Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chief of Staff Looks Back, Ahead as Air Force Observes 65th Birthday

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2012 – The chief of staff of the Air force saluted the men and women of the force today, the 65th birthday of the service, by saying air power starts with heroic airmen who just “keep coming.”

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III told the Air Force Association’s annual meeting here airmen carry on a rich history that began in September 1861, when U.S. Army aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe raised himself in a balloon 1,000 feet above Confederate lines and telegraphed their locations via a line he'd carried up for that purpose. Union artillery then fired into their ranks. It was the first application of indirect fire in the U.S. military, Welsh said.

The successes of airmen continued into World War I with the Lafayette Escadrille, the general said, when "all of a sudden aviation was romantic and fighter pilots were incredibly handsome and attractive."

In World War II, "the heroes kept coming," he said, noting Billy Mitchell, Jimmy Doolittle, "Hap" Arnold and others. "And they keep coming," he added.

About a month ago, Welsh said, he visited the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., "and met the airmen who are involved in that incredibly important work." One of them, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the dress and wrapping section, is an Air Force reservist who has deployed 10 times to work in the mortuary, he said.

Airmen like this demonstrate how the Air Force values family, the general said: “everybody's family, [and] every member of every family." Welsh did make news about one member of the Air Force family, announcing the retirement of Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy.

The Air Force also values innovation, Welsh said, citing the F-22 Raptor fighter jet as “an entire farm of innovation.”

“It does something no airplane can do and no airplane will be able to do for a while,” he said. “Part of the reason we have issues like the life support issues we're dealing with now is we've never had an airplane that could operate, maneuver and pull G's above 50,000 feet -- not the way this thing can. We're into a new era.”

The Air Force has had to revise its priorities following every war since World War I, Welsh pointed out. "And now,” he added, “here we sit at another one of those turning points."

What the Air Force becomes in the next few years, Welsh said, "might not be who we were." Budget pressures and the threat of sequestration – which would double projected defense spending cuts over the next decade -- make it "time for an honest look in the mirror," he said.

Welsh said one of the things he's realized is that people don't understand all that the Air Force is doing -- sometimes not even the leadership. This, he said, is both an incredible testimony and a little worrisome. It means those the Air Force supports don't worry about air power because it's always where it's needed, he explained, but it also means they don't know what goes into making that reliability happen.

"My concern is that we're not telling our own story well enough," he said.

This concern, Welsh said, led him to go back to the basics. He went back to Executive Order 9877, the order that defined the duties of the Air Force after its establishment in 1947.

"Here's some of the stuff it says: air superiority, strategic air forces, air reconnaissance, airlift, air support for ground forces. … They haven't changed,” Welsh said. “These are still the things that our combatant commanders expect us to deliver."

Air Force air superiority drives the way the ground components operate, he said. "If we are not able to gain and maintain air superiority -- which is not a given, and it's not easy -- if we were unable to do that in a future conflict, … then everything about the way the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps fight on the ground would have to change -- what they buy, how they train [and] maybe even who they recruit."

The Air Force, the chief of staff said, needs to make it clear to everyone that air superiority "is a foundational element of the use of air power and of joint war fighting. Period."

Two of the three elements that provide nuclear deterrence for the United States are in the Air Force inventory, he said, and the nuclear mission will remain a primary focus. "We can't afford to ever get this wrong."

The air support and surveillance missions have evolved rapidly over the past 65 years, with much of that change happening within the last 20 years, Welsh said. "I don't think anybody in 1947 could have imagined what [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] would become," he added.

And the demand for intelligence keeps growing, he said. "There isn't enough money in the universe to fund the [intelligence] requirement that we have in the Department of Defense,” he told the audience. “What we buy has to be thoughtfully considered."

No one has accomplished the mobility mission as well as the U.S. Air Force, Welsh said. "We fly 60,000 airlift sorties a year," he said. "Excellence is the way of doing business in our mobility fleet."

Welsh said he is a believer in the cyber mission, but he's "just not sure we know exactly what we're doing in it yet.”

“And until we do,” he said, “I'm concerned it's a black hole."

