Military News

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oldest U.S. military flying unit celebrates centennial

by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs


3/12/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., celebrated its 100th anniversary March 7-9 as the oldest flying unit in U.S. military aviation.

The squadron opened its doors to the base populace and special guests for tours, and two days of historical symposiums were held featuring former SR-71 Black Bird pilots, commanders and history experts.

In addition, a plaque was dedicated to the squadron at Heritage Park, and a military dining-out commemorated the event.

"It's an honor to be part of this historic occasion," said current 1st RS commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez. "We stand on the shoulders of giants here as we continue the proud tradition of providing [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] to war fighters."

One speaker at the symposiums, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Patrick Halloran, was one of the first pilots for the U-2 and SR-71. Halloran gave vivid descriptions of missions during the Cold War, training and being commander of the 1st RS.

"The U-2 and SR-71 are the biggest long-term contributors to the 1st," he said. "Those two airplanes made tremendous contributions to history, and I am proud to have been part of this outfit."

Paintings of 1st RS aircraft, unveiled for the Air Force Art Program, were donated and prints were sold during symposiums to help supplement the cost of the celebration.

"These presentations were a very interesting perspective into the history of the 1st RS and the history of aerial reconnaissance from some of the top experts in the field," said Col. (Ret.) Dave Pinsky, Pacific Coast Air Museum executive director and former 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander.

The plaque at Heritage Park rest in the shadow of an SR-71 static display and reads, "This site honors the men and women of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, oldest flying unit in the United States military, and commemorates its unbroken heritage since its founding on the 5th of March 1913."

The squadron has maintained an unbroken heritage from its founding. Originally organized in anticipation of a potential breach in security along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, General John Pershing directed the 1st Aero Squadron to become the first tactical aviation unit to participate in American military action.

The 1st RS has flown 47 different airframes while being stationed worldwide at 52 locations, including four stints at sea.

Col. Phil Stewart, current 9th RW commander, noted that the events were held without using Air Force funds, as funding came from registration fees, ticket fees, memento sales and donations.

"Much of this wouldn't have been possible without the donations from the local community, and the countless hours volunteers put into planning," he said. "I have never been more proud to be part of a celebration and am continuously impressed by our Airmen."

Hagel Orders Review of Sex Assault Case, Convening Authority

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed two separate reviews to ensure that the U.S. military justice system is appropriately protecting victims of sexual assault as well as dispensing justice to the accused, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

The orders are an outgrowth of a case against Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. Last year, a panel of military officers at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, found the colonel guilty of a sexual assault. The judge sentenced him to a year in prison and dismissal from the service.

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the 3rd Air Force commander, was the convening authority for the court-martial and reviewed the finished case and sentence. The general reviewed the case over a three-week period and used his authority under Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to dismiss the charges against Wilkerson.

“He concluded that the entire body of evidence was insufficient to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hagel wrote in a letter about the case to California Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Dismissing charges like this is rare, officials said, but not unheard-of. A commander is not required to give a reason for the decision, and the commander’s decision is final.

Hagel ordered the Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Robert Taylor, the Defense Department’s acting general counsel, to review the case against Wilkerson. He asked them “to assess whether all aspects of the UCMJ were correctly applied and to make recommendations on how the convening authority’s decision in this case could be more transparent,” Little said. Their report is due back to Hagel on March 20.
Hagel also ordered the acting general counsel to conduct a review of Article 60 of the UCMJ -- the article covering the actions of the convening authority. Hagel is asking Taylor to provide an assessment of whether changes should be made in Article 60, and this assessment is due March 27.

Hagel has made it clear to military and civilian leaders that “eliminating sexual assault in the military is one of his top priorities,” Little said.

“Sexual assault is a serious crime that has no place in the department and he will not tolerate it,” he added. “Any member of the military that is convicted of sexual assault -- no matter his rank or position -- must be held appropriately accountable.”

U.S. service members must know that “they are protected from criminal assault by a system of laws that function promptly, fairly and justly,” Little said.

National Security Advisor Explains Asia-Pacific Pivot


By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2013 – The strategic pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region will help to rebalance the projection and focus of U.S. power, President Barack Obama’s national security advisor said yesterday.

