Military News

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New medical evacuation training may save lives

by Staff Sgt. Amber R. Kelly-Herard
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs


4/16/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- As the second group of graduates left Air Mobility Command's Aeromedical Evacuation school recently, the streamlined curriculum they experienced promised Total Force medical crews who are even better prepared to work together to save lives.

Thirty days of streamlined training at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, now brings common standards to Guard, Reserve and active-duty Airmen, allowing aeromedical crews to seamlessly act in emergency medical situations without skipping a beat.

"Each crew member having the same initial qualification training will improve their interoperability, which will allow any combination of crew members to work flawlessly together and focus on supporting wounded warriors returning from Afghanistan," said Col. Jennifer Kimmet, AMC Aeromedical Evacuation Operations chief.

Previously, with 33 variations of different locations and curricula, Airmen might have taken up to a year to be fully trained. Until now, most flight nurses and technicians received initial flight qualification training at their units, while some attended formal training classes at Pope Army Air Field, N.C.

"This is a big paradigm shift for aeromedical training," said Maj. Artemus Armas, AMC's Aeromedical Evacuation Operations and Training Branch chief. "This is the new way training should be done in the future, because it reduces local training variances and provides a single, standardized approach that allows for more efficient medical treatment."

The new curriculum involves five days of academic training on Air Force Instructions and terminology. Trainees then treat a simulated patient and then are evaluated for administering care aboard an aircraft. After working on a simulated C-130, for instance, students move on to actual C-130, C-17 and KC-135 aeromedical evacuation-configured aircraft.

The school will hold six more classes of up to 192 students this year.

AMC is the lead command for Aeromedical Evacuations worldwide. Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 19, 2003, Guard, Reserve and active-duty Aeromedical Evacuation experts have performed nearly 200,000 patient movements for wounded service members.

763rd RS hits 10,000th sortie

by Staff Sgt. Joel Mease
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


4/17/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron completed its 10,000th sortie April 10, all while continuously serving in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for nearly 23 years.

Using the Rivet Joint platform, the squadron averages around 10 hours a sortie with an average crew of 25 who having flown more than 2.5 million hours collectively.

What stands out to Senior Master Sgt. Barry Thompson the most is how much time the average Airman has given the squadron during those 10,000 sorties.

"As impressive as the technology is behind the jet, it's really the people behind the jet who make this mission work," said Thompson, an airborne mission supervisor. "A lot of people have given a large part of their lives to this mission. As a result of that, I have the utmost respect for what they do."

Thompson is currently in his 15th deployment with the squadron and said he has seen nearly the entire 23-year stretch of the RJs flying in the AOR. His first deployment was as an airborne linguist in 1992. Since then, he said, time spent in the air is a constant.

"We're not a 50 sortie-a-day squadron," Thompson said. "It's an all-day mission, so when we fly, the ground and aircrew strive to make every minute count. So no matter what is required, when push comes to shove, these guys are always ready to perform."

The 763rd ERS director of operations agrees that a lot of time was put into accomplishing the mission, but said it's because it is so important.

"For most of the people in this squadron, this mission is all they know," said Lt. Col. Brian Lebeck, who first deployed with the squadron during Operation Southern Watch in the spring of 2000. "But the job we do gets people home safely. If we can do that for one or two Soldiers on the ground, that makes all the difference in the world."

While milestones like reaching 10,000 miles mark historical significance, Lebeck said he correlates it to a game of football.

"I know there have been a myriad of people before me who have carried that football," Lebeck said. "I've been a part of taking that football a little farther down the field, and in the future someone else will. Whether it will be our 11,000th, 12,000th or 13,000th sortie, we will continue to be here, because that's how valuable this region is."

Thompson, who saw the first 1,000 sortie milestone by the squadron, said it's that constant which really endures.

"The fact these Airmen continue to reenlist shows their dedication not only to the mission but to their country," Thompson said. "It's truly been my pleasure these last 22 years to have the honor to fly with them."

Purple, the color of sacrifice

by Chandra Brown
Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs Office


4/17/2013 - Robins Air Force Base, Ga.  -- Schools throughout Houston County, Ga., joined a nationwide movement to "Purple Up" on April 15.

