Operations Squadron clinical psychologist, when I went to see him last year.

I admit the visit wasn't voluntary.

Just before leaving Afghanistan in May 2011, I had to accomplish an online post-deployment health assessment and was flagged by many of my responses. I had to see Peterson my third day home. I felt our encounter was routine, but optimistically routine.

While downrange I was involved in several close-range firefights, as well as living in constant threat of the near-daily attacks we repelled.

I was notified that I had to do yet another PDHA last August. What followed absolutely blew my mind!

After submitting the PDHA, I stopped by a coworker's office to talk briefly and returned to a ringing phone. A member of the 48th Medical Group staff was calling me merely 21 minutes after pressing the final mouse click and submitting the PDHA. I was amazed at how fast they reached out to me.

I was flagged again and scheduled to see Peterson that same afternoon. I honestly dreaded having to go 'talk about my problems,' again but was truly impressed at how the medical system was working like a well-oiled machine. The 48th MDG staff monitored my progress as if I were their only patient.

Once more, Peterson was very positive and he seemed exceedingly concerned about complications in my Purple Heart medal approval. Since then, he saw my Purple Heart come to fruition and has been in routine contact with me. I also received comprehensive treatment from another 48th MDG psychiatrist and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Despite my care moving from the family practice clinic to the mental health clinic, Peterson has kept in repeated contact with me. It's more than obvious, he cares.

Top-care isn't limited to Peterson either.

Dr. Paul West, my psychiatrist, goes well above and beyond, whenever I need a listening ear or professional advice.

Furthermore, the Air Force assigned me to Tom Sansone, a Wounded Warrior counselor at the Air Force Personnel Center.

Sansone has been involved in all aspects of medical care, and has called me at home and at work dozens of times. He's an amazing counselor.

The truth is I never wanted to see Peterson, West, Sansone or the other medical staff. I didn't volunteer, the Air Force redeployment system forced these people into my life, but I'm sure glad it did.

Luckily many Airmen won't see lives taken first hand, much less take human lives or lose close friends to the enemy. Yet, others will. For those people, there's help.

For service members thrown right into the mix of the darkest aspects of war and inhumanity, I hope you fight well and stand your ground, my brothers. I hope you keep our enemies at bay and keep the fight on foreign soil. Rest assured, as I now know, there are people here at home who care.

For me that was my wife, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program and the 48th MDG.

Through my rants and despair, my anger and sadness, my wife has always been there. Still, there are some things I could never talk to her about; who'd want to put the worst on the ones they love?

In those times and for those subjects, I have professionals at nearby RAF Lakenheath. I'd be lying to say I always had complete confidence in our medical system -- I used to have my doubts. But no longer; now I have full faith that the system works and the professionals care.

I'll permanently change station to a stateside base next month, and the professionals who cared for me at RAF Lakenheath will become people of my past. I admit that fact is troubling. Yet, I've seen first-hand success of the Air Force medical system and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. I'll be in good hands wherever I PCS to -- I'm a believer!

U.S., Israeli Leaders United Against Iranian Nuke Efforts By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service ASHKELON, Israel, Aug. 1, 2012 – If diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions fail, the United States has military options to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today. Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited an Iron Dome anti-missile battery defending this city from missile attacks from Gaza, less than 10 miles away. With a rocket launcher in the background, Panetta and Barak spoke during a news conference of the threat Iran’s nuclear program poses. Panetta said the United States will not allow Iran to gain a nuclear capability. But although all options are available to stop this, he added, this does not mean that using the military option is imminent. “We have to exhaust every option, every effort, before we resort to military action,” Panetta said. “The international community has applied very strong sanctions against [the Iranians]. We have ratcheted up those sanctions. It’s having an impact.” The sanctions are biting, and the Iranians agreed to return to the so-called “P-5-plus-1” talks with the United States, Great Britain, China, Russia and Germany. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and the international community wants the nation that sponsors Hamas and Hezbollah to stop its nuclear program and abide by international rules and requirements, Panetta said. “That is something we would work with them to continue,” he added. But if Iranian leaders make the choice to continue the nuclear program, the secretary said, “we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that this does not happen.” The Israeli defense minister was even more blunt. “When we say all the options are on the table, and when the Americans say all the options are on the table, we mean it, and I believe the Americans mean it,” Barak said. The Israelis believe time is running out for an Iranian decision and that there is little or no chance that Tehran will step away from the nuclear program, Barak said. “It’s important to notice that while sanctions are taking place and diplomacy is taking place, it takes time,” he said. “And in the meantime, the Iranians are daily enriching uranium. We clearly have something to lose by this stretched time.”

