Tuesday, November 05, 2013

WWII bomber crew honored almost 70 years later

by Staff Sgt. Brian Stives
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

11/5/2013 - HELMDON, United Kingdom -- November 30, 1943, started out as a typical English day in Helmdon, United Kingdom - dark, damp, cloudy and the sun was just starting to break over the horizon - but all of that changed at 8:19 a.m.

"My father left our cottage, at Astwell Castle Farm, after breakfast to continue the day's work," said Derek Ratledge, who was 8 years old in 1943. "As he left, he heard the not uncommon roar of a low flying formation of B-17 bombers and shouted back to the cottage, 'They are off again' then he said, 'there's one in trouble - it's on fire!'"

Everybody on the ground could only watch in horror as the tragic event unfolded before them as the plane was heading directly for the cottages, farmhouse and farm buildings at Astwell Castle Farm (located about one mile east of the village of Helmdon), surely to demolish all of them.

"At the last minute, it banked at almost 45 degrees away from the houses and crashed beyond the farm buildings in a huge explosion. My father watched it all and to his dying days he swore that it was going to crash into the buildings. I think, those men that crashed saved all of our lives," said Ratledge as tears began filling his eyes.

Ratledge's father and his neighbors rushed through the farm to the crash site to see what they could do to help. Once on the site, they saw the mass of tangled, burning wreckage that was once an airplane, exploding ammunition and small bombs. Ratledge said they could see there was little chance of anyone surviving the inferno, so his father and neighbors left the site - most of them in tears.

"I remember a few hours later avoiding the guards and going onto the crash field and seeing the wreckage," said Ratledge as the tears began welling up even bigger in eyes. "I saw smoke and burning wreckage - the worst of it had been removed. It was a mess and you couldn't recognize it as an airplane."

For many years, Ratledge's mother searched for the names and information about the men on board the plane, without success. Then in late 2007, Ratledge posted a comment on a U.S. veteran's website. At the same time, Beth Pugh was searching the internet for details about her Great Uncle Richard, who had died in the crash. Pugh had obtained the official crash report and the name of Astwell Castle Farms was recorded in it. After typing in Astwell she found and read Ratledge's post and responded to it. Ratledge finally had the answers his family had been searching almost 65 years for. What he found out were that the B-17s were from the 327th Bombardment Squadron, VIII Bomber Command, from RAF Poddington, located east of Northampton, and heading on a bombing mission to Germany and the report also included the names of all 10 men on board.

"I felt like I needed to find out about the people that were killed that day because I figured their family would like to know where those boys had died," said Ratledge.

Almost 70 years after the crash, the 422nd Air Base Group from RAF Croughton, United Kingdom, and local community gathered in the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Helmdon to remember those lost so long ago.

"At 8:19 a.m. on Nov. 30, 1943, the Sharon Belle, a B-17 bomber piloted by (1st Lt.) Billy Holland, crashed at Astwell Castle Farm, and all of the crew was killed," said Col. Charles Hamilton, 422nd ABG commander. "We know the exact time because the watches worn by Flight Officer Leighton Paterson, the navigator, and Holland stopped exactly at that time."

"For me, the journey still goes on," said Ratledge. "I have now contacted nine of the families of the descendants of the crew. Many of them have vowed to visit Helmdon."

A plaque inside the church in memorial to the crews reads:

"In the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them
Capt. Richard W. Pugh, copilot
1st Lt. William M. Holland, pilot
F/O Leighton D. Paterson, navigator
2nd Lt. William S. Munro, bombardier
T/Sgt. Thomas D. Glaspel, engineer
T/Sgt. Billy B. Freeman, radio operator
S/Sgt. Dean Landfear, waist gunner
S/Sgt. Charles E. Slayton, waist gunner
S/Sgt. Harry A. Scott, ball turret gunner
S/Sgt. Henry P. Brannon, tail gunner
These American Airmen were the crew members of B17 bomber 42-30408 they died at 08:19 on 30th November 1943 at Astwell Castle Farm"

Joint Task Force-Bravo partners with Honduran military members in live hoist training exercise

by U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Pierce
1-228th Aviation Regiment

11/5/2013 - SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- The "Winged Warriors" of Joint Task Force-Bravo's 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducted live hoist training with Special Boat Team 22 (SBT 22) and Honduran soldiers in Puerto Castilla, in the Department of Colon, Honduras, Oct. 30.

