Thursday, January 31, 2013

Face of Defense: Airman Plans Journey to Top of World

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Jan. 31, 2013 – The Tibetans call it "Chomolungma," meaning "Mother Goddess of the World." GPS equipment measures its peak at 29,035 feet.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Capt. Colin Merrin, a member of the U.S. Air Force Seven Summits Challenge team, stands at the summit of Mount Rainier in the state of Washington. He plans to reach the summit of Mount Everest in May 2013. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
If all goes well for Air Force Capt. Colin Merrin, Mount Everest soon will be a line 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. But before getting a call from the U.S. Air Force Seven Summits Challenge, he said, reaching the top of Mount Everest didn’t appeal to him.

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

Had the call come from anyone else, he said, he might have declined the invitation. But after hearing the greater cause, he added, he reconsidered.

The U.S. Air Force Seven 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 esprit 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 and 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," Merrin said. "Climbing Everest has become a great way to support them, as well as the team."

If successful in their endeavor, Merrin's crew will become the first team of active-duty American military members to have reached Everest’s summit. The Seven Summits team also will be the first from any nation to have reached the top of all seven famous mountains that make up its quest. The others are Mount Elbrus, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua, Mount McKinley, Mount Vinson and Mount Kosciuszko.

The journey to Everest’s peak doesn't start at the base of the mountain, Merrin said. It starts months, sometimes even years, before.

"Everest isn't a mountain you can just go [climb]," he said. "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 bench pressing, you bench press. 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 2011, Merrin was able to test his body's response to extremely high altitudes when he reached the 22,841-foot summit of Aconcagua in Argentina’s Andes mountain range.

"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," Merrin said. "Knowing that reassures me for Everest."

Though some dangers are out of his control, Merrin said, he draws confidence from the quality of his team.

"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."

Officials with the 50th Space Wing here are extending their support to Merrin and the Seven Summits team.

"I am extremely proud of Captain 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 Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, the 2nd Space Operations Squadron 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, 40-mile trek to Everest's base camp and an acclimation climb up nearby Mount Lobuche at the end of March.

12th FTW goes the distance to honor Airmen, saves $30K

by Bekah Clark
12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

1/30/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- Like most wings the 12th Flying Training Wing honors their annual award winners every January in a ceremony that highlights their achievements from the last year.
However, when time came to plan this year's ceremony the wing had a new challenge to face: how to get everyone there.

Unlike many wings, 12th FTW personnel aren't all stationed in the same place. In fact, approximately two-thirds of the wing's personnel aren't stationed anywhere near their parent wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Instead members of the 479th and 306th Flying Training Groups call Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. and the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., home.

In years past, the wing hosted their annual awards ceremony the night prior to the Air Education and Training Command Symposium held in San Antonio, Texas, which authorized the use of temporary duty funds for AETC personnel across the country to attend. This permitted the wing to bring their nominees for the symposium, thus allowing them to take part in the awards ceremony. But when the symposium was cancelled for 2013 due to current fiscal realities, the 12th FTW found another way to honor their Airmen.

"Flying our nominees in from our geographically separated units would have cost us nearly $30,000," said Col. Gerald Goodfellow, 12th Flying Training Wing commander. "That cost was neither feasible nor responsible, so we came up with an alternative...We decided to bring the ceremony to them."

Goodfellow, Col. James Gifford, 12th FTW vice commander; and Command Chief Master Sgt. Avery Woolridge, travelled more than 1,600 miles to each of the units Jan. 28 and 29 to personally recognize the nominees and winners in separate luncheons.

According to Woolridge, recognizing the Airmen in person is a leadership priority and a mission critical requirement.

"Accomplishing the mission in today's high operations tempo, 'do more with less' Air Force is challenging and complex. Compound that complexity with the rigors associated with being separated by 1,600 miles and you understand the men and women of the 12th FTW do miraculous things," said Woolridge.

"Our direction to them was simple, find innovative ways of doing business. And for the past 12 months, they've done that and done it well. The least we can do is shake their hands and say thank you for the many sacrifices they've endured and exemplary performance they've displayed over the past year. We owe them that."

For Goodfellow, making choices like these isn't just about saving money, it's about ensuring that we spend our resources wisely so we can continue to be the world's best Air Force.

