Tuesday, March 19, 2013

AFA honors Air National Guard members

by Senior Master Sgt. Jerry R. Bynum
Air National Guard Special Staff Public Affairs

3/18/2013 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- The Air Force Association's D.W. Steele Sr. Memorial Chapter hosted the 11th Annual AFA Salute to the Air National Guard recognizing personnel assigned to the National Guard Bureau during a recent ceremony in Arlington, Va.

"The AFA awards recognize your unsung heroes, the folks out there doing the grunt work and doing great things every day," said F. Gavin MacAloon, AFA chapter president.

This year, the AFA honored 26 members of the ANG staff for their leadership contributions and dedication to the overall success of the ANG and Air Force mission. The awardees were nominated for exceptional performance across a broad range of specialties including, personnel and manpower, intelligence, operations, logistics, plans and requirements, communications, installations and mission support, financial management, safety, medical services and human resources.

"I am really proud of the people who support the Air Force mission in the Air National Guard," said Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director of the ANG. "These are the best of the people who are doing the mission day in and day out."

Gen. Clarke went on to describe the important role the ANG staff plays in ensuring ANG units are combat ready by providing a critical channel of communication between the National Guard Bureau, the 54 states and territories, and the Air Force.

"When you talk about global power, reach, and vigilance, when you talk about nuclear and cyber, we are involved with all of it," said Clarke. "What that means to a staff like the Air National Guard is you are involved with everything at a MAJCOM level, a national level, state level and unit level. It's all tied together, and all of you on the staff have to pull this together every day to make it happen. There is not a single program or activity the Air Force is engaged in that we're not engaged in somehow."

The ANG is a great organization, Clarke added, and the opportunity to recognize our superior performers is integral to our continued success. Support from partners like the AFA helps strengthen the resiliency of the Total Force, he said.

The AFA is a non-profit, independent, professional military and aerospace education association that promotes a dominant Air Force and a strong national defense, and honors Airmen and Air Force heritage.

34th Weapons Squadron begins terminal employment phase

by Senior Airman Brett Clashman
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

3/18/2013 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- The 34th Weapons Squadron, assigned to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., will begin the terminal employment phase of their class syllabus March 11 over the Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho.

Four students assigned to the USAF Weapons School will be put into rigorous training scenarios during the two-week phase and display maximum combat effectiveness to instructor pilots.

The "T.E." mission objective is to demonstrate and instruct HH-60 Pave Hawk weapons employment and landing zone options to maximize weapons proficiency and quickly recover survivors.

The USAF Weapons School trains tactical experts and leaders of Airmen skilled in the art of integrated battle-space dominance across the land, air, space and cyber domains. Every six months, the school graduates approximately 100 Weapons Officers and enlisted specialists who are tactical system experts, weapons instructors and leaders of Airmen.

The TE phase is one out of a series of advanced training programs administered at the USAF Weapons School. The 34th WPS terminal employment phase will continue to March 22.

Risky Cliff Dive Leads to Airman’s Medal

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, March 19, 2013 – Air Force Capt. Matt Adams looked up, encouraging his friend and co-worker, Air Force Capt. John Barbour, as he clung precariously to a waterfall's cliff, some 25 feet above the rocks and swirling water below.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander, presents Air Force Capt. Matt Adams the Airman's Medal at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 11, 2013. Adams earned the medal for risking his life Jan. 11, 2011, to save a fellow airman during a recreational hiking trip at Nauyaca Waterfalls, Platanillo, Costa Rica. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Suddenly, his friend lost his grip and fell. Adams knew he had to act quickly, or the first day of 2011 could be the last day of his buddy's life.

Adams, then a civil engineer first lieutenant deployed to Joint Task Force Bravo in Honduras, was with a group of airmen taking a holiday trip to the Central American nation of Costa Rica. Their destination that day was the Nauyaca Waterfalls.

Accessible only by foot or on horseback, the falls are located at the base of a rainforest trail inside a canyon. The green canopy envelops the area, making it an attractive tourist destination. Barbour climbed an area of cliff to the right of the falls. After a short hike to the top, Adams could see Barbour clinging to the rocky wall and not moving.
"John climbed up the side of the waterfall in an area that didn't look hard to climb, but there were rocks below," Adams said. "I could tell that he was stuck, and his arms and legs were shaking. He wasn't going anywhere."

