Military News

Saturday, April 06, 2013

NHL Team Hosts 10th Annual Military Appreciation Night

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

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals here yesterday to celebrate military service during the team’s annual Military Appreciation Night.

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. spoke at the event following his introduction by the hockey team’s majority owner, Ted Leonsis, who’s also the chief executive officer of Monumental Sports Entertainment, which co-sponsored the appreciation night.

“There are a lot of great things about the national capital region that we all get to enjoy -- the history of this great city, the museums and the incredible support we receive from this community,” Winnefeld said.

“I was here last year; I had the opportunity to experience this great event,” the admiral added. “I’m very really delighted and honored, frankly, to be here this evening.”

The Capitals wore camouflaged jerseys during the pregame warm-up. Those jerseys would be autographed and auctioned off, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization that helps people who have lost a military loved one.
The vice chairman noted that the Capitals distributed 500 free tickets to last night’s game to service members and their families, and he expressed gratitude on behalf of troops and their families for the support the organization has provided to the military community.

Leonsis said the Capitals have donated 30,000 tickets during the past 10 years to local military bases.

“Thanks to the whole organization, the management and all the people who work hard every day for this organization,” Winnefeld said. “I know what that’s like, and we really appreciate what you all do, in addition to your fabulous owner group here, to take care of our military folks here.”
The vice chairman noted that it’s not just the military that keeps the nation safe. “Our national security apparatus is a partnership between industry and the military,” he said, “and it’s very, very important that we all remember that.”

Winnefeld and Leonsis pointed out that in addition to TAPS, the Capitals support many military support organizations, including the Fisher House Foundation, the USO’s metropolitan Washington office, and Our Military Kids.

“We call this a family business in the military,” the admiral said. “It’s not just about the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen out there every day defending our country. It’s about their families, too.”

Winnefeld said events such as Military Appreciation Night set the Capitals organization apart from many others.

“It’s really special to us when an organization helps us take care of, not only our troopers, but also our families,” he said. “So thank you. We look forward to watching the action on the ice tonight.”
The Capitals edged the New York Islanders 2-1, securing the victory in a shootout when regulation time and a sudden-death overtime period ended with the teams deadlocked at a goal apiece.

Defenders of Freedom Open House & Air Show Cancelled

4/3/2013 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE Neb. -- The 2013 Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show, scheduled for Aug. 24-25, has been cancelled.

Driven by operating budget uncertainties and sequestration, U.S. Air Force leadership at all levels are proactively implementing actions to minimize impact to military readiness while protecting wartime operations.

"The Department of Defense and the Air Force are facing difficult fiscal challenges, which requires us to make some tough decisions here at Offutt," said Col. John Rauch, 55th Wing commander. "One of those tough decisions includes cancelling this year's air show. We sincerely enjoy opening our gates to the public and appreciate the tremendous support we get from Bellevue, Omaha and the surrounding communities, but with the current guidance and fiscal restraints we can't host an air show."

The decision to cancel the air show and open house at Offutt was not easy considering the show's popularity. Offutt's open house and air show has been held annually since 1972.

"We understand how important the air show is to the local community and it's equally important for us," Rauch said. "It gives us a chance to provide the public with an up-close look at our military, its capabilities and the amazing things our military members do each and every day. For that reason, we are already looking ahead to when we hope to once again host our air show and open house."

No dates for future Defenders of Freedom shows have been set at this time.

Dempsey: North Korea’s Activities Follow Familiar Pattern

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

STUTTGART, Germany, April 5, 2013 – Although they have generated tension in the United States, North Korea’s recent activities are part of a cycle, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

"There's been a pattern throughout the last 25 or 30 years of provocation to accommodation to provocation back to accommodation,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters who traveled here with him for today’s U.S. Africa Command change of command.

The chairman said he hasn't seen anything yet to suggest that this time is different, “but we're all concerned that it could be something different because of the presence of a new and much younger leader and our inability to understand who influences him.”

North Korea has long been a bit opaque, the general said.

“But in the past, we've understood their leadership and the influencers a little better than we do today,” he said.

Though the United States has little information about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he is carrying out a pattern similar to the one his predecessors followed, Dempsey noted. What is new, he said, is the bellicosity from North Korea’s leadership, especially in response to the annual Foal Eagle field training exercise involving U.S. and South Korean forces.

“There's been some speculation that our activities have been provocative,” Dempsey said, “but our activities have been largely defensive and exclusively intended to reassure our allies." North Korea's rhetoric, on the other hand, has been reckless, he added.

"We've been deliberate and measured, and the rhetoric, … that's been pretty reckless,” the chairman said, particularly given North Korea’s ballistic missile capability.

“And we believe they have nuclear capability,” Dempsey added. “We don't know whether they've been able to weaponize it, but the combination of that makes it a very reckless statement.”

The United States is trying to be deliberate and measured and to assure its allies that, despite spending cuts, “we'll live up to our alliance obligations and protect our national interest,” Dempsey said.

“That's not being bellicose,” he added. “That's being very matter-of-fact.”

Dempsey will travel to China later this month, and he recently spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui.

"We both agreed in that telephone conversation that we did need to speak about North Korea," the chairman said.

A number of challenges surround North Korea, Dempsey told reporters. He noted that the upcoming trip provides an opening to learn face-to-face the implications for China and to explain the implications for the United States and its allies.

"Looking at these issues in isolation is a guarantee that we'll fail to understand them. What I'm not going to do is go over there and deliver the traditional talking point about, 'Can't you get your southern neighbor under control?'” the chairman said.

“I know the answer to that question," he continued. "I would rather take the opportunity to gain a little deeper understanding of … their issues. … I think that's kind of the basis of understanding."

Revised Security Question Helps Sexual Assault Victims

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 – Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper today issued new guidance for a question that deals with mental health treatment on the questionnaire that must be completed by those seeking national security positions and security clearances.

In a statement issued to announce the change, Clapper said he decided to add an exemption supporting victims of sexual assault after consulting with members of Congress, Defense Department officials and those of other federal agencies, and with victim advocacy groups.

The guidance applies to Question 21 on Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, which is used by military personnel and government employees and contractors to apply for a security clearance. It is effective for all executive branch departments and agencies, the director said.

The revision is the latest of about 10 changes to the mental health question made since the 1950s, said Charles Sowell, deputy assistant director of national intelligence for special security, who spoke with reporters today during a teleconference.

Clapper said the guidance is intended to help victims of sexual assault who hold or wish to hold a government security clearance, but may be reluctant to seek mental health counseling for fear that they may have to disclose the counseling on their application.

The revision lets victims of sexual assault answer “No” to Question 21, which asks applicants if they have in the last seven years consulted with a health care professional about an emotional or mental health condition or if they were similarly hospitalized, the director said.

 The formal revision is a potentially lengthy process that includes publishing proposed changes in the Federal Register, so Clapper issued this interim guidance to encourage sexual assault victims to more quickly seek mental health services they may need.

Sowell said that there are about 4.9 million cleared or eligible individuals among military service members and government employees and contractors.

Over the past two years, a working group of mental health professionals, legal experts, civil rights and civil liberties professionals, security professionals and lawyers looked at Question 21 specifically, Sowell said.
“We were trying to get away from asking about the fact of mental health counseling and getting to a question that focuses on an individual's ability to function appropriately in the workplace. … That's really what we care about,” he added.

Late last year, he said, “it became very clear that revising Question 21 in its entirety, which is Director Clapper's absolute goal here, is going to take some time to get that wording right.”

As a result, Sowell added, Clapper decided to add the interim guidance in the short term to allow victims of sexual assault to answer “No” to Question 21, whether or not they've had mental health counseling, while officials completely revise the question.