Cyber professionals need to use common sense and plain English to explain their roles, Welsh said. "This is essential,” he said. “This is the future. It's an air, space and cyber future, there's no doubt in my mind."

The Air Force matters, the general said. "Today, all over the world, we are moving people and equipment -- some into some pretty ugly spots," he said.

Every day, he added, the Air Force is conducting convoys, flying intelligence missions for every combatant commander, fighting on the battlefield alongside the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, flying spacecraft and defusing improvised explosive devices.

"It's important that we tell that story," he said.

Married Couple Pins Each Other as Chief Petty Officers

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Austin Rooney, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Chief Operations Specialist (SW/AW) Priscilla Jones and Chief Master-at-Arms (SW) Mark Jones, who have been married for eight years, pinned anchors on each other during two separate chief pinning ceremonies at the Waterside Marriott Hotel in Norfolk and Naval Station Norfolk, Sept. 14.

Priscilla, stationed aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and Mark, stationed at Naval Station Norfolk Security, said they both shared the goal of being promoted to chief petty officer for years, but seeing both of their names on the list of selectees at the same time shocked them.

"I really didn't expect I'd make chief this time up," said Priscilla. "I thought my husband would make it, but not both of us."

Mark disagreed, saying he always thought his wife would get the promotion before he did. Upon realizing that they both made it together, he said he felt blessed.

"I'm so glad she was able to pin me, and I was able to do the same for her," said Mark. "She's been with me through most of my career, and we've made a lot of sacrifices to be together. So, this is like a reward for both of us."

Ever since the two met aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 26) in 1999, they knew that they would have to make sacrifices beyond what a normal couple would make as a result of being dual-military. For much of their relationship, Mark would be at sea and Priscilla at shore, and vice versa. Still, the two were able to maintain their commitment to the Navy and each other successfully.

"It's really important to leave work at work," said Priscilla. "Spending time at home should be relaxing. If you can keep those two separate, then it makes the relationship a lot easier."

When they found out that they had been selected, both Priscilla and Mark knew they would be spending the next few weeks apart, since they would be attending different induction activities in different places. After five weeks of waking up at three in the morning and coming home at nine in the evening, the couple said being able to attend each other's pinning ceremonies made the entire process worth it.

"I think we were really lucky, and we both deserved it," said Priscilla. "Words can't even describe how good it felt. It was the best experience in the world."

Now that the couple are both chiefs, they have new goals lined up for their future careers in the Navy. Mark said he plans on transitioning to the wardroom next, while Priscilla said she has her eyes set on making senior chief.

Since Priscilla's ceremony at the Waterside Marriott in Norfolk happened two hours earlier than her husband's in building C-9 on Naval Station Norfolk, she jokingly insists that she made chief before he did.

"I already made chief before Mark did," said Priscilla, laughing. "I think I'll get my senior chief star before he does too."

Several options available for combating suicide in the ranks

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Suicide by service members is a limited but difficult threat to engage and defeat - but not impossible.

"I really believe, if there is a glimmer of hope, that someone considering suicide can be saved," said Staff Sgt. Dana Cowell, the Wisconsin National Guard's Suicide Prevention Program manager.

Part of keeping that hope alive is to kindle the understanding that the person contemplating suicide is not alone. The Department of Defense theme for this year's Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is "Stand By Them" - a prompt to get involved when a friend or loved one seems distressed.

Jacqueline Garrick, acting director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, said she encourages military family members concerned about a loved one's state of mind to contact commands, chaplains' offices, community services, or any other means of help they can reach.

"One of the key features that we're working on right now is with the Department of Veterans Affairs," she said. "For several years, they have been working on the Veteran's Crisis Line, and we have been working with them to rebrand [it] as the Military Crisis Line so that our men and women in uniform know that the Military Crisis Line - the '1-800-273-TALK(8255) number, press 1 if you're military' - is for them as well."

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia - senior enlisted advisor to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - said service members, family members and veterans in need of assistance, either for themselves or for a loved one, can call the number day or night to speak to someone.

"That someone, who will answer will be a medical health official ... with the background and expertise to make some immediate assessments," he said. "That phone call has complete confidentiality."

