Thursday, February 28, 2013

Valor Website Now Includes Pre-9/11 Medal of Honor Recipients

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 – The names of Medal of Honor recipients recognized for their battlefield valor before Sept. 11, 2001, now are listed on the Defense Department’s valor website, Pentagon officials announced today.

“Recognizing our brave men and women for their heroic actions is one of the most important things we can do as a department,” said Vee Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.
“Our service members have shown great courage and sacrifice on the battlefield throughout our nation’s history, and it is fitting that we honor their sacrifice and courage. Expanding this site is one small way to do that,” she added.

The website, at, lists the name, rank and conflict of recipients of the most prestigious U.S. military awards for valor: the Medal of Honor, Service Crosses and Silver Star Medals.

The site was designed to raise awareness of service members’ heroism and to help deter those who falsely claim military honors, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman.

“Our service members earn their medals with hard work and tremendous sacrifice,” he said. “While lying about these medals may not be illegal, it is shameful and runs counter to the military’s moral and ethical values.”

Officials plan to complete a similar expansion of the Service Cross lists by March 31, Christensen said.

Once complete, the site will list recipients of the Medal of Honor and Service Crosses by service and conflict, dating back to the inception of each medal, as well as Silver Star recipients since Sept. 11, 2001.
For security, privacy and administrative reasons, most, but not all recipients of the valor awards will be named on the website, Christensen said. The absence of an individual’s name from the list is not a declaration by the Defense Department that the individual did not receive the medal.

In addition, Christensen said, the Defense Department and military services still are examining the feasibility of listing recipients of the Silver Star Medal for actions before Sept. 11, 2001.

“Unlike Medal of Honor and Service Cross data, Silver Star Medal data is not readily available, and obtaining information on pre-9/11 Silver Star Medal recipients will likely be much more difficult, costly and time-consuming,” Christensen said.

Silver Star award authority often was delegated below the service headquarters, he explained, and award documents did not always make it into a service member’s military personnel record or reach higher headquarters.

Also, many more service members have earned the Silver Star than have earned the Medal of Honor and or Service Crosses, Christensen said, noting the Silver Star’s lower place in the order of precedence for military decorations.

Finally, he said, historians and others have done extensive research on Medal of Honor and Service Cross recipients, creating a large body of existing knowledge. This is not the case for Silver Star recipients, he added.

Face of Defense: Sergeant Major Keeps Competing in Combatives

By Army Sgt. William Begley
11th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT HOOD, Texas, Feb. 28, 2013 – As he walked onto the mat before his match in the 2013 Fort Hood Combatives Tournament, Army Sgt. Maj. Bradley Cope began the prefight dance that tells his body and mind to prepare to do battle. He lightly bounced up and down on his feet and shook his arms out, signaling to his muscles that it was time to go to work.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Maj. Bradley Cope listens to instructions given prior to the annual combatives tournament at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 21, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Begley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
It’s a dance he has been doing for a long time.

Cope is the provost sergeant for 1st Cavalry Division’s Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, and has participated in competitive sports since he was 10. The 49-year-old Rapid City, S.D., native grew up playing football, baseball and wrestling.

The 25-year Army veteran said he competes in combatives to satisfy his desire to compete, his desire to constantly better himself, and to continue to keep his body fit despite competing against other fighters who usually are half his age.

Some might think Cope is crazy to compete at his age, he acknowledged, but he said he has a fire to compete and he doesn’t think he’s old.

“Age is just a number,” he said. “At first, I questioned myself and wondered if I should compete. A couple of years ago, I sat on the bench and watched the tournament and really wished that I had competed. I don’t ever want to say that again. If I’m going to compete, I’m going to compete. I’m not going to sit on the bench and say, ‘I should have.’

“To get better, you have to fight the best, and I’m glad I’m here at Fort Hood to experience the best,” he continued. “The coaches at the fight house are just awesome. They pushed me to compete. I’m glad they did -- I enjoy it.”

Despite his competitive nature, Cope is not above sharing the wisdom he has garnered over the years.

