Sunday, January 20, 2013

Star-powered Kids’ Inaugural Concert Salutes Military Families

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2013 – From the opening notes of Grammy winner and multi-platinum recording star Usher to the final thanks of singer Katy Perry, military families all over the world were treated to a special thanks here last night.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and her grandchildren, come out on stage during the Kids’ Inaugural Concert at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2013. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, hosted a star-studded tribute to military families at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as a part of the presidential inauguration weekend and national day of service.
“We had a wonderful day of service today, and hundreds of thousands of people come from all 50 states to join in the celebration,” Obama said. “And let me tell you, I love every single minute of it. But I have to tell you that my very favorite part of this entire weekend is being right here with all of you -- because for me, this is what inauguration is all about. It’s about celebrating who we are as Americans and all the things that make this country so great.”

The first lady told the audience that when she thinks about what America great, she thinks of the men and women in uniform, military spouses and “amazing” military kids.

In addition to the thousands of children watching the show live, children of military families from Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., watched via satellite broadcasts.

A special group of kids from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, also watched excitedly from afar, as their eighth- grade classmates, visiting the nation’s capital for the inauguration, kicked off the show by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Throughout the show, hosted by Nick Cannon, and which included performances from Far East Movement and Mindless Behavior, a variety of celebrities thanked military families for their sacrifices.

Talk show hosts David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres, military veteran and “Dancing With the Stars” winner J.R. Martinez, actress Kerry Washington, producer Ryan Seacrest and the Washington Wizards and Washington Nationals also paid tribute.

The first lady talked about what it means to be a military child and noted some of the hardships these children face.

“Think about how hard it is for military kids to be apart from the people they love most -- how they miss their moms and dads every day and would do anything to have them back home,” Obama said. “And that’s just a glimpse of what it means to be a military kid. It means always thinking about things that are so much bigger than yourself.

“It means growing up just a little faster and working just a little harder than other kids,” she continued. “And it means doing the greatest thing you can ever do with your life at such a young age, and that is to serve our country.”

Obama said America’s military kids all are an important part of the greatest military on Earth.
“By supporting your families, you all are helping to protect this country and keep every single one of us safe,” she said. “You’re doing that. And Dr. Biden and I are so incredibly proud of you all.”
Biden noted she and the first lady planned from the beginning to make military families a priority.

“The first lady and I knew from the start that we wanted to celebrate the strength and service of our military families,” she said. “[This] is why we started Joining Forces -- our effort to encourage all Americans to find ways to honor and support our troops, veterans and military families.”
After the show, two young concert-goers from Bethesda, Md., shared their appreciation for an “awesome” show.

“I personally liked the introduction of Usher,” 13-year old Parker Swensrud said. “I thought it was really awesome.” He added that he thought it was “really good” for Joining Forces to put a show like this together.

Swensrud's younger brother, 9-year old Blake, agreed and said his favorite part of the show was also Usher's introduction.. “It's pretty cool, and it makes the military kids feel special,” Blake said.

Through Airmen's Eyes: The Airman and James Bond

by Rachel Arroyo
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

1/20/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- (Editor's Note:This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Quartermaster "Q" supplied Skyfall's 50-year anniversary James Bond with a radio and a Walther PPK handgun, but Sean Connery's 007 relied on an Special Operations Airman for some of the bigger stuff.

Retired Lt. Col. Charles Russhon, one of the founding air commandos assigned to the China-Burma-India theater in World War II, was a military adviser to the Bond films in the 1960s and 1970s.

Among the gadgets Russhon procured for filmmakers were the Bell-Textron Jet Pack and the Fulton Skyhook, both featured in the 1965 "Thunderball," as well as the explosives that were used to blow up the Disco Volante ship.

He arranged for exterior access to Fort Knox, Ky., coordinated filming locations in Istanbul, Turkey, and facilitated film participation by Air Force pararescuemen in "Thunderball."

"Roger Moore called him 'Mr. Fixit' because he seemed to be able to do or get anything in New York City," Russhon's wife, Claire, wrote in an email. "For example, suspending traffic on FDR Drive for a Bond chase scene (and that isn't done in one take)."

As special associate to the producers, Russhon, a native New Yorker, researched new technologies, locations and permissions for whatever the scripts required, she said.

Russhon, who passed away in 1982, worked on "From Russia With Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice," and "Live and Let Die."

"Mr. Fix-It"

Christian Russhon remembers his father's business card read "catalyst -- agent that brings others together."

For him, there was never a dull moment, he said.

"He was larger than life," Christian said.

The film crew commemorated the colonel's penchant for life on the set of "Goldfinger" in which they promoted him to the rank of general. In the film, a banner hung on the Fort Knox airplane hangar reads "Welcome, General Russhon."

