Military News

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Weapons in the Water: Stevens Students Design Unmanned Underwater Vehicle to Locate Submerged Explosives



Hoboken, N.J.— Researchers estimate at least 31 million pounds of unexploded and potentially dangerous bullets, bombs, mines, missiles and chemical munitions are lurking beneath the oceans off the coasts of at least six U.S. states – some from as far back as the Civil War, World War I and World War II and others from more recent military training exercises.

Stevens student innovators are using advanced science and technology to protect swimmers, divers, vessels and coastal communities from the sudden detonation of these unexploded ordnances, or UXOs, that are submerged underwater.

Ethan Hayon, Joe Huyett, Don Montemarano, Mark Siembab, Michael Giglia and Brandon Vandegrift make up a team of Stevens undergraduate students who participated in a government program called Perseus, which challenged five university teams to build underwater vehicles capable of locating and analyzing inert explosive devices located 40 feet beneath the water’s surface.

At a demonstration in November at Florida Keys Community College, the Stevens team of mechanical engineering, naval engineering and computer science students successfully completed the program mission. They located and identified two inert UXOs that had been dropped into a dive lagoon by the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division.

The Stevens vehicle consists of an aluminum frame with sealed tubular demihulls holding batteries and critical electronics. The vehicle uses commercial, off-the-shelf thrusters for propulsion and position control. Location and identification of UXOs is accomplished through a network of layered sensors consisting of: imaging SONAR; magnetometer; three high definition video cameras; and a laser dimensioning system. All of this sensor data is fed back to a user interface on shore, where along with other sensor data, it is utilized for navigation, vehicle control, target identification and positioning. 
Communication is handled by a tether to a surface platform with a wireless link to shore, where the operator maneuvers the vehicle remotely in three axes. The operator can see live, real-time feeds from the underwater cameras on a student-designed graphic user interface running sophisticated computer software. The software analyzes other sensor inputs, such as target dimension measurements from the lasers and target composition data from the metal detectors. This information enables the operator to know the size and makeup of a submerged object, even if visibility is obstructed, and then analyze what type of munition it is and assess what threat it poses.

Another unique feature is the autonomous depth control system, which allows the operator to set the vehicle to ascend or descend to a certain depth and stay there, moving forward, back and sideways only.

“Our vehicle has great control and runtime and gives us tons of information and diagnostic data about the targets because of its many sensors,” said Hayon. “It is also extremely modular so we can add and remove systems easily.”

“This is an extremely challenging problem, and what the team came up with was very innovative,” said Michael DeLorme, research associate at the Davidson Laboratory and the team’s faculty advisor. "To develop a functional unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is challenging in and of itself, but this group also selected and integrated multiple sensors and devised and implemented the entire mission plan. That is an extraordinary accomplishment by an impressive group of young engineers."

The Stevens vehicle cost approximately $15,000 to design and build over a nine month time period. The students also conducted three days of testing just prior to the demonstration in Florida, where they made last-minute adjustments to the vehicle’s waterproofing to cope with the salinity and pressure of the ocean environment compared to the pools and rivers where they had previously operated the vehicle.

This is the fourth student group from Stevens that has participated in a UUV design, develop and demonstrate project for the Department of Defense and the second straight year a team took part in the Perseus program, which is organized and funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office. The program enables the government to gain insights into technological innovation from outside the traditional defense establishment with the potential to quickly meet defense and security needs. In 2012, the Stevens’ unmanned underwater vehicle was also successful in that year’s challenge – to disrupt an underwater communications cable.

The other participating teams in the 2013 program were from Florida Keys Community College, Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Institute of Technology and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The 2013 Stevens team will continue to work on the vehicle, with plans to add sonar-based underwater positioning technology and additional autonomous capabilities.

About Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense and STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.

Hagel, Al-Sisi Discuss U.S.-Egypt Relationship



American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Egyptian Minister of Defense Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi this morning to provide an update on his recent visit to the Middle East and to discuss the United States-Egypt relationship, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement issued today.

Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

Secretary Hagel called Egyptian Minister of Defense General Al-Sisi this morning to provide an update on his recent visit to the Middle East and to discuss the United States-Egypt relationship.

Secretary Hagel conveyed that the United States is committed to the U.S.-Egypt defