Military News

Thursday, February 21, 2013

'Your life is our business'

by Sue Sapp
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

2/15/2013 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- The 339th Flight Test Squadron's 43 aircrew members -- comprised of pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers -- perform test flights on F-15s, C-130s and C-5s here before they are returned to their home bases.

During those flights, the aircraft are put through their paces to ensure they'll hold up to the rigors of any mission -- regardless if it's in a combat zone or in an area in need of humanitarian support.

The squadron's four-person Aircrew Flight Equipment Shop makes sure the test aircrews are protected.

They're responsible for inspecting, maintaining and repairing lifesaving equipment such as parachutes, anti-G suits, helmets, oxygen masks, survival vests and safety harnesses.

"The 339 AFE personnel are unique in that they maintain their skills in three different types of aircraft," said Lt. Col. Dan Badia, 339th Flight Test Squadron operations director. "We depend heavily on our AFE personnel; when we use the equipment they maintain, it has to work 100 percent of the time."

Tech. Sgt. Brandi Bray, AFE technician, said the techs check parachutes every 30 days.

That involves checking the deployment mechanism, an oxygen bottle, signal beacon and making sure the small survival kit within the chute is intact. They also repack the parachutes every 180 days, which takes six to eight hours.

Some of the equipment -- like anti-G suits -- is custom-fitted to an individual.

"The suits blow air to keep circulation moving so the pilot doesn't pass out while pulling Gs," said Master Sgt. Sara Glass, an AFE technician. "It's important to test for pressure and leaks."

AFE techs conduct aircrew continuation or refresher training, including water survival, land survival and parachute descent.

"In an emergency, aircrews put their lives in our hands," Glass said. "If we don't do our jobs correctly, it puts lives at risk. We have to constantly stay on top, one step ahead and train properly. As our motto states, 'Your life is our business.'"

Father, Son Become African-American Military Pioneers

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

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 – In the early stages of American military history, it was rare to find a high-ranking African-American leader, considering the civil inequalities and unrest prevalent in those times.
But an African-American father and son -- Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis Jr. -- broke racial barriers and led honorably, leaving an indelible mark on America’s military heritage.

The Davis family, fittingly, hailed from the nation’s capital, and perhaps this foreshadowed their impact on U.S. military history. The elder Davis studied at Howard University before entering military service in the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry on July 13, 1898, during the Spanish-American War.

Following that service, he enlisted as a private in the regular Army on June 18, 1899, serving as a corporal and squadron sergeant until Feb. 2, 1901, when he earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the cavalry.

Davis Sr. served in a variety of positions, ranging from border patrol duty in 1915 to a professor of military science and tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He also served in the Philippines from 1917 until 1920 as a “Buffalo Soldier.”

Then, as a lieutenant colonel, he taught military science and tactics at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala., until 1924, in the first of his two teaching stints there. He also served on special duty with the State Department in Liberia, and as a special advisor on race relations in Europe during World War II.

The elder Davis made history when he was promoted to brigadier general Oct. 25, 1940, the first African-American to wear the star insignia in the U.S. military. He retired on July 14, 1948, after 50 years of service. He died Nov. 26, 1970.

His son, Davis Jr., was the fourth African-American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and became the U.S. military’s second African-American general officer. He graduated from West Point on June 12, 1936, commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry, and was first assigned to Fort Benning, Ga.

Like his father, Davis Jr., served as a professor of military science at the Tuskegee Institute. In May 1941, he entered advanced flying school at nearby Tuskegee Army Air Base and received his pilot’s wings, along with four other African-American officers, in March 1942 -- later to be joined by almost 1,000 Tuskegee Airmen.
Davis Jr., now in the Army Air Corps, assumed command of the 99th Fighter Squadron. Although he finally was permitted to serve as a pilot, he still faced racial discrimination.

Nearly 90 days into his command, and after the squadron had flown many combat missions under Davis's leadership, the 33rd Group commander accused the Tuskegee Airmen of not having the same desire to fight as white pilots. The group commander recommended removing Tuskegee Airmen from combat.

The general who reviewed the report endorsed it, according to records, and commented that "the Negro type has not the proper reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot."

After the proposal reached Washington, Davis Jr. was called to testify on his unit’s behalf before the War Department's permanent Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies. Davis Jr. provided examples of his unit’s flying acumen, and maintained that his men were as eager for combat as white pilots.

He noted that because they were undermanned, they flew more often -- up to six more combat missions per day. Davis Jr. convinced the advisory committee, and his unit remained in place and displayed exemplary service in North Africa and Sicily.

Unlike his father, who spent a majority of his career as a military professor, the younger Davis served as a commander for a variety of units. He attended the Air War College in 1949, and upon graduation, served as the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for operations.

Davis Jr. joined his father in the general officer ranks Oct. 27, 1954, when he was temporarily promoted to brigadier general. The promotion became permanent May 16, 1960. He continued to serve as a commander in a variety of capacities, and he became a lieutenant general on April 30, 1965.

After 33 years of service, Davis Jr. retired in 1970. He continued his public service as Cleveland’s director of public safety. He later was director of civil aviation security and an assistant secretary at the U.S. Transportation Department.

On Dec. 9, 1998, Davis Jr. received his fourth star from then-President Bill Clinton. He died July 4, 2002.
(Brittainy Joyner, office of the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, contributed to this article.)

Network of ranges instrumental to flight test

by Laura Mowry
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

2/7/2013 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Each and every day, the Edwards community works to develop and test the war-winning capabilities of the future. It's an important role that requires a great deal of support from the 412th Range Squadron, as well as additional backing from a group of ranges located throughout the southwestern United States.

In addition to supporting the 412th Test Wing's mission, the Southwest United States Range Alliance brings together experts from Edwards; Naval Air War Station China Lake, Calif.; Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.; Vandenberg AFB, Calif.; and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to ensure that ranges are working together and supporting one another to accomplish flight test.

"We all really know each other and work together well. That's important because the better we work together, the more money we save and the more efficient testing becomes. We are all interested in preserving this network of ranges and maintaining our compatibility; because if we don't - we can't get the mission done. We have to be seamless," said Doyle Janzen, 412th Range Squadron director.

The collaborative efforts from range personnel extend beyond R-2508 Complex, which includes more than 20,000 square miles of restricted airspace used by Edwards, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and NAS China Lake in the Upper Mojave Desert region.

Personnel work together supporting the network all the way from the White Sands Missile Range, located in New Mexico to the sea test range off the coast of California.

"Less than half of the testing occurs in the R-2508 Airspace. The other half goes to the other ranges, which includes the sea test range that Point Mugu and Vandenberg manage. Although the R-2508 is a tremendous asset, there are times when the testing requires support from ranges outside the airspace," said Janzen.

"For example, many data points require supersonic flight. The High Altitude Supersonic Corridor in the R-2508 Airspace is only 240 miles long. At 1.7 Mach, that's still pretty cramped; so we use the sea test range instead. Right now, there is a lot of this testing going on with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter," he added.

Making it possible for Edwards to test at various ranges, is the impressive infrastructure of strategically placed microwave receivers and transmitters, as well as a vast network of fiber optic cables that relay data to a control room, where on average, anywhere from 20 to 30 flight test professionals are supporting and monitoring the mission with only a fraction of a second delay.

"It really is an impressive network. While there are only two or three hops from the ocean to Edwards, there are 29 towers between here and New Mexico. And even with the old microwave technology, it only takes 10 milliseconds to see the data. We are currently in the process of phasing out the old technology and changing over to fiber optics because it is better and cheaper. Additionally, there is less maintenance because we don't have to dedicate money and time to tower maintenance throughout the year," said Janzen.

While the technology has been used since World War II, it is capable of capturing and relaying data with 250,000 parameters at a rate of 1 million samples per second.

The ongoing collaboration between ranges in the southwest United States continues to benefit the flight test communities for the Air Force, sister services and allies. Whether its over-water testing, electronic warfare, bombing or strafing; the 412th Range Squadron is committed to providing top-notch support.

"I'm extremely proud of the men and women of the 412th Range Squadron. They do incredible work and I think the range is the heartbeat of Edwards. We are absolutely committed to providing top-notch, seamless support, as well as building and maintaining successful partnerships with all those we work with," said Janzen.