With Barbour frozen only a couple of feet from the uppermost ledge, Adams climbed the same section to lend a hand and get him to the top, all the while talking to Barbour to encourage him to hold onto the rocks. His plan was to reach the ledge and pull him the rest of the way up.

"I reached just below him and was going to continue on up," Adams said. "But, as I was just below him, his hands and feet came off the wall at the same time. He kind of just came unglued and fell almost in the worst way you could, I think."

Barbour's head slammed into the rock as he landed on his back on a large flat piece of stone. His momentum rolled him into the pool at the base of the waterfall, and the current pushed him to the bottom of its tumultuous 20-foot depths.

"I could see John sinking pretty fast, and he quickly sunk out of view in the murky water," he said.
Adams made a calculated leap from his position, cleared the rocks and dove into the pool below. He took a big breath and plunged into the depths, fighting the current with every stroke.

"I went straight down from where he sank, trying to reach him with very short visibility," he said. "I remember clearing my ears several times as I went down, and down, and down."

Adams said he remembers thinking the current might have pushed Barbour from where he originally entered, and that he could be anywhere. But still holding the same breath underwater, he continued on.

"I finally saw him lying on the bottom with his arms stretched out," Adams said. "At this point, I was glad I found him."

Adams wrapped up Barbour and applied pressure to a profusely bleeding wound in the back of his head. Pushing off the bottom, he kicked furiously to get to oxygen, carrying a seemingly lifeless Barbour.

"As soon as we hit the surface, he woke up and started fighting me, struggling, not knowing what was going on," he said. "That made things a little difficult."

Other airmen from the civil engineer squadron came to their aid and pulled Barbour to a shallow section of water. While in the shallow waters, they treated what they could see.

"We didn't know what kind of back injury he might have, so we didn't want to pull him out of the water completely," Adams said. "The plan was to have him lay there until we could get some help."

With a shirt in place to help control the bleeding, Adams and Barbour's cousin, Brent Sabino, ran up a trail to a nearby house to call an ambulance. With a little difficulty, the bilingual Adams convinced the local residents the injury was serious and required help. They called an ambulance, and one of the residents retrieved an old wooden stretcher from a shed and returned to the falls with the Americans.

Back at the injury site, Barbour was showing potential signs of a traumatic brain injury: he was vomiting and was not completely coherent. But in a situation requiring speedy medical attention, luck was not on their side. Moments later, the property owner showed up at the waterfall to inform the group that the first ambulance broke down, and the second ambulance could not make it down the gravel road.

"It was starting to get dark," Adams said. "We knew we were running out of time to get him to help."
The captain led the team in carrying Barbour up the trail on the stretcher to the main road, using strips torn from shirts to secure him for the climb up a trail fraught with steep inclines, slippery surfaces and a series of hairpin turns. Halfway up, the homemade stretcher buckled.

Adams said he was thankful during this section of the ordeal he had some "big guys" with him. At certain sections, Air Force Staff Sgt. Noah Villanueva had half the stretcher to himself on the treacherous path negotiating the switchbacks. At some points, they were crawling in the mud and rocks.

"This was the hardest part of the entire trip," Adams said. "It was brutal."

Fighting to keep Barbour awake and alert, the team finally reached the trailhead. After a short drive in a truck to meet the ambulance, paramedics were able to provide medical care in pitch-black darkness on the way to the hospital.

At the hospital, Barbour was treated and had to stay overnight before being cleared to fly back to Honduras for further medical evaluation. Once he was back at Soto Cano Air Base, he was flown to San Antonio Military Medical Center South at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Barbour has recovered from his injuries, works as a civilian civil engineer with the Defense Logistics Agency in Columbus, Ohio, and recently became a new father with the birth of his son. His memory of the immediate time after he fell is sketchy, he said, but he knows the outcome of his ordeal would have been worse without the help of his wingmen.