Army Pvt. David Duke, assigned to 1st Cavalry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, sparred with the sergeant major in the weeks leading up to the combatives tournament. In a twist of fate, Duke was Cope’s second opponent. Cope is 27 years older than Duke.

“We’ve been rolling at least two to three times a week for the past month now,” the 22-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native said. “He’s a little bit older, but he’s still got it. He’s got a love for competition, and he taught me a bunch of moves. I actually used some of the moves he taught me to win today.”

Jarrod Clontz, combatives instructor at Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center here, said he encouraged Cope to compete because he noticed something different about the sergeant major that made him think he could win.
“I’m kind of an old guy, and I still compete actively, so I can see a lot myself in Sergeant Major Cope,” he said. “We are like kindred spirits. There’s still plenty of fight left in that guy. That’s what allows him to go out and compete against these young guys. He has a never-say-die attitude.”

Clontz added that he understands the drive it takes to fight at Cope’s age, because more preparation is necessary for someone who is older to be able to compete against the younger, stronger fighters.

“The older you get, the harder you have to work to compete at this level with these guys,” he said. “The younger guys might train two to three days a week, but guys our age have to train five to six just to keep up. We also have to give ourselves more rest, because it takes longer to heal. It takes a lot of dedication and work for us older guys to win.”

Cope finished the tournament with two wins and two losses, which eliminated him from contention, but don’t count him out from competing in next year’s tournament.

“I’m not ready to ride off into the sunset yet, but I’m aware of which way the horse is facing,” Cope said. “I love being around the folks in the Army, and I’m going to miss it, but I’m not done yet.”

Although he didn’t win the tournament, Cope has won the respect of his fellow competitors and his instructors for doing what few people his age and rank would do.

“You could tell he had a deep fire within,” Clontz said. “He never quits. I took a liking to him right away. It’s great to see leadership out there leading the way like he does. Not everyone does that. There are not a lot of guys at his rank that would get on the mat and lead the way by example.”

Combat Archer: Fighter jets, missile systems

by Senior Airman Christopher Reel
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, a tenant organization, is assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base and falls under the 53rd Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla.

The 53rd WEG recently conducted the air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program, known as Combat Archer, which exercises and evaluates the air-to-air weapon system capability of combat aircraft.

The 53rd WEG's 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron hosts approximately 38 air-to-air WSEP deployments annually, according to their factsheet. Squadron personnel verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies, recommend corrective action, and maintain combat Air Force-wide data. The squadron additionally investigates missile envelopes and evaluates capabilities and limitations to determine future firing requirements. They provide liaison support for pre-deployment, employment, and redeployment of Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve and Canadian Forces participating in WSEP and Weapons Instructor Course missile firing programs.

The group's 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Tyndall and Holloman AFB, N.M., operates the Defense Department's only full-scale aerial target program, maintaining an inventory of approximately 50 modified QF-4 Phantom II aircraft for this purpose. It also provides BQM-34 and BQM-167 subscale aerial targets to Gulf range customers at Tyndall. Full and subscale aerial targets are provided to Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army customers for developmental and operational tests. The squadron also provides target support for WSEP.

Navy to Christen First Mobile Landing Platform

            The Navy will christen the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) Montford Point March 2, during a 10 a.m. PST ceremony in San Diego, Calif.

            The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos will deliver the ceremony’s principal address.  Alexis “Jackie” Bolden, the wife of current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will serve as the ship’s sponsor. 

            USNS Montford Point (T-MLP 1) is named for the approximately 20,000 African-American Marine Corps recruits who trained at the North Carolina facility from 1942 to 1949.  Their exceptional service prompted President Truman to sign an executive order in 1948 disallowing segregation in the Marine Corps.  These 20,000 Marines were recently recognized with our nation’s highest civilian honor for distinguished achievement, the Congressional Gold Medal.

            “I chose to name the department’s new MLP Montford Point as a way to give some long-overdue recognition to these proud Americans who gave so much in the defense of our nation,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.  “The courage shown by these Marines helped forge the Corps into the most formidable expeditionary force in the world.” 