Matt Arthur Elementary School students, faculty and staff were one of many schools in the United States wearing purple to recognize April as the Month of the Military Child.

"The military is a very important part of Houston County, Kathleen and Matt Arthur Elementary," said Dr. Richard Rogers, Matt Arthur Elementary School principal. "The military families along with their kids bring experiences and values that help make our school special."

In April the armed forces celebrates the Month of the Military child. The month-long celebration thanks military children for their service and recognizes them for their strength, sacrifices, and the hardships they face.

"I love the Purple Up program for one reason; military kids did not choose this lifestyle," said Anne Johnson, mother of three boys and wife of Lt. Col. Craig Johnson, Programs Division chief, Air Force Reserve Command Installations and Mission Support Directorate.

"As adults my husband and I both chose to serve our country; our children are just along for the ride," said Anne, who served for 10-years in the Air Force. "I think they deserve every possible form of recognition for the years of making friends that they will have to say good-bye to, over and over again".

The eldest boy, 9-year-old Matthew, has lived in six states.

"I think my least favorite part about being a military child is that we have to move a lot and you don't get to see your friends," said Matthew Johnson.

Matthew and his two brothers currently attend Matt Arthur and, while traveling has been a learning experience, it's still hard to leave the place they call home.

Purple Up is just one way Matt Arthur shows their support to military families. The school also hosts a Big Knight, Little Knight program.

"This program is truly a gift to military children with a parent deployed, it pairs the students together, young and old, and gives the children a place to feel included, supported and loved," said Anne.

The transition for her boys has been smoother for the young ones, but like many military kids, the eldest son struggled the most. She said the older the child, the harder it can be to break into friendships that have already been established.

"We understand initially, the families are nervous about the transition here. So by walking them around and taking them through the classrooms, the parents have a sense of peace and it lets the kids know they will be okay, said Rogers. "We feel like we are their second home. This is a community-school. We love our Matt Arthur Knights and we want them to feel supported."

The event was developed by Operation Military Kids, an organization dedicated to military families. Purple is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue.

CE units combine forces to catch planes

by Airman 1st Class Riley Johnson
460th Space Wing Public Affairs


4/16/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Airmen from the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron and 140th CES, Colorado Air National Guard, received assistance from the 200th RED HORSE, Ohio Air National Guard, to install two Barrier Arresting Kit-12 systems April 12 on Buckley's flightline.

The team of power production Airmen assembled and installed the BAK-12 systems during a five-day span.

"We did it in a short timeframe. Everyone started on Monday, and we had the certification run on Friday. We saw all inclement weather conditions, from snow to high winds, and zero visibility," said Master Sgt. Joshua Barnett, 140th CES power productions NCO in charge.

The barrier systems were installed on Buckley in preparation for upcoming flightline construction.

The BAK-12 is an emergency stopping system for tail-hook equipped aircraft to prevent crashes and give assurance to pilots should their aircraft experience maintenance issues.

The system consists of a cable stretched across the flightline that is attached to the braking mechanisms on both sides. As the aircraft engages the system, the braking mechanism will slowly apply pressure until the aircraft comes to a stop.

After the week-long assembly, the BAK-12 proved it was capable of stopping a 29,000 pound F-16 Fighting Falcon traveling at a speed of more than 100 mph.

"The most rewarding part was seeing the plane hit the catch line. When I first went out there it was a patch of grass and a flightline. We got to see what we had worked so hard to do," said Senior Airman Taquan Kelley, 460th CES power production journeyman.

Eight Airmen from the 200th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers provided Buckley's power production teams with manpower, assets and expertise.

"This effort is a great example of leveraging guard and active-duty assets to complete a mission. Installing two Barrier Arresting Kit-12 systems in one week is not easy. The entire team of power production and heavy equipment personnel should be proud of their achievement and how well they were able to integrate operations," said Maj. Gibb Little, 460th CES operation flight commander.

Air Force reserve instructor pilot killed in vehicle accident

47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

4/17/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- An Air Force reserve instructor pilot was killed along with his wife and two daughters near San Antonio, Texas, April 13.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Koontz, a civilian simulator instructor and member of the 96th Flying Training Squadron was killed in a traffic accident on U.S. Route 90.