"If Matt wasn't climbing that wall underneath me, I am certain that I would have died," Barbour said. "Even more, I don't believe that the average person would have been able to swim down that far and fetch me out of the water. If all the [guys] weren't there to carry me out, it is hard to say what might have happened. I probably would have died, or would have had it much worse off than I had it."

Adams said without the help of Villanueva, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dominique Vasquez, Air Force Staff Sgt. Graham Clouden, and Sabino, it would have been impossible to save him.

"We are fortunate that things turned out the way they did though the entire ordeal," Adams said. "It was instinctual to jump in after him. Our military training helped when it came to getting him up the trail on the stretcher. But, we had to improvise the whole way."

For his efforts, Adams was awarded the Airman's Medal, approved by the secretary of the Air Force and awarded to service members who distinguish themselves by heroic actions, usually at the voluntary risk of life, but not involving combat.

During the medal presentation ceremony here March 11, hundreds gathered to see Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle present Adams with the medal.

"Your demonstration of courage, valor, and putting yourself in danger to protect another airman is something that we can all learn from," Carlisle said. "What we do is family. We're in this together, and we have each other's back. … The reason we're the greatest fighting force -- the world's greatest air force ever seen -- is because we have each other's back."

Training Incident Kills 7 Service Members at Nevada Depot

From a 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force News Release

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., March 19, 2013 – Seven service members were killed and several others were injured last night when an incident occurred during a training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev.

The injured were transported to area hospitals for treatment and further evaluation. The identities of those killed will be released 24 hours after next of kin are notified.

“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general. “We remain focused on ensuring that they are supported through this difficult time. We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Air Guard spouse sets bar as national powerlifter

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

3/19/2013 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. (AFNS) -- Knees tightly bandaged and a thick weightlifting belt bracing her waist, she lowers herself into a tense squat.

The weight on her shoulder equals almost three times her own body weight, but she is not giving up.

Holding her breath and tightening every muscle, she struggles against gravity to put the weight back on the rack.

At age 50, the spouse of one Air National Guard member here, still puts men half her age to shame in the weight room.

Vikki Traugot is a veteran powerlifter. In her personal best powerlift competition, she benched 325 pounds, deadlifted 408 pounds. and squatted 480 pounds.

"My wife is currently the number three rated woman powerlifter for her weight class in the nation," said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Traugot, the director of education here at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.

Vikki lifts in the Southern Powerlifting Federation as well as for the U.S. Powerlifting Association. In her most recent professional meet she took first place overall in the women's 148-pound weight class and walked away with $1,500.

"I like to be a little different," Vikki said. "I like to see how far I can push my body, and it's empowering to know that I could squat or bench what most guys probably couldn't."

The Traugots married 30 years ago after meeting during military training to become Chinese linguists. Vikki was in the Army National Guard, and Andrew was in the Air Force.

Vikki crossed from the Army Guard after two years to join the regular Army for four more years before leaving the service. She started powerlifting during her husband's first assignment here as an Air Guard professional military education instructor.

As opposed to Olympic weightlifting, which emphasizes physique and size, Traugot said powerlifting is a sport where one puts overall strength first. Lifters only get three chances during competition to lift their maximum weight.

After eight years of lifting, Traugot is encouraged and challenged by a promising field of younger women powerlifters, she said.

"It's refreshing to witness new females lift weight they never thought possible and also realize that lifting weights is healthy," the athlete said.

Vikkie lifts four times a week at a gym that has special equipment and experienced powerlifters to spot and coach her. For the future, her plan is to beat her personal best at the USPA Olympia Invitational in Las Vegas this fall. She will participate in other competitions until then to gauge her progress.

The Traugots said that physical fitness is an important part even of their successful relationship.

"It can be shared together, even as a supporting spectator," said Andrew, who, after recovering from an injury, hopes to get back to his sport of choice this summer.

Until then, he said he will continue to support his wife and help her see that she's done the training and is ready to lift the bar.

"I'm very proud of her, and I want her to do what makes her happy," Andrew said. "If she wanted to wrestle alligators, and it made her happy, I'd be happy for her."

Missile Defenses Must Evolve With Threat, Northcom Chief Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 – U.S. defenses are sufficient to stand up to current ballistic missile threats, but must continue to evolve because “the threat of ballistic missiles is not going down,” the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command told Congress today.

