Military News

Friday, December 13, 2013

Air Force Envisions Smaller Force to Preserve Readiness



By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2013 – Discussing upcoming budgetary variables during a Pentagon news conference today, the Air Force’s top civilian leader for the past six months addressed the inevitability of a smaller force.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning, who is returning next week to his position as undersecretary of the Air Force following today’s Senate confirmation of Deborah Lee James to assume the service’s top civilian position, recounted traveling to more than 40 bases to meet with thousands of airmen during his six-month tenure.

“[Airmen] see better than any of us the impact that readiness is having, because they’re not training, they’re not flying, they’re not able to maintain some things,” Fanning said. “They worry about what their future is going to be in the Air Force.”

Feedback from individual and group meetings with airmen, Fanning said, showed that uniformed and civilian Air Force members believe that budget issues are keeping them from being able to contribute to the mission the way they want to.

“Even during the furlough,” he said, “some civilians certainly complained about the impact it had on their pocketbook, but far more than that, civilians are telling me, ‘I can’t do what I need to do and want to do for the Air Force in 32 hours a week.’”

But, Fanning said, the national debt burden is a long-term national security issue, and Air Force officials are committed to being a part of the solution as the defense budget takes shape.

“I believe the American people have a right as we come out of two long wars to feel they can spend less, invest less in national security forces,” he said.

He cited examples of spending reductions following historical conflicts such as World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War.

“We’ve usually not started [reducing spending] until the conflict is over, … and we’re still at war, … and we’ve always had some type of ramp to ease into those cuts,” he said.
However, he explained, sequestration spending cuts don’t allow for such flexibility.

“It’s not just the dollar cuts. … It’s the mechanics of sequestration, the immediacy of those cuts,” Fanning said. “It’s forcing us to make choices that we wouldn’t make otherwise and it’s forcing us to draw down in a more destructive way than necessary.”

Disproportionate pressure also remains on investment and readiness, because resizing the force takes time even when it’s possible, Fanning said. And congressional reticence to consider another round of base realignments and closures has proven costly and time-consuming in reducing the personnel force, creating an increasingly oversized infrastructure, he added.

With only operations and maintenance and investment accounts remaining for quick assessment, a profound impact to readiness could ensue.

“The Air Force was already in a 20-year readiness decline, something we were just starting to address when sequestration hit,” said Fanning, adding that the service’s size and structure doesn’t lend itself to a tiered readiness model.

“When the flag goes up,” he said, “the Air Force is expected to get to the crisis rapidly -– speed is a key advantage of Air Force power.”

The number of Air Force squadrons equals the combatant commanders’ requirements, he said, but with little or no time to bring forces up to full readiness.

“If it takes months to generate combat air power, the president loses deterrence, diplomatic influence and contingency options on which the nation has come to depend,” he said.

Fanning characterized budget compromises currently in debate on Capitol Hill as encouraging though lower than service officials would like. The additional funds over the next two years will help cover readiness shortfalls, stability and planning, he said.

“Even with this relief, we will need to resize the Air Force to one that is smaller than it is today in order to protect investments we need for the future and to shape an Air Force that we can keep ready [and] we can’t do these cuts individually, ad hoc, in isolation,” Fanning said. “If something’s restored to the budget we present to the Hill, something else will need to go.”

Still, Fanning pledged a continued commitment to helping airmen get past the “distractions” of budget and political uncertainty.

“We will make the decisions that we can, as quickly as we can, as transparently as we can … to get the Air Force back to that ‘new normal,’” he said.

Air Force Leader Outlines Joint Strike Fighter’s Value



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2013 – On the day that Lockheed-Martin delivered its 100th F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to the Air Force, the service’s leaders today marked the milestone and outlined the aircraft’s value.

The F-35 will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where it will serve as the first training aircraft for pilots of the fifth-generation fighter.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III called the event “a big deal for the Air Force” during a Pentagon news conference this morning.

Welsh discussed the service’s need for the Lightning II, a need that became even more acute, he said, after the Defense Department truncated the total buy of F-22 Raptor fighters.

The F-22 was to provide theaterwide air superiority, the general said. But with too few F-22s to provide this umbrella, F-35s must pick up the slack. “You have to have the F-35 to augment the F-22 to do the air superiority fight at the beginning of a high-end conflict to survive against the fifth-generation threats we believe will be in the world at that point in time,” he said.

Even with upgrades, Welsh said, current air superiority fighters -- F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons -- cannot survive against a fifth-generation threat.

“Operationally, it’s just a fact,” he added. “I am certainly not willing to go to my secretary or the secretary of defense or to the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and say, ‘I would recommend that we keep our old equipment and update it, and just accept more losses and count on the incredible ability of our aviators to win the fight anyway.’”

