Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Manassas Woman Indicted After Allegedly Purchasing More Than 25 Firearms in 15 Day

Pistol Purchased on Nov. 17, 2012, Allegedly Recovered on Nov. 30, 2012 During Arrest of Suspected Narcotics Trafficker

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Kimberly Yvette Dinkins, 44, of Manassas, Va., has been indicted by a federal grand jury accused of purchasing more than 25 firearms to illegally sell to others, along with lying to federal agents about those purchases.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James Newman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives‘ (ATF) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after the indictment was returned.

"Kimberly Dinkins is accused of purchasing a high volume of handguns in 15 days, at least one of which made it into the hands of a suspected drug trafficker," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "Illegal gun dealing is a serious crime, and we applaud the ATF for their quick work in putting this case together."

"When offenders indiscriminately put guns on the streets that can be used against our citizens, our children and our community, ATF takes this very seriously," said ATF Acting SAC Newman. "ATF‘s mission and priority is to deny criminals access to firearms and to protect the rights of law abiding citizens."

On Jan. 10, 2013, Dinkins was indicted and charged with dealing firearms without a license and making a materially false statement, which each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, if convicted. She was previously charged through a criminal complaint and arrested on Dec. 13, 2012, and she has remained in federal custody since her arrest pending further court action.

According to court records, Dinkins does not have a license to deal in firearms. From Nov. 17, 2012, through Dec. 1, 2012, she attended three Virginia gun shows on three consecutive weekends and allegedly purchased more than 25 semi-automatic handguns from dealers. One of the firearms allegedly purchased by Dinkins at a gun show in Chantilly, Va., the weekend of Nov. 16-18, 2012, was recovered during the arrest of a suspected narcotics trafficker on Nov. 30, 2012 in Prince George's County, Md.

The indictment alleges that during an interview on Dec. 3, 2012, Dinkins falsely stated that she had sold all of the firearms she had purchased at the three gun shows, despite still being in possession of some of the firearms.

This investigation is being conducted by ATF‘s Washington Field Division. Special Assistant United States Attorney L. Rush Atkinson and Virginia Assistant Attorney General and Special Assistant United States Attorney Marc J. Birnbaum are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Fairchild selected as candidate to fly KC-46A

by Tech. Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Air Force officials announced Jan. 9 that Fairchild Air Force Base is a final candidate to be the first active duty-led main operating base for the new KC-46A air refueling tanker.

Other candidate bases include Altus AFB, Okla.; McConnell AFB, Kan., and Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

The Air Force will next conduct detailed site surveys at each candidate base with a primary and alternate location selection announcement projected for spring 2013.

The Air Force is projected to receive 179 KC-46A aircraft between 2016 and 2028. By 2028, the Air Force expects to base KC-46As at one formal training unit and up to 10 main operating bases.

"Our KC-135s are critical to fueling the fight and fueling freedom, now and for the foreseeable future" said 92nd Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Brian Newberry. "However, the KC-46A offers a variety of advantages over the venerable tankers we fly today. This airframe is an important step in recapitalizing the tanker fleet."

Committees visited several Air Force installations over the last few years with a variety of criteria to select bases to receive the first tankers.

"If indeed Fairchild is chosen to fly the KC-46A, we will do so with the same level of partnership with the Washington Air National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing and dedication our Airmen continuously provide," Newberry said.

A new tanker has been the number one acquisition priority for the Air Force for several years. The KC-46A will be built by the Boeing Company, headquartered in Washington State.

Airmen win ACC awards, to compete at Air Force level

by Darren D. Heusel
Tinker Public Affairs

1/15/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Two Airmen assigned to geographically separated units with ties to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., were honored recently by Air Combat Command with the highest awards possible in cyberspace operations.

Staff Sgt. Justin Hein, a member of the 728th Air Control Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., was lauded as the Air Combat Command Cyber Systems Operations Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, while Staff Sgt. Matthew Ochoa, with the 726th Air Control Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, was hailed as the Ground Radar Systems NCO of the Year for ACC.