The only other specific exemptions -- approved in 2008 by DOD, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget -- are for family, grief and marital counseling unrelated to violence, and counseling after military combat service.

Clapper said the following language will be added to Question 21.2: "Please respond to this question with the following additional instruction: Victims of sexual assault who have consulted with a health care professional regarding an emotional or mental health condition during this period strictly in relation to the sexual assault are instructed to answer ‘No.’"

The interim guidance instructs all agencies to make sure that all personnel are trained specifically on the contents of the policy, Clapper said. The guidance asserts that unauthorized questioning or denial of a security clearance based solely on mental health counseling would be “inconsistent with the interim policy guidance,” he added.

Clapper thanked the legislators, executive branch officials and advocacy groups who supported the revision. “Through our combined efforts,” he said, “victims of sexual assault will be encouraged to seek the mental health services they may need while feeling safe that their privacy protections are strictly enforced.”
Sowell said the exemption has a two-fold impact.

“First, it allows victims of sexual assault to get the help that they may need and get mental health counseling without fear of losing their clearance,” he said. “Second, we believe it significantly enhances national security because people who were in cleared positions and may not have been getting the help that they need can now do so. And we think that this is a great outcome.”

Immediately, Sowell said, electronic questionnaires for the investigations processing system, commonly known as e-QIP, which is managed by the Office of Personnel Management, will have a pop-up window so that when an applicant reaches Question 21, a pop-up window will come up with the new guidance. Clapper is issuing a memorandum to all executive agencies and departments highlighting this change, he added.
“And we will be working with our partners throughout government, Congress, and the advocacy groups that have partnered with us on this to get the information out to constituents and stakeholders that have contacted them informally,” Sowell said.

Clapper said the interim guidance reaffirms that an individual’s decision to seek mental health care alone can’t adversely impact his or her ability to obtain or maintain eligibility to hold a national security sensitive position or eligibility for access to classified information. Further, he said, mental health counseling alone can’t form the basis of a denial of a security clearance.

“The decision to seek personal wellness and recovery should not be perceived to jeopardize an individual’s security clearance and may favorably affect a person’s eligibility determination,” the director said.

Individuals who do answer “Yes” to Question 21 are protected by limitations on the scope of questions that background investigators are allowed to ask health care practitioners in determining whether the individual has a condition that could impair his or her judgment, reliability or ability to properly safeguard classified information, Clapper said, adding that such protections apply to all kinds of mental health counseling.
“I believe this interim policy guidance will positively impact national security,” he added. “The U.S. government recognizes the critical importance of mental health and supports proactive management of mental health conditions, wellness and recovery.”

Airman Battles Sexual, Physical Abuse

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Carissa Lee
48th Fighter Wing

LAKENHEATH, England, April 5, 2013 – It's often said that joining the military can change a person's life. For Air Force Master Sgt. Michelle Blake, flight chief for medical readiness with the 48th Medical Group at the Royal Air Force base here, joining the Air Force not only changed her life, but also saved her life.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Michelle Blake, abused as a child, is now a volunteer for the sexual assault response coordinator victims' advocate program. U.S. Air Force photo and graphic by Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha

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Blake has endured things that most people cannot imagine -- things that began at the young age of 4, when she was sexually abused by a family friend. She said that after the abuse was discovered, it wasn't dealt with.

"I'm not sure if it was to hide it or to avoid embarrassment. ... Either way, it was kept quiet," she said.

Not being able to deal with what happened to her as a child caused her to become a difficult teenager, she said. "All of the issues I had came to a head,” she added. “My parents sent me to boarding school; I saw them twice a year. That's not enough time or room to express yourself to your family."

The daughter of a British father and an Argentinean mother, Blake attended boarding school in Malaysia. "When I was 15, I ran away back to England, and I met the man who would become the father of my children," she said. "I met him in Ipswich, where I'm from. He was 25. I didn't see a problem with that at the time, because he made me feel like a grown-up. I clung to him. Soon after, the abuse began. ... I didn't know where to go or who to ask for help, and I was ashamed that it was happening to me, and I always hoped that every time he hurt me, that would be the last time."

They married when she was 18, and things went from bad to worse when they moved from England to Savannah, Ga. Life was less than perfect.

"He didn't hold a job, and we were living in shambles," she said. "We had little money, little income. And then I found out I was pregnant with our second child."

She described the abuse as "both physical and emotional.”

“Bruises heal and fade over time, but the emotional abuse, ... that takes much, much longer,” she said. “He broke me. But the one thing that kept my hope alive was my sons. I recall holding my youngest son one night and telling him, 'I WILL get you out of here.'"

It was then that she decided to join the Air Force, to provide a better way of life for her children. After she arrived at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for basic military training, she said, she began to notice her self-confidence growing.

"It was as if I had a voice for the first time in years," she recalled. "Basic training was enlightening for me. I felt like I had an opinion for once -- that there was more to life than what I had been doing with mine."
She made the decision while at basic training to divorce her husband; however, she didn't tell him until she arrived at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, for technical training. As expected, he didn't take the news well.
"He showed up at Sheppard and he attacked me,” Blake said. “I ran away from him. ... People saw this, but nobody stepped up to help. I ended up running to my military training leader, and she locked me in her office.
“She was a tiny little woman, but she stood up to this bully,” Blake continued. “She was the first person to ever do that. The cops came, and he was escorted off the base. In the end, the state of Texas ended up pressing charges against him. He got two years’ probation, had to attend anger management courses and had a restraining ordered filed on him."

For Blake, that signaled the start of a new life for her and her sons. With the help of the Air Force's family advocacy programs, she began to regain her emotional strength. It has been a long journey for her, but she said that during the past 12 years, she has seen definite changes for the better in the way the Air Force educates its members about the importance of bystander intervention.

"I'm not sure it was a phrase people even knew back then [in 1999] when this occurred,” she said. “Today, people are way more knowledgeable and recognize the need to step in and stop things before they go from bad to worse."

Blake said she also found comfort in becoming a volunteer for the sexual assault response coordinator victims' advocate program, by being a sounding board for others who had gone through situations similar to hers.

"I wanted to tell them that it is NOT their fault -- that no matter how lonely or afraid they were, there is always somebody to listen, someone who wants to hear what you have to say," she said.

Another positive that came from her involvement with the SARC program was meeting her husband.
"That is where I met my now husband, Tech. Sgt. Lucian Blake,” she said. “He was a volunteer, and I helped him on a high school awareness project. We became firm friends from the first day, and have been together ever since. He has helped me a lot with my growth, both emotionally and spiritually."

He also helped her find her voice. As a teenager, Blake said, she found great joy in singing and music. However, when her life entered the turbulent times, she added, she couldn't even bring herself to turn on the radio.

"I stopped singing and listening to music,” she said. “It didn't bring me joy anymore. ... At that time, nothing did." But nearly 20 years later, she found the courage to raise her voice in church.

"My oldest son left for Lackland Air Force Base last week to begin his Air Force career," she said. "Our church had a special send-off for him, and my farewell gift to my son was to get up and sing solo for the first time in two decades. It was a gift for him, but also for me."

With that, although her life has not come full circle, she said, she sees light now.

"I used to live in darkness, but now I'm excited to get up in the morning each day to see what God has in store for me,” Blake said. “He has protected me, and I can say for sure now that even if your voice is tiny, somebody will hear you."

DOD Program Works to Help Stressed Military Parents

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 – With April designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Defense Department is highlighting its commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect among military families, especially through the Family Advocacy Program, and providing those who need it with counseling.

The FAP focuses on strengthening family resilience though visits and counseling with new military parents, as well as on educating young families about the stresses of parenting and what it takes to maintain healthy relationships especially when some members are deployed.