In a speech at the Asia Society in New York, Tom Donilon specified challenges the United States faces as its ties to the economic, strategic and political order emerging in the Asia-Pacific solidify.
The need to focus on regions that will shape global order in coming decades led the administration’s national security team to conduct a global, strategic assessment of U.S. priorities and make key determinations, Donilon said.

“It was clear that there was an imbalance in the projection and focus of U.S. power,” he said, adding that the president deemed U.S. military power to be over-weighted in the Middle East, yet under-weighted in regions such as the Asia-Pacific.

Further propelling the rebalance are leader and public interests in U.S. leadership, sustained attention to regional institutions and defense of international rules and norms across the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Donilon said the United States will realize this vision by implementing a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.
The shift in focus toward the Asia-Pacific region isn’t just a matter of military presence, he said. Rather, he added, it’s an effort to harness all elements of U.S. power: military, political, trade and investment, development and values.

In addition to continued participation in summits, bilateral meetings with leaders in Southeast Asia, and engagement with China at an unprecedented pace, the United States will ensure alliances in the region remain the foundation of the strategy, Donilon said.

“Our alliances are stronger today than ever before,” he said, noting military solidarity with Japan and South Korea, where new leaders are firmly committed to close security cooperation with the United States.

“It is clear that, as we look forward, maintaining security in a dynamic region will demand greater trilateral coordination from Japan, Korea and the United States,” Donilon said. He also cited long-standing alliances with Thailand and the Philippines to address counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Still, Donilon acknowledged the notion that difficult fiscal times have made some question the sustainability of the rebalance.

“After a decade of war, it is only natural that the U.S. defense budget is being reduced,” he said. “But make no mistake: President Obama has clearly stated that we will maintain our security presence and engagement in the Asia-Pacific.”

Specifically, he said, defense spending and programs will continue to support key priorities from the Korean Peninsula to strategic presence in the Western Pacific.

Sixty percent of the U.S. naval fleet will be based in the Pacific by 2020, Donilon said, and U.S. Pacific Command’s modern capabilities focus will shift to submarines, fifth-generation fighter jets such as F-22s and F-35s, and reconnaissance platforms.

“We are working with allies to make rapid progress in expanding radar and missile defense systems to protect against the most immediate threat facing our allies and the entire region: the dangerous, destabilizing behavior of North Korea,” he said.

An ongoing commitment to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula means the United States must protect its allies and deter North Korean aggression.

“It means the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Donilon said. “The United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state, nor will we stand by while it seeks to develop a nuclear-armed missile that can target the United States.”

Donilon noted the international community has made clear there will be consequences for North Korea’s violation of its international obligations, and the U.N. Security Council approved new sanctions in response to North Korea’s recent provocative nuclear test.

“By now it is clear that the provocations, escalations and poor choices of North Korea’s leaders are not only making their country less secure, they are condemning their people to a level of poverty that stands in stark contrast not only to South Korea, but every other country in East Asia,” Donilon said.

Still, the United States will continue to encourage North Korea to choose a better path, Donilon said, emphasizing that North Korea must change its current course and respect international law.
“The United States is prepared to sit down with North Korea to negotiate and to implement the commitments that they and the United States have made,” he said.

Along with heightening a military presence in the region, U.S. policy will include close and expanded cooperation with Japan and South Korea, Donilon said. “The days when North Korea could exploit any seams between our three governments are over,” he said.

Donilon also underscored the importance of close U.S. coordination with China, whose interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula, he said, argues for a clear path to ending North Korea’s nuclear program. A deeper U.S. and China military-to-military dialogue, Donilon said, can address many sources of insecurity and potential competition.

“We need open and reliable channels to address perceptions and tensions about our respective activities in the short-term and about our long-term presence and posture in the Western Pacific,” he said.

Fostering alliances and continued military presence in the Asia-Pacific region has set the stage for the centerpiece of U.S. economic rebalancing, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The United States, Donilon explained, is crafting a high-standard agreement with Asia-Pacific economies from Chile and Peru to New Zealand and Singapore, and has grown the number of TPP partners to 11 with Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada and Mexico joining the partnership over the last four years.

