Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Hagel Discusses Partnership With Colombian Defense Minister

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 РDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón this morning at the Pentagon to discuss the close security partnership between the United States and Colombia, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomes Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon at the Pentagon, May 1, 2013. The two defense leaders met to discuss issues of mutual concern. DOD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In a statement summarizing the meeting, Little said Hagel commended Colombia for continuing to make significant progress in its campaign against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a group known by its Spanish acronym FARC.

Hagel noted that while the fight continues, the United States will support Colombia in its efforts to defeat a common threat and achieve a lasting peace, the press secretary added.

The leaders also discussed ways the U.S. and Colombian militaries can work with one another on regional long-term defense planning and other future opportunities for collaboration, Little said, and Hagel noted that Colombia provides significant capabilities that have helped increase stability in the region.

Hagel stressed the importance of working with Colombia’s Defense Ministry to identify opportunities for closer collaboration ahead of additional high-level bilateral security meetings this summer, Little said.

DOD Continues to Refine Options for President on Syria

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 – Defense Department leaders continue to work on options and refine plans to respond to the situation in Syria if called upon, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
Since opposition to the Bashar Assad regime burst into war, DOD officials have been developing options for a wide range of contingencies, Little said.

“We continue to refine those plans based on how the conflict is unfolding and based on information we receive,” he added. “That’s our responsibility, and we believe it is important to have options on the shelf to pull off in case the president looks to us to execute those options.”

Little stressed that U.S. government officials and international partners not only are looking at ways to aid the opposition, but also are considering the “day after” the Assad regime falls.

“This is not just about bringing an end to the Assad regime,” he said. “It’s also working with Syrians and partners in the region and other partners in the international community to help the Syrian people define for themselves what a post-Assad Syria will look like.”

U.S. concern in the region is not just about chemical weapons or extremist groups in Syria, Little said.
“This is a very complex, challenging environment, and those are factors that you have to weigh when you are working with others to define the day after,” he added. “We stand ready to provide updated options to the president whenever he asks for them. That’s our job.”

Little said DOD is involved with all interagency partners and is following the White House’s lead to bolster humanitarian assistance and determine how to engage even more closely with the opposition.

“We are fully engaged inside the government and with international allies and partners on how to look at the situation in Syria and act if necessary,” he said.

While the United States is fully cognizant of the role extremist groups are playing inside Syria, Little said, “we also understand that there are a large number of moderate opposition groups inside Syria that are trying to define a path toward a post-Assad Syria.”

The U.S. government’s policy on Syria hasn’t changed, he said: The United States is providing nonlethal aid to the opposition.

U.S. officials continue to look for further corroborating evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria, Little said.

Misawa fighter jets break new training barriers

by Senior Airman Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- An F-16 Fighting Falcon's radar warning receiver emits an eerie, distinct pattern as it soars over the Northern Pacific Ocean, moving closer and closer toward hostile territory. The warning tone means one thing -- missiles are inbound.

More alert now than ever before, with adrenaline pumping through every part of the pilot's being, it's time for action. The flight suits they wear -- originally created to keep the pilots warmer -- now serve an opposite purpose, soaking up feverish sweat in preparation to suppress the enemy.

This can end two ways -- a surface-to-air missile rips through the jet or the enemy radar SAM site is fiercely rendered useless, putting it to an immortal sleep.

This intense training scenario is the new norm for 35th Fighter Wing pilots as it provides the most effective real-life training they have encountered in more than 50 years here.

A team effort between the U.S. Air Force and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force has brought this robust simulated combat environment to the fight, implementing field training exercises for both U.S. and joint forces and setting the stage for Large Force Employment training.

The 35 FW is home of the Wild Weasel, the only Suppression of Enemy Air Defense assets in the Pacific Air Forces theater.

Previous SEAD training was primarily executed during biannual Red Flag exercises which have since been suspended due to recent Department of Defense budget constraints.

Although in its early stages, Capt. Chris Behrens, 35 FW weapons systems commander, said the capabilities this training provides can be monumental, adding that the wing has been actively moving in this direction for some time now.

"It's good both ways -- (JGSDF) get to defend themselves and simulate shooting at F-16s, and they have a great time doing that, and we get to react and simulate shooting back at them," Behrens said. "It's a great training opportunity, it's huge."

Because of the previous lack of SAM sites for WW pilots to train with, which were none, the JGSDF have knocked down a barrier that now allows pilots to track and identify emitters put out from Japanese SAM sites, allowing U.S. pilots to train to save their jet while simulating shooting back.

As a result of this joint effort, these types of defensive exercises now have the capability to take place daily, whereas previous operations were limited to only a few times a year abroad or were entirely simulated.