One HH-60 Blackhawk from C Company, 1-228th Aviation Regiment, repositioned to Puerto Castilla to conduct the hoist training with 12 members of SBT 22, who are in Honduras conducting training and advising with Honduran counterparts. The days training included hoist operations, landing zone set up, and a brief of 1-228th's MEDEVAC capabilities.

"Hoisting is a critical skill to train, not only for our MEDEVAC aircrews performing the hoist, but for those who may find themselves in a situation requiring a hoist for immediate extraction", said U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Morisoli, C Company commander and pilot of the mission. "Successful hoisting requires detailed coordination between the aircrew and ground personnel, and can't be taught in a PowerPoint class."

The day culminated with each member of SBT 22 having a chance to practice live hoist. The team conducted a simulated raid on a building, resulting in a simulated casualty. The SBT personnel practiced calling for medical evacuation and assisted their Honduran counterparts in securing a landing zone and preparing the simulated casualty to be hoisted.

C Company, 1-228th Aviation Regiment provides 24-hour MEDEVAC coverage from Soto Cano Air Base all year round, with a crew capable of being airborne within 30 minutes of notification. They routinely participate in medical readiness exercises, providing medical relief throughout Honduras and Central America.

Global Strike Command takes the wheel

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

11/5/2013 - Barksdale Air Force Base, La. -- Air Force Global Strike Command's driver safety program is undergoing an update designed to keep Airmen safe behind the wheel, according to command officials.

The idea behind AFGSC's revamped driver safety program is to provide greater emphasis on handling the wide variety of vehicles Airmen may operate during their careers, and on conquering the environments in which they operate those vehicles. The missile field mission in particular presents a unique challenge for Airmen, command officials said. Personnel in these locations are expected to travel long distances over unimproved country roads and often contend with inclement weather.

"The training will provide a realistic, advanced practical experience," said Maj. Derrick Ossmann, chief of the operations and training branch for security forces at AFGSC. "It instills confidence in the Airmen's ability to operate multiple vehicle types safely in different environments."

One of the most recognizable vehicles operated by Airmen is the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, commonly referred to as a humvee. Some newer versions have received significant upgrades and offer a greater level of protection, due to increased armor. Known as Up-Armored HMMWVs, or UA/HMMWVs, these vehicles handle differently from their predecessors.

"The knowledge of the difference in vehicular behavior is key in knowing what to do and when to do it, while operating the vehicles," Victor Gale, AFGSC deputy chief of human factors safety, said. "This training will provide the Airmen with the knowledge of the different characteristics of each vehicle type."

The program will use several methods to educate and train security forces and other Airmen, to include comparative driving, a hard braking course and a skid car trainer, Gale said.

Among the options, the comparative driving and skid trainer methods are key, noted Ossmann.

The comparative driving concept places a driver in a multitude of different vehicles, one after another, to see and feel how each one handles differently. This increases the driver's awareness of how to react in different situations with different vehicles, Ossmann explained.

The other method, a skid car trainer, prepares drivers for all aspects of the driving experience by simulating different driving conditions, said Ossmann. These specialized vehicles can simulate loss of traction in a controlled and safe environment, giving the driver training in real-world conditions without putting them at risk or endangering the equipment.

"Our current skid trainers cannot support the weight of the up-armored Humvee," Ossmann said. "Also, some of the skid trainers use pick-up trucks instead of the Humvee. Our goal is to procure additional up-armored Humvees for skid trainer use, as well as new skid trainer equipment and the personnel support to train our security forces."

The command is finalizing standardized lesson plans, Ossmann said. Once the basic plan is implemented, individual units will be able to tailor the lesson plans to their base, operating environment and mission.

As the program is phased-in over time, AFGSC's updated driver safety program will provide training to vehicle operators with the goals of increased safety, awareness and accident avoidance.

"Hopefully, it will reduce accidents and keep our Airmen in the fight by safely getting them to their destination," Ossmann said.

Legendary squadron reactivated

by Stephen Delgado
Thunderbolt staff writer

11/1/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Luke Air Force Base marked an important milestone last week when it stood up its first F-35 unit, the 61st Fighter Squadron, at a ceremony on Oct. 25.

Lt. Col. Michael Ebner assumed command of the squadron, which traces its lineage to World War II and received distinction as the first fighter squadron in the European theater to score more than 100 victories.