"Lt. Col. Kenneth 'Jughead' Koontz was one of the most seasoned T-6 instructor pilots at Laughlin," said Lt. Col. Sean Garrett, 96th FTS commander. "He was a valued and trusted leader within the 96th FTS and he was loved by the students, having recently been named the 'Best Guest Help IP' by Class 13-15."

Each pilot training class has instructor pilots who do not fly with them on a day-to-day basis, but do fly with them regularly. These instructor pilots are known informally as 'Guest Help IPs' and each class picks their favorite, as well as favorite simulator instructor. Koontz had been picked a number of times for these awards.

While Lt. Col. Koontz loved teaching students how to fly, it wasn't his top priority, explained Garrett.

"Jughead was a man of strong faith, and spending time with his family was always his priority. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him," said Garrett.

Before joining the Air Force Reserve, Koontz was in the Navy for 15 years. He became an Air Force reservist in 2006.

Many of the training flights for April 15 were curtailed as students and squadron members dealt with their grief.

"Our priorities right now are to help this family any way we can and to ensure our team is mentally ready to resume flight training," said Col. Tom Murphy, 47th Flying Training Wing commander. "Lt. Col. Koontz was a civilian employee and a Reserve lieutenant colonel, exemplifying what an Airman is all about, and he established a very high standard of excellence along the way. He and his family were deeply ingrained into the Laughlin, Brackettville and Del Rio communities. This is a tragedy and they will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Koontz family and friends."

Koontz flew 894 sorties equaling 5,656.5 flight hours during his career; 4,456 of those hours were in the Navy and 1,200 hours in the Air Force. He also had 2,036 hours in a simulator.

"That means he probably worked with 1,800 students in the SIMs alone," said Mr. Danny Williams, Director of Sims and Academics.

"The number of students Lt. Col. Koontz has worked with and helped shape into remarkable pilots is a testament to his skills and talents," said Murphy. "He helped us graduate the world's best pilots. That is a fact!"

Strong roots sprout Outstanding Airman of the Year

by Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


4/16/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Each year, 12 outstanding enlisted people are chosen throughout the Air Force for their leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.

Senior Master Sgt. Emilio Hernandez, stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, is one of those Airmen. In 2012, he was named as one of the Air Force 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

Hernandez, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron Operations Flight superintendent, leads a team of engineers responsible for maintaining the entire base.

"We do everything from toilets to airfield, so you could imagine everything in between that requires maintenance and repair -- we do it all," Hernandez said. "We maintain every facility on base, the airfield, the lighting systems, the power systems, the heating ventilation and air conditioning systems, to include the aircraft arresting barriers on the airfield in case of an emergency for fighter aircraft."

Eight career fields fall under the operations flight: water fuel maintenance, electricians, power production, HVAC, dirt boys, structures, pest management and controllers. Hernandez is used to leading such a large group of Airmen, since he also served as the operations flight superintendent at Mildenhall Royal Air Base, England, and Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Hernandez said his recognition isn't about what he did individually; it was the opportunities presented to him and the people he was privileged to lead and serve with.

"I don't think there has been a difference in what I did this year, because the teams I have always been involved with - engineers - have always been impressive," the Hialeah, Flo., native said. "I surround myself with good people and because of it, great things happen, not only to me, but my team. It has been that way throughout my career."

Hernandez, who won for his wing while stationed at Mildenhall and later won as the 2012 Senior NCO for United States Air Forces in Europe, said the thought of being one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year never crossed his mind.

"It was an honor to represent so many people -- USAFE being 49,000 strong, but to be one of the 12 chosen out of the entire Air Force, it is beyond words," he said. "There are a lot of people in the Air Force, the best Americans you can find, and that includes anyone in the service. It is just so humbling to be selected."

Hernandez added that any one of the more than 300,000 Airmen in the Air Force have what it takes to be one of the 12, he just happened to be chosen.

"I'm a CE guy, toilets to airfields, and I am one of the 12; everyone has an equal chance," he said. "You don't have to be doing miracle work, you need to be doing your job and taking the opportunities to deploy and to make a difference where and when you can."

He also said he is proud to be a representative of the Air Force and is excited to, "share what we do, what we bring to the fight and what caliber of people we have."