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ASHKELON, Israel, Aug. 1, 2012 – If diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions fail, the United States has military options to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.

Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited an Iron Dome anti-missile battery defending this city from missile attacks from Gaza, less than 10 miles away.

With a rocket launcher in the background, Panetta and Barak spoke during a news conference of the threat Iran’s nuclear program poses.

Panetta said the United States will not allow Iran to gain a nuclear capability. But although all options are available to stop this, he added, this does not mean that using the military option is imminent.

“We have to exhaust every option, every effort, before we resort to military action,” Panetta said. “The international community has applied very strong sanctions against [the Iranians]. We have ratcheted up those sanctions. It’s having an impact.”

The sanctions are biting, and the Iranians agreed to return to the so-called “P-5-plus-1” talks with the United States, Great Britain, China, Russia and Germany.

Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and the international community wants the nation that sponsors Hamas and Hezbollah to stop its nuclear program and abide by international rules and requirements, Panetta said. “That is something we would work with them to continue,” he added.

But if Iranian leaders make the choice to continue the nuclear program, the secretary said, “we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that this does not happen.”

The Israeli defense minister was even more blunt. “When we say all the options are on the table, and when the Americans say all the options are on the table, we mean it, and I believe the Americans mean it,” Barak said.

The Israelis believe time is running out for an Iranian decision and that there is little or no chance that Tehran will step away from the nuclear program, Barak said.

“It’s important to notice that while sanctions are taking place and diplomacy is taking place, it takes time,” he said. “And in the meantime, the Iranians are daily enriching uranium. We clearly have something to lose by this stretched time.”

Air Force Assures F-22 Readiness Following Extensive Testing

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2012 – Following months of life support systems components testing in the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, officials have “determined with confidence” the source of previously unexplained physiological incidents, the director of operations for the Air Force’s Air Combat Command said yesterday at a Pentagon news conference.


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An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron returns to a training mission after refueling March 27, 2012, over the Pacific Ocean. Air Force officials have determined the source of previously unexplained physiological incidents involving the fifth-generation fighter jet. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth
  

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta last week approved a gradual lifting of restrictions he placed on F-22 flights in May.
 
The combined medical disciplines of flight medicine, toxicology, physiology, human factors and occupational health have enabled the service to assemble “pieces of the mosaic” that reside in the cockpit, Maj. Gen. Charles W. Lyon, designated by Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley in January to lead an investigative task force, said at yesterday’s news conference. The general pinpointed the upper pressure garment, oxygen delivery hoses, quick connection points and on occasion, the air filter canister, as root causes of previously unexplained physiological incidents in which some pilots complained of hypoxia-like symptoms.

“As we completed end-to-end testing in the life support systems components, we are able to piece together the contributing factors for our previously unexplained incidents,” Lyon said, crediting an “integrated, collaborative approach by government and industry” in helping the Air Force develop its findings. The task force, Lyon said, leveraged the investigative efforts of numerous safety investigation boards and the Air Force’s Scientific Advisory Board to eliminate contamination as the root cause of the incidents.

Air Force officials used intensive altitude chamber and centrifuge protocols to isolate variables in the flight gear and cockpit connections, the general said. They also analyzed thousands of samples of gases, volatile and semi-volatile compounds, solids and liquids, and compared that data to occupational hazard standard levels.

“Managing risks to our F-22 force has always been pre-eminent as we work through this complex set of factors,” Lyon said. “In the end, there is no ‘smoking gun.’”

The fleet, grounded for five months last year, has flown nearly 8,000 sorties totaling more than 10,000 flight hours since its last reported unexplained incident in March, Lyon said.

