Military News

Saturday, November 16, 2013

George Washington Strike Group Members Assist Filipinos



 
By Navy Seaman Liam Kennedy
USS George Washington

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar, Republic of the Philippines, Nov. 16, 2013 – In the small village of Guiuan, located in Eastern Samar province, villagers lined up outside the gate of a runway awaiting food, water and medical supplies to be delivered by helicopters from the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

Guiuan was heavily affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which clocked winds up to 195 mph with gusts up to 235 mph. Houses that were once big and colorful are now gray and battered. Uprooted palm trees are now makeshift shelters, and water faucets are now showers. But due to support from the George Washington Strike Group and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade as part of Operation Damayan, the villagers' morale and conditions are improving.

“Strong winds and waves hit our town early in the morning,” said Haiyam Salisa, a Guiuan resident. “We had nothing within the matter of an hour. We were afraid and couldn’t stop crying till the storm was over.”

The "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 have been the primary support to the village. The squadrons have dropped off 3,255 gallons of water, 24,900 pounds of food and 2,630 pounds of general supplies, and have conducted 221 personnel transfers.

“The Americans have brought food and water to us,” said Sheen Gonzales, mayor of Guiuan. “But more importantly, they have brought us transportation to and from the island. We were isolated for many days and without the American’s help my people would not be eating their regular meals three times a day.”

As boxes of supplies were off-loaded from trucks and organized into neat stacks for distribution, weary villagers ate their provided rations or discussed what their next big move may be: where they will live, who they will see and when they will rebuild.

“I was a college student studying to become an English teacher before the storm,” said Maria Badango, a Guiuan resident. “I thank God my family and I survived the storm, but my dreams have been crushed for now. I must now move to Manila and find my sister so I can help my relatives.”

Further away from the airfield, away from the crowds, chatter and the rumblings of jets are makeshift shelters. The villagers there have tried to rebuild what they once had and regain a sense of normalcy.

These villagers who have not wandered to the airbase, live among rubble, glass, and ruined brick and mortar. Villagers were cooking their rations of rice and meat as if nothing had ever happened. These villagers are tough; they treat each other as family and lean on one another during these hard times.

“The Filipino people are resilient, everyone is family and takes care of each other,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Rumero Padilla, from Manila, a relief effort volunteer from the “Dambusters” of Strike Fighter Squadron 195.

“Our ties with the Americans go back to World War II, when this air field was used by the American military,” Gonzales said. “We appreciate all the support and gratitude we have been given by the American people and the George Washington.”

Though these people have fallen on hard times, they are not down and out. They have taken what has been a devastating event and have started to turn it into a new chapter for their village.

Kadena joins in sending aid to Philippines

by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs


11/16/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Following the devastation throughout the Philippines, due to Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit six central islands Nov. 8, Kadena Air Base has joined the U.S. Pacific Command in the effort to deliver aide to the country.

Under Operation Damayan, Kadena Airmen received and supported a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 15th Wing, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, which transported a U.S. Marine Corps water purification unit to Tacloban Nov. 14.

The next day, Kadena supported a similar mission which, in addition to transporting a second water purification unit to the Philippines, also sent several service members downrange.

"We are just a small part of what's going to be going on down there," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Fleary, 733rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron air freight supervisor. "We're doing everything we can to help out. There's going to be multiple chalks and aircraft that are going to be going out. Hopefully everything else gets out on time and we can help these poor people."

The water purifiers should provide the Philippine people with a means of staying hydrated - as well as provide water for bathing and sanitation in order to keep diseases at bay.

"Down in the Philippines, they're really hurting for clean water," Flearly said. "Sending these water purifiers is going to be a big relief for them. Hopefully, they can be used to help the local population get back on their feet. We're just here to support the humanitarian mission in any way we can."

As of Nov. 14, Operation Damayan has transported 623,000 pounds of relief supplies pounds of relief supplies to Tacloban and transported 2,900 displaced people from the city to Manila, on the return legs of its flights. There are currently more than 600 U.S. service members on the ground in the Philippines; the USS George Washington Strike Group has more than 6,200 Sailors supporting air operations. An additional 1,000 Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to arrive in approximately five days.