"Whether it's finding efficiencies in our operations or in the execution of a morale program like our annual awards ceremony, it's our collective responsibility to make prudent choices so we can ensure the Air Force continues to meet its full airpower potential," he said.

The wing hosted a ceremony to honor its Airmen at JBSA-Randolph on January 25.

12th Flying Training Wing Annual Award Nominees:
*Denotes Winner

Junior Enlisted Member:
*Senior Airman Oliver Rhudy - 479th FTG

Noncommissioned Officer:
*Tech. Sgt. Neal - 12th OG
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kurpaski - 306th FTG
Staff Sgt. Johana Medellin - 479th FTG

Senior Noncommissioned Officer:
Master Sgt. Shaun Abell - 12th OG
*Master Sgt. Justin Demke - 306th FTG
Master Sgt. Efrain Sanchez - 479th FTG

First Sergeant:
*Senior Master Sgt. Steven Alford - 479th FTG

Company Grade Officer:
*Capt. Jeff Shulman - 12th OG
Capt. Marshall Klitzke - 306th FTG
Capt. Tom Walsh - 479th FTG

Field Grade Officer:
*Maj. Andrew Gilmer - 12th OG
Maj. Mike Albers - 306th FTG
Maj. Richard Wilson - 479th FTG

Civilian Non-Supervisor Category I:
*Katrina Scott - 12th OG
Cheri Williamson 306th FTG
Paul Knoblock - 479th FTG

Civilian Non-Supervisor Category II:
Wesley Fillmore - 12th OG
Richard Long - 306th FTG
Paola Joyner - 479th FTG
*Angela Werley - 12th MX

Civilian Non-Supervisor Category III:
Randy Hunt - 12th FTW
Tim Gorshe - 12th FTW
*Robert Frink - 12th OG
Courtney Davis - 306th FTG
Michael Gnall - 479th FTG

Civilian Supervisor Category I:
Dwight Vickers - 12th OG
John Apostolides - 479th FTG
*Michael Howell - 12th MX

Civilian Supervisor Category II:
*Sara Rodriguez - 12th OG
Michael Thompson - 306th FTG
Richard Taylor - 12th MX

Civilian Wage Grade:
*Darlene Daspit-Pohl - 12th OG
David Alteiri - 306th FTG
John Harris - 12th MX

Flight Commander:
*Maj. Becky Russo - 12th OG
Capt. Sarah Towler - 306th FTG
Capt. Karyn Argueta - 479th FTG

Instructor Combat Systems Officer:
*Capt Anthony Bares - 479th FTG

Instructor Pilot:
*Capt. Thomas Zaremba - 12th OG
Capt. Joshua McCrary - 306th FTG
Maj. David Kendall - 479th FTG

Hagel Vows Policies Worthy of U.S. Service Members, Families

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2013 – Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that his guiding principle is to make U.S. policy “worthy of our troops and their families and the sacrifices we ask them to make.”

In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing, Hagel -- President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed retiring Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta -- said he supports the administration’s policies down the line.
Hagel, who served as an Army sergeant in Vietnam, stressed his own time in the military and his experiences as a veteran while reiterating his commitment to taking care of service members, veterans and their families.
Turning to the threats the United States faces, Hagel told the senators the transition in Afghanistan will be front and center on his to-do list if he’s confirmed.

“Discussions are ongoing about what the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will look like after 2014,” he said, adding that the United States will train Afghan forces post-2014 and will maintain a counterterrorism presence in the nation.

Terrorism remains a threat, Hagel said, and he vowed to keep the pressure on terrorist organizations wherever they try to establish themselves. Yemen, Somalia and North Africa are particular trouble spots, he told the Senate panel.

“At the Pentagon, that means continuing to invest in and build the tools to assist in that fight, such as special operations forces and new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies,” he added. “And it will mean working hand in hand with our partners across the national security and intelligence communities to confront these and other threats, especially the emerging threat of cyber warfare.”

Hagel also said he fully supports Obama’s goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear arms and the means to deliver them.

“As I’ve said in the past, all options must be on the table to achieve that goal,” he said. “My policy is one of prevention, and not one of containment, and the president has made clear that is the policy of our government.”