Christian Russhon said he also remembers seeing his dad on film in "Thunderball" in which he appeared as an Air Force officer at a conference with other agents. According to the International Movie Database, Russhon is sitting to the right of "M" in the scene.

Russhon's connections with movers and shakers made him the right man for the Bond job after his retirement from active-duty service in the Air Force. His acquaintance with film producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli predated Broccoli's work on the Bond films, Claire Russhon said. He was available when Broccoli needed a man stateside to work on the films.

Russhon relied on his acquaintance with President John F. Kennedy's press secretary Pierre Salinger for access to film at Fort Knox in "Goldfinger."

He worked with his military connections to get approval for filming in Turkey in "From Russia with Love" and to arrange for pararescuemen conducting a water training jump to be featured in "Thunderball."

He was also there for a young Sean Connery when he arrived in New York City, Claire Russhon said.

"Connery was a stranger in New York, and Charles took him in tow."

When Connery was at odds with the producers, Russhon would serve as the go-between, she said.

"Despite his reputation with the girls, Sean was a man's man," she said. "They kept in touch long after working together, and Sean called me when Charles died."

Christian Russhon, who has also worked in the film industry for 30 years, remembers Sean Connery stopping by their New York apartment all the time.

"I called him Uncle Sean," he said.

The BSA Lightning motorcycle from "Thunderball," complete with rockets, also left an impression on young Christian Russhon.  The motorcycle was gifted to his dad who gave it to his godson. Christian was not old enough to drive yet, so he missed out on the BSA Lightning, he recalled.

Some real spy work

Russhon not only had the connections, but he had the credentials to advise Bond filmmakers. He conducted his own top secret special operations work with the 1st Air Commando Group during World War II.

The group, led by co-commanders and then lieutenant colonels John Alison and Philip Cochran, assisted one of the fathers of irregular warfare, British Army Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate, and his ground forces, the "Chindits," as they penetrated the Burmese jungles in the fight against the Japanese.

Their mission was to provide air support to British ground forces through infiltration and exfiltration, combat resupply and medical evacuations in hostile territory using a wide variety of aircraft flying low-level, long-range missions.

Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Russhon worked as a sound engineer for NBC in New York City and for Hollywood-based Republic Pictures, which specialized in Westerns.

Claire Russhon said her husband's deep patriotism and education at Peekskill Military Academy, Peekskill, N.Y., motivated him to join the U.S. Army Air Corps following the attack.

As a young lieutenant, he was sent to Burma where he led the 10th Combat Camera Unit, a small group of cameramen supporting the 1st Air Commando Group.

Alison and Cochran built a rapport with Russhon based on his exemplary work as a cameraman. He later became permanently attached to the Group, said Air Force Special Operations Command historian William Landau.

"They became fast friends," Claire Russhon said. "Gen. John Alison was later best man at our wedding."

Russhon became critical to mission success in the days leading up to Operation Thursday when he was cleared by Cochran to defy Wingate's orders and conduct last minute photo reconnaissance of the three landing strips Allied forces were to use during the mission, Landau said.

Operation Thursday, a mission in which gliders were used to drop the Chindits deep behind Japanese enemy lines, marks the first time in military history that airpower was the backbone of an invasion, Landau said.

"The photo reconnaissance was used to survey and select the landing sights," he said. "By cutting it off, Wingate basically left himself open to the possibility of a nasty surprise upon landing."

Russhon got in the air with his camera. The first airstrip, Broadway, was clear. Chowringhee airstrip was clear. Piccadilly, which was to be used in the first night of operations, was strewn with teak logs locals had dragged out to the clearing to dry, he said.

"Russhon was so taken aback, he actually forgot to photograph the area," Landau said. The pilot doubled back.

He rushed to develop about 30 photographs at the nearest base of operations and had them delivered to Cochran, Alison and Wingate.

"(Russhon's photo reconnaissance) not only saved many lives. It saved the operation itself," Landau said. "If they had landed with logs and debris at Piccadilly, the mission had the potential of being a catastrophic failure."

Russhon received the British Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in August 1945. An excerpt from the citation reads: "This officer has displayed exemplary keenness and devotion to duty and was personally commended by General Wingate for his courageous action."

Russhon continued to serve as a photographer through the end of World War II.

After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was among the first Americans on location documenting the destruction.

A 1945 article from the San Francisco Examiner interviewed Russhon about being on the ground in both cities within 24 hours after each bomb dropped.

"A strange, rusty-looking haze hung over Nagasaki when I flew above the city at 3,000 feet the day after it was hit by the atomic bomb," Charles Russhon told the Examiner. "It was unlike anything I've ever run into before or since. I got out of there in one hell of a hurry."

Following his active-duty career with the Air Force, Russhon entered the Air Force Reserve and began his work bringing life to Ian Fleming's Bond on the big screen.

