Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hagel Arrives in Halifax for International Security Forum

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, , Nov. 21, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here today and will tomorrow deliver a speech before other world leaders at the Halifax International Security Forum.

The Halifax gathering has been an annual event since 2009, and the Canadian government announced this week it will continue to host the event for another five years, through 2018. Government, military, business, academic and media representatives from some 25 nations are expected to attend this year’s session. Agenda topics range from Iran and the Middle East to cyber defense and the role of democracies in maintaining global stability.

The secretary told reporters traveling with him that the conference becomes more important every year, for the Arctic Circle region and for the world. As the planet’s climate changes and the region’s ice cover shrinks, he noted, Arctic sea lanes are likely to open in the coming years.

Increased maritime activity in the Arctic will offer both opportunities and challenges, he said. “The United States needs to be very active in this group, and be very involved, because we’re talking about climate change, energy resources, security, space -- there’s just so many factors that play into this,” Hagel said.

David’s Sling Antimissile System Intercepts Target

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2013 – The Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency completed a successful intercept test today of the David’s Sling Weapon System.

This test, designated David’s Sling Test–2, is the second intercept test of the Stunner interceptor for the David’s Sling Weapon System, and was conducted at a test range in southern Israel.

A target missile was launched and tracked by the system’s multi-mission radar. The radar transferred flight information to the battle management control system. The Stunner interceptor successfully performed its planned trajectory and destroyed the target.

The David’s Sling Weapon System is designed as an additional layer of defense against ballistic missiles, to add interception opportunities to the joint U.S.-Israel Arrow Weapon System and to improve Israel’s defense capabilities against missile threats.

The successful test is a major milestone in the development of the David’s Sling Weapon System and provides confidence in future Israeli capabilities to defeat the developing ballistic missile threat.

CMSAF visits Fort Meade cyber, intel Airmen

from the U.S. Cyber Command Public Affairs Office

11/19/2013 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md.  -- The Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody spent several hours visiting with Airmen involved in a variety of critical missions here Nov. 12.

Cody visited cyber and intelligence units that fall under Air Forces Cyber and the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency to spend time with Airmen, better understand their missions, and find out what the Air Force can do to better support them.

"This was an opportunity to come out and thank the Airmen for the work they're doing," said Cody. "It's really important they know how connected they are, and that nobody's forgotten, especially those Airmen doing interagency work. There's nothing better than letting the Airmen tell their stories."

And tell their stories they did. Airmen from the 315th Network Warfare Squadron and 7th Intelligence Squadron briefed Cody on their roles in the cyber domain and went through the basics of a mission. Cody was impressed by the professional, skilled, well-trained Airmen, and coined several cyber troops throughout the trip who had been recognized by their leadership for outstanding service.

"This takes a lot of focus and dedication. Information gives us a distinct advantage over our adversaries," Cody said while speaking to a group of Airmen. "I like the idea that the enemy doesn't know what we could do or might do - I think it's pretty impressive."

Cody also noted cyber's critical effect on other Air Force careers and systems, and promoted education programs for the Air Force's cyber operators.

"Education has value and gives our Airmen credibility," he said during one of the briefings he received. "We need to move forward, and if we don't have a clear advantage, our future systems that rely on cyber won't be effective or defended."

Cody also encouraged Airmen to stay in the critical career fields of cyber and intelligence while the Air Force plans for budget changes for the force.

"We're still going to invest in you. We can ill-afford to cut into the important investment we've already made," he said. "We have to balance these capabilities with our other critical capabilities, but this domain is the way forward. It's a great place to be when you think about the growth we're looking at in the Air Force."

Rapid response: 689th RPOE trains with 633rd LRS

by Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Slowly and methodically the Humvee rolled onto the metal platform inside the Small Air Terminal at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Nov. 19. The vehicle's bulky frame depressed the steel plate as its weight was digitally recorded.