As an Outstanding Airmen of the Year, Hernandez, along with the other 11 Airmen, is on the Air Force Enlisted Council and met with the chief master sergeant of the Air Force to discuss issues and concerns of the whole enlisted force.

"The most important part of being an Airman of the Year is the ability to make a difference on the enlisted council," Hernandez said. "After sitting down and speaking with Chief Cody, I have a great feeling that our leadership is really aware of what is going on with our enlisted force. Chief Cody a great guy and a great leader and I believe he is going to tackle some of the issues brought up head-on."

Hernandez personally brought up the feedback system and how supervisors throughout the Air Force should work on accurately documenting and defining their subordinate's job performance.

"Near-and-dear to my heart is the enlisted feedback system. I feel like that is the most important part of our enlisted structure and also the most neglected," he said. "We just don't do a good enough job as supervisors to develop our folks and accurately put them on paper. Our feedback and our enlisted performance reports need to reflect the same idea, and our Airmen deserve that."

Showing similar passion during his most recent deployment led Hernandez to be chosen as one of the 12.


Hernandez Deployment

Hernandez, who has been on countless deployments throughout his career, recently traveled to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, for seven months as part of the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group, 777th Prime BEEF Squadron.

"A prime beef unit is a civil engineer unit that deploys and opens an airfield, sets up tent city and repairs and maintains the base from there-on," Hernandez said. "It comprises of all light construction."

Hernandez led 52 people in 53 civil engineer projects at 163 forward operating bases in support of 85,000 warfighters. He orchestrated $80,000 in repairs to nine Marine Corps aircraft hangars to safeguard $300 million in assets in support of a vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. He also oversaw a project to upgrade an electrical grid on a dam, that preserved water and power flow to 450,000 Afghans, and managed the construction of two tactical operations centers worth $500,000, securing Afghanistan's key district of Panjwai.

Throughout every project safety came first for Hernandez, not only for himself, but for his teams. He said he ensured all recon was done and intelligence reports were read before he sent his people on a mission.

"I didn't want to send them somewhere they might get hurt," Hernandez said. "Obviously the risks are higher in Afghanistan, but seeing your whole team come back with a finished product was always so rewarding."

He worked in a joint environment, working side-by-side with Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, while his unit was under the 30th Naval Construction Regiment. Hernandez said his team also partnered with a Canadian engineer team who flew to forward operating bases and worked with Afghan soldiers.

"We taught the Afghans how to maintain electrical systems, because it was a big issue throughout the country," Hernandez said. "We would train them on how to properly install electrical systems, because often times we would find wires running everywhere with no regard for safety. We helped rectify the situation."

Also while in Kandahar, Hernandez and his team trained the first Afghan Air Wing on how to operate and wire generators, and maintain electrical systems.

"It was a difficult task considering that many of the Afghans are illiterate," Hernandez added. "The electrical work requires a lot of reading and diagrams, so we would educate them as best as possible. We had a great training outline that was very picture and hands-on oriented."

Afghanistan is currently building a valid armed force for security to protect their country, according to Hernandez, and his team was assisting them in meeting their goal.

"We knew how important their task was to the overall goal," he said. "We knew that teaching these guys how to provide emergency power to facilities, especially those that might generate sorties or directly affect the mission, would make a huge difference in the big picture of building a solid force for Afghanistan."

Hernandez worked with local military while in Iraq and El Salvador, so this wasn't his first experience working alongside foreign military members. He said he also built a school once in the Philippines with the help of the Philippine Navy Seabees. The school children had to walk at least 10 miles to the nearest school until Hernandez's team built a new school 500 meters away from the village.

Throughout his two decades of service and multiple deployments, Hernandez said his most memorable moments are of watching junior Airmen tackle jobs -- how they handled them and grew from their experiences.

"Some of us older guys, we know what we are doing. We kind of know what the outcome will be," the senior master sergeant said. "But with young people, sometimes you sit back and let them do things and what they achieve is so much more than you expected of them. It kind of puts you in awe."

He said he was always amazed when traveling to forward operating bases and witnessing his teams' accomplishments.

"Under incredible conditions -- the worst you can imagine, I was always amazed at what my guys could do when they are motivated, have the people, equipment and resources and know the importance of their mission," Hernandez added. "That is really what fires me up. Seeing other guys excel at what they do and watching the young Airmen really get into it."

