Military News

Friday, December 06, 2013

President Issues Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Proclamation



American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2013 – President Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 7, 2013, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Here is the text of the president’s proclamation:

More than seven decades ago, on a calm Sunday morning, our Nation was attacked without warning or provocation. The bombs that fell on the island of Oahu took almost 2,400 American lives, damaged our Pacific Fleet, challenged our resilience, and tested our resolve. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the men and women who selflessly sacrificed for our country, and we show our enduring gratitude to all who fought to defend freedom against the forces of tyranny and oppression in the Second World War.

In remembrance of Pearl Harbor and to defend our Nation against future attacks, scores of young Americans enlisted in the United States military. In battle after battle, our troops fought with courage and honor. They took the Pacific theater island by island, and eventually swept through Europe, liberating nations as they progressed. Because of their extraordinary valor, America emerged from this test as we always do -- stronger than ever before.

We also celebrate those who served and sacrificed on the home front -- from families who grew Victory Gardens or donated to the war effort to women who joined the assembly line alongside workers of every background and realized their own power to build a brighter world. Together, our Greatest Generation overcame the Great Depression, and built the largest middle class and strongest economy in history.

Today, with solemn pride and reverence, let us remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, acknowledge everyone who carried their legacy forward, and reaffirm our commitment to upholding the ideals for which they served.

The Congress, by Public Law 103-308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 7, 2013, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I encourage all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I urge all Federal agencies and interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff this December 7 in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

VA Warns of Marketing Scam



By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2013 – The Department of Veterans Affairs recently posted an alert on its Facebook page warning of a marketing scam targeting veterans.

A marketing company has purchased telephone numbers that differ by one digit from the VA’s national call center and the GI Bill call center. Callers who misdial and reach the fraudulent numbers will be offered a gift card in exchange for personal and financial information -- including credit card information.

According to the warning, after the caller’s information is obtained, they may even be transferred to the VA number they were attempting to reach.

The VA will never ask for credit card or banking information over the phone. Law enforcement authorities have been notified of the situation.

The VA’s national call center number is 800-827-1000, and the GI Bill call center’s number is 888-442-4551. VA’s customer service numbers can be verified online at https://iris.custhelp.com/.

Biden: U.S.-South Korea Alliance Key to Regional Security

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

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2013 – The security alliance between the U.S. and South Korea is key to the Asia-Pacific region’s peace and stability, Vice President Joe Biden said in Seoul, South Korea.

Speaking to Yonsei University students about the U.S. rebalance toward the region, Biden assured his audience of the U.S. commitment.

“President Obama is absolutely committed to rebalance,” Biden said. “No one should underestimate or question our staying power. Just look at the last 60 years in Korea.

“Ask the people of Japan -- the Mutual Defense Treaty since 1960 and still going strong,” Biden continued. “Ask the people of the Philippines -- American helicopters, small ships, medical services, road clearing -- all responding on the backs of U.S. Marines when one of the most fierce tropical storms in history devastated their country.”

The vice president said the course of Asia-Pacific affairs in the 21st century is still being written.

“The rise of economies up and down the Pacific Rim are literally remaking the world,” Biden said. “But with this growth have come new risks and tensions above and beyond the enduring threats that we face.”

He continued, “And the rules and norms that help advance security and prosperity are still evolving to keep pace with the remarkable changes of the 21st century.”

Biden recalled how South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has spoken of a shared journey toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. The United States, he said, could not have any better partner to share that journey with than South Korea.

“President Park's vision of our journey is already taking shape, our alliance as a lynchpin for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific,” Biden said. “We not only stand side-by-side in the Korean Peninsula with all of you -- we stand watch around the world,” Biden said. “Korean sailors are fighting piracy off the shores of Somalia. Korean troops are showing their mettle alongside our own in Afghanistan.”

The vice president said this vision isn’t just limited to security, noting the U.S. and South Korea are together fighting disease, illiteracy, hunger, and natural disasters as well as championing the rights of women around the world.

