Thursday, February 14, 2013

Centcom, Africom Nominees Tout Importance of Partnerships

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2013 – Two generals nominated to lead U.S. combatant commands focused on the role of partnerships in national defense strategy in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today.

Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, nominated to lead U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the president’s nominee to lead U.S. Africa Command, testified together in a confirmation hearing.

Centcom’s area of responsibility covers 20 countries in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Yemen. While the Centcom commander doesn’t control combat operations in Afghanistan, the command is responsible for supporting those operations.

Austin, now the Army’s vice chief of staff, told senators the war in Afghanistan remains Centcom’s top priority. President Barack Obama announced this week that 34,000 U.S. troops, about half of those now there, will leave Afghanistan over the next year.

The movement of people and equipment that will involve, Austin told senators, will be a “herculean undertaking.”

The general noted he oversaw a similar effort as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq in 2010 and 2011. If confirmed as Centcom commander, he said, “I will do everything within my power to help set the broader conditions for our success in this most important endeavor.”

Austin said the nation owes a debt of gratitude to current Centcom commander Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, who will retire in March.

“General Mattis has led Central Command masterfully over these past two and a half years,” he said.

Mattis’ leadership and his team’s efforts over a decisive period “have been tremendous,” Austin said. “If confirmed, I intend to sustain and continue this important work.”

The general acknowledged Centcom’s mission is demanding.

“Our national interests, and those of our allies and friends, demand vigilance,” he said, “as well as our continued commitment to … address the many challenges that exist, and to achieve and maintain stability throughout the Middle East, and South and Central Asia.”

In a complex and “extremely volatile” world, Austin said, “much of the instability and associated challenges reside in the Centcom area of responsibility.”

The role of a combatant command is to be prepared to respond to contingencies whenever they occur, he said.

“If we truly want to have an effective and lasting impact in the region, our friends and allies must be assured of our support, and our potential adversaries must understand that there will be consequences for their actions,” he said.

Austin said the years since 9/11 have demonstrated that agencies responsible for elements of national power - military, economic and diplomatic – must work together. He said he has worked closely with senior military and civilian officials across government, and with partner nations’ government and military leaders.

“I can personally attest to the effectiveness of these kinds of collaborations,” he said. “If confirmed, I will continue to cultivate my existing relationships, while pursuing additional opportunities and partnerships that will surely prove beneficial to our efforts.”

The general said while these are “historic and difficult times,” they are marked by new opportunities and a shared desire for peace and prosperity, even in places that haven’t known them before.
“I fully appreciate that the work ahead will be great and the road will not be easy,” Austin said. “But if confirmed, I pledge to give all that I have towards our success, and ensuring the success of our allies and friends around the world, in this most worthy endeavor.”

Africom, formally established in 2008 with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, is the nation’s newest geographical combatant command, responsible for operations, exercises and security cooperation on the African continent.

Rodriguez now serves as head of the Army’s Forces Command. He said in a brief opening statement that if confirmed to lead Africom, he will “[work] closely with this committee, as well as all our joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational partners to address the challenges we face, and the opportunities to increase stability on this strategically important continent.”

Strong partnerships are key to that stability, Rodriguez said. He credited Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the current Africom commander, with sustaining such partnerships among the 54 nations of Africa and “providing the foundation for our continued engagement across the continent and globally.”
Rodriguez said that if confirmed, he hopes to expand on the work Ham has done.

F-22 Demo practices at Tyndall

by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Elsea
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/14/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- Tyndall Air Force Base hosted the F-22 Demonstration Pilot, as he took to the wide open blue skies in a practice F-22 Raptor demonstration run Feb. 8.

"I came to Tyndall for two reasons," said Maj. Henry Schantz, 1st Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, Va. "I wanted to spin back up for the new season, and I needed to get some practice sorties in. The 325th Fighter Wing was nice enough to let me come down and fly one of their aircraft. At the same time, it is always great because Tyndall support shows, and the Airmen get to see what all their hard work goes towards."

The demo runs are needed to regain currency for the year.

Schantz began his military flying career in 2000, flying the F-22 Raptor in 2005 and became an F-22 demo pilot in 2010.