The department has created the New Parent Support Program, a voluntary home-visiting program aimed at helping parents-to-be or those with young children adapt to parenthood through classes, community support groups and other forms of instruction.

“Our whole goal is to provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment for our military families, especially for our military children,” Kathy Robertson, the director of the Family Advocacy Program, told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel. Key to that, she said, is helping families find the social connections and resources within their base or community to get through the challenges of military life.
“We have young military families who are away from their own immediate family who need to rely on us and we need to support them,” she said.

Robertson said the level of child abuse and neglect in the military is comparable to society at large, noting that the services had more than 15,000 reports in 2011 of allegations of child abuse and neglect. Neglect -- often related to a lack of supervision, rather than abuse -- is the most frequent situation in those cases, she added.

“We believe it has risen with the result of the wars, with the number of deployments, with levels of depression in some of the parents,” Robertson said. “So we’re doing all we can to reach out to these families.”

Families wanting to learn more about programs designed to prevent abuse and those seeking counseling are urged to contact family centers on their base or installation or through

“We have over 1,900 professionals working for DOD and family advocacy who work tirelessly every day and are very dedicated to support families,” Robertson emphasized. “Child Abuse Prevention Month gives us the opportunity to really look at what we’re doing, how effective it is, and what more we can do.”

Vets Find ‘Miracle on the Mountain’ at Winter Sports Clinic

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo., April 5, 2013 – About 400 disabled veterans, many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are discovering the power of sports and camaraderie in their recuperation as they experience what’s recognized here as the “Miracle on the Mountain.”

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Mark Struss, left, a volunteer adaptive ski instructor for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village, Colo., shows Dennis Cataldo an app on his cell phone that registered that Cataldo skiied down Snowmass Mountain at 29 mph, April 4, 2013. Cataldo, a Marine corporal who suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress after falling from a 7-ton truck during a 2003 firefight in Nasiriyah, Iraq, said the camaraderie of the clinic provides a big boost to his recovery. DOD photo by Donna Miles

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The veterans are participants in the 27th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, a six-day program of activities that wraps up tonight.

The clinic, jointly sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Department and Disabled American Veterans, uses recreation as a rehabilitative tool for veterans with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries and orthopedic amputations to visual impairment and neurological conditions.

As they learn adaptive and Nordic skiing and get introduced to other adaptive physical activities and sports, their eyes get opened to a whole new world of opportunity.

Former Army Spc. Tatiana Reyes returned for her second year at the clinic after discovering its transformational powers. Suffering nerve damage, a traumatic brain injury and third-degree burns when the gun truck she was driving hit an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007, Reyes had retreated inwardly to help in dealing with her condition.

She said she initially resisted her VA caregiver’s recommendation that she give the clinic a try, but after experiencing it, has never looked back.

“Everything just changed for me,” she said. “I had fun, and I started to be involved with the world.”
The camaraderie of the clinic has been a big boost for Dennis Cataldo, a Marine corporal who suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress after falling from a 7-ton truck during a 2003 firefight in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

Like Reyes, Cataldo said he withdrew from those around him, finding that crowds triggered his symptoms. Working with the staff at VA’s New Jersey Health Care System, Cataldo said, he’s using breathing and meditation techniques to develop mindfulness and keep his emotions in check.

Those techniques have paid off with his skiing, too, Cataldo said. After a spin down Snowmass Mountain, his adaptive ski instructor, Mark Struss, showed him an app on his cell phone that had Cataldo at 29 mph.
Taking a minute to savor the moment, Cataldo said the welcoming atmosphere he’s found among fellow veterans, staff and volunteers at the clinic have been big steps in his rehabilitation. “The people here are great,” he said. “They just can’t do enough for you.”

Former Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Henry Sawyer was at the top of his game -- literally -- when he suffered a spinal cord injury in February 2010 while playing semipro football for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Duval Panthers.

A lifelong athlete, Sawyer refused to let a wheelchair get in the way of his passion, and quickly recognized its value in his rehabilitation. He’s a past participant in the Defense Department’s Warrior Games, and a first-timer at this year’s winter sports clinic.

“I try to participate in every event I can, because I want to get my mobility back,” he said. “I want it back 100 percent.”

Sawyer called his first-ever experience on skis this week a triumph, if not necessarily from an athletic standpoint, at least emotionally.

“I loved it!” he said. “Stuff like that really boosts me up!”

He said he recognizes that the same mental attitude that propelled his football career is a key to his rehabilitation.

“You can’t stay down,” he said. “You have to have a joyful spirit.” A big part of that, he added, is the camaraderie of fellow disabled veterans he’s meeting at the clinic.

As he awaited a clinic-sponsored trip to Aspen to ride the gondola for a mountaintop all-terrain vehicle ride, Sawyer sat in deep conversation with former Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Baker, a third-year clinic participant.

Baker, in a wheelchair since a 2008 car accident, said he understands the trepidation some first-time attendees experience when they arrive at the clinic. So he makes a special effort to reach out to them, as well as to others just learning to live with their disabilities.

“You always run into someone who hasn’t been in a chair as long as I have, and maybe I can offer them some little tips,” he said. “I’m always looking for an opportunity to offer some help. I’ve found that the best way to help myself is to help other people.”

Dempsey to Host South Korean Counterparts

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will host South Korean military leaders at the Pentagon this month for long-planned consultative meetings, a senior defense official said today.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters that such senior-level meetings are important to maintaining effective cooperation between the two nations’ militaries. The last such meetings took place in October, he added, saying the two countries agreed then to hold an additional meeting this month.

Little said the annual U.S.-South Korea Foal Eagle exercise now underway in South Korea is proceeding normally, despite North Korea’s recent threats of attack.

“These exercises are important as a demonstration of alliance assurance and deterrence assurance,” he said. “We have been responsible and prudent in how we conduct these exercises.”

Little didn’t comment on news reports of missile movements or launch preparations by the North Korean military, but he said Pyongyang’s recent rhetoric has been “bellicose, overheated and unproductive” and the country’s leaders need to “behave in a different way.”

“They really do need to come into compliance with their international obligations, and further provocative action would be regrettable,” he said.

New Horizons' supplies arrive at Belize port

by Capt Holly Hess
Task Force Mahogany Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - BELIZE CITY, Belize -- Nineteen containers arrived to the port of Belize April 2 on U.S. Army Vessels Runnymede and Brandy Station.

The containers were filled with supplies for New Horizons, a U.S. Southern Command exercise providing medical and dental treatment as well as constructs needed structures, such as classrooms, throughout Belize.

New Horizons gives U.S., Canadian and Belizean personnel an opportunity to train jointly in an exercise setting, in order to be prepared to meet future challenges.

This is the second shipment received at the port for the exercise.

Master Sgt. Wilbert Hall, logistics superintendent assigned to the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, was responsible for coordinating the offload of the goods, accounting for the items, and arranging transportation to get them to proper locations.

"It is an excellent program," said Hall. "I enjoy helping others. It is great to help other countries and have them see a different part of what we do."

Hall also stated he really enjoys working with the Belizeans.

"They are great people, really personable people," Hall said. "They are glad we are here and do anything they can do to help."

The shipment contained approximately 418 tons of items, to include materials to build the classrooms, medical supplies and equipment.

Civil engineers, from both the U.S. and Belize, are constructing various structures with the items received from the shipment at schools in Ladyville, Crooked Tree and Orange Walk to support furthering the education for the children in the country. Construction is already underway at the four classroom locations.

In addition, doctors and medical specialists from the U.S., Canada, and Belize will provide humanitarian assistance and medical care to the local communities and are scheduled to be in Punta Gorda, Dangriga, Orange Walk, and Belmopan various times during the exercise.