Hernandez said being deployed is a very challenging yet rewarding experience, because the work tempo is much faster, but service members see the impact of their work almost immediately.

"Your team stays motivated because they see the fruits of their labor," Hernandez said. "They can say 'wow' look at what we just built and now someone else is running missions out of it. It could be a medical facility and now lives are being saved in a facility you just built 30 days ago."

Hernandez said he had an incredible team throughout his deployment.

"Leading those guys was easy," he added. "They knew what they were doing."

No matter the caliber of team, deployments can be rough on the individual and their family back home, but Hernandez said he knew what he signed up for, and because of his roots, he found strength to prosper throughout his time in Afghanistan.


Air Force Career

Hernandez came from humble beginnings and was born into a communist regime in Cuba.

"I experienced communism a little myself, but mostly from my parents stories I learned what it does to its people, to their soul and to their livelihood," Hernandez said. "I was privileged to leave by the time I was 8 and grow up in the U.S."

After leaving Cuba, Hernandez's family moved to Miama, Fla., where he was raised until graduating high school. Upon graduation, he married his high school sweetheart and three days later joined the Air Force.

Since joining, Hernandez was stationed in Michigan, Colorado, Turkey, South Carolina, Misawa Air Base, Japan, Mildenhall Royal Air Base, United Kingdom, and finally Japan again at Yokota. He has also been on several deployments throughout the world.

"I have had wonderful assignments and met wonderful people," he said. "I've never picked anywhere I wanted to go, but I have always ended up with good assignments. It doesn't matter where I go as long as I know my family will be with me and I'll be working with engineers."

Being married since he joined the military, Hernandez has a 19-year old daughter and a 15-year old son.

"I am grateful for the opportunities the Air Force has given my family and still continues to give. I have two kids now and I serve for them also," he said.

Hernandez said he joined because something his father once said. It compelled him to find a way to represent his family and give back.

"My dad was the most patriotic guy I've ever known. He always told me that we have to value freedom," Hernandez said. "We serve, and in my mind that is the best way to give back to your nation. Service can mean a lot of things, whether community service, military service or somehow giving back."

Since taking the message with him through life and after 21 years of service in the Air Force, Hernandez has also been selected for promotion to the rank of chief master sergeant.

"It is a long time, but it seems so short to me because it has flown by so quickly. That's what happens when you are having fun, time goes by quickly," Hernandez said. "I am excited and pumped up to be a chief, and I'm looking forward to taking care of my people. The most important thing is taking care of the people here at my squadron."

Airmen make progress in bid for Everest

by USAF Seven Summits Challenge blog and U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
USAF Seven Summits Challenge blog and U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs


4/17/2013 -  FT. GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- A team of Air Force mountaineers began their journey to ascend and summit Mount Everest recently as the final expedition of the independent U.S. Air Force Seven Summit Challenge.

The team of six Airmen is underway on a 50-day journey to the highest mountain on earth, completing a project that began eight years ago with the goal of reaching the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, to plant the American and Air Force flags.

Collectively, teams of the Summit Challenge have already scaled the more than 104,337 vertical feet on Mount Elbrus, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua, Mount McKinley, Mount Vinson and Mount Kosciuszko.

The summit team is accompanied by four trekkers and three wounded warriors (two pararescuemen and a combat rescue officer) who will not make a summit attempt but support the team in their feat.

The team reached Nepal March 31, and began the final stages of the trip. After spending a few days in the region getting used to the increased elevation, the team pushed on to Everest.

By April 10, most of the team had moved up to base camp facilities at Lobuche, a mountain peak near Everest. The group then moved on to the Everest Base Camp to acclimatize at further increased elevation and practiced important procedures such as crevasse rescues and ladder handling.

At Everest Base Camp, Capt. Rob Marshall, one of the co-founders of the AF Seven Summits challenge and the leader of the team, was able to make a call home early April 15.

"We were having an awesome day today. We had our Puja, a big spiritual blessing (ceremony), where we ask Mount Everest and essential the spirit of the mountain to bless the team and give us good luck," Marshall said, shortly before his data connection was interrupted.

