Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Obama: Syria Strikes Justified, But Diplomacy May Work

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – The credible threat of U.S. military force in Syria is critical to showing the world that chemical weapons use is unacceptable, President Barack Obama said in a speech to the nation tonight, but he added that he has asked Congress to postpone a vote authorizing such action.

The commander in chief noted he has asked U.S. military forces to stay ready to conduct the limited strikes he has proposed, which would aim to reduce Assad’s chemical weapons stocks and means of delivering them without putting U.S. boots on the ground.

U.S. officials and others in the international community are now pursuing a last-ditch effort to disarm Bashar Assad’s regime of the prohibited weapons, Obama said, including the sarin gas his forces used against Syrian civilians Aug. 21, killing 400 or more children among the more than 1,400 total dead.
“We know the Assad regime was responsible,” the president said. “In the days leading up to Aug. 21, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack. … They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded.”

Over the past two years, Obama said, “what began as a series of peaceful protests … has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country.”

He has thus far resisted calls for military action, the president said, “because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Aug. 21 attack changed that calculus, the president said.

“The images from this massacre are sickening: men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath,” he said. “A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.”

The world saw proof “in gruesome detail” of the terrible nature of chemical weapons, Obama said, “and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war.”

Chemical weapons were used in both world wars, the president said. “Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them,” he added, noting that 189 governments, representing 98 percent of humanity, now prohibit the use of chemical weapons.

Obama said he’s cautiously hopeful about current international efforts involving Syria’s closest ally, Russia, to remove and ultimately destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal. He said he is sending Secretary of State John F. Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart Sept. 12, and that he will continue his own discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president said he also has spoken to leaders of France and the United Kingdom, “and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control.”

The United States will give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened Aug. 21, “and we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East, who agree on the need for action,” the president said.

If military strikes are ultimately required, Obama said, they will be decisive.

“The United States military doesn't do pinpricks,” he said. “Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”

The president also expressed his gratitude to U.S. service members and their families. “Tonight I give thanks, again, to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices,” he said.
Obama said he doesn’t believe the United States should remove another dictator with force, as it did in Iraq. “But a targeted strike can makes Assad -- or any other dictator -- think twice before using chemical weapons,” he added.

U.S. ideals and principles, as well as national security, are at stake in Syria, the president said.
“Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong, but when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act,” he said.

“That's what makes America different,” the president concluded. “That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

A meeting at the local VFW

by Staff Sgt. N.B.
432nd Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- As a public affairs photojournalist, my job is to tell the Air Force story to the world but sometimes telling it to a smaller crowd is more effective and meaningful.

Recently, I had the privilege to meet some of the Air Force's behind-the-scenes heroes, their accomplishments often forgotten over time but not any less important or extraordinary than the accomplishments of Airmen today.

On a street corner in Las Vegas, Nev., retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. French relaxes with his wife and other retirees at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars center. He shares a special connectedness with the strangers around him, most of whom are current/former service members.

Richard E. French was born in December 1929 in Newberg, Ore. He entered the Air Force in March, 1952 and ultimately served 27-and-a-half years on active duty as a fighter pilot.

During his career, he flew 683 combat sorties during the Vietnam and Korean Wars. He was hand-selected to destroy the Thanh Hoa Bridge in Vietnam during Operation Linebacker I. Later I learned this bridge was important because it had survived 873 sorties and cost U.S. forces 11 aircraft.

As I sat there and listened to his enthusiasm and passion for the stories he shared, I realized these interactions are a necessary part of our Air Force heritage. After all, if we don't take the time to remember the places we have been we'll surely be doomed in the places we will go.

French was wounded twice during his career. He recalls his most serious injury was during Vietnam when he was struck by ground fire that split his helmet down the center glancing his head. He received nine stitches to his head and returned to flying operations the following day. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

French received more than 50 decorations throughout his career including the Silver Star Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 23 Air Medals.

He retired in 1974 and said, "I am truly honored to have had this opportunity, to know that the people I worked with and know that they appreciated the things that I did. It makes this all worth it and I thank the Air Force for allowing me the opportunities to do the things that I did."

As he continued on with his many accomplishments and back stories I paused to look around the room.

I saw the faces of Airmen and noncommissioned officers alike lit with curiosity and amazement that one person was able to accomplish so much.

