Thursday, February 28, 2013

Valor Website Now Includes Pre-9/11 Medal of Honor Recipients

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 – The names of Medal of Honor recipients recognized for their battlefield valor before Sept. 11, 2001, now are listed on the Defense Department’s valor website, Pentagon officials announced today.

“Recognizing our brave men and women for their heroic actions is one of the most important things we can do as a department,” said Vee Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.
“Our service members have shown great courage and sacrifice on the battlefield throughout our nation’s history, and it is fitting that we honor their sacrifice and courage. Expanding this site is one small way to do that,” she added.

The website, at, lists the name, rank and conflict of recipients of the most prestigious U.S. military awards for valor: the Medal of Honor, Service Crosses and Silver Star Medals.

The site was designed to raise awareness of service members’ heroism and to help deter those who falsely claim military honors, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman.

“Our service members earn their medals with hard work and tremendous sacrifice,” he said. “While lying about these medals may not be illegal, it is shameful and runs counter to the military’s moral and ethical values.”

Officials plan to complete a similar expansion of the Service Cross lists by March 31, Christensen said.

Once complete, the site will list recipients of the Medal of Honor and Service Crosses by service and conflict, dating back to the inception of each medal, as well as Silver Star recipients since Sept. 11, 2001.
For security, privacy and administrative reasons, most, but not all recipients of the valor awards will be named on the website, Christensen said. The absence of an individual’s name from the list is not a declaration by the Defense Department that the individual did not receive the medal.

In addition, Christensen said, the Defense Department and military services still are examining the feasibility of listing recipients of the Silver Star Medal for actions before Sept. 11, 2001.

“Unlike Medal of Honor and Service Cross data, Silver Star Medal data is not readily available, and obtaining information on pre-9/11 Silver Star Medal recipients will likely be much more difficult, costly and time-consuming,” Christensen said.

Silver Star award authority often was delegated below the service headquarters, he explained, and award documents did not always make it into a service member’s military personnel record or reach higher headquarters.

Also, many more service members have earned the Silver Star than have earned the Medal of Honor and or Service Crosses, Christensen said, noting the Silver Star’s lower place in the order of precedence for military decorations.

Finally, he said, historians and others have done extensive research on Medal of Honor and Service Cross recipients, creating a large body of existing knowledge. This is not the case for Silver Star recipients, he added.

Face of Defense: Sergeant Major Keeps Competing in Combatives

By Army Sgt. William Begley
11th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT HOOD, Texas, Feb. 28, 2013 – As he walked onto the mat before his match in the 2013 Fort Hood Combatives Tournament, Army Sgt. Maj. Bradley Cope began the prefight dance that tells his body and mind to prepare to do battle. He lightly bounced up and down on his feet and shook his arms out, signaling to his muscles that it was time to go to work.

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Army Sgt. Maj. Bradley Cope listens to instructions given prior to the annual combatives tournament at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 21, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Begley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
It’s a dance he has been doing for a long time.

Cope is the provost sergeant for 1st Cavalry Division’s Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, and has participated in competitive sports since he was 10. The 49-year-old Rapid City, S.D., native grew up playing football, baseball and wrestling.

The 25-year Army veteran said he competes in combatives to satisfy his desire to compete, his desire to constantly better himself, and to continue to keep his body fit despite competing against other fighters who usually are half his age.

Some might think Cope is crazy to compete at his age, he acknowledged, but he said he has a fire to compete and he doesn’t think he’s old.

“Age is just a number,” he said. “At first, I questioned myself and wondered if I should compete. A couple of years ago, I sat on the bench and watched the tournament and really wished that I had competed. I don’t ever want to say that again. If I’m going to compete, I’m going to compete. I’m not going to sit on the bench and say, ‘I should have.’

“To get better, you have to fight the best, and I’m glad I’m here at Fort Hood to experience the best,” he continued. “The coaches at the fight house are just awesome. They pushed me to compete. I’m glad they did -- I enjoy it.”

Despite his competitive nature, Cope is not above sharing the wisdom he has garnered over the years.

Army Pvt. David Duke, assigned to 1st Cavalry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, sparred with the sergeant major in the weeks leading up to the combatives tournament. In a twist of fate, Duke was Cope’s second opponent. Cope is 27 years older than Duke.

“We’ve been rolling at least two to three times a week for the past month now,” the 22-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native said. “He’s a little bit older, but he’s still got it. He’s got a love for competition, and he taught me a bunch of moves. I actually used some of the moves he taught me to win today.”