“Witness the response to the crisis in the Philippines,” Biden said. “The Republic of Korea is one of the only countries in the world whose development budget has actually gone up over the past years. You have not forgotten, apparently, what allowed you to rise again.”

Biden said the American people are “all in” for the economic, diplomatic and military rebalancing policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We're determined to strengthen our alliances, cultivate new partners in the Pacific Basin, build constructive relations with China, pursue major agreements that further integrate our economies, and join and strengthen the institutions of the Asia-Pacific and of the East Asian Summit,” he said.

Biden said the United States seeks an open, transparent economic order in the Asia-Pacific to deliver growth for all because in growth resides peace.

In addition to security, Biden said the way to sustain and enhance the Asia-Pacific region’s “remarkable economic progress” is by eliminating trade barriers to enable all to participate in and benefit from the marketplace.

“These are the principles behind the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement,” he noted. “Trade between our countries has already grown 65 percent from $80 billion a year in the year 2000 to $130 billion in 2012.”

This means employment, Biden said, which facilitates the ability to live a middle-class life resulting in stability.

“Of course, all that we hope to accomplish economically for our people depends upon our physical security,” the vice president said. “And that starts with our alliances -- South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand -- all in the Basin.”

The United States is “modernizing our alliances to meet the demands of the 21st century,” Biden said. “And we’re promoting better cooperation among our allies.”

Biden said the Asia-Pacific region will be more stable and secure if democracies such as Japan, South Korea and the U.S. are able to improve their relations and cooperation with one another.

He also noted as the countries work together to build prosperity and security, that it should be accomplished upon shared values such as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, and democratic principles.

“These are the values that will power success for countries in the 21st century,” he said. “And it’s what’s allowed my country and yours to succeed.”

Biden said he’s confident the U.S. and South Korea will continue to be “allies and kindred spirits for a long time to come.”

“It’s not merely our economic, our political and our strategic necessity for one another; it is ultimately based on shared common values,” he said. “And so I think your future is bright.”

Former NATO Allied Air Command Headquarters commander visits Fairchild

by Airman 1st Class Janelle Patiño
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


12/5/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Retired Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, former commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied Air Command Headquarters at Izmir, Turkey, visited Fairchild Dec. 1-3 to recognize Team Fairchild for their role in the Libyan air operation in 2011.

Jodice spoke with Col. Brian Newberry, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, Airman Leadership School students, squadron commanders and Airmen who came to his Operation Unified Protector Briefing. He informed them how important they are to the mission and shared his knowledge on how to be a good leader.

"There are different traits a good leader could have and they are, to name some, having integrity, being a good servant leader, being credible and knowing how to connect with Airmen by making them understand how important every single one of them are to the mission," said Jodice.

Jodice also discussed challenges and how they helped today's Air Force become more innovative. In addition, he commended the new generation of Airmen in the military.

"We have motivated, smart people in this generation that want to join our Air Force and we need to take advantage of that," said Jodice. "With high fiscal constraints, people need to not get caught up with the problem and focus on the mission. Fiscal constraints don't stop us from doing what we do best."

Jodice mentioned some keys to conducting successful warfare across the globe, one of which is collaboration.

"I think of doing it as an alliance or as a coalition. We've seen that no nation can do it on its own anymore so we have to work together with our allies, partners and friends to do the mission," he said. "In doing that, we have to collaborate and recognize how to use the capabilities that the nations bring to that operation to the best of their ability."

When it comes to today's generation of Airmen, Jodice believes that Airmen are smarter, better equipped, more prepared and better trained to use whatever they can to make things work with the limited assets that are available due to the resource constraints.

"Airmen, in my opinion, are more prepared to execute today's Air Force mission because they understand things way better than my generation did," said Jodice. "It's because of the interaction that takes place across the globe."