His wife later thanked us for letting him tell his story to someone who could truly appreciate and understand them as they were. I was honored to have had this opportunity.

I was able to walk away from the experience with a deeper sense of country, commitment and honor for myself, my family and the U.S. Air Force.

My end-advice to any service member, or person, for that matter, is you never know what you might learn until you ask. Value those who came before you because when they go their experiences go with them.

AMC training team builds a secure partnership with Honduran Air Force

by Maj. Lorena Tejada
571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron

9/10/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- 
The 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron recently finished its first fully integrated mobile training team event with the Honduran Air Force.
Thirteen air advisors deployed to Base Aerea Coronel Hector Acosta Mejia, Tegucigalpa, Honduras from 21 July to 24 August to train more than 50 partner nation military personnel over the 35-day engagement. Lessons included aircraft maintenance, fuels, secure communications, command and control, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. 
The Honduran Air Force commanding general, Brig. Gen. Manuel Palacios, addressed this premiere MSAS MTT at the during the opening ceremony.  "We welcome our MSAS friends and partners as we find solutions to common challenges and build stronger bonds between our air forces."
As the first fully integrated MSAS Building Partner Capacity event in Honduras, this engagement set a foundation for advancing the Honduran Air Force's capacity to support counter-narcotics missions and United States Southern Command's theater security cooperation objectives. 
All Air Mobility Command building partner capacity missions are conducted in coordination with the air force component of United States Southern Command and the US Office of Security Cooperation in Honduras.  However, this BPC event took integration and synchronization to the next level.  The MSAS MTT cadre also included the expertise of an Inter-American Air Forces Academy aircraft maintenance instructor and an air battle manager from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.  
This event marked the first time MSAS Aircraft Maintenance teams focused on the Honduran Beechcraft B200.  Tech. Sgt. Mateo Escareno, MSAS aircraft maintenance air advisor, and Tech. Sgt. Mauricio Moya, IAAFA instructor worked closely with Honduran Air Force aircraft maintainers to focus on a variety aircraft systems and maintenance procedures. Moya provided his expertise during an on-site PT-6 engine course, while Escareno and FAH personnel authored a thorough aircraft and maintenance program assessment of the platform. 
Additionally, Tech. Sgt. Christopher White, intelligence air advisor, led the first-ever MSAS Intelligence course at the Honduran Air Force Operations Center, also known as COFAH. He helped their operators establish a basic intelligence foundation that provided greater situational awareness and common knowledge.  White also guided the COFAH operators through a complex final exercise, where they were able to respond to a down military aircraft scenario with enhanced efficiency and improved coordination throughout the scenario. 
"This was the first opportunity for COFAH to work side-by-side with base-level intel analysts to collaborate and develop checklists, procedures and team analysis," White said. "This training built common situational awareness across the airbases and shortened reaction time."
Technical Sergeants Brian De Luca and Richard Rubalcava, communications air advisors, trained Honduran Air Force and Navy radio operators as they successfully added a new secure voice and data communications capability to their forces. 
Captain Jose Domingo Meza, HQ Honduran Naval Communications Director, said "We are committed to further developing this critical secure communications capability and already have plans for additional joint training for Honduran Air Force, Naval and Army operators."
During the closing ceremony, Colonel Lawrence Pravecek, U.S. State Dept. Defense and Air Attaché for Honduras, addressed military graduates, "This MTT created the opportunity to collaborate and further develop our capabilities as air force partners.  You have seized the moment!  I hope you feel empowered to take your mission to a new level of success."

Forces Ready for Syria Contingencies, Dempsey Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – U.S. forces are positioned and plans are in place for a range of military options against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, America’s top general testified today before the House Armed Services Committee.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke before the committee along with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on authorization to use military force in Syria, which President Barack Obama has asked Congress to grant.

The general noted that Obama has determined that a limited military response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons -- in one instance killing 1,400 Syrians, including some 400 children -- is in America’s national security interest. Chemical weapons have long been outlawed under international agreements, one dating back to 1925, that prohibit their assembly, stockpiling or use.

“We've reached the point at which Assad views chemical weapons as just another military tool in his arsenal, a tool he's willing to use indiscriminately,” Dempsey said. “And that's what makes this so dangerous -- dangerous for Syria, dangerous for the region, and dangerous for the world.”