In a recent update to Panetta that led to the decision to roll back the restrictions, Air Force officials said the service employed thorough, in-depth analysis to eliminate contamination as a contributing factor to its most recent incident and charted a path to eliminate all significant contributing factors today and in the future.

“We left no stone unturned in the investigative process,” Lyon said, adding that the service will continue to move forward with enhancements and fixes as NASA primes to conduct an independent investigation.

The Air Force’s investigative process also involved canvassing the F-22 communities to gauge pilot, maintainer and family member confidence in the aircraft’s safety, Lyon said.

“I recently visited our F-22 bases, and I can tell you, their confidence is high,” he said, noting that no hybrid high-altitude flight operations and high-maneuverability aircraft could be completely immune to such incidents. “There’s no other aircraft our pilots would rather fly in the service of our nation,” he added.

Panetta has authorized the deployment of a squadron of F-22 aircraft to Kadena Air Base, Japan, under altitude restrictions using the northern Pacific transit route. Upon completion of that mission, the Air Force likely will approve most long-duration flights, service officials said.

Strait of Malacca Stands as Model of Multilateral Cooperation


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Aug. 1, 2012 – U.S. Pacific Command is holding up a multinational partnership in the Asia-Pacific region as a model for the type of cooperation the command is working to promote to deal with transnational threats.

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U.S. sailors handle lines in preparation to get the littoral combat ship USS Freedom under way from her homeport in Mayport, Fla., Feb. 16, 2010. Freedom, the Navy's first littoral combat ship, is scheduled for a 10-month rotational deployment to Singapore beginning in the spring of 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Leah Stiles
  

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A decade ago, the Strait of Malacca was a dangerous place, where pirates launched almost 50 attacks a year in the narrow, 550-mile-long sea lane linking the Indian and Pacific oceans. That had serious international implications, because about 50,000 vessels transit the passageway each year, carrying an estimated 40 percent of the world’s trade.
Today, incidents have dropped to fewer than five a year, without a single successful hijacking in almost four years, reported Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael A. Keltz, Pacom's director of strategic planning and policy.

Keltz attributed that success to a partnership among nations bordering the strait, with help from U.S.-funded technology that has boosted maritime security dramatically.

Meanwhile, countries that once resisted engaging in multilateral, multinational operations now are doing so, Keltz said. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and, increasingly, Thailand, have joined forces to increase patrols and improve their collective maritime domain awareness and law-enforcement capabilities.

A command and control information center that opened at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base in 2009 supports this effort, drawing together information shared by 11 nations. This includes data from shore-based radars positioned throughout the region and an electronic tracking system that automatically identifies vessels transiting the strait.

The neighbors share this information, establishing a common operational picture that enables all to better detect and identify potential threats, Keltz said.

The Strait of Malacca stands as an example, he said, as nations come together to address regional challenges collectively.

“That is the model we are building for our [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] partner nations,” he said. “We help them achieve the basic [defense] capabilities so that they can do that [mission] themselves.”
As it implements the new strategic guidance focused heavily on the Asia-Pacific, Pacom is working actively to promote more multilateral cooperation, Keltz noted. It’s a major thrust behind the Pacific rebalancing effort, including new force rotational arrangements.

“We want to be better situated around the entire Pacific to build those partnership capacities on a trilateral, multilateral and regional basis,” he said.

As regional partners exercise their own enhanced capabilities, Singapore has agreed to host U.S. Navy littoral combat ships on a rotational basis. The Navy’s new LCS, USS Freedom, is scheduled for its first 10-month rotational deployment to Singapore beginning next spring.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, Pacom commander, welcomed the planned rotations, along with Marine rotational deployments in Australia, as a way to expand U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific without the need for more permanently based forces.

The littoral combat ships, he said, will be positioned alongside a strong, reliable partner near the strategic Strait of Malacca that links the Indian and Pacific oceans. “It will give us a unique, credible combat credibility for our maritime security, particularly in one of the largest choke points in the world,” he said.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Defense Minister Ng En Hen of Singapore announced during security talks in Singapore that the two countries had agreed to lay plans for expanding this arrangement to include additional littoral ships.