The 55 metric tons of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-provided emergency food products will feed 20,000 children under the age of five and 15,000 adults for five days; the 1,020 metric tons of USAID-provided rice can help feed 60,000 for one month. The 10,080 hygiene kits will supply 10,080 families, and the 1,000 rolls of plastic sheeting will aid 10,000 families.

On the 14th alone, U.S. military planes flew 46 flights which ferried 64.8 tons of relief supplies and moved 833 displaced persons and 44 aid workers.

In addition to U.S. supplies, U.S. military flights have transported goods from the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations. Day and night operations are ongoing at Tacloban.

"Our hearts go out to the Filipino people, as well as their friends and families living around the world," said Brig. Gen. James B. Hecker, 18th Wing commander. "This is a multi-service, multi-government operation with our allies in the Philippines to bring aid to those most in need. Kadena is a forward deployed base in a unique location. We're always ready to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to our partners in the Asia-Pacific region."

According to U.S. Marine Corps Col. John Armellino, Joint Task Force 505, all branches of the U.S. military are sending forces to aide in the relief efforts.

"The PACOM (U.S. Pacific Command) commander has determined that the relief effort needs a (joint task force) to lead it, so the remainder of the JTF will then form around the nucleus of III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) as it becomes Joint Task Force 505," Armellino said. "There is a significant Naval presence, there's Air Force, already Marines - the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade is already on the ground - there're U.S. Army forces that are also in route to the Philippines now. The JTF will command and control the efforts of the joint force into a cohesive response in order to provide rapid relief to the people in the Philippines."

As of Nov. 15, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported that Super Typhoon Haiyan had caused 3,631 deaths, 12,487 injured and 1,179 are still missing. The devastation has affected an more than 9 million people and damaged or destroyed approximately 273,375 houses, as well as public infrastructure and agricultural land, across 44 provinces in the Philippines.

The Government of the Philippines and humanitarian partners expect the confirmed death toll and damage reports to increase in the coming days as transportation and communication systems are restored, and as more information becomes available.

Moving massive antenna saves $250K

by Airman 1st Class Brittany A. Chase
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


11/15/2013 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- The 366th Communications Squadron finished relocating the Ground-to-Air Transmit and Receive antenna Nov. 12, at Mountain Home Air Force base, Idaho.

With the GATR move complete, it will provide reliable communication, while saving a quarter of a million dollars.

"By utilizing an existing antenna structure and performing all construction, cabling and designs in-house, the base saved nearly $250,000," said Senior Airman Justin Martin, 366th CS airfield systems journeyman. "The project also provided everyone involved with training which otherwise would not have occurred at this base."

Collaboration between the 366th CS, 366th Civil Engineering Squadron, 266th Range Squadron and 366th Operations Support Squadron enabled mission success, while overcoming multiple challenges.

"These guys and gals have developed the plans for this building from the ground up," said 1st Lt. John Runge, 366th CS Plans and Resources Flight officer in charge. "From engineering the design of the building to the coordination of the placement, it took a lot of effort from all parties."

While planning the move, the communication squadron's main focus was to provide dependable and capable communications at MHAFB.

"The relocation of the GATR site will provide the 366th Fighter Wing with more reliable air traffic control radio communication," said Martin. "It will exploit an unused 150-foot antenna structure, which is just outside the range of the current radio and cable range site."

A new building will provide an updated facility, improving all functionalities throughout the base communications system.

"The GATR site relocation project is a big win for the wing," said Maj. Ellen Canupp, 366th CS commander. "Relocating these types of radios into another building is an extremely rare thing, and only happens maybe every 50 years or so."

Providing a safer work environment took long hours and strenuous work weeks from all Gunfighters involved, said the Airmen.

"We could not have done this without the support from the wing, group commanders, comptrollers and other voting members within the financial management board," said Canupp. "With teamwork from everyone we've been able to make this dream a reality."

Admiral Discusses Need to Bridge U.S. Military-Civilian Divide



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2013 – Service members must not be afraid to reach out to their fellow citizens, the Navy’s chief of information said at the Defense One Summit here yesterday.

Rear Adm. John Kirby discussed what he sees as a growing civilian-military divide and its ramifications with Al Jazeera’s Jamie Tarabay.