Dempsey said he has prepared at the president’s request a list of target packages to meet the objectives of deterring the Assad regime’s further use of chemical weapons and degrading its military capability to deliver chemical weapons.

“We have both an initial target set and subsequent target sets, should they become necessary,” the chairman said. “The planned strikes will disrupt those parts of Assad's forces directly related to the chemical attack of 21 August, degrade his means of chemical weapons delivery, and finally, degrade the assets that Assad uses to threaten his neighbors and to defend his regime.”

Dempsey added the strikes will send Assad a deterrent message that the United States can “hold at risk the capabilities he values most.”

U.S. forces are ready to carry out the orders of the commander in chief, he said. Dempsey acknowledged that because of sequestration-mandated spending cuts, “the force that sits behind the forward-deployed force” faces readiness issues. But a limited operation in Syria to defend the nation’s security interests is feasible, he said.

“I am concerned not about [funding] this operation, but in general that unforeseen contingencies will be impacted in the future if sequestration continues,” he said.

Dempsey noted the limited nature of the planned strikes should decrease the potential for miscalculation and escalation, as well as minimize collateral damage. “However, we are postured to address a range of contingencies and we're prepared to support our friends in the region should Assad choose to retaliate,” he added.

U.S. troops are exceptionally well trained and prepared, the general told the panel. “I'm honored to represent them,” he said. “If called to execute, your military will respond.”

Officials Map Next Steps in U.S.-Chinese Military Relations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – U.S. and Chinese officials mapped the next steps in the military-to-military relationship between their nations at the 14th annual defense consultative talks that ended in Beijing yesterday.

James N. Miller, the undersecretary of defense for policy, met with Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff. The two men last met in July.

“We’re engaging the Chinese in a number of channels, … and we are working to build cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” Miller told reporters following the meeting. “We’re also discussing our differences and working to narrow them where we can. Where we can’t narrow the differences, at least we can understand each other’s perspectives better, and we’re working to reduce the chances of misunderstanding and miscalculations.”

The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies. The consultative talks on defense “looked for ways to build strategic trust and look for opportunities to build on cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” Miller said. This includes humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping and maritime safety, to name just a few, he added.

The talks sought to capitalize on recent cooperation. Last month, Chinese and U.S. forces completed a counterpiracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden, Miller noted, and China already has announced it will participate in the RIMPAC 2014 exercise in the Pacific Rim. The U.S. and Chinese teams also discussed the Chinese participating in other exercises, including multinational exercises such as Cobra Gold 2014, he said.

The talks covered maritime security in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and the two sides exchanged views on cyber, space, nuclear policy and missile defense” Miller said.

“I emphasized our grave concerns reference North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments,” the undersecretary said. “We called on China to pressure North Korea to return to a process of credible and authentic negotiations aimed at denuclearization.”

Highlighting the life of a Hispanic-American Vietnam veteran

by 1st Lt. Leanne Hedgepeth
17th Training Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - GOODFELLOWAIR FORCE BASE, Texas--  -- Tony Graf, Vietnam War veteran and Hispanic-American, came to Goodfellow Aug. 29 to share his story for Hispanic Heritage month.

Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15. It is a time to recognize the contributions that Hispanic and Latino Americans have given to the U.S. and to celebrate the Hispanic and Latino-American's culture.

Hispanic Heritage Month originated in 1968 as a week instead of a month. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 as Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan changed it to a month long.

LBJ chose Sept. 15 as the start because five Latin American countries; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on that day. He also chose Sept. 16 in honor of Mexico's independence day. Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence Sept. 16.

Graf was born in the city of Bergs Mill, Texas, in a predominantly Hispanic community. He is the grandson of two Mexican grandmothers and grew up speaking Spanish.

Graf said he has memories of Hispanic culture dating back to his childhood. One of his grandmothers was of Mexican-Indian dissent and he recalls her taking him outside to pick plants to make teas. His grandmother traditionally made tamales and a Mexican pastry during Christmas.

He said he regrets not paying more attention to his culture because it would have made his family proud.

Graf left his family to enlist in the Air Force because he wanted to travel overseas. He joined in 1960 and dedicated 20 years of service, 18 months of which were spent in service at Goodfellow.

Graf was a career finance and budget troop who was stationed in Vietnam for a year.