As defense secretary, Hagel said, he would ensure the U.S. military is ready for any contingency in the region. He also would ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge in the region, he added, and supports continued funding and research for the Israeli Iron Dome defense system.

Hagel also told the senators he is committed to maintaining a modern, strong, safe, ready and effective U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Addressing the shift toward the Asia-Pacific region in U.S. military strategy, Hagel said the American military is modernizing forces in the region and looking to deepen relationships with traditional allies such as Japan, South Korea and Australia. The American presence will deter states such as North Korea, he said, and will serve as a stabilizing influence. He vowed to expand the networks of security cooperation throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy and ensure maritime security.

“It is a recognition that the United States has been and always will be a Pacific power, and the Asia-Pacific is an increasingly vital part of the globe for America’s security and economy,” he said. “That’s why we must become even more engaged in the region over the coming years.

But the pivot to the Pacific does not mean that threats in other parts of the world are going away, Hagel noted, adding that the U.S. military will continue addressing challenges that emanate from the Middle East and North Africa.

“I will continue this rebalancing, even as we continue to work closely with our longtime NATO allies and friends, and with allies and partners in other regions,” he said.

On the looming threat of sequestration -- deep, across-the-board spending cuts that will take effect March 1 unless Congress comes up with an alternative -- Hagel said he agrees with Panetta that the plan to chop billions from the department is a bad idea.

“As someone who has run businesses, I know the uncertainty and turbulence of the current budget climate makes it much more difficult to manage the Pentagon’s resources,” he said. “If confirmed, I am committed to effectively and efficiently using every single taxpayer dollar, to maintaining the strongest military in the world, and to working with Congress to ensure the department has the resources it needs -- and that the disposition of those resources is accountable.”

Hagel pledged to continue implementing the 2011 repeal of the law that had barred openly gay service members from serving in the military, promising to do everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all service members. He also pledged to continue Panetta’s work in opening more combat jobs to military women and fighting sexual assault in the military.

“I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision that I strongly support,” he said. “And I will continue the important work that Leon Panetta has done to combat sexual assault in the military. Maintaining the health and well-being of those who serve is critical to maintaining a strong and capable military, because an institution’s people must always come first.”

JBER's 3rd Wing wins PACAF safety award

by PAO Staff Report
JBER Public Affairs

1/30/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Pacific Air Forces Safety Special Achievement Award was presented to the 3rd Wing during a flight safety awards ceremony Jan. 2. The award recognizes the wing's outstanding accomplishments in numerous mishap prevention areas.

"It is truly an honor to receive this particular award," said Air Force Lt. Col. Travolis Simmons, 3rd Wing chief of safety. "It serves as a testament to the overall quality of our safety programs. More importantly, the award validates the disciplined contributions of all 3rd Wing Airmen who enabled the wing's many mission successes in 2012."Fiscal year 2012 was a year marked by challenging circumstances for JBER and the 3rd Wing. Despite record snowfall during the 2011-2012 winter, the Joint Base's 3rd Wing operated and safely maintained 7,037 flight sorties for a combined total of 15,159 flight hours.

Aircrew delivered more than 2,000 passengers and more than 4 million pounds of cargo in support of Pacific Command and Central Command missions without any major mishaps. Additionally, the 3rd Wing safely hosted two Red Flag exercises, which included more than 1,000 joint and allied forces, and 47 aircraft for 580 flight sorties and more than 1,000 flying hours.

Wing personnel helped discover the root causes of F-22 Raptor hypoxia-like symptoms Air Force-wide, ultimately resulting in changes in aircrew flight equipment across the Combat Air Force. This discovery led to the development of the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device Program to simulate hypoxia symptoms for pilots, saving more than $284,000 annually in travel costs.

Outside of daily flying operations, the 3rd Wing hosted the largest air show in the joint base's history, with more than 73 participating aircraft, a record-breaking 235,000 visitors, and more than 500 volunteers with zero safety incidents.

During this time, 3rd Wing Safety personnel also engineered a joint Bird and Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard Program with neighboring Bryant Army Airfield, reducing bird strike potential across the joint installation by 50 percent for more than 150 aircraft. Weapons Safety analyzed 23 explosive clear zones and discovered encroachment of a public traffic route. This revelation prevented future hazards and ensured protection of personnel as well as a coveted Alaska hunting locale.