The joint strike fighter program is the most expensive in American military history. The Air Force will fly the F-35A variant, the Navy will fly the F-35C, and the Marine Corps will fly the F-35B. The initial operating capability for the Air Force is set for December 2016.

The program has had growing pains. Costs have risen, and the flyaway cost for the Air Force version is around $150 million per aircraft.

But now, the production rate for the aircraft is rising and production costs are dropping, Welsh said. “Since 2011, the program has met milestones consistently,” the general said. “We have allies buying into the program and committing to purchasing aircraft, which will keep being more and more of a financial benefit for us over time.”

Welsh said now is not the time to cut the joint strike fighter program.

“I don't believe this is a good time to talk about truncating the buy -- capping it at some number,” he said. “I think that will put the program at risk of financially costing us even more.”

DOD Adds Synthetic Marijuana to Random Drug Testing



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

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2013 – The Defense Department has expanded its zero tolerance for the use of illicit drugs to include synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice,” the director of DOD’s drug testing and program policy said here today.

In an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel, Army Lt. Col. Tom Martin said that in addition to the broad range of drugs for which the military already randomly tests service members, synthetic marijuana will also be included.

“The message we’re getting out now is that when you participate in our random urinalysis program, synthetic marijuana products or synthetic marijuana will now be tested along with our other drugs,” he said. “It’s been known in the general population, both in the medical community and various media reports, that synthetic marijuana drug use is a serious health concern.”

Martin noted that while the military typically has a much lower level of drug use than in society at large, synthetic marijuana “still poses a significant risk to both the safety and readiness of our force.”

“Prior to synthetic marijuana being banned,” he said, “the department went out and did a random study looking at a sampling of military urine specimens from all the different services to see if synthetic marijuana was being used by our members. At that time, the positive rate, or the number of service members who tested positive, was about 2.5 percent.”

To put that in perspective, he said, in 2012 the overall positive rate for all the drugs tested for in the urinalysis program was 0.9 percent.

“In 2012, synthetic marijuana products were banned through legislation,” Martin said. “So we went back and did a similar study, and what we found is that the actual numbers went down.” However, he added, a high number of service members are using synthetic marijuana.

In addition to testing for synthetic marijuana, Martin said, the military also randomly tests all service members for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and other drugs in the amphetamine class, including methamphetamines and the drug known as “ecstasy.” The test also looks for codeine and morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, Vicodin, and different diazepines, such as Valium and Xanax.

Martin said even deployed troops are subject to random drug testing. “They are still mandated to be tested under the military’s random urinalysis program; however, the frequency is determined by the operational tempo,” he said.

If a random drug testing detects the presence of illegal drugs, Martin said, troops are subject to punishment under military law guidelines.

“Any service member who tests positive for either an illicit drug or misuse of a prescription drug falls under any actions deemed appropriate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as well actions that are appropriate as deemed by their commander,” he said.

With the addition of synthetic marijuana to an already stringent drug testing policy, Martin reiterated the department’s commitment to zero tolerance for the abuse of illicit drugs.

“All service members participating in our urinalysis program will be tested for cannabinoids,” he said. “And if they do test positive, they will be dealt with according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Barksdale Air Show scheduled for April 26 - 27

by Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


12/12/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La -- Barksdale Air Force Base is scheduled to host its annual Defenders of Liberty Air Show April 26 - 27.

This year's show will feature several acts, including the head-lining U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

"We are excited to be chosen as one of the limited number of military Air Shows this year," said Maj. Warren Carroll, the Air Show's air operations director. "We are excited to host this event and enhance the public awareness of the Air Force. Opening Air Force bases to the public provides opportunities for education and helps generate interest in the military and its role in national security."

Both the event and parking are free to the public, but guests are cautioned to plan their trip carefully, as accommodating many vehicles safely and efficiently will require some changes to how traffic enters and exits the base.

"As in years past, The Bossier (North) and Shreveport (West) Gates will be used for processing Air Show traffic exclusively," said Capt. Clifford Piernick, 2nd Security Forces Squadron chief. "We are still working the times the gates will be open, but like previous years, we ask Air Show visitors to proceed with caution during the high traffic of the show."

Additional information about the Air Show, including more security information, a full list of the acts, and general information, may be found on the official web site, www.barksdaleafbairshow.com.

Recruiters officially recognized for excellence

by Master Sgt. Shawn J. Jones
Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service Public Affairs


12/9/2013 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, GA. -- Airmen of the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service learned they were selected to receive the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award Dec. 9.

The award will be conferred to the nearly 500 Airmen of the Recruiting Service for their exceptional service during the period from October 2010 to September 2012.

Recruiting Service commander Col. Steve Fulaytar said the recruiters have impressed him with their ability to continuously overcome obstacles in their drive to accomplish the mission.