Jodice also wanted to thank Col. Newberry and the entire wing for welcoming him to Fairchild. He expressed his gratitude for the Airmen who are in serving the country.

"Keep doing your mission; global reach through the use of air refueling is not going to go away and the mission here at Fairchild has been providing that capability and it's vitally important," said Jodice. "Wherever you are and whatever you do in this wing to support the mission matters."

Injured Airman returns to duty

by 1st Lt. Alexis McGee
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs


12/6/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Staff Sgt. Brian Williams of the 87th Security Forces Squadron has been in the Air Force for 13 years, has deployed six times and served as a military working dog handler here since 2011.

He is a Phoenix, Ariz.., native, who enjoys watching his favorite team, the Carolina Panthers play, reading comic books and playing video games.

Williams returned to work Oct. 28, 2013, after a year and a half hiatus from his MWD duties.

He was on a temporary duty assignment not for training or career development, but for recovery.

During his second deployment to Afghanistan, in 2012, Williams was severely injured when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on patrol. He was approximately mid-way through his six-month deployment when the explosion occurred.

He suffered the loss of his left leg above the knee, as well as multiple shrapnel wounds. He spent the past year and half recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., undergoing more than 15 surgeries and enduring more than 500 hours of rehabilitation therapy.

Williams was invited to a strategic offsite planning conference held Oct. 30, 2013, at the New Jersey National Guard Armory in Bordentown, N.J., to share his recovery story with 87th Air Base Wing leadership.

As he told his story, he said just prior to his deployment he purchased a $20 Casio watch to wear while deployed. He said he kept the time set to the time zone back home so he always knew what time it was back in the U.S. After he returned to the U.S. following the explosion, one of his doctors told him that had he not been wearing the unassuming watch, he probably would have lost his left hand completely.

"So if you don't have a $20 Casio watch, you might want to get one," he joked as he told his recovery story.

Williams' fiancée Staff Sgt. Emily Christofaro joined Williams during the conference to tell about the recovery from her perspective and to thank her leadership for providing the means to let her help Williams through his recovery.

"Don't let your troops fall under the radar," Christofaro said to the leadership. "If there is a single Airman in your unit who gets injured and doesn't have anyone to help through the recovery process, let him or her have someone."

Christofaro credited her leadership with making it possible for her to stay with Williams as he recovered. She stayed by his side almost consistently during the first 9 months of his recovery.

"Had Emily not been there (during my recovery), I just don't know how it would have been," said Williams.

Williams said his recovery thus far has not been easy, but it has been dotted with some unforgettable experiences.

As soon as he began his recovery, Williams asked his leadership about the feasibility of adopting his military working dog, Carly, who was by his side on the day of the accident. They assured him they would look into it, but since Carly was still in good health and could still perform adequately as a MWD, the chances were slim.

Members of the SFS MWD section brought Carly down to Bethesda on multiple occasions to visit his friend and partner as Williams' leadership continued their pursuit to have Carly adopted out as his service dog.

At the end of June 2013, Williams had a meeting scheduled with the Secretary of the Air Force at the time, Secretary Michael Donley to discuss Carly's adoption. During the meeting, Donley told Williams he had heard Williams wanted to adopt Carly as a service dog. Williams expressed his interest in the adoption and Donley asked him how he felt about being able to adopt Carly "today." Soon after, Master Sgt. Mike Sherry, 87th SFS kennel master, and Chief Master Sgt. Scott Pepper, 87th SFS manager, walked Carly in the room to transfer Carly over to Williams.

Williams was officially presented with Carly during a small ceremony at JB MDL Aug. 28, 2013.

During the conference, Williams said not once during his time in Bethesda did he ever feel lost or forgotten by the base populous.

As a further demonstration of the fact that he was never forgotten, Col. James Hodges, 87th Air Base Wing commander, along with Lt. Col. Patrick Steen, 87th SFS commander, and Pepper thanked Williams for sharing his story and presented him with a surprise he never saw coming.