With a view of the Khumbu icefall, a precarious gateway on the ascent to Everest, Marshall said the team grew more excited -- looking at the mountain they've prepared so hard to climb.

Scaling Mount Everest is not a quick affair. Marshall said the group will move at a slow pace to improve their chances of getting as many people as possible to the summit.

"You can climb Everest at a faster pace, but from our research, we are giving ourselves the best chance to acclimatize and the optimal amount of time to reach the top," Marshall said.

Health is an especially difficult issue for expeditions in the Himalayas. Most of the team fell ill with intestinal "bugs," shortly after their arrival in Nepal, due to the foreign food and living conditions.

The team since returned to Lobuche, which with nearly 20,161 feet elevation is already higher than any point in the continental U.S. They plan to ascend the lower peak April 16 for a "shakedown climb," giving everyone the important chance to check out their gear on a lower elevation, lower risk climb before making their first trip through the Khumbu icefall and up to Camp 1 on Everest.

The mountaineers plan their final ascent to Everest for mid-May, however the teams anxiety is rising.

"The stakes of this climb are the highest (no pun intended) of my life," Marshall wrote online. "There is a lot of personal pride and no shortage of money on the line here."

They climb to promote camaraderie and team spirit among Airmen, raise money for charity and to honor and commemorate the fallen.

Though not on an official military mission, if successful in their endeavor to scale 29,029-foot Mount Everest, the crew will become the first team of active-duty American military members to have reached Everest's summit.

On the team are:

- Maj. Rob Marshall, a V-22 Osprey pilot from Mercer Island, Wash., stationed in Amarillo, Texas
- Capt. Kyle Martin, a T-38 Talon pilot, from Manhattan, Kan., stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
- Capt. Marshall Klitzke, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot from Lemmon, S.D., currently an instructor pilot at the Air Force Academy.
- Capt. Colin Merrin, a GPS satellite operations mission commander from Santee, Calif., stationed at Schriever AFB, Colo.
- Staff Sgt. Nick Gibson, a Reserve pararescueman and physician-assistant student from Gulf Breeze, Fla., stationed at Patrick AFB
- Capt. Andrew Ackles, a TH-1N instructor pilot, from Ashland, Ore., stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala.

Pacific military dependents train at basketball camp

by Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


4/16/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 114 military children between 13 and 20 from U.S. military bases across the Pacific region attended the Mainland Basketball Association's Basketball Camp at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 9 to 12, 2013.

The four-day camp trained athletes on basketball skills such as shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding and defense and also educated the attendees on team concepts and college information.

According to their official Web site, MBA is a non-profit organization that promotes sportsmanship among all athletes through educational opportunities. It strives to assist in the development of young children and stresses the importance of being part of a team.

MBA Vice-President Mark Burton said military children, especially those overseas, do not get exposure to many basketball camps like children in the States do.

"It costs thousands of dollars to send their (service member's) children back to the States to show off their talents," Burton said. "We want to afford these kids the same opportunities to not only train, but to also have a chance of receiving scholarships."

The camp had 10 coaches from universities throughout the U.S. -- Grambling State, Dillard, Winston-Salem State, Claftin, University of California, Los Angeles, Fort Valley State, Huston-Tillotson, Santa Monica and Johnson C. Smith.

Although at last year's camp, two female athletes receive full-ride scholarships to Division 2 colleges; this year no scholarships were handed out. According to Ron Woodard, Claftin University basketball coach and camp director, the freshman and sophomore classes displayed great foundational skills and said the probability for scholarships in the coming years is positive.

Woodard also said the camp not only built on fundamental skills and offered chances of college, but also expanded the attendees' life goals.

"This year we really pushed to motivate them (camp participants) to take their Scholastic Aptitude Tests and American College Tests," Woodard said.

Woodard said that seeing children grow and improve their skill sets and minds is great and keeps him coming back each year to teach at the camp.

Jermaine Neal Jr., a camp participant and sophomore at Yokota High School, said the camp was fun and would like to attend another in the future.

"I really liked the scrimmages, it was my favorite part," the 15-year-old added. "I learned that most of the game is mental. We would do the drills and then play scrimmages, and I could tell from how I played that I had improved from before."

Jermaine also said the camp gave him an opportunity to play in front of college coaches, and his father agreed.