"I've seen them move mountains," he said. "I couldn't be more proud of any organization I've been affiliated with than I am of the Recruiting Service."

With the best recruiter-per-accession ratio in the Defense Department, Reserve recruiters can lay claim to being the best at what they do.

During the award period, they achieved their recruiting goals for the 11th and 12th consecutive years by accessing nearly 30,000 new Citizen Airmen, which directly contributed to AFRC exceeding its congressionally programmed end-strength requirement. This is especially significant, because if AFRC fails to meet its end-strength, then its share of available defense resources could be in jeopardy.

Reaching and exceeding accessions goals and end-strength requirements are very important to the Recruiting Service, Fulaytar said, but his recruiters won't chase quantity at the expense of quality.

"We have wing commanders across the country who need good Citizen Airmen," he said. "The best thing we can do is get them the right Airmen with the right qualifications that will help them fly, fight and win."

Going forward, Fulaytar said he expects the Recruiters to continue their successful ways despite the potential obstacles presented by sequestration.

"Resource constraints mean we must find new and better ways of carrying out our mission," he said. "We must identify best practices and apply them across our recruiting force."

Along with its many obstacles, sequestration presents a particular opportunity for Reserve recruiters. Budget cuts may force the regular active-duty Air Force to trim 25,000 experienced Airmen from its payroll. Those Airmen are fully trained and qualified and would provide an exceptional value as Citizen Airmen when compared to new recruits who come in without any training.

"If we can capture their experience is the Air Force Reserve, it will make us a stronger Air Force overall, and that is the bottom line of what the recruiting mission is all about." Fulaytar said.

Exercises send global messages: Deter and assure

by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


12/12/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Throughout 2013, members of the "Mighty Deuce" successfully completed 11 base exercises, four scheduled inspections and two no-notice inspections in order to provide a combat ready force and meet the Air Force Global Strike Command vision of, "American Airmen with special trust and responsibility for the most powerful weapons in our Nation's arsenal... an elite, highly disciplined team... a model command."

Base exercises and inspections are designed to ensure Barksdale and its mission partners are prepared to carry out any of its missions.

"The 2nd BW has three mission sets: nuclear, conventional and expeditionary," said Lt. Col. Charles Bailey, 2nd BW Inspector General. "The nuclear mission set is our primary focus, but we have to be able to execute any of the three, or combinations of them, with little notice. Only through constant training and rigorous self-inspection of all of our capabilities can we maintain the required level of readiness."

Exercises are particularly valuable for Airmen new to Barksdale, especially those new to Barksdale. Airman 1st Class Ethan Stepp, Aerospace Ground Equipment apprentice, performed his role in the exercise just one week after moving to the base.

"When I moved here, we were working 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days a week," Stepp said. "I was still in the training phase. We moved to 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week the second week I arrived."

Stepp didn't face the exercise alone and was able to receive plenty of guidance from his coworkers.

"I had a lot of help from everyone in the flight," Stepp said. "Since I was the newest Airman they explained things to me and were able to help me with anything I needed. It was also great training experience. I was able to pick up job skills much faster than I would have on normal shifts."

By successfully performing so many exercises and inspections in a year, Stepp and the rest of Barksdale send a clear message to friend and foe alike.

"For the American people, the message is that the Air Force is ready and able to keep them safe and preserve America's interests abroad," Bailey said. "For our allies, the message is that the United States is a good, strong and capable friend to have. For any potential adversaries, the message is that there is no benefit to threatening the United States or her allies, and there will be a fearsome cost."

While all exercises and inspections for this year are complete, planning has already begun for 2014 exercises and every Airman has a role.

"The number of exercises is numerous, but they're a great method of practicing what we train for on a daily basis," said Maj. Erik Tarnanen, 2nd BW Chief of plans and exercises. "Each Airman performs the best job possible and it has showed with two outstanding inspection results during critical inspections."

Barksdale continues to perform base exercises and inspections because the cost of not performing them could have drastic results.

"We would have to wait until the next conflict to find out how much we had taken for granted," Bailey said. "The 2nd BW mission requires a team effort. It's through practice that we learn how to work together, and that's the difference between success and failure."

Because failure is not an option, Barksdale Airmen learn from every shortcoming, to ensure mistakes are not repeated.

"Every Airman is responsible for the wing's success," said Bailey. "The 2nd Bomb Wing is a learning organization that incorporates lessons each time we exercise, but it takes Airmen performing at their best to meet the objective."

Missouri Guard members save one person from a burning building, treat victims of a car accident

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Capt. John Quinn and Sgt. 1st Class Heath Corzette
Missouri National Guard
ST. LOUIS (12/13/13) - Missouri National Guard members recently saved the lives of local residents in two separate instances.