More than 150 people attended the ceremony, which was held at Club Five Six. The guest list was highlighted by Brig. Gen. Michael Rothstein, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and Col. John Hanna, 56th Operations Group commander, who was the presiding officer.

The 61st FS, which was inactivated most recently in 2010, will be the first squadron at Luke to fly the F-35A, which is the Air Force's newest fighter jet. The first jet is expected to arrive early next year, and a total of 16 to 18 jets are scheduled to be at Luke by the end of 2014.

In his opening remarks, Hanna praised the incoming commander, Lt. Col. Michael Ebner, for his leadership and skill as a pilot.

He added that after all the cutbacks involving fighter squadrons and aircraft inventories since the mid-1980s, it was a good feeling to reactivate a squadron instead of shutting one down.

Hanna presented the squadron guidon to Ebner, signifying Ebner's assumption of command.

Ebner said the 61st FS will stand ready to accomplish any mission.

"I'm proud to be part of a squadron with such a rich history," he said. "Our work is just beginning. We will train the finest F-35 pilots in the world, and it's vital that we work as a team to do that."

Ebner called on the memory of one the 61st FS's most illustrious pilots, Col. Francis Gabreski, who was the top fighter ace in the European theater in World War II and a fighter ace in the Korean War. Gabreski is only one of seven pilots to be an ace in two wars.

Ebner said he was privileged to have been one of the pilots in the flyover at Gabreski's memorial service in 2002.

Ebner's previous assignment was as 33rd Operations Support Squadron and 58th FS director of operations at Eglin AFB, Fla.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Ebner cited the squadron's motto:
"I'm a top dog -- bring it on."

Hagel: Six Priorities Shape Future Defense Institutions

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 – In the months since the 2012 defense strategic guidance first reflected a new budget reality, Pentagon officials and military leaders have been working on the department’s longer-term budget and strategy, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here this morning.

“I have identified six areas of focus for our budget and strategic planning efforts going forward,” the secretary said.

“Working closely with the service secretaries, service chiefs, combatant commanders and DOD leaders,” he added, “these six priorities will help determine the shape of our defense institutions for years to come.”

The priorities include institutional reform, force planning, preparing for a prolonged military readiness challenge, protecting investments in emerging capabilities, balancing capacity and capability across the services, and balancing personnel responsibilities with a sustainable compensation policy.

During his first weeks in office, Hagel said, he directed a Strategic Choices and Management Review that over several months identified options for reshaping the force and institutions in the face of difficult budget scenarios.

“That review pointed to the stark choices and tradeoffs in military capabilities that will be required if sequester-level cuts persist, but it also identified opportunities to make changes and reforms,” Hagel said.

“Above all,” he added, “it underscored the reality that DOD still possesses resources and options. We will need to more efficiently match our resources to our most important national security requirements. We can do things better, we must do things better, and we will.”

Addressing the six priorities that will shape future defense efforts, the secretary began with a continued a focus on institutional reform.

Coming out of more than a decade of war and budget growth, he said, there is a clear opportunity and need to reshape the defense enterprise, including paring back the world’s largest back office. This summer, Hagel announced a 20-percent reduction in headquarters budgets across the department, beginning with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“Our goal is not only to direct more of our resources to real military capabilities and readiness,” Hagel said, “but to make organizations flatter and more responsive to the needs of our men and women in uniform.”

The second priority is to re-evaluate the military force-planning construct -- the assumptions and scenarios for which U.S. military forces organize, train and equip themselves.

“I've asked our military leaders to take a very close look at these assumptions [and] question these past assumptions, which will also be re-evaluated across the services as part of the [Quadrennial Defense Review],” the secretary explained.

“The goal,” he added, “is to ensure they better reflect our goals and the shifting strategic environment, the evolving capacity of our allies and partners, real-world threats, and the new military capabilities that reside in our force and in the hands of our potential adversaries.”

Hagel said the third priority will be to prepare for a prolonged military readiness challenge. In managing readiness under sequestration, he added, the services have protected the training and equipping of deploying forces to ensure that no one goes unprepared into harm's way.

This is the department’s highest responsibility to its forces, the secretary said, and yet already, “we have seen the readiness of nondeploying units suffer as training has been curtailed, flying hours reduced, ships not steaming, and exercises canceled.”