Face of Defense: Sergeant Takes Responsibility for His Marines

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Glen Santy
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Feb. 21, 2013 – Because they are the future of his craft, and each one is a direct reflection of himself, Marine Corps Sgt. Bradley A. Hoover said, he takes personal responsibility for each Marine he is charged with leading.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Sgt. Bradley A. Hoover, a fixed-wing aircraft power plant mechanics instructor at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., stresses communication when training fellow Marines. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Glen Santy

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Hoover, a fixed-wing aircraft power plant mechanics instructor with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training here, guides new Marines through a three-month training period, which includes daily physical training and Marine Corps martial arts courses.

The job gives him a high level of personal satisfaction in sending highly-trained Marines to the fleet, Hoover said.

“One thing I want these Marines to remember is to never stop excelling and to try their best at everything they do,” he added. “I want these students to absorb this knowledge.”

In the engine technician field, the sergeant said, communication sustains a productive workflow, so he stresses that aspect of the job.

“I want to get them to speak out loud and think out loud and get them to work together,” Hoover said. “The more they learn here, the less they have to learn in the fleet.”

Heroes welcomed home

by 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

2/21/2013 - MELBOURNE, Fla. -- A total of 18 members from the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron returned to Melbourne Interational Airport Feb.16 after a six-month deployement to Camp Marmal, Afghanistan.

Among those deployed were Staff Sgt. Alexander Colburn, an Electrical Journeyman, who was greeted by his wife Holly and 10-month-old daughter Haliey; and Staff Sgt. Jason Lester, a Power Pro Journeyman, who was welcomed by his wife Yvonne and his 2-year-old daughter Ja'Nelle.

The 45th Civil Engineer Squadron commander was also there to welcome the returning Airmen. 

"Once again, members of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron have not only made  our unit proud, but, more importantly, they have done our service proud with  another tremendous effort during this six-month-long deployment to  Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Susan Riordan-Smith, 45th CES commander. "It's  Airmen like you who make a difference, and we are all so glad you are back  home with us and your families. This was a job well-done!" she said.

2013 Okinawa Marathon yields most runners, Kadena volunteers to date

by Tech. Sgt. Amanda Savannah
18th Wing Public Affairs

2/20/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 500 Kadena volunteers helped hydrate and cheer on the more than 14,000 runners participating in the 2013 Okinawa Marathon and 10-km race Feb. 17.

The number of volunteers and runners was the most for the 21st annual event.

"I'd like to say thank you to the volunteers," said Okinawa mayor Hiroshi Toyama. "Without the support from Kadena Air Base and its volunteers, this marathon could not be successful."

Though the races start and end at Prefectural Comprehensive Sports Park in Okinawa City, about a 1.5-mile stretch of the marathon weaves from Gate 2 through Gate 5 of the base.

Tech. Sgt. Rick McGinnis, of the 554th RED HORSE Squadron, led a cheer and water station on Kadena during the marathon.

"It was first mentioned to me by my first sergeant. He had mentioned that the RED HORSE unit usually sets up a water station," McGinnis said. "I've never seen a marathon or participated in one before. I thought it would be interesting, so I volunteered to be the point of contact for a station."

Masanao Ishihara, executive administrator of the Okinawa Marathon Executive Committee, said the committee also appreciates Kadena's involvement.

"In hosting the Okinawa Marathon every year, we greatly appreciate the total cooperation from Kadena Air Base such as permitting the usage of the roads in the base, setting up water stations, publicizing this event and providing volunteers," he said.

Ishihara added that marathon runners also enjoy the volunteer support.

"The enthusiastic cheers in the base are the motivation to runners," Ishihara said. "We have received comments from runners that 'the cheers inside the base are so lively that it can really give us energy.' Moreover, we are blessed with support and cooperation from many volunteers in the base every time. The most wonderful thing is that we are livening up this event together."

Col. Jeffrey Ullmann, 18th Mission Support Group commander, officiated at the opening ceremony.

"The Okinawa Marathon is an excellent opportunity for Kadena Air Base to give back and to demonstrate how close the ties are between ourselves and the local Okinawan community by opening our gates and welcoming the runners through," Ullmann said. "It's just tremendous to join with the mayors and other dignitaries in cheering the runners at the start of the race, and then encouraging them as they continue along the route."