"It's critical to move through this inspection as quickly as possible," said U.S. Army Capt. Charles Greene, as Soldiers from Fort Eustis' 689th Rapid Port Opening Element encircled the vehicle. "We need to be 'wheels up' in 12 [hours] so we can get to the mission."

The inspection was part of a joint exercise that combined the tools, training and talent of Joint Base Langley-Eustis Soldiers and Airmen. It tested how quickly they could mobilize, pack, prepare and secure cargo for transport in support of disaster relief or crisis response.

"This is the third time we have trained this way with Langley Airmen," Green said. "Each time has been more productive than the last."

Greene, the 689th RPOE detachment commander, said from the moment his unit is notified of a crisis they have 12 hours to mobilize and be airborne to anywhere in the world - ready to help those in need.

The Soldiers inspecting the Humvee were training with Airmen from Langley's 633rd Logistics Readiness Squadron to ensure their equipment was ready to be loaded on an aircraft at a moment's notice.

"This exercise is incredibly important," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Rust, 633rd LRS air terminal supervisor. "We need to know if the cargo and rolling stock is properly prepared and air-worthy so it can be sent downrange."

Downrange for the 689th RPOE could mean going anywhere in the world, as was the case in 2010 when the element flew to Haiti and responded to one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. With the possibility of deploying at a moment's notice, the Soldiers worked with Airmen to measure, weigh, secure, clean and inspect the vehicles and cargo. They trained to identify and fix any deficiencies on the spot.

"We work in the field as a joint task force," Greene said. "We need to train at home the same way."

As the Humvee inspection continued, Soldiers recorded data, which the Airmen then calculated to determine the precise center of balance of the vehicle. If the information was wrong, it could cause the aircraft to become unbalanced and crash.

In addition to properly balancing cargo, the joint team must ensure all hazardous materials and possible contaminants are safely removed before transport.

"Everyone understands how important this training is," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Hasberry, 689th RPOE mobility noncommissioned officer. "It all comes down to achieving mission success by working together and putting the mission first."

Brothers make recruiting a family affair

by 1st Lt. Kwang Woong Kim
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- Joining the armed services leads many people to leave their hometowns and serve around the world, moving far away from family and friends.

Fortunately for Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Charvat and Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Charvat, these brothers had the opportunity to come back and serve in their hometown.

"When I applied to become a recruiter and got accepted, I was able to choose my hometown," said Andrew, 311th Recruiting Squadron enlisted accessions recruiter at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Mentor, Ohio. "By this time, my older brother, Matt, had already been at Mentor for a few months."

"When Andrew told me he was coming back home, it was awesome news," Matt added, a Marine Corps enlisted accessions recruiter at the same center. "It was the first time Andrew, my youngest brother, David, and I were back home together with family."

The Charvat brothers grew up all over the world, until finally settling in Mentor.

"Our childhood was different compared to most," Matt said. "Our father served in the Marine Corps and in the Army during our childhood and we moved around a lot."

"We lived overseas in Honduras, Germany and Sweden while growing up, due to our father's job working for the U.S. Embassy," Andrew added. "We got to experience that at an early age together. We then all moved back to Mentor, where we are currently recruiting."

Following in his father's footsteps, Matt was the first to serve and enlisted in the Marine Corps. When Matt joined the Marine Corps, it had a significant influence on Andrew.

"When I was younger, I looked up to my brother like most younger siblings by trying to be like them, always doing what they wanted to do," Andrew said. "Once he enlisted in the Marine Corps, it got me thinking as to what I wanted to do once I graduated from high school. When I watched him graduate boot camp when I was 15, I was proud of him and saw the transformation he went through in just 13 weeks."

Andrew admitted that seeing his brother got him thinking about wanting to enlist as well and changed his decision on what he wanted to do with his life.

He made his choice and enlisted in the Air Force.

"I am very proud of him," Matt said. "Regardless of what branch you serve in, it speaks volumes of a person's character when they decide to serve their country during times of war. They are the real 1 percent."