The Strategic Choices and Management Review showed that sequester-level cuts could lead to a readiness crisis, and unless something changes, Hagel said, “we have to think urgently and creatively about how to avoid that outcome, because we are consuming our future readiness now.”

The fourth priority will be protecting investments in emerging military capabilities -- especially space, cyber, special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the secretary said.

“As our potential adversaries invest in more sophisticated capabilities and seek to frustrate our military's traditional advantages, including our freedom of action and access … around the world,” he said, “it will be important to maintain our decisive technological edge.”

The fifth priority is balance across the services in the mix between capacity and capability, between active and reserve forces, between forward-stationed and home-based forces, and between conventional and unconventional warfighting capabilities, Hagel said.

“In some cases we will make a shift, for example, by prioritizing a smaller, modern and capable military over a larger force with older equipment. We will also favor a globally active and engaged force over a garrison force,” he explained.

The services will look to better leverage the reserve components, with the understanding that part-time units in ground forces can’t expect to perform at the same levels as full-time units, at least in the early stages of a conflict. In other cases, the services will seek to preserve balance, for example, by controlling areas of runaway cost growth, the secretary said.

The sixth priority is personnel and compensation policy, which Hagel said may be the most difficult issue.

“Without serious attempts to achieve significant savings in this area, which consumes roughly now half the DOD budget and increases every year, we risk becoming an unbalanced force, one that is well-compensated but poorly trained and equipped, with limited readiness and capability,” he said.

Going forward, the department must make hard choices in this area to ensure that the defense enterprise is sustainable for the 21st century, the secretary said.

Hagel said Congress must permit meaningful reforms as it reduces the defense budget, and the department needs Congress as a willing partner in making tough choices to bend the cost curve on personnel, while meeting its responsibilities to its people.

“Even as we pursue change across the Department of Defense,” the secretary said, “the greatest responsibility of leadership will always remain the people we represent, our men and women in uniform, their families, and our dedicated civilian workforce.”

Newly painted tail flash celebrates 20 years of partnership between Luke, RSAF

by Senior Airman Grace Lee
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/1/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- It's brightly painted in red and white and definitely one of a kind.

Airmen from the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron painted a mural on the tail of a 425th Fighter Squadron F-16 fighter jet to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Singapore Air Force partnering with Luke Air Force Base in training fighter pilots.

"This mural is important because it reminds us of our mission here in Arizona, which is to make full use of every opportunity and resource available or as our saying goes, 'to conduct high-end training,'" said Lt. Col. Maxmillion Goh, 425th Fighter Squadron RSAF senior ranking officer. "It also celebrates the 20 years of partnership and excellence that Peace Carvin II has enjoyed. We couldn't have done it without the many friendships forged between our airmen, maintainers and the local community. We are truly grateful for these wonderful relationships and the continuous support of the wing's leadership throughout the years."

Each component in the design of the tail flash has a meaning.

"The Merlion, which has the head of a lion and body of a fish, is an important symbol to Singapore as a country," said Tech. Sgt. Bradley Watanabe, 56th EMS corrosion control NCO in charge. "And the words, 'Peace Carvin II,' refers to the name of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's detachment at Luke."

Painting the tail requires sanding, spraying a coat of primer, applying the first color and repeating the process after each component is stenciled on, Watanabe said. The last step is spraying a protective clear coat over the design.

While the main mission of the fabrication flight's corrosion control section is to prevent corrosion on aircraft, being involved in such a rare project was an honor, said Senior Master Sgt. Barrington Bartlett, 56th EMS fabrication flight chief.

"We're proud to be part of this project," Bartlett said. "We've had a great relationship with the Republic of Singapore Air Force over the past 20 years, and we want to continue that partnership. This is the first time Luke has painted a mural such as this on an F-16 tail."

Longest-serving Air Force civil servant retires

by Senior Airman Grace Lee
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/1/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Most dream of crossing the retirement finish line after 20 to 35 years of service. For one civil servant, her date of retirement after 70 years wasn't determined based on time, but on her ability to work.

For 88-year-old Dorothy Rowe, 56th Comptroller Squadron financial analysis flight chief, going to work didn't feel like an obligation because it was her passion.

"I enjoy my job and the people I work with," Rowe said. "They are excellent at their jobs, and I also see them as my family."

Rowe's career began in 1943. She was 17 and worked as a clerk typist at the Columbus Army Depot, Ohio. After ten years she accepted a position at Luke Air Force Base as a military pay clerk.