“Secretary Panetta reaffirmed that the LCS deployment would strengthen U.S. engagement in the region, through the port calls at regional ports, and engagement of regional navies through activities such as exercises and exchanges,” according to a joint statement released after that meeting.

Locklear said he’d like to build on these models as he implements the new strategic guidance that emphasizes the importance of Asia and the Pacific. Rotational forces provide “an uptick in presence” that he said complements that provided by the 330,000 service members permanently based within Pacom’s area of responsibility.

“What they provide is an ability to work with our allies and to leverage the capabilities of the allies across all aspects of peace to conflict,” the admiral said. Meanwhile, he added, the additional presence rotational forces provide creates regional footholds that could pay off if the United States had to flow more forces to protect U.S. or allies interests there.

That presence, and the experience base it helps to build, would be particularly valuable in a disaster requiring humanitarian assistance, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or any other crisis, he said.

“It gives training to the forces that rotate in and out,” he explained, so they are familiar with the region and the regional militaries if they need to work together. He cited last year’s Operation Tomodachi in Japan as an example. “So there is a lot of value to it,” he said.
 

Maxwell medics return from Peru

by Staff Sgt. Sarah Loicano
Air University Public Affairs


7/27/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.,  -- Nine members of the 42nd Medical Group recently returned from New Horizons, an ongoing joint humanitarian training exercise in Peru.

An annual series of free medical clinics and infrastructure development projects, New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command-led exercise conducted with Latin American and Caribbean nations to enhance international disaster response capabilities and cooperation. Maxwell's medical team of 17, including eight from other Air Force bases, joined 500 other U.S. and Peruvian military doctors, engineers and support staff in New Horizons 2012, which runs through Aug. 31.

"There were six services we were tasked to provide - general medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, optometry and dental and of course, all of those needed pharmacy support," explained John Henry, 42nd Medical Group Readiness Flight chief and Maxwell New Horizons team chief.

A trip of this magnitude, Henry said, required extensive arrangements; he'd been planning this trip since October 2011.

"This area was hit hard by the earthquake in 2007. We did some site visits and we'd mostly end up working out of the schools. It's like putting a puzzle together, trying to make things work, but when the team showed up, we hit the ground running," Henry said.

Working at two locations, San Clemente and Tupac Amaru, Maxwell's team treated more than 7,000 people over a 10 day period. When the team opened the clinic for the first day of medical services, 1,000 people were already lined up.

"I've done a lot of these and I've never seen a demand that great at one time. The line just never seemed to end," Henry said. "Some of them will show up at 2 a.m. to try to be near the front of the line and we try to manage the crowd and do our best to see everyone, but there comes a point in time when you have to stop. It's kind of humbling ... you wish you could take your kids so they can see how good they have it."

Given $85,000 for supplies and equipment, the team purchased bandages, gauze, needles, eyeglasses, eye drops and various medical supplies, which Henry said were all the supplies the team would have access to during their exercise.

"They try to teach better medical practices and try to do your job to the standards you're used to with bare bones, basic medicine," he said. "They have to learn to work with the limitations of supplies and medicine."

With the large number of patients waiting to be seen and a fixed amount of supplies, the medical team focused on treating as many people as possible by working from two clinic locations. The group also referred serious cases to local hospitals, which were better equipped to handle life-threatening situations and chronic diseases.

"Without having to tear down and put back up every day, we were able to keep doors open longer and treat more patients," said Capt. Mike Calhoun, a 42nd MDG Optometry flight commander. "We aren't documenting each case like we do here for medical records, so we can treat more people each day. What we were trying to do is do the most good for the most people you can. These people would wait all night to get seen; we never left anyone empty handed."

Overall, the team saw a huge demand for optometry services, including treatment for cataracts and glaucoma, skin disorders, and respiration problems especially amongst the children.

"It's really neat when I see a kid who needs glasses to see more than a few inches, and suddenly he can see. That increases his world. It may not be perfect but it still changes his life," Calhoun said. "I bet that kid goes to sleep with those glasses on."

