Military News

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Haitian Students Excited to See New Schools Open in Haiti

By Sue Brink, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
LES CAYES, Haiti (NNS) -- Haitian students attend ribbon cutting events Jan. 10 for the inauguration of newly-constructed community clusters at Les Cayes and Torbeck, both located within the Sud Department of Haiti as part of U.S. Southern Command's Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP).

"Each community cluster built by the United States for the local municipality consists of an eight-classroom school, community center building, medical clinic, and water well. The complex provides much needed facilities to the local population," explained Lt. j.g. Don Pasteur, the resident officer in charge of construction (ROICC) Haiti with Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast. "They will also function as evacuation centers in the case of hurricanes or other natural disasters."

The community clusters are part of eight similar community cluster projects that were awarded by NAVFAC in Jacksonville, Fla. The lead contractor on the Les Cayes and Torbeck community clusters is Palgag Building Technologies.

"School children were singing a welcome song and presenting flowers as the ceremony began," said Pasteur. "This was a wonderful thank you displayed by the children to the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, the Minister of Education, and the Minister of Public Health."

Participants in the inauguration ceremony included The Honorable Pamela White, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti; Serge Chery, Departmental Delegate, Government of Haiti; Cmdr. Richter Tipton, Senior Defense Official, U.S. Embassy; Vanneur Pierre, Minister of Education, Government of Haiti; and Florence D Guillaume, Minister of Public Health, Government of Haiti.

Also in attendance were the Mayors of Les Cayes and Torbeck, Pasteur, and Sgt. 1st Class Roland Laforest, the U.S. Southern Command HAP program manager.

The celebrations will continue as additional projects are completed in the Haiti program. The next big event is tentatively scheduled for mid-February with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Emergency Operations Center and Disaster Relief Warehouse in Les Cayes.

Religious Program Specialists Celebrate 34 Years of Service to the Navy

By Christianne M. Witten, Chaplain Corps Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- More than 60 religious program specialists (RPs) and guests from across the national capital region gathered Jan. 19 at the Chesty Puller VFW Post 1503 in Dale City, Va., to celebrate the 34th anniversary of the establishment of the RP rating.

During his invocation, Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark Tidd remarked, "RPs have supported the ministry of chaplains from over 100 religious traditions. They have ensured that our people are able to practice their faith, whether at sea or ashore, in combat or in garrison. And they have kept a watchful eye and a ready weapon to provide security in dangerous areas.

"One moment they can be engaged in combat operations, and in the next moment bringing hope to people devastated by a natural disaster. RPs have met every challenge with courage, tenacity and creativity."

The event also featured an inaugural anniversary video message from Master Chief Dino Medler, 13th senior enlisted leader for the RP rating, and Senior Chief Scott Quinn, RP of the Marine Corps, highlighting the significant contributions of RPs.

Medler made particular reference to the record number of "RPs recognized Navy-wide [in 2012] with at least five RPs awarded Sailors of the Quarter and at least nine command Sailors of the Year."

A POW/MIA table served as a solemn reminder of those service members unable to join in the festivities. Quinn remarked, as he read a script, "we join together to pay our humble tribute to them and bear witness to their continued absence and the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms."

Chief Andy Duprey read the official All Marines Message from the commandant (ALMAR 002/13), citing RPs as "force multipliers that are in tune with the needs of today's warfighter."

Chief Montana Sor read the official anniversary letter from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens where he stated, "It is vital our Sailors, Marines and their families are grounded not only physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. Your motto 'exceed the expected' is fitting to the outstanding service and support you provide to them every day around the world."

The guest speaker for the evening, retired Master Chief James H. Graham, was instrumental in the establishment of the RP rating in 1978.

He had recently connected with Medler during a Veterans Day service at their community church in Woodbridge, Va. and was later invited to share his experiences during the RP anniversary ball.

During his remarks, he recalled, "once we got approval for the rating, we had to staff it, create a rating badge, as well as set up training for RPs as Navy combatants, serving with Marines."

He went on to add "the selection for the initial 160 candidates for the rating was very serious business. We got hundreds of applicants and our decision would change their career."

At the conclusion of his remarks, Medler presented Graham with an engraved pocketwatch with the RP logo on the inside.

The ceremonial cake-cutting followed, which honored the longest serving RP present, Master Chief Thomas McComas, the senior enlisted RP for the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and the youngest RP present, Seaman Apprentice Angelique Nicole Fernandez, who enlisted in the Navy April 16, 2012 and is currently assigned to Naval District Washington.

When asked how she felt to be a part of the ceremony alongside the master chief instrumental in the establishment of the RP rating, Fernandez replied, "It was such an honor, and I will remember this for the rest of my life. I will get to tell my children and my grandkids about it. That makes me so excited."

Navy Commander Expresses Regret Concerning USS Guardian Grounding

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The U.S. 7th Fleet Commander on Saturday expressed regret over the grounding of USS Guardian (MCM 5) on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea.

"As a protector of the sea and a Sailor myself, I greatly regret any damage this incident has caused to the Tubbataha Reef," said Vice Adm. Scott Swift. "We know the significance of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and its importance as a World Heritage Site. Its protection is vital, and we take seriously our obligations to protect and preserve the maritime environment."