“I think it is important that those of us in uniform stay apolitical -- certainly politically aloof,” Kirby said. “But I also think it is critical that we stay politically astute.”

Those in the military need to understand the political environment, because political leaders are the ones making the decisions, he said.

“Politics can be messy, and it can be ugly at times, and for those of us who have grown up in uniform, it’s almost in some ways foreign,” the admiral said. “What I worry about is that it becomes too easy for us to turn away from that and say, ‘Well, it’s beneath us.’”

But politics cannot be beneath military personnel, Kirby said.

“It’s actually above us,” he added. “Those are the people making the decisions that we’re going to have to execute.”

Understanding where politicians come from and being open to the discussion is crucial to bridging the civilian-military divide, Kirby said.

“It’s part of the democratic system -- the system that we defend,” he said. “I just worry that it is too easy for us to walk away from that [and] to think we’re apart from it, or some of us think we’re better than that. And that’s a dangerous place for us to be.”

The nature of the military almost encourages this divide, he acknowledged. First, with an all-volunteer force, fewer and fewer Americans have first-hand knowledge of the military. Those who do serve often live on bases with little contact with the surrounding communities. Another aspect, Kirby said, is that it’s the children of service members -- who grew up in the military culture -- who have the propensity to serve.

The military may understand the communities outside the combat outposts in the Middle East and Central Asia better than in the United States, the admiral said.

“We spend a lot of time -- particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan -- learning foreign languages, learning the culture,” he said. “I don’t know if we spend enough time learning about the American people we serve. Now is the time, … as our budgetary needs don’t lessen and the world doesn’t get any safer, for us to listen more to the American people and engage more.”

Face of Defense: Airman’s Passion for Art Leaves Mark on Unit



By Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier
355th Fighter Wing

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz., Nov. 15, 2013 – A 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron propulsion technician here is a passionate artist who is leaving his mark in the squadron's hangar.

Air Force Senior Airman Patrick Corcoran said he has always had an interest for art. He draws and does watercolors, but his favorite medium is airbrushing. A neighbor who worked as an auto body painter gave him some guidance when he was growing up, he said.

"One day, he pulled out a truck, and it had a checkered flag all the way down the side," Corcoran said. "I asked him about it, and he gave me a book on airbrushing and custom automotive painting."

His neighbor told Corcoran that he wished he had gone to art school first and then learned how to do auto paint, instead of the other way around. That piece of advice stuck, and in 2007, Corcoran received a bachelor's degree in fine art from the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He tried for two and a half years to make art his career, he said.

"It was hard to live off the money," he added. "One week, you might make $2,000 and then not get another job for over three weeks."

When his wife became pregnant, priorities changed. Corcoran decided to join the Air Force.

"I joined for stability," he said. "If I were to get sick, it would be OK. What were to happen if my son got sick? He wouldn't have insurance. I needed to look out for him."

For two years, Corcoran said, he put his artwork aside to focus on the Air Force mission.

"I knew how to airbrush," he explained. "What I needed to focus on was aircraft engines. I needed to be able to study and know what I was doing, and do it well. If I didn't know what I was doing for my job, I would have got kicked out and [would have] had to start over again."

Once Corcoran was settled in and comfortable with his knowledge and experience of engines, he made his way back into the world of art.

"No one in the shop knew I drew," he said. "They knew I had a degree, but they didn't know in what. I never drew at work or did anything artistic."

When Corcoran began airbrushing again, he said, he started displaying his work and received a lot of positive feedback. He was even asked to airbrush communication sets for some of his co-workers. Earlier this year, his leadership approved his request to airbrush murals in the squadron.

"He is a go-to technician, and is very passionate about what he does," said Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Gerhart, Corcoran’s section chief. "He stepped up and asked if he could do some artwork in the hangar. His first task was the painting of the squadron patch, and next the EC-130H."

The mural of the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft took Corcoran about 36 hours over a six-week span to complete.

"I would work on the pieces whenever I had down time," he said. "Some days I would get two hours in, while other days I would maybe get 20 minutes."

Three more murals are in the works.

"I go through spurts," Corcoran said. "I don't just do it two hours here and there. When I'm in it, I'm in it for a couple weeks straight, and then … take a step back and relax."