After each serving in their operational duties, both had similar aspirations on how they wanted to serve their country.

"The Air Force gave me great opportunities during my time as a firefighter," Andrew said. "I wanted to get into recruiting to allow other people to have the same opportunities I have had."

"During my time in the Marine Corps, I was an aviation ordnance technician and a career planner," Matt added. "As a career planner, I was able to learn a lot of the programs and benefits offered by the Marine Corps and educated Marines on it. I wanted to do the same thing but with those interested in serving. As a recruiter, I was able to do so and give back to the community."

The brothers didn't plan on being recruiters at the same time.

"It just happened that way with the timing and it worked out," Andrew said. "The odds of this are ridiculous; however, to be from two different branches, joining at two different times, and to be back in your hometown at the same time."

Now together at Mentor, the brothers work within a few feet of one another, competing to recruit the next generation of Airmen and Marines.

"Now that we are technically competing against each other, it's not as bad as one would think," Andrew said. "I also just started this job not too long ago so it might get worse over time, but I doubt it. He does seem to get that competitive itch when people come into my office."

"It is a friendly environment and I enjoy working alongside my brother," Matt said.

"However, being in the military as a recruiter and being brothers, we are always going to be competitive."

Recruiter powerful force in competitive weightlifting

by Master Sgt. Andy Stephens
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - RICHMOND, Va. -- Her feet pressed firmly into the mat, Staff Sgt. Stephanie Marin looks to her coach. He gives her a knowing nod - "You're ready." She then looks down at the bar, shiny and metallic. The 200 pounds of weight outweigh the Air Force recruiter by 55 pounds. She takes a deep breath, gets a tight grip, closes her eyes ... and lifts.

One! Two! Three!

Others in the gym stop and stare and count along with her, silently at first, but their voices growing higher with each successive lift. At the number 15, their voices become a roar.
This scene unfolds six days a week at The Weight Room in Richmond, Va., just down the road from where Marin works as an Air Force recruiter for the 317th Recruiting Squadron's F-Flight. While the Air Force encourages its Airmen to develop their physical prowess to a "fighting standard," the 24-year-old Chicago native said she goes to extra measures as a means of becoming the very best person - Airman, recruiter, student - she can be.

"Being an Air Force recruiter means that America's flying legion has entrusted you with the responsibility to make yourself the best advocate for the force," Marin said. "What we learn in our tech school is the parameters of being a recruiter - what you can and cannot do and what tools are available to you. A great recruiter adds their own initiative and discipline to make him or herself a success. For me, weightlifting is a big part of both initiative and discipline."

Marin credits her two coaches with keeping her motivated for a demanding regimen: Chris Lawyer, the owner of The Weight Room, and Daniel Clingenpeel. It was Lawyer who approached Marin one Saturday while she was deadlifting and asked if she had ever competed before. Clingenpeel, a competitive weight-lifter and physical education teacher at an area middle school, echoed Lawyer's appeal.

"When she told me she hadn't competed, Danny and I were floored," Lawyer said. "She had incredible strength. Being an owner, you can tell when someone is working out just to keep fit versus someone who is sincere in self-improvement. I told her about an upcoming strongman contest in Richmond, the RVA Alpha Strongman, and that she should really consider competing. What's wild is that, even though she only had a few weekends to get ready for the contest, she placed second in the competition. Some of those entrants had trained for years for that contest and she just jumped right in and outperformed some of the best in the area. She is all work ethic - no ego."

Strongman training is more intense than any CrossFit Challenge, Marin said. For that reason, training can only be accomplished on Saturdays. The competitions include a log press for maximum weight (Marin could do 120 pounds), a yoke/farmers carry (Marin finished in 15:43 seconds), a maximum repetition axle dead lift (for Marin, 15 reps in one minute), and a maximum weight stone load (Marin can do 200 pounds). Her second place win at the Alpha Strongman qualified Marin for the Northern American Strongman Championships, a rare feat for a first-timer.