The first clinic to provide free medical services is scheduled to be in Punta Gorda April 8 and 9 and at St. Peter Claver R. C. School April 10 to 12 at San Pedro Columbia School. The clinic has the capacity to serve approximately 500 patients per day.

The 19 containers are scheduled to arrive to various sites throughout Belize by April 6.

Air Force selects second ever enlisted legislative fellow

by Senior Airman Allen Pollard
9th RW Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- The United States Air Force has announced Senior Master Sgt. Lavor Kirkpatrick, 12th Reconnaissance Squadron imagery analyst instructor, as its 2nd ever enlisted legislative fellow. There were 21 nominations for this year's Secretary of the Air Force Legislative Liaison fellowship.

Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, along with Chief Master Sgt. Robert White, 9th RW command chief, gave the highest recommendations and regards to Kirkpatrick endorsing him for the position.

"Senior Master Sgt. Kirkpatrick is an incredibly talented senior non-commissioned officer," said Stewart. "He is an exemplary leader and will be a superb Air Force Enlisted Legislative Fellow."

For the first six months Kirkpatrick will go through his developmental rotational tour as well as taking Georgetown University classes to prepare him for his one year assignment on Capitol Hill.

Responsibilities of fellows include drafting legislation, floor debate preparation, planning and analysis of public policy, serving as a congressional liaison, and providing legislative support to the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force.

"Senior Master Sgt Kirkpatrick is on fire," Stewart said. "He and his Airmen play a critical role in delivering globally integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of national objectives and have done so without fail."

The selection came as a surprise to Kirkpatrick who said he became disheartened as the selection date past. One week later his squadron's secretary informed him that he missed a call from Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody.

Kirkpatrick said he was confused and convinced this was a hoax. When he called the number back Cody personally notified and congratulated him for his selection.

"I was excited and quickly called my wife to inform her we're moving to D.C. this summer," Kirkpatrick said. "My family was elated and knowing I have their love and support made it easy for me to take this position."

In his 14-year career Kirkpatrick was selected for promotion to each enlisted grade the first time except for Tech. Sgt. which he attained on his second attempt.

Kirkpatrick also earned the Commandants Award at the NCO Academy, John L. Levitow recipient at the SNCO Academy, and was a distinguished graduate for both.

"I am extremely honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as the Air Force's second legislative enlisted fellow," Kirkpatrick said. "I will represent the Air Force, the enlisted core, and the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance community in a positive way."

Cold War drone calls Beale home

by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE Calif. -- Overshadowed by the SR-71 Blackbird in Heritage Park at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., sits a lesser known piece of military history, the D-21 Drone.

The mission of the D-21 was to provide high altitude aerial reconnaissance carrying a single high-resolution camera over a pre-programmed location and eject its hatch containing the film into the ocean, where it could be retrieved.

Originally designed in the early 1960s, the drone was meant to launch from a modified A-12 Blackbird known as the M-21, which is a predecessor of the SR-71. However, the program failed to perform high altitude high speed launches from this airframe.

"This was the most dangerous maneuver we have ever been involved in, in any aero plane I have ever worked on," said Kelly Johnson, the man in charge of the "Skunk Works" team and designer of the A-12.

In late 1967 a unique Air Force unit, the 4200th Test Squadron was formed at Beale to operate modified D-21s, which were subsequently launched from B-52 Stratofortress.

The B-52H D-21 combination, code named "Senior Bowl," flew a number of operational missions before the program ended in 1971.

The D-21 could ascend to altitudes more than 90,000 feet and exceed speeds more than 2,500 miles per hour.

Today the U.S. military has a multitude of remotely piloted aircraft which are successors of the D-21 Drone, flying missions around the globe.

Missile Defenders Trained, Ready for Deployment, General Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 – Missile defenders preparing for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System to Guam are ready for the mission, the Army general at their home station reported, noting his full confidence in the ability of U.S. air defense systems to protect against North Korean missiles.

“We don’t know the duration of the deployment, but what we do know is that they are ready,” Army Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, Texas, said today during a news conference at the fort.

“They are trained, they are ready, and they will do the mission,” Pittard said.

The Defense Department announced earlier this week its plans to deploy a THAAD system to Guam as a precautionary move to strengthen the regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.

All three of the Army’s THAAD batteries, part of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, are based at Fort Bliss. The THAAD system is a land-based missile defense system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar and an integrated fire control system.

Once deployed, the THAAD system will work in tandem with other missile defense systems in the region to provide multi-tiered protection, Pittard explained. Aegis cruisers and other air defense systems will provide lower-level coverage. Patriot missiles and other systems will provide defenses at slightly higher altitudes.
The THADD system operates at the next level, capable of shooting down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. The THADD interceptors use a “hit-to-kill approach,” relying on the kinetic energy of the impact to destroy the incoming missile.

These layered air defenses could take out a missile launched by North Korea “fairly quickly,” Pittard said.
“We are very confident of that,” he added.

The THAAD deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there, the Defense Department said in an April 3 news release announcing the deployment that’s expected in the coming weeks.

“The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, allies and national interests,” the release said.

Pittard responded to questions about the THAAD deployment during a news conference announcing the largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history. Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized El Paso Electric to start work on a 20-megawatt solar farm on the post, which will power a large percentage of its activities.

Drill Team presents arms at JB MDL

by Airman Sean M. Crowe
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performed a demonstration and recruited potential candidates at the 305th Aerial Port Squadron's Dock 23 here March 28, 2013.

The drill team members spun, flipped and tossed authentic M1 rifles, with bayonets attached, while marching and moving precisely to their coordinated locations. The crowd was encouraged to cheer and clap to show the team members' concentration could not be broken.

Master Sgt. Whitfield Jack, USAF HG superintendent, marched between two lines of members spinning rifles, twice, for the walk through gauntlet maneuver. The drill team members threw rifles in the air to their counterparts in another display.

"The difference between the discipline the USAF HG enacts with their drill and the basics of drill we use at base-level honor guard is incredible," said Airman 1st Class Megan Ross, 6th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "One of my favorite parts of the performance was the master sergeant walking between the rows of spinning rifles. I also really enjoyed when they swapped rifles by standing them on the ground and just letting go."

Audience members were allowed to ask the drill team members questions after a brief slideshow presentation. Audience members asked questions about requirements to join the team and experiences team members have had.

The drill team, along with the USAF HG's other sections, represent the Air Force through precise drill and support the mission through public performances and serving as the Air Force's ambassadors. The USAF HG differs from base honor guards as the USAF HG representing the whole Air Force and dedicates more time.

"USAF HG members first are interviewed before going through an eight-week tech school," said Senior Airman Alexander Wilson, USAF HG Drill Team member and Detroit native. "The training is extremely intense with 12-hour days of physical training. The course is designed to weed out weaker members. After making it into the USAF HG, you can try out for the Drill Team, where you will undergo more training."

The Airmen, ranging from junior-enlisted Airmen through field-grade officers, constantly train to be the most precise drill team in the U.S. armed forces. The drill team won in a drill competition against the highest-level honor guards of its sister services 2011 and 2012.

The drill team members all agreed the USAF HG provides Airmen with opportunities to grow professionally and individually.

"One of my favorite aspects of this job is mentoring young Airmen," said Jack. "NCOs here are responsible for six to eight Airmen on average. This experience has prepared me to be a great leader wherever I may go."

The minimum requirements to join the USAF HG are:

--Members must be eligible for a permanent change of station reassignment. Reference AFI 36-2110, Assignments Quality Control, paragraph 2.40 for specific requirements.

--Performance reports must show the applicant has consistently demonstrated high standards of character, discretion, loyalty and performance.