Jarrod Clontz, combatives instructor at Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center here, said he encouraged Cope to compete because he noticed something different about the sergeant major that made him think he could win.
“I’m kind of an old guy, and I still compete actively, so I can see a lot myself in Sergeant Major Cope,” he said. “We are like kindred spirits. There’s still plenty of fight left in that guy. That’s what allows him to go out and compete against these young guys. He has a never-say-die attitude.”

Clontz added that he understands the drive it takes to fight at Cope’s age, because more preparation is necessary for someone who is older to be able to compete against the younger, stronger fighters.

“The older you get, the harder you have to work to compete at this level with these guys,” he said. “The younger guys might train two to three days a week, but guys our age have to train five to six just to keep up. We also have to give ourselves more rest, because it takes longer to heal. It takes a lot of dedication and work for us older guys to win.”

Cope finished the tournament with two wins and two losses, which eliminated him from contention, but don’t count him out from competing in next year’s tournament.

“I’m not ready to ride off into the sunset yet, but I’m aware of which way the horse is facing,” Cope said. “I love being around the folks in the Army, and I’m going to miss it, but I’m not done yet.”

Although he didn’t win the tournament, Cope has won the respect of his fellow competitors and his instructors for doing what few people his age and rank would do.

“You could tell he had a deep fire within,” Clontz said. “He never quits. I took a liking to him right away. It’s great to see leadership out there leading the way like he does. Not everyone does that. There are not a lot of guys at his rank that would get on the mat and lead the way by example.”

Combat Archer: Fighter jets, missile systems

by Senior Airman Christopher Reel
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, a tenant organization, is assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base and falls under the 53rd Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla.

The 53rd WEG recently conducted the air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program, known as Combat Archer, which exercises and evaluates the air-to-air weapon system capability of combat aircraft.

The 53rd WEG's 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron hosts approximately 38 air-to-air WSEP deployments annually, according to their factsheet. Squadron personnel verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies, recommend corrective action, and maintain combat Air Force-wide data. The squadron additionally investigates missile envelopes and evaluates capabilities and limitations to determine future firing requirements. They provide liaison support for pre-deployment, employment, and redeployment of Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve and Canadian Forces participating in WSEP and Weapons Instructor Course missile firing programs.

The group's 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Tyndall and Holloman AFB, N.M., operates the Defense Department's only full-scale aerial target program, maintaining an inventory of approximately 50 modified QF-4 Phantom II aircraft for this purpose. It also provides BQM-34 and BQM-167 subscale aerial targets to Gulf range customers at Tyndall. Full and subscale aerial targets are provided to Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army customers for developmental and operational tests. The squadron also provides target support for WSEP.

Navy to Christen First Mobile Landing Platform

            The Navy will christen the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) Montford Point March 2, during a 10 a.m. PST ceremony in San Diego, Calif.

            The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos will deliver the ceremony’s principal address.  Alexis “Jackie” Bolden, the wife of current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will serve as the ship’s sponsor. 

            USNS Montford Point (T-MLP 1) is named for the approximately 20,000 African-American Marine Corps recruits who trained at the North Carolina facility from 1942 to 1949.  Their exceptional service prompted President Truman to sign an executive order in 1948 disallowing segregation in the Marine Corps.  These 20,000 Marines were recently recognized with our nation’s highest civilian honor for distinguished achievement, the Congressional Gold Medal.

            “I chose to name the department’s new MLP Montford Point as a way to give some long-overdue recognition to these proud Americans who gave so much in the defense of our nation,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.  “The courage shown by these Marines helped forge the Corps into the most formidable expeditionary force in the world.” 

            The MLP is a highly flexible platform that will provide capability for large-scale logistics movements such as the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore.  It will significantly reduce dependency on foreign ports and provide support in the absence of any port, making an MLP especially useful during disaster response and for supporting Marines once they are ashore. 

            The ship will leverage float-on/float-off technology, allowing Montford Point to partially submerge, facilitating easy movement of cargo and craft.  Additionally, the ship’s size allows for 25,000 square feet of vehicle and equipment stowage space and 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel storage.

            With this set of capabilities, the ship is able to easily transfer personnel and vehicles from other vessels such as the large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships (LMSRs) onto landing craft air cushioned (LCAC) vehicles and transport them ashore.  The platform with its open, reconfigurable mission deck will serve as an important flexible and transformational asset to the Navy as it can be reconfigured to support a wide variety of future operations.

            MLPs will have a maximum speed of 15 knots and range of 9,500 nautical miles.  At 785 feet long, MLPs displace more than 80,000 tons when fully loaded.  MLPs will operate with a crew of 34 Military Sealift Command personnel.

            MLP 1 was constructed by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., (NASSCO) in San Diego, Calif.  Owned and operated by Military Sealift Command, Montford Point will be the first ship in its class.  The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy in fiscal 2013 and be operational in fiscal 2015.

African, U.S. military forces mark opening of Central Accord 2013

by Master Sgt. Stan Parker
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

2/27/2013 - DOUALA, Cameroon  -- Hundreds of Cameroon military members stood alongside U.S. and other Central Africa partner nation members at the Douala Air Force Base airfield here, during the opening ceremony for Central Accord 2013, February 20, 2012.

Central Accord is a 10-day joint aerial supply and medical readiness exercise aimed to enhance the Cameroon military and other neighboring Central African partner countries' logistical and resupply capabilities. The exercise also includes air drop and aeromedical evacuations, which could be beneficial during future contingency or humanitarian operations.

Part of the U.S. contingent includes a group of eight Air Mobility Command's advisors from the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, designed to enhance military-to-military relations between partner nations.

The Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst based MSAS Airmen, assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing, arrived in the central African state to take part in the two-week long exercise. Their expertise as air advisors extends AMC's Building Partnership Capacity mission, by fostering key relationships and enhancing partner nation capabilities. The Airmen representing several different Air Force specialties will work side-by-side with partner nation participants in developing competencies in safety, aircraft maintenance, aircrew survival and aerial delivery operations.

The opening ceremony, attended by dozens of senior military and governmental officials, included remarks from Dr. Fritz NTone' NTone', the government delegate to the Douala City Council, Brig. Gen. Peter Corey, U.S. Army Africa Deputy Commanding General and senior U.S. Army exercise official, and Joseph Beti Assomo, the governor of the Littoral Region.

Dr. NTone' addressed the audience and welcomed the visitors, expressing his gratitude on behalf of the citizens of Douala. He added that although the city is striving for continued growth, it may be challenged by preventing and responding to potential problems related to civil security or natural disasters. "So you can understand why we are interested in this exercise, where the heart of the job is developing medical and logistical support for the sub region," he said.

Assomo's remarks echoed similar sentiment and highlighted the commitment it took to reach this momentous occasion.

"Following pre-engagements in Angola and Vicenza, we are now here in the economic capitol of our country to put in play the scenarios that were planned during the planning process," Assomo said. "It's a great honor for our country to host the final part of the planning conferences but also the actual exercise for Central Accord 13 ... This choice echoes the willingness of the Cameroon Chief of State, the Chief of the Army, and his excellence Paul Biya (president of Cameroon) to work toward peace on our continent and our region."

"The United State States' commitment to the central Africa region and to Africa is long term," Corey said. "As part of that commitment, the U.S. Army works to strengthen relationships with our African partners who are cooperating on a regional basis to ensure a more secure and stable Africa."

Of the more than 700 military members participating in the exercise, most are from the Cameroon military with about 160 participants from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy. Nineteen additional participants from neighboring African countries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Sao Tome e Principe, and Gabonese Republic also joined the exercise in Cameroon.

Central Accord is U.S. Army Africa annually sponsored exercise that brings together U.S. military personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout the African continent to enhance military interoperability, providing an opportunity for the sharing of common goals and foster security cooperation. This year the scope was broadened to enhances medical readiness capacity.

DOD, VA Make Progress in Integrating Health Records

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 – The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are making progress on integrating the health records of service members and veterans, senior government officials told the House Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday.

President Barack Obama directed the two departments to create a seamless system of integration for medical records.

“The direction was clear: When a member of the armed forces separates from the military, their electronic records, medical, personnel and benefits will transition and remain with them forever,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Woodson detailed the tasks the two departments need to complete. First, they need to integrate health data for individuals into a single electronic health record. Second, they need to modernize the departments’ legacy health information systems.

“We have made tangible progress on a number of critical elements necessary to achieve our vision on the integrated record,” Woodson said. This includes creating a joint health data dictionary, ensuring the two departments use the same precise language to describe health data elements and fields in the combined health record system.

It also means moving VA data centers to the Defense Information System Agency. Woodson called this an important step for efficiency in operations and creating a single repository of data. The two departments also selected a single DOD-VA joint single sign-on and contact management solution that accurately identifies clients in both systems, he reported.

Finally, Woodson said, the two Cabinet agencies are implementing a joint graphical user interface that displays information from both the DOD and VA systems at the same time.