When simulated training took precedence, Behrens said "pilots would literally tell their wingmen, 'hey, you're being targeted', and instead now we actually have a missile site simulating shooting at us and showing up on our real-life systems so we can react and simulate engaging."

A critical ingredient that has accelerated the training process was gaining access to the Gaicho airspace, an area over the Northern Pacific Ocean that connects the airspace over the ocean to the mainland.

The Gaicho airspace hosts an area known as Draughon Range, a location where pilots are authorized to drop live ordnance.

"This airspace allows us to train for our full Wild Weasel mission, using real targets to drop bombs for realistic training and mission employment," said Capt. Thomas Mueller, 35th Operations Support Squadron chief of wing training. "We will fly every type of mission here and use it regularly."

The benefits of this addition have already made their mark, as 35 OSS Commander Lt. Col. Dave Lyons said he thinks the acquisition of this airspace has had the biggest impact on 35 FW combat training since the arrival of the F-16 at Misawa.

It's an asset that serves a dual purpose.

"Japanese air and ground forces benefit greatly as well, as the Gaicho airspace connects Bravo airspace to these SAM emitters, allowing the JGSDF to train on real air threats too," Mueller added. "Training against real threats will increase the capability of both Japanese and U.S. forces."

"This may be the most important thing that has happened here in the last 20 years," Behrens said. "We now have some great training moving forward to continue to be the best."

Flight sergeants: Pillars of law enforcement, security

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- ALPHA. BRAVO. CHARLIE. DELTA. Some recognize these as the first four letters of the phonetic alphabet. But for the 36th Security Forces Squadron's four flight sergeants, these are the teams of Airmen and civilians they guide to ensure protection of residents and resources on Andersen Air Force Base.

"Our flight sergeants are of extreme importance because they provide control and coordination for our security and law enforcement mission," said Capt. Stephen Zeglen, 36th SFS operations officer. "These NCOs provide guidance and leadership to accomplish our mission every hour of every day."

Flight sergeants are charged with coordinating all security and law enforcement duties for their shift and are required to be on scene for all incidents. They are in charge of command and control, determining the proper course of action and initiating response until relieved by higher authority.

"You have to have the ability to adapt to a situation, asses the scene and make a split-second decision on a positive course of action," said Tech. Sgt. Scottie Boyd, 36th SFS Law Enforcement and Security bravo flight sergeant. "You have to make sure the scene is safe for emergency responders and is blocked off from public access. It's also important that you have confidence in yourself and in the decision you make at that point in time."

The flight sergeants also have administrative responsibilities which are necessary to keep the squadron running. This includes rating enlisted performance reports, keeping track of training and providing documentation for record.

"They are not only tactically in command, they are also administratively responsible for the Airmen assigned to their flight," Zeglen said. "It is not unusual to see flight sergeants in during their days off to finishing paperwork and reports."

To qualify for a flight sergeant position, a security forces NCO must have at least six years of law enforcement experience and a critical duty certification. The certification is achieved through two months of on-the-job training and passing verbal, written and practical examinations.

"Flight sergeants are the senior members of their flights," Zeglen said. "They serve as the voices of experience and wisdom and provide mentorship to all Airmen under them. It's a huge responsibility."

With the plethora of responsibilities that range from command and control, administration and looking out for their Airmen's well-being, flight sergeants have managed to lead their teams effectively and ensure the safety of Team Andersen so Airmen can focus on the mission at hand.

The Inspection team you've never heard of

by Senior Airman Mark Hybers
507th Air Refueling Wing public affairs

5/1/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 1st Aviation Standards Flight is a small team of reservists performing critical inspections to ensure aircraft take off and land safely, not only at Tinker Air Force Base, but locations all over the globe.

The 24-member flight, located at the Federal Aviation Administration center at Will Rogers World Airport is a little known part of the 507th Air Refueling Wing. This unique flight augments the FAA in their mission and works hand in hand with their active duty counterparts.

This small team of inspectors spends a great deal of time flying in either the Bombardier Challenger 601 or 605 running tests on everything from takeoff and landing systems to flight routes as well as low level routes.

Missions are typically flown every two weeks. Planning for these inspections involves a great deal of preparation.

"A four or five day trip typically has two full days of planning," said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Davie, 1st ASF mission specialist superintendent. "Then there is a couple days of post trip reporting. So the whole process for one inspection can take quite a bit of our time."

While the normal two week planning, performing and post reporting takes place, this team also prepares for their annual inspection at McMurdo Station, a U.S. Antarctic research center located on the southern tip of Ross Island.