Immediate results are gratifying, Calhoun said, but one of the most important things they can do with their time there is help teach patients how to prevent future medical issues.
"A lot of what we do there is education on how to take care of their eyes and explain why they are having the problems with their eyes," he said.

Maxwell has been participating in New Horizons missions since 2005, and teams have been to Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Granada, Panama and Bolivia.

Luke AFB selected for F-35A pilot training

by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


8/2/2012 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- It's official, the F-35 is coming to Luke.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley announced today that Luke AFB has been chosen as the location of the Air Force's F-35A Lightning II pilot training center. The base will receive 72 aircraft for a total of three fighter squadrons.

"This is a great day for Luke," said Brig. Gen. JD Harris, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "Our selection for F-35 training ensures the long-term viability of our mission of training the world's greatest fighter pilots, which we've been doing at Luke for seven decades."

The F-35, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft intended to be the Air Force's premier strike aircraft through the first half of the 21st Century. It is a multirole fighter that is expected to eventually phase out the service's F-16s and A-10s.

Aircraft will begin to arrive at Luke between late 2013 to mid-2014, although exact timing will depend on production schedules. Construction on base to prepare for the aircraft, however, is expected to start almost immediately.

The Record of Decision cited several reasons why Luke was the service's top choice, including facility and ramp capacity, range access, weather, as well as capacity for future growth.

"We're the envy of the Air Force when it comes to community support," said Rusty Mitchell, director of Luke's Community Initiatives Team. "While there has been development that's grown out toward Luke, the community has made every effort to ensure that the growth has been compatible with our mission. We cannot thank our West Valley neighbors enough for letting us be part of the community, not just in the community."

In addition to training U.S. pilots, Luke will also serve as an F-35A International Partner Training site.

"The Air Force is committed to training our U.S. and partner nation pilots on this fifth-generation fighter aircraft," said Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff. "Collaborative training on aircraft designed with stealth, maneuverability and integrated avionics will better prepare our combined forces to assume multi-role missions for the future of tactical aviation."

The decision culminates a nearly three-year process that included an extensive Environmental Impact Statement that examined impacts on air quality, noise, land use and socioeconomic issues. The analysis was required in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and to help decision makers understand items of interest to the public and other federal and state agencies.

"The Air Force was very diligent in this process," Mitchell said. "It was a very open, transparent and repeatable process that was done the same at all the candidate bases."
Even as Team Luke prepares to open a new chapter, Harris said, the 56th Fighter Wing remains focused on its current mission: Training the world's greatest F-16 fighter pilots and maintainers while deploying mission-ready warfighters.

Iron Dome System Demonstrates U.S-Israeli Partnership By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service ASHKELON, Israel, Aug. 1, 2012 - After passing through an orchard of fruit-laden apple trees and passing fields of corn and vegetables, it's jarring to come across a rocket launcher. But that's the scene near this southern Israeli city. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited with Israeli air force personnel protecting Ashkelon from terrorist attacks. The city is less than 10 miles away from Gaza, and terrorists there have launched hundreds of missiles and mortar rounds into Israel. The rocket launcher, radar and battle management and control module in this pasture are part of the Iron Dome network designed to track and shoot down missiles fired at Israeli cities. This is a country constantly on its guard, even as regular workaday life continues. About 200 meters from the battery are apartment buildings with wash hanging off the balconies and a beautifully appointed playground. Farmers work in the fields, and cars whiz by on the Israeli version of an interstate. These are targets for the terrorists who use Gaza as a launching point. The system has shot down scores of missiles that would have killed Israeli citizens since it was fielded in April 2011. During a joint news conference with Barak at the battery, Panetta said Iron Dome "has been a game changer for Israel's security. It has saved Israeli lives." Barak said it has a more than 80 percent success rate. The battery also is a concrete example of how the U.S.-Israeli defense partnership works. The Israelis developed Iron Dome, and the United States has committed more than $205 million to fielding the system. Last week, President Barack Obama signed a law providing another $70 million to field more batteries this fiscal year. Panetta said his goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs in coming fiscal years to complete fielding the system. But the defense relationship is more than just one system. Panetta said the defense relationship -- based on shared values and goals -- "is stronger than it has ever been before." The partnership between the two nations is more important today because of the security challenges arising from the region, the secretary said. Syria, Iran and the threats of terrorism and nuclear and missile proliferation are just some of the challenges facing the region and the world. "Our ties with the United States have expanded in a range of areas including intelligence, high-tech and securing the qualitative military edge of Israel," the Israeli defense minister said. "The defense relationship underpins greater and wider cooperation between the two countries." Another example of the U.S. commitment to Israel is Israel's involvement in the joint strike fighter program, the secretary said. "Israel is the only country in the Middle East participating in this program," Panetta said. "This will ensure Israel's air superiority for years to come."