Since that time a lot has changed for Rowe, especially in technology.

Her first assignment was to learn the Dewy Decimal System. She went from using five hard copy ledger books, a 10-key adding machine and filing cabinets to learning how to use a desktop computer.

Rowe, who was eligible for retirement 50 years ago, said she just knew it was time to retire.

"I wasn't ready to retire 50 years ago," Rowe said. "I had started working for the government when I was 17. I know the time has come now because I don't want to die sitting at my desk," she chuckled.

Elizabeth Garey, 56th CPTS budget analyst, who's worked for Rowe since 1996, considers Rowe to be a mentor.

"Ms. Rowe was always trying to help us better our skills and advance in our careers," Garey said. "She was committed to her job and was even-handed and fair when it came to the budget and those she worked with. I think it's absolutely amazing for her to put in so many years as a civil servant."

First Lt. Christopher Bennett, 56th CPTS budget analyst, considers it an honor serving alongside Rowe.

"She is a very kind and generous woman," Bennett said. "She gave her entire adult life to the service of her country, not just because she's a patriot, but because this became her family."

Maj. Scott Smith, 56th CPTS commander, recognizes the legacy Rowe leaves behind.

"Ms. Dorothy Rowe has been a steadfast, vibrant part of the financial community at Luke," Smith said. "We have mixed emotions as we celebrate her 70-year distinguished career, recognizing that Dorothy truly loved her job. Her dedication stands as an inspiration to everyone and serves as a reminder of how one Airman can profoundly impact countless others across our community. Dorothy will remain a treasured member of our Comptroller family."

Rowe leaves Luke Thunderbolts with fond memories.

"I have no regrets whatsoever, because I liked my job and the people I worked with," she said. "If I could, I would do it all over again."

Rowe is scheduled to retire in a ceremony Tuesday.

Bomb wing balances training with inspection

by Tech. Sgt. Ted Daigle
307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

11/5/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Reservists in the 307th Bomb Wing handled the tasks of participating in exercise Global Thunder 2013 and a nuclear operational readiness inspection at Barksdale and Minot AFB, N.D., Oct. 24-Nov. 5.

Global Thunder is U.S. Strategic Command's annual field training and battle staff exercise. It trains Airmen to deter, and if necessary, defeat a military attack against the United States.

The exercise and inspection marked a special moment in the military capability of the wing, according to Col. Jonathan Ellis, 307th BW commander.

"This is the capstone event in our journey to complete the building of the Air Force Reserve Command's nuclear bomber mission," he said.

Two nuclear-qualified crews from the 343rd Bomb Squadron participated in the NORI with active-duty Airmen from Barksdale's 2nd BW and Minot's 5th BW.

The NORI is mandated on a regular basis by Air Force Global Strike Command, said Lt. Col. Robert Burgess, 343rd BS commander. "Participation in both Global Thunder 2013 and the NORI validates the nuclear mission of the wing.

"We were initially certified in the nuclear mission at the beginning of the year, so this is our first nuclear readiness inspection," he said. "Successfully participating in the exercise and inspection proves we are equal partners in the total force enterprise."

Ellis said juggling Global Thunder and the NORI enhances the preparedness of the 307th BW for future training and real-world situations.

"We fight the way we train, and this exercise gives us the opportunity to practice our processes, find the stress points and see where we need to concentrate our training efforts," he said. "As a result, we will have a stronger, more capable war fighting cadre."

According to Ellis, the total team effort displayed by command post controller, maintainers, aircrews and security forces personnel made the training effort successful.

"I am exceptionally happy with the performance of all of the 307th BW warriors who took part in Exercise Global Thunder," he said. "We have shown ourselves to be integral members of the nation's nuclear enterprise in support of Air Force Global Strike Command's mission."

ESGR accepting nominations for Freedom Award

11/5/2013 - ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is accepting nominations for the 2014 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

The Freedom Award is the Department of Defense's top award for civilian employers who support their employees in the National Guard and Reserve.

ESGR encourages guardsmen and reservists, or family members acting on their behalf, to nominate employers by going to www.FreedomAward.mil by Jan. 20.

Members of the Guard and Reserve comprise nearly one-half of the nation's military force. They provide essential services to national security and humanitarian efforts at home and abroad.

Supportive employers help keep the U.S. military strong and the nation secure, said Paul Mock, ESGR national chair.

