Thursday, November 15, 2012

U.S., Thai Leaders Move Defense Alliance Into 21st Century

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
BANGKOK, Nov. 15, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Thai Defense Minister Sukampol Suwannathat affirmed their nations’ long-term military partnership here today, updating a vision for the alliance whose most recent statement, in 1962, focused on fighting communism.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, center, tours the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Nov. 15, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

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Before attending the signing ceremony on the manicured grounds of the Ministry of Defense, Sukampol accompanied Panetta as the secretary inspected the Thai guards of honor.

Later, after signing the 2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance, both men made statements to a room packed with journalists.

Panetta said he is honored to visit Thailand as the U.S. secretary of defense, and he thanked Sukampol for his hospitality.

“I also wanted to come here as secretary to affirm very strongly that the United States-Thailand defense alliance remains strong and remains one of our great alliances in this region,” he added.

Thailand will be increasingly important in collective security efforts to promote peace and prosperity in the region, Panetta said, expressing appreciation to the minister and the Thai military for close cooperation and generous support offered to American forces over the years.

“Recognizing that our future prosperity and … security are closely tied to that of the Asia-Pacific region, President [Barack] Obama has committed the United States to working even more closely with our friends and allies in this region,” Panetta said, “deepening our engagement through diplomacy, through trade and through stronger military to military relations.”

The president looks forward to further discussing these issues when he arrives here later this week to visit Bangkok on a trip that also will include visits to Rangoon, Burma, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“America’s engagement with Thailand is a crucial part of these broader efforts,” Panetta said.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the communiqué signed in 1962 by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman, he added, an agreement that committed the nations to halting the spread of communism.

“Today the minister and I moved this alliance into the 21st century,” Panetta said, “by signing a joint vision statement that will help pave the way for even stronger military-to-military ties as we adapt to the shared threats and challenges that we will face together in this region and in the future.”

According to the new vision statement, U.S.-Thai defense cooperation will focus on four key areas:
-- Partnership for regional security in Southeast Asia;
-- Supporting stability in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond;
-- Bilateral and multilateral interoperability and readiness; and
-- Relationship building, coordination and collaboration at all levels.

Panetta’s visit is the culmination of a year’s worth of reinvigoration of the strategic part of the two nations’ defense relationship, a senior defense official said in a background briefing earlier today for reporters traveling with the secretary.

On the operational side of the relationship, the militaries of the United States and Thailand are deeply engaged in massive exercises such as the Thai-led Cobra Gold, the world’s largest multilateral military exercise and premier training event in Asia, the official said.

Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, called CARAT, is another area of cooperation, he added. This is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. And Timor Leste joined the exercise for the first time this year.

The Thais like the engagement and they want more, the official said. “There’s a big demand signal from the Thais to do more training, to come to our schools, to engage on the operational side and the classroom side as well as the strategic part,” he added.

The relationship has also been reinvigorated, the official said, by a series of meetings and visits over the past several months between officials of each nation.

Panetta had a short encounter with Sukampol this year at the Shangri-La Dialogue regional security conference in Singapore. Then Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Bangkok in June and later received a reciprocal visit by his counterpart, Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn.

Other visits included one to Bangkok in July by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, and a visit to Thailand last month by Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command. And in Washington last month, the U.S.-Thailand Defense Strategic Talks put Defense Department officials together with a senior-level Thai delegation, the official said.

This summer, Thai defense officials held a two-day conference on their role in the U.S. defense strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, he added, and came away from it with interests that led to the updating of the Thai-U.S. defense alliance.

“As we focus on these areas of cooperation,” Panetta said today, “I want to convey that the United States remains committed to helping the Thai military further develop its already impressive capabilities so that it can assume even greater security responsibilities in this region,” particularly in maritime security, humanitarian relief and peacekeeping operations.

“Thailand is an important ally in the Asia-Pacific region,” the secretary added, “and we look forward to strengthening that alliance to ensure the friendship and security of both our nations in the future.”

Newest ACC wing welcomes new commander

325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/15/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- Col. David Graff, previous 325th Fighter Wing vice commander, took command of the 325th FW from Brig. Gen. John K. McMullen in a change of command ceremony today.

"I am so honored and humbled to be standing here and taking command," Graff said. "General McMullen, you have put Tyndall on the right path. Providing air dominance for America is not negotiable, and as your vice, I feel you have prepared me to continue the mission."

Prior to arriving at Tyndall in July 2012, Graff attended the National War College, Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C. He received his Air Force commission through the Air Force Academy in 1993, and completed F-15C Eagle initial qualification training at Tyndall in 1995. The colonel returned to Tyndall in 1998 and served as an instructor pilot and weapons officer in the then -- 2nd Fighter Squadron until 1999.

Officiating today's ceremony was Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, Ninth Air Force commander, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C, which is comprised of eight active-duty wings, including the 325th FW, and two direct reporting units all located in the Southeastern U.S.

"'Sir, I assume command,' are four of the sweetest words any officer will ever say, and 'Sir, I relinquish command,' are four of the most painful words an officer will ever say," said Wells. "Colonel Graff, you are well prepared to lead the 325th FW. General, you and Mrs. McMullen will both be missed."

McMullen and his family are headed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The general will fill the position of Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Headquarters Allied Air Command.

"It seems like yesterday that I was standing on this stage getting ready to take command, and assume the responsibility of guiding these Airmen," McMullen said. "It has been an honor to lead these great Airmen standing before us. I can't thank you enough for this opportunity. Kim and I have absolutely loved every moment of this assignment. We love the mission, the area, and most importantly we love the people. I wish you all the best."

The 325th FW, with the mission to train and project unrivaled combat power, consists of more than 4,000 personnel who train F-22 Raptor pilots, intelligence officers, maintainers and other specialties. Tyndall is host to numerous tenant units, and supports 23,000 Airmen, civilians, contractors and their families. Additionally, Tyndall has more than $570 million in local economic impact.

Heritage of America Band bridges gap between military, community members

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

11/15/2012 - GREENSBORO, NC -- The U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band plays approximately 25 concerts a year in venues from Pennsylvania to South Carolina, playing a variety of jazz, classical and patriotic music to an audience of retirees, children and families alike.

Their mission is to reach out to communities and tell the Air Force story through the use of wind, brass and percussion instruments.

Bridging the gap between the military and the public is a high priority for band members and something everyone tries to accomplish with each bang of a drum or toot of the horn.