For Pvt. Matthew Duncan, a cannon crewmember assigned to the Missouri Army National Guard's Battery B, 1st Battalion, 129th Field Artillery Regiment, his commute home turned into an opportunity to use his training. While driving on Missouri Highway 24 he said he noticed gravel spread across on the black top and skid marks leading off the edge of the road. After stopping, he said he discovered a wrecked vehicle and then called 911.

When the emergency call was complete, Duncan went down to the vehicle to assist the occupants. He said he found one person in the vehicle and assisted him to the side of the roadway where worked to stabilize him and keep him alert. Then, Duncan said he heard a noise. When he went to investigate the noise, he found another passenger of the vehicle who had been ejected during the accident.
Duncan said he reassured her that everything was alright as he worked to stabilize her injuries and then again called 911 to inform them there were multiple injuries and one occupant was critical. He continued to stabilize the two until help arrived.

After emergency services and local law enforcement arrived, Duncan continued to assist with clean up of the scene and gathered items that had been thrown from the car during the accident.

Duncan said he has maintained contact with the families of the two individuals involved in the accident and was able to help fill in missing information about the accident for the victims.

For Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Reece, assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard's 157th Air Operations Group, at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., it was smoke coming from an apartment building that made him stop, he said.

As he drew closer, he said he realized he was the first one on the scene. Outside, he saw a woman helping a neighbor using a walker to the sidewalk.

"I opened my car door, ran up to the apartment complex, and asked if everyone was out," Reece said. "She said people were still in there, I yelled for her to call 911 and asked her, 'which buildings?'"
The woman pointed to the second apartment, said Reece, which was on fire, and said, "He can't walk."
Reece immediately ran into the apartment.

"I first went in the apartment in a crouch but realized that I needed to get lower," Reece said. "I went back out and saw there was a little bit of air space - three or four feet high - of clear air. I figured if I stayed low enough, I could try again to get to him and pull him out."

Between the dense smoke and the darkness of early morning, it was difficult to see, said Reece. After crawling about 10 feet into the apartment, Reece realized he couldn't go any further without a flashlight and something to cover his face.

Reece said he sprinted to the apartment next door to get a flashlight and a blanket.

"I tried to open the door but it was locked," Reece said. "Someone yelled out from behind me, 'she's still in there' I tried twice to kick the door open, but it was reinforced around the deadbolt. I then began to break the dual plate glass window by kicking it with my flight boots. I was starting to push furniture out of the way of the window when I heard a loud bang and the front door was open."

St. Louis County Patrol Officer Michael Schira, with the help of another person, had arrived on the scene and kicked in the front door, said Reece.

"I'm glad Officer Schira and the other person were there," Reece said. "If they hadn't kicked that door open, I would've had to crawl through the plate glass window - which still had shards of broken glass attached to it - and across a floor covered in glass."

With the door open, Reece and the others darted inside. They ran through the apartment and flipped on the lights in the back bedroom. The woman inside, who had been asleep, woke up screaming.

"Someone behind me called out, 'your house is on fire,'" Reece said. "I told the guy on my right, 'go to the front there, and we're going to lift her up with her bed sheets' I didn't know what her status was - if she had any mobility issues."

Reece said it turned out the woman had recently had knee surgery and trying to walk her out of the apartment would not only have been difficult, but may have further damaged her knee or cut herself on broken glass.

After bringing the woman to a safe place, Reece said he returned to the apartments to find a blanket so he could get to the person who couldn't walk in the second apartment.

After being told that individual had already been rescued, Reece returned to the sidewalk where residents had gathered and asked if anyone else was inside, he said. He was told all the apartments were empty. Everyone was safe. Everyone was alive.

Reece said he then checked to see if anyone needed first aid. One woman dressed only in a nightgown and in bare feet was leaning on her walker on the frozen concrete, said Reece, adding that he then grabbed a nearby outdoor chair, guided her in the seat and draped his flight jacket over her in the below-freezing temperature and then went to check on others. By then, the fire department, paramedics and additional first responders had arrived.

Reece said he credits his military training with preparing him for the situation. As a C-130 Hercules pilot with more than 260 combat flying hours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, Reece said he has constantly trained for emergency situations.

"You have to make a decision, and you have to make it now," said Reece, adding that his focus was to get those still inside to a safe area.

Although Reece worked quickly that morning, he said he worked carefully.

Others said they weren't surprised by Reece's actions that morning.

"Lt. Col. Reece put the others' safety before his own," said Air Force Col. Richard Chapman, commander of the 157th Air Ops. Grp. "His selflessness, quick actions and sense of duty were extraordinary. I hope my actions and that of all our members would be the same."

Both Reece and Duncan received recognition and awards from their respective commands for their actions.