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ASHKELON, Israel, Aug. 1, 2012 - After passing through an orchard of fruit-laden apple trees and passing fields of corn and vegetables, it's jarring to come across a rocket launcher.

But that's the scene near this southern Israeli city.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited with Israeli air force personnel protecting Ashkelon from terrorist attacks. The city is less than 10 miles away from Gaza, and terrorists there have launched hundreds of missiles and mortar rounds into Israel.

The rocket launcher, radar and battle management and control module in this pasture are part of the Iron Dome network designed to track and shoot down missiles fired at Israeli cities.

This is a country constantly on its guard, even as regular workaday life continues. About 200 meters from the battery are apartment buildings with wash hanging off the balconies and a beautifully appointed playground. Farmers work in the fields, and cars whiz by on the Israeli version of an interstate. These are targets for the terrorists who use Gaza as a launching point.
The system has shot down scores of missiles that would have killed Israeli citizens since it was fielded in April 2011. During a joint news conference with Barak at the battery, Panetta said Iron Dome "has been a game changer for Israel's security. It has saved Israeli lives." Barak said it has a more than 80 percent success rate.

The battery also is a concrete example of how the U.S.-Israeli defense partnership works. The Israelis developed Iron Dome, and the United States has committed more than $205 million to fielding the system. Last week, President Barack Obama signed a law providing another $70 million to field more batteries this fiscal year. Panetta said his goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs in coming fiscal years to complete fielding the system.

But the defense relationship is more than just one system. Panetta said the defense relationship -- based on shared values and goals -- "is stronger than it has ever been before."

The partnership between the two nations is more important today because of the security challenges arising from the region, the secretary said. Syria, Iran and the threats of terrorism and nuclear and missile proliferation are just some of the challenges facing the region and the world.

"Our ties with the United States have expanded in a range of areas including intelligence, high-tech and securing the qualitative military edge of Israel," the Israeli defense minister said. "The defense relationship underpins greater and wider cooperation between the two countries."

Another example of the U.S. commitment to Israel is Israel's involvement in the joint strike fighter program, the secretary said.

"Israel is the only country in the Middle East participating in this program," Panetta said. "This will ensure Israel's air superiority for years to come."

Air National Guard, Reserve MAFFS-equipped C-130s integral part of wildfire suppression

by Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau


8/1/2012 - ARLINGTON, Va. (8/1/12) -- The Air National Guard has been increasingly working alongside the U.S. Forest Service and other emergency responders this summer, in what officials call one of the worst wildfire seasons in U.S. history.

Flying C-130 Hercules equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, Air National Guard members - as of today - have flown more than 340 flights.

Those flights have culminated in 368 fire retardant drops in which more than eight million pounds - or 888,981 gallons - of fire retardant was dropped on wildfires over the span of 329 flight hours. This year alone, MAFFS units have assisted with more than 35 wildfires.

Wildfires across the U.S. have destroyed more than 1.2 million acres and on June 28, President Barack Obama approved a disaster declaration request for Colorado providing additional support to state and local officials responding to the fires there, as well as federal assistance for individuals affected by both the High Park and the Waldo Canyon Fire.

There are currently seven Air National Guard C-130 aircraft equipped with the U.S. Forest Service's MAFFS. Those C-130s are available for the command and control of U.S. Northern Command to continue support efforts to control fires in the Rocky Mountain region and western United States at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

As of July 26, there were more than 8,400 personnel, 600 fire engines, 19 large air tankers, including the seven MAFFS-equipped C-130s, as well as 71 Single Engine Air Tankers available nationally to combat fires burning across the United States.