“We also completed an initial life-cycle cost estimate for the integrated electronic health record,” Woodson said. “The cost estimate was significant. And given the increasingly constrained federal budget environment, our secretary has directed us to re-evaluate the planned approach and consider alternatives that could accelerate timelines for interoperability at reduced cost and reduced risk.”

The scope of this project is huge. Valerie C. Melvin, the Government Accounting Office’s director of information management and technology resources issues, said the records are projected to provide coverage to about 9.6 million service members and their beneficiaries and to 6.3 million veterans.

“VA’s and DOD’s systems have many common business needs for providing health care coverage to these individuals,” Melvin told the representatives. “Toward this end, the two departments have an extensive history of working to achieve shared health care resources. Our work has examined the departments’ efforts over the last 15 years to share data between their individual systems and to develop interoperable electronic health record capabilities.”

They have made progress, but problems remain, she acknowledged. “Overall, VA and DOD have relied on a patchwork of initiatives involving their separate health information systems to achieve varying degrees of electronic health record interoperability,” Melvin said.

Circumstances require decisive action, Woodson said, and delay would only increase the cost and risk of this program.

“We believe the path we have chosen best serves the departments, the special populations whom we jointly are responsible for, and the American taxpayer,” he said.

New Components Reflect Northcom’s Development

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 – Ten years after it was established in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, U.S. Northern Command is starting to look increasingly like other U.S. geographic combatant commands, with naval and special operations components formally added to its command structure during the past month.

Two weeks ago, Fleet Forces Command was designated officially as Northcom’s maritime component, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Northcom public affairs officer, reported.

The designation is essentially a “paperwork change,” Davis said, formalizing a role Fleet Forces Command has served on an ad hoc basis almost since Northcom’s inception.

Officially adding the NavNorth mission to its existing responsibilities, Fleet Forces Command will continue to support Northcom’s theater security cooperation plan, with includes port visits, training exercises and professional exchanges, Davis said.

“This is now giving us formally a naval component command like every other geographic command has,” he said. “This is part of the continued maturation of Northcom as a full-fledged combatant command.”

The new designation follows then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s approval last month for Northcom to establish a theater special operations command. Northcom is in the process of standing up Special Operations Command North, and expects it to reach initial operating capability next year, Davis said.

Like NavNorth, that new command is viewed largely as an organizational change, he said, and will focus primarily on theater security engagement efforts Northcom already is supporting in the region.

Northcom already has Army, Air Force and Marine Corps components. U.S. Army North, formed from 5th U.S. Army, is based in San Antonio. Air Forces Northern, from 1st Air Force, is headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Marine Forces North is part of Marine Forces Reserve, headquartered in New Orleans.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ground Accident Investigation Board convened

2/27/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- The investigation into the February 17, 2013, accident in a building on Joint Base Andrews, Md., is currently underway. One Air Force military member died in the accident. There is not yet enough evidence gathered to draw any conclusions as to the cause of this accident. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

Lieutenant General Robert R. Allardice, Vice-Commander, Air Mobility Command, convened a Safety Investigation Board immediately after the accident in order to quickly determine the cause and to recommend measures necessary to prevent a recurrence. The Safety Investigation Board will not produce a publicly releasable report.

Lieutenant General Allardice also convened a Ground Accident Investigation Board to investigate the matter and to produce a publicly releasable report. The Ground Accident Investigation Board President is Colonel Glenn Chadwick, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

After Lieutenant General Allardice approves the report; it will be presented to the family of the deceased airman. After the family has an opportunity to be personally briefed, the report will be released to the general public.

Veterans Workshop Announces Blind US Veterans to Help Deaf US Veterans Make Phone Calls in New National Relay Service

The Veterans Workshop announces that training of blind veteran relay operators begins March 4th, with six Blind Oklahoma Veterans training on a Google+ platform to make phone calls for Deaf Veterans.
Washington, DC, February 27, 2013

Imagine for one minute you are deaf and you are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. You can't hear anything because an IED has left you deaf. You want to call your mom at home and wish her a "Happy Birthday", but that task is next to impossible. Maybe you want to call your daughter at college and wish her well on her exams, but again, that task is too difficult. But now, with the help of the Veterans Workshop, all of that is about to change. A core group of Blind veterans from the state of Oklahoma are in training starting on March 4th with a mission. They are learning how to be "relay operators", where they can actually make relay phone calls for the veteran who has lost their hearing.

With funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E) of Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma, Department of Rehabilitation Services, six Blind veterans are embarking on a training that will change the way that deaf veterans communicate.

