Monday, October 01, 2012

Missions, Capabilities Will Top NATO Conference Agenda

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2012 – NATO defense ministers and partners will meet next week to discuss the alliance’s defense capabilities and missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today in Brussels.

On Afghanistan, NATO officials and partners will reaffirm efforts to transfer full responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014, Rasmussen said during his monthly news conference.

“Our strategy is to build up the capacity of the Afghan security forces and gradually hand over to them lead responsibility for the security across the country,” he said. Afghan security forces already have security lead in areas where 75 percent of the Afghan population lives, Rasmussen added, and Afghanistan soon will reach its goal of 352,000 members serving in its security forces.

“At that time, our current ISAF combat mission will end, and from 2015, it and will be followed by a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces,” Rasmussen said. “The goal, the strategy and the timeline remain unchanged.” European and NATO foreign ministers meeting in New York last week solidified that commitment, he added.

The secretary general also acknowledged that NATO is undergoing a “challenging period,” due at least in part to so-called insider attacks, in which members of Afghanistan’s security forces or insurgents wearing Afghan uniforms attack members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

“We look at these attacks with the utmost concern,” he said.

Rasmussen said he and other officials are determined to challenge the attacks, especially since ISAF and Afghan forces not only face similar threats, but also share the goal of a sovereign, stable and secure Afghanistan.

“The insurgents are trying to undermine our partnership and drive a wedge between us,” Rasmussen said. “We will not let them succeed.”

Most ISAF units continue to conduct normal partnered operations as Afghan forces assume responsibility for large areas of the country, the secretary general said, and the initial results are promising.

“In the regional command for Kabul, … enemy-initiated attacks fell by 17 percent in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period last year,” he said. “And when the enemy did launch attacks, the Afghan forces took the lead in dealing with them.”

At their upcoming Brussels meeting, the secretary general said he expects NATO defense ministers will take the next step in plans to provide training, assistance and advice to Afghan forces beyond 2014.

“We have already begun the planning process,” he added, “and I expect ministers to conclude the first phase by approving the broad framework for the mission.” Ideally, he added, partners and allies will begin a detailed transition plan by 2013 to better ensure a seamless transition.

“Our partners share our interest in cooperative security,” Rasmussen said. “They share the burden of our operations, so it’s only right they should share the planning of our operations to which they have committed.”

Rasmussen said the defense ministers also will discuss the alliance’s “Smart Defense” initiative, which calls for sharing capabilities to help NATO continue its work as defense budgets shrink.

“We will make sure we keep up the momentum on Smart Defense, finding more ways to become more efficient in the way we go about the business of security,” he said.

During the alliance’s May 2012 summit in Chicago, Rasmussen noted, NATO member and partner nations approved a list of 22 multinational products that give allies access to crucial capabilities with less strain on their budgets. The initiatives include cost-effective methods in clearing roadside bombs, sharing smart munitions and pooling maritime patrol aircraft, Rasmussen said.

He also noted that he expects about 10 more projects to emerge in coming months, with some 100 additional initiatives in development.

Marine Missing in Action from Korean War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Marine Pfc. Richard S. Gzik, of Toledo, Ohio, will be buried today, at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC.  On Dec. 2, 1950, Gzik and the other Marines of M Battery, 11th Artillery Regiment, 1st Marine Division, came under attack on the west side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.  It was during this battle that Gzik was killed in action and his remains were buried alongside the road leading to Hagaru-ri.  Later that month, the withdrawal of U.N. forces from the Chosin Reservoir region made it impossible to recover Gzik’s remains.

In 1954, United Nations and Communist Forces exchanged the remains of war dead in what came to be called “Operation Glory.”  All remains recovered in Operation Glory were turned over to the Army Central Identification Unit for analysis.  Those which were unable to be identified, given the technology of that time, were interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii -- the “Punchbowl.” 

In 2012, analysts from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) re-examined the case records and determined that advances in technology could likely aid in the identification of the unknown remains as Gzik.  Once the remains were exhumed, scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including dental records and radiographs, to validate Gzik’s identification.  

Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously buried as unknown.  Today, 7,947 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. 