Both Airmen will now go on to compete at the Air Force-level in their respective categories.

"I am honored to be the ACC (Cyber Systems) NCO category representative for the annual Information Dominance awards at the Air Force level," Sergeant Hein said.
Hein said he was actually surprised to win at the MAJCOM level since he is the sole Cyber Systems NCO in the 728th ACS.

"I'm happy the small and big things my shop does at home station or in a deployed location on a regular basis are having a decisive impact on the war against terrorism through information dominance means," he said. "This award is a testament to my co-workers and supervision. Without them, I would not have won at any level."

Ochoa said being recognized first at the 12th Air Force-level and then the ACC-level means a great deal to him personally.

He said he is looking forward to competing at the Air Force-level, but realizes none of the accolades he's received could have been possible without the top notch leadership appointed over him and the "extremely motivated" Airmen who serve under him.
"Having them working above their station has allowed me to take on more challenging projects," Ochoa said.

He said he is also very appreciative of his wife, Jennifer, whose "dedication to our family lets me focus on the mission."

Col. Greg Guillot, 552nd Air Control Wing commander, said the entire wing is extremely proud of the two staff sergeants, adding, "To earn MAJCOM-level recognition shows these two are truly elite NCOs."

"Moreover," he said, "it shows the excellence of their supervisors and co-workers since success in the military takes a team effort."

Guillot went on to say the outstanding achievement attained by the sergeants is further testament that the Airmen of the 552nd ACW are the best in the world at delivering command and control and battle management to combatant commanders worldwide.

"We wish Sergeants Hein and Ochoa the best of luck in the Air Force-level competition," he said.

554th RED HORSE supports Enduring Freedom

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Airmen from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, are currently deployed downrange in support of U.S. Central Command's Operation Enduring Freedom.

Approximately two months into their deployment, the 554th RHS are executing a critical $31 million construction program spanning from the Middle East to Central Asia. Projects include a tactical operation center, command and control infrastructure, strategic airlift ramp and fuel farm, emergency airfield repairs and several other facilities delivering mission and life-support functions across the CENTCOM area of operation.

Recently, a RED HORSE construction site was visited by the CENTCOM deputy commander, Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, the of the Army Central Command commander, Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks and the Air Force Central Command deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Lori J. Robinson.

"Leadership from different levels were impressed with the Airmen's work ethic and the capability they bring to the fight," said Master Sgt. David M. Justiss, 554th RHS first sergeant. "They lauded the efforts of our Airmen, who enabled the beddown of a critical new mission capability to CENTCOM."

There are currently over 20 individual RED HORSE construction projects distributed across eight different sites throughout Southwest Asia, with majority of the projects located in Afghanistan. The Airmen have moved over 100,000 tons of dirt and performed countless maintenance actions on AFCENT's largest single-unit fleet worth $85.2 million.

"We are constantly mobilizing equipment, materials and personnel," said Senior Airman Anthony PiƱa, 554th RHS power product apprentice. "With the scale of the projects we are currently taking on, we have to be considerably more flexible when executing the developmental stages. Most of the challenges we face in theater are usually not a factor at home station, so we need to be more adaptive and resourceful."

For the younger Airmen, the exposure to new locations, different cultures and working with other branches of service have been a memorable learning experience.

"The experience in itself is rewarding," said Airman 1st Class Darren Sharp, 554th RHS structural apprentice. "During my time here, I have had the honors of receiving a coin from an Army Master Sergeant from the 143rd Military Police. I miss home, but I do like the constant work being done out here. There is never a dull moment."

Prior to their deployment, RED HORSE Airmen went through various training, from combat skills to framing and construction, in order to ensure that they were well equipped for the challenges that they may come across downrange.

"I feel that I was well prepared for the deployment," said Airman 1st Class Christopher Baker, 554th RHS structures apprentice. "All the training that RED HORSE provided has helped me prepare mentally and physically for the challenges we face every day."