Ken Coppinger, lead instructor for the training says "These veterans are my brothers, and teaching them how to use Google plus hangout technology to assist deaf veterans in communication is not a job to me, it's a mission".

One Blind Veteran is 90 Year Old, WWII Veteran Emory Finefrock - a Navy veteran who served in the Pacific. When asked why he has requested to join this training, Emory said, "These are fellow veterans, and if I can help just one, then I will have done my job."

The Veterans Workshop, a national veteran’s charity that has programs to teach Blind, Deaf and Paralyzed veterans, has developed a unique and challenging work assignment for the tens of thousands of Blind American veterans who have an unemployment in the low 90% range. This initial group of blind veterans is excited about the training and the opportunities it will bring to them.

About the Veterans Workshop: With offices in Rhode Island and Washington, DC, the Veterans Workshop has developed unique training programs for a subset of the disabled veterans community to include blind, deaf and paralyzed veterans. Training for Blind veterans is underway, with training for Deaf and Paralyzed veterans expected in early fall.

Face of Defense: Airman Serves Country On, Off Court

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
52nd Fighter Wing

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany, Feb. 27, 2013 – They say the third time's a charm; however, for one noncommissioned officer assigned to Aviation Detachment 1, 52nd Operations Group, six seems to be his lucky number.

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Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marico Gray drives the ball to the basket during a basketball game against the Army in May 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John Collins

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Six is the number of times Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marico Gray, a contracting NCO, was selected for the Air Force basketball team, and six is the number of consecutive times he and his teammates took home a gold medal in the all-services basketball competition. 

Of the 19 players who tried out for this year's team, including nine enlisted members and 10 former Air Force Academy players, Gray was among the 12 selected to represent the Air Force team.

"I started playing basketball at the age of 7," said Gray, who hails from Birmingham, Ala. "I remember sometimes going out in 30-degree weather to play basketball by myself."

All that practice paid off, because it enabled him to earn a spot on the Air Force team playing nearly every position. Even when he was chosen for the all-armed forces team and the all-tournament team, he said, he played multiple positions, such as forward and point guard, allowing him to hone his skills and help to groom younger players who one day will take his place on the court.

Playing in different locations such as Lithuania and Belgium helped him develop a special bond with his teammates, Gray said, not to mention continuing the friendly rivalry with other services’ teams. Gray said playing other services was like playing your closest friend.

"We are friends before we get on the court, joking and laughing with each other," he said. "But once the game starts, the friendship is put to the side. We're trying to do whatever we can within that rectangle to win the game and ultimately take home that gold medal."

Air Force Senior Airman James Lewis, a member of the 52nd Comptroller Squadron and Gray’s teammate, said Gray is "relentless" when it comes to the team. He shows that same passion when it comes to performing his duties as a contracting specialist for the detachment.

"He produces an energy that is seldom matched, and he has a knack for continuing to push when others simply can't anymore, and it’s due to his will to win," Lewis said.

Having the ability to pursue his passion while also serving his country is what Gray said makes him proud to be in the Air Force instead of trying to play in the National Basketball Association.

"I never felt as strong of a desire to play in the NBA like I feel to serve my country," Gray said. "You hear most individuals in the NBA say they love to give back, and they do, but most times it's only to certain individuals who are fortunate enough to receive it. By serving my country, everyone benefits -- it's the ultimate fulfillment."

Despite his grueling schedule of work, practice and travel, Gray said, he wouldn't trade this experience for anything, and he encourages others to pursue their dreams as well.

"If an airman wants to try out for any Air Force-level team sport, I say give it your all and play the game that got you invited to the trials in the first place," Gray said.

Pacific Air Forces wins highest AF safety award

by Master Sgt. Matthew McGovern
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

2/27/2013 - Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii -- Pacific Air Forces earned the Secretary of the Air Force Safety Award, Feb. 12, recognizing the most effective safety program in the Air Force for fiscal year 2012.

"Receiving this top safety award is a testament to our professional Airmen, both on and off duty," said Lt. Gen. Stanley Kresge, PACAF vice commander.

Air Force Safety Award Board officials made their selection for the Air Force's highest safety accolade based on the effectiveness of the safety programs of major commands, direct reporting units, and field operating agencies. Pacific Air Forces Airmen demonstrated this with the lowest mishap rates the command has seen in ten years.

"I am extremely pleased that the Airmen of this command are being recognized at the Air Force level," said Col. Robert Jones, PACAF safety director. "It is through their commitment to safe operations that PACAF won this award."

Pacific Air Forces' safety statistics for 2012 included a ground safety mishap reduction of 25 percent, a mishap costs reduction of 21 percent, and a lost duty day decrease of 26 percent.