During an eight concert trip through North Carolina, the band touched crowds from Greensboro to Hickory and several points in between.

"We have such a good time each performance," said Master Sgt. David Dell, an 18-year trumpeter for the Air Force. "We have a lot of folks who are excited to tell us how much they love the show, but also a lot of people tell us their story of when they were in the military."

With a large population of military retirees dwelling in the central part of the state, during their performances here the band gave audience members a chance to remember the patriotic feeling of serving their country.

"It fills me with great pride to come out and see members of the Air Force perform like this," said George East, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant from Stoneville, N.C.

"This is great for these guys to go out on tour and entertain the public. I come out every year when they're in the area and it gives people a good chance to interact with members of the Air Force."

The current tour continued through Veteran's Day, and added an additional level of pride from military retirees, who stood and sang proudly during the band's rendition of the Armed Forces Medley.

"Hearing the Air Force song brought back such great memories and made my spine tingle," East said. "I'm proud of every veteran and enjoyed waving my hat during the Air Force song."

The majority of venues the band plays are miles from the nearest military installation and for many in the audience, the Airmen on stage are the only interaction they have with service members.

Many bandsmen take pride in being the face of the Air Force, bridging the gap between service members and the community and uphold the highest standards when performing.

"We take on the persona of the entire military," Bell said when referring to those unfamiliar with the military. "It's important for us to have the best possible product out there. From the moment we step on stage, we conduct ourselves professionally. If we perform with excellence, the audience will tell people, 'if the band can be this great, then the Airmen at others bases must be incredible.'"

Whether their audience is a crowd of five or 5,000, the members of the Heritage of America band hit every note with a sense of pride and worth knowing the musical message they deliver touches many different people, in many different ways.

The travel time, countless hours of equipment setup and breakdown and daily rehearsals are justified when they receive resounding applause and standing ovations from the audience. It's for this reason, they play on.

Face of Defense: Cuban Boy Grows to be U.S. Airman

By Air Force Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
Air University

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala., Nov. 15, 2012 – Under a star-studded night in their native Cuba, a young boy and his stepbrother made a promise to each other. If they ever somehow made it to the United States, they would join the U.S. military.

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Air Force Senior Airman Osniel Diaz inspects kitchen equipment at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Nov. 6, 2012. Diaz started his Air Force career without knowing how to speak English. U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz

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Nearly two decades and a host of obstacles later, they have made their dreams come true.
Air Force Senior Airman Osniel Diaz is a public health specialist with the 42nd Medical Group here, in charge of food inspection, workplace safety, sanitary standards and controlling communicable diseases. Throughout his childhood, Diaz said, he and his family had dreams of reaching America, even after threats of imprisonment from the communist government.

"One night in Cuba,” he added, “we decided that, when we got to the United States, we would join the military to give back to the country that gave us our freedom."

Freedom for Diaz and his family came in stages. In 2002, his mother and stepbrother were allowed access to the United States. Despite the rumors of threats and imprisonment, Diaz joined his family four years later when he was granted a travel visa.

When he arrived in Miami, he found that his stepbrother had joined the Marine Corps, as promised. But the journey to fulfill his own promise to his new country had to wait a bit longer.

"I spent four years waiting to get my resident card so that I could join the military," Diaz said. "In the meantime, I worked as a computer technician. I didn't know English, so that was the only type of job I could handle."

Diaz and his family moved to Colorado, and for a while, it looked as if his dream of joining the military wouldn’t turn into a reality. "One day immigration called to interview me for the fourth time," he said. "The problem was that I had to travel from Colorado back to Florida for the interview."

The interview was a success, and with his new resident status in hand, Diaz pursued his dream of joining the Air Force. But he found that joining and succeeding in the military had its own set of challenges.

"I was working at a good job, but my dream was still to be in the Air Force," he said. "I understand that only 1 percent of the U.S. population joins the military and fights for their country, but, for me, joining was saying 'thank you' for my freedom."

First Diaz had to obtain an age waiver, then ran into the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. "It was horrible, and I barely passed,” he said. “My reading score was awful, but my scores on the other sections helped balance it out."

Diaz soon found himself unemployed, and with a wife and two small children to support, entering the Air Force held an extra sense of urgency. A month later, his recruiter called with an opening, with one slight twist: he had two days to report.

Diaz said he found that even though getting into the Air Force presented one set of challenges, getting through basic training presented an entirely different set.

"I was always in trouble, and I didn't speak English when I first got to basic," he said. "My brother gave me good advice from his time as a Marine: 'Be a copycat. Whatever you see other people do, do that.'

"The first week of basic was hard,” he continued. “My collar was messed up, and I kept getting yelled at for it in the cafeteria. I was so confused about it all that I didn't eat. I just drank water for a week."

Finally, someone in his flight told Diaz that his collar was flipped up instead of lying flat. And even though his language problem continued to plague him throughout basic training, he said, things began to improve for the new American resident.

With the help of a fellow trainee, Diaz continued to work on his English skills and made it through basic training and public health technical school.

"Even after I got to Maxwell, my English was pretty bad," he acknowledged. "My first supervisor made me answer the phones for the first two months. She said I would answer the phones and read Air Force instructions until I got better at English, and it really helped. Hearing the language and trying to understand it all day improved my skills greatly."

Today, as an American citizen, Diaz gets a thumbs-up from the one person who has watched him struggle from a dream-struck youth to a newly promoted senior airman.

"Osniel has changed his life because this country gave him the opportunity to pursue his dreams," said his mother, Lina Martinez. "He has put the maximum effort into his work to get ahead and has never given up. Even without mastering the English language, he has studied the computer field, joined the Air Force and is growing a family with his beautiful wife."

AFOSI helps those traveling abroad via AF Portal

by Special Agent Michael White
Air Force Office of Special Investigations

11/15/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- As foreign travel increases within the Department of Defense community, the risk of foreign intelligence targeting also increases. Individuals can be the target of a foreign intelligence or security service at any time and any place; however, the possibility of becoming the target of foreign intelligence activities is greater when you travel overseas. The foreign intelligence services have better access to you, and their actions are not restricted within their own country's borders.

Understanding this, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) has streamlined the foreign travel briefing program to better serve active-duty Air Force members and Department of the Air Force civilian employees. These programs include foreign travel pre-brief and foreign travel de-brief surveys and a streamlined process in reporting your foreign travel and obtaining an AFOSI foreign travel briefing.

