Thursday, February 07, 2013

Tinker Airman earns Bronze Star

by Mike W. Ray
Tinker Public Affairs

2/7/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The White Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent in Tinker Air Force Base's 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron has joined one of his brothers as a recipient of the Bronze Star for meritorious service in Iraq.

Senior Master Sgt. Jesse A. Collins III was awarded the medal for "exemplary leadership, personal endeavor and devotion to duty" during his deployment to Iraq as superintendent of the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, 321st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kirkuk Regional Air Base.

"I am proud and humbled, but also conflicted," the sergeant said later. "A lot of people I worked with deserved the medal as much as I did, if not more."

Between June 17, 2010, and June 14, 2011, Collins served as the senior enlisted adviser for 277 Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors in seven squadrons at four locations in Iraq. Their duty was to support counterinsurgency operations and advise and train the Iraqi Air Force and Army Aviation Command, his citation relates.

"We were sent there to train and assist members of the Iraqi Air Force in ways to manage their airpower, to bring them back to where they could defend themselves," the sergeant said recently. "Our job was to teach them basic principles and practices of mechanics and airmanship."

While providing oversight of real-world operations and training missions alike, the sergeant "superbly guided the group's engagement in 13,000 combat flight missions spanning 29,000 flight hours," the citation continues.

Specifically, his leadership in advising the Iraqi Air Force in tracking, monitoring and executing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions "produced real-time imagery" for use by U.S. and Iraqi controlling agencies. "Their timely intelligence feeds protected citizens and directly led to apprehension of insurgents following terrorist attacks" in Baghdad.

Collins's "constant leadership on the flightline" yielded delivery of 24,000 personnel and 2,000 tons of cargo to and from the base, "fortifying combat support efforts in northern Iraq," the citation says.

Furthermore, after more than 50 attacks against the base by insurgents armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, Sergeant Collins "deftly led the effort to account for personnel, conduct post-attack reconnaissance, render unexploded munitions safe, repair damage, and restore combat flight operations."

During his year-long tour of duty, he never took a day off. "Since I was separated from my family, it was easier to just stay busy every day," he explained.

Besides the language barrier, one of the difficulties was the cultural difference between Iraqis and Americans. "They have an officer-heavy corps structure. When an Iraqi officer needs someone to do manual labor, he summons enlisted personnel," Collins said. "For us, though, we trust our Airmen with complex, expensive weapons systems. We leave them in the hands of young men and women -- which is a foreign concept to the Iraqis."

The tour in Iraq was unique, he said. "This was probably the hardest, most difficult but most rewarding deployment I've ever had." The sergeant has deployed "eight or nine times" since joining the Air Force almost 24 years ago. His first deployment was to Saudi Arabia for the Desert Storm campaign that liberated Iraqi-occupied Kuwait in 1991.

Prior to leaving for Iraq, Sergeant Collins went to Fort Dix, N.J., for cultural training, some Arabic language training, combat and survival training.

He thinks he was tapped for the overseas assignment because of his past experience with AC-130 gunships in Air Force Special Operations Command. "I think that's what led to me being put on the short list for Iraq."

Public service features prominently in his family. His father served in the Army during the Korean War, and an uncle was an Army Ranger.

One of Sergeant Collins's older brothers, Tim, served in the Navy during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. His younger brother, Joshua, spent eight years in the Marine Corps and then joined the Army National Guard, earning a Bronze Star for his actions during a firefight while serving in Iraq as a convoy missions commander. Sergeant Collins's oldest brother, Mark, is a deputy sheriff in the family's hometown of Eagle River, WI.

Sergeant Collins said his inter-service familiarity served him well in Iraq. "The Air Force had a small footprint at Kirkuk, so I had to work with Army peers quite often."

The sergeant and his wife, Michelle, have been married for 20 years and have two children: 15-year-old daughter Riley and 11-year-old son Beckett.

Air Force Nuclear Force Anticipates Budget Constraints

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

2/7/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFPS) -- The Air Force Global Strike Command predicts budget cuts triggered by sequestration will reduce B-52 flying hours by 10 percent and lead to a 20 percent reduction in overall flying hours should the law kick in on March 1, Air Force Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski said.

Kowalski, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, spoke to reporters at the Defense Writers Group here today.

The command handles two parts of the nation's nuclear triad: manned bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The general said he's satisfied with readiness in the command today, but the fiscal problems confronting the military in the months and years ahead would, at best, cause readiness to level off or decline.

"As we look downstream at the continuing impacts of both the continuing resolution and sequestration, it's pretty clear there's going to be some degradation there," he said.

The biggest and most disturbing impact for the command is on flying hours, Kowalski said.

"We are looking at up to a 20-percent reduction in flying hours," he said.

One defense is to keep the sortie count high, Kowalski said, because the importance of flying hours is not just the time in the air for aircrews. Sorties exercise the entire process, he said, generating aircraft, fueling aircraft, arming bombs, recovering the aircraft, the maintenance of the aircraft and so on.