Cowell said one of the first courses of action the Wisconsin National Guard follows is to determine the service member's veteran status. Those who have deployed overseas are connected with resources such as the Vet Centers or VA hospitals.

"First, we call ahead to the VA to let them know that a service member is coming in, so they can be there to greet them," she said. "We usually provide an escort - we want a warm handoff so they know they're never alone."

Cowell acknowledged that there are fewer services for non-veteran service members.

"We really rely on local law enforcement, local hospitals and emergency rooms," she said. Other available resources include Bob Evans, the Wisconsin National Guard's resident director of psychological health, and Military Family Life Consultants such as Nan Gardner and Ruth Price.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno characterized suicide among service members as one aspect of a range of health-of-the-force issues, during a Sept. 10 address at the 134th National Guard Association of the United States General Conference in Reno, Nev.

"The most important thing is about creating an environment, a culture, where people feel comfortable, [and] can come forward and get the help that they need," Odierno said. He also cited screening people before, during and after deployments as one of a plethora of programs aimed at helping service members.

"These problems are not self-correcting," said Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, on Sept. 11. "They will not just go away. They require the collective action of leaders across the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs and the private sector."

Garrick acknowledged there is a common belief among military members that seeking help for mental health issues can damage their careers.

"Not seeking help is going to harm your career even more," she said. "So even if you have to take a medication, or you can't deploy, or you have to go for further testing, ... there are benefits to treatment. Treatment works."

Mental health support "that we know works" is available across the services through military treatment facilities, community mental health services and chaplains' offices, Garrick said.

"That will benefit your career in the long run," she added. "And it will benefit your life in the long run, because this isn't just about your military career - it's about your family well-being, it's about your safety, and it's about what your long-term plan is for your future."

Cowell said that relationship issues, legal or financial problems remain among the most significant stressors that can lead to thoughts of suicide. Evans explained that, in his experience, suicides generally result from two main factors - hopelessness and personal humiliation.

"Usually if a person is discovered with suicidal ideation, they have not yet reached a decision to kill themselves and are at some level accessible to intervention," Evans said. He develops an intervention strategy related to the issues behind the suicidal thoughts. For example, if the issue is a failed relationship he determines how to help the individual understand the reasons behind the breakup and how to more objectively evaluate why it happened.

"Engaging service members about dealing with suicidal ideation really results in having a basic understanding to what is driving this ideation, and displaying alternatives that the service member will view as viable," Evans said.

"I think the first key factor is to understand the signs and symptoms of suicide, and not to be afraid to ask the question," Garrick said. "It's a myth that if you ask somebody, 'Are you feeling suicidal?' that you'll put a thought in their head. And that's just not going to happen. If somebody's really in distress, … the first thing we want people to know to do is ask the questions, 'Do you feel like you could hurt yourself,' 'Do you have a plan?,' and 'How can I help [you through this crisis]?'"

Cowell said Wisconsin National Guard members can access a Risk Reduction and Resilience Library on the Wisconsin National Guard portal (internal network) for additional resources on identification and intervention.

Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill of the National Guard Bureau, and Karen Parrish and Claudette Roulo of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.

Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Depart for Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines assigned to the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed San Diego for deployment Monday, Sept. 17.

The Peleliu ARG, composed of Peleliu, amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), is commanded by Capt. Mark T. Sakaguchi, commander, Amphibious Squadron 3.

Prior to deploying, the ARG completed a myriad of workup exercises, amphibious squadron/Marine expeditionary unit integration, a composite training unit exercise and a certification exercise to prepare for deployment.

During deployment, the Peleliu ARG will be expected to accomplish a variety of missions supporting the Navy's maritime strategy including combat missions, humanitarian assistance, counter-piracy and promoting peace and stability in the regions it enters.

"We're prepared for everything, from humanitarian relief, disaster relief, maritime support operations up to full scale combat," said Sakaguchi. "Whatever the situation is our leaders give us the tasking, we'll respond."

The ships in the ARG hosted a large number of family and friends on board prior to their departure.

"This is my first deployment, and I never thought it would be so hard to leave my wife behind for so long," said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Joshua Quinones, assigned to Peleliu. "I'm sad, but this is what I signed up for."