In what was a heart-wrenching moment for all in attendance, Hodges announced that Williams was selected for promotion to the rank of technical sergeant effective Nov. 1, 2013.

"I was just as surprised as anyone else there," said Williams. "I still can't believe I'm 'Tech. Sgt. Williams.'"

Williams admits he couldn't have done all he has without the robust support of his leadership.

"I just want to do what they expect of me, which is to lead Airmen," he said of his leadership. "And I am so thankful to my leadership for finding me worthy of this promotion."

Williams has had a long journey to recovery, but despite his injuries he continues to stand ready to serve.

"Yes I lost most of my leg, but my heart and brain still work and that's all I need," he said.

When looking to the future, Williams said his long-term goal is to retire at no less than a master sergeant. And for the short term, "I want to be able to run again," he said.

Leader recognized for pulling man out of burning car

by Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
4-25th IBCT PAO


12/6/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sgt. 1st Class John Kerns, the civil affairs noncommissioned officer in charge for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, received the Soldier's Medal during a ceremony hosted Nov. 21 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The Soldier's Medal is awarded to individuals for heroism, who knowingly choose to place their lives in danger not involving conflict with an armed enemy.

Kerns earned the Soldier's Medal for rescuing an incapacitated driver from a flame-engulfed vehicle in North Carolina in 2010.

During an off-duty trip to visit his grandfather, Kerns, who was then stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and his wife were traveling north on Interstate 95. Then he saw a car about 100 meters in front of him veer off of the highway and crash into the wooded median.
Witnessing the crash, Kerns quickly pulled his car to the left side of the road. The traffic was heavy, and most of the cars in front of him had stopped to avoid a pile-up. He moved forward along the shoulder, passing cars until he stopped and exited his car. He ran to the crash site, where several people had already arrived.

"I stopped the car, got out, ran up there, and the engine was still running," Kerns said. "It was revved up high. The car was still in drive. The wheels were still turning.

"It had slammed into the woods, and it was wedged in between two trees," he continued. "The trees had scrunched that car together. The driver was incapacitated. It was not a pleasant sight. There was smoke and fire. I remember looking underneath the car, and I could see the pine needles curling from the heat.

"I yelled out at the people standing around the car, 'Hey, we need to get this guy out of the car!' It was met with just a blank stare. I looked around, and I saw a lot of that 'deer in the headlight' look. It was obvious these folks had not seen this kind of thing before."

No one was ready to move, so Kerns leaped into action. Acting swiftly and without regard for his own safety, he entered the burning car from the passenger side rear door.
The only person in the car was the driver, and Kerns was thankful to find the toddler's car seat in the rear vacant.

"The front doors were sandwiched in between those trees," Kerns said. "There was a baby seat in the back, and fortunately there was no baby involved, but the driver was incapacitated and was convulsing."

Kerns reached forward and shut off the engine's ignition switch. He tried freeing the driver from his seatbelt, but because of the awkward angle and the belt's tightness and pressure on the buckle, he was unable to unclick it. So, he reached for his knife and cut the belt to free the man.

He said he remembered seeing a Federal Express driver standing outside the vehicle's driver's side yelling at him about the ever increasing and raging fire. He could smell the unpleasant fumes. He could see the smoke and fire. There were other people on that side of the car too, so he forced open that side's rear door. He began pulling the man back between the two front seats.

A woman reached in, grabbed the man, and started to pull. At that instant the fire consumed one of the car's tires. The tire made a loud popping sound which frightened the woman. She let go of the man and ran away from the vehicle along with several other frightened onlookers.

Determined to rescue the victim, Kerns finished pulling the immobilized man out of the car by himself. He also grabbed the man's cell phone along the way. The Fed-Ex driver came up and helped him move the victim further away from the vehicle, and within two minutes of extracting the driver, the vehicle's fuel tank exploded.