--No physical disqualifiers, to include history of posture, back, knee, feet, joint or equilibrium problems.

--20/20 vision is required, or it must be correctable via contact lenses.

--Must present impeccable military image and conform to exact grooming standards. No shaving waivers are allowed.

--No fear of firearms or a history of anxiety, emotional or nervous system disorders.

--Ability to speak clearly and distinctly with no speech impediment.

--Desired height requirement for males is 5'10" and for females it is 5'6".

--Have no conviction under the uniformed code of military justice during current enlistment.

"The training is arduous, but it merits a sense of pride," said Wilson. "We are all really close due to the immense amount of time we spend together, so we have a lot of fun at work. This is a one-of-a-kind career that I would recommend anyone interested to pursue."

Grand Forks AFB civilian wins AMC legal services award

by Staff Sgt. Susan Davis
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - GRAND FORKS AFB, N.D. -- Marie L. Aubrey, 319th Air Base Wing legal assistant, was recently named the winner of the 2012 Harold R. Vague Award for Civilian Outstanding Legal Services for Air Mobility Command.

Over the course of the year, Aubrey drafted 367 powers of attorney and notarized 752 legal documents, saving 413 clients an estimated $18,500 in legal fees.

Aubrey's passion for assisting victims of domestic violence also contributed greatly to the nod; since January 2012, she has attended five Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) training courses and a three-day National Crime Victims Conference, expanding her knowledge and skills to ensure domestic violence victims receive the best possible support.

She also briefed five wing agencies on CVIC's mission, bolstering awareness of domestic violence services, as well as 12 Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) committee members on victims' rights and court procedures.

"I am very humbled to have received this award," she said. "There are many folks who have contributed to my nomination for this award over the past year. Master Sgt. Jessica Taylor, who took the time to write this award package, as well as Maj. Michael Thieme, and Lt. Col. Michael Safko , who reviewed and submitted it. Everyone working in the legal office has contributed to the quality of our legal assistance service as well as the customers we serve on a daily basis."

Aubrey expressed disbelief at how quickly her nearly four decades of civil service have gone by.

"It truly has been a pleasure working here at Grand Forks AFB for the past 17 years, with 13 of those years having been spent at the legal office," she said. "I can't believe how quickly the time has passed when I realize that I've been working for the federal government for more than 36 years now."

The award is named for Air Force Maj. Gen. Harold R. Vague, who held the position of the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Air Force from 1973-1977.

The annual winner is a civilian employee selected as the most outstanding employee based upon demonstrated excellence, initiative, teaming and devotion to duty. Eligible candidates are civilians, excluding attorneys, employed by or serving with the Judge Advocate General Corps (TJAGC) and providing legal and/or administrative support to TJAGC's legal offices.

Aubrey previously won the award in the same category at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center. She moves on to compete at the Air Force level.

Solano County, Travis team up for children

by 1st Lt. Angela Martin
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of Solano County and Travis Air Force Base united at the Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting in Fairfield April 2 for the presentation of a resolution recognizing April as Month of the Military Child.

Month of the Military Child was established by the fifteenth Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in 1986 to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices they make, as well as the challenges they overcome during times of separation.

The resolution was presented by Supervisor Skip Thompson of Solano County, who explained that personal ties to the military made the recognition of military children especially important to him.

"Affectionately known as a military brat, I have fond memories of the military," Thompson said.

The resolution explained that more than 1 million of America's children have at least one parent currently serving in the active military.

"These children are a source of pride and honor to all of us. It is only fitting that we take time to recognize the contributions, celebrate the spirit, and let the men and women in the military know that while they're taking care of us, we're taking care of their children," Thompson read.

Col. John Klein, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, echoed the remarks of the resolution.

"These children make sacrifices and serve their country as much as anyone in uniform does," he said. "They might not understand the significance of their service, but it's important to recognize them and help them understand their significance."

According to Shirley Collins, 60th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Services Flight chief, there are about 880 children enrolled in programs for children at Travis. These programs include the child development centers, the youth center and various special events throughout the year.

"What's really neat about what we do for children is we couldn't do it without the community embracing us," Collins said.

Dyess, Abilene Firefighters battle Commissary fire

by Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Dyess Fire Department with a mutual aid response from the City of Abilene Fire Department in Texas teamed up to extinguish a fire that broke out at the base commissary March 25.

The fire was reported at approximately 5:30 p.m. and was under control and extinguished by 6:30 p.m. About 30 Dyess firefighters and eight Abilene firefighters responded to the scene.

Alerted by the fire detection system and a 911 call from the occupants, firefighters were able to arrive on-scene in less than five minutes. All occupants of the building were evacuated safely and no injuries were reported.

Once on scene, Dyess firefighters conducted a preliminary search of the building, and discovered smoke coming from the roof.

"When we got on the roof, we discovered smoke coming from the northwest corner," said Bill Morris, Dyess AFB firefighter. "We started spraying water and vented the roof using a saw to gain access to the fire. The roofing material that we were attempting to cut through was complex; composed of corrugated steel and wood."

An additional crew was then sent inside to try and locate the fire.

"Once we got inside there was a large amount of smoke," said Randall Powell, Dyess AFB firefighter. "If it hadn't been for the quick response of guys on the roof, cutting holes and spraying water, we would have never found the fire. The only way we found the fire was because we saw the water, dripping down from the ceiling. We started popping ceiling tiles and that's when we discovered about 10 feet of fire running along the ceiling."

The Abilene Fire Department arrived within 10 minutes of being called and was part of the interior crew that attacked the fire from within and assisted with ventilating the roof.

Dyess maintains a mutual aid agreement with the Abilene Fire Department which allows them to assist each other during emergencies such as this.

"It was instrumental having assistance from the Abilene Fire Department," said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Stuart, Dyess AFB fire chief. "They responded with an engine company and a ladder truck; the ladder truck increases our safety factor in the event that we needed to get off the roof in a hurry and provides additional extinguishing capability had the fire progressed.

"Dyess and Abilene did an exceptional job, and together we saved a multi-million dollar structure that is integral to our base," Stuart added. "The firefighters went in and aggressively searched for and knocked down the fire and we had the best case scenario for a building that size. I'm very proud of them."

The cause of the fire has been determined to be accidental, due to ongoing construction project on the roof.

Pope TACP Airmen participate in 24-hour run

by Marvin Krause
43rd Airlift Group Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Tactical Air Control Party Airmen stationed here participated in the second annual TACP Association's 24-hour worldwide run challenge at the Hedrick Stadium track, March 28-29.

The challenge run started at 3 p.m. and culminated 24-hours later with a final lap group run and memorial push up drill, citing the names of fallen TACP Airmen.

Next to the track, a TACP flag, HUMVEE vehicle, specialized equipment, and memorials to fallen TACP Airmen were set up for visitors and to remind participants the purpose of what they were running for.

"Runners from the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron, 682nd Air Support Operations Squadron, 18th Air Support Operations Group, 18th Weather Squadron, and 21st Special Tactics Squadron participated locally," said Master Sgt. Mark Foster, a TACP assigned to the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron. "The fundraising event is in honor of our fallen TACP brothers Senior Airman Bradley Smith, Maj. David Gray, and Airman 1st Class Ray Losano, to name just a few. The money raised goes toward continuing our pledge to one another, as members of an elite brotherhood, to care for each other and each other's families, even after we leave this Earth. Last year's inaugural event raised over $10,000. This year, the TACP community has logged 4,230 miles and raised $47,500 so far, surpassing our goal of $25,000."

The event's deadline has been extended to April 20, to allow deployed TACPs to participate.

Maj. Christopher Wright, 14th Air Support Operations Squadron commander explained the meaning of the event to the TACP community.