“Together, these 11 countries represent an annual trading relationship of $1.4 trillion,” Donilon said. “The TPP is … attractive because it is ambitious, but achievable.” Overall, existing free-trade agreements around the world could account for more than 60 percent of world trade, he added.
The full potential impact of the Asia-Pacific pivot will require sustained commitment over the coming years, the national security advisor said. Ultimately, he added, the United States will work to uphold the universal rights of citizens in the Asia-Pacific and to ensure the region becomes a place where the rise of new powers occurs peacefully, with free access to sea, air, space, and cyberspace.

Hagel Directs Review of Distinguished Warfare Medal

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2013 – In light of recent discussions concerning the new Distinguished Warfare Medal and its order of precedence relative to other military decorations, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of the award, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Little said Hagel directed Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct the review and expects to make a decision about the medal’s fate after assessing the findings.

“Secretary Hagel consulted with the chairman, the Joint Chiefs and the service secretaries and knows that the decision to establish the medal was carefully and thoroughly analyzed within the Department of Defense,” Little said.

Opponents of the medal question the hierarchy of technology-driven warfare such as unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, missile defense and cyber capabilities, as the operators may not be anywhere near a combat zone.

“Production of the medal has stopped,” Little said, adding that there are so far no nominations for it, allowing time to make a final decision.

Little noted that the secretary has a long history of involvement and membership with veteran service organizations, including a stint as head of the USO.

“He’s heard their concerns, he’s heard the concerns of others, and he believes that it’s prudent to take into account those concerns and conduct this review,” Little said. “His style as a leader is to be [decisive] and also to be a ready listener.”

U.S. Urges North Korea to Tone Down Threats


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2013 – U.S. and South Korean forces remain “postured for any contingency” on the Korean Peninsula, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today as he called on North Korea to tone down its rhetoric and comply with its international obligations.

Little condemned North Korea’s destabilizing activities the day after North Korea declared that it had nullified the 60-year-old armistice agreement there.

“North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and to intimidate others,” Little told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

“North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocation,” he added, saying they “will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to pursue peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”

Little reiterated President Barack Obama’s call for North Korea’s leadership to “choose the path to peace” and comply with its international obligations. The message from the U.S. government has been “clear and consistent for a very long time,” he said.

But Little acknowledged North Korea’s track record that shows an unwillingness to conform with the international community’s requirements -- through nuclear tests and most recently, a ratcheting up of threatening language.

“The fact of the matter is that their rhetoric is bellicose and the rhetoric is a bit too high,” Little said. “So let’s take this down a notch, I would say to them, and engage the right way.”

U.S. Forces Korea, and other U.S. troops from U.S. Pacific Command and about 10,000 South Korean forces are currently participating in the Key Resolve exercise that promotes their ability to work together to defend South Korea.

Little offered assurance that they are ready to fend off an attack, should one come.
“U.S. Forces Korea, working closely with our South Korean allies, remains postured for any contingency, and we stand ready to protect U.S. and South Korean interests,” he said.
 

Aircraft launch at Cope Tiger 13

by 2nd Lt. Jake Bailey
Cope Tiger 13 Public Affairs


3/12/2013 - KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand -- Aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Thai Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force launched operations here March 11 during Exercise Cope Tiger 13.

A multilateral effort is underway to execute airborne and land-based control of mission packages, electronic warfare, tactical airlift, search and rescue procedures, mission planning and in-flight interoperability.

Two joint teams consisting of flying forces from each participating countries are conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions using a variety of weapons systems.

During Cope Tiger 13, participating forces train together to improve coalition strike capabilities against transnational threats.

352nd SOSS shares medical knowledge with British Army

by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


3/12/2013 - STANFORD TRAINING AREA, England -- British Army Joint Tactical Air Controllers with the 19 Regiment Royal Artillery from Tidworth, Wiltshire, and 3 Battallion The Rifles, from Edinburgh, Scotland, learned about U.S. methods for treating combat injuries March 5 and 6, 2013, when U.S. Air Force personnel from the 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron Medical Element conducted combat medical refresher training at Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.

The training enabled the U.S. and U.K. participants to share medical knowledge and information relating to combat injuries and treatment practices in a field environment, said Maj. Michael Hall, 352nd SOSS Medical Element chief of medical plans.