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, call 703-699-1169, or visit the DPMO web site at .

Wisconsin Airmen assist state non-profits with humanitarian missions

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 115th Fighter Wing doesn't have an aerial port squadron or its own cargo aircraft - but that didn't stop some of Wisconsin's Airmen from helping to deliver more than 19 tons of humanitarian supplies to two foreign countries.

About 10 Wing Airmen, specializing in logistics and traffic management, assisted two Wisconsin volunteer organizations by palletizing and coordinating transport of educational and medical supplies aboard an Air Force C-130 Hercules destined for Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 21.

"Some people who are in need are going to get help," said Carol Dombroski. "My heart is just melting."

Carol and her husband, Bob Dombroski, are members of the Madison Rotary Club which collected more than 15,000 elementary-level text and reading books to benefit nearly 3,500 children in Afghanistan.

"It takes education to get people out of poverty," she said. "And this is a culmination of several months of getting the ball rolling - to see it come to fruition like this is just very inspiring."

Chuck and Peg MacCarthy, of Good News Project, are attempting to ease the burden of underequipped clinics and hospitals in the Commonwealth of Dominica by providing about 26 pallets worth of medical equipment, furniture and supplies to the country's healthcare providers.

Although there are many worthwhile organizations that collect supplies for countless charities across the globe, often times shipping costs are high for non-profit and private organizations. Many of these organizations look to the military for transport but there are very stringent rules regarding the utilization of government resources for transporting non-governmental goods.

This is the first time the Madison Rotary Club has attempted to ship supplies overseas. In the past, Good News Project humanitarian supplies found a ride aboard C-130s from the then Milwaukee-based 440th Airlift Wing. When the 440th relocated, the GNP was forced to use another economically-friendly organization but high transportation costs have made it difficult to keep a consistent shipment of their collected goods headed toward the people in need.

Fortunately for the Wisconsin volunteer organizations, a provision of Title 10 of the United States Code, under the Denton Humanitarian Assistance Program, allows humanitarian supplies to be shipped on a space-available basis at no or little charge. The MacCarthy's, who have been doing philanthropy work in the Caribbean Islands since the early 80s, began shipping goods to the islands, including St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada since before the Gulf War. This was made possible by the Denton program. They have since been inspired by the program's creator.

"We had the great honor of meeting Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton at a luncheon in his honor in Washington D.C. quite a while ago," Peg said.

They also had to chance to meet the pilots who would be transporting their latest shipment.

Capt. Aaron Webb, C-130 pilot for the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, made note of the distinct looking farmland as he was on approach to land. Carol was among the first to greet Webb and his crew after landing.

"We were flying at 4,000 feet. We're looking down and we see all these red barns and I said, 'We're in dairy country, aren't we?' ... so it's pretty funny that [Peg] gave us cheese curds," he joked.

All kidding aside, coupling military missions with philanthropic opportunities is worth the pit-stop, Webb said.

"Our training mission is important to stay sharp but when you get to do something like this ... it kind of makes the big picture come into view," he added.

The humanitarian assistance also provided training to 115th Airmen who worked late to accommodate the flight. Senior Master Sgt. Jason Walker, 115th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said he was happy to be a part of the Wing's unusual role that also provided an opportunity to two of the unit's newest Airmen.

"I think it's good training for building up cargo and it allows us to load real aircraft," Walker said. "And If we can help in that aspect, I think it's good to do and worth the extra effort"

Walker said that Master Sgt. William Kennedy, 115th LRS, was a key player in coordinating with the Denton Program to find a cargo aircraft for the supplies.

"I don't' believe we've had any humanitarian mission here ... at least in the last decade or so," Walker said. "It's a little extra coordination, but it really isn't that difficult to put some pallets on an aircraft. Our Airmen were more than willing to volunteer."

Carol and Bob, and Peg and Chuck all watched from the flight line as the C-130 took off with all of their hard work and good will.

Both couples said they were grateful for the 115th Fighter Wing's contribution to their cause. But perhaps Carol said it best as she walked off the flight line and read the welcome sign in front of base operations.

"'Dedicated to Excellence' ... that says it all," she proclaimed.