Their personnel also played a key role in the ammunition barge joint operation with United States Army Alaska by identifying a convoy safety hazard, resulting in 20,000 pounds net explosive weight arriving with zero mishaps.

The 3rd Wing Safety team's contributions extended well outside the joint base installation. The team conducted a Wake Island site survey and coordinated risk assessment with the Naval Surface Warfare Center. This coordinated effort resulted in approval for seven explosive site plans and allowed the Missile Defense Agency to establish a posture for integrated flight tests.

Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, PACAF commander, lauded the accomplishment and encouraged a continued commitment to safety excellence.

Upon receiving the award, Air Force Col. Dirk Smith, 3rd Wing commander said, "I could not be more proud of our 3rd Wing Safety professionals. Their achievements show that engaged leadership drives disciplined, precise and safe mission execution. "Our safety team understands the complexity of our diverse 3rd Wing mission," the commander continued. "From F-22 oxygen system improvements to Wake Island weapons safety groundwork, our safety enables our leadership team to create an environment for safe operations that ultimately increase our combat capability."

Simmons summarized the significance of the award.

"Whenever you are fortunate enough to win a major command-level award, it is a big deal," he said. "We are certainly excited about it and appreciative of the recognition. However, success in safety is not about past performance. Success in safety is about the future. Everyone in the organization must be vigilant in maintaining a proactive approach to safety as we attempt to anticipate tomorrow's problem areas and mitigate the risk of future mishaps."

Family of missing pilot expresses optimism for his safe return

1/31/2013 - MANIAGO, Italy (AFNS) -- "If anyone could survive something like this, it would be Luc," she said.

Cassy Gruenther spoke the words with full confidence sitting on the couch of her home in northeast Italy.

Her husband, Capt. Lucas Gruenther, 32, has been missing since officials at Aviano Air Base, Italy, lost contact with the captain's F-16 Fighting Falcon Jan. 28 during a nighttime training mission over the Adriatic Sea.

"Luc is a self-reliant outdoorsmen who would sleep every night under the stars if he could," Cassy said. "He's a sky diver, he's a rock climber and he's a certified scuba diver. He is also a health nut and in great shape."

A 2003 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, Gruenther's selection as a fighter pilot was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, according to his family.

"Luc has wanted to be a pilot since he was a little boy," said Romel Mathias, Gruenther's mother. "And, he did everything he had to do to get there. That's what he does with everything in his life. If he wants to do something, he finds a way to do it."

"That's why I know he's coming home," added Cassy, who is pregnant and just weeks from delivering the couple's first child, Serene. "If he has his mind set on something, he will find a way to make it happen. He'll find a way; whatever he has to do."

The massive search effort has included aircraft and ships from the United States and Italy. According to the family, the U.S. military has confirmed finding debris from the aircraft including Gruenther's drogue parachute and his helmet.

"The drogue chute is a good sign," said Cassy. "It means he ejected, and we've been told the helmet is in good condition."

The captain's family is not alone in their optimism as thousands of friends and well-wishers posted messages online and sent in their support for the Gruenthers.

"The support we've had has been amazing," said Kerry Williams, Cassy's mother. "We've received emails and Facebook posts from every state and from around the world. A local trail runners association has even scheduled a run for him this Saturday. We just can't express in words how grateful we are for the support, especially the support we've received from the rescue teams and volunteers out searching for Luc."

The captain's supporters also include many from the local Italian community. The Gruenther's are heavily involved in their community, leading the Maniago township's chapter of the Vicini Americani (or American Neighbors) program, which helps to build friendships between the American and Italian families in the communities outside the base.

"He loves culture and he loves languages," Cassy said. "He studies every night and was able to speak Italian fluently after our first year here. He also loves helping Italians who ask for help with their English. He's built many friendships with Italians as they work together on pronunciation and finding the perfect word."

Cassy said that her husband has no plans to leave the Air Force any time soon and that he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Army Gen. Alfred Gruenther, who served as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1953 to 1956.