"Commanders and supervisors at all levels incorporated safety principles into their plans and programs and ensured the application of sound risk management while accomplishing our goals and objectives," Jones said. "Our leaders emphasized the tenants of Commander's focus, supervisor involvement and individual responsibility to energize mishap prevention

Proactive safety initiatives in aviation also led to historic minimums and zero fatalities. Class B mishaps, or damage to assets from $500 thousand to 2 million, were at their lowest level in ten years, while class C mishaps, or damage to assets from $500 to $50 thousand, were at their lowest in five years.

Pacific Air Forces has approximately 45,000 military and civilian personnel serving in nine strategic locations and numerous smaller facilities, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Guam and the Republic of Korea. Approximately 340 fighter and attack aircraft are assigned to the command with approximately 100 additional deployed aircraft stationed rotationally on Guam.

USO Tour Sparks Excitement for Sailors in Spain

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Alston and Morgan Over
Navy News Service

ROTA, Spain, Feb. 27, 2013 – The USO brought all-star entertainment to Naval Station Rota on Feb. 26, the first stop on a spring tour to visit troops abroad. 

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World Series-winning pitcher Curt Schilling talks with a military family on Feb. 26, 2013, at Naval Air Facility Rota, Spain, after Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, decorated three U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians with medals they earned during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. Schilling and nine other professional athletes, American Idol performers, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and an NFL coach are travelling with the admiral and his wife, Mary, as part of the USO Spring Troop Visit that began Feb 25, 2013. DOD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh

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Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the star-studded group of athletes, coaches and musicians.

"I am thankful for those who wear the cloth to serve our nation and serve our country overseas," Winnefeld said.
The show kicked off with opening remarks from the naval station's commanding officer, Navy Capt. Scott Kraverath.
"I'm honored to have the opportunity to host such a distinguished group of individuals," he said. "Events like these are great for morale and show our service members that their hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed."
During the show, members of the tour thanked service members for the sacrifices and service to the country.

"I'm so honored to be a part of this [USO tour]," said Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson. "This being our first stop, obviously you guys are very special, and I'm excited to be here. I'm a military brat. On the flight over, talking to these guys -- [Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning] and some of the other athletes and cheerleaders -- one way or another, we all seem to be related to someone in the military.

“Whether it's a grandfather or a niece or nephew, brother or sister-in-law, we all know somebody who has served in our military,” he added. “For myself, it was my father."

Jackson talked about his experience moving overseas and experiencing the military life as his father served in the Army.

"I don't like to make a comparison to the military and football -- sports, even, because you guys are on the front lines,” he said. “You're dealing with live ammunition, doing something extreme. You're protecting our freedom, creating world peace and we pretty much, on Sundays, entertain people for four hours.”

However, he added, there are some parallels between the National Football League and the military.

"The leadership, the sacrifice, the communication you guys have, the training, the bonding, the unselfish mentality that you have to have to create a team atmosphere," Jackson said. "Just like a football team, we come from all walks of life. You work together, you train to accomplish that mission, you build bonds and relationships that last a lifetime. That's kind of what we do as athletes."

Four-time World Series pitcher Curt Schilling also spoke of his appreciation.

"‘Thank you’ doesn't even begin to describe what we think, what we feel and how we feel about you and your families," he said. "I grew up the son of an airborne paratrooper. My dad served in the 101st [Airborne Division] for 20 years.

Schilling noted that this tour is his second with the USO.

“The first one was eight days that I'll never forget. This one is starting out to be unforgettable as well,” he said. “Thank you. To the families, I know there's a price to be paid in uniform and by the families. It's just apparent that … when we walk away today, that you are all in our thoughts and prayers. We wish you nothing but the best."

Manning also expressed his appreciation for the commitment service members have for the country.

"Thanks from the bottom of my heart," he said. "The one thing that has always motivated me playing football is being accountable to my teammates. What's really driven me for the past 16 years playing football is being accountable, doing my job at the very best that I can to be accountable to help my teammates. I know that's exactly what you believe in, as it's really what the military is all about."

Manning and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie threw autographed footballs to service members in the audience.

After the performance, members had a chance to meet with Winnefeld and the entertainers for a photo and autograph session.

"This is my third time on a USO tour, and my first time here in Spain," said Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Jackie Bob. "I'm so thankful and honored for you all to come up here and see us. It's an honor for us to be able to say 'thank you' for those that serve us."