At a safe distance away from the vehicle, Kerns began rendering first aid. He continued rendering aid until paramedics arrived at the scene to take the driver to the hospital.
Kerns distinguished himself through bravery and valor, but was modest as he spoke at his award ceremony.

"It is an honor to be considered for any military decoration, especially the Soldier's Medal," he said. "It is especially humbling to be recognized by my brothers and sisters in arms.
"I remember the events of that day very well," Kerns continued. "They stand out very clear in my mind. I remember seeing the accident. I remember stopping the car. I remember seeing the pine needles curling from the heat underneath the car as it became engulfed in flames. I remember seeing the rise and fall of his chest. I remember feeling his breath of his air, the fundamentals of life saving.

"But, what I don't remember is weighing the odds," he said. "I don't remember making any conscious decision."

Kerns went on to say any Soldier would do the same if put in that position.
"We do these things because what we do in training ultimately is what we do in combat, and this is what the military has done for us, done for me," he said.

Kerns has had an exemplary Army career, which dates back to April 5, 1989 when he first enlisted into the active component. He then had a break in service after completing his initial enlistment in the mid '90s.

He re-entered the U.S. Army in the Reserve component on Jan. 25, 2001. He went on to mobilize and deploy in support of contingency operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

In November of 2005, he transitioned back into the Regular Army, deploying in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom-Philippines.
In February, 2010, he was assigned to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.

In May 2012, he reported to Alaska for his assignment in the 4-25th IBCT, where he deployed again in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The 4-25th IBCT's commander, Army Col. Mathew McFarlane, said Kerns is a talented leader who knows how to articulate his knowledge and experiences to help mentor Soldiers.

"He is a special leader, and it was no surprise that when he saw this incident, that he took the actions he did," said McFarlane.

The Spartan Brigade's S4 logistics noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Coates, said Kerns has always been the type of person willing to help anyone in need.

"It's not a surprise, honestly," Coates said. "Sergeant Kerns is always helping people and giving great advice. Every time I see Sergeant Kerns, he always has a mind frame of help others first, and get the job done.

"He's the type of guy that would take his shirt off for you and say, 'Hey, you can have my shirt.' That's just the type of guy he is."

Coates said Kerns is a great role model for young Soldiers to emulate.

"I think that by presenting him the Soldier's Medal, it opens Soldiers' eyes, so they can see that they can do good things in the community too," Coates said. "He is a good guy. I've met many great people, but this is one guy I will never forget. I will keep in touch with him for the rest of my life."

Army Chaplain (Maj.) James B. Lee, the 4-25th IBCT's chaplain echoed some of the same words during the ceremony's invocation.

"As we honor his service today, and his act of heroism, we pray that we would be inspired to embody that same spirit as warriors, as Soldiers, and as paratroopers."

An interesting part of the story is Army Maj. Nathan Golden, the staff judge advocate for the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Bragg, was traveling north on I-95 that day as well, and he too witnessed and aided in the rescue. Wielding a fire extinguisher, Golden helped keep the flames at bay until Kerns could extract the driver from the vehicle.

It was Golden who witnessed Kerns risk his life to save another person. It was this selfless act of bravery, which prompted Golden to submit for the Soldier's Medal award to honor Kerns' courage and valor that day.

After the accident, Kerns called the hospital to check on the driver. He learned that he did survive, and that he was in stable condition and improving, and that was the last he heard of him.

"I was glad to hear he was doing well," Kerns said.

JBER C-17 participates in Operation Damayan

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf
JBER Public Affairs


12/6/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The loading ramp at the back of a C-17 Globemaster III began to lower. Behind it, 100 people stood in line looking worn, but with smiles on their faces. They slowly began to pile into the back of the aircraft saying "thank you" as they passed the loadmaster directing them to their seats. After the first 100 were seated and strapped in, there was room for more, so the crew called for another 100 people to board. This process repeated until the C-17 was full and there was no more room. The ramp closed and the loadmasters ensured everyone was secure as the engines fired up and the C-17 began to move.