"He loves what he does," she said. "He's the kind of officer who knows the name of every maintainer out there on the flightline. I've always pictured him as a general one day, making a difference."

Mathias echoed her daughter-in-law's comments.

"He served six months in Afghanistan where his mission was to support ground troops," she said. "We remember Luc saying that the greatest day on deployment was when he got to meet the Soldiers he supported with air cover during an operation."

18th Medical Group proves to be PACAF's best

by Airman 1st Class Justin Veazie
18th Wing Public Affairs

1/30/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Medical Group was recently recognized by Pacific Air Forces' headquarters for meritorious service in 2012.

The 18th MDG won Best Ambulatory Clinic Patient Safety Program, Air Force Surgeon General Award for Best Clinic, Largest Dental Clinic of the Year and Outstanding Medical Logistics Small Account of the Year.

"We are extremely proud of (our) unit," said Col. Barbara King, 18th Medical Group commander. "This is just a resolve of good mentorship, and our Airmen doing their job to the best of their ability and being recognized for it!"

Kadena's medical group is the Air Force's largest freestanding ambulatory clinic in terms of personnel. It is comprised of more than 80 medical and dental care providers who see nearly 600 patients daily.

The clinic provides Kadena and other Department of Defense beneficiaries with extensive medical, dental and other support services.

"Thanks to the professional men and women of the (18th MDG), we are able to keep all operations running smoothly," said King.

Twelve medical group individuals also received command awards. The individuals and their awards are:

U.S. Air Force Biomedical Clinician Category I Company Grade Officer of the Year: Capt. Rodney A. Ho

Clinical Dentist of the Year: Capt. Jeremy B. Lake

Outstanding Biomedical Equipment Repair NCO of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Dustin M. Sprague

Outstanding Base Bioenvironmental Engineering NCO of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Dion J. Taylor

Outstanding Mental Health Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Danielle A. Meadows

Outstanding Diet Therapy NCO of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Jennifer J. Randolph

Aerospace and Operational Physiology NCO of the Year: Staff Sgt. Clint K. Copeland

Outstanding Aerospace Medicine NCO of the Year: Tech. Sgt. John E. Glover

Outstanding Dental Airman of the Year: Airman 1st Class Amanda E. York

Outstanding Dental NCO of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Cheyanne L. Brown

U.S. Air Force Clinical Excellence Award - CGO Category: Capt. Shannon M. Brodersen

U.S. Air Force Clinical Excellence in Nursing Award - CGO Category: Capt. Lindsay B. Howard

Making sure patients get the best care is a main priority of the medical group.

The 18th MDG's motto is "Trusted Care, Here and in the Air."

610 ACF sets the stage

by Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/30/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- In many endeavors, such as theatrical or musical performances, the people behind the scenes are rarely recognized for their part. Similarly, during training exercises, the pilots are usually the stars of the show. However, they wouldn't be able to perform without the help of their stage hands, the 610th Air Control Flight. They may not be the ones in the spotlight, but without them the show could not go on.

Though small in number, the 610 ACF has an important mission of providing command and control for all aircraft flying in Northern Japan.

"Our job is to make sure all U.S. aircraft are aware of each other, as well as any Japan Air Self-Defense Force or civilian aircraft flying in the same area," said Tech. Sgt. David Boyd, 610 ACF weapons director. "We make sure our fighters stay within the airspace given to us from the country of Japan and if there is ever an emergency, we are the first to respond. It is our responsibility, in an emergency, to get the pilots the help they need and contact the correct agencies to handle the situation at hand."

Approximately 15 people are in charge of controlling offensive and defensive counter-missions for F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots performing Suppression of Enemy Air Defense and Destruction of Enemy Air Defense missions, as well as providing guidance and ensuring safety of flight.

The 610 ACF forms a team with pilots to do tactical missions. During the missions, they formulate a game plan and brief it to the pilots before they fly into the airspace. Then when the pilots are there, the 610 ACF controls the mission.

For training missions they can either control "good guys" or "bad guys", referred to as blue air and red air respectively, and simulate what could happen in a war-time scenario.
"When they [pilots] do certain missions, we play along with whatever they are doing," said Senior Airman Jonathan Huggins, 610 ACF senior director technician. "For example if they are fighting against a certain kind of aircraft, it's our job to know what that aircraft can do. We also inform them of the location of enemy jets, their range and when ally pilots are in threat range."

