Military News

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rodriguez: Africom Promotes Security, Stability in Africa



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2013 – Five years after it was stood up as the newest of six U.S. geographic combatant commands, U.S. Africa Command has improved the quality of military-to-military engagements across the continent and has helped regional partners increase their capacity to provide their own security, the Africom commander said.

“Africom was established five years ago to improve the coordination [and] effectiveness of U.S. military activities in Africa on the premise that a safe and secure Africa was in the best interest of Africans, Americans and the broader international community,” Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez told reporters last week during an online news conference.

The command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, brings a dedicated focus to the African continent, where U.S. military involvement previously was shared among three combatant commands.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who joined Rodriguez during the news conference, said Africom has gone a long way in elevating U.S. interests in the region.

“The American military was working with partners in Africa before Africom. We have always had an interest in Africa,” she said. “What is new with Africom over the past five years is that we’re more engaged. It’s more direct, it’s more coordinated, it’s more strategic than it’s been in the past.”

African military leaders who have worked with Africom share that sentiment, Thomas-Greenfield said. “They would also agree that this has been a positive advancement in our relationship,” she added.

Rodriguez credited Africom’s progress in helping partners set the conditions for an enduring stability to an approach that leverages the capabilities of U.S. government agencies, international partnerships and nongovernmental organizations.

“Our strategy is to develop partner-security capacities, strengthen relationships and enhance regional cooperation,” he said. “We conduct all of our activities in close coordination with our African partners and our partners in the U.S. government.

“Every team has a leader. And in countries where we operate, that leader is the U.S. ambassador,” he said.

Rodriguez acknowledged skepticism by some about the command and its mission, but said its actions since its inception send a clear message.

“Africa Command has always been focused on trying to figure out how to best support the African nations and the African partners and strengthen their defense capabilities so that the African solutions are the way of the future,” he said. “I think the track record over the last five years has been that Africom has helped to support the defense institutions [and improve their capacity] … so that African solutions are the way of the future all around.”

Rodriguez dismissed speculation that budget cuts could cause Africom to return to its previous status as a subcommand of U.S. European Command. At least for now, the United States intends to keep the two commands separate, he said, maintaining a headquarters focused specifically on Africa and on improving the effectiveness of U.S. military support there to the State Department and region.

“We’ll just see how that goes in the future,” Rodriguez said. “But right now, there are no plans to consolidate.”

Air Force Reserve activates intelligence squadron

by Senior Airman Adam Hamar
940th Wing Public Affairs


10/27/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Air Force Reserve Command's 10th Air Force activated the 38th Intelligence Squadron here October 26.

The 38th is one of several new intelligence squadrons standing up under the 655th Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Group, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, as part of AFRC's latest reserve Intel transformation initiative.

"It is incredibly humbling for me to be associated with the 38th IS, and I am proud to say that Americans downrange are safe because of them," said Lt. Col. Robert Garcia, newly appointed squadron commander.

Garcia recounted a story about a Marine on patrol, killed in Vietnam who might still be here today, if they had better intelligence. The Marine was Garcia's older brother.

"The work you do is important," Garcia stated to the members of the 38th IS. "You do make a difference. Don't ever forget who you are supporting."

"He is the perfect fit," said Col Douglas Drakeley, 655th ISGR commander. "He is a true professional in his field, and I look forward to the work he will continue to do."

The 38th IS works in a joint environment with the active duty in one of five Distributed Common Ground Systems, the premier intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapon system.

Each DCGS receives data from aircraft operating anywhere in the world, such as the U-2 Dragonlady or RQ-4 Global Hawk based here. The data is then analyzed and disseminated in real time to combatant commanders worldwide.

"I want to say how proud I am of the men and women of the 38th IS," said Garcia. "There is nowhere else I would rather be, than right here, right now, with this amazing team."

Battleship NORTH CAROLINA Announces 2014 Program and Event Schedule



WILMINGTON, NC – The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is pleased to announce the programming and special event schedule for 2014.

Diverse programming at the NORTH CAROLINA allows people of all generations to experience what fascinates them most about one of the most decorated ships of World War II. You are invited to discover and build your personal connection by participating in programs such as Firepower and Power Plant that give more in depth exploration. The young at heart will also enjoy the more family fun oriented events with the Easter Egg Hunt and Batty Battleship’s Halloween Bash.