Security Relies on Partnerships, Cooperation, Official Says



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2013 – Partnerships and international cooperation are vital components of military-to-military contacts across the globe, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs said here yesterday.

Derek Chollet, who has responsibility for defense policy with Europe, NATO, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, provided a quick look at problem areas during the Defense One Summit.

The assistant secretary discussed the situation with Egypt with Defense One’s executive editor Kevin Baron. Chollet visited his counterparts in Egypt in September -- his first visit to the country since the overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi’s government.

“As you know, President [Barack] Obama decided to hold some of our military assistance while continuing a large amount of our assistance to the Egyptian military,” Chollet said. All levels of the U.S. government, he said, have reached out to Egyptian officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who speaks regularly with his Egyptian counterpart, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“The military-to-military ties are very strong,” Chollet said. “The Egyptian military has taken strong action in the Sinai, and they are abiding by the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords, and that’s a good thing.”

U.S. officials still have deep concerns with some of the events in the country, he acknowledged, especially in terms of transition to permanent civilian rule.

Moving beyond Egypt, Defense Department leaders are engaged with allies throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Hagel and other defense officials have met frequently with the Saudis and other members of the Gulf Cooperative Council and with leaders in Israel and Jordan.

“That engagement … is constant, it’s important, and it allows us to have the kind of conversations about strategic issues that we need to have,” Chollet said.

Iran, countering terrorism, and providing oil security all are concerns the United States shares with the nations of the region, the assistant secretary said. The U.S. military has been working with the nations of the region to improve regional military capabilities, and that has been going well, he added.

Moving to NATO, Chollet said he believes the alliance’s next summit in the United Kingdom will be the most significant in 20 years.

“It will be an important inflection point for the alliance for what NATO wants to do moving forward,” he said, “and what role the alliance should play in global security.”

U.S. officials believe NATO should remain the core of the global security architecture, Chollet said, so the European allies are going to have to step forward and invest in their militaries. This is complicated by the economic crisis in Europe and budget problems in the United States, he acknowledged.

Russia and NATO do cooperate, Chollet said, and the United States and Russia cooperate daily. Last year, he said, Russian and American service members worked together on more than 70 exercises and operations.

“There are areas where we are fundamentally going to disagree,” he said. “But there are also areas military to military where we cooperate quite a bit.”

The United States and Russia want to work together in areas where there is agreement, “while understanding we still need to work on finding ways to agree about things we still disagree about,” he said.

“In missile defense, in the future of nuclear weapons, there are still some fundamental disagreements we are working on,” he added. “But we do not want that to inhibit our ability to find practical areas of cooperation.”

Hagel Praises Stratcom Organization at Change of Command



By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2013 – The organization responsible for protecting Americans against “the world’s most complex and dangerous threats” will continue to get the resources it needs to maintain an effective nuclear deterrent, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today during a change-of-command ceremony for U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Hagel traveled to his home state to be on hand as Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler retired and handed over responsibility for Stratcom to Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, who most recently commanded U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The secretary credited Kehler with leading the nation’s first line of defense against emerging threats to space and cyberspace by nations and nonstate actors alike, whose capabilities he said are becoming increasingly advanced and lethal. And in doing so, Hagel said, the Air Force general has been central to the nation’s prosperity and security.

“General Kehler has worked tirelessly to build and maintain the space, cyber and missile defense capabilities that Stratcom needs for today’s security environment,” the secretary said. He pledged that the command will continue to receive “the training, discipline, leadership and capability necessary to succeed, even in the face of growing fiscal constraints.”

Haney -- who was Stratcom’s deputy commander before taking Pacific Fleet’s reins in 2011 -- brings “an exceptional set of skills and experiences honed over 35 years in uniform,” Hagel said. The admiral pledged to work diligently to deter strategic attacks against the United States and its allies and to be ready to respond if deterrence fails.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke at the ceremony and reflected on how much the world and the nature of the threats facing the nation have changed over Kehler’s nearly 40-year military career.

“There are few that are better able to understand, to appreciate and to articulate the vast mission which comprises our nation’s strategic deterrent force, measured no longer in megatons alone, but also these days in megapixels and megabytes,” Dempsey said.

“Our world is different,” he added.