"It was pretty exciting," Jermaine Neal, Sr. said regarding the camp. "It gave the kids a chance to play in front of college coaches and they also went over mentoring and understanding the importance of basketball and academics."

He added that it was good to reiterate the educational importance along with the importance of athletic practice.

"My favorite part was when they (the camp coaches) sat down and talked about how academics can be compounded with athletics and how using them together can make you a better person and make you more marketable for college," Neal added.

Through their support of the U.S. Forces Japan and the Pacific Region, MBA is taking a step in improving higher educational routes and athletic programs for military children.

Obama Welcomes Soldier Ride Participants at White House

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013 – A group of wounded warriors received a presidential send-off at the White House today as they launched a four-day bicycle ride to show the world and themselves what they’re still capable of accomplishing.

President Barack Obama joined Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki on the South Lawn this afternoon to recognize a group of wounded warriors who are participating in the Soldier Ride for their service, sacrifice and inspiration.

That inspiration is particularly meaningful as the nation grapples with this week’s bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon, the president told the riders. Many of the survivors of the attacks are just beginning what for some will be a long road to recovery, he noted.

“It’s a road that the remarkable warriors and athletes here know all too well, and as a consequence, they are going to serve for all of the families as well as all Americans, a continued inspiration,” he said.

Obama praised the wounded warriors’ bravery and said he admires their courage and determination.

“Together, with your outstanding families, you represent what’s best in America,” he said. “When we needed patriots to defend our freedom, you have answered this call. You’ve risked everything for our country and for each other. And you’ve made sacrifices most of us can barely imagine.”

With military operations completed in Iraq and the drawdown underway in Afghanistan, the president acknowledged that “for our wounded warriors, coming home doesn’t mean the fight is over.”
“In some ways,” he said, “it’s just beginning.”

The president singled out riders, including Army Sgt. Sean Karpf and Army Sgt. Erick Millette, who are overcoming the odds and providing an example to their fellow wounded warriors and the nation. He also recognized Air Force Capt. Mary McGriff and Army 1st Lt. Jason Church, who are serving as peer mentors for first-time riders.

“That’s a big part of what the soldier rides are about -- not just what you can do for yourself, but what you can do as a team,” he said. “As one rider put it, ‘It’s just like in the military. You ride for the warrior next to you.’”

Chris Carney, from Long Island, N.Y., conducted the first soldier ride in 2004, when he pedaled across the country in support of the Wounded Warrior Project. Obama noted today that Carney told a reporter the most daunting part of that ride was being alone because he’d always participated in team sports.

Other combat-wounded veterans joined Carney the following year, and the program continued to grow. It ultimately gave rise to regional rides nationwide that provide more riders the opportunity to participate.
“What Chris and others discovered is that when it comes to supporting our returning heroes, there’s no such thing as going it alone,” Obama said. “We do this as a team. We get each other’s backs.”

That’s what happened this week in Boston, as National Guardsmen, service members and veterans in the area “all did what warriors do,” the president said. “They ran into harm’s way to protect their fellow Americans. They applied tourniquets. They went to hospitals. They donated blood.”

Doctors used experience acquired, in some cases, during overseas deployments, “to help save lives here at home,” he said.

“That’s the strong stuff that our warriors are made of, and that’s why we’re so proud and so grateful to the men and women and veterans of our armed forces,” Obama said.

He called on all Americans to cheer on the riders during their ride and to show support for the nation’s military veterans.

Obama vowed to veterans to “keep doing everything in my power to make sure we serve you as well as you’ve served us.” That, he said, means ensuring they get the care and benefits they need, that they don’t have to fight for jobs when they return home and that their families get the support they deserve.

Soldier Rides are sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project as a rehabilitative cycling program that provides the first steps in combat-wounded veterans’ healing. The events are designed to “use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds,” according the Wounded Warrior Project website.

Hagel Orders Unit to Jordan, Warns About Intervention in Syria

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today the deployment of an Army headquarters element to help Jordanian forces defend their border with Syria, while warning Congress of potential consequences of direct U.S. military action in the Syrian conflict.

Hagel joined Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, in reporting to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he ordered the Army deployment last week.