New in 2014:
Showboat—Systems & Design
May 17, 2014
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
$40 per person.  $35 for Friends members or active military.

As the first of the 10 fast battleships which served in WWII, NORTH CAROLINA paved the way for those battleships that followed. Hampered by treaty restrictions, naval architects still managed to weave the various ship systems together into an efficient and elegant naval weapons system – the first battleship constructed in sixteen years. LtCol Ken Rittenmeyer, USAF (Ret) will provide participants with an insightful afternoon program explaining these various shipboard systems – armor, fuel, propulsion, electrical, etc. – that make NORTH CAROLINA an effective warship and how they are skillfully incorporated into this engineering wonder.  A one-hour presentation followed by a two-hour shipboard exploration comprise this engaging program. 

The tour is limited to 12 participants age 18 and older. It is not appropriate for those who have difficulty climbing narrow ladders or over knee-high hatches. Wear warm, comfortable, washable clothing, sturdy, rubber-soled shoes and bring a camera! Water and light snack provided. Registration and payment are due by Thursday, May 15th. Tour is $40/$35 for Friends of the Battleship or active military. Call 910-251-5797 extension 3001 for reservations. 

Torpedo Headed for You: Damage Control Aboard NORTH CAROLINA
November 8, 2014
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
$55 per person.  $50 for Friends members or active military.

Discover how the crew tackles survivability issues such as the September 15, 1942 torpedoing.  Find out what skills and tool are required for the damage control team to keep the ship afloat. The tour is limed to ages 16 & older. Registration and payment are due by Thursday, November 6 Tour is $55/$50 for Friends of the Battleship or active military. Call 910-251-5797 for reservations. This program is not appropriate for those who have difficulty climbing narrow ladders or over knee-high hatches.  Bring your camera!

A full listing of 2014 events can be found attached.

The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is self-supporting, not tax supported and relies primarily upon admissions to tour the Ship, sales in the Ship's Store, donations and investments. No funds for its administration and operation come from appropriations from governmental entities at the local, state or federal levels. Located at the junction of Highways 17/74/76/421 on the Cape Fear River.   Visit www.battleshipnc.com or follow us on Facebook.com/ncbb55 and Twitter.com/battleshipnc for more information. Relive with the crew on the Battleship Blog http://seastories.battleshipnc.com/. The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is an historic site within the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (www.NCCulture.com).

Face of Defense: Female U.S. Army Paratrooper Trains in India

By Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

JOINT BASE ELEMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, Oct. 29, 2013 – Army 1st Lt. Laura Condyles, a parachute rigger-qualified officer with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, recently returned from graduating second place at the Indian army’s Heavy Drop Course in Agra, India.


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U.S. Army 1st Lt. Laura Condyles with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division,displays her battalion’s unit shirt at the Taj Mahal. Courtesy photo by Indian Army Capt. Ashish Jha
  

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Condyles, a 25-year-old quartermaster officer from Mechanicsville, Va., was chosen from a distinct group of officers in her unit to attend the course at the Army Airborne Training School. The 52-day event began in early August in one of the hottest areas in India with average daily temperatures hovering around 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

“When I first got there, we found out that the class wasn’t in English. The whole class was in Hindi the entire time!” Condyles said. “They had an old dictionary they used to translate the tests for me.”

Fortunately, the Indian army assigned student-sponsor Capt. Ashish Jha to help Condyles as they both worked through the course. Condyles had to pass three, three-hour written examinations.

“Of course, the questions were originally in Hindi and were translated to English, so I just kind of had to take my best guess at what they were saying,” Condyles said.

The Indian army’s AATS installation is similar to Fort Benning, Ga., Condyles said. Most of their airborne training takes place there, including airborne school, the heavy drop riggers course, high altitude low opening school, and the pathfinder school.

The Indian forces have two main aircraft used for heavy drops, the Russian-made AN-32 and the IL-76, which are comparable in size to the American C-130 and C-17, respectively.