Personnel who travel to overseas locations shall receive foreign intelligence threat briefings and anti-terrorism briefings from AFOSI prior to their departure.

"Previously, organizations at individual installations would monitor, report and produce internal guidance on foreign travel and complete briefings for those personnel traveling abroad," said Special Agent Peter Van Damme. "As we communicated with those units, it was apparent the process was not designed to deal with the amount of foreign travel conducted by base personnel. Since AFOSI is chartered to provide foreign travel pre/de-brief services to protect service members, Air Force technology and DOD assets, we decided to develop a better process."

AFOSI collaborated with Headquarters Air Force to develop a web-based interface accessible through the Air Force Portal. Joint efforts resulted in an unclassified foreign travel pre-brief slide presentation; unclassified pre-brief survey; unclassified de-brief survey and the AFOSI Foreign Travel Guide that can be easily accessed through the Air Force Portal. In addition, it provides access to key websites in support of your travel.

Members are required to complete a foreign travel pre-brief survey any time they travel abroad and should include each country they intend to visit. Threats to USAF personnel are ever-changing and utilizing the pre-brief and debrief survey allows AFOSI to review the data and determine the most appropriate forum for a briefing given current threat postures regarding specific travel destinations.

"The surveys are vital in protecting Air Force personnel and resources and it is extremely important that these surveys are completed each time you travel abroad," Van Damme said. "Exceptions may apply. An example would be if you have multiple overseas travels in a short time frame, then you could include all locations into one pre and post survey."

This survey program was developed with the safety of the Air Force member/employee in mind, military and civilian, as well as protecting Air Force technology and resources. The first step in successfully defending against a threat is to understand the threat(s). These surveys are a first step in allowing AFOSI to effectively and efficiently ensure personnel are properly briefed based upon current threat postures.

Please contact your local AFOSI office with any questions/concerns you may have concerning the foreign travel briefing program. The new foreign travel program can be found on the ACC website ( or the Air Force Portal at,( or by typing in "foreign travel" within the Air Force Portal search filed to locate the webpage.

U.S.-Australia Conference Points to Possibilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HONOLULU, Nov. 15, 2012 – While the latest Australia-U.S. Ministerial Conference in Perth, Australia, was more concerned with the maintenance of the alliance, the discussions do point to interesting possibilities for the two countries in the future.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Thai Defense Minister Sukampol Suwannathat inspect the honor guard in Bangkok, Nov. 15, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

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The very location of the host city highlighted one possibility: Perth is the largest Australian city on the Indian Ocean.
“We are continuing to examine what opportunities exist in the Indian Ocean-Pacific Ocean region,” said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a participant in the conference. “Up until now most of our conversations have been about the Pacific. I think what you’ve seen emerge as a result of the Perth Ministerial is the Indian Ocean. Perth is a portal to the Indian Ocean.”

Dempsey spoke in an interview aboard a military aircraft traveling back from the conference.

The discussions included the possibility of allowing U.S. forces to use a navy base near Perth and airfields in northern Australia. The participants decided this required more information.

“We’re not looking to station anybody beyond where they are already based, because we do have to maintain a balance of forward permanent presence and rotational presence,” Dempsey said. “We’re not looking at changing that balance yet.”

But more areas for rotational units could be in the cards. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta tasked Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, U.S. Pacific Command commander, to work with Gen. David Hurley, chief of Australia’s defense forces, to assess what might be possible. The results would be discussed in a future ministerial conference.

“Wherever we find ourselves the rotations will be episodic, and what works best for both us and our partners,” Dempsey said.

U.S. Marines currently rotating in and out of Darwin, Australia, are there for six months; there is no permanent U.S. base.

“We’re not looking at planting a flag and opening a base,” Dempsey said. “There will be a handful of people who will probably be there to keep the base warm, but not many.”

This ministerial conference changed the measurement of success a bit, the chairman said. The U.S. effort in the Asia-Pacific region often is thought about in reference to a Marine expeditionary unit, a brigade combat team, aircraft or ships, he explained.

“But it’s also about the other things that we are increasingly interested in and partnering with -- space, cyber, special operations forces, [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], ways to achieve maritime domain awareness,” he said. “While it’s sometimes about personnel and hardware, it’s often also about integrating strategies.”

Despite transparency from the United States and Australia with their defense intentions, the Chinese government objected to the positioning of Marines in Australia. The United States puts Marines in Darwin for the purpose of partnering with Australia and the other nations of the region, the general said. This leads to better understand of the region, builds deeper relationships, and places assets in place in case of a need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, he added.

“It’s not just the Chinese who are interested in our intentions,” the chairman said. “We‘ve had similar conversations with Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and we have to keep at that.”

The absence of the United States as a Pacific power would be very bad for the region and the globe, Dempsey said, because with little U.S. defense presence in the region, the possibility of a dangerous miscalculation or misperception rises. While the United States is rebalancing military forces to emphasize the Pacific, he added, there will be some churn as the process proceeds.
“The nature and intentions of our presence [in the Pacific] will become evident to the Chinese over time,” he said.

USO Salutes Military Chefs’ Culinary Creativity

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – The USO and Defense Department recognized 10 chefs and selected the enlisted aide of the year from five nominees during the 2012 Salute to Military Chefs here last night.

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Army Spc. Kevin Arwood, Air Force Master Sgt. Jennifer Shown, Ritz Executive Chef Jose Fernandez, Army Staff Sgt. Gabriel Aquilano, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Saiyasak, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sarah Morgan, actor Lou Diamond Phillips, Navy Chief Petty Officer Josh Ryan, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sherrol Samuels, Army Spc. Javier Muniz and Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Marrerocruz pause during food preparation at the USO Salute to Military Chefs at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2012. The USO of Metropolitan Washington has celebrated the skills and talents of military chefs at the annual gala since 1997. USO photo by Jeff Kline

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The chefs and enlisted aides showcased their talents by way of a seven-course meal, featuring a main entrée of smoked duck breast, pumpkin risotto, braised kale and port-blackberry sauce.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and World Wrestling Entertainment personalities Mark Henry and Layla El presented the enlisted aide of the year award to Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brian Brazil. Other nominees were Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Flemister, Navy Chief Petty Officer Michael Edwards, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Krems and Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Andrew Donahue was named Enlisted Aide of the Year.