Why Obama Picked Chuck Hagel

Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)

The nomination battle over the next Secretary of Defense is now over and the winner is the Obama administration.  The loser is the U.S. military along with the American people.  The Republicans in the Senate put up a good fight but, in the end, they simply didn’t have enough votes.  The Democrats voted right along party lines and it was enough to push a certified idiot into the top slot at the Department of Defense.  

In all fairness, it was a brilliant move on the part of President Obama.  If he was after the perfect fall guy to cover all his mistakes as Commander in Chief, it is hard to image a better choice.  Chuck Hagel is, without question, the perfect guy.  He makes Obama look like a bipartisan statesman, reaching across the aisle to pick a Republican to lead the nation’s military.  However, Hagel is a Republican in name only, which makes him a Rino. So why did Hagel agree to do this?  It’s the same old story in Washington, DC, where guys like Hagel are very vulnerable to an appeal to their ego.  

To be sure, for a president to reach across the aisle can be a great thing.  President Reagan did it when he selected Cap Weinberger as the Secretary of Defense and that turned out to be a stroke of genius.  Weinberger literally rebuilt the Defense Department after Vietnam and convinced the Soviet Union that the United States would win the arms race.  In this head to head battle, Weinberger won and deserves most of the credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Without question, he is the most successful Secretary of Defense in the modern era, dwarfing all those who have come after him.  A modest man with an incredible intellect, we may never see his likes again. His accomplishments are even more dramatic when you consider that both houses of congress belonged to the Democrats during this period and both houses hated Reagan.  

Unfortunately, Chuck Hegal is no Cap Weinberger.  Weinberger was a giant and Hagel is a pigmy.  Reagan picked Weinberger to rebuild the nation’s defenses.  And that’s what he did.  Obama picked Hagel to be a fall guy and Hagel fell for it.  Hagel is no Weinberger, no matter how hard the White House tries to spin this story.  His performance before the Senate during his nomination hearing was beyond bad, it was shocking.  Any man with any decency would have simply withdrawn on his own at this point, realizing that he was not up to this awesome task.  But there is precious little decency left in Washington and it all comes down to votes.  And the Democrats had the votes and Omaba got his guy and Hagel will get his day in the sun.  

In the end, it didn’t make any difference that Hagel was exposed as an anti-Israel bigot, regardless of the fact that the only true ally we have in that part of the world is Israel.  Nor did it matter that he was willing to throw Israel under the bus.  The only thing that mattered to the Democrats in the Senate was that this was Obama’s boy and they would confirm him, come hell or high water. 

Perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t make a lot of difference since no candidate for this office could perform as we would expect in today’s political environment.   Since Obama has managed to castrate all of his senior military officers, any candidate for the highest office in the Department of Defense would have to be a eunuch.  And Chuck Hagel fits this position perfectly.  This is something Cap Weinberger would never agree to, but it’s a different world now, where winning the nations’s wars in no longer a high priority, or even a condition for the job.  

What Hagel doesn’t understand is why he was selected in the first place.  If he had an IQ higher than room temperature, he would have realized why he was selected and might have reconsidered, but he didn’t.  Obama wasn’t about to select a loyal Democrat for this position because the coming heat is going to be very hot.  Hagel is going to have to take the heat for the eventual defeat in Afghanistan, not Obama.   Looking at it from Obama’s perspective, Hagel was the perfect choice, a washed up former politician from Kansas, who managed to get himself elected to the Senate as a Republican was a gift from heaven.  And on top of all that, he wanted the job.   So, in the end, Hagel is Obama’s firewall.  And, if necessary, Obama will not hesitate to throw Chuck under the bus, blaming him for losing America’s longest war, where Americans keep dying, every day, to prop up President Hamid Karzai’s interlocking criminal enterprise. 

Will the American public buy it?  The answer is yes.  Those few that were paying attention have already moved on, waiting for the next episode of Survivor.  This is just a blip on the radar screen.  

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police.  As of 2012, this force totals 157,000.  From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war.  It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.

Click to read more about Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook

JCS Vice Chairman, Spouse Accompany USO Overseas Tour

By Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh
Joint Staff Public Affairs

OVERSEAS WITH THE USO TOUR, Feb. 27, 2013 – Early in the evening of Feb. 25, the C-40 aircraft carrying Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his wife, Mary, support personnel, several professional football and baseball stars, an NFL coach, two American Idol finalists as well as a pair of Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, took off en route on a weeklong USO tour to meet with overseas-deployed service members.