"We learned much from each other and found similarities in knowledge and information, but with some nuances in technique and equipment," Hall said. "It's the knowledge of these nuances that makes both parties better prepared to face injuries on the battlefield."

Working in conjunction with a U.K. exercise conducted at STANTA, Team Mildenhall members shared their expertise and medical knowledge, passing on many techniques to the British soldiers, including different positions for placing a tourniquet, and performing a needle decompression on a collapsed lung.

The 352nd SOSS Medical Element supports special operations forces in a medical capacity. They also provide medical coverage for the crew going out on missions.

"That's our main 'bread-and-butter,' for the (352nd) SOG," Hall said. "We also perform casualty evacuations, moving casualties from what could be the point of injury to hospital care, which is usually at a forward operating base or staging base where we have more medical assets."

These advanced medical assets are used to then stabilize and treat patients, preparing them for evacuation to safer areas.

"Our typical team is a special operations forces medical element; it's a three-person team consisting of a flight surgeon and two independent duty medical technicians," Hall explained. "The IDMTs (enlisted medics) are more of a 'super-medic,' because they have many certifications that your typical paramedic may not have."

Hall said because of the medical element, they like to train with U.K. special forces.

"We're sharing our knowledge with them in the hopes that when we're downrange together, we each have a knowledge and appreciation of the other's skills and training," the San Antonio native said. "One of the biggest things out in the field is that we don't know if we're going to be saving the life of a U.K., U.S., or other partner-nation soldier. At the same time, our forces don't know if they're going to have a U.S. or U.K. medic, or other partner-nation medic saving their lives - that's why it's important that we get out and get to know our partner nations and their medical capabilities and skills."

Hall emphasized how joint training is a force multiplier, establishing knowledge and trust between forces achieving a common goal.

During this training event, U.S. medics put the JTACs in different field scenarios, including having them under fire and coming across casualties. The medics then split into teams, each working together to provide immediate medical attention to those injured, firstly in the form of a mannequin, followed by the 352nd SOSS members role-playing as patients.

The British Army JTACs said they also appreciated the chance to learn from their American counterparts.

"The way things are going in Afghanistan has really identified the need to work within coalition forces," said Lt. Rob Fidler, 19 Regiment RA officer-in-command. "As JTACs, we work with different nations and for us this is a nice little 'cherry on the top' for our week's training (at STANTA), and I think this is the way it's going to go in the future.

"(Regarding our work method) - we get a casualty, we react, treat and move them off - the way (Americans) do it is very similar to how we do it," the British officer from Aberdeen, Scotland, said. "We've just come back from Afghanistan, but we're building up our training again as we move to the future; the way it's going to work is with other nations, so it seemed (wise) to bring these guys in."

Fidler said during the exercise at STANTA, he and his soldiers had been working with Fast Air and Apache helicopters.

"Working with Apaches is our core trade, but it's always good to mix it up," the JTAC said. "This week we've also been working with Typhoons and Tornados, all British aircraft, though from time-to-time we work with U.S. F-15s and F-16s."

The officer-in-command emphasized how the two nations working alongside each other can only be a win-win situation.

"Our training requirement is ever-ongoing and I see this as building up relationships and working with other nations," Fidler said. "The Americans are a massive resource, so (it's good) to tap into that, and also they're good fun. They want to work with the host nation and we want them to work with us."

Hall agreed.

"Camaraderie between forces is also a benefit of learning from each other as we did this week," the major said. "In the end, it's all about saving lives."

307th Bomb wing sits on precipice of history

by Master Sgt. Mary Hinson
307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


3/11/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The 307th Bomb Wing will become the first nuclear certified Reserve wing if it successfully completes an Initial Nuclear Surety Inspection here March 14.

The 307th BW, tasked to support the 2nd Bomb Wing's nuclear and conventional missions through the auspices of the Total Force Initiative, will undergo five days of inspection to certify it is qualified to perform the U.S. Air Force nuclear mission.

Before a wing can have a certification to perform nuclear duties, they have to be identified by the commander of their major command as ready to undertake this mission, explained Col. Jon Ellis, commander of the 307th BW.