McGinnis said he was awed by the event.

"I thought it was really amazing," he said. "Just to see that many runners was breathtaking.

"It was nice to be able to do something for the community," he added. "I was really glad to be a part of something positive so we could give back."

NATO Meetings Focus on Capabilities, Readiness

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Feb. 21, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spent today discussing NATO capabilities and readiness during the two-day alliance defense ministers gathering under way here.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, who is traveling with Panetta, said the secretary also took part in one-on-one meetings with the Italian and Afghan defense ministers.

A key theme of Panetta’s meeting with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, Little said, was that Afghan forces are quickly increasing capability and strength, while assuming greater responsibility across a wide range of security missions.

“The secretary expressed confidence in what the Afghans themselves are doing to build a sustainable framework for growing their own capacity to tackle ongoing challenges in their own country,” Little said.

Panetta also met with Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola and discussed the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan along with budget concerns closer to home, Little said.

The two defense leaders had “a productive and warm meeting” that followed up on Panetta's visit to Rome in January, Little said.

“They discussed the transition process in Afghanistan, this year's fighting season, and the path to an enduring presence beyond 2014,” he added. “The secretary noted Italy's strong participation in ISAF.”

Panetta and di Paola also discussed NATO capabilities, budget pressures in Europe and the United States, and the looming prospect of sequestration, Little said. “The secretary emphasized how devastating sequestration would be for U.S. defense and national security,” he added.

Panetta also attended a meeting of the NATO North Atlantic Council, the alliance’s political decision-making body. In an opening statement before the session, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance must maintain a high level of capability and readiness.
“These have been the hallmarks of our alliance for over six decades,” he said. “To retain them in the years to come, we need to maintain our political, military and economic investment in defense.”

NATO must hold the line on defense spending, work together “to make the best of what we have,” and consider what more the alliance needs to and can do as member nations’ economies recover, Rasmussen said.

During a news conference following the council meeting, the secretary general said a NATO “connected forces” initiative will join the “smart defense” program NATO adopted at its Chicago summit last year. Smart defense aims to pool countries’ buying power to equip the alliance with shared capabilities, he said, while the newer initiative will “be at the forefront of delivering the modern, tightly connected, high readiness forces we need.

Rasmussen elaborated on the concept during a briefing for reporters this afternoon. The connected forces initiative aims at using NATO’s common funds in specific areas such as improving multinational deployability, interoperability and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies, he said.

Improving interoperability among NATO nations’ militaries will mean greater focus on training, exercises and education, he said.

“Exercises will still be a national responsibility, financed by member states,” Rasmussen noted. “But we can facilitate NATO exercises by using common funding for some parts of it.”
The defense ministers will meet again tomorrow, when the focus of discussions is scheduled to be the mission in Afghanistan.

Outgoing Commander Cites Progress in Southwestern Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 – As he prepares to conclude a year of command in one of the most challenging regions of Afghanistan, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus said he’s optimistic about the progress his forces have helped to bring about as they overcame challenging circumstances and an evolving mission.

Gurganus is scheduled to transfer command of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command Southwest next week to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter Miller Jr., wrapping up a year overseeing operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

Talking by phone with American Forces Press Service from his headquarters in Helmand province today, Gurganus reflected on the challenges he and his 15,000 U.S. and coalition forces faced during a transitional year.

“We came over here and were clearly still leading the counterinsurgency fight,” he said. But the mission evolved over the course of the deployment, with Gurganus’ forces conducting more joint operations with their Afghan national security counterparts, then moving into advisory and mentoring roles as the Afghans took on more security responsibility.

Now, a new step in the evolution is under way – a process focus on developing the logistics systems, training programs and other institutions. “That is really a key part of the evolution, because I think that is where we leave behind capabilities that are sustainable,” Gurganus said, posturing the Afghans for future challenges.
“This will not always be a counterinsurgency fight they are in, and they will have to shift more and more to being able to defend their country against external aggression,” he said. “So I think this next evolution is pretty important.”

Recognizing that “Marines still love a good fight, there is no doubt about that,” Gurganus credited his Marines with embracing every phase of the transition. “They have shown a tremendous deal of flexibility in what they bring to the nation’s defense and whatever is asked of them,” he said.