“One of the greatest strengths of our nation is its diversity, and therefore, one of the greatest strengths of our military is its diversity. You got a first-class showing of that tonight,” Winnefeld said.
Since 1997, the USO of Metropolitan Washington has celebrated the culinary skill and creativity of military chefs, and the offices of the president, vice president, secretary of defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff nominate the honorees.

Henry, dubbed the “World’s Strongest Man,” and WWE “SmackDown” diva Layla presented Brazil the WWE championship ring and title, the organization’s most prestigious recognition.

“I’ve always had pride in the country as an athlete. Friends of mine were in the military, and I appreciated what they were doing,” Henry said. “I’m not out there on the front lines, so the least I can do is give [military members] a sense of normalcy.”

The recognition and thanks from senior leaders, celebrities, friends and families resonated with the chef honorees.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Marrerocruz, an Aricebo, Puerto Rico, native, credited his mother for sparking his interest in cooking and shared thoughts of his recognition.

“We’re always behind the scenes making everything look good, taste good, so it’s a privilege to be here and recognized by our senior leaders,” Marrerocruz said.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sarah Morgan of Air Force Global Strike Command said she honed her culinary skills as a short-order cook in the missile fields.

“I’m around such highly professional people here, and the food they’re producing is out of this world,” Morgan said. “You can always shoot for your stars and keep striving, … and if you want to become a chef, be the best one you can be.”

Navy Chief Petty Officer Josh Ryan, a chef of five years for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, said working for higher-ups gets less daunting as time goes by.

“The pressure is gone,” Ryan said. “Now it’s like cooking for my family every day.”

Actor Lou Diamond Phillips also attended the event to give personal thanks to each of the honorees and nominees.

“These are the unsung heroes, the people behind the scenes, and many people aren’t aware that this is a real career path you can take in the military,” Phillips said.

A self-described “military brat” born on Subic Bay U.S. Naval Station in the Philippines, Phillips said his upbringing and current work on the Military Channel’s “An Officer and a Movie” have strengthened his ties with the military.

“For me, it has been about constant respect of the contributions of our people in military service,” Phillips said. “It’s incumbent on me to shine the spotlight on people who are very deserving and to use my celebrity for a good thing.”

Despite the gala’s success, event host Elaine Rogers, president and chief executive officer for the Metropolitan Washington USO, said the USO has many more layers than events and celebrity appearances.
“We have programs focused on young enlisted families, from housing to food and supply assistance,” Rogers said. She added that the organization now is taking on its largest endeavor to date with the construction of a 25,000-square-foot USO facility at Fort Belvoir, Va., for wounded warriors and their caregivers in addition to an 18,000-square-foot facility at Bethesda, Md.

“Our job is really to bring that touch of home, working with the military and their families to bring them what’s truly needed,” Rogers said. “It is such an honor for the USO to serve them as the only congressionally-chartered organization to meet the morale and welfare needs of military personnel and their families.”

Military Chef of the Year honorees include:
-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sherrol Samuels, nominated by the president;
-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Cortez Ziegler-Brown, nominated by the vice president;
-- Navy Chief Petty Officer Josh Ryan, nominated by the chief of naval operations;
-- Army Spc. Kevin Arwood, nominated by the secretary of defense;
-- Army Spc. Javier Muniz, nominated by the Army chief of staff;
-- Army Staff Sgt. Gabriel Aquilano, nominated the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
-- Air Force Master Sgt. Jennifer Shown, nominated by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
-- Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sarah Morgan, nominated by the Air Force Global Strike Command commander;
-- Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Marrerocruz, nominated by the Marine Corps commandant; and
-- Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Saiyasak, nominated by the Coast Guard commandant.

Osan's 36th FS puts positive mark on Singapore partnership

by Lt. Col. Jason Cockrum
36th Fighter Squadron

11/15/2012 - Paya Lebar Air Base, Republic of Singapore  -- The 36th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed 77 members in support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed exercise Commando Sling in October 2012.

The "Fiends" sharpened their air combat skills through combined air combat training with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, explained Capt. Tyler Smith, deployment project officer.

"The exercise enables U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons to sharpen air combat skills, improve procedures for sustained operations at non-U.S. bases, and promote closer relations between United States and Republic of Singapore Airmen," he said. "The annual Commando Sling series began in 1990 to provide valuable combined air combat training for U.S. Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force fighter units."

Aside from training and raising more than $9,000 for the visually handicapped during the country's White Cane Day, an annual international event honoring the spirit of those who are blind or have limited vision, the Fiends provided U.S. Ambassador David Adelman with a combat training sortie in the back seat of the F-16 Fighting Falcon to provide a better understanding of U.S. Air Force capabilities to the U.S. State Department.

The Ambassador was able to see how the U.S. Air Force operates on and off-duty for the visit, and the 36th EFS made a lasting impression for the Ambassador.

"Of all the things I have been able to do as a U.S. Ambassador, this flight is one that I will remember and cherish forever," he said.

Adelman was also able to spend two days with the "Fiends" gaining experience on what it takes to maintain and operate fighter aircraft. In addition to life support, egress training, and mission briefings, the Ambassador was able to spend time with 36th EFS Airmen to provide a view into his firsthand experience regarding international relations, and in explaining the U.S. State Department's mission in the Pacific Region.

"The 36th Fighter Squadron has made a positive mark on Singapore that will last well beyond their time here. Singapore is a small nation and what the 36th [EFS] did during White Cane Day will be felt and echoed for many months as relatives and friends describe their efforts over and over."

"My thanks go to the great men and women of the 36th FS for their extraordinary efforts during their time in Singapore," Adelman said. "The Fiends are a world class organization made up of the finest America has to offer and it made me proud to see these Airmen in action."

Vice Chairman Commends Business Leaders for Hiring Veterans

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – Hiring veterans is neither an act of charity nor patriotism, but a smart choice, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told business leaders at the start of the fifth annual "Business Steps Up: Hiring Our Heroes" event held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here today.

As keynote speaker for the event, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. said he was there to "kick off what is a very important topic -- how to best serve the brave men and women who served our nation in uniform who are home looking for work," and how to best serve business people who want to hire quality people for their organizations.

"One of centerpieces of the Hiring Our Heroes campaign was to create a movement. Thanks to those efforts, 85,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired, and that's a remarkable accomplishment,” the vice chairman told the large group of attendees.

"There is undeniable growth in both the awareness and action in the cause of hiring veterans, and the business community definitely gets it," Winnefeld said, adding that the movement is "really thriving." He also said the trend of veterans' unemployment was beginning to slow.

