Monday, May 20, 2013

Memorial Day a time to reflect on service and sacrifice

by Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger
Air Force Materiel Command Commander

5/20/2013 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Throughout my Air Force career, I've often reflected on what it means to serve. I'm proud of the work we do and the sacrifices we make every day so all Americans can continue to enjoy our many freedoms. However, each Memorial Day I am sharply reminded of just how great the sacrifice is for some.

Since the founding of our country, more than one million American Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and Airmen have given their lives in defense of our great nation. These heroes deserve to be remembered ... and honored.

I plan to stop wherever I am and whatever I'm doing on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance. I hope you will do the same. Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices these individuals and their families have made; remember the lives lost in service to our country.

When the Moment of Remembrance is over, and we go back to our hectic lives -- whether dealing with budgetary challenges or simply lamenting the fact that even 3-day weekends pass too quickly -- let's keep those fallen warriors in mind. Ours is a great nation founded on the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before us and all who serve today. Thank you for your service -- have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

DOD Honors Installations for Excellence With Presidential Award

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today announced the 2013 recipients of the Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.

The award recognizes the outstanding and innovative efforts of the people who operate and maintain U.S. military installations, Pentagon officials said, and the five recipients were selected for their exemplary support of Defense Department missions.

The five installations are:
-- U.S. Army Garrison Fort Rucker, Ala.;
-- Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.;
-- Naval Support Activity Panama City, Panama City Beach, Fla.;
-- Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss.; and
-- Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime, Columbus, Ohio.

Installation excellence enables better mission performance and enhances the quality of life for service members and their families, officials said in a statement announcing the selections. Each winning installation succeeded in providing excellent working, housing and recreational conditions, officials added.

Each winning installation will still receive a commemorative commander in chief's award trophy and flag, along with a congratulatory letter from the president.

U.S. Remains Watchful After North Korean Missile Launches

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2013 – The United States continues to call on North Korean leaders to exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
North Korea fired five short-range missiles in the past three days, and reporters asked Little if this is a North Korean return to the provocative behavior earlier this year.

“We have noticed broadly that North Korea has ratcheted back its provocative actions in recent weeks, and its bellicose rhetoric,” Little said. “We hope that that is a trend they hope to follow.”

The missile launches “could be construed” as provocative, Little said, although “these short-range missile launches do not necessarily violate their international obligations.”

Still, the past few months have been bumpy. North Korean leaders conducted an underground nuclear test, fired a ballistic missile and threatened South Korea and the United States with nuclear destruction.

The North Korean rhetoric became a bit less inflammatory this month, but a period of tensions remains, albeit on a smaller scale than before, Little said.

“But anything that can be construed to be provocative continues to concern us,” he added, “and the North Koreans have been known to shift tactics and behavior on short notice. And we’re mindful of their behavior in the past.”

The United States and its allies remain watchful and will continue to monitor what happens on the Korean Peninsula, Little told reporters.

Face of Defense: Guard Service Leads Airman to Extremes

By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 20, 2013 – Air Force Staff Sgt. Sophia Mantzouris of the 386th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron said she knew she wanted to enlist on active duty from the time she was a little girl, but a friend steered her toward the Air National Guard.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Staff Sgt. Sophia Mantzouris inspects a C-130 Hercules at the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, March 23, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Her Air Guard service has provided her an opportunity to serve at extremes.

"The first guard unit I joined was the 109th [Airlift Wing] in Scotia, N.Y.," Mantzouris said. "I served there for nine years and I became an engine troop because, at the time, they had the most educational benefits, the highest bonus, and I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity the Guard had to offer."

Being a single-parent airman presents its own set of challenges for Mantzouris.

"Being a single mom is difficult, because it's two ways that I've completely dedicated my life," she said. "I'm a perfect example of the importance of a family care plan."
The family care plan is designed to provide a smooth, rapid transfer of responsibilities to designees during short- and long-term absences for military duty.

"My plan allows me to be there for my Guard unit as best I can and still make sure that my daughter is properly cared for as she needs to be," she said.

While serving with the 109th Airlift Wing, Mantzouris put her plan into effect to support Operation Deep Freeze missions in Antarctica -- a stark contrast to the desert heat of her current deployment here.
"In some ways [Antarctica is] like here, but it's frozen," she said. "You deal with the extreme cold instead of the extreme heat. When the wind starts whipping down there, it's like the sandstorms here where you can't even see in front of your face."

Due to the harsh Antarctic environment, Operation Deep Freeze missions are flown during the Southern Hemisphere summer. But in Antarctica, those summers don’t lend themselves to frozen treats or cooling off.
"The day I went to South Pole Station it was minus 15 degrees, and the scientists that were there said, 'It's like a heat wave right now,' and I said, 'You’ve got to be crazy,'" she said. "It's not like here, where you can get parts from Bagram [Airfield, Afghanistan] on the next plane. You're all by yourself down there."

Mantzouris has once again put her long-term family care plan into action supporting the Delaware Air National Guard's 166th Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules rotation at the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, where summer temperatures routinely top 100 degrees. So far, she’d rather be here than in Antarctica.

"I hate the cold, which is why my family thought it was comical that I joined the only unit in the entire world that belongs to the Antarctic mission," she said. "So far, the heat hasn't bothered me, but talk to me again before I leave in July, and we will see."