Humanitarian Airlift has been a major asset the Air Force has used during its history, even before it became the U.S. Air Force and was still part of the U.S. Army - from dropping food to starving French citizens during World War II to Operation Provide Hope, when airlift provided 6,000 tons of food, medicine and other support items to republics of the former Soviet Union. It is no surprise then, that when the super typhoon Haiyan passed over the Philippines and destroyed towns and villages, the Air Force would lend its airlift capability to assist.

That is where a Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson C-17 come in.

A group of active duty and Alaska Air National Guard members flew a C-17 to Kadena Air Base, Japan, to stage and begin their aid to Operation Damayan. They started out by bringing in a forklift to offload pallets of supplies at an airport that had been hit hard by the storm in Tacloban, Philippines.

That quickly changed.

"Flexibility is the most important thing to us," said Air Force Maj. Matt Petersen, 3rd Wing Operational Support Squadron, C-17 instructor pilot. "Even that day our mission changed five or six times. The Marines were running the operation down there, so they would say, 'We need you to bring in a water purification system;' that switched to trucks; switched to food; and switched to different equipment. Even in the course of a day it changed several times."

Then they got a call for a mission they hadn't planned on doing.

"We were on the ground in Tacloban and they (Marines) asked us to take refugees back," Petersen said. "We called back to the people who control our mission and said 'Hey we have the ability to do this, can we do it?' and they said go. We got 400 to 500 people on board and got them out of there that night. We are just there to get the job done so we will do whatever we can."

They began boarding people by taking in 100 at a time.

"With an emergency airlift, everything changes with our normal operations," said Senior Airman Brett Laichak, Alaska Air National Guard, 249th Airlift Squadron C-17 loadmaster. "We had to set aside our normal procedures and accommodate what the new mission required, and that was to get as many people that we can safely out of there. My crew was able to get out 489 people out in one sitting, which is a lot; 747s carry that much and they are about twice our size body wise."

Everyone sat in rows and was strapped in with cargo straps to keep them safe. The most Laichak said he had on board was 489 people; 40 rows of people strapped in.

The storm took out anything that would aid the C-17s instruments in landing, so they had to do it on their own.

"We set up our own navigation approach to make it in there and it was raining and was a tough night, but we had a good full moon and our night-vision goggles available, and that let us pick up the runway even in a low-light environment and go in and land in the middle of the night," said Air National Guard Maj. Scott Altenburg, 249th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot.

During the winter in Alaska, the nights are long and the C-17 pilots take advantage of this to practice using their night-vision goggles. Altenburg said it was this training that helped him while he was flying at night over in the Philippines.

Things don't always go perfectly, but they had what they needed to make sure it could go as best it could.

"We got to a point where we were ready to take refugees out, but we had a maintenance emergency on one of the engines," said Air Force Staff Sgt. David Arnold, 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief. "I was able to fix it on the spot, but if there wasn't an aircraft mechanic on the airplane, we would have had to wait probably a day or two to bring someone in from another Air Force base. There were a few other instances where we had maintenance issues and we were able get them taken care of and keep going. After we got the engine fixed, we were able to transport over 300 refugees."

There was one tough decision the aircraft commander had to make, but in the end it worked out and everyone arrived safely.

"We had one woman who was 11 days overdue and showing signs of labor, and they asked me if we wanted to bring her on board, and that is of concern to me as the aircraft commander I am worried she might go into labor in the plane on the flight back," Altenburg said. "I agreed that I would take the pregnant woman, but they would have to provide a doctor to go with her."

Despite the maintenance issues, long hours, and tough decisions; everyone agreed they were happy to help.

The C-17 made a final approach and a loadmaster made an announcement over the public address system. "Welcome to Manila," the loadmaster said to cheers and raised hands with excitement coursing through the evacuees. A quick reminder came over the PA system to inform them to stay seated and everyone sat back down. They had made it out of the ravaged city of Tacloban and made it to Manila.