"We remain a nation at war," Winnefeld said. "While, thanks to the numerous and tremendous efforts of our brave warriors, we furled the battle flag from Iraq and are beginning a drawdown from Afghanistan, the transition out of these conflicts and the inevitable normal cycle of a defense drawdown after a long war means thousands of our veterans will make the transition of wearing the cloth of our nation to wearing the cloth of business and industry."

As that happens, he said, several important tasks lie ahead for the nation to accomplish. Wounded warriors, with visible and invisible wounds of war, must be taken care of along with their "tireless" caregivers. Americans also must make sure the veterans who've stood in defense of their nation also have a place to sleep at night.

"Today, a third of the entire adult homeless population in our nation are veterans," Winnefeld said.

"That's 67,000 veterans who are going to sleep at night on our streets.  There's more we can do to keep this from happening to get those who've fallen into homelessness back on their feet."

Most importantly, Winnefeld said, is for veterans to gain employment. "That effort is under way and we're moving in that direction," he said, citing Bureau of Labor statistics that show the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans that averaged 12.1 percent in 2011 has dropped to 10.2 percent. "That's progress," he said. "But even at 10 percent, there's much more we can do."

The employers who hire veterans already know their value to a company, organization or agency, he said.

"You've seen them in action ... and the value they bring to your various teams," he told the audience.

"You've witnessed their agility, their adaptability, their proven interpersonal skills and their ability to perform under pressure. After all, the pressure of daunting deadlines is more manageable after [experiencing] the pressure of an incoming rocket attack," he added.

Winnefeld said a "sea of good will" exists, and new companies are looking to join the movement to hire veterans every day.

"But we need your help in showing them the way," he told the business leaders. "We need your help to encourage them to participate in job fairs, to help fortify that bridge from employee to employer, to help develop innovative transition programs for veterans to ease into the workplace."

Winnefeld urged the business leaders who employ veterans to network and perform outreach work to help ensure that fellow members of the business community understand what an investment it is to hire a veteran.

"Help them understand how veterans' skill sets on the battlefield and elsewhere translate into skills in the workplace," he said.

The vice chairman thanked audience members for their support in hiring veterans.

"I can't begin to express to you how important it is to [the armed forces' senior leadership] to know our young people -- who have worn the cloth of their nation and have served and sacrificed so much [and] are leaving the service -- are being looked after by the business community [that] understands the value of hiring them and giving them an opportunity to excel in a new life," he said.
Winnefeld said each person and their company represents a champion to him for hiring veterans.
"You understand the price of freedom, and you continue to give back to those who sacrificed so we can all prosper back here at home," he said. "You're making a huge difference."

Passion to Serve Links Veterans, Service Members

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – Military veterans and service members discussed their drive to serve the nation and support their comrades during today’s Urge to Serve panel at the Hero Summit held here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Eric Greitens, right, a U.S. Navy veteran and chief executive officer of The Mission Continues, explains to the audience at the Hero Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2012, how he was motivated to join the military after graduating from Oxford University. DOD photo by Claudette Roulo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
With less than one percent of Americans actively serving in the military, Mellody Hobson, the panel’s moderator, said it’s more and more uncommon for most of the country to actually meet members of the military. This panel afforded audience members at the event the opportunity to hear what motivated the panelists to serve their nation.
The panel members are all veterans or are currently in the military. They have also all expanded on their military service by finding ways to serve the community -- locally and around the world. The members were  Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Emanuele; Eric Greitens, a Navy veteran and chief executive officer of The Mission Continues; Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Tawanda Hanible, operations chief and founder of Operation Heroes Connect; and Howard Sypher, an Army veteran and Region VII director of field operations for Team Rubicon.

Emanuele deployed to Iraq and trained Iraqi Marines. In 2010, he was recognized by the Coast Guard for developing a more efficient boarding method for the Iraqi Marines. He’s currently assigned to recruiting duty, and he said it isn’t difficult to find people who are interested in military service. “You actually get to make a difference,” he said. “A lot of people … want to go overseas and actually help someone and save lives.”

Greitens said he joined the military late, at age 26, but his family had a history of military service -- both of his grandfathers served in World War II. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, he visited Rhodes House and noticed the names of Rhodes Scholars who had left school to fight in WWI and WWII. He realized that if those men hadn’t gone off to war, he wouldn’t be standing where he was. “At that point in my life, I wanted to find a way to serve my country,” he said.

He chose the Navy, eventually finding his way to the SEALs. “There’s no one who can make it through Navy SEAL training on their own,” he said. “The only reason that you’re able to make it is at your own most difficult moment -- when you’re at the moment of your own greatest pain, greatest suffering, greatest difficulty in your life -- is that you say to yourself, ‘You know what? There’s somebody to my right who’s counting on me, and there’s somebody to my left who’s counting on me, and I have to find a way to be strong for them.’”

Greitens started The Mission Continues after being injured by a suicide bomber in Iraq. His injuries were minor, but some of his teammates weren’t so lucky, he said. He visited his injured comrades and some other injured service members upon his return to the U.S. and was inspired by their desire to return to military service, he said.

He asked what they would do if they couldn’t stay in the military, and, he said, “Each one of them told me that they wanted to find a way to continue to serve.”

“These men and women had a long string of visitors that were coming in -- I was just one of them -- to say ‘Thank you,’” he said. “‘Thank you for your service.’ ‘Thank you for your sacrifice.’ It was clear to me that they appreciated that. What is also clear to me [is] that in addition to hearing ‘Thank you,’ they also had to hear ‘We still need you.’”

The Mission Continues challenges returning veterans to continue to serve in their communities, he said.
Hanible, as a self-described “misunderstood” teenager, took a slightly different route to the Marine Corps. She needed a way to pay for college, she said, and a way to stay out of trouble. Her brother joined the Marines a year before she did, so she thought knew what to expect, she said.

“TV never really prepares you for what the service really is,” Hanible said. “It’s glorified. You see the commercials … but it’s not until you step on those yellow footprints in boot camp or until you’re actually going through basic training that you say, ‘Okay. This is that, and then some.’”

She said she thought about giving up, but she too was motivated by her fellow Marines and the knowledge that they depended on each other to make it through.

Hanible deployed in 2003 as a single mother. It was hard to leave her daughter, she said. But, thinking of her, she knew “I need to do this for my country and I need to do this for you.”

Her organization, Operation Heroes Connect, partners service members and veterans with at-risk youth aged 7 through 17, providing them with positive role models.

“You could say we’re helping the children, but sometimes I feel like they’re helping us, too,” she said. “We’re actually feeling like we’re … engaged again. We’re actually doing something where we can see the fruits of our labor again.”

Sypher, a veteran of three Iraq tours and two in Afghanistan, now works helping disaster victims through Team Rubicon, a veterans service organization. “When people say ‘Thank you’ to me for my service, it’s always an awkward feeling,” he said. “I always turn to them and say, ‘No, thank you.’ Because, as a nation, you’ve given me the ability to galvanize leadership skills I would have never had. … And I was able to get a pulse and a sense of community that I’ve never felt anywhere else.”

Team Rubicon was formed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he said. Veterans teamed up with medical professionals to reorganize the hospital in Port au Prince, “and they kind of created this new paradigm by doing that,” Sypher said. “We’ve been everywhere from Pakistan to Mozambique … and the list continues to grow,” he said.

Veterans service organizations are leading the way to recovery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Sypher added.

This passion to serve might appear to an outsider to be an addiction to adrenaline, he said, but veterans are seeking to recreate the community they lost when they left the military. It’s often hard to disconnect from the bond that forms between service members when they work closely together, particularly in life-and-death situations, Sypher said.

'Spirit of Hope' Awardees Find Unique Ways to Thank Troops

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – Six Americans who have dedicated considerable time to U.S. service members received the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award in a ceremony at the Pentagon Auditorium today.

Included among those six are Bill Dietrich, founder and executive director of the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation, and Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude.

Also included in this year's Spirit of Hope Awards winners are: actor Gary Sinise, who was nominated by the Defense Department for his work with the USO; Peggy Rochon, nominated by the Marine Corps for her work as the program developer as well as the director of the Wounded Warrior Unit Support Program for Hope for the Warriors; Master Sgt. Brandon Lambert, nominated by the Air Force for 115 hours of volunteer work at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq; and Ross E. Roeder, nominated by the Coast Guard, for his work as chairman of the Coast Guard Foundation.

The Spirit of Hope Award is named after entertainer Bob Hope, who served service members for decades though his work with the USO.

"Bob Hope connected the civilian world to the uniformed world,” Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Army surgeon general, said during the award ceremony. “Today we honor those who have done their best to walk in Bob Hope's shoes, in the finest tradition of American values. We are here to recognize their love and their service to our country."

Blashek, nominated for the award by the Navy, founded Operation Gratitude out of her home in 2003, just after the start of the Iraq War. The organization has sent more than 875,000 care packages to individual deployed service members, their families, wounded service members and first responders in the United States.

"After Sept. 11, I wanted to join the military, but I was too old," she said. "So I started volunteering at the military lounge at Los Angeles airport."

In March 2003, just before the start of the Iraq War, Blashek said, she had been working alone in the military lounge when a distraught soldier came in asking to talk to a chaplain.

"There wasn't one, and I was a little panicked, thinking I couldn't handle this," she said. She grabbed the phone, offering to find somebody for him to talk to, but he said his plane was leaving soon and he asked instead to talk with her.

"He explained to me he'd been on emergency leave to bury his mother, his wife had left him, and his only child had died as an infant, and that he had no one left in his life," she said. "He said for the first time in his 20-year career, he was going to a war, but he knew he wouldn't make it back this time, and it didn't matter because nobody would even care."

That soldier preparing to go off to a war zone didn't think he had anybody back at home to care about his well-being drove Blashek to do something to prove him wrong.

"It was simply not OK for a new generation of service members to go into harm's way, with bullets flying, and not believe that people at home cared about them and wanted them to come home," Blashek said.

That day served as the birth of Operation Gratitude, Blashek said. She knew she needed to find a way to show deployed service members that Americans back home did care about them, even if they didn't know it yet.

"The way I showed I cared was to send care packages, filled with little goodies and letting them know that somebody was thinking about them," she said.

She started small, in her own home, unsure if what she was doing would ever amount to anything. But momentum built up around her efforts, she said, and more came aboard.

"Little did I know it was going to mushroom into this enormous operation and organization," she said.

Since then, Operation Gratitude has sent out more than 875,000 packages, about 100,000 each year. The organization has about 15,000 volunteers in California and tens of thousands of others across the United States who write letters, knit scarves, make bracelets, donate money or purchase items and send them to Operation Gratitude.

Blashek said care packages include handmade items, snacks, entertainment items, hygiene products, and even Beanie Babies.

"It started as a kind of symbolic kind of thing for them to know people were thinking about them," Blashek said of the once wildly collectable plush animals. "But they tend to give those out to the children in the conflict zone to win the hearts and minds."

Also in each box is at least one personal letter from somebody in the United States -- often from a child.

"It goes on the very top of the package, because it really is the most important thing," Blashek said.

"It's at least three or four letters -- to me that is the critical item. It's for two reasons. One, it is the message that we are sending: somebody in this country is thinking about them. Also, our main mission is to put a smile on a service member’s face and let them know that people care."

Equally important, Blashek said, is that writing those letters provides for Americans who are not otherwise connected to those serving in conflicts overseas an opportunity to say thank you.

"The personal letters from the kids really are a way for any child, no matter what age they are, to understand that people are serving the country on their behalf and this is their way of saying thank you to them," she said.