Swift also announced that Rear Adm. Thomas Carney, Commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific, will take over on Jan. 21 as the on-scene commander to oversee the Guardian recovery operations. Carney will embark the destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), which along with several other U.S. Navy support vessels, is focused on preventing any further environmental damage to the reef and surrounding marine environment.

As of Jan. 20 the condition of the Guardian has not changed; the ship is still grounded with no one onboard and there are no traces of an oil slick in the area.

No one was injured during the Jan. 17 grounding, and due to a concern for personnel safety caused by hazardous weather conditions and poor sea states, essential Navy crew members have not yet returned to survey Guardian. Once the survey is complete, recovery efforts will commence.

When the Guardian is safely recovered by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. government will continue to work with the Republic of Philippines government to assess the extent of the damage to the reef and the surrounding marine environment caused by the grounding. The Republic of the Philippines government was promptly informed of the incident and is being updated regularly by U.S. officials.

Prior to leaving a port visit in Subic Bay, Guardian canceled a scheduled fuel stop to Puerto Princesa. Guardian departed Olongapo City en route to Indonesia and was transiting the Sulu Sea when the grounding occurred at approximately 2:25 a.m. Thursday. Based in Sasebo, Japan, the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship remains stuck on Tubbataha Reef's south atoll, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

The U.S. Navy is undertaking an investigation to determine the exact cause of the grounding.

CNO Expands Brazil Partnership

From Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
RIO DE JANEIRO (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert concluded a weeklong visit to Brazil Saturday, Jan. 19 where he spoke with naval leadership, toured multiple navy and marine corps bases, and expanded maritime partnership opportunities.

One of the main objectives of the visit was for Greenert to meet with the Commander of the Brazilian Navy Adm. Julio Soares de Moura Neto, who Greenert refers to as a friend and steadfast partner in this economically vibrant country with growing military capabilities.

Greenert's visit symbolically renewed the U.S. Navy's commitment to the two navies' maritime partnership with roots reaching back to WWII.

Greenert officially prolonged the relationship through a personal invitation to Moura Neto and the Brazilian navy to take part in the multinational exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

Greenert and Moura Neto also secured future cooperation opportunities between the two nations through the joint signing of two memorandums of understanding; one of which is to continue the Military Personnel Exchange Program (MPEP), which allows for Brazilian and U.S. officers to swap jobs and learn defense practices from the host country.

The other memorandum signed by both naval service chiefs enacted the Foreign Liaison Officers memorandum of understanding, which appoints a liaison officer to a specific command to represent his or her country regarding matters of government policies, procedures, laws and regulations.

Moura Neto expressed his appreciation for Greenert and the U.S. Navy by bestowing upon him the Brazilian Order of Merit Award for distinguished service and exceptional contributions to the citizens and country of Brazil. Greenert accepted the award on behalf of the U.S. Navy with a sincere declaration of continued naval support. "This visit has really emphasized the importance of my relationship with Adm. Moura Neto and our Navy," Greenert said.

Greenert's trip began in the capital city of Brasilia on Monday where he, his naval counterpart Moura Neto and senior Brazilian naval officers sat down for a round table discussion about numerous maritime topics.

The visit continued for Greenert with a tour of the Aramar Nuclear Facility and various military installations in Rio de Janeiro, including the Itaguai Submarine Base and Submarine Shipyard facility which is under construction. While in Rio, Greenert stated the U.S. Navy will assist Brazil with lessons learned from the development of the U.S. nuclear submarine program to help foster Brazil's subsurface capabilities.

"I find it impressive," said Greenert of the Brazilian submarine program. "I find it innovative and I think that the Brazilian navy, the Brazilian defense establishment and the government is very forward looking." Greenert added, "I'm very impressed with the professionalism, the investment of people and time and of the technology."

In honor of Greenert's visit and as a military capabilities demonstration, the Brazilian navy and marine corps executed a live amphibious assault exercise, performed a simulated pilot rescue mission and paraded by marine forces at the marine amphibious division headquarters near Rio de Janeiro.

Greenert spoke at a joint press conference with Moura Neto to discuss his visit, the impact it had on him after talking with the Brazilian navy's leadership and seeing their sailors and marines in person. "I would put my opinion, or my impression of the Brazilian navy at the very top," Greenert said. "The government and the Brazilian navy have the best vision for what the right security is in the Atlantic and I would view them as the leader in that area."

66th Rescue Squadron aid in civilian search, rescue

by Airman 1st Class Monet Villacorte
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


1/22/2013 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- Thirteen members of the 66th Rescue Squadron aided the 79th RQS at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., in a civilian search and rescue mission Jan. 5 near Kingman, Ariz.

The 66th RQS not only aids in combat search and rescue, but also assists with civilian missions as well.

"We are trained to recover isolated [people] whether it's an aircraft that has crashed or [been] shot down, to finding missing persons in combat, as well as civil search and rescue," said Capt. Evan Marchetti, 66th RQS instructor pilot.

After the Air Force rescue coordination center was notified of the situation, rescue Airmen received a call from the 66th RQS assistant director of operations at approximately 8 p.m. that a 7-year-old boy was missing from his grandmother's home in Arizona.