“We currently can defend the entire United States from an Iranian long-range missile threat,” Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. told the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “The question is, how do we stay ahead of the evolving Iranian threat, and how do we keep our options opened for the continued evolution of either Iranian or North Korean threats?”

Jacoby told the panel he supports Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to deploy an additional 14 ground-based interceptors in Alaska in light of the evolving missile threat from North Korea.

The current ballistic missile defense plan is based on limited “limited defense of the United States,” he said. “And given the threat that is represented by Iran to the eastern United States today, we can cover that threat. The question is making sure that we pace that threat as it evolves.”

That requires that the United States be prepared to continue improving the resilience, redundancy and agility of its missile defenses, Jacoby said. “We remain committed to improving current ballistic missile defense capabilities to ensure we maintain our strategic advantage and guarantee confidence in our ability to defeat evolving, more complex threats in the future,” he noted in his prepared remarks.

With that goal, Northcom is working closely with the Missile Defense Agency “to maintain the right balance in developing and testing missile defense technologies, while increasing our readiness to execute this critical mission set,” he said.

Jacoby reported ongoing efforts to improve the reliability of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System and the successful intercept flight test in January. In addition, he noted tests and exercises designed to evaluate the command’s capability against regional ballistic missile threats.

“We will continue to pursue effective and efficient methods to improve our ability to protect the homeland,” he told the committee. “Our citizens expect our vigilance and rigor to protect them from a missile attack on our soil. We work diligently to maintain their trust.”

Carter: U.S., Philippines Enjoy ‘Longstanding’ Alliance

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

MANILA, Philippines, March 19, 2013 – On the third stop of his weeklong trip to Asia, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter met today with top officials here and carried greetings from President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to be delivered to President Benigno Aquino III.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, right center, meets with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left center, at the Ministry of Defense in Manila, the Philippines, March 19, 2013. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During meetings with the president’s executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Carter discussed a range of regional range of regional security issues important to the U.S.-Philippines alliance.

Carter began his visit in Manila by meeting with Gazmin at Camp Aguinaldo, the military headquarters of the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or AFP. The men discussed the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, including the continued U.S. commitment to work together on maritime domain awareness, capacity building of the AFP, defense modernization and continued assistance in counterterrorism. Carter emphasized the importance of working together to resolve incidents.

Later in the day, Carter met with del Rosario and senior Foreign Affairs Department officials, followed by a lunch that del Rosario hosted. The two discussed a range of issues including U.S.-Philippine efforts to enhance cooperation across security, diplomatic and economic sectors, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and a code of conduct for resolving disputes in the South China Sea, as well as other bilateral and regional topics.

Carter wrapped up his Manila visit by meeting with Ochoa at the Malacanang Palace complex. The deputy defense secretary addressed issues involving the U.S. rebalance to Asia and concerns about the possible impact to that effort because of defense budget cuts. Discussions ranged from ASEAN and the regional security architecture to Philippine defense modernization efforts.

During a media interview this afternoon, Carter said he came here “because this region of the world is so important to America’s future in many ways -- political and economic, but also in the security sphere.”
And because of his position as deputy defense secretary, he said, “obviously, I’m focused on the security area. In that context, the United States has deep and abiding security roots here.”

As he met with officials, Carter took time to share a more personal reason for his appreciation of the Philippines. A physicist by training, the deputy defense secretary received part of that training in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the coffee room there, he got to know a senior fellow from the MIT Center for International Studies.

“He was such a great advisor and mentor to students,” Carter said of the man who turned out to be Benigno Aquino Jr., father of the current president of the Philippines. Aquino was assassinated in 1983.

“He and his wife would come to social events at MIT, … and I got to know them and had great affection for them, … so I’ve always had a little place in my heart for the Aquino family,” he said. “And that’s another good reason to be here in the Philippines.”

The United States and the Philippines “have lots of human connections together, all of us,” Carter said, “as well as having important global responsibilities and regional responsibilities that we exercise together.”
U.S. engagement is part of what has helped to maintain the region’s security structure since World War II, he added. Such engagement has allowed Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia “to rise and prosper because they’ve had peace and security, and now China and India are rising and prospering.”