According to an Air Force report, MAFFS units provide emergency capability to supplement existing commercial tanker support on wild-land fires. MAFFS aid the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service when all other air tankers are activated but further assistance is needed.

The Forest Service can request help from the Air Guard, Reserve and active Air Force MAFFS units, highlighting interagency cooperation.

In the 1970s, Congress established the MAFFS system after a major fire burned into Long Beach, Calif., destroying hundreds of homes, and overwhelming the civilian tanker fleet's ability to respond at the time.

Today, the 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs, Colo., an Air Force Reserve unit, and three Air Guard units - the145th AW in Charlotte, N.C.; the 146th AW in Channel Islands, Calif. and the 153rd AW in Cheyenne, Wyo. - each have two MAFFS-equipped C-130s able to respond to wildfires throughout the U.S. The 146th is currently the only Air Guard Wing still performing MAFFS related missions at this time.

The 145th - of the North Carolina Air National Guard - held a private memorial service July 11 for the four Airmen killed in the crash of an Air National Guard MAFFS equipped C-130. The men died Sunday, July 1, when their plane went down while fighting the White Draw fire near Edgemont, S.D. The service was held at the 145th AW base.

Professional cowboys go 'behind the chute' at Warren

90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

8/1/2012 - F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. -- F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. -- Look around Cheyenne during the last couple weeks of July each year and the city appears transformed, with bull riding and bronc-busting cowboys working the rodeo circuit.

There was a special twist during the 116th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days as four cowboys from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association joined guests such as three-time Purple Heart recipient, Marine Col. John Bates, from American 300 Warrior Tours.

"We wanted to put our Justin Boots where our mouths are, not just talk about supporting troops but go out and really show them how much we appreciate them," said Tilden Hooper, PRCA bareback rider.

Bareback riders, Kaycee Feild, Jesse Davis and Joe Gunderson joined Hooper and echoed his sentiment.

"Everyone knows we travel with Kaycee Feild, who has put his boots in Middle East combat zones over the past three memorial days," said Hooper. "It was our turn to join him."

The visit, coined "Behind the Chute" was a part of American300's "Never Quit" tour series, which has provided Air Force Global Strike Airmen the opportunity to connect with veterans and athletes who've endured hardship and overcome challenges.

Retired Marine Col. John Bates' career included tours of duty in Vietnam and Iraq. Bates now donates his time a volunteer professional skydiver, representing the Marines Wounded Warrior Regiment at everything from rodeos to NASCAR events.

Bates, the cowboys and American300 "Never Quit" series founder Robi Powers enjoyed visiting a Missile Alert Facility here July 26.

Field said he had been looking forward to meeting the Airmen.

"It felt like the night before the first performance of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo," said Fields.

After the tour, the cowboys headed back to the rodeo grounds at Frontier Park with a new appreciation for the Airmen.

"These Airmen are the true champions," said Davis. "They deserve champions' belt buckles."

American300 is an all volunteer nonprofit organization with a mission of increasing strength and resiliency of military members and their families at home and at work. No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit organizations is intended.

NCO retraining program application window opens


by Debbie Gildea
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - RANDOLPH, Texas – More than 1,300 noncommissioned officers may apply for retraining under the fiscal year 2013 NCO Retraining Program, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.

The two-phase program is used to balance and sustain the enlisted force by moving second-term and career Airmen from overage career fields to shortage career fields, said Master Sgt. Angela Harris, AFPC Skills Management Branch Superintendent. Phase I is voluntary and Phase II is involuntary.

During Phase I, Airmen in unrestricted career fields may apply for retraining into any shortage career field listed on the retraining advisory, if they meet requirements. Voluntary applications will be accepted through Oct. 5.

Airmen in restricted career fields will be able to apply only for specific career fields, and will also have a shorter Phase I application window: July 30-Sept. 3. For example, last year 4N0X1 medical career field Airmen were allowed to retrain only into the 4N0X1C medical career field shred, Harris explained.