Bill Dietrich was the Army's nominee for the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award, for his efforts in creating the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation, which helps both injured service members and injured civilians learn to ski.
Dietrich, a ski instructor for 23 years, works at the White Tail Ski Resort. And though the resort has had adaptive ski lessons since it opened in 1991, it wasn't until 2007, when Dietrich was asked to become the director of the adaptive program that he decided a nonprofit organization was needed to better fund the program. That’s when he founded the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation.
"My ski school director kind of challenged me to kind of build the program at Whitetail," Dietrich said. "We really didn't have any kind of organized adaptive program. So I took the challenge, had people tell me it couldn't be done -- and I love to hear that -- and made it happen."
The adaptive ski program works with anyone with any kind of disability, he said.
"We primarily work a lot with children with learning disabilities and autism," he said. "And we have a double-amputee, a young man we are working with, that started skiing with us last year."
The resort is just a short distance from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., he said, and that makes it easy for wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other facilities near the nation’s capital to take part in the program.
Being a chapter of Disabled Sports USA has also given the organization inroads to military medical facilities. Booths at Walter Reed in the spring and fall let service members there know about the opportunities at Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation. And wounded service members have flocked to the resort to pick up the sport.
During the first year, Dietrich said, it was just one wounded warrior and his wife who skied together for just one day. The next year, that number grew to 25 wounded warriors who participated. The following winter, it was 75 wounded warriors. And while last year that number dropped to 60, Dietrich said, he knows the program is successful.
"We're one of the closest adaptive sports programs that offer skiing and snowboarding for our wounded guys out of Walter Reed and Bethesda," Dietrich said. "The fact that guys are coming back and becoming better shows the program is working."
Dietrich has been an avid skier since childhood. He said he wants, through his program, to pass his love of the sport on to wounded service members.
"I love the sport, and teaching anybody to ski is rewarding," he said. "Taking somebody out of a wheel chair and changing their life is incredible. You can't hide an honest smile. And I know I've done a good job when that service member is sitting there with a big grin on their face wanting to know when they can come back again."

Locklear: Asia-Pacific Strategy Focused on Long-Term Regional Stability

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – The United States will remain an enduring presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and the nation is increasing its focus there to ensure a peaceful, secure and prosperous future, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command told an Australian think tank today in Canberra.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III addressed the Kokoda Foundation at its annual dinner, speaking about implications for Australia of the U.S. “pivot” to the Indo-Pacific. That rebalance is a cornerstone of the defense strategic guidance issued earlier this year, which recognizes the region’s growing economic and military importance.

Noting the region’s broad challenges that transcend national borders, Locklear said he’s struck by the recognition that no single governance mechanism exists to manage relationships, and no single organization provides a framework for conflict resolution.

“What exists instead is what I will refer to as a ‘patchwork quilt’ of interwoven security relations,” he said.
“Our ‘patchwork quilt relationships’ in the Indo-Pacific have been shaped by history, and by our shared interests, and are increasingly driven by our economic interconnectedness,” he said. “They range from historic bilateral alliances to mature and emerging multilateral forums that focus on converging interests and security concerns.”

These relationships sometimes struggle to be effective when their member states’ interests diverge, Locklear said. He noted, for example, that more nations are increasingly shifting military resources from internal security matters to external ones as they seek to preserve their own access to the global commons.
That, Locklear said, begs an important question regarding the region’s future.

“In this extremely diverse and complex environment that must rely on a patchwork quilt of security relationships to ensure relative peace, can we, together, create an Indo-Pacific security environment that is resilient enough to withstand shocks and aftershocks that will occur in this complex environment, all the while maintaining relative peace and stability?” he asked.

Locklear acknowledged that he doesn’t know the answer. “But I do know my children and grandchildren are counting on me to try,” he said.

Looking to the future, Locklear said the U.S. rebalance toward the Indo-Pacific will help chart the way toward that goal. It draws on the strength of the entire U.S. government, including policy, diplomacy, trade and security, he explained. As part of that effort, the U.S. military will transform “to be more agile, more efficient, more technologically advanced, more lethal and ultimately, a better-suited military to the task of securing U.S. interests around the globe,” he said.

Locklear dismissed criticism that the rebalance is actually a containment strategy in disguise.
“It is not,” he said. “The rebalance is based on a strategy of collaboration, not containment, and focuses on three major elements: strengthening relationships; adjusting our military posture and presence; and employing new concepts, capabilities and capacities.”

These new approaches will “ensure we continue to effectively contribute to the patchwork quilt of the security environment and protect U.S. national interests,” Locklear said.

Modernizing and strengthening the United States’ five Pacific treaty alliances is the keystone of the rebalance, the admiral told the group.

“From the military commander’s perspective, I can tell you that these alliances bring with them years of mutual trust and respect, significant interoperability and information sharing, a common view of regional security landscapes and challenges,” he said.

They also provide a base for multilateral relationships to grow, he said, noting the United States’ efforts to reach out to nations.

Locklear also recognized the strengthened U.S. commitment to multilateral forums, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asia Summit, which President Barack Obama will attend next week in Cambodia.

As the United States works with its allies and partners to establish a force that’s not only ready, but geographically postured to respond to crises, Locklear said leaders hope to increase regional engagements.
“Keys to success will be innovative access agreements, greatly increased exercises, rotational presence increases and efficient force posture initiatives that will maximize every dollar spent,” he said. “And finally, we will put our most capable forces in the Indo-Pacific … to ensure we effectively operate with our allies and partners across a wide range of operations, as we collectively work for peace and stability.”

Topping the list, he said, will be the United States’ most advanced ships, submarines, aircraft, air and missile defense technologies, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, along with command-and-control architectures. “And, of course, the most highly trained soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the world,” he said.

The United States will have to maintain an enduring role in the region, “informed by the imperative that we cannot fail to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Locklear said. “It should not be an option.”
America’s stabilizing role in the region over the last half century will continue into the future, he said.
“America is a Pacific power … and we look forward to the hard work ahead to do our part to keep this amazing Indo-Pacific hopeful, peaceful and secure for decades to come,” the admiral said.

Wrapping up a two-week visit to Australia, Locklear said he recognized progress made in advancing the historic U.S.-Australia alliance during the Chiefs of Defense Conference last week in Sydney and the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations that wrapped up yesterday in Perth.

“From where I sit, our alliance is as strong as ever and remains one of the most important in the world,” he said. “I am encouraged by what our nations will continue to accomplish as we move together to the next century.”

Family Programs Offer Transition, Education, Employment Aid

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – Military families now have greater access to programs designed to assist them with a spectrum of family support matters, a senior Pentagon official said here today.

Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service that the enhanced programs are in accordance with President Barack Obama’s recently signed proclamation declaring November as Military Family Month.
“Our families serve, just as the military does,” he said. “They are critical to the mission.”

The Defense Department strives to direct programs that help military families with a range of issues, from installation and school transitioning, facilitating employment for spouses and nonmedical military counseling services, Milam explained.

“Our family support centers have an array of programs to help them with transition,” Milam said. “We also have Military OneSource, which offers financial counseling, tax preparation and help with making informed decisions in home buying and selling.” Reaching out to family members is critical, he added, given that 75 percent of service members and families reside off-base.

Pentagon officials also will continue to work closely with the “Joining Forces” initiative championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. Joining Forces focuses on education, employment and wellness.