Claire Russhon said her husband enjoyed working on all of the Bond films but that one of the most interesting was "You Only Live Twice," because it required him to return to Japan where he recalled some of his World War II experiences.

"In preparing for the Bond filming, there was a reception for the Japanese officials at which a gentleman greeted Charles and said 'you have gained weight,'" she said. "It was a Japanese general who explained that he was on the welcoming committee at Atsugi Air Base, (Japan,) when that first plane arrived (after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and Charles stepped off."

Russhon's legacy is extensive. Not only has he been immortalized on screen in the Bond films, but friend and celebrated American cartoonist Milton Caniff crafted "Charlie Vanilla" from his "Steve Canyon" comic strip after his person.

The "Charlie Vanilla" character was a mister fix-it with an affinity for vanilla ice cream who always managed to save the day, Claire Russhon said.

"The ice cream cone was fashioned after Charles's addiction to chocolate ice cream, but Caniff decided that 'Vanilla,' with the dangling vowel sounded more ominous," she said.

Beyond the life he breathed into Bond by supplying filmmakers with the cool gadgets and locations viewers remember when they watch classic movies like "Goldfinger," Russhon is immortalized in Air Commando history through his photos and his leadership.

"I get a sense of adventure. I get a sense of cunning," the AFSOC historian said. "To me, he embodied what an Air Commando more or less should be. He was fearless."

On Final Official Trip, Panetta Shares Legacy of Service

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta returned here yesterday after concluding a six-day tour of European capitals that he has said was likely his last official trip in office.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks with troops at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, Italy, Jan. 17, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Along the way, the secretary touched down in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Great Britain. In each country, he discussed Afghanistan; all of the nations Panetta visited over the week are coalition partners in NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

He also grappled with the Algerian hostage situation, and talked to troops, world leaders and reporters about budgets, strategies and the crucial nature of strong alliances in a world facing 21st century threats, including the invisible but nightmarish specter of computer-based attacks that could shut down the world's flow of money, energy and information.

Panetta also outlined a legacy, a vision and a dream: a legacy of service; a vision of resolute, committed global security cooperation; and a dream that he often says is not exclusively American, but simply human: a better life "for our children."

Panetta frequently speaks about public service, as he did to soldiers in Vicenza, Italy, Jan. 17, and to students who attended his speech at London's King's College Jan. 18.

The secretary started his own nearly half-century career in public service with a stint as an Army lieutenant, later representing his home state of California in Congress for 16 years. He was chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget during Bill Clinton's presidency, and as part of President Barack Obama's administration has led both the CIA and the Defense Department.

Panetta has visited troops -- primarily U.S. forces, but also Japanese, Afghan, South Korean and British service members, among others -- on virtually all of his foreign and domestic travels as defense secretary, and his respect for the military people he leads is clear, as it was in Vicenza.

"The proudest thing that I do as secretary of defense is have the honor and the pride to serve and to lead the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day for our country," he said to the soldiers of U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. "A generation of young people since 9/11 who have come forward and been willing to serve this country and willing to fight and, yes, to die, has been a great tribute to the dedication of young people to what our democracy is all about."

Panetta told the students at King's College his love for democracy dates back to his formative memories of Monterey, Calif., during World War II. Born in 1938, he was too young, he explained, to understand all that was happening in the world.

"I can still remember the feelings of fear and uncertainty and vulnerability that pervaded those years," he said. "Blackout shades, the air raid drills, the paper drives, the soldiers and sailors who walked the streets of Monterey before they were sent off to battle. Those are all memories."

But his memories of that time also include some that seemingly still inspire him. The man who helped to bring down Osama bin Laden spoke warmly to the King's College crowd of his early impressions of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Panetta perhaps displayed the roots of his own "no refuge" approach to terrorists as he described those leaders' resolve: "By making clear that they would accept nothing less than the total defeat of fascism, Roosevelt and Churchill were determined to shape a new world, and to do everything they could to ensure it would never again descend into total conflict," he said.

"Their stirring oratory, their personal friendship, their clear-eyed resolve inspired a generation at war and, I know, continue to inspire all of us today," he added.

Panetta likely will be remembered for some stirring oratory of his own. The former congressman has not been shy as defense secretary in exhorting his 21st century counterparts to carry out the duties they were elected to perform.

As he told the soldiers in Vicenza while discussing budget issues, "This is not an unsolvable problem. We can do this. People have just got to suck it up and … take on some of the risks and take on some of the challenges that are required by people in leadership."

The secretary has taken on daunting challenges while leading the Pentagon. A war-weary force has struggled with high suicide and sexual assault rates. Insider attacks have tested the strength of the ISAF coalition. Constant budget uncertainty has strained the nation's defense industries and frustrated and worried military commanders, service members and the defense civilian workforce.