Local law enforcement and service members from Davis-Monthan AFB looked for the child with a ground search party while the 66th RQS provided two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters for an air-to-ground search.

"We were given an area to search that the officers had a good idea that he was going to be," Marchetti said. "We started doing a preliminary search, but the tall grassland and vegetation made it difficult to see. So, we slowed down and brought the aircraft down to 50 feet.

"We spent about four-and-a-half hours over the area searching," he added.

The child was found about five miles from the grandmother's home in good condition by the ground search party.

Airmen from the 66th RQS are always ready at a moment's notice to provide assistance in any emergency situation.

"Most, if not all, of the aircrew would jump at any opportunity to do this kind of mission and help someone in need," Marchetti said.

"The reason we do this is so others may live," said Maj. Michael Paulus, 66th RQS HH-60G flight lead. "That's something that we are fortunate enough to do on a regular basis. To have the ability to go out and find someone in need and distress then bring them back to their families is about the most rewarding job you could have."

TRF Airman puts on the gloves

by Staff Sgt. Torri Savarese
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs


1/18/2013 - F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- In addition to being a member of an elite tactical response force, Senior Airman Richard Purrier, 90th Security Forces Group TRF, hopes to be part of another elite team: the All-Air Force Boxing Team.

The team, which consists of members from across the Air Force, will be selected during a competition Jan. 21 and 22 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Once the team is selected, the members will travel the country, competing in various tournaments as Air Force representatives.

Purrier trained for the last four months with Tech. Sgt. Bobby De Leon, 90th SFG TRF team lead and All-Air Force Boxing assistant coach. Both Purrier and De Leon have high hopes for the upcoming competition.

"I'm excited," Purrier said. "I've never had an opportunity like this before, and I'm not going to mess it up."

De Leon, who was previously on the All-Air Force Boxing Team, sees the potential in Purrier, and is working hard to get him ready for the fight.

"We train several hours every day," he said. "We have dedicated a whole boxing training center in the gym here."

De Leon explained determination, heart and endurance will go a long way when Purrier is competing for the judges later this month.

"I got my foot in the door for Purrier," he said. "It's up to him to do the rest."

Purrier doesn't plan on wasting the hard work and training, though. He said he has always had an interest in competing as a boxer, and is grateful for the work De Leon has put into training him.

At 114 pounds, Purrier's chances of getting a spot on the team are pretty good, De Leon explained.

"It's a weight class that is sometimes hard to fill," De Leon said. "I know Purrier will have a good shot in the competition."

Purrier said he's ready for the competition and wants to represent his unit and F. E. Warren well.

"I'm going to keep showing the same determination I've had from day one of training," he said. "I'm going to show [the judges] I'm not just a new guy, and I have the experience to be on the team and represent the Air Force."

If selected, Purrier's first tournament will be the Texas Golden Gloves Tournament in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 23.

CSAF gets firsthand look at RPA operations

by 432d Wing/432d Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/22/2013 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --  -- The Hunters of the 432d Wing/432d Air Expeditionary Wing welcomed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III during a visit here Jan. 14.

The visit gave the chief of staff an opportunity to meet the Airmen who perform the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission.

Welsh toured some of the squadrons and the recently reopened wing operations center, seeing firsthand the Hunters' commitment to tactical perfection.

"When you guys do tactics and training, 'Big Air Force' pays attention," Welsh said. "It is unbelievable how this mission has grown up."

Remotely-piloted aircraft have provided a vital capability for the combatant commands, as evident by the heavy demand for them.

The chief of staff commended the Creech Airmen during an all-call for their adaptability and ability to overcome obstacles and fulfill their motto: "Hunters save lives."

"You and the Airmen who preceded you have done fantastic things," he said. "This mission has revolutionized the way we think about warfare ... I'm amazed by what you have accomplished."

In addition to discussing the significance of the RPA mission, Welsh also spoke to the importance of leaders at all levels taking time to learn the stories of their fellow Airmen.

One Airman in attendance, Staff Sgt. Bradley said, "He laid the groundwork for future expectations with the direction of the Air Force. He emphasized the only way we can continue to improve is to know our people."

SEAC shares joint vision with Keesler

by Senior Airman Heather Heiney
81st Training Wing Public Affairs


1/18/2013 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Once a person dons the uniform of their branch of service it can be easy to let their identity as an Airman, Marine, Soldier or Sailor cloud the fact that they are a member of a larger United States military. Keesler Airmen had the opportunity to be reminded of the bigger picture Jan. 16 when Marine Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking enlisted member of the U.S. military, visited Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

During the SEAC's visit he had the opportunity to acquaint himself with Keesler's people, mission and contribution to that greater military picture.

"I've seen a lot of good things on this base in a short amount of time, even some things that I'm going to take back up to D.C. with me," Battaglia said.

He also said his favorite part of the visit was meeting Airmen and listening to the pride they have for what they do for the 81st Training Wing.

"I love having opportunities to approach service members and listen to you talk about your jobs, there's nothing better or more refreshing or more rewarding for me than to do that," Battaglia said.

Keesler trains Airmen across a spectrum of specialties and also hosts Marines and Sailors for joint weather training.