The Philippines, Carter observed, “is a longstanding friend and ally and partner with us in providing that kind of security.”

The United States recognized the Philippines as an independent state and established diplomatic relations in 1946. Except for the 1942-to-1945 Japanese occupation during World War II, the Philippines had been under U.S. sovereignty since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, according to a State Department fact sheet.

The U.S.-Philippine Bilateral Strategic Dialogue -- the third held last December in Manila -- advances discussion and cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. The United States has designated the Philippines a major non-NATO ally, and the nations have close security ties.

The Manila Declaration, signed in 2011, reaffirmed the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty as the foundation for a robust, balanced and responsive security partnership. Such a treaty, Carter said, “opens the door to the U.S.-Filipino relationship, which exists along with other key treaty relationships in the region.”
During this week’s Asia trip, the deputy defense secretary has visited South Korea and Japan, which are also key treaty partners. And the United States has important treaty relationships with Australia and Thailand.
“These longstanding treaty relationships and other kinds of emerging partnerships are … part of a historical role that we play with countries in this part of the world -- to protect them, to protect us, but also, very importantly, that is what provides the foundation for peace and security in the region,” he said.

“That’s the climate in which all countries, the Philippines among them, have been able to … develop politically and prosper economically in an environment of peace,” Carter said. “That’s what everybody deserves, and that’s what we’re about when we talk about our alliance with the Philippines and our alliance structure in this part of the world.”

B-52 flies mission over ROK

by Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

3/19/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- As part of the U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP), a B-52 Stratofortress deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, conducted a training flight over the Republic of Korea, Mar. 19, 2013, where the aircraft practiced dropping bombs on targets at Pilsung Range. This mission highlights the extended deterrence and conventional capabilities of the B-52 while participating in exercises such as Foal Eagle. This flight demonstrated one of the many capabilities available for the defense of the ROK.

These routine missions reiterate the U.S. commitment to the security of our allies and partners. Despite challenges with fiscal constraints, training opportunities remain important to ensure U.S. and ROK forces are battle-ready and trained to employ airpower to deter aggression, defend the ROK, and defeat any attack against the alliance.

The CBP is an ongoing PACOM mission to bolster U.S. commitment to the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region while allowing units to become familiar with operating in the theater from a deployed location.

Andersen AFB has hosted the CBP since 2004 when Pacific Air Forces began to routinely deploy B-1, B-2, and B-52 aircraft to Guam on a rotational basis. The B-52 can perform a variety of missions including carrying precision-guided conventional or nuclear ordnance. PACOM will continue to support these training missions as part of on-going actions to enhance the strategic posture in the Asia-Pacific region.

Taking steps out of respect at Bataan Memorial Death March

by Airman 1st Class Colin Cates
49th Wing Public Affairs

3/19/2013 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -  -- As the sun rose on the New Mexico desert floor, thousands of people from the United States and countries around the world gathered to begin the 24th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., March 17.

The Bataan Memorial Death March honors the 80,000 Filipino and American troops who surrendered after the three-month Battle of Bataan on April 9, 1942, in which they fought to defend the islands of Luzon, Corregidor, and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.

After surrendering, they were forced to march 80 miles through the Philippine jungle, where more than 5,000 prisoners of war died before they could reach the capital of Bataan.

Thirteen survivors attended this year's march and welcomed 5,800 people who came to show respect and honor to the very men before them and those that were there on that historical day more than 70 years ago.

"I feel very inspired and honored that these veterans come here and also to see them on the course greeting participants," said U.S. Army Col. Leo G. Pullar, WSMR garrison commander. "An event like the Bataan Memorial Death March brings everyone together. It shows the love and support everyone has for our veterans and military. It gives you the chills and brings you to tears at the same time."

The remaining Bataan survivors are in their 90s, and the ones that are able to make it to the event get to share in the moment of being honored by so many and also share their wisdom.

"I feel humbled to see all the work that people put into making this event possible to honor us," said Oscar Leonard, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and Bataan survivor with the 28th Bomb Squadron. "I always look forward to coming to the Bataan and seeing fellow survivors, it gives us all the opportunity to enjoy each other's company along with sharing in the moment of what this event means to all of us."