"This is an opportunity for us as military members to do two things. First, it is to honor our fallen brothers in arms. It is healing for us, and it is a way to never forget those who have gone before us. Second, it is to take care of the families. It is a long lasting tradition for those TACP who remain to take care of the families who are left behind. I pray we all keep them in our hearts, and our men and women show the honor and respect to those who gave their lives and to those whom will always carry the scar of a loved one who has fallen," said Wright.

Senior Airman Tom Meehan, a TACP assigned to the 14th Air Support Operations, participated in his first challenge run with his dog, Ruger.

"This event is just a way to pay back for people who can't be here right now. Luckily, I'm in good health and have the opportunity to come out here to exercise and increase awareness," said Meehan.

One of the few true front-line combat jobs in the Air Force, TACP Specialists are known for their ability to bring overwhelming firepower to the battlefield in the form of artillery and air strikes. The training is physically, mentally, and technically intense as they have to be able to operate under any environmental condition alongside some of the military's most elite special operations teams. Known by Army Light Infantry and Special Operations soldiers as joint terminal attack controllers, TACP Airmen provide close-air-support terminal guidance control to increase the capability of ground combat forces. They also are experts in artillery and in naval combat and attack helicopter capabilities; they use all combat assets to deter and counter attack enemy forces.

SERE trainers eat weird stuff, chill in woods

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Your aircraft experienced a catastrophic engine failure and went down in the heart of a great forest. You survey the wreckage and find you are the only survivor. Fear and panic begins to worm its way to the foreground of your consciousness. Then you begin to remember bits and pieces of survival tips from the Airman in the light-green beret. The words act as a beacon of hope in an otherwise dire situation.

Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists are a specialized career field in the Air Force who prepare Department of Defense personnel to return with honor from isolating events. The training consists of learning to adapt to all biomes and their associated weather conditions, along with surviving various captivity situations.

Staff Sgt. Josh Schmitz, who calls Wadena, Minn., home, is a 305th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist here. He is one of only 400 SERE specialists Air Force wide.
"My job is equipping anyone who has the possibility of being isolated with the knowledge and tools needed to survive in an inhospitable environment," said Schmitz. "Our training provided us with first-hand survival experience so we can then pass on that knowledge to our students."

A SERE specialist is an expert in the methods used to survive in isolated regions, in combat and captivity situations. They learn the skills necessary to pass the knowledge on to others and ensure personnel recovery operations are feasible and capable through training. The SERE specialists can "talk the talk," because they have "walked the walk." The intense instructional program authorizes them to wear the SERE Beret, SERE-specialist Arch and the Air Education and Training Command instructor badge upon completion of tech school.

"I thoroughly enjoyed training, especially the fact that I can now build a fire from practically nothing," said Schmitz. "I feel pretty confident that if I were to wake-up in the woods with just a few simple tools, I would be able to survive."

SERE trainees spend six months at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., learning to teach service members how to survive in environments which include: temperate, desert, coastal, open-ocean, tropics, rough land (rocks) and the arctic. The majority of the tech school is spent in the Cascade Mountains learning the tricks of the trade. The trainees sometimes work as teams but are often tested individually, spending three to five days alone in the wilderness with a limited amount of food with very limited instructor supervision.

"The instructors would come by each day just to see how we were doing for safety reason," said Schmitz. "Otherwise, we were totally isolated."

Schmitz spoke of the 'exotic' local cuisine he and his wingmen would eat during field training.

"When we were out training in the desert, we would catch rattlesnakes, cut their heads off and fry them up," he said. "On other occasions, we would look for carpenter ants which taste surprisingly similar to lemon chicken when cooked."

It is important for the SERE specialists to experience things like hunting and eating various animals and fruits so they will be better prepared to teach their students down the road.
"I absolutely love this career field and I want to make it a career," said Schmitz. "Up until I actually got to my tech school, I had no idea my job would be so training-centric. I was definitely pleasantly surprised because I consider myself a people person and have always enjoyed sharing knowledge."

Of the 1,500 candidates who were initially chosen out of Basic Military Training, Schmitz included, only 29 Airmen graduated from his particular iteration.

"The training is not a walk in the park by any means; it's tough and most people can't cut it," said Schmitz. "I just didn't quit. I'd recommend this job to anyone who has a love for the outdoors."

Schmitz's Survival Tips:
Here is a list of need-to-know survival tips that could save your life one day:
1. Get away from the flames and fumes.
2. Find a shelter location close to the crash sight.
3. Take care of any injuries and don't forget to drink water.
4. Take advantage of survival equipment that may have survived the crash.
5. If no food is readily available, check your surroundings.
- Any grass is edible and a great source of Vitamin C.
- Pine needles can be brewed to make tea.
- Stick to plants with berries you know for sure are okay. If you second guess yourself, it's not worth taking a risk.
- Pound for pound, insects have more protein than a T-bone steak. It may be out of your comfort zone, but the nourishment could save your life.
6. Remember, a person can survive for three weeks without food but only three days without wate

Nuclear Deterrence Remains Key Stratcom Mission, Commander Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., April 5, 2013 – Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and with the United States and Russia committed to deep cuts in their already-reduced nuclear arsenals, some might be tempted to think U.S. Strategic Command’s most important mission is fading into the history books.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A B-2 Spirit bomber is towed to a parking spot at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The B-2 is a key element of the U.S. nuclear triad, which includes ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable heavy bombers and associated aerial tankers, and the assured warning and command-and-control system that interconnects them. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent -- and the ability to operate its nuclear capabilities effectively if directed by the president -- was a foundation of U.S. national security throughout the Cold War, said Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the Stratcom commander.
Yet Stratcom’s nuclear deterrence mission remains as critical as at any time in U.S. history, Kehler said, injected with a renewed focus and sense of urgency by the president’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and the new national defense strategy.

So even as the United States began withdrawing numerous weapons abroad, deactivated entire classes of weapons and reduced its nuclear stockpile by 75 percent since the height of the Cold War, it has ensured that it maintains sufficient deterrent capability.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, U.S. Strategic Command’s top priority must be to deter nuclear attack with a safe, secure and effective strategic nuclear deterrent force,” Kehler told the House and Senate armed services committees earlier this month.

Kehler’s job is to look across the entire nuclear enterprise to ensure it remains operationally viable, and to verify the safety and effectiveness of the nuclear weapons stockpile. That includes the triad of ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable heavy bombers and associated aerial tankers, and the assured warning and command-and-control system that interconnects them.

“I can assure you that today’s nuclear weapons and triad of delivery platforms are safe, secure and effective,” Kehler reported in testimony to the congressional panels.

Looking to the future, he said, the challenge will be to modernize and sustain the myriad aspects of the nuclear enterprise: from delivery systems and stockpile surveillance activities to upgrades to the nuclear command, control and communications capabilities.

“Our nuclear weapons and platforms are aging and are in need of either modernization or recapitalization, the majority occurring within the next 10 to 20 years,” Navy Cmdr. Robert Thomas Jr., Stratcom’s deputy division chief for global strike capabilities, resources and integration, told American Forces Press Service.

“We are talking about every platform -- the bombers, the submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles -- and also every weapon employed on those platforms,” Thomas said.

So Stratcom is working with the services and its interagency partners to develop a replacement for the Ohio-class submarine and to modernize or replace the Minuteman III ICBM and the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit bombers, as well as the weapons they deliver.

“We are not talking about developing any new capabilities or new weapons. That is not what we are doing,” Thomas emphasized. “What we are doing is maintaining the capability of our nuclear deterrent.”

That deterrent remains vital, he said, not only to the United States, but also to the allies and partners it has pledged to protect.