"Our non-prior service Airmen that are training here at Keesler Air Force Base are our top priority, training is what we do, it's our mission and we're very proud of it," Chief Master Sgt. Angelica Johnson, 81st TRW command chief, said.

"You never have a rank that makes you exempt from learning," Battaglia said. "If I don't practice my skill, my art, it becomes perishable. The lack of proficiency brings on irrelevancy, so it's vitally important that we continue to train and educate."

A few benefits of a joint training environment, like that of Keesler's weather school, are that it allows service members to share different ideas, thoughts and practices.

"The joint environment provides us the opportunity to set our parochialism and our egos aside, listen to some other thoughts and ideas that our peer group may have and inject them where we can to make our military more efficient and effective," the SEAC said.

The SEAC also held and enlisted call at the Welch Theater to reiterate the CJCS' four priorities, his own key themes and total force fitness.

The Chairman's four priorities are: achieve our national objectives in the current conflicts, develop joint force 2020, keep faith with our military family and renew our commitment to the profession of arms. Battaglia's key themes parallel those of the CJCS: bridging the basics by enhancing core competencies, preserving readiness and strengthening our commitment to the total force.

"If they're the Chairman's priorities, they should be our priorities," the SEAC said. "That's why we're all here as members of this armed force, that's why we all serve."

He also said he uses the oath of enlistment, which is identical for all enlisted members no matter what their rank or branch of service, to renew his commitment to the armed forces and remember why he serves.

"Whether you know it or not, you're willing to give your life for your nation. Think about that, it's pretty powerful," Battaglia said. "And you volunteered. That says a lot about your character."

If he could give one piece of advice to enlisted members, Battaglia said it would be the same advice he received early in his career to do his job to the best of his ability and follow orders.

"I found that those two golden rules helped me along the way and probably played a significant impact as to why I'm sitting in this position today," he said.

Thunderbolts run for Sandy Hook

by Staff Sgt. C.J. Hatch
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/18/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- More than 150 Thunderbolts ran in a 5k to help raise money to aid victims and families affected by the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"We were having our squadron children's holiday party when we heard what had happened," said Staff Sgt. Danny Smith, 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit analyst. "The news touched a lot of people in the squadron. The next day at our holiday party the idea was brought up to do something to help those in need because of this, and I suggested a 5k as a quick way to raise money. Everyone liked the idea so we went forward with it."

Smith, along with Staff Sgt. Maria Herrera, 56th MOS database team member, began organizing and preparing for the short-notice 5k. Together they reached out to other units on base by sending out email invitations and organizing the run.

"I was surprised how many people actually came to the run," Herrera said. "We organized it and started advertizing only a day before the event and had more than 150 people participate."

Participants in the race were asked to donate $5 each toward helping those affected by the Sandy Hook shootings.

"We raised $2,553 for the Newtown Memorial Fund," Smith said. "Some squadrons did their own fundraisers and combined their funds with ours. The 425th Fighter Squadron raised and gave $1,100."

The New Town Memorial Fund was set up by the Sandy Hook Elementary School PTA. Their mission is to create a sustainable, multigenerational fund to provide for victims' immediate and ongoing family needs, a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and to establish academic scholarships in the victims' names for victim classmates and for generations of Newtown students to come. The fund has a goal of $26 million and has had raised $493,856 as of Jan 9.

"The run was a shocker to me," Smith said. "We were expecting at the most 50 people, but what we got was astonishing. For me the biggest reward besides helping those struck by the tragedy was to see that when something like this happens we have so much support on base. With only a day's notice we came together and raised a lot of money."

Air Force Chief provides insight on 188th future during visit to wing

by Maj. Heath Allen
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/20/2013 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The 188th Fighter Wing moved one step closer to its future Friday during a visit by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

Welsh along with Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, toured the 188th's facilities Friday and met with wing and state military leadership as well as members of the Arkansas and Oklahoma Congressional delegation. Welsh also met with community leaders and city officials during a social gathering held in Fort Smith Thursday night.

"I expected to see an outstanding fighter wing that does a great service to our nation and, I believe, the state of Arkansas, and that's exactly what I've seen," Welsh said during a press conference following his tour. "They have a great installation here. There's a great range complex that they train on. They are immersed in the mission of our Air Force, and I got to see that this morning."

For nearly a year, the 188th has endured uncertainty concerning its A-10 Thunderbolt II mission, which is slated to be replaced with a remotely piloted aircraft mission. And for nearly a year, the Arkansas congressional delegation has fought to keep the 188th's manned aircraft flying mission in Fort Smith. But nothing on Friday altered the course of the 188th, which is heading toward a mission conversion.

"We had a great visit and some very candid conversations about the future of A-10s and the future of the 188th," said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "We understand the Air Force is facing tough decisions. But even in our disappointment that we will likely no longer have A-10s we also understand how important it is to have a mission. And the bottom line is that we will have a mission at the 188th and it's an emerging mission that keeps us in the fight and engaged in helping defend our nation."

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.; U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers; and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, were all present during a meeting with Welsh, Wyatt and 188th and Arkansas National Guard state leadership.