"When I entered the Air Force, I was trained as a 2T151, Vehicle Operations," Marin said. "I was blessed to have commanders and supervisors who had faith in me and encouraged me to focus on my self-improvement goals. I love going to school and working out, but the Air Force is my passion. Where else can one find an environment where a boss helps you to realize your full potential?"

Marin's current boss is Tech. Sgt. Vincent Green, the F-Flight chief for the 317th RCS. He said he was not surprised by Marin's initiative, describing her as a "super-focused Airman." He described her as "building bridges of lasting influence" with members of the Delayed Enlistment Program and the next generation of Airmen.

"Our Air Force recruiters are out there getting involved with the American public because they represent the best of the Air Force," Green said. "Marin is one of our best recruiters. When she meets with the families of future Airmen, you can see in their eyes that Marin understands. They are placing great faith in our recruiters to guide them into the force, helping their sons and daughters navigate the enlistment process and demonstrating by personal example the full potential that the Air Force can unlock in a motivated Airman."
Adding to Marin's credibility is her academic success as a student in computer engineering, giving her fluency in the cyberspace aspects of today's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives.

"Because computer science is a very demanding academic program, I do have to work hard to balance my weightlifting training with my coursework," Marin said. "I couldn't afford to travel to the Northern American Strongman Championships this year because most of my salary goes to cover my school books and I really didn't want to be away from my job on such short notice. I'm pretty excited to be a Strongman competitor - to be a Strongwoman - but my current mission is to become a certified recruiter and wrap up my computer engineering degree. But I'm going to work even harder now that I know I'm on the right track."

"Marin is a winner," Green said. "And she proves easily to others what it takes to win through willpower and fair play. The Air Force Recruiting Service is very lucky to have recruiters like her to communicate the Air Force message to tomorrow's Airmen."

Like mother, like father, like daughter

by Christa D'Andrea
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan  -- For one Air Force family here, military service is becoming a family tradition.

Sydney Glover, the daughter of Capt. Karina and Master Sgt. Jeffrey Glover, headed to basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Oct. 15. Prior to her departure, Captain Glover had the opportunity to administer her daughter's oath of enlistment.

"[As an Airman] I was excited for her," Captain Glover said trying to describe the range of emotions she experienced while administering the oath. "As a mom, I was extremely sad. That's my baby after all."

Master Sgt. Glover, the 374th Force Support Squadron First Sergeant, said that they are "very, very proud."

"All you really hope for as a parent is that your kid grows up to be an asset to society," the former enlisted and health professions recruiter said. "For Sydney to say she wants to follow in her parent's footsteps ... well, it doesn't get any better than that."

Captain Glover, a General Surgery Physician's Assistant with the 374th Medical Group, stated that Sydney has always been very responsible, loyal, trustworthy, and just a loving person.

"She made the decision to join the Air Force independently," she added. "It wasn't until the spring of her senior year did she state she wanted to be part of the Air Force team."
The Glover family arrived at Yokota in 2010 and Sydney graduated from Yokota High School in June 2013. She is scheduled to graduate from BMT in December and will move on to technical training in Operations Intelligence.

"The Air Force is lucky to have her and she is lucky to be a part of this organization," Captain Glover said.

Military Continues Work With North African Countries

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 – The Defense Department continues to work with nations in North Africa to promote security and increase stability in the region still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring, Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Senate panel today.

Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are confronting instability and the U.S. military is working to build or strengthen their police and military forces, Dory told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Near eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs.

“Our strategic approach recognizes that developing strong and responsive defense institutions can support regional stability, allowing partner militaries to operate under civilian authority while respecting the rule of law and international human rights,” Dory said in prepared testimony.

The effects of the Arab Spring in North Africa continue to reverberate within the region and beyond its borders into the Sahelian states of sub-Saharan Africa, she said.