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Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., signs a poster for the morale and welfare center at Naval Air Station Rota in Spain as part of the USO Spring Troop Visit, Feb. 26, 2013. Members of the tour include professional athletes, a NFL coach, American Idol performers and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The team began their trip at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before heading overseas to perform before and meet with service members. DOD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This, the second USO tour headed up by Winnefeld since he assumed his post in August 2011, is the first for some of the talent while others are tour veterans.

"We’ve got an amazing group of talented athletes and performers with us -- one of the best groups you could get,” Winnefeld said. “We’re welcoming back our favorite American Idols and have a whole team of other very talented men and women.”

The rest of the USO tour team consists of Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach, Clyde Christensen; Superbowl ring-wearing Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning; Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl receiver, Vincent Jackson; former Indianapolis Colt receiver, Austin Collie; World-Series winning Boston Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling; American Idol stars, Ace Young and Diana Degarmo, and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Jackie Bob and Cassie Trammell.

The tour began on the afternoon of Feb. 25 with the talent, fresh off their flights from around the country, traveling to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to meet with patients and family members in the physical therapy section. The patients, mainly amputees fitted with cutting-edge prosthetics who grasped footballs and baseballs for autographs, smiled and posed for photos as they shared a little of their stories with the headliners and the vice chairman.

"We had the honor of meeting some wounded soldiers at Walter Reed to start this tour off," Manning said. “It was humbling to see those guys in there with their positive attitudes and working hard at getting better. We can’t thank you enough for what you do.”

After the stop at the hospital, the tour made its way to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and departed for Rota, Spain, the first of many stops. The first order of business for the vice chairman upon landing in Spain was to award the Bronze Star and two other awards to explosive ordnance disposal sailors Chief Petty Officer Samuel Crumbaugh, Petty Officer 1st Class John Christmas and Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Mallsup. The EOD technicians earned their awards while deployed to Afghanistan for six months where, combined, they disposed of more than 41,000 pounds of explosives.

After a brief tour of the EOD facility, the USO team took to the stage to thank the military members for their service as the athletes and cheerleaders addressed the audience.

“I come from a military family,” said Jackson, whose father, a former Army first sergeant, served 21 years on active duty. “I couldn’t be prouder to be invited. This is my first USO tour and hopefully I’ll have another one down the road. It’s been amazing -- the people we’ve met, the places we’ve seen. It’s really exciting to be a part of this.”

The first leg of the whirlwind tour wrapped up with the entire team on stage singing “God Bless America” before heading to a photo session with service members, then back to the aircraft, logging a few hundred more air miles en route to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. At NAS Sigonella a pair of unmanned aerial vehicles parked next to the travelers’ aircraft awaited the team, along with a few of the UAVs’ pilots.

Upon completion of the tour, the hundred or so sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines and family members emerged from the hangar to greet the team. Within what seemed to be only seconds, the number of people brandishing footballs, baseballs, T-shirts, jerseys and other souvenirs for signature doubled.

A lucky few from the audience were brought up on stage by Manning, Jackson and Collie and were subject to a mini-combine where they faced away from Manning. At a point, he yelled “ball” and that was their cue to turn and catch a pass, which each of the three participants did.

Just before the closing act, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Tammell and Bob, representing the squad on its 76th USO tour, showed their moves as Ace and Diana belted out their rendition of rock group AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

The group then headed on to their second Italian city, Naples, for another meet-and-greet and performance for more than 400 troops from all the military services as well as their families.

With the first day of three events in three separate locations in two different countries, the team got their first chance to wind down with an overnight stay in Naples, and a chance for some team bonding before moving on to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and other locations.

Admiral Delivers Prestigious Awards to NMCB-11

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Mark A. Handley, commander of 1st Naval Construction Division (NCD) presented Cmdr. Lore Aguayo, commanding officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, with the Battle Efficiency Award plaque and pennant as well as the Peltier Award plaque Feb. 26, at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport.

The early morning ceremony took place with the battalion in formation on the NCBC grinder. The award citations were read aloud by Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Coggins as Handley presented the pennant and plaques to Aguayo.

The pennant was hoisted alongside the battalion colors by Master at Arms 1st Class Michael A. Knight, originally from Goose Creek, S.C.

Handley praised Aguayo and the battalion for all of their efforts that resulted in winning the awards, and he specifically mentioned NMCB-11's successful 2012 deployment to Afghanistan.

NMCB-11 was selected as active component awardee of the Atlantic Fleet Naval Construction Force (NCF) Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") award and the recipient of the Rear Admiral Eugene J. Peltier Award for fiscal year 2012.

NMCB-11 is a Seabee battalion specializing in contingency construction, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance. The battalion's homeport is in Gulfport, Miss.