On a daily basis, the 610 ACF works side-by-side with members of the JASDF to provide air command and control in the Northern Sector of Japan. Teams from both the U.S. Air Force and JASDF work out of the same operations center using JASDF equipment and sensors.

"Coordination and cooperation is needed every day to ensure both countries are able to achieve their desired objectives for the day," said 1st Lt. Preston Phillips, 610 ACF air weapons officer.

Though often confused for air traffic controllers, the 610 ACF is in charge of controlling aircraft in large portions of airspace. Air traffic controllers guide air traffic and control aircraft around bases, whereas the 610 ACF keeps them separated and controls them over fighting ranges and when they're in the airspace.

"Air traffic controllers are primarily responsible for the safe separation and deconfliction of aircraft and airfields," said Staff Sgt. Devon Sonly, 610 ACF NCO in charge of weapons and tactics. "We are responsible for providing situational awareness and direction to aid in fighter targeting. This allows the fighters to take shots at range and increase survivability while maximizing our [the Air Force's] lethality."

As part of the mission essential crew, the 610 ACF is out there every day helping pilots train and complete their missions on a daily basis.

"We are their eyes and ears when they cannot see," said Boyd. "We guide them [pilots] to intercept enemy aircraft, as well as help them stay safe in the airspace."

Hagel Says Vietnam Shaped Perspective on War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2013 – Having seen war “from the bottom,” President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next secretary of defense said today, that experience informs him as he looks at policy.

Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel spoke about his experiences in Vietnam during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

Hagel and his brother Tom served together in Vietnam in 1968. It was the year of the Tet Offensive, and the young infantryman was wounded twice during his tour. “I saw it from the bottom,” he said today. “I saw what happens. I saw the consequences and the suffering and horror of war.”

More than 16,000 Americans died in Vietnam in 1968. Hagel said his experiences in Vietnam informed the decisions he made as a senator, and will continue to inform him if he is confirmed to succeed retiring Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Hagel used his stance in regard to the surge in Iraq as an example. As a senator, Hagel opposed the surge. He felt it was a mistake, he told the Senate panel today.

“I did question a surge,” he said. “It wasn’t an aberration to me, ever. I always ask the question, ‘Is this going to be worth the sacrifice?’ Because there will be sacrifices.”

The United States lost almost 1,200 service members during the surge and thousands of others were wounded, Hagel said. “Was it required? Was it necessary?” he asked. “I’m not sure. I’m not that certain that it was required. Now, it doesn’t mean I’m right. It doesn’t mean I didn’t make wrong votes. But that’s what guides me.”

Questioning the need for a surge goes back to being an Army sergeant walking point in the Mekong Delta, Hagel said. “I’m not shaped, framed, molded, consumed by that experience,” he said. “But it’s part of me. … We're all shaped by those experiences.”

Hagel said he hopes his experiences in Vietnam will help him if he assumes the top job at the Pentagon. “I hope if I have the privilege of serving as secretary of defense, it will put someone in charge at the Pentagon … who understands the realities and consequences of war,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I’m better. But that’s who I am. I don’t walk away from that.”

The United States is the greatest military power on Earth, Hagel said, and America has been judicious and careful with its power.

“I want to make sure we continue to do that, as you all do,” Hagel told the senators.

Good people can have honest differences, he told the committee.

“All I can do is my best based on my own experiences,” Hagel said, “and … reaching out, listening, learning, never knowing enough, understanding that circumstances change.”

Dempsey: Coast Guard Mission ‘Constant’

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

NEW LONDON, Conn., Jan. 31, 2013 – The Coast Guard has a constant mission, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told cadets at the Coast Guard Academy today.

“The military -- and I include you in that joint force -- we are the preeminent leadership experience in the world,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during an all-hands assembly of cadets.

That leadership experience means being a military professional and accounting for both yourself and your institution, he said. “It’s not just about you anymore. … You have to continue your own development, both because you should, but also because of what it does for the profession.”
This includes developing and taking pride in unique skills and techniques, the chairman said.
“Nobody else can be the Coast Guard,” he said. “We can’t outsource it.”