Graf was excited to go to Vietnam. Since the day he enlisted, he had wanted to go overseas he said. The news of him going to Vietnam was just what he wanted, but he later realized he didn't know exactly what that meant.

"I was happy," he said. "I did not know what Vietnam was; I didn't pay attention to the news."

Graf said the war environment was very scary especially when you had to try to go to sleep hearing mortar fire. Graf said his comrades helped him through the difficult times.

"We were always finding ways to get into something," he said.

Graf also received support from his grandmother, throughout his time in Vietnam he continued to communicate with his grandmother; she would send him letters in Spanish.

While in the Air Force, Graf never experienced discrimination because of his Hispanic heritage.

"Even with my accent I didn't get treated differently," Graf said. "It never affected my promotions and I was recognized for my hard work. I think people discriminate against other groups because they do not understand them; whether it be the way they look or talk etc."

Graf was proud to serve his country in Vietnam, but that changed when he came home. Upon his return from Vietnam he was greeted by protestors at the airport who refused to let him and his comrades proceed to where they were going. Graf's group tried to make their way through the protestors but security threatened to take them to jail if they pushed the protestors.

Throughout the remainder of his career he sought assignments oversees. For many years Graf denied being a Vietnam veteran.

Upon his retirement, the Veterans of Foreign Wars denied him entry, saying they did not need him around their organization because he was in Vietnam. Graf was determined to get in the VFW and knew their closed mindedness would end as the next generation came to join.

He not only made it into the organization but rose through leadership ultimately becoming the commander.

Today our government believes in standing against discrimination from the highest ranks to the lowest enlisted U.S. President Barack Obama said "Discrimination cannot stand -- not on account of color or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America."

Goodfellow will host a Hispanic Heritage Month open house at the Event Center Oct. 3. The open house features art displays from Vino Dipinte art gallery, cultural displays, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu demonstration, and a Latin music and dance demonstratio

U.S. Air Force Honor Guard visits Sheppard

by Airmen 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

9/9/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The tip of a bayonet slices through fluorescent lights, and the rifle it sits upon somersaults through the air, landing into a white-gloved hand.

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performed here Sept. 5, in front of a captivated crowd of Airmen who recently graduated from basic training.

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington D.C., is the Air Force's premier honor guard, and performs throughout the U.S. in public venues to recruit, retain and inspire Airmen.

"It's a humbling and honoring experience," said 1st Lt. Michael Lemorie, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard commander. "We represent every Airman past and present."

As members practiced their drill moves before performing in front of dozens of Airmen, each movement they made was conducted with a sense of urgency and focus.

"Resiliency is key," Lemorie said. "We train ourselves to focus on the technicality of the mission."

Lemorie treasures his role as an honor guardsmen and the bond he has made with the members under his command.

"This is something that is very special to me," he said. "We have a very strong family bond."

Another member of that very family, Staff Sgt. Jimmie Pryor, a drill team trainer from Cincinnati, Ohio, knew he wanted to be a part of the Air Force's top honor guard back in basic military training. When he saw an Airmen break one of their fingers and continue flawlessly with the performance, he admired their precision and work ethic.

"I needed to instill that discipline in myself," he said. "Whatever he went through I wanted to go through."

Awestruck by the sight of the performance, Pryor knew automatically what it he was wanted to do in the Air Force.

"It was just a sight to see," he said. "I got talked into the honor guard then and there."

Of the four-and-a-half years Pryor has served, he has spent four of them as an honor guardsman.

"It's amazing," he said. "It's definitely a life-changing experience."

Moments before the group went onstage to perform, each guardsman bowed their heads in unison as a tranquil silence swept the room. As each hand joined together, prayers were uttered against the crowd and bright lights that awaited them outside. The pressure was on and each performer was ready to go.

"It's a little bit of an out-of-body experience," said Pryor.

As the Airmen finish their performance, applause erupts throughout the theater and the guardsmen, with practiced precision leave the stage for a moment that they consider more than a job, but a way of life.

Pacific Angel 13-5 begins with U.S., Cambodia safety exchange

by Senior Master Sgt. Allison Day
Pacific Angel 13-5 Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - TAKEO PROVINCE, Cambodia -  -- The United States and Cambodia have teamed up to conduct Operation Pacific Angel 13-5 Sept 9 - 14 here.