“Yesterday, the DOD signed on 32 new companies for its Military Spouse Employment Partnership initiative,” Milam said. “In the past year, over 800,000 jobs have been posted, and over 32,000 spouses have been hired.”

In addition to the military spouse employment element, DOD officials seek to connect partner companies in other areas such as child care, fitness and recreation in various communities, Milam said. The intent, he explained, is to connect the American public with DOD services and family members to better foster an understanding of the unique challenges they face.

“Partners are incredibly important -- we can’t do this alone,” Milam said, citing the 161 current community partnerships now in effect.

Prolonged stress from more than a decade of war calls for assistance to and recognition of military families, Milam said. “After 11 years of combat,” he added, “our families have sacrificed quite a bit, and the stress is out there.”

To ensure the programs are customized to family needs, a new DOD military spouse survey launches Nov. 19. The biennial survey gives officials critical feedback to develop initiatives. “We use surveys like this to help us shape our programs, to make sure we have the pulse of what military spouses need and what they deserve,” Milam said.

DOD officials also will develop applications that cater to the needs of the information-focused millennial generation, Milam said.

“We have to continually evaluate our programs to ensure that they’re on target and meeting the needs of our service members and their families,” Milam said. “We want resilient military members, and we also want resilient families.”

Total Force: Everyone can make a contribution

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

11/15/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- If you don't think what you contribute to the mission matters, think again. I was recently reminded of what we all contribute when I attended the 2012 Airlift Tanker Association conference as a member of the Phoenix Stripe program. I enjoyed a week of professional development as I learned more about the Air Force and the role it plays in our nation's defense.

To conclude the conference Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., the commander for Air Mobility Command, spoke about our past, present and future as a "Total Force," which put some things into perspective for me.

He brought veteran aircrews on stage who served more than 40 years ago and then brought up Airmen who are performing that same mission. The general shared with the young Airmen how the innovations from the veterans shaped the ways they're operating today.

He shared a story about another veteran aircrew who risked their own lives to provide fuel for an aircraft when their own fuel levels were low. That type of "Service Before Self" is still found in the Air Force today as he shared another similar story from a recent combat mission.

One other example that made an impact on me centered around one of our fellow Airmen who lost his leg from an IED, who still wanted to serve in the military because he loves his job.

These examples made me realize how we're all working together to complete our mission. We've relied on our veterans to lay the foundation or make necessary changes, which are just as important as the contributions Airmen make today.

This made me think about why I joined the military and what is it that I contribute ... and does that matter?

When I came into the military as a photographer, I have to admit that it wasn't something I chose to do or something that I was interested in. One day as young Airman Wade, I was taking photographs of a promotion ceremony and the Personnel Flight commander, recognizing I was new, asked "How are you? How do you like your job?"

" I am fine. I really love the base but not a big fan of photography," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because I joined the military to make a difference and to help people. How can I do that from behind a camera?"

"Well, give your job a chance. You are still new and have yet to see your contribution. If you don't like your job in four years you can cross-train."

I did give my job a chance, and I'm happy to say I didn't cross-train either. I've been a photographer for almost eight years and thanks to our career field merging with Public Affairs in 2007, I've also enjoyed the opportunity to write, which is something I've always been passionate about.

Our job is a visual one--you see the photos and the stories that we produce each week. That is what we do. But, what I didn't realize during the general's moving speech was that he re-iterated the importance of my job, too, and the reason I joined the military.

I am a storyteller. I try to motivate people. I write stories about Airmen who are making a difference and these stories will forever be a part of our nation's history. My contribution is more than just taking a photo or putting words onto paper, it's sharing and documenting those important moments like the ones the general spoke about.

So, if you think your job is not important or you don't contribute to the "Total Force," ... think again. Everyone contributes and has a story to tell. My job is to help you tell that story to the public, our leaders, our families ... our friends . I just ask that that you share your stories with me--and all Public Affairs professionals--because what you do... matters!

Dempsey Says He Retains Confidence in Allen's Ability to Command

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Nov. 15, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he retains “absolute confidence” in Marine Gen. John Allen’s ability to command NATO’s international Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey called Allen a man of integrity during an interview aboard an Air Force C-40 taking him from Guam to Hawaii. Dempsey spoke to Allen following Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s decision to refer an investigation about Allen to the DOD Inspector General.

“I asked him if he thought in the context of this additional stress in his life if he would be affected by it and he assured me that he was ready, willing and able to continue in command, and I absolutely have confidence in his ability to do that,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey agreed with Panetta’s decision to refer the matter to the IG, and he also agreed with the secretary saying that people were “jumping to conclusions” in the matter. “When there’s a question, we’re obligated to allow the DOD Inspector General to examine it and render their advice to the secretary,” he said.

“We have John Allen scheduled to become the (European Command) commander, and I wouldn’t want him to miss that opportunity unless there is reason for that to happen,” the chairman said. “I don’t see that at this point, but I see this investigation and how long it could take affecting that.”

There have been a number of incidents involving senior general and flag officers, and Dempsey said there is a tendency for the public to jumble them all together.

“We’ve got to keep all these issues separate. They are really different,” the chairman said. “Whether it’s a one-star at Fort Bragg or a four-star at the Pentagon, we owe those individuals the opportunity to have these investigations dealt with individually and not collapse them together.”

In one of his first acts upon becoming chairman, Dempsey made the study of the profession of arms one of his four focus areas. In the 14 months he has been in office, he examined what 20 years of operations and deployments from Bosnia to Afghanistan has meant to the services.

Dempsey said the issue is not limited to just general and flag officers, and he will need the input from non-commissioned, warrant and commissioned officers. “I’m not reacting to something, I’ve been interested in this from the start,” he said.

The chairman said he did see some disturbing indicators in the spring and tasked the Joint Staff’s Staff Judge Advocate, the director of joint force development and others to look across the community at how to perform ethics-related training. That work is ending and the chairman expects a report within the next two months.

“In response to these issues I have communicated through a memorandum to every four-star in every service – including the Coast Guard,” he said. “I expressed my concern and encouraged their interest and their active involvement in helping us to understand what really is going on and what’s not.”
Finally, the chairman is examining setting up a panel on professional ethics for an outside the department look at the situation. Dempsey is still scoping what he would ask such a panel to examine. It could include retired general and flag officers, retired chaplains, academics who study the military and senior NCOs.