Libya remains a key source of instability in North Africa and the Sahel. After the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi, there is little government infrastructure inside Libya, Dory said, and certainly no tradition of democracy.

Violence is rampant in Libya and the Libyan government is too weak to control its borders and militias provide what security there is. Arms merchants are shipping Libyan weapons out of the country and these arms are fueling instability from Mali westward, Dory said.

“The Department of Defense is prioritizing its assistance to focus on building Libyan security capacity and on improving the Libyan government’s ability to counter terrorism, counter weapons proliferation and secure and destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles,” she said.

The United States will provide general-purpose-force military training for 5,000-8,000 Libyan personnel, Dory said.

“This training effort is intended to help the [Libyan] government build the military it requires to protect government institutions and maintain order,” she said.

The training of Libyan military personnel may begin next year in Bulgaria.

In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, DOD maintains close military-to-military ties with their military counterparts. All three are engaged in a security dialogue with the United States and “they share our goals of countering terrorism and enhancing cross-border security,” Dory said.

She added, “We engage with the three governments on a bilateral basis every 12-18 months to ensure our shared security goals are aligned and U.S. government security assistance is prioritized accordingly,”

But all three countries, she said, are feeling the effects of terrorism and growing violent extremism.

In Tunisia, the military deserves tremendous credit for supporting and protecting the population during the country’s democratic transition, Dory said. U.S. assistance to the security sector focuses on counterterrorism support, border security training, she said, and a continuation of long-standing U.S. Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training programs.

Algeria remains a critical security partner in countering regional violent extremist organizations, Dory said.

“Its strategic location in the Maghreb, and its long history combating domestic terrorism and violent extremism, make Algeria a linchpin in the struggle against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its affiliates and bringing stability to the region,” she said. “The January 2013 terrorist attack against the In-Amenas oil facility highlighted the growing transnational threats in the region.”

DOD continues to expand engagement with Algeria in cooperation with other U.S. government departments and agencies across a range of activities, to include information sharing and exercises, Dory said.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, she said, has recognized for years that democratic political and economic reforms are needed in his country.

“During the Arab Awakening, he continued to respond to popular demands for change from within Moroccan society,” Dory said of Morocco’s king. “The United States and the Kingdom of Morocco share a long history of bilateral relations that is enduring and expansive.”

A major non-NATO ally, Morocco “has been a strong partner in the struggle against terrorism, and our bilateral military and political cooperation is growing,” she said.

Talon II pilot recognized by Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators

by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer
353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs

11/7/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- As a child, he was inspired by meeting a commercial airline pilot as he walked down the aisle greeting passengers. At 15, he completed his first solo in an AT-6 Texan World War II trainer and went on to serve four years in the Civil Air Patrol. Now after nearly 24 years of service, he is being recognized for his accomplishments as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Lt. Col. Alexander Neumann, 1st Special Operations Squadron, chief pilot, was presented a Master Air Pilot Certificate from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators' based in London, England, during a banquet held Oct. 23 at the Guildhall in London.

Established in 1929, the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators comprises professional and private pilots from around the world who support the education and training of pilots and navigators. The award, signed by His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is used to recognized pilots and navigators, civilian and military from various branches of professional flying who have distinguished themselves in their profession by consistently exceeding the standard in flying throughout their career.

"I know of none more deserving for this truly distinctive honor than Lt. Col. Alex Neumann," said Lt. Col. Mike Jackson, 1st SOS commander. "He is the consummate SOF professional and aviator. His over 7,000 flight hours, 2,400 combat hours and 23 Air Medals are really just a partial snapshot of his flying career and aerial achievement. The positive impact he's made on aircrews past and present, both in training and actual operations, are immeasurable and enduring. He's the guy you want at the controls for our nation's toughest missions."