Based on this threat and the approaching end of much of the U.S. nuclear infrastructure’s life-cycle, Thomas said, Stratcom’s efforts aren’t occurring a minute too soon.

The Ohio-class submarines that are capable of launching ballistic missiles are slated to operate through the late 2020s and early 2030s. At that point, they will have reached their maximum life expectancy, serving for 42 years -- longer than any other submarine in Navy history.

“Last year’s decision to delay the Ohio-class replacement program by two years is all the risk I would recommend in this critical program,” Kehler said during his congressional testimony.

Replacement submarines are being developed now, with the first of 12 on schedule for delivery in 2031, just as the Ohio-class subs they replace go into retirement.

Meanwhile, Stratcom is working with the Air Force to determine whether to replace or extend the life of the Minuteman III ICBMs that have been in service since the 1970s. The current system has undergone several modernization programs since it was fielded, Thomas said, and Congress has mandated that the current force remain viable and credible through the 2030 timeframe.

A study of alternatives to sustain the ground-based leg of the triad beyond 2030 is underway.

The Air Force also is assessing how to modernize the nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers. The B-52 has undergone several modernization programs since it was first fielded in the early 1950s, and is expected to remain in service through 2040. The B-2, introduced in the late 1990s, will require similar efforts to remain viable into the 2050 timeframe, Thomas said.

In addition, Stratcom is working with the National Nuclear Security Administration to ensure the weapons development under its purview meets the command’s strategic requirements.

“We are fairly unique in our role as a combatant command in looking holistically across the entire enterprise and making sure all these activities remain synchronized and aligned so we don’t have capability gaps,” Thomas said.

This synchronizing mission presents challenges in terms of not only budget constraints, but also of manufacturing capability to make it all happen within the required timeframe. “Schedules are important, because it does no good to deliver a weapon at the wrong time,” Thomas said. “And if a platform or weapon is aging out, we have to have its replacement ahead of time so we can be confident the system works as designed to meet the mission requirements.”

Further complicating the effort is the Nuclear Posture Review’s emphasis on refurbishing existing nuclear weapons capabilities rather than developing new ones. Thomas said he recognizes the rationale, with the intent of reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons as part of its national security strategy. “Building new weapons is not in line with that strategy or that position,” he said.

Thomas compared the current approach to driving a 1965 Mustang that’s been refitted with new systems and replacements for parts no longer made. Essentially, it’s still a 1965 Mustang, he said, but now it relies on modern parts to keep running.

“In many respects, it would be a lot easier to go out and buy a new car, but we can’t do that. We have to maintain the car we have,” he said.

Another complication is the unilateral moratorium the United States has maintained on nuclear testing for the past two decades. This, Kehler told Congress, presents the challenge of certifying the effectiveness and reliability of nuclear weapons without actually testing them with nuclear explosions.
He noted advances in the computer simulations, modeling and other scientific and surveillance programs used instead for testing, and the importance of attracting the proper talent pool to the mission to sustain it into the future.

“We’ve got to maintain the science that underpins those weapons,” Kehler told Congress. “We’ve got to make sure we are sustaining those weapons and surveilling those weapons as they age, as well as introducing life-extension programs as needed.

Ensuring the viability of the U.S. nuclear enterprise provides deterrence and, should that fail, gives the president options in how to deploy forces, Thomas said. But it also helps stem proliferation by assuring U.S. allies and partners, he added, so they do not feel a need to pursue their own nuclear-weapon capability.

“So it is as important now -- and perhaps even more important in a world that is more uncertain -- and into the future that we maintain a very credible nuclear force,” he said. “And as long as we have these weapons, we are ensuring that they are safe, secure, credible and effective. And we are taking the appropriate steps to accomplish that.”

Wounded warrior takes aim at recovery

by Airman 1st Bobby Cummings
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- You can't tell Axel Gaud-Torres is a wounded warrior when he's smoothly polishing his archery skill on the range. He draws, steadies his breathing, and looses arrows with patience and steadfast concentration. Then you see the cane and notice a limp as he sets off to inspect his targets and retrieve his spent arrows -- a subtle reminder of a fateful day in Iraq in 2005.

Tech. Sgt. Gaud-Torres deployed with the Air Force but then was re-assigned to an Army unit to provide force protection in a logistics support area. The Puerto Rican native was manning a checkpoint when a car bomb detonated. The force of the blast threw him like a ragdoll, but he survived with two fractured vertebrae, a bruised sternum, and severe nerve damage to the right side of his body.

The soft-spoken OIF veteran still suffers pain from his injuries and battles post-traumatic stress disorder. But that doesn't stop him from retrieving his arrows and steadily firing another volley down the archery range. The geospatial intelligence analyst is preparing for the Warrior Games, a joint competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members, May 11-17 in Colorado Springs Colo.

"In the military, you always want to push yourself to the limit. Even when you're hurt, you don't want to admit it because you need to perform not only for yourself but the service too," said Gaud-Torres. "As a wounded warrior you feel alone at times, you can't identify with others. Seeing all the other Airmen at the Warrior Games I feel part of something special."

For years Axel emotionally struggled with the effects of his injuries. Then he attended resiliency training, which offers strength-based, positive psychological tools to help Airmen grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.

"I've always prided myself in being an active part of the Air Force. A fire has always burned within me to be an American Airman," Axel said. "After I was injured, I started doubting myself. I wasn't operating at the same level as before. I saw myself as a hindrance."

His quest to regain his self-confidence led him to the Air Force Wounded Warrior program where he was informed of the Warrior Games. The Warrior Games serve as an introduction to paralympic sports for injured service members by inspiring recovery, physical fitness and promoting new opportunities for growth and achievement.

"The Warrior Games have extinguished my sense of not belonging," said the father of three. It has motivated me so much that I see my role differently now. I know I cannot perform the duties I used to, but I know I can make a difference."

Encouraged by his wife Alexandra, Gaud-Torres will be participating in three events for this year's Warrior Games.

Aside from archery, he will participate in sitting volleyball and rifle shooting. Training began in January, and Gaud-Torres has a coach for each discipline.

"Archery has brought me the most satisfaction," Gaud-Torres said. "It's a beautiful art form, and it has brought peace to my mind. When you're suffering from PTSD, there is always clutter going around in your head. But when I draw back my bow, everything gets quiet, and the clutter melts away. It's just me and the target, perfect peace and harmony."

Keesler named 2013 Air Force Installation Excellence Award winner

by 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

4/5/2013 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- After months of anticipation, members of Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., found out April 4 that they all work, live and play on the best installation in the Air Force.

"It is our distinct privilege to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the men and women who operate and maintain our Air Force installations," Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said in the memo announcing the award. "We thank them for a job very well done."

The Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence award recognizes the top installations that demonstrate enhanced productivity, dedication to continual improvement and other innovative accomplishments that create and sustain base operations to support the mission of the United States Air Force.

"I can't begin to describe how proud I am of everyone here on Keesler," said Brig. Gen. Brad Spacy, 81st Training Wing and installation commander. "We wouldn't have won if it weren't for the hard work and dedication of every one of our people. You all do great things every single day and are truly the world's best Airmen."

In addition to the honor of being named the Air Force's best installation, Keesler will also receive $1 million to invest in quality-of-life projects on the base.

"In these tough economic times, it is very important for us to be good stewards of taxpayer resources and we plan to invest this money in projects that not only enhance quality of life for our Airmen and their families, but maintain our cost conscious culture initiative," Spacy said.

A few examples of Keesler AFB's efforts include expanding the recycling program, renovating dormitories, improving the medical evaluation board case completion time, and reducing errors in deployment out-processing by 20 percent.