"Across the nation, employers have shown noteworthy support to their service member employees and families," he said. "Whether on routine duty, responding to natural disasters or serving in a deployed location, employers who encourage military service make it easier to serve.

"By submitting a Freedom Award nomination, a member of the National Guard or Reserve can acknowledge and thank their employer for the critical role they play in our nation's defense."

Each year the Freedom Award program honors up to 15 employers in Washington, D.C. Since its inception in 1996, the program has recognized 190 employers.

Examples of past recipients' support include continued benefits and healthcare for deployed service members, home maintenance and childcare support and veteran hiring initiatives.

Established in 1972, ESGR develops and maintains employer support for Guard and Reserve service. It advocates relevant initiatives, recognizes outstanding support, increases awareness of applicable laws, and resolves conflict between service members and employers.

More information about the Freedom Award and ESGR is available by contacting Beth Sherman, ESGR Public Affairs, at 571-372-0705 or by email at OSD.ESGR-PA@mail.mil

Military Essential in U.S. Foreign Policy Future, Hagel Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 – The U.S. military will remain an essential tool of American power in 21st century foreign policy, a tool that must be used wisely, precisely and judiciously, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here today.

Delivering the keynote address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Global Security Forum, the secretary said most of the century’s pressing security challenges have important diplomatic, national and global economic and cultural components that cannot and will not be resolved by military strength alone.

“As we go forward into a historically unpredictable world,” Hagel added, “we need to place more emphasis on our civilian instruments of power while adapting our military [to] remain strong, capable, second to none, and relevant in the face of threats markedly different from what shaped it during the Cold War and over the past two decades.”

America's hard power always will be critical to fashioning enduring solutions to global problems, the secretary said, but success ultimately depends on all instruments of power working together, on how well such instruments are maintained and funded, and on how well they are balanced and integrated.

“President [Barack] Obama's resolve to take military action to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons helped create an opening for diplomacy with Russia, which we've pursued,” Hagel said.

That, he added, led to a U.N. Security Council resolution and to the involvement of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons inspectors on the ground in Syria who are working to oversee the removal and destruction of chemical weapons.

“We are on a course to eliminate one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world,” the secretary said.

DOD, which has maintained and will continue to maintain military pressure on the Assad regime, developed the technology that may be used to destroy these chemical weapons, he said.

“We may have another possibility with Iran, where we are engaging on a diplomatic path to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the secretary said, adding that along the way the United States will maintain a strong, ready military presence in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East to deter Iran's destabilizing activities and work with and protect U.S. allies and interests.

Hagel said the multidimensional challenges confronting the United States in Iran and Syria are but two aspects of the global complexity already apparent in the early years of the 21st century.

Among the trends are shifting geopolitical centers of gravity that reflect astounding diffusion of economic power and sweeping demographic change, he said.

“China, India, Brazil and Indonesia are all helping reshape the global economy,” Hagel added. “Regional powers like Turkey are maturing and asserting greater independence from traditional allies and patrons. The Asia-Pacific region has taken on an even greater prominence in global politics, commerce and security.”

Latin America and Africa will develop and strengthen, he said, becoming important leaders in building a secure and prosperous 21st century.

Cyber activists, terrorists and criminal networks, and nonstate actors will play a role in defining the international system, the secretary explained. New structures of governance and power will emerge as the world population becomes more urbanized, mobile and technologically advanced, bringing new standards and expectations as they develop, he said.

Technology and 21st-century communication tools bring people closer together than at any time in the history of man, helping link their aspirations and their grievances, he said.

“We know that the rapid pace of change will only accelerate as the world undergoes an historic generational shift. More than 40 percent of the world's 7 billion people today are under the age of 25, and 90 percent of them live outside the United States and Europe.”

Turbulent regions such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa will continue to experience these challenges as their populations increase and exceed their educational and employment opportunities. The challenge of terrorism will continue to demand unprecedented collaboration with partners and allies. Destructive technologies and weapons that were once the provenance of advanced militaries are being sought by nonstate actors and other nations, the secretary said.

Sophisticated cyberattacks have the potential of inflicting debilitating damage on national and world economies and critical infrastructure. Natural disasters, pandemic diseases and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction all present further destabilizing realities to regions in the world, he added.

Regional tensions and conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and elsewhere continue to have the potential to erupt into larger-scale conflicts, drawing in the United States, China and Russia.