Inspectors from the Air Force Global Strike Command Inspector General office will perform process reviews and hands-on evaluations of the 343rd Bomb Squadron and 707th Maintenance Squadron. They will also conduct inspections of the 307th BW reservists assigned to the Command Post, Safety office, and those who administer the Personnel Reliability Program.

"This is a historic moment for our total force team," said Col. Andrew Gebara, 2nd Bomb Wing commander. "I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into preparing for this inspection to ensure the 307th BW receives its nuclear certification, further strengthening both our nuclear capability and the close partnership of our two wings."

With Reserve personnel already integrated into daily operations with the active duty 2nd BW, the 307th BW's successful completion of the INSI is only a first step. In June, the 2nd BW and the 307th BW will accomplish the Defense Nuclear Surety Inspection as an integrated team.

Initial preparation for the INSI began in 2011. The 307th BW conducted four Nuclear Surety Exercises in 2012, two NSEs in 2013, and hosted multiple staff assistance visits from the Air Force Global Strike Command Safety and PRP Functional, the AF Safety Center, and AFRC A3N (Nuclear Operations Branch) and safety throughout this time frame, said Maj. Ben Bowman, 307th BW chief of Safety.

According to Chief Master Sgt. Richard Young, maintenance superintendent of the 707th MXS, the MXS has been manning and preparing for the inspection for years. The squadron, who will have a four-member crew tested on an integrated weapons load, has been preparing with multiple loading exercises each week. In addition to the load test, all 31 PRP personnel in the 707th MXS will complete a written test proving their knowledge of the nuclear surety requirements and showing that all the preparation paid off.

"This is a must-not-fail environment. The INSI will prove we can thrive in this environment," added Col. Joe Jones, vice commander of the 307th BW and head of the 307th Nuclear Surety Inspection Steering Group.

As with anything new, seeing the idea come to fruition has been met with challenges, said Ellis. Since this is a first for the AFRC, Air Force Global Strike Command and the Steering Group have been working closely together to make sure the evaluation is designed to properly test the nuclear capabilities of the 307th personnel.

"We are working together very carefully to figure out the right answers," said Ellis. Once the 307th BW has completed the INSI and shown that it can be done, the process can be used as a model for other Reserve and Air National Guard units to achieve certification.

Carter Reassures Defense Industry Amid Budget Uncertainty

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2013 – Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter pledged today that the Pentagon will not allow a $46 billion cut in spending and uncertainty over future funding to keep it from focusing on challenges facing the nation even though the current fiscal situation will lead to “perverse, unsafe and wasteful consequences.”

While calling the current budget sequester and the continuing lack of a defense appropriation bill harmful to the entire defense industry, Carter sought to reassure defense industry representatives attending a conference here that the department intends to “think and act ahead of today’s turmoil” by making strategic budget decisions for the future.

“We must continue to look above and beyond this year to the future, to the great strategic transition that is before us and to providing the country the defense it needs for the amount of money that it has to spend,” he said.

That transition comprises ending more than a decade of conflict and shifting focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, “where America will continue to play its seven-decade-old pivotal stabilizing role in the future,” he said.

At the same time, Carter said, “threats to the United States have not been sequestered,” mentioning North Korea, Iran, cyber threats and al-Qaida.

Carter acknowledged the ongoing budget uncertainty likely will create “second-order effects” that will last for years, with one of them perhaps being a pivot of the defense industry itself.

“The act of sequestration and longer-term budget cuts and the prolongation of uncertainty could limit capital market confidence in the defense industry,” he said, adding that “companies may be less willing to make internal investments in their defense portfolios. “Some of them have certainly told me that,” he added.
A $46 billion across-the-board cut in defense spending through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year took effect March 1 after Congress failed to reach an agreement on how to reduce the federal budget deficit. As he has in the past, Carter predicted the impact the cuts will have on everything from military readiness across the force to furloughs for the department’s 800,000 civilian employees.

“[Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and I and the entire DOD leadership are committed to doing everything in our power under this deliberately restrictive law to mitigate its harmful effects on national security,” the deputy secretary said. But he called the sequester and the ongoing continuing resolution now funding government operations in the absence of a federal budget a “double absurdity.”