Base firefighters do more than put wet stuff on red stuff

by Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

1/15/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Firefighters are often associated with burning buildings and big red trucks. However, out of more than 900 calls the Peterson Fire Department responded to in 2012, about 475 were medical calls.

According to James Ragsdale, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention and Emergency Medical Technician instructor, Peterson Air Force Base has a mutual aid agreement with the city of Colorado Springs American Medical Response.

"AMR will respond when we call them. They have a 12 minute response time. From the time the 911 call (is made) to the time they show up, we are it," he said.

Of the 475 medical calls the fire department responded to last year, responders saved three lives and delivered one baby on base.

Additionally, the Peterson fire department responds to emergencies at the Colorado Springs airport and within the Cimarron Hills neighborhood.

Each of the firefighters is required to be certified in first aid, CPR and emergency medical response.

In 2011, the fire department started an Emergency Medical Technician certification course. Ragsdale and Staff Sgt. Matthew Quackenbush, 21st CES fire department NCO in charge of special operations, are the two instructors for the EMT class.

"There are more things you can do as an EMT; there are certain procedures you can do that are more advanced," Ragsdale said.

But there's another advantage for Airmen who are EMT certified. In the civilian world, EMT certification has become a requirement at many fire departments. Ragsdale said Airmen who already have the certification will be more employable.

In the first year, 12 Airmen took the course and 8 became certified.

In November, 15 Airmen started the six-week class. "Per student, it's 180 hours of training," Ragsdale said. "They do it all together, eight hours a day, five days a week. Not only were they going to class but they were still doing their jobs. They were still on trucks responding to calls."

Airmen are required to maintain a grade of 75 percent during the course. Ragsdale said the national average is 50 percent but the average for the Airmen here is 87 percent.

To complete the certification, Airmen must take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam.

"To be honest, it's the hardest test that I've ever seen in my life. I've been an EMT since 1996 and I would not want to redo that test," Ragsdale said.

Airmen have to pass each of 10 sections of the test with a score of 70 percent in order to become certified. If they fail one section, they fail the whole test. The test can be retaken three times.

After the exam is passed, 72 hours of training is required every two years to maintain EMT certification.

The course is open to everyone in the fire department.

Staff Sgt. Chase Flores, 21st CES firefighter, said, "I wanted to have more understanding when we go on medical (calls) and am not lost when I'm on scene. So I'm actually hands-on and familiar with the medical aspect of firefighting."

Ragsdale said if each of the 15 Airmen would have taken the EMT course within the community, it would have cost $34,000. But because he and Quackenbush are certified instructors, the course is free of charge for the Airmen or the Air Force.

Having more Airmen with specialized technical training on Peterson keeps the community a little safer.

"If it takes AMR 12 minutes to respond and a person isn't getting oxygen, a lot of damage can be done in 12 minutes," Ragsdale said.

The fire department currently has 23 EMTs, though the number fluctuates due to deployments and permanent changes of station. Once the 15 Airmen take and pass their registry exam, they will be an asset not only to Peterson, but to the Air Force.

Group Reports Top Numbers in Wounded Warrior Jobs

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 – A national organization has had such a high rate of success in its jobs program for severely wounded warriors, it’s calling on the Defense Department and other agencies to adopt its approach, officials of the nonprofit group announced.

At a news conference conducted by the National Organization on Disability at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters here today, officials said an evaluation of its four-year program shows 70 percent of its seriously wounded warriors are experiencing employment and education success at about twice the rate of veterans who are not in the program.

The findings of the study stem from the organization’s Wounded Warrior Careers program, which has had about 275 wounded veterans under its tutelage since the program became active in 2008 at the Army’s suggestion.

Candidates in the program often have severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, the two signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Of those 275 wounded warriors, the organization says the 70 percent represents those who are employed, in training or enrolled in other forms of education.

Organization representatives said veterans not in their Wounded Warrior Careers program have a comparative job rate of about 30 to 40 percent.