Panetta spoke about that last item at the National Press Club here in December, shortly after returning from a trip to Afghanistan.

"It's easy to get cynical and frustrated in this town," he admitted. "And after 40 years, I know my level of cynicism and frustration. But my confidence and my hope for the future is restored every time I have the opportunity to visit with our troops on the front lines, as I did last week. In them, I see the spirit of public service that has kept this country strong for more than two centuries and which has helped us to overcome every period of crisis and adversity in our history."

At that same event, Panetta also displayed some of the same empathy he showed in Vicenza, when a young soldier who had been standing in formation waiting for him -- likely for quite some time -- started to sway on her feet in the middle of the secretary's remarks. He stopped and gazed at her in concern as two fellow soldiers led her from the formation. "Are you all right, dear?" the leader of the world's mightiest military asked her.

At the press club in December, Panetta exhibited the same respect for others in discussing a far more serious situation. He paid tribute to a reporter who had suffered an explosive blast in Afghanistan, leaving her with a prosthetic left leg and a shattered right foot that had been pieced back together.

"Journalists who commit themselves to doggedly pursuing the truth and telling the everyday stories of American people are public servants in their own right," he said. "On my last trip, I was honored to be accompanied by Cami McCormick, an award-winning radio reporter for CBS News who three years ago suffered a terrible injury … while covering the war in Afghanistan. It was truly an emotional experience to be with her as she returned back to Afghanistan for the first time after that injury. She put her own life at risk in order to tell the story of that war."

McCormick also accompanied Panetta on his European trip. She delighted in a photograph she took of the Roman Catholic secretary in Rome, after he attended a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. In the photo, the secretary's grin is incandescent. "It's perfect Panetta," she said.

The secretary's legacy of public service reaches even into his years outside the Capital Beltway. Panetta and his wife, Sylvia, in 1997 founded the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at California State University, Monterey Bay. The institute, as its website details, serves the entire California state university system, and under the direction of Sylvia Panetta -- before his return to the national stage, the couple shared the job -- provides study opportunities in government, politics and public policy. The institute also sponsors other activities, such as the Monterey County Reads program, which recruits hundreds of reading volunteers from communities around Monterey to work with children in kindergarten through third grade.

The institute's mission, the secretary told his London audience, is to "help prepare the next generation for a career in public service." He added, "I look forward to returning to the institute, to … my wife and family, and, yes, to our walnut farm."

But last week, Panetta's focus was far from Monterey. In Lisbon, in Madrid, in a Rome wracked by thunderstorms and a London slushy with snow, the secretary spoke of his vision: a NATO alliance retooled for a young century's new threats, ready to foster security alliances and military cooperation around the world.

"The goal of this trip is really in line with that,” he told reporters traveling with him while en route to Lisbon. “It's to try to strengthen and reaffirm the transatlantic alliance, our relationship with NATO, to reflect on what we've accomplished over the last decade of war, and to also lay the groundwork for the future."

In Portugal, the secretary said the war on terrorism continues. “We have made good progress,” he added. “We have undermined their ability to conduct the kind of attacks that they would like to conduct. But the war on terrorism continues."

In Italy, he noted that “this is the kind of war that's going to require continuing pressure over a period of time."

In Spain, he said efforts to implement the way forward in Afghanistan decided upon at a NATO summit in Chicago were continuing as the alliance members’ leaders had hoped. "Because of the work that has been done by all the nations involved to help build the Afghan security forces, … I believe we are on track to meet the goals that our nations agreed to last year in Chicago."

And in London, the secretary asserted, "NATO has been an unprecedented force for global security and prosperity, developing into the most effective and capable and enduring multilateral security alliance the world has ever seen."

During his previous travels -- 18 international trips over as many months leading the Defense Department -- Panetta has talked of a world that is united against threats, where relationships that are not alliances, as with China, can remain respectful and engaged, and where a common goal of peace and prosperity becomes not exclusively the American dream, but also a globally achievable objective.

Panetta famously credits his Italian parents, who brought him up on that walnut farm after immigrating to America with "no money and few skills," with instilling that dream in him and his brother. The Panetta sons were the first in their family to attend college, and then law school, he noted.

The secretary says openly he hopes to return soon to wife, family, farm and institute. He told the troops in Vicenza that when their turn comes to go home, "I hope … you'll have the same deep sense of pride that I have in the service that we've provided this country. We don't make a hell of a lot of money in these jobs, but if we can have a sense that we have maintained our integrity and that we have given something back to this country that has given us so much, that's the best pay we could ever have."

His own greatest accomplishment, he told a soldier who asked, is "being a part of something that really, I think, in the end, helped all Americans and the whole world to be safer."