Neumann's flying career began when he was selected as one of the first copilots for the MC-130H, Combat Talon II. From providing supplies to earthquake victims in Venezuela to assisting and advising the Philippines Air Force on air-land procedures and personnel drops, Neumann quickly established his home in the Talon II community, initially in the 1st Special Operations Squadron at Kadena.

"My first love is the Talon II," said Neumann. "I love flying with a large crew. I've been stationed here at Kadena twice and this is where I learned how to be the best crew member. I look most fondly at my time here at the 1st SOS."

Although Neumann felt an instant connection with the Talon II community, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to train foreign air forces. His next assignments challenged Neumann to become qualified in 15 different aircraft outside of the U.S. inventory often while also keeping currency in the Talon II.

"I flew a Russian An-2 and Talon on the same day," Neumann said. "Stepping from a tail dragging biplane to a C-130 tactical aircraft was a huge transition."

Now with 16 operational combat deployments and more than 1000 combat sorties under his belt, Neumann not only knows what it takes to be an Air Force Special Operations Command pilot, but he knows what it means to be a part of an AFSOC aircrew.

"I don't look at this as an individual award," Neumann said. "Pilots in AFSOC live and die by their crew. They are a weapons system. I have had the opportunity to meet some of the best crews in the world. I'm happy that I can bring some distinction to AFSOC and the 353rd SOG."

Cheating Death: A Story About Second Chances

by SSgt Susan L. Davis
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/19/2013 - Winter 2013/2014 -- May 27, 2012 is a day TSgt Mark Hopkins will never forget--even though it's a day he can barely remember.

It was the day he made a choice that drastically altered his life forever, and almost ended it in the process.

"All I remember is hopping on my motorcycle around noon on my way to hang out with some fellow bikers for a friend's birthday," he said. "I woke up a month later from what I thought had been a nap. Apparently, I'd had a pretty serious motorcycle accident."

The injuries he sustained from the accident should have been enough to kill him, he said. The wreck ruptured and shattered the left side of his skull, causing his brain to bleed and his eardrums to burst. His left eye socket was fractured and he was left almost totally deaf in his right ear, and with a traumatic brain injury.

According to the blood tests taken at the hospital, Hopkins had a blood alcohol level roughly twice the legal limit, and had been wearing a helmet that wasn't approved by the Department of Transportation.

He said his road to recovery has been a long and difficult one. Shortly after arriving at Altru Hospital in the city of Grand Forks, ND, he was taken into surgery where the doctor induced a medical coma in order to prevent any further bleeding and swelling on his brain. He spent the next 13 days in the critical care unit.

His injuries were so severe the Grand Forks Air Force Base Honor Guard began preparing for a military funeral when news of the accident got back to the base.
Once Hopkins came out of the coma, he underwent intensive speech, mental, and physical therapy, relearning how to stand, walk, brush his teeth, and feed himself. A month into his stay at Altru, he was finally able to recognize his family and friends and speak their names.

"A staff sergeant from work who I was friends with was standing at my bedside, weeping and unable to stand up straight," Hopkins said. "Apparently after countless visits over the past month, I finally recognized him and spoke his name for the first time."

After spending 43 days in the hospital, Hopkins was released to go home, although he was far from finished with his recovery process.

"I continued therapy three days a week and had to be with someone at all times, both in and out of the hospital," he said. "My skull hadn't been repaired with titanium yet because my brain still had to heal a while longer."

It would be several months before he could have his head hardened with titanium while the healing process continued. During that time, he was forced to wear a black medical helmet to protect his brain from further injury, which his doctor said could very well have killed him.

"My days were short then," he said. "I would wake up in the morning and just be so miserable and exhausted, and I would have to lie down for a nap in the middle of the day and wake up again around 5 p.m.," he said. "My wife, Melissa, worked, but would come home on her lunch break; my three kids (14, 13, and 11) took turns staying with me throughout the days on summer break. They would take me for walks around the base, always making sure I had my black medical helmet on, and calling my wife if I refused to wear it."