"This is my fourth time at Tyndall," Schantz said. "It is great to be back to what feels like home. It is one of the only places that I have lived beside Virginia, and I like having the opportunity to reacquaint with old friends will being able to show off the aircraft and what I do."

When I was here as the wing executive officer, I was put in and interviewed for the job," Schantz said. "I am now starting my third year as the F-22 demonstration pilot. I love what I do. It is one of those jobs where you can't help but have a smile on your face."

Schantz flies on average 20 to 25 shows a year.

"I love the F-22," Schantz said. "Pilots have said, after transitioning from older aircraft, it is like going from a jalopy to a corvette. The best thing about the aircraft is that it's the newest fighter that is operational, it's the only 5th generation operational and it has capabilities that no other aircraft in the world has."

The major usually travels from show to show with a large team.

"The F-22 demo team incorporates about 17 people, including safety officers, other pilots who fly the jet to and from venues, and avionics, specialists and crew chiefs," Schantz said. "I have a full-time superintendent and team chief who also help me plan and coordinate the shows."

Due to Tyndall's F-22 mission, he was able to work Airmen already stationed here.

"For a place like Tyndall, I am able to use the local maintenance teams to help me fly," Schantz said.

For the Airmen of the 43rd Fighter Squadron this is a thrilling and exciting opportunity.

"It is also a morale booster for the Airmen on the flightline," said Staff Sgt. Bobby Collins, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief.

Schantz was also anxious to give the Airmen a demonstration.

Sergeant Collins and other Airmen in the maintenance profession know how vital their role is and appreciate the major's sentiment.

"I like knowing that whatever I do, maintenance wise, is important to bringing the pilot home safe," said Staff Sgt. Bobby Collins, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief. "For today, we provided an aircraft, launching out, recovering and making sure the aircraft we provided was ready for a demo launch and was able to do the maneuvers."

Colorado Guardsmen exchange aviation safety practices with Royal Jordanian Air Force

by Capt. Kinder Blacke
140th Wing Public Affairs

2/14/2013 - BUCKLEY AFB, Colo. -- The 140th Wing safety office hosted members of the Royal Jordanian Air Force last week to exchange ideas and best practices about aviation safety and build relationships as part of the Colorado National Guard's State Partnership Program.

Four Jordanian F-16 pilots, a flight doctor and a maintenance member spent the week receiving and conducting briefings and question and answer sessions with various members of the wing, coordinated and facilitated by the 140th Wing's Chief of Safety, Lt. Col. Mitchell Neff.

"The main focus of the Jordanians' visit here was to demonstrate how the Colorado Air National Guard goes about preventing mishaps and the steps taken to mitigate risks in our flying operations," said Neff, "and to gain insight from each other's respective experiences and best practices."

The week's agenda covered a diverse array of safety topics, such as flight safety, the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards Program, foreign object damage, flight medicine, and physical fitness, to name just a few.

"Our goals this week were to explain and then provide the opportunities to watch how the U.S. Air Force and the Colorado Guard incorporates Aviation Safety programs effectively into daily operations," explained Neff. "We gave plenty of briefings but we also let them witness first-hand how those programs were incorporated into our missions."

One opportunity to see safety practices in action occurred with a mid-week trip to the 140th Wing's Airburst Range. The group flew on a Colorado Army Guard CH-47 Chinook to the southwest region of Fort Carson, Colo., to watch F-16 flight operations and see how heavily involved safety and risk mitigation is in range operations, both from the air and the ground points of view.

"It was a great week, which only helped strengthen our State Partnership between Colorado and Jordan," said Neff, who formed relationships with many of his Jordanian counterparts. "I gained a new respect for our Jordanian friends."

Ruffing it with K9

by Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

2/13/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As an oversized pick-up truck rolled into a dusty gravel lot, the silver trailer in tow was filled with the echoes of barking dogs ready for action. Members of the 21st Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section were preparing for training exercises, Jan. 18 to help prepare members that would soon be deploying.

Tech. Sgt. Loren Surley, 21st SFS MWD trainer and supervisor, the leader of the day's exercises, explained the primary intent of this training was to reinforce the teamwork concept between the handlers and their dogs while familiarizing them with 'outside-the-wire' missions searching for drugs, bombs or on patrol.