The contingent will enhance efforts of a small U.S. military team that has been working in Jordan since last year on planning related to chemical weapons and preventing a spillover of violence across Jordan’s borders, the secretary told the Senate panel.

“These personnel will continue to work alongside Jordanian Armed Forces to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios,” he said.

Defense Department personnel and their interagency partners are helping Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and other Syrian neighbors counter the threat posed by Syria’s chemical weapons, Hagel said. He noted that DOD deployed Patriot missile batteries to southern Turkey in December as part of NATO’s mission to help Turkey protect its border with Syria.

These initiatives, being conducted through the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, include more than $70 million for activities in Jordan, he reported. This includes training and equipment to detect and stop chemical weapons transfers along Jordan’s border with Syria, and developing Jordan’s capacity to identify and secure chemical weapons assets.

Meanwhile, DOD has expanded security consultations regarding Syria with allies and partners, ensured that the U.S. military is strategically postured in the region and “engaged in robust military planning for a range of contingencies,” Hagel said.

Regional security efforts will be a key focus of his trip later this week to meet with defense leaders of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Hagel said. The situation in Syria also will be a topic when Secretary of State John F. Kerry visits Turkey this weekend and during Dempsey’s trip to China next week for talks with Chinese leaders.

The goal, Hagel said, is “to support broader U.S. diplomatic efforts while ensuring that the U.S. military is fully prepared to protect America’s interests and meet our security commitments in the region.”

Hagel spelled out U.S. government policy regarding the Syrian conflict:
-- To work with allies and partners, as well as the Syrian opposition;
-- To provide humanitarian assistance across Syria and the region;
-- To hasten an end to the violence; and
-- To bring about a political transition to a post-Assad authority that will restore stability, respect for the rights of all people, prevent Syria from becoming an extremist safe haven and to secure Syria’s chemical and biological weapons.

“The best outcome for Syria -- and the region -- is a negotiated, political transition,” Hagel told the senators.
Toward that end, the U.S. government is working to mobilize the international community, further isolate the Assad regime and support the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the moderate Syrian opposition, he said.

The U.S. has committed $117 million to the coalition in nonlethal assistance such as communications and medical equipment, Hagel said, and President Barack Obama has directed more for both the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Supreme Military Council.

In addition, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development are providing technical assistance and training for Syrian leaders and activists.

“The goal is to strengthen those opposition groups that share the international community’s vision for Syria’s future and minimize the influence of extremists,” Hagel said.

Meanwhile, the United States has provided $385 million to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Syria and to help more than 1 million Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries, he said.

The United States is rallying the international community, including Russia and China, to provide humanitarian support and resolve the crisis, Hagel said. He reported that international sanctions designed to pressure the Syrian government and help end the conflict are having an impact on the Assad regime’s finances.

In addition, DOD has engaged in robust military planning for a range of contingencies, he said.

“President Obama has made clear that if Assad and those under his command use chemical weapons, or fail to meet their obligations to secure them, there will be consequences, and they will be held accountable,” Hagel said. “The Department of Defense has plans in place to respond to the full range of chemical weapons scenarios.”

So even as it provides options and planning for a post-Assad Syria, Hagel said, DOD is providing Obama and Congress regular assessments of options for U.S. military intervention.

He warned, however, of possible consequences of direct U.S. military action in Syria. It could hinder humanitarian relief operations, embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment, and, if conducted unilaterally, strain U.S. relationships around the world, the secretary told the senators.

“And finally, a military intervention could have the unintended consequence of bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict or proxy war,” he said.

Dempsey echoed Hagel, emphasizing that although the military stands ready to provide force, if directed, that such a decision is one no one takes lightly.

“In weighing options, we have a responsibility to align the use of force to the intended outcome,” Dempsey said. “We also have a responsibility to articulate risk” -- not just to U.S. forces, but to other security responsibilities that could be compromised.

“So before we take action, we have to be prepared for what comes next,” the chairman said. “The use of force, especially in circumstances where ethnic and religious factors dominate, is unlikely to produce predictable outcomes. … Unintended consequences are the rule with military interventions of this sort.”
“Military intervention is always an option, but an option of last resort,” Hagel summarized. “The best outcome for Syria -- and the region -- is a negotiated, political transition to a post-Assad Syria.”