"I will be working with the members of this delegation, the leaders of the City of Fort Smith and the Arkansas National Guard in doing what we can to salvage out of this decision, the very best possible circumstance for Airmen located out of Fort Smith," Womack said. "A remotely piloted aircraft mission, surrounded by any other ancillary-type missions to go with it, to build the very best circumstances in going forward."

Under the plan, the 188th will likely add a targeting squadron, intel group and will plus up in other areas.

"The intent would be - in every way possible - to keep as many people as possible who currently wear the 188th Fighter Wing badge assigned to the 188th Reconnaissance Wing, if that's what it ends up being," Welsh said.

Manpower studies suggest the 188th's loss of military positions will be small but no information is available on the full-time manning.

"The intent is not for the unit to go away," Welsh said. "And one of the things that I think everybody involved in the whole discussion will tell you is that the strength of the 188th Fighter Wing is not the hardware on the ramp, it's the people who make it work -- the people who fix it and fly it, and deal with the imperfections of the mission and somehow accomplish it anyway. They've always been the excellence of this organization.

"Someone who worked on a specific system on the old plane thinks they don't have any job in the new one, but they do. They transition to a new mission and keep doing great stuff."

While Welsh came away impressed with the 188th's facilities, he said the Air National Guard's capstone principle of one flying wing per state would likely be the decisive, but not only, factor that prompts the 188th's transition to remotely piloted aircraft.

"The director of the Air Guard and the state adjutants general are going to have to have a discussion about how they think the best posture of the force nationwide is, and I respect their views on it," Welsh said.

Of the five A-10 wings in the Air National Guard, the 188th is the only unit slated to change missions. The A-10 wings based in Idaho, Michigan, Indiana and Maryland were spared because they were the state's lone Air National Guard flying mission.

"Well, right now in the National Defense Authorization Act, the intent is for the 188th to transition," Welsh said. "Now we will look at the long-range look for the entire Guard in this next nine-month forecast."

Welsh said once the NDAA is finalized, the Air Force will have a more accurate gauge of exactly when the 188th's conversion to RPAs will begin.

"Once we have the final congressional decisions and once we have the paperwork complete, then we will move forward with an appropriations bill that allows us to do that," Welsh said. "Then we'll move forward with the timeline."

That RPA path that the 188th appears to be headed toward didn't stop the unit from conveying to Welsh the value of its vast airspace and training range, which ranks No. 1 among all Air National Guard fighter units and No. 1 among all A-10 Thunderbolt II wings Air Force-wide in terms of proximity to base and cost efficiency.

Welsh also took an aerial tour of Fort Chaffee on an Arkansas National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk from the 77th Theatre Aviation Brigade based at Camp Joseph T. Robinson. Welsh was transported to the 188th's Detachment 1 Razorback Range where he observed close-air support training with the 188th's A-10s and attack controllers with the Air Force's 22nd Special Tactics Squadron.

The 188th also communicated to Welsh the importance of the unique special forces training conducted regularly at Razorback Range just minutes away at nearby Fort Chaffee. The 188th trains hundreds of attack controllers for the U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALS and Air Force special operations each year. A representative from each was present at Friday's meeting.

The 188th also pitched its ability to potentially take on new fighter missions in the future such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Maj. Jay Spohn, former 188th pilot, talked about the importance of the 188th's ranges and airspace, how his training with Special Forces at the 188th was unique and how the unit is a good fit for 5th generation multi-role fighters. Spohn was the first Air National Guard pilot selected to fly the F-35.

"The training that I got at the 188th is something you can't duplicate anywhere else," Spohn said. "Its ranges, airspace and the ability to train with JTACs [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] regularly is invaluable training to the warfighters on the ground and to the pilots providing close-air support. You simply can't beat it."

Despite the 188th's catalog of unique assets, its transition to RPAs appears to be on autopilot. Welsh said regardless of the Air National Guard unit selected for conversion, it will be a tough call.

"All of us are going to have opinions as we move forward on this," Welsh said. "I think everybody's trying to do the right thing. It's not a matter of evil people, it's a matter of tough problems."

B-2 Spirits deploy to Andersen Air Force Base


by Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Public Affairs


1/22/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Two B-2 Spirit bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., will temporarily operate from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in late-January, in support of USPACOM's in-theater training objectives.

Since 2004, the U.S. has maintained a deployed strategic bomber force in the Asia-Pacific region contributing to theater security and stability. This deployment will provide the opportunity for ur Airmen to become familiar with operating in the Pacific and exercise the B-2's ability to employ strategic precision attack capabilities across the globe.

Air Force Chief provides insight on 188th future during visit to wing

by Maj. Heath Allen
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/20/2013 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The 188th Fighter Wing moved one step closer to its future Friday during a visit by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

Welsh along with Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, toured the 188th's facilities Friday and met with wing and state military leadership as well as members of the Arkansas and Oklahoma Congressional delegation. Welsh also met with community leaders and city officials during a social gathering held in Fort Smith Thursday night.

"I expected to see an outstanding fighter wing that does a great service to our nation and, I believe, the state of Arkansas, and that's exactly what I've seen," Welsh said during a press conference following his tour. "They have a great installation here. There's a great range complex that they train on. They are immersed in the mission of our Air Force, and I got to see that this morning."