Additionally, the award reflects the teamwork between the host and tenant units on base, including the 403rd Wing.

"We are extremely pleased to be a partner in this award with Team Keesler," said Col. Craig LaFave, 403rd Wing commander. "It recognizes our close working relationship and the successes we've enjoyed as a team."

Seventeen personnel and eight units from Keesler AFB were named as "Special Recognition" winners for exemplary achievement in support of installation excellence.

The individual special-recognition winners are:

- Maj. John Ponton - 81st Force Support Squadron
- Maj. Wendy H. Wilkins - 81st Medical Surgical Squadron
- Capt. Jacob Marshall-JAG - 81st Training Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate
- Master Sgt. Michael T. Asdel - 81st Training Wing Safety
- Master Sgt. Nicole D. Dismute - Mathies NCO Academy
- Master Sgt. Tomeika Washington - 81st Force Support Squadron
- Tech. Sgt. Daniel J. Mike - 335th Training Squadron
- Tech. Sgt. Shaun Wilke - 81st Training Squadron
- Staff Sgt. Brandon T. Barrette - 335th Training Squadron
- Staff Sgt. Hana K. Webb - 81st In-Patient Operations Squadron
- Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Pomeroy - 81st Comptroller Squadron
- Ms. Sandra M. Browne - 81st Training Wing (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator)
- Mr. Albert E. Ciampa - 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron
- Mr. Steven R. Green - 81st Contracting Squadron
- Mr. Tommy Lassabe - 81st Training Squadron
- Ms. Jackie A. Pope - 81st Force Support Squadron
- Mr. Gary R. Schafer - 81st Force Support Squadron

The unit winners are the 81st Force Support Squadron Manpower and Personnel Flight, 81st Medical Group Operating Room, 81st Security Forces Squadron Support Staff, 81st Training Group Military Training Operations, 81st Training Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, 81st Training Wing Safety Office, 81st Training Wing Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office, and the 338th Training Squadron.

The journey to CINC installation excellence began Oct. 22, 2012, when Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command, announced that Keesler was the command's nominee for the award for the second year in a row.

"Keesler AFB represents the 'Best of the Best' in Air Education and Training Command and is truly deserving of this recognition," said Rice, in a nomination letter to Headquarters Air Force. "Keesler's leaders and personnel have created an environment promoting innovation and pride in ownership to enhance base-level services, facilities, and quality-of-life."

Then, Nov. 28, 2012 officials announced that the base was a top-two finalist for the Air Force and would host a team of judges from the selection board Jan. 10-11 of this year.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Wright, 81st Mission Support Group deputy commander, was Keesler's project officer for the visit.

"It's not because of a single area that Keesler stands out," Wright said. "Relentlessly, Team Keesler members come up with innovative processes to support our missions efficiently, effectively and economically."

Spacy also emphasized that the award isn't just a reflection on the 81st TRW.

"This is a true testament to our partnership with all the tenant units and the local community," Spacy said. "We're thankful for all the support we receive from our neighbors and we look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence for years to come."

As the Air Force's top installation, Keesler AFB has been nomination to the Secretary of Defense for the 2013 Commander in Chief's Installation Excellence Award.

7th OSS wins best airfield management three years straight

by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 7th Operations Support Squadron, Airfield Operations flight was recently awarded, for the third consecutive year, the John B. McCarthy Airfield Management Facility of the Year for 2012.

Being named Airfield Management Facility of the year at the major command level, as well as winning at the Air Force level in 2011, takes more than just getting the job done, it takes a dedicated team that is willing to go above and beyond to achieve such accomplishments.

Their commitment ensured continued 24/7 support to Dyess Air Force Base, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Mobility Command and the President's National Airborne Operations Center.

"The Airfield Management team portrays all of the Air Force's core values with their efforts during a bustling operations tempo and tight manning," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Engelker, 7th Operations Support Squadron commander. "Their professionalism and attention to detail are routinely praised by home station and transient aircraft commanders."

Additionally, they identified and repaired 300-square-feet of failed airfield pavement, eliminating $240 million in potential aircraft debris damage and directed two $312,000 rubber removal and re-painting projects, decreasing debris by 95 percent and aircraft hydroplane by 75 percent.

"We received this award due to the hard work and dedication from our Airmen and leadership," said Master Sgt. Thomas Autorino, 7th OSS airfield manager. "I have been blessed to be the airfield manager at a facility that has the mentality to do their best no matter what."

Autorino continued to explain how it would be impossible to complete their mission without the support teamwork they receive from other squadrons.

"The flightline will always require maintenance and it would be impossible to continue that maintenance without the support we receive from the 7th Civil Engineer Squadron," Autorino said. "Our job requires us to work with other agencies and when it comes to the 7th Civil Engineer Squadron they have the best, from their management all the way down to their Airmen."

With 50 to 200 vehicles continually moving back and forth providing constant repair to the flightline daily, an ongoing battle with foreign object debris, also known as FOD, demands a constant need to sustain a safe environment.

"Even with major projects going on at any given time in a high tempo operation we are still able to maintain a safe airfield," said Master Sgt. Linda Demuro, 7th OSS. "To ensure the airfield stays operational, a lot of moving parts are needed, increasing the chance for FOD. But because of our constant vigilance we have stayed 1,300 days FOD free, allowing the mission to continue without any hiccups."

To receive this award the Airfileld Management flight competed against 18 other bases in ACC. After winning at the ACC level, they will now move on to compete against other bases that won at their MAJCOM.

"Our job is airfield safety and support, we maintain that airfield to a standard that allows those planes to fly without any hazards," Demuro said. "But without the support of our leadership, the help from other agencies on base and the dedication of our Airmen, it would be close to impossible to complete that mission. This award required a team effort, and by winning three years in a row it proves that we are the most capable in ACC and we plan to continue from there. Our goal is to win at the next level and show we are the best in the Air Force."

‘Too Soon’ For Post-2014 Troop Level Decision, Dempsey Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 6, 2013 – Although it is too soon to tell what the post-2014 troop arrangement will be in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expects a decision by this summer, he said yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan today to, in part, hear from commanders on the ground what they think the Afghans need to help them develop, he said.In an interview with reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan, Dempsey said evaluations are well underway on a range of options.

Each set of options is formed around a theme, Dempsey said.

“One is, at what level we will provide training and assistance … at the lowest tactical level, all the way up to the institutional level,” he said. Alternatively, training and assistance might be provided only at the institutional level.

What other agencies need to operate on the ground forms a second core question, the chairman said. He offered the U.S. Agency for International Development as one key organization to consider in post-transition planning.

The concerns of NATO partner nations must also be reconciled, Dempsey said. The NATO implementing directive for Afghanistan favors a hub-and-spoke approach to basing troops, he said.
“Once you … lay that template out, it begins to illuminate what the options are for the post-2014 presence,” the chairman said, “not only on basing, but on numbers.”

“I’m not in the camp that is trying to rush that decision,” he said, adding that he wants the Afghan security forces to have a chance to lead through two fighting seasons, as outlined in the NATO agreement signed last summer in Chicago. They will also be responsible for the security of the 2014 elections, Dempsey noted. “I want to see how they deal, frankly,” the chairman said.

Milestone 2013 will mark the point when the Afghan security forces are in the lead nationwide, Dempsey said. “It’ll be coming up here soon,” he added. “We haven’t exactly fixed the date.”
To ensure the drawdown progresses smoothly and according to schedule, “we’ve got to have a steady rate of retrograde,” Dempsey said.

“My military judgment is that the decision about the enduring presence, though it will be necessary to help us and our NATO allies plan, actually pinning it down is not a matter of urgency,” he said. Rather than a definitive number of troops, he said, a range would be prudent.