Held annually since 1990, the memorial march offers two different courses -- a 26.2-mile trek and a 15-mile course. Both courses cover a multitude of difficult desert elements such as sand, rock and high desert winds, which is why this marathon is known as one of the most difficult courses in the world. This year, more than 1,200 volunteers distributed many gallons of water and Gatorade, as well as provided medical support and security to participants.

Many of the participants of the memorial march came to the event with one mindset and left with a different appreciation and respect for all our brothers and sisters in arms.

"It was amazing to be able to do this event," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tenaya [last name withheld due to operations security constraints], 29th Attack Squadron sensor operator instructor. "I wanted to do the event as a personal challenge, but was really surprised by the emotion of it. Seeing everyone gathered to honor these brave veterans and wounded warriors, you really start to feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself."

First Lady Recognizes Women Veterans, Addresses Unemployment

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 – First Lady Michelle Obama today honored 14 women veterans who, after serving honorably, continued as leaders at the local, state, regional or national level.

During a “Champions of Change” event at the White House, Obama also pledged to continue addressing ongoing employment challenges through her Joining Forces initiative, which -- among other things -- connects servicemen and women, veterans and military spouses with the resources they need to find jobs at home. The first lady co-sponsors Joining Forces with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

“You all are part of a long line of women who have broken barriers, … defied expectations and served this country with unparalleled courage and determination,” the first lady said to the veterans. “You’ve been on the front lines, often in the line of fire, and generation after generation, women like you have proven you not only serve alongside men, you lead them as well.”

Obama lauded the women for performing their jobs with “grace, … poise and dignity” wherever they’d served, and noted their demonstrated dedication and selfless service continues beyond their military obligations.

“You don’t stop serving [the country] after you hang up your uniforms,” she said. “You are the leaders in our businesses and schools and our communities. You’re mothers raising your kids with that same sense of honor that defines your own lives.”

Obama commended the women whose accomplishments include helping veterans and their families start businesses, promoting gender equality in the military, and working to end homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Being part of something bigger than ourselves … is the common thread that connects our 14 honorees,” Obama said. “We’re determined to ensure that all of our veterans and military families get the benefits, support and respect that they have earned.”

This mission, Obama said, is particularly urgent as hundreds of thousands of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking employment, or will be soon. “We have so many talented, highly skilled veterans who have so much to offer this country,” she said. “We need that service operating here at home.”
The first lady said she recently attended the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers representing more than 80 of the nation’s leading businesses.

“I challenged some of the biggest [companies] in this nation to hire and train even more of veterans and military spouses in the coming years,” she added, to ensure that veterans have access to the jobs they need and deserve when they return home.

Efforts under way include President Barack Obama offering tax credits to businesses hiring veterans or wounded warriors, as well as helping troops translate their skills and match them with civilian careers that suit their experiences. American Job Center, an online jobs bank, connects U.S. companies to veterans in local communities, the first lady said, and efforts continue to streamline the credentialing processes for military people to earn professional certifications.

“This work couldn’t be more urgent,” she said of the leagues of women hanging up their uniforms. “We know that right now is the time when you need us most.”

The first lady acknowledged that many women veterans face a critical transition.

“We are not going to stop working until all of our veterans and all of their families feel the support of the entire country,” she said. “We are proud of you, we are grateful and we’re going to keep working for our nation, because we still need you.”

The honorees are:

-- Navy veteran Tia Christopher of Davis, Calif., chief of staff for the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. She speaks nationally on women veterans’ issues, including testifying before the state and federal legislature about military sexual trauma. She wrote “You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are: A Straightforward Transition Manual.”

-- Stacy L. Pearsall of Charleston, S.C., a combat-disabled Air Force veteran who earned the Bronze Star Medal and commendation with valor for heroic actions under fire. She now plays a key role in developing new policy regarding veteran health care at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She singlehandedly funds and photographs veterans for the Veterans Portrait Project Foundation. Though disabled from combat injuries, Pearsall is a multi-medaled athlete, including gold, from the U.S. Paralympic Committee-sponsored Warrior Games in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

-- Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught of Arlington, Va., who was instrumental in building the $22.5 million Women’s Memorial at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery. She is now the President of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, the nation’s only major memorial to pay tribute to America’s 2.5 million women who have served.