Thirty-six engineers from both the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces and U.S. forces arrived yesterday and are scheduled to provide engineering assistance at three health centers.

However, before work can begin at the sites, both forces began the day with a subject-matter expert exchange, which focused on safety.

"Our primary focus during this mission is safety first," said Senior Master Sgt. Kurt Kowaleski, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, infrastructure superintendent from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan and the lead engineer planner for the operation. "We need to get the job done, but do so safely."

Topics covered during the SMEE included, electrical and ladder safety.
"A lot of electrical work will be done at each site and it's important that all members stick to the basics of safety," said Master Sgt. John Barboni deputy lead engineer for the operation and 18th CES, NCOIC exterior electric, Kadena AB. "It was important for us to conduct this SMEE because our standards of operation in the U.S. are different from other countries."

In addition to electrical and ladder safety, personal safety such as eye, face, foot, hand, head and hearing protection were also briefed.
"This training was very good for us," said Lt. Col. San Savoeun from Engineering High Command, Headquarters, Deputy Demining Office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and lead engineer for the RCAF. "It will help us to understand each other and the way we do things."

This Operation Pacific Angel will focus on engineering civil action programs as well as subject-matter expert exchanges. In its sixth year, the operation is hosted by U.S. Pacific Command and implemented jointly with other governments, non-governmental agencies, and multilateral militaries in the Asia Pacific region.

Four other operations were conducted this year in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. This is the fifth and final operation this year.

Local exercise begins, tests Kadena operations

by Senior Airman Malia Jenkins
18th Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Team Kadena is conducting a local operational readiness exercise this week to ensure Airmen are prepared for future real world contingencies, maintain regional stability and are equipped to fight tonight, win tomorrow.

LOREs are base-wide exercises designed to test units' abilities to respond and react to real-life scenarios and allow Airmen to train effectively in a safe environment.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Knepp, 18th Wing Plans and Programs NCO in charge of wing exercises, said the purpose of the exercise and its scenarios are to test the wing's ability to deploy and execute wartime operations and show Kadena is well-trained, ready and prepared to complete its mission.

Since the operational readiness inspection Oct. 15, 2012, there has been a huge turnover of personnel and incorporating new personnel into wing operations is critical, Knepp added.

Airmen will spend the week training on how to conduct various tasks that can be applied to life in a deployed area or emergency situations.

"These exercises add to our strategic capability in the region," said Knepp. "They ensure we are exactly what we say we are -- a combat-ready unit."

Vice Chairman Lauds ‘Newman’s Own Award’ Winners

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today recognized eight organizations whose sense of community, creativity and innovation has improved the quality of life for military families.

In the Pentagon Hall of Heroes, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr. joined sponsor representatives from Newman’s Own Inc., Fisher House Foundation and Military Times to present a total of $100,000 in grant money to the organizations and to personally commend the Newman’s Own Award recipients.

Actor Paul Newman formed Newman’s Own Foundation in 2005 as an independent, private foundation to sustain the legacy of his philanthropic work. He died in 2008.

“[The award recipients] embody Paul Newman’s belief that each of us has the potential to make a difference in this world,” Winnefeld said. “He would be very proud to know where his legacy has extended.”

While many are familiar with the late Hollywood icon’s prolific acting career and spectrum of signature foods, spices and sauces, Newman also established a revolutionary philanthropic goal to give away 100 percent of after-tax product profits to educational and charitable organizations.

By the end of next year, the Newman’s Own Foundation will have given away more than $400 million with more than 100 military-servicing organizations receiving about $10 million.

This year’s grants, Winnefeld explained, provide not only the funding for immediate assistance such as respite care, but also enable the organizations to offer tools of empowerment to help service members and their families excel beyond their current situations.

“Whether it’s the child of a fallen service member who finds solace at weekend camp with other surviving children or a female veteran trying to transition back to civilian life after a tour in a war zone, the Newman’s Own Foundation is there behind the scenes … to provide support,” the admiral said. “Long after today’s wars have faded into the distant memory, we will still have many service members and their families who [will] need our support – the support of the entire country.”

Women Vets and Transitional Living Program, a project originating from Virginia-based Final Salute Inc., earned the largest grant award of $25,000.

Final Salute founder and president Jaspen Boothe is a 13-year Army veteran who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Facing her own challenges stemming from health issues and the loss of nearly everything she owned due to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, Boothe became a stalwart advocate for soldiers and their families.