“The successful transition of wounded warriors into civilian careers provides an invaluable opportunity for the United States to continue benefiting from the dedication, talent and leadership of its bravest young people,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, a member of the organization’s board of directors, who led troops during Operation Anaconda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the months following 9/11. Hagenbeck also is a former Army deputy chief of staff for personnel and U.S. Military Academy superintendent.

“But more fundamentally, making sure that this transition is successful is the ultimate debt we owe to those most severely injured in their country’s service,” Hagenbeck said. “The question, therefore, is not whether such an effort is called for, but how creative, smart, and effective that effort can be.”

Essentially, the organization demonstrates new employment practices, evaluates results and shares approaches for widespread use. Research on disability employment issues also is conducted, and it includes widely used polls on employment trends and the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Experts in disability and employment provide consultation to employers who want to hire people with disabilities because they bring unique talents to the work force, organization officials said.

“The dedicated career specialists at NOD [to whom wounded warriors are assigned] -- many of whom were wounded veterans themselves -- have developed a model that works, at a sustainable cost of about $3,500 per veteran, per year,” Hagenbeck said. “NOD is proud of the work we do on behalf of our veterans, and we wish to see the federal government, particularly the departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, as well as providers of career services to disabled veterans, embrace that model and expand its reach to many more deserving veterans.”

The organization works with employers, schools, the military, service providers, researchers and disability advocates. Conducted in three states with high concentrations of veterans -- Colorado, Texas and North Carolina -- the program covers career planning, career preparation, job-seeking support and post-placement support.

The organization’s representatives are scheduled to meet with congressional and Defense officials this week to share their study’s findings. The organization also is encouraging the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs and others on a national level to adapt its “proven, cost-effective” model that places severely wounded veterans into the civilian workforce, the organization’s officials said.

In Europe Remarks, Panetta Stresses NATO Commitment

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

MADRID, Jan. 15, 2013 – NATO is an alliance that must remain strong and capable to meet 21st century challenges, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta emphasized in two European capitals today.

In a joint newss conference here with Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes Eulate, and in an earlier event today with Portuguese Defense Minister Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco, the secretary praised NATO allies’ resolve over the past 10-plus years of war, and urged their continued commitment to the transatlantic alliance.

Speaking here, Panetta said Spain is a longtime trusted ally, friend and security partner to the United States. Spain's leadership in NATO, contributions in Afghanistan and efforts to promote security in the Mediterranean basin, he said, have been critically important over the last decade.

“I believe continued Spanish leadership will be essential to the future success of the transatlantic alliance,” Panetta said. “Spain is extremely important to our ability to maintain and strengthen that very important alliance.”

The secretary also paid tribute to the Spanish service members killed in Afghanistan. “On behalf of my country,” he said, “I want to extend to the people of Spain our deepest condolences on the fact that you buried today, as I understand it, the 100th casualty … killed in action that Spain has endured in that conflict. You've paid a high price.”

Because of many such sacrifices on the part of nations with forces in Afghanistan and of the Afghan people, Panetta said, “we are on track to meet the goals that our nations agreed to last year [at the NATO summit] in Chicago,” Panetta said. He added that Afghan forces are set to take over lead security responsibility in the late spring, and full responsibility in 2014.

He pledged continued commitment to develop and sustain Afghan forces past 2014.

“The long-term commitment NATO has made is critical to fulfilling the mission that brave men and women from our two nations have fought and died to carry out,” he said.

Other topics he discussed with Spanish leaders, Panetta said, include countering cyber threats and bolstering maritime security.

“Literally hundreds of thousands of cyber attacks [are] aimed at both the private sector … [and] the governmental sector,” Panetta said. “And for that reason, it is important that we work together to strengthen our capabilities in this wider area.”

The United States already is partnering with Spain to meet the mission of safeguarding the seas, he noted. “The home-porting of four Aegis-equipped destroyers to Rota, which I announced on my first trip to Europe as secretary, is a key U.S. commitment of NATO,” he said. “But more broadly, Rota is a critical gateway for naval and aerial operations into the Mediterranean and beyond.”