In doing so, “they have really seen the power of their assistance to the Afghans,” he said. “They have seen what that really means in terms of advising, assisting, training and helping them to integrate new capabilities. It has become something that the Marines and our coalition soldiers have taken a lot of pride in, being able to watch these guys step up more and more and take the lead responsibility for security.”

Meanwhile, coalition troops have juggled other challenges, including the drawdown of more than 10,000 Marines and other ISAF forces and their equipment in the midst of the fighting season. As part of the surge recovery, two Marine regimental combat teams were reduced to one, six battalions were reduced to two, and 143 bases were closed or transferred.

“That made the mission more difficult,” Gurganus conceded. “But once we laid out what needed to be done, the commanders got after it and the Marines just got on with doing it.”

These experiences have enabled the Marines to develop skills Gurganus said will easily transfer to security cooperation missions they could be called on to support anywhere in the world. “I think these experiences are going to be key to being able to execute those missions with a great amount of professionalism.” he said. “I don’t think we will ever run out of a needing the skills that we developed here -- at least not in the foreseeable future, anyway.”

Gurganus reported “a laundry list” of progress during the past year. The Afghan army and police have demonstrated that they’re up to the task of increasingly challenging roles. “They’re certainly not perfect yet,” Gurganus said, “but they have developed, and their capabilities have gotten stronger.”

He cited particular progress within the police force, which is putting the concepts of community policing and evidence-based criminal processes into action. “That’s been a huge step in a province where 85 to 90 percent of the people are illiterate,” Gurganus said.

But the most promising development, he said, is the growing – albeit it slow – support of the Afghan people for their government. Sustainable development projects are benefiting the population, and people have a voice that simply didn’t exist a decade ago, he noted.

“I won’t tell you it is wholesale yet, that everybody thinks the government is great,” Gurganus said. “But I think probably that is the part that is most heartening.”

Despite “a lot of good-news stories,” Gurganus recognized that many challenges remain. “I told Lee Miller I think he will have plenty of work to do over the course of the next year or so, but I think we have some good progress,” he said.

Among those challenges is the expectation that the Taliban will attempt to resurge as coalition forces draw down – just as they did during the past year’s drawdowns. But based on Afghans’ response, Gurganus said, he’s confident they’re prepared to take the Taliban on.

“We saw the Taliban actively target and take on the police and Afghan National Army and have seen them, quite frankly, step up to the plate and handle the threat,” he said. “It was not without casualties and not without trouble. But at the end of the day, they took the day. And it is really troublesome, I think, for the Taliban.”

Afghans are leading all operations, from planning to resourcing their activities, he said. Coalition forces provide support only when the Afghans absolutely need it, such as medical evacuation capabilities they have not yet developed.

As his Marines prepare to return to Camp Pendleton, Calif., Gurganus credits them for the role they have played in Afghanistan’s future. Gains made haven’t come without sacrifice, he recognized. So even before he leaves Afghanistan, Gurganus already is planning a memorial service to be held April 11 at Camp Pendleton to honor the 75 Marines, sailors and coalition soldiers in Regional Command Southwest killed during the past year.

The ceremony not only will honor them and recognize the magnitude of their sacrifice, he said, but also will help to give closure to the Marines who served and sacrificed alongside them.

Gurganus recognized the U.S. and coalition forces who sacrificed before them in Helmand province and helped set the conditions for his forces to build on.

“It goes back not only to the things we have done. It goes back to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who has served out here,” he said. “The conditions were well set for us to pick up this mission. And hopefully, we will have taken it to another level, where now General Miller just picks it up and goes right on from here.”

What that future will look like remains unclear, he acknowledged. But the way Garganus defines success – and encourages his Marines and coalition forces to define it – is through the opportunity they have given the Afghans.

“Ten years ago, the Afghan people had no opportunity. They had nothing resembling a chance to have a better future,” he said. “Our job is to help create that opportunity. And what they decide to do with it is ultimately going to be their decision.”

By this measure, Garganus declared the current deployment and previous ones it has built on a success.
“I really do believe that the work that has been done over the course of the last 10 years by all of the coalition has given the Afghans the opportunity now to really step up and be a country for which they determine its future,” he said.