She recounted her experience undergoing transit treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

“We remember the ones who have fallen on the battlefield, but often forget those that have fallen on hard times,” Boothe said of the estimated 55,000 homeless women veterans in the United States. As a former soldier, she noted, she took an oath never to leave a fallen comrade. “No veteran should be homeless,” she said, “but women are now the fastest growing homeless population and most are single mothers.”

Since 2000, the Newman’s Own Award program has awarded a cumulative grant total of $925,000 to 153 organizations.

The following organization also received grants at today’s ceremony:
-- The Jonas Project, Laguna Woods, Calif.;
-- Caregiver Retreats, Yellow Ribbon Fund, Bethesda, Md.;
-- Military Helpline Texting Service, Lines for Life, Portland, Ore.;
-- Veterans Aging in Place, Purple Heart Homes Inc., Statesville, N.C.;
-- Regional Military Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Arlington, Va.;
-- Respite Care for Military Families/Children with Intellectual Disabilities, Jill’s House, Vienna, Va.; and
-- Blue Star Jobs, Blue Star Families Inc., Falls Church, Va.

Program gives Airman opportunity to attend Academy

By Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks, 2nd Combat Camera Squadron

 U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- Each summer at the Academy, a new group of basic cadets march in formation for nearly eight miles from the Terrazzo to Jacks Valley.

There, for nearly two weeks, they endure rigorous training and learn to survive and operate as a team in a field environment.

For most cadets, this represents their initial basic training experience and the beginning of their path to becoming an Air Force officer, but a few cadets in each class have taken the long road to Jacks Valley.

In early 2012, Senior Airman Leah Young stood in the back of the room during the annual awards banquet at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs office, her role was to document the ceremony.

Young listened as Col. Richard Moore, Jr., the wing's vice commander, took the stage for the night's closing remarks. After congratulating the award recipients, he shared a few words about his time at the Academy.

"When I graduated from the Academy, my class color was silver," the colonel said. "And when Lieutenant Young graduates from the Academy, her class color will also be silver."

This was how Young was told she had been accepted at the Academy.

"I was in the back with my camera in my hands, and I almost dropped it," now-Cadet 4th Class Young said."

Young is one of 57 prior-enlisted Airmen among approximately 1,150 basic cadets accepted into the Class of 2017. She applied through the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program, developed to give Airmen the opportunity to compete for appointments to the Academy and Academy Preparatory School.

Through LEAD, commanders may nominate highly-qualified Airmen with officer potential. Every year, 85 slots are reserved for direct appointment to the Academy and 50 slots for the Academy Prep School.

"Leah was a spectacular enlisted Airman, and I'm quite sure she'll be an even more amazing officer," said Moore, now the 436th Airlift Wing commander at Dover Air Force Base, Del. "She has chosen a path that, while long, will serve both her and the Air Force very, very well."

Young said she learned about the LEAD program through her own curiosity and initiative.
"I became interested in commissioning after working with two very inspiring captains in the public affairs office," she said. "One was an Academy graduate and one was an ROTC graduate. The one who was an Academy graduate talked about both the benefits and not-so-great things there, and I was curious because I didn't really know a lot about the Academy."

While researching different commissioning opportunities online, "the LEAD program popped up and I immediately began my application," Young said. "My mentality was 'the worst they can say is no' and if I don't apply, I might regret it. My office was extremely supportive and did everything they could to help me."

Young's supervisor at the time, Tech. Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson, said, "Leah was my first Airman to ever apply for the LEAD program. She was and is a natural leader, one of those Airmen who was always destined for more."

Jefferson, now the Uniformed Service University deputy media affairs NCO, added, "She earned senior airman below-the-zone and was recognized as an Inspector General Outstanding Airman.

"I am excited for our future to know we will have an Academy grad with the work ethic and know-how of an NCO," he said. "I have no doubt she will work hard for her Airmen and ensure her NCOs have everything they need to accomplish the mission."

Young accepted an appointment to the Academy Prep School, which she attended during the 2012-2013 academic year.

"The prep school was very beneficial for me, and a great transition from living on my own as a Senior Airman to living in the dorms as a Cadet," Young said. "It got me back into the mentality and rhythm of being in a training environment."

She said it also prepared her for the academic challenges of Academy courses.