"All of that is exercised because that's what we pick up and deploy to a forward operating base," Kowalski said. "What we want to do is maintain the sortie count to maintain readiness across all of those."

The general said he's carefully keeping an eye on personnel issues in the command as well. There is an issue with airmen in the missile fields, he said, noting this is remote duty and there are concerns about the suicide rate among these personnel.

Reenlistment has not been a problem within Global Strike Command to date, Kowalski said. Part of the willingness to reenlist may be tied to the state of the economy, he said, and part of it is because the young airmen believe in the mission.

"All of those folks are going to continue to do a great job, but they need to know what to do and they need to know that what they are doing is important," Kowalski said. "We have been very active in reminding them of the job's importance."

The force structure may change in the command, the general said, but it doesn't change the basic mission for the command.

"This is one of the most important missions in the military -- to make sure that the nuclear inventory remains safe, secure and effective," Kowalski said.

11th AF commander makes first visit to Guam

by Senior Airman Robert Hicks
36th Wing Public Affairs

2/6/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog, 11th Air Force commander, met with Team Andersen Airmen and received a mission tour Feb. 1, marking his first visit to Guam since the 36th Wing became part of 11 AF.

During his visit, he met with Airmen from the 736th Security Forces Squadron, 36th Mobility Response Squadron, 36th Medical Group and several other squadrons at Northwest Field, Guam, as members briefed their missions and explained what capabilities they bring to the fight.

The general also took the opportunity to explain Guam's unique role as a joint environment located in the western-most sovereign reach of the United States. He spoke of how Guam provides a unique training area for joint forces to improve their relationship and strengthen ties with regional partners.

"The capacity we have here on Guam, with our continuous bomber presence that's here day in and day out, is a statement of our commitment to the region, and the ability to flex up and bring a large number of air frames," General Hoog said. "For example, the 70-plus [aircraft here] for the Cope North exercise, shows the ability to not only host our coalition allies and practice together, it shows we have the logistics trail, training, tactics, techniques and procedures to make it all happen. Guam is only going to become more important in the future as we get into this pivotal refocus here in the Pacific region."

The general added that Airmen should be ready to support combatant commanders worldwide, stressing the importance of readiness for global deployment and employment. He said service members will continue to defend our borders and stay prepared to support local, state and federal organizations as they respond to natural or manmade disasters and continue to support the buildup of forces here on Guam.

Additionally, General Hoog acknowledged the support the local community provides to Team Andersen.

"We have to continue to maintain the support from the local communities," General Hoog said. "I have rarely seen support as solid and as enthusiastic for the installations as I have seen here in the Pacific. Specifically with Chamorros, they are great supporters of the mission at Andersen and across the entire island."

General Hoog noted that the Airmen of today are the future of tomorrow's Air Force, and that it's the supervisors' responsibility to assist Airmen by keeping them informed about self-improvement and educational programs made available to them.

"Bloom where you're planted," General Hoog said as a word of advice to Airmen. "A number of Airmen believe it's the next assignment that's going to be the one for them. The goal is to do the best with what you have where you are.

"Excellence isn't an on or off switch; you can't flip it on and say, 'Today I'm going to be excellent.' It has to be a habit. You build the habit pattern and you bloom where you're planted."

Carter Sees DOD Strategy at Work on Europe, Middle East Trip

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2013 – Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter saw critical elements of the new defense strategy at work in European and Middle East nations and in a bilateral meeting with Indian defense officials during a six-day international trip that ended last night.

Carter met with defense leaders in Paris, at the 49th Munich Security Conference in Germany, and in Turkey and Jordan.

“I had the opportunity to congratulate the French on what is so far a very successful mission in Mali, and also to discuss with them where they go from here,” Carter told American Forces Press Service aboard his aircraft during his return flight.

“I was pleased to learn that they have a clear strategy for making the effort there -- one that includes a political settlement in Mali between the government in Bamako and a longstanding separatist group … that contributes to making the [northern part of the country] a place where radicals can take hold,” the deputy secretary added.

Carter said such a settlement has to be part of the future in Mali, as does helping the Malian forces bolster their capabilities until they can assume full responsibility for their own national security.
In remarks at the 49th Munich Security Conference, Carter said European defense spending is “falling to a level below which they will be incapable of independent action, and that’s inconsistent with the historic role of Europe in security affairs.”

France was able to carry out an independent operation in Mali, he added, but “few other European nations could do that, and if French defense spending is cut further, France won’t be capable of doing it, either.”

Such declining defense budgets worry the United States, which has counted on European partners, Carter said. And for the first time at a Munich conference, he sounded the alarm about the United States’ own unstable defense budget.

“This time, an American defense official is not only castigating Europeans but castigating our own political gridlock -- which, if it isn’t resolved, will lead us, as [Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta] and I have been saying for a year now, to devastating consequences for our military.”