The military has become more complex since he was a lieutenant, Dempsey said. The services have restructured in response to threats that were once the sole domain of nation states but are now in the hands of decentralized organizations, the chairman said. And now, more responsibility is placed on young leaders than ever before, he added.

“We have to be a network in order to defeat a network,” Dempsey said.

Leadership is the most solemn duty of all, the chairman said. “Leadership is why we get up in the morning.”

Professional creeds and values can’t be abstract for those in leadership positions, he said. “You’ve got understand what it means to be committed, to serve selflessly, to be courageous, to have integrity, to live up to your creed here,” the general said. “… and you’ve got to develop a bond of trust like in no other occupation in the world.”

Leadership is a combination of character and competence, Dempsey said. “You can be the most competent man or woman, but you’re not a leader unless you have character.”

“You can’t develop trust absent character,” he continued. Competence is important, he said, but “if your subordinates don’t want to be you when they grow up, then you’re not a leader.” And trust is what allows the military to function, the chairman said.

“You don’t get on an icebreaker and head out to the arctic to bang away at 15 or 20 feet of ice unless you trust that, first of all, the captain of the ship knows what he’s doing and secondly, that everybody on that team knows what they’re doing,” he said. “You can sleep when it’s your turn to sleep because somebody else has the watch.”

Dempsey told the cadets that the world in which they will soon be working is one where change will occur faster than they expect and “it will be more complex … it’ll be unpredictable, and it’ll be more dangerous.”

This will require leaders to have a firm understanding of national interests, Dempsey said. In its position at the nexus between law enforcement and the military, the Coast Guard plays an integral role in defending those interests, he added.

In response to cadet questions following his speech, the chairman spoke about the budget crisis, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and the effects of the recent end to the combat exclusion rule.
The budget crisis isn’t a new situation, Dempsey said. “It’s the worst it’s been, but it’s not new.” Budget crises have followed previous wars, he said.

Where the current crisis differs, he said, is not in its magnitude, but in the amount of time the Defense Department has to deal with it.

"I'm not one that says don't you dare think about taking another dollar from the defense budget," Dempsey said. Refusing all cuts or walling off certain projects won't help the department contribute to the nation's economic well-being, he added.

The department needs budget certainty, time and flexibility from Congress, the chairman said.
"We can't do this every year," he said. "We do embrace change. We don't do real well with uncertainty, and we have enormous uncertainty right now."

If cuts are to be made, he said, the department needs time to absorb them and the flexibility to apply them in a balanced way. "Every time they deny us the ability to touch a piece of the budget, we can't keep it in balance and what generally pays the price then is readiness,” he said. “I can't let readiness erode."

Dempsey told cadets the military has to be attuned to how it employs violence, particularly with unmanned aerial vehicles. UAVs have become more precise than they were initially, he added, and rely on multiple layers of intelligence to ensure that civilian casualties are minimized. "I think, as you migrate into the force and have access to these capabilities, you should think about how we employ violence,” he said. “ ... For what intention are you applying violence? Have you exhausted other means? Are there other means?"

The standards are clear for the application of violence, he said, whether you're talking about a bayonet or a UAV. The real question, the chairman added, is whether the use of UAVs is overcoming the ideology behind movements that seek to harm the U.S.

Turning to the role of women, he said, "The 1994 exclusion of women in combat had become embarrassing." This was because it ignored the reality of women's military service, he added.
"It was an anachronism," Dempsey continued. "It was an emotional anachronism.” The rule served to discourage an examination of standards for military occupations across the board, he said. Now, the chairman added, the question isn't whether a woman should serve in the formerly closed occupations, but "why shouldn't they?"

He noted that not all men can, or even want to, qualify to serve in combat specialties. "I don't wear a Ranger tab," he said. "I'm not an infantryman, I'm an armor officer. I chose to ride to work," he joked.

The end of the combat exclusion rule means that he has access to the deepest talent pool available, Dempsey said. Only one in four men of military age in the U.S. qualify for military service, he said, and that population isn't becoming healthier or more educated. From his perspective, he said, the best reason to open combat specialties to women is that "we're going to need them ... I want to have as much talent available as I can possibly have."