India’s air force packs all of their personnel parachutes, and their army focuses on heavy drop rigging.
The Russian-engineered rigging equipment uses three different platforms.  “With each platform, there were three different parachutes that we learned, so I learned how to pack nine different parachutes,” Condyles said.

Condyles excelled in the heavy drop course and earned the Indian army’s Medal of Excellence for achieving the coveted “i” indicator meaning she performed at such a high level that she is qualified to be an instructor.

“I’m the first foreign officer that’s ever gotten the “i” grade before, so that was pretty neat.” she said “The cool thing was I’m the first American that went to the course.”

Condyles said she was fortunate that Capt. Jha was there to translate. In addition, she was able to learn a great deal about the Indian army and India’s culture during her time there.

“They drop live animals,” she said. “They put chickens and goats on a platform and drop them in for food.”

One of the benefits of partnership training is learning about different military organizations, she said.
The Indian army’s structure “is pretty different. Officers, soldiers, and NCOs are very, very separated. It’s not like our Army where we work together a lot more closely,” Condyles said. “When you are an officer on post, they cook your meal for you, or they deliver it to your room. They clean your bathroom for you every day. They mop your floors in your room every day. They even make your bed for you every day, and they do your laundry every single day.”

Even with the conveniences, Condyles’ said her training in India was complicated by the high temperatures, and power outages.  “I had electricity about 40 to 50 percent of the time.”

Condyles purchased Indian clothes to wear for her cultural and historical experiences, including two trips to the Taj Mahal, a visit to the historic Agra Fort, a village wedding celebration experience, and sadly, a mourning ceremony for an instructor’s 22-year-old son who was struck and killed by a train.
Condyles thought the training was very worthwhile, and she hopes for more U.S.-Indian military cross-training events to further improve interoperability between the two countries.

“The Indian army is very professional and very disciplined,” she said. “I had a great time training and getting to work with them. I would love to work with them again in the future, and I think our military would benefit greatly from working with them. We could learn from each other.

Carter Praises U.S. Soldiers’ ‘Ferocious Ingenuity’

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2013 – Thanks, in part, to the efforts of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, success there is within sight, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter told soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, yesterday.


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Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter thanks soldiers for their service during a visit to the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 28, 2013. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
  

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“We are being successful there in a way that I never thought was possible. … Because of your efforts, things really are getting turned over to the Afghans, and as you know very well, they are shouldering the burden,” Carter told the soldiers.

The Defense Department doesn’t take soldiers’ efforts for granted, the deputy secretary said.

“You are the ones who are actually doing the work, we're just supporting you. … That's Job 1 for us,” Carter said.

Over the past 12 years of war, the U.S. Army has shown itself to be the most-adaptive military force in history, he said.

“Who'd have ever thought we'd be doing the kind of thing that we were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Carter said. “And yet, we asked you to do it, and you took on things that no military has ever done before, and no military in the world could ever come close to doing, and you did it. And that tells me that the Army will be up to whatever the future holds.”

Predicting the future is difficult, he said, but the Pentagon strives to plan in spite of the uncertainties.
Yet, “what we're really counting on isn't our own crystal ball, because it's not that good,” Carter said. “What we're really counting on is something we know we have, which is the tremendous ingenuity, the ferocious ingenuity of the U.S. Army.”

The current political squabbles in the nation’s capital are disruptive to the U.S. military, he said.

“Having just flown [-in] from Washington … there's nothing good I can say about it,” Carter said. “It's inexcusable. It's leading to real disruption in how we manage our armed forces.

I think that we'll get through this,” he continued, “but I just wanted you to know that in the meantime, [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] and I and the entire leadership are doing the best we can to minimize the disruption on you and your mission.”

Carter is on a multi-day trip to visit bases in Texas, including yesterday’s stop at Fort Hood. Today at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Carter will present Purple Heart medals and certificates to six soldiers that were wounded in Afghanistan.

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding, Recovery Effort Continues

By David Vergun
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2013 – Hurricane Sandy stormed ashore in Brigantine, N.J., on Oct. 29, 2012.


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Soldiers with the 28th Military Police Company, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, prepare to depart from Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Nov. 4, 2012, to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the New York City area. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ted Nichols
  

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The storm carved a swath of destruction from Florida to Maine and its fury was felt as far inland as the Appalachian Mountains, and as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin.