On the sidelines at Munich, Carter held several bilateral meetings, including one with Shivshankar Menon, an Indian diplomat serving as national security advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Carter and Menon discussed progress to date on an effort that Panetta launched and Carter has managed -- a joint U.S.-India initiative to boost defense cooperation and trade and streamline the nations’ export-control processes.

As Carter said during a visit to India in July, the United States and India have built a military-to-military engagement steadily through dialogues, exercises, defense trade and research cooperation, and U.S. defense leaders want to expand that linkage.

In Munich, the deputy secretary said he and Menon discussed the identification of co-development and co-production projects.

“The Indians don’t want to just buy weapons systems from us, they want to co-develop and co-produce systems of mutual value … that we can jointly export,” Carter said. “We support that aspiration in India. That’s the way we want to do things, too.”

During his July visit to India, Carter visited the facilities in Hyderabad where India’s Tata Advanced Systems Limited and U.S.-based Lockheed Martin produce parts for the C-130J, the “Super Hercules” four-engine military transport aircraft that Lockheed produces.

“The Indians are buying the C-130J, but they’re also building the C-130J, … and that’s a perfect example of the kind of project we want to do with India,” Carter said.

Carter’s next stop was Turkey, where he met with defense officials in Ankara and with about 80 U.S. Army soldiers who set up and are manning the first of two NATO-authorized Patriot missile batteries in Gaziantep, near the Syrian border.

“The reason I went to Turkey was to be there at the very time our Patriots arrived,” just 48 hours earlier, the deputy secretary said. The soldiers already had set up the missile batteries, radar and communications vans “and were justifiably proud of what they’d done,” he added.

Carter expressed the pride of the United States in the soldiers’ important work for a valuable NATO ally.

“Turkey is certainly in need of help, because the situation in Syria is chaotic,” the deputy secretary noted. “Missiles are being used within Syria, and there’s every possibility that missiles could threaten the Turkish population.”

Just before Carter’s arrival in Turkey, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone called to tell the deputy secretary that a terrorist had detonated a bomb outside the gates of the embassy in Ankara, killing embassy guard Mustafa Akarsu. The ambassador asked Carter if he still wanted to come to Ankara. Carter responded that he wanted to press on with the visit more than ever, to stress to embassy personnel and to Turkish local officials the importance of the relationship to the United States.

In Ankara, Carter met with Turkish Defense Minister Ahmet Yilmaz, who, in comments before the meeting, acknowledged for the first time the importance to his government of the placement of Patriot batteries on Turkey’s border with Syria.

“I would like to thank you for your support with Germany and the Netherlands [in augmenting] our existing air defense system,” Yilmaz told Carter in brief comments to reporters. “Such air systems, which our country will use for defense purposes, is the fullest indicator of the solidarity of the [NATO] alliance and the cooperation between Turkey and the USA.”

Carter’s final stop was in Amman, Jordan, another important U.S. ally whose location on the Syrian border opens the small nation to the possibility of collateral violence and the certainty of a growing refugee population.

“In Jordan it was encouraging and satisfying to see our assistance at work on the border, particularly persistent surveillance cameras all along the border” that show refugees struggling from Syria into Jordan, Carter noted, where the Jordanians give them food, water, blankets and medical assistance and get them to United Nations refugee camps there.

Carter said other highlights of the Jordan trip included talking with U.S. troops stationed there to support joint planning with the Jordanian armed forces in anticipation of scenarios related to the Syria crisis, and a meeting with King Abdullah II.

“Some of these kids just arrived a few days ago,” the deputy secretary said of the U.S. troops there. ”Some have never been deployed before, some have never been outside the United States, some just recently joined the Army or Air Force, [but] they are well trained and motivated, and for them to shoulder all that responsibility is just incredibly impressive.”

Of his visit with the king, Carter said he was impressed with the Jordanian leader’s strategic perspectives about his own region and the rest of the world, and his knowledge of all the activities the United States and Jordan engage in jointly.

The deputy secretary said he would pass the king’s insights on to President Barack Obama, who will host the king during an upcoming visit to the United States.

“Everything we’re doing, everything we discussed with allies and partners at the Munich Security Conference, everything [occurring] in our activities throughout the Middle East, is reflective of our strategy to address issues of the post-Iraq and Afghanistan era,” the deputy secretary said.

“All of that requires a stable budget environment,” he added, “and while I was there, watching all these wonderful things unfold that our military brings to the nation’s future, … I was very mindful of the fact that if Congress doesn’t act to stabilize our budget situation, all of these things will become much more difficult -- even impossible.”

Carter will testify next week on sequestration issues before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense.

“I’ll have the opportunity to make that very point on the heels of this trip,” he added, “which illustrates everything that we can do and have to do with our new strategy, and why that is in jeopardy if the Congress doesn’t act.”