"I'd been out of school for a few years," Young said. "I'd taken a few math classes online while I was enlisted, but it wasn't the same as going to school every day. So it definitely got me back in the groove, to where I feel mentally prepared to face four years of training and Academy lifestyle."

In Jacks Valley, Young said, training primarily focuses on leadership and teamwork.

"During the initial weeks of Basic Cadet Training," she said, "we talked about leadership and teamwork a lot, but here we get to implement it. We've shot rifles, we've done a lot of drill training and marching, and we've gone through the assault course, the obstacle course, and the confidence course."

While navigating the courses, Young said, "you're going to have people who can't exactly do every single obstacle. So you really find your teammates' strengths and weaknesses and learn how to succeed as a team."

Cadet 2nd Class Emily Willson, a cadet cadre element leader during Basic Cadet Training, said it's very beneficial to have prior-enlisted Airman among the basic cadets.

"Priors know their stuff, they know what's going on, so you can talk to them a little differently than the direct entries from high school," she said. "The first time I sat down with Leah in counseling, I didn't ask her the same questions as everyone else because I knew she was a little older and had more experience."

Willson continued, "It's been really great working with her, because I can ask her questions about things like the morale of the flight, how people are actually doing, and I knew I would get good answers back from her because of her experience."

When she was going through BCT, Willson said, she learned a great deal from two prior-enlisted cadets in her squadron.

"As a civilian out of high school, you come in here and you don't know anything," she said. "So when you actually got to talk to the priors, they'd come in and help you learn the military stuff."

LEAD is "an incredible program," Willson concluded. "The priors have a wealth of experience, so once they become officers, they know how to work with the enlisted force because they've been there before."

With another "basic training" now under her belt, Young said she's looking forward to her freshman year at the Academy.

"My goal for this year is to grow and develop as much as I can in every possible way," she said. "I plan to take advantage of every beneficial opportunity that presents itself and build a strong network of successful mentors and fellow cadets."

Her advice to other Airmen interested in commissioning opportunities is to explore different options to "find exactly what you want."

"The Academy's not for everybody," she said. "It's definitely a different lifestyle than ROTC or any other commissioning program, so my advice would be just go with what you want for your future.

"I'm proud to commission as a previously enlisted Airman," she said. "I'm looking forward to using that experience to develop myself into a better cadet, officer and leader."

Airmen interested in learning more about LEAD can visit their local Base Education Office or www.academyadmissions.com.

Commander In Chief of People's Liberation Army (Navy) Visits USS Carl Vinson

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Recruit James Bleyle
CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Adm. Wu Shengli, commander in chief of the People's Liberation Army - Navy [PLA(N)], visited the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) accompanied by U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert on Sept. 9, 2013.

In his first visit to the United States since 2007, Shengli, escorted by Greenert, was rendered side honors by Carl Vinson Sailors before a tour of the warship led by its Commanding Officer Capt. Kent D. Whalen.

"It is a rare privilege to welcome aboard such distinguished guests," Whalen said. "To have not only our own chief of naval operations, but to have Adm. Wu from the People's Republic of China as well is truly an honor. I'm pleased and excited some of our terrific Sailors had the opportunity to engage with them both."

The delegation toured the waist launch control room, combat direction center (CDC), arresting gear operations room, crew's mess and medical wards, where junior and senior enlisted Sailors demonstrated their work center's professionalism, high-quality standards and the critical functions they perform every day.

"It filled me with a great sense of pride to see our Sailors intelligently and passionately present their work centers and explain their work to both CNOs," said Carl Vinson's Command Master Chief (CMDCM) Jeffrey Pickering. "It really spoke to Carl Vinson's high standard of excellence."

Wu and Greenert also met with chief petty officers to discuss the important role senior enlisted perform in the U.S. Navy. Following a question-and-answer session on the differences and similarities between the two navies, Capt. Whalen hosted a lunch in the wardroom in honor of Wu.

The diplomatic visit was one of many to U.S. Navy and Marine Corps commands in the San Diego area and supports the goals of both military leaders to establish clear paths of communication, encourage transparency and trust, mitigate risks, and focus multilateral cooperative efforts to address common regional and global security challenges.

The visit is also especially important as PLA(N) accepted an invitation to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) 2014 earlier this year. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC is held every two years and will include more than 20 nations in 2014.