Having been deployed as a MWD handler, Surley understands the importance of training exercises like this as it relates to safety.

"When you're heading outside of the wire, you're leading a team," said Surley. "You have other people there for back-up, but usually it's the K9 handlers who are responsible for the safety of the team."

Staff Sgt. Whitney Young, 21st MWD handler, returned from his Afghanistan deployment Jan. 20 and explained how training prepares handlers gearing up for a deployment.

"The exercises that were done here, and the ones I did at my regional training center, are almost identical to what we're seeing down range," said Young.

"Some of the things we're starting to train on are buried (training) aids," he added. "That's what we're seeing everywhere in Afghanistan. Before we weren't training on buried aids until we got into country, but it's being incorporated into newer training and it definitely makes a huge difference."

Young also talked about how the Air Force is beginning to train handlers to work their dogs off-leash.

"It's something we're really expanding on now," said Young. "Before the dogs were on a 15-foot retractable leash but now some dogs are able to work up to 60 feet in front of the handler."

This extra cushion incorporates another level of safety for the handler while allowing the team to work quicker and more effectively.

While the safety of a handler is paramount, safety of the dogs is just as important.

According to Staff Sgt. Shawn Kaup, also a trainer with the 21st MWD section, handlers at Peterson AFB receive more than 100 hours of advanced veterinary care instruction from Fort Carson veterinarians.

Kaup has worked as a MWD handler for 10 years through three deployments, two to Iraq and one to Oman.

"The veterinary training includes learning cardiac life support, how to treat bleeding wounds, clearing airway obstructions and also learning to insert catheters and connecting IV lines," said Kaup.

Since fully trained MWDs are valued up to $80,000, handlers are even trained to call for medical evacuations in situations where a dog's life is at stake.

Although life as a MWD handler is often filled with long hours in often less than ideal conditions, it's still possible to smile at the end of each day.

"Everyone loves the dog," said Surley. "It's hard to have a bad day when you're spending it with your best friend."

Panetta Announces Distinguished Warfare Medal

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has approved a new medal designed to recognize service members directly affecting combat operations who may not even be on the same continent as the action.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal recognizes the changing face of warfare. In the past, few, if any, service members not actually in a combat zone directly affected combat operations.

These new capabilities have given American service members the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar, Panetta said at a Pentagon news conference today.

“I’ve always felt -- having seen the great work that they do, day in and day out -- that those who performed in an outstanding manner should be recognized. Unfortunately, medals that they otherwise might be eligible for simply did not recognize that kind of contribution.”

Now, the Defense Department does.

“ “The medal provides distinct, departmentwide recognition for the extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but that do not involve acts of valor or physical risk that combat entails,” Panetta said.

Technological advancements have dramatically changed how the American military conducts and supports warfighters. Unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, missile defense technology and cyber capabilities all affect combat operations while the operators may not be anywhere near the combat zone. The new medal recognizes the contributions of these service members.

It will not be awarded for acts of battlefield valor, officials said. It will be awarded in the name of the secretary of defense to members of the military whose extraordinary achievements directly impacted combat operations, and cannot be used as an end-of-tour award.

“This new medal recognizes the changing character of warfare and those who make extraordinary contributions to it,” said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The criteria for this award will be highly selective and reflect high standards.”

The most immediate example is the work of an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who could be operating a system over Afghanistan while based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The unmanned aerial vehicle would directly affect operations on the ground. Another example is that of a soldier at Fort Meade, Md., who detects and thwarts a cyberattack on a DOD computer system.

The medal could be used to recognize both these exceptional acts, officials said.

In the order of precedence, the Distinguished Warfare Medal will be below the Distinguished Flying Cross, and will be limited to achievements that are truly extraordinary. “The member’s actions must have resulted in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from comrades or from other persons in similar situations,” a DOD official said.

The military department secretary must approve each award, and it may not be presented for valorous actions. “This limitation was specifically included to keep the Distinguished Warfare Medal from detracting from existing valor decorations, such as the Medal of Honor, Service Crosses and Silver Star Medal,” the official said.

Award criteria will be incorporated into the next revision of DOD Manual 1348.33-V3, Manual of Military Decorations and Awards, Volume 3.