"We had to be ready to respond big and fast -- so the National Guard deployed in multiple states, creating ground task forces in advance of Hurricane Sandy,” said Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

In the aftermath, more than 9,100 citizen-soldiers and airmen had boots on the ground across 12 states. Dual-status commanders were appointed to oversee and coordinate military response operations in affected areas in New Jersey and New York.
Now, one year later, post-storm rebuilding and recovery continues.

"Although it took only a matter of hours for Hurricane Sandy to cause widespread damage throughout the region, recovering from the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history and improving coastal storm damage risk reduction will be a long and complex task," said Brig. Gen. Kent D. Savre, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Atlantic Division.

Savre's area of operations included the worst-hit areas along the East Coast, from New Jersey through New England.

Disaster response efforts and relief during Sandy were well executed, Savre said, because the Corps was able to employ lessons-learned during previous hurricanes.

Once the threat was realized and before Sandy came ashore, the engineers went into action, standing up emergency operations centers, lowering water behind dams, issuing sandbags and pre-positioning drinking water and generators.

Once the storm came ashore, the Corps removed 475 million gallons of salt water from New York City alone and installed generators in hospitals, police stations and other critical locations for first responders. The Corps also assisted the Coast Guard in rebuilding battered port facilities.

Once the rescue-and-recovery work was completed, the Corps entered the risk mitigation phase.

The Corps' efforts were helped by Congress, which passed the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act in January. Of the $60 billion provided for disaster relief agencies, the Corps was given $5 billion.
As of this month, the Army Corps of Engineers is involved with some 200 projects and studies, from Florida to Maine, and inland to Ohio, but mostly in the North Atlantic Division. The work centers on river navigation, replacement sand for beach erosion and protection from storms in the form of levees, sea walls, and breakwaters.

Over the past year, the Corps also partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies to produce maps that show the greatest risk for storm surge and damage. The maps will help local planners to know where to rebuild and zone to mitigate future risk.

Wright: Diversity Contributes to DOD’s Success



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

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2013 – The Defense Department’s commitment to diversity and inclusion contribute to mission success and must remain a consistent effort, the Pentagon’s chief personnel and readiness official said today.

Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, discussed best practices for diversity and inclusion at an event hosted by The German Marshall Fund of the United States event.

“No matter what you do, you have to be cognizant of diversity,” Wright said. “And I will tell you the department has an ongoing commitment to this.”

The Defense Department’s military and civilian employees, Wright said, perform well because they “represent the nation in our workforce.”

“And I will tell you,” she continued, “that we talk about diversity in the terms of race and gender, and ethnicity, but it is much more than that in my mind.”

Diversity, Wright said, is also about “your thought process, how you grew up, [and] what you can add to the greater good because of your background.”

Wright shared a story of her experience as a young aviation officer in the Army National Guard.

“When I was a very young lieutenant in the ‘70s, I was the only female in an aviation battalion, and I was doing administrative work,” she said. “But I was also a pilot.

“So I went to my first assignment, and this very crusty noncommissioned officer was there,” Wright continued. “And I reported in as a spanking-new lieutenant, and he looked at me the first day and he said ‘I will tell you I have problems with women in the military.’”

Wright said “a million things” then went through her mind in reply, and she realized if she backed down it wouldn’t be a “good opportunity” for her.

“So I say, ‘Well, you know Sergeant Minsky, you have an opportunity to get over that,’” she said. “So I knew that was pretty bold. But I will also tell you, 35 years later, I retired as a major general, and Sergeant Minsky and I are still the best of friends.”

Wright credited Minsky for her development and his diversity of thought and willingness to accept her and noted he trained her “very well.”

“We both had to open up our apertures and understand where we came from,” she said. “And I think that’s where our department’s strengths come from.”

“We work together regardless of the uniform that we wear, regardless of the customs that we come from or the traditions,” Wright continued. “But we work together to support that one mission that we have and our common goals.”

Wright said the Defense Department has a strategic plan based on a presidential executive order including three goals: outreach, in reach and an engagement plan.