Inspections in Antarctica take place at the beginning of the summer season, which is normally in October or early November. The teams from 1st ASF are the only teams in the world qualified to inspect McMurdo Station.

"One of the reasons we go on this trip every year is because there is a microwave landing system there which is almost extinct now," said 1st ASF Commander, Lt. Col. Dustin Welsh. "There are still some military installations that use this same system, so it's good training for us."

The lack of qualified inspectors isn't the only challenge when it comes to the yearly McMurdo mission. The environment creates many problems.

"Operations are conducted in extremely cold temperatures, and in an area where weather patterns are constantly changing," said Maj. Brett VanMeter, 1st ASF standards team. "Due to these extreme conditions, the aircraft is operated 24 hour-a-day, stopping only for fuel and a change of crew."

Ensuring navigation aids are performing correctly is crucial in an environment where storms, often referred to by the locals as "herbies," could last for days.

"These storms take visibility down to zero," said VanMeter. "Even vehicle operations are conducted by driving flag to flag."

VanMeter said when a "herbie" is too strong, flight operations cease altogether, however, maintenance crews are required to stay with the aircraft and periodically start the engines to keep them warm so that all aircraft and electronic systems operate normally.

An operation conducted in an environment where there is no discernible horizon is called a 'flat light.' VanMeter said this type of flying makes it hard for pilots to visually determine how high they are above the ground.

"When we fly in an environment like that, a safety pilot is normally aboard to help monitor the radar altimeter and provide another set of eyes for safe operations," he said.

Several runways at McMurdo Station are inspected each year. There is an ice runway that aircraft like the Challengers used by 1st ASF fly. There are also two ski runways and one emergency ski runway that are used during the summer months by ski-equipped C-130s for primary air support.

To further solidify the need for these annual inspections and ensure all systems are working properly, the location at Antarctica has a magnetic variation that is approximately 167 degrees VanMeter said.

"That means when pilots look at their flight instruments on approach, the normal system shows the airfield is behind the aircraft," he added. "That means the pilot has to mentally turn the plane around in their head in order to approach."

All of those variables, plus the constant slow movement of the ice pack on which the runway is, increase the need for yearly inspections.

The small team also deploys on a regular basis to overseas combat zones performing inspections on mobile ground systems ensuring NATO aircraft are getting in and out of theater safely.

"The reason we are part of the Air Force is because the FAA does not have the capability to perform inspections in combat zones," said Welsh. "After being dismantled for many years, the Air Force re-instated these inspection teams in the early 90s because we are a critical part of the mission."

59th Medical Wing supports Army South exercise in Panama

by Army Capt. Sarah Harris

4/30/2013 - PANAMA -- Airmen of the 59th Medical Wing based out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, were in the municipality of Veraguas, Panama, for the start of the Beyond the Horizon medical readiness training exercise April 16.

BTH 2013 is a U.S. Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals to Panama for training, while providing services to rural communities. Conducted annually, these missions are part of U.S. Southern Command's humanitarian and civic assistance program.

The 11-day medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETE, provided medical and dental care to residents in Cerro De Plata, Los Valles and Calobre. The exercise focuses on key health issues in the area, including children's care, nutritional education, basic dental services, hypertension and eye surgery.

"Our goal is to continue to forge that operating team success between the Air Force and Army," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Randy Ivall, who is serving as the officer in charge of this Panama MEDRETE, "Ultimately, at the end of the day, this also prepares us for future missions as well."

"We're expecting about 8,000 patients total by the end of the exercise," said Ivall. "Between the Soldiers and Airmen, we'll get it done."

The exercise was made possible with joint collaboration from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, the Panamanian Ministry of Health and the Panamanian security forces.

Issues such as medication and supplies arriving on time, as well as the language barrier have been a small challenge for the group.

"Our job is to see and take care of as many people as we can," said Master Sgt. Rhonda Bradley, who is in Panama on her second BTH mission, "Although crowd control and language barriers exist, we're still able to make it work."

The exercise brings together Airmen and Soldiers who are experiencing their first BTH as well as those returning for a second and third time.

"It's been great so far," said Maj. Larissa Weir, an OBGYN here on her first BTH mission. "We converted a school into a temporary clinic, so we are now able to take care of the citizens. I'm really enjoying it."

"The most rewarding experience is the appreciation shown by the citizens," said Capt. Karla Dennard, an OBGYN here on her second BTH mission, "My hope is to be able to promote education and self-care in these young females."

The teams will spend three days in Cerro De Plata, another three days in neighboring Los Valles, and finally five days at the final location of Calobre.

"Numbers are important, but they can't tell the entire story," said Ivall, "That cultural exchange that makes us better officers and noncommissioned officers is invaluable."