            The MLP is a highly flexible platform that will provide capability for large-scale logistics movements such as the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore.  It will significantly reduce dependency on foreign ports and provide support in the absence of any port, making an MLP especially useful during disaster response and for supporting Marines once they are ashore. 

            The ship will leverage float-on/float-off technology, allowing Montford Point to partially submerge, facilitating easy movement of cargo and craft.  Additionally, the ship’s size allows for 25,000 square feet of vehicle and equipment stowage space and 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel storage.

            With this set of capabilities, the ship is able to easily transfer personnel and vehicles from other vessels such as the large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships (LMSRs) onto landing craft air cushioned (LCAC) vehicles and transport them ashore.  The platform with its open, reconfigurable mission deck will serve as an important flexible and transformational asset to the Navy as it can be reconfigured to support a wide variety of future operations.

            MLPs will have a maximum speed of 15 knots and range of 9,500 nautical miles.  At 785 feet long, MLPs displace more than 80,000 tons when fully loaded.  MLPs will operate with a crew of 34 Military Sealift Command personnel.

            MLP 1 was constructed by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., (NASSCO) in San Diego, Calif.  Owned and operated by Military Sealift Command, Montford Point will be the first ship in its class.  The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy in fiscal 2013 and be operational in fiscal 2015.

African, U.S. military forces mark opening of Central Accord 2013

by Master Sgt. Stan Parker
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

2/27/2013 - DOUALA, Cameroon  -- Hundreds of Cameroon military members stood alongside U.S. and other Central Africa partner nation members at the Douala Air Force Base airfield here, during the opening ceremony for Central Accord 2013, February 20, 2012.

Central Accord is a 10-day joint aerial supply and medical readiness exercise aimed to enhance the Cameroon military and other neighboring Central African partner countries' logistical and resupply capabilities. The exercise also includes air drop and aeromedical evacuations, which could be beneficial during future contingency or humanitarian operations.

Part of the U.S. contingent includes a group of eight Air Mobility Command's advisors from the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, designed to enhance military-to-military relations between partner nations.

The Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst based MSAS Airmen, assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing, arrived in the central African state to take part in the two-week long exercise. Their expertise as air advisors extends AMC's Building Partnership Capacity mission, by fostering key relationships and enhancing partner nation capabilities. The Airmen representing several different Air Force specialties will work side-by-side with partner nation participants in developing competencies in safety, aircraft maintenance, aircrew survival and aerial delivery operations.

The opening ceremony, attended by dozens of senior military and governmental officials, included remarks from Dr. Fritz NTone' NTone', the government delegate to the Douala City Council, Brig. Gen. Peter Corey, U.S. Army Africa Deputy Commanding General and senior U.S. Army exercise official, and Joseph Beti Assomo, the governor of the Littoral Region.

Dr. NTone' addressed the audience and welcomed the visitors, expressing his gratitude on behalf of the citizens of Douala. He added that although the city is striving for continued growth, it may be challenged by preventing and responding to potential problems related to civil security or natural disasters. "So you can understand why we are interested in this exercise, where the heart of the job is developing medical and logistical support for the sub region," he said.

Assomo's remarks echoed similar sentiment and highlighted the commitment it took to reach this momentous occasion.

"Following pre-engagements in Angola and Vicenza, we are now here in the economic capitol of our country to put in play the scenarios that were planned during the planning process," Assomo said. "It's a great honor for our country to host the final part of the planning conferences but also the actual exercise for Central Accord 13 ... This choice echoes the willingness of the Cameroon Chief of State, the Chief of the Army, and his excellence Paul Biya (president of Cameroon) to work toward peace on our continent and our region."

"The United State States' commitment to the central Africa region and to Africa is long term," Corey said. "As part of that commitment, the U.S. Army works to strengthen relationships with our African partners who are cooperating on a regional basis to ensure a more secure and stable Africa."

Of the more than 700 military members participating in the exercise, most are from the Cameroon military with about 160 participants from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy. Nineteen additional participants from neighboring African countries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Sao Tome e Principe, and Gabonese Republic also joined the exercise in Cameroon.