For nearly a year, the 188th has endured uncertainty concerning its A-10 Thunderbolt II mission, which is slated to be replaced with a remotely piloted aircraft mission. And for nearly a year, the Arkansas congressional delegation has fought to keep the 188th's manned aircraft flying mission in Fort Smith. But nothing on Friday altered the course of the 188th, which is heading toward a mission conversion.

"We had a great visit and some very candid conversations about the future of A-10s and the future of the 188th," said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "We understand the Air Force is facing tough decisions. But even in our disappointment that we will likely no longer have A-10s we also understand how important it is to have a mission. And the bottom line is that we will have a mission at the 188th and it's an emerging mission that keeps us in the fight and engaged in helping defend our nation."

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.; U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers; and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, were all present during a meeting with Welsh, Wyatt and 188th and Arkansas National Guard state leadership.

"I will be working with the members of this delegation, the leaders of the City of Fort Smith and the Arkansas National Guard in doing what we can to salvage out of this decision, the very best possible circumstance for Airmen located out of Fort Smith," Womack said. "A remotely piloted aircraft mission, surrounded by any other ancillary-type missions to go with it, to build the very best circumstances in going forward."

Under the plan, the 188th will likely add a targeting squadron, intel group and will plus up in other areas.

"The intent would be - in every way possible - to keep as many people as possible who currently wear the 188th Fighter Wing badge assigned to the 188th Reconnaissance Wing, if that's what it ends up being," Welsh said.

Manpower studies suggest the 188th's loss of military positions will be small but no information is available on the full-time manning.

"The intent is not for the unit to go away," Welsh said. "And one of the things that I think everybody involved in the whole discussion will tell you is that the strength of the 188th Fighter Wing is not the hardware on the ramp, it's the people who make it work -- the people who fix it and fly it, and deal with the imperfections of the mission and somehow accomplish it anyway. They've always been the excellence of this organization.

"Someone who worked on a specific system on the old plane thinks they don't have any job in the new one, but they do. They transition to a new mission and keep doing great stuff."

While Welsh came away impressed with the 188th's facilities, he said the Air National Guard's capstone principle of one flying wing per state would likely be the decisive, but not only, factor that prompts the 188th's transition to remotely piloted aircraft.

"The director of the Air Guard and the state adjutants general are going to have to have a discussion about how they think the best posture of the force nationwide is, and I respect their views on it," Welsh said.

Of the five A-10 wings in the Air National Guard, the 188th is the only unit slated to change missions. The A-10 wings based in Idaho, Michigan, Indiana and Maryland were spared because they were the state's lone Air National Guard flying mission.

"Well, right now in the National Defense Authorization Act, the intent is for the 188th to transition," Welsh said. "Now we will look at the long-range look for the entire Guard in this next nine-month forecast."

Welsh said once the NDAA is finalized, the Air Force will have a more accurate gauge of exactly when the 188th's conversion to RPAs will begin.

"Once we have the final congressional decisions and once we have the paperwork complete, then we will move forward with an appropriations bill that allows us to do that," Welsh said. "Then we'll move forward with the timeline."

That RPA path that the 188th appears to be headed toward didn't stop the unit from conveying to Welsh the value of its vast airspace and training range, which ranks No. 1 among all Air National Guard fighter units and No. 1 among all A-10 Thunderbolt II wings Air Force-wide in terms of proximity to base and cost efficiency.

Welsh also took an aerial tour of Fort Chaffee on an Arkansas National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk from the 77th Theatre Aviation Brigade based at Camp Joseph T. Robinson. Welsh was transported to the 188th's Detachment 1 Razorback Range where he observed close-air support training with the 188th's A-10s and attack controllers with the Air Force's 22nd Special Tactics Squadron.

The 188th also communicated to Welsh the importance of the unique special forces training conducted regularly at Razorback Range just minutes away at nearby Fort Chaffee. The 188th trains hundreds of attack controllers for the U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALS and Air Force special operations each year. A representative from each was present at Friday's meeting.

The 188th also pitched its ability to potentially take on new fighter missions in the future such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Maj. Jay Spohn, former 188th pilot, talked about the importance of the 188th's ranges and airspace, how his training with Special Forces at the 188th was unique and how the unit is a good fit for 5th generation multi-role fighters. Spohn was the first Air National Guard pilot selected to fly the F-35.

"The training that I got at the 188th is something you can't duplicate anywhere else," Spohn said. "Its ranges, airspace and the ability to train with JTACs [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] regularly is invaluable training to the warfighters on the ground and to the pilots providing close-air support. You simply can't beat it."

Despite the 188th's catalog of unique assets, its transition to RPAs appears to be on autopilot. Welsh said regardless of the Air National Guard unit selected for conversion, it will be a tough call.

"All of us are going to have opinions as we move forward on this," Welsh said. "I think everybody's trying to do the right thing. It's not a matter of evil people, it's a matter of tough problems."

Northcom Pursues Closer Engagement With Mexico

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Jan. 22, 2013 – With a U.S. defense strategy focused heavily on the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, officials at U.S. Northern Command here are enthusiastically advancing engagement to the United States’ immediate southern border.


Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, and Mexican Navy Secretary Adm. Mariano Saynez pause briefly at the NORAD and Northcom Sept. 11 Memorial during Saynez’s visit to the commands Nov. 26, 2012. During the visit, Jacoby praised Saynez, who since has left his position, for his efforts toward closer bilateral military cooperation between Mexico and the United States. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Mexico, which has long focused its military internally, is increasingly receptive to building a closer bilateral relationship with the U.S. military, Army Maj. Gen. Francis G. Mahon, Northcom’s director for strategy, plans and policy, told American Forces Press Service.

“During the past two to three years, as the Mexican army and Mexican navy have taken on a larger role beyond internal security issues, our relationship with them has really grown and expanded through security cooperation,” Mahon said. “They have opened up to us and said, ‘Let’s start working closer and closer together.’”

That’s good news for the United States, he said, because the United States and Mexico share a 2,000-mile border and are intertwined culturally as well as economically. What happens in Mexico matters to the United States -- in terms of trade, immigration and, of particular concern here at Northcom, U.S. national security, he said.
Closer military-to-military cooperation will enable the U.S. and Mexican militaries to share best practices as they collaborate in tackling common challenges, Mahon said. They will be able to deal more effectively with threats such as transnational organized crime, while increasing their ability to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response throughout the region.

Mexico’s constitution explicitly prohibits foreign forces from operating on Mexican soil. But as SEDENA and SEMAR, Mexico’s army and navy, respectively, shed their internal focus, they are becoming increasingly open to combined training and subject matter expert exchanges, Mahon said.

The Merida Initiative opened the door to increased engagement in 2007, with the United States providing funding and equipment to help Mexican law enforcement fight drug cartels and related criminal elements.
Five years later, the United States expanded the mission to include other efforts that contribute to security. Today, the Merida framework includes disrupting organized crime, training state and local police, supporting judicial reforms, promoting legal cross-border commerce while stopping illicit shipments and building strong communities that discourage criminal activity.

The bottom line -- for the Merida Initiative and for all other theater security cooperation -- is about building partnership capacity, Mahon said.

“The end state for Mexico, from our perspective, is that we are their strategic partner of choice in the region, and they are a regional partner who can then assist other nations in the region or respond to other crises in the region, for example through humanitarian assistance or disaster relief,” he said.

The Mexicans, for example, are modernizing their aviation platforms. Northcom worked with them, through the State Department, to help upgrade their RC-26 aircraft and acquire UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for SEMAR, he said. The United States also is helping Mexico buy C-130J Hercules aircraft through the foreign military sales program, along with the logistics capabilities required to maintain these latest-generation cargo aircraft, Mahon said.

But Mexico’s interest in bilateral cooperation extends beyond equipment.

As Mexican military leaders evaluate their current missions and plan for the future, they are looking to the U.S. military for ideas and techniques that would be useful to them. Members of Marine Forces North, Northcom’s Marine Corps component, are conducting junior noncommissioned officer training for SEMAR at Camp Pendleton, Calif., a step toward helping Mexico to establish its own NCO academy, Mahon said.

Mahon hopes to establish a similar relationship between the U.S. and Mexican armies. To promote that effort, members of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., demonstrated various military techniques while hosting senior SEDENA leaders last year.

Last spring, Northcom sponsored a group of Mexican military doctors to observe their American counterparts medically evacuating wounded warriors from Afghanistan. The Mexican group traveled from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and ultimately, to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. From this experience, the Mexicans may draw ideas on how to improve their field medicine capacity, Mahon said.
“I believe their objective, in the long run, is to change their medical process,” he said. “Their hope is to institutionalize something better than what they have now, which is basically soldier first aid, without the benefits of combat lifesavers or intermediate evacuation care capability.”

Meanwhile, as the Mexican government transforms its judicial system into an adversarial framework like that used in the United States, U.S. judge advocate general staff are working with Mexican lawyers to integrate this new construct into the Mexican military legal system.

“The scope and breadth of things we are doing with our Mexican partners is very wide. It’s everything from techniques to planning skills to support for disaster operations,” Mahon said.

The next big step -- one that Mahon said he hopes Northcom will be able to take with Mexico in 2013 -- will be the start of bilateral exercises.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief has been a good starting place, Mahon said, noting that Mexico is earthquake-prone and also provided relief after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Mexican military leaders participated in several tabletop exercises last year through the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. The scenarios, which centered on earthquakes and pandemic outbreaks, incorporated not only the U.S. and Mexican militaries, but also their interagency partners, Mahon said.

Mexico also sent observers last spring to Northcom’s Ardent Sentry, a major exercise that tests the command’s processes for supporting civil authorities in the event of a natural disaster or pandemic. “We hope to integrate that into future exercises that can benefit not only both countries, but also others in the region,” Mahon said.

This month, U.S. and Mexican military officials will chart new ground as they begin planning their first bilateral air defense exercise, expected to take place later this year, he said. As envisioned, the exercise’s scenario will involve a rogue aircraft that flies from the United States into Mexico. U.S. interceptor aircraft scrambled by North American Aerospace Defense Command will shadow the aircraft until it enters Mexican airspace, then will transfer the mission to the Mexican air force.