-- Kayla Williams of Ashburn Va., who wrote “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army,” a memoir about her experiences negotiating the changing demands on women in today's military during a deployment to Iraq. Williams graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from Bowling Green State University, and earned a master of arts degree in international Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University.

-- Natasha Young of Boston, a fellowship recruitment associate at The Mission Continues, serving the northeastern and southeastern United States. A 12-year veteran of the Marine Corps, Young served two tours in Iraq and a recruiting tour stateside before a medical discharge in October 2011. She has dedicated herself to helping other veterans overcome the struggles of their transitions and emerge empowered not only to lead new lives of service, but also to set the example for others to follow.

-- Ginger Miller of Accokeek, Md., founder and CEO of Women Veterans Interactive, which is dedicated to meeting women veterans at their points of need and actively promotes the importance of tailoring services to women veterans’ needs. She has organized women veteran programs that feature information, mentoring and peer support. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed her to the Maryland Commission for Women and the Maryland Caregivers Support Coordinating Council.

-- Michelle Racicot, of Albuquerque, N.M., a family nurse practitioner at an urgent care center. A former Army Nurse Corps officer who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Racicot is the vice executive director for American Women Veterans, a national organization that advocates on behalf of servicewomen, veterans, and their families. Racicot educates legislators and local community members about homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, women in combat and health disparities.

-- Retired Navy Capt. Glenna Tinney of Arlington, Va., who for more than three decades has facilitated change in both the civilian and military systems to eliminate violence against women. She is the military advocacy program coordinator for the Battered Women’s Justice Project, a national technical assistance provider for the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women. As one of the original 12 Navy social workers recruited for active duty in 1980, Tinney served for 24 years working with military families and managing worldwide family violence and sexual assault programs. Today, she manages a special project funded by OVW to develop a model coordinated community response to co-occurring incidents of combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence.

-- Dawn Halfaker of Arlington, Va., who was seriously injured during a combat patrol near Baghdad in 2004. She formed Halfaker and Associates in 2006 to empower veterans through meaningful careers. Today, her team has more than 130 employees.

-- Priscilla Mondt of Fayetteville, Ark., chief of chaplain service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center there. An Army veteran who served in operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, Mondt received the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit. Her approach to spiritual care, from personal care to technology, set a high standard for addressing the needs of veteran patients and families.

-- Marsha Tansey Four of Philadelphia, an in-country Vietnam veteran who sits on the national board of directors for Vietnam Veterans of America, and has devoted the past 24 years to working with and advocating for veterans by contributing, writing, and delivering testimony related to veterans issues on local, state and federal levels. In 1993, Tansey initiated the Philadelphia Stand Down for Homeless Veterans and recently retired as the executive director of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, a nonprofit agency providing free, comprehensive services to regional veterans.

-- Sharie Derrickson, of Nashville, Tenn., who served at the military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper and was a combat photojournalist with Navy Combat Camera. She is now the vice president of New Wind Energy Solutions in Nashville, where she and her team are committed to global sustainability, vetting the newest technologies to ensure they are not only reliable, but practical, and affordable. She has helped her company grow through projects around the world, including international relief efforts.

-- Marylyn Harris of Houston, who in 2010 founded the nation’s first and only Women Veterans Business Center there to educate and empower women veterans and their families in starting their own businesses. A former Army nurse and disabled war veteran, Harris travels throughout the country advocating for active service members, veterans and military families.

-- Becky Kanis of Los Angeles, who served for nine years as an Army officer after her 1991 graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Unwilling to continue obscuring her sexual orientation, she resigned her commission in 2000 and soon began working to end homelessness in New York City. After helping to reduce street homelessness in Times Square by more than two thirds, Kanis became the director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a grassroots nationwide effort to find and house 100,000 of the most chronic and vulnerable homeless people by July 2014. Under her leadership, more than 37,000 homeless Americans, including 13,000 veterans, have found permanent homes. In 2012, she co-founded the Social Change Agency with her wife, Christine, to support nonprofit leaders in creating thriving teams that change the world.