Central Accord is U.S. Army Africa annually sponsored exercise that brings together U.S. military personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout the African continent to enhance military interoperability, providing an opportunity for the sharing of common goals and foster security cooperation. This year the scope was broadened to enhances medical readiness capacity.

DOD, VA Make Progress in Integrating Health Records

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 – The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are making progress on integrating the health records of service members and veterans, senior government officials told the House Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday.

President Barack Obama directed the two departments to create a seamless system of integration for medical records.

“The direction was clear: When a member of the armed forces separates from the military, their electronic records, medical, personnel and benefits will transition and remain with them forever,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Woodson detailed the tasks the two departments need to complete. First, they need to integrate health data for individuals into a single electronic health record. Second, they need to modernize the departments’ legacy health information systems.

“We have made tangible progress on a number of critical elements necessary to achieve our vision on the integrated record,” Woodson said. This includes creating a joint health data dictionary, ensuring the two departments use the same precise language to describe health data elements and fields in the combined health record system.

It also means moving VA data centers to the Defense Information System Agency. Woodson called this an important step for efficiency in operations and creating a single repository of data. The two departments also selected a single DOD-VA joint single sign-on and contact management solution that accurately identifies clients in both systems, he reported.

Finally, Woodson said, the two Cabinet agencies are implementing a joint graphical user interface that displays information from both the DOD and VA systems at the same time.

“We also completed an initial life-cycle cost estimate for the integrated electronic health record,” Woodson said. “The cost estimate was significant. And given the increasingly constrained federal budget environment, our secretary has directed us to re-evaluate the planned approach and consider alternatives that could accelerate timelines for interoperability at reduced cost and reduced risk.”

The scope of this project is huge. Valerie C. Melvin, the Government Accounting Office’s director of information management and technology resources issues, said the records are projected to provide coverage to about 9.6 million service members and their beneficiaries and to 6.3 million veterans.

“VA’s and DOD’s systems have many common business needs for providing health care coverage to these individuals,” Melvin told the representatives. “Toward this end, the two departments have an extensive history of working to achieve shared health care resources. Our work has examined the departments’ efforts over the last 15 years to share data between their individual systems and to develop interoperable electronic health record capabilities.”

They have made progress, but problems remain, she acknowledged. “Overall, VA and DOD have relied on a patchwork of initiatives involving their separate health information systems to achieve varying degrees of electronic health record interoperability,” Melvin said.

Circumstances require decisive action, Woodson said, and delay would only increase the cost and risk of this program.

“We believe the path we have chosen best serves the departments, the special populations whom we jointly are responsible for, and the American taxpayer,” he said.

New Components Reflect Northcom’s Development

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 – Ten years after it was established in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, U.S. Northern Command is starting to look increasingly like other U.S. geographic combatant commands, with naval and special operations components formally added to its command structure during the past month.

Two weeks ago, Fleet Forces Command was designated officially as Northcom’s maritime component, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Northcom public affairs officer, reported.

The designation is essentially a “paperwork change,” Davis said, formalizing a role Fleet Forces Command has served on an ad hoc basis almost since Northcom’s inception.

Officially adding the NavNorth mission to its existing responsibilities, Fleet Forces Command will continue to support Northcom’s theater security cooperation plan, with includes port visits, training exercises and professional exchanges, Davis said.

“This is now giving us formally a naval component command like every other geographic command has,” he said. “This is part of the continued maturation of Northcom as a full-fledged combatant command.”

The new designation follows then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s approval last month for Northcom to establish a theater special operations command. Northcom is in the process of standing up Special Operations Command North, and expects it to reach initial operating capability next year, Davis said.

Like NavNorth, that new command is viewed largely as an organizational change, he said, and will focus primarily on theater security engagement efforts Northcom already is supporting in the region.

Northcom already has Army, Air Force and Marine Corps components. U.S. Army North, formed from 5th U.S. Army, is based in San Antonio. Air Forces Northern, from 1st Air Force, is headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Marine Forces North is part of Marine Forces Reserve, headquartered in New Orleans.