The ship-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system incorporates computers, radar, and missiles to detect, track and destroy short- to intermediate-range missiles.

Naval Station Rota, on Spain’s southern coast, is a Spanish base funded by the United States. “As our forces deploy there, we will look to increase our bilateral naval cooperation with Spain,” Panetta said.
Moving ahead with the Aegis deployment to Rota while the United States and many other nations face significant fiscal pressure, the secretary said, “reflects our belief that the transatlantic alliance will remain critical for global security in the 21st century, and we must make investments in order to keep it strong for the future.”

The world’s nations still face a range of challenges, Panetta pointed out.

“That's reality. That's the world we live in,” he said. “From terrorism to nuclear proliferation to the destabilizing behavior of regimes like Iran and North Korea, these are challenges that require us to be ever vigilant and ever ready and, above all, to be leaders in helping to forge a safer and more secure future for the 21st century.”

Earlier today in Portugal, the secretary spoke to many of the same themes, and also noted Pentagon officials will alter the pace of the planned drawdown of U.S. forces at Lajes Field in the Azores.

Aguiar-Branco opened the joint news conference in the Portuguese capital. Speaking through a translator, he said the U.S. decision to cut manning at Lajes is a “situation that causes much concern to the Portuguese government.”

“I explained to Mr. Leon Panetta the delicacy and importance to work together in order to mitigate the consequences of this situation and to lessen the impact on -- in the region of the Azores. … This meeting was a very important stage in the work as allies and partners in our work to reinforce and strengthen our relationship.”

Panetta responded that while budget pressures force a decrease in operations at Lajes Field, “we will do everything we can to minimize the impact and the hardship to that community and, indeed, we will use this as an opportunity to build an even stronger [military-to-military] relationship between the United States and Portugal.”

The secretary said he made clear to Portuguese leaders that U.S. defense leaders will work with Portuguese officials and the local community to mitigate the impact of the decision.

The United States military is committed to Lajes Field, which has important airlift capabilities, he said.
“It will remain a vital part of our global forward posture. We will need to continue to make use of this important base,” the secretary added.

Recognizing Portuguese concerns, Panetta said, the United States has delayed the transition of that reduction to October 2014. “We will maintain, in addition, a 24/7 fire and emergency services there, and we are committed to a 3-to-1 ratio of employees from the local community,” he added. “For every one that the United States employs, we will employ three of the local community.”

The United States also will explore opportunities to expand trade and business in the Azores, the secretary said, noting that U.S. European Command will host a delegation of business executives next month, which will include a visit to the Azores “that may provide opportunities for expanded economic development there.”
Finally and most critically, Panetta said, the United States is committed to expanding the relationship between the U.S. and Portuguese militaries with a focus on the key security challenges of the future.

A joint team of Pentagon and Portuguese defense officials is working to develop “additional opportunities to improve our relationship, and to renew and to re-emphasize the strong relationship between the United States and Portugal,” he added.

Panetta noted close partnership and cooperation among allied nations is even more important when defense budgets shrink.

“The defense strategy the United States released one year ago this month makes clear that in an era of fiscal constraint, it remains essential for us to invest in our historic alliances with countries like Portugal,” he said, “and for all of us to invest in alliance capabilities.”

Airman journeys to top of the world

by Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Tibetans call it "Chomolungma," meaning "mother goddess of the world." Global Positioning System satellite equipment measures its peak at 29,035 feet, and for Capt. Colin Merrin, Mount Everest will soon be a bullet on his mountaineering resume that can't be topped.

Merrin, a GPS operator from the 2nd Space Operations Squadron here, will begin the journey of a lifetime at the end of March. Although, before getting a call from the USAF 7 Summits Challenge, reaching the top of Mt. Everest was not something that appealed to him.

"It's really commercialized," said Merrin. "Everest also has a bit of a weird stigma to it."

Had the call come from anyone else, it's possible he would have declined the invitation, however, after hearing the greater cause, he reevaluated his stance.