The scenario, similar to the Amalgam Eagle exercise conducted last year with Russia, will help both militaries exercise the procedures they would need to follow during a real-life situation, Mahon said.

“From a command and control aspect, it will address how we coordinate between the U.S. and Mexican air forces as an aircraft that we have concerns about crosses the border,” he said. “It also will help address their ability to generate plans, find the aircraft and intercept.”

With two Mexican officers assigned to the Northcom headquarters to help coordinate these initiatives and increasing receptiveness from Mexico, Mahon said, he sees plenty of opportunity for more exchanges and combined training.

“It’s all about getting comfortable with each other and hopefully, advancing in the relationship,” he said. “It would be wonderful, someday, to take a Mexican company to the National Training Center to train with an American battalion or brigade.

“That sounds visionary, but we regularly conduct combined training with other allies and partners. There is no reason we can’t get it going with our Mexican partners,” he said. “I think our vision, working with Mexico, is that they become more of a regional strategic partner and more of an outward-looking military. I think they’re moving in that direction.”

AFSEC earns Air Force Organizational Excellence Award

by Darlene Y. Cowsert
Air Force Safety Center Public Affairs


1/22/2013 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- The Air Force Safety Center has earned the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award for exceptionally meritorious service for the period Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2011.

Among the highlights of the award period were the "Back to Basics" approach resulting in stronger regulatory compliance and enhanced nuclear surety, the "best year ever" for aviation Class A mishaps in 2010; and review, correction and approval of 1,300 required explosives safety submissions for Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board approval.

The center also conducted 68 training road shows to save the Air Force approximately $2.6 million in travel costs, fielded the new Traffic Safety Course III to meld two previous courses into one, oversaw 2,430 Air Force Culture Assessment Safety Tool applications and collected critical safety feedback from 175,000 Airmen. The center also published six American Journal of Preventive Medicine studies, strengthening safety research and focus.

"The Air Force Safety Center team embodies our Air Force Core Value of Excellence in All We Do, and everyone at the center demonstrates that every single day," said Air Force Chief of Safety Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward. "This award simply verifies that fact for the world to see, and I could not be more proud of our team."

The award was first authorized by the Secretary of the Air Force on Aug. 28, 1969, to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of U.S. Air Force organizations or activities, and is awarded to Air Force internal, unnumbered organizations that are entities within larger organizations.

436th Aerial Port Squadron earns Air Mobility Command awards

by Airman 1st Class Kathryn Stilwell
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


1/22/2013 - Dover Air Force Base, Del. -- Thanks to their superior performance in direct mission support, innovative management and quality of life programs, the 436th Aerial Port Squadron recently took home the Air Mobility Command Large Terminal Unit of the Year award for 2012.

"Winning the award means that our mission, and our men and women of the aerial port, were superior performers within AMC, and the preponderance of the air mobility mission that was supporting the war was worked right here through Dover," said Maj. Jimmy Hendrix, 436th Aerial Port Squadron operations officer.

AMC recognized the Super Port for their operational excellence and community involvement. Dover competed against several other bases including Joint Base Charleston, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

"I think that one of the things that separated us this year was there were a lot of initiatives that were undertaken to improve efficiencies," said Jim Ewing, AMC Logistics Readiness Senior Civilian of the Year and terminal operations manager with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron.

Ewing has been with the aerial port since 1987 and attests to the large work load Dover continuously undertakes each year along with the efficiencies tested in 2012.

"Dover was at the tip of the spear in testing efficiency enhancements. I think we were involved in three different proof of principles in 2012 and because we get involved like that, we're setting the way for the future. I think that probably stood out more than anything in this past year," said Ewing.

The primary mission of the aerial port squadron is the safe and efficient cargo and passenger processing for multi-modal movements to support global operations by properly training, equipping and deploying personnel.

"What that means is that we have the most innovative aerial port in the Air Force where our personnel are the best trained. Doing what we do here to ensure that the cargo is moving. Our short-term vision and mission is doing it safely, by the book, on time and with a smile. We love our job, so doing it with a smile is easy," said Hendrix.

The port processes a plethora of cargo consisting of anything from rations to medical supplies. They feed their cargo to six C-5M Super Galaxy's and 13 C-17 Globemaster III's capable of delivering supplies to oversea locations.

"Because it's an everyday channel mission, it's anything and everything, so we have no way to project what might be coming in and what might be needed in the theater from day to day. We know there are armor kits, like they put on the vehicles, and body armor is consumed by the service members, so those types of consumables. Rations, medical supplies, rubbing alcohol, parts and equipments for batteries. The best way to describe it is anything consumed by service members is what moves through here," said Ewing.

The channel mission played a role in their selection for the Large Unit Terminal of the Year award. Seventy percent of all scheduled channel cargo going to Afghanistan transits the Super Port.

"Regardless if we win an award or not, we continuously challenge ourselves to improve the processes we perform every day. We consider ourselves award winners every year whether we bring it or not. It's a way of life, but we just pride ourselves in doing it every day. We have a lot of passionate people. It starts with the commander and works its way down to the Airmen. They take pride in what they do," said Ewing.