“While these challenges are not America's responsibilities alone, they will demand America's continued global leadership and engagement,” Hagel said.

“No other nation has the will, the power, the capacity, the capability and the network of alliances to lead the international community in addressing them,” he added.

The secretary said sustaining leadership increasingly will depend not only on the extent of the United States’ great power but in appreciating its limits and wisely deploying its influence.

“We must not fall prey to the false notion of American decline. That is … far too simple an explanation,” he said, adding that many of the challenges facing the nation are political, not structural.

“We remain the world's preeminent military, economic and diplomatic power,” Hagel said. “And even as we deal with new budgetary constraints on defense spending, the United States will continue to represent nearly 40 percent of global defense expenditures, and most of the world's other leading military powers are America's close allies.”

What always distinguished the United States is not the existence of its great power but the way in which that power has been used to make a better world, the secretary said.

“In the 21st century, the United States must continue to be a force for and an important symbol of humanity, freedom and progress for all mankind,” Hagel said. “We must also make a far better effort to understand how the world sees us and why. We must listen more.”

After more than a decade of costly, controversial, and, at times, open-ended war, America is redefining its role in the world, the secretary said.

The United States must work to find the smartest and the most effective solutions to problems, Hagel said. Military forces, he said, must always remain an option but it should be an option of last resort. And, the military should always play a supporting role in America's foreign policy, the secretary said.

“America's role in the world should reflect the hope and promise of our country and the possibilities for all mankind, tempered with a wisdom that has been the hallmark of our national character,” Hagel said.

“That means pursuing a principled and engaged realism that employs diplomatic, economic and security tools,” he added, “as well as our values, to advance our security and our prosperity.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)

Locklear Welcomes Closer U.S.-China Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 – Recognizing the United States’ growing strategic partnership with China, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific region expressed hope today that commitments by the U.S. and Chinese presidents will promote communication, understanding and closer cooperation between their militaries.

Speaking to reporters at the Foreign Press Center here, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, emphasized the importance of communication between allies and partners, including China, in a highly interconnected world.

“To have the militaries not communicating with each other just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

“It is a different world. We are very connected in many, many ways across our societies,” Locklear said. “So it is important that military leaders … establish a relationship that lets us understand each other.”

Understanding leads to a degree of transparency, and transparency leads to a degree of trust, he continued. “And trust leads to an ability to prevent miscalculation,” he added.

Locklear acknowledged that the United States and China – like any other countries – won’t always share the same views. “There will always be things that countries disagree about. That is just the nature of the world,” he said. “There are always going to be friction points that can lead to a potential miscalculation.”

But “the last place you want those miscalculations occurring is at the military level,” he said. “So the more understanding we have of each other, I think the less chance of those miscalculations occurring.”

Locklear expressed optimism over an agreement by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping to promote that closer cooperation. Meeting in June for two days of informal talks, the presidents agreed that North Korea should denuclearize, and they pledged to work together to resolve cybersecurity and other issues.

“What President Barack Obama and President Xi Jingping said was that we are going to look at some ways to improve that mil-to-mil connectivity so we have the right dialogue, and that it is in the right place and in the right time,” Locklear said. “And we are doing that.”

Speaking last week with American Forces Press Service, Locklear noted steps in the right direction, from bilateral meetings between U.S. and Chinese military leaders to port visits by both navies’ ships.

The next major development, to take place in May, will be China’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific, the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise. This represents a big commitment from China, Locklear said, because Chinese ships will operate alongside other allied and partner navies and under U.S. command and control.

“It will give them the opportunity to see and be seen in a multilateral light that will be beneficial to security environment as we go ahead,” he said. “It sort of puts them out with the rest of the team [and] lets them be part of that team.”

Ultimately, developing a strong U.S.-China military-to-military relationship will take time, Locklear recognized.

As China continues to rise as a regional and global power, he said, in some respects its leaders feel “they are entering a security environment and a world order environment where they didn’t get to set the rules – some of those rules they don’t agree with.”

“If they choose a path of coercion to solve [that], I think that will be disastrous,” he said.

But with a role in encouraging North Korea to eliminate its nuclear-weapons program, Locklear said, China has the opportunity to be a leader in promoting security, economic growth and stability across the region.

The big question moving forward will be whether China chooses to be a “net user or net provider of security,” he said. “We hope it will be a net provider, and I think there is potential for that to happen.”