In November 2012, six months after fragments of his skull had been removed immediately after the accident, Hopkins finally had an operation to harden that portion of his scalp with titanium.

During the healing process, Hopkins endured the grueling ordeal of having staples applied to and removed from his scalp (more than once) and having the doctor insert a needle the size of a pencil into his head to drain the excess fluid that would build up.

Hopkins expressed his deep remorse over the choice he made and what it put his loved ones through.

"I have no one to blame except myself for what happened," he said. "I failed to practice my own safety techniques that I'd learned throughout my years of riding, and I nearly lost my life for it. My wife, children, family, friends, and co-workers nearly lost me because I was selfish and I chose to drink and wear improper safety equipment while operating my motorcycle."

Hopkins, or "Hopper," as he's known to his friends, had 14 distinguished years of service behind him when the accident happened, but he's being discharged now and will lose his career.

Surprisingly to some, however, Hopkins still has an unwavering love for riding, and plans to work on motorcycles after he separates from the Air Force.

But, he said there are two things he will never ride without again: "A DOT-approved helmet and sobriety!"

Hopkins has a firm grasp of the gravity of his situation, and said he is very thankful to have been able to come out on the other side.

"This is my second chance to continue to be a better father, a better husband, and a second chance to do something I love," he said. "I am the living example of what may happen to a biker who does not put safety first and respect his bike, and the trauma it can cause. If I can help save one life just by sharing my story, that makes it worth it to me."

Native American Code Talkers Get Congressional Gold Medal

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2013 – Native American “code talkers” who transmitted codes based on 33 tribal dialects during World Wars I and II so enemies could not decipher them were patriots with “unique capabilities and willingness to give their talents and lives” to the nation, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony to honor them.

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., joined in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall by House and Senate leaders and other officials, recognized 216 code talkers and members of their families from those wars with the highest honor Congress can bestow.

Winnefeld said, “During Native American Heritage Month, I have the great privilege of representing the finest military in the world in recognizing hundreds of Native Americans who wore the cloth of our nation in the distinctive way we celebrate today, and in such a courageous way, defending a country that did not always keep its word to their ancestors.”

Conceived in 1918, the code talker program eventually comprised more than 400 Native Americans who volunteered to defend the nation, the vice chairman said.

The role of the code talkers during the two world wars was kept a secret until 1968, officials said.

“Throughout history, military leaders have sought the perfect code -- signals the enemy cannot break, no matter how able the intelligence team,” the vice chairman said. “It was our code talkers who created voice codes that defied decoding.”

Winnefeld said the codes were “doubly clever” by using words that were confusing to the enemy, such as “crazy white man” for Adolf Hitler and “tortoise” for tank.

“Our code talkers’ role in combat required intelligence, adaptability, grace under pressure, and bravery -- key attributes handed down by their ancestors,” the admiral said.

Winnefeld said the code talkers endured some of the nation’s most dangerous battles and served proudly during critical combat operations, such as the Choctaws at the Meuse-Argonne, Comanches on Utah Beach on D-Day, Hopis in the Caroline Islands and the Cherokees at the Second Battle of the Somme.

“These men were integral members of their teams -- the 36th Infantry Division, the 4th Signals Company, the 81st Infantry Division, the 30th Infantry Division -- learning Morse code and operating equipment to transmit messages quickly and accurately,” he added.

Contributing even more than battle skills, the code talkers also “fundamentally contributed to our military intelligence community’s work” in cryptology, Winnefeld said.

The National Security Agency Museum highlights the code talkers of World War I and World War II as pioneers of this specialty, he added.

The code talkers are a national resource, a wellspring of intelligence, innovation, hard work and resilience, the vice chairman said.

“We can best honor these great warriors among us not just with well-deserved and long overdue recognition,” the vice chairman said, “but also with our own efforts to continue leveraging our nation’s diversity and to forever honor our veterans.”