The USAF 7 Summits Challenge is an independent Air Force team whose vision since its creation in 2005 has been to reach seven famed summits and plant the American and Air Force flags. They climb to promote camaraderie and espirit de corps among Airmen, highlight personal fitness and growth and honor friends and colleagues who have died in the line of service since 9/11.

The group also supports the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that provides full scholarship grants as well as educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who have died. The organization also provides financial assistance to those severely wounded and their families.

"My primary motivation was the foundation," said Merrin. "Climbing Everest has become a great way to support them as well as the team."

If successful in their endeavor, they will become the first team of active-duty American military members to have reached its summit. In addition, the USAF 7 Summits team will also be the first from any nation to have reached the top of all seven famous mountains that include Mount Elbrus, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua, Mount McKinley, Mount Vinson and Mount Kosciuszko.

The journey to the top of the tallest peak in the world doesn't start at the base. It starts months, sometimes even years, before.

"Everest isn't a mountain you can just go [climb]," said Merrin. "I started training hard three months before the trip to Mount Everest. I try to keep my training as specific as possible. If you want to get better at benchpressing, you benchpress. If you want to get better at climbing mountains, you climb."

For Merrin, Colorado Springs is a perfect training ground. With the base camp of Everest sitting at 17,500 feet, Pikes Peak serves as a good starting point for getting acclimated to higher elevations.

Because of the dangers associated with Mount Everest, climbers are encouraged to have glaciated mountain experience as well as high altitude mountain climbs. In February of 2011, Merrin was able to test his body's response to extremely high altitudes when he reached the 22,841 foot summit of Aconcagua, located in the Andes mountain range in Argentina.

"The human body is not designed to endure the sort of conditions you find past 18,000 feet. There's about 40 percent of the normal amount of oxygen, but my body did well," said Merrin. "Knowing that, it reassures me for Everest."

There are still dangers that are out of Merrin's control, but he feels reassured about those as well.

"The team I'm going with is a strong group of elite climbers," he said. "There's a strong focus on risk management and safety."

Each one of the members has a skill they bring with them according to Merrin, including a paratrooper that will be with them the entire time.

"We want to summit, but we want to do it safely," he said.

Additionally, the 50th Space Wing is extending its support to Merrin and the 7 Summits team.

"I am extremely proud of Capt. Merrin. It's a mind-bending prospect if you think about it -- to have a team of Airmen standing on the top of the world's tallest mountain," said Lt. Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, 2 SOPS commander. "The fact that Colin is a GPS operator is even more fitting."

The first leg of Merrin's journey is set to begin with a two-week long, 40-mile trek to Everest's base camp and an acclimation climb up Mt. Lobuche nearby at the end of March this year.

Panetta Travels to Rome to Meet With Italian Leaders

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived here today on the third leg of his tour of European capitals.

“I guess it goes without saying that it has a lot of tremendous personal meaning for me, since I'm the son of Italian immigrants,” the secretary said yesterday to reporters traveling with him.

“The U.S.-Italian defense relationship is very deep and very enduring,” he added. “And I am very grateful for the strong support that Italy has provided to U.S. troops that are stationed there.”

The United States has key military bases in Italy, Panetta said.

“They've been extremely important to our efforts throughout that region, and we are very grateful for [the Italians’] support,” he said. “Those bases enhance our collective security of the alliance and are critical to our ability to be able to respond to any crisis in the region.”

Panetta said Italy is a strong partner nation in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where Italians have a lead role in Regional Command West.

“They've played a very important role in the ongoing transition in that region,” he said. “And I'll have an opportunity again to pay tribute to the sacrifices that Italy has made over the last decade with a visit to their war memorial in Rome.”

Panetta also is scheduled for a slate of meetings with Italian leaders, including President Giorgio Napolitano, Prime Minister Mario Monti, Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola and Foreign Affairs Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant' Agata.

Italy is the third country Panetta has visited this week; earlier stops included Lisbon, Portugal, and Spain’s capital of Madrid. His next stop will be in London, later this week.