During Phase II, the AFPC Total Force Service Center will immediately begin selecting the most qualified and vulnerable Airmen involuntarily, in order to meet the retraining out objectives from overage career fields.

The master vulnerability list is available on the virtual Military Personnel Flight website (accessible via the Air Force Portal or the myPers website) and affected Airmen must check it weekly, Harris said.

Theater Operations a show of force around the world

by Senior Airman Brittany Dowdle
12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs


8/1/2012 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- U. S. Southern Command is a joint and interagency organization supporting the United States national security interests, and with our partners, fostering security, stability, and prosperity in the Americas. The 612th Theater Operations Group plays a vital role in supporting the Air Forces Southern mission in numerous areas of responsibility.

Col. Jonathan VanNoord, 612th TOG commander, has the unique challenge of playing a dual-hat role. He is not only the commander for the TOG, but he is also, the 474th Air Expeditionary Group commander. Both groups support AFSOUTH missions in SOUTHCOM AORs.

The 612th Theater Operations Group has permanent party members stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Curacao, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. The 474th AEG has an entire expeditionary squadron in Guantanamo Bay and members also assigned in Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Curacao. Currently an expeditionary RED HORSE squadron is also assigned to the 474th AEG supporting Operation New Horizons 2012 in Peru. Each squadron is different but they all support AFSOUTH by supporting units in the AOR in counter drug operations, military commissions, C-130 flying missions and airfield operations.

"We are in a supporting role," VanNoord said. "We support many different missions. The most known mission is the counter drug operations. It's very important to support these operations because this is a war that is being fought in our back yard. We don't want those drugs coming into our country and destroying our country, which is a battle we fight every single day."

There are currently 740 individuals, across nine squadrons, assigned to the 612th TOG and the 474th AEG downrange in the USSOUTHCOM AOR. The individuals that are assigned to the 612th TOG but live in the AOR are D-M entities so they are supported operationally by 12th AF (AFSOUTH) and personally by base agencies.

"At the group level we provide the life line to all of our geographically separated units that are located throughout the AOR," said Chief Master Sgt. April Spiczka, 612th TOG group superintendent. "A lot of them are stand-alone units with no base support. They need the support from the 355th Fighter Wing for things that we take for granted everyday by being on a standard air force base. They are the ones on the front lines fighting illegal trafficking, we are here to support them and provide them with what they require to do their job."

A unique challenge that leadership of the 612th TOG and the 474th AEG faces is that they only have one support squadron stationed at D-M, all of their other personnel are in other geographical locations.

"We are unique because we can't just walk down the street to see our squadrons," VanNoord said. "We have to travel to go see them, to identify their living conditions, what resources they have to get their mission done, and so they can know who their leadership is. It's a challenge because each unit is separated from another unit, and it's sometimes hard to educate each squadron on what the rest of the group is involved in."

Members of leadership are able to travel every few months to visit their personnel in the Caribbean and Central and South America. They are able to maintain visibility of the individual squadrons in their group and how they are supporting the mission.

"The most memorable experience I've had is when we built the expeditionary law complex in Guantanamo Bay," said Mr. Kenneth Popelas, 612th TOG deputy commander. "We were able to get a tour of the camps with the detainees. We could see the difference of what is perceived in the United States and what really goes on down there. It's a misconception of how they are treated by U.S. personnel and what the facilities are like down there."

Units assigned to the TOG also help in construction of schools, clinics and playgrounds in support of AFSOUTH operations.

"Last year during New Horizons 2011 in Suriname, we visited a ribbon cutting ceremony for a playground, just a standard playground that you would see in any neighborhood in the United States, but it was like Disney Land for the local youth," Spiczka said. "When they cut the ribbon, the kids cheered and ran to the playground. It was amazing to be able to push the excited kids on the swings and help them across the monkey bars. It really brought home why we're doing what we're doing down there."

VanNoord wanted to personally thank the units on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for the support they provide the units downrange.

"I want to thank all the different units for their support to our Airmen that are downrange," VanNoord said. "We've all been downrange and we know that sometimes it's tough to get that support, but the support we get from D-M is very important to all of our Airmen."