“I’m really pleased that we’re making great success on all of these,” she said. “We’ve made great strides in areas such as women in service, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and repealing parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“So where do we go from here?” Wright asked. “I think that’s the million-dollar question. We’ve made significant progress, but our work isn’t done.”

Waldrop among officers nominated for promotion

10/29/2013 - WASHINGTON -- Brig. Gen. William B. Waldrop Jr., is among the officers the president has nominated for appointment to the next higher grade, according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Waldrop is currently serving as the director of plans, programs and requirements, Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and has been nominated for appointment to the rank of major general.

Other nominations include:

Air Force Brig. Gen. Catherine A. Chilton for appointment to the rank of major general. Chilton is currently serving as the mobilization assistant to the military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul S. Dwan for appointment to the rank of major general. Dwan is currently serving as the mobilization assistant to the surgeon general of the Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Stayce D. Harris for appointment to the rank of major general. Harris is currently serving as the mobilization assistant to the commander, 18th Air Force, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Tommy J. Williams for appointment to the rank of major general. Williams is currently serving as the mobilization assistant to the director of operations, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

Bagram aircrew closes second base together

by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Pubic Affairs


10/29/2013 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan  -- The ground below them was desolate and resembled a ghost town. Even the air traffic control tower was empty as a C-130 Hercules landed on Forward Operating Base Salerno's dirt runway to pick up the last service members who would fly out of the base.

The six Airmen aboard the C-130 assigned to the 744th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron didn't find out till the day prior they would be the last aircrew to take off from the forward operating base on the eastern border with Pakistan.

"This mission was unique because we were closing down a base and (we couldn't) really coordinate with anyone in advance," said Staff Sgt. Matt Pockette, a loadmaster deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and native of Bloomington, Ind. " We had to deal with people walking up to the aircraft at the last minute to get on with extra baggage and cargo. That required us to recalculate the weight on the ground to ensure the aircraft was balanced. Our overall amount was 250 passengers, two all-terrain vehicles and 2,500 pounds of baggage."

Salerno was one of the most dangerous bases in the region and nicknamed "Rocket City" for its volume of rocket attacks.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Hammer, flight engineer, said all the passengers were excited and yelling "good bye Salerno" as the plane took off.

This isn't the first base the crew has shut down together.

"Prior to Salerno, we shut down Forward Operating Base Kunduz," said Senior Airman Bradley Price, loadmaster deployed from Little Rock AFB and native of Anderson, S.C. "It feels good when you see how happy everyone is to get out of there and be a part of a mission like this."

The mission was not only an event the passengers wouldn't forget, but a major milestone for the aircrew as well.

"It's the assault field of Afghanistan and to be the last C-130 mission onto that field, its like leaving a legacy because in the future all aircrew coming out of school or (heading) on their first deployment are not guaranteed to experience that," said Hammer, deployed from Wyoming Air National Guard and a native of Mesa, Ariz.

From the cockpit, the final mission to Salerno was more routine.

"As a squadron, we fly into Salerno a lot, except this was the last mission any aircraft would ever fly into or off the base," said Capt. Therese Landin, the aircraft commander deployed from Little Rock AFB and native of Fredericksburg, Va.

According the crew, landing at Salerno was not easy because the base is surrounded by mountains and the runway is made of gravel.

"Salerno's runway is one we train for at home station because it's made of gravel and when you take off it's at a slope along with obstacles you have to clear immediately," said Capt. Kimberly Novak a navigator deployed from Little Rock AFB and native of Tucson, Ariz. "Gravel will change how you take off or land an airplane. If the gravel is wet it can determine if we land or not, but during this mission we had no ground support [so we had to] check from overhead."

However, aircrews use training to plan missions around the terrain in Afghanistan.

"For example, for this mission we knew we would be gas limited so we allotted a time window on how long we would allow members to come up to the plane to load," said Novak.

This was the first deployment for copilot 1st Lt. Domingo Astiasaran and one he said he will not forget.

"Back in Cheyenne you always hear people talk about the Salerno," said Astiasaran, deployed from Wyoming Air National Guard and native of Hartford, Conn. "My first time flying into Salerno was at night and it was really exciting. It's cool to be on the tail end of it now seeing how everyone works together to complete the retrograde process."