Travis, Solano County team up in local exercise

by Senior Airman Madelyn Brown
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


12/6/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Travis and Solano County emergency response agencies collaborated in an active-shooter exercise Nov. 14, in which an individual opened fire during a parent's night at the Sierra Vista Elementary School in Vacaville, Calif. The shooter also detonated a device and left a suspicious substance in the school.

The incident resulted in approximately 59 victims, including two mannequins from David Grant USAF Medical Center that were bleeding and missing limbs. Overall 19 community and military response agencies participated in the county-wide exercise, said Don Ryan, Solano County Sherriff's Office emergency services manager.

"The best thing is watching Travis responders integrate so well with our community partners," said John Speakman, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief.

Immediately after the shooting, the Vacaville Police Department arrived on-scene to clear the building and neutralize the shooter. Next, Fire and Medical Departments arrived to evacuate the 59 victims, some requiring to be carried out due to injury.

No single response agency in this county is able to handle a large scale emergency incident, Speakman said. It takes the efforts of Travis responders as well as the county partners and many base support agencies to handle a large event, with good teamwork being a key ingredient to success.

The victims, donned with specific injuries and dripping in moulage, were instructed to behave as a real-world victim with their specific injury. The medical agencies assessed the injuries and determined priority, on-scene treatment and transportation to which medical facility in the county.

Many of the victims were played by middle and high school aged youth; 35 the volunteers came from the Civil Air Patrol detachment on Travis.

"The test of the pediatric emergency capabilities would have been difficult without the Civil Air Patrol cadets from Travis and Sacramento," Ryan said.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Smith, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, played a victim suffering from a gunshot wound through the thigh. He was deemed one of the victims in critical condition by a Suisun City firefighter. From there, he was transported from the school to Kaiser Permanente in Vacaville, Calif., via an ambulance and emergency medical responder from Benicia, Calif.

"The exercise was so in depth and elaborate," Smith said. "They really went all out to make it as realistic as possible."

No measure was too far for the organizers of the drill to take in order to make the incident authentic. When the training causes the responders adrenaline to spike, they learn to perform in that state during a real-world incident.

"The responders want to ensure they are on top of their game so they can respond in the most effective manner and for the greatest good," Speakman said. "The moulage on the live volunteer victims made them look like they had actually survived an event such as the exercise scenario.

The final responders to the exercise, the hazardous material team, combined Travis firefighters and the Vacaville police department entered the building after the evacuation of all victims. They analyzed the suspicious substance, extricated it from the school, and rendered the situation safe.

"Collaboration is essential since Travis is part of our community with shared risks and a mutual desire to keep Solano County safe and ready to respond to any incident," Ryan said.

School officials recognized, in recent years, school shootings have become more prevalent, and it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

"It's good that we're having these discussions on how to be truly prepared for the worst incidents," said Ken Jacopetti, Vacaville superintendent of schools. "That is of the utmost importance."

Hagel, King of Bahrain Discuss Regional Security Issues



American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with His Majesty King Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain at Safria Palace in Bahrain and the two leaders exchanged views on shared regional security challenges, including Iran and the signed joint plan of action between the P5+1 and Iran, Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a statement issued today.

Woog’s statement reads as follows:

Secretary Hagel met with His Majesty King Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain this afternoon at the Safria Palace.

Secretary Hagel and the king discussed the long history of the United States - Bahrain bilateral relationship. Secretary Hagel emphasized the U.S. commitment to Gulf security and discussed the speech he will present to the IISS Manama Dialogue tomorrow.

The secretary and the king exchanged views on shared regional security challenges, including Iran and the signed joint plan of action between the P5+1 and Iran.

The meeting included significant discussion of reform in Bahrain and the importance of political inclusiveness for long term stability. The secretary thanked King Hamad for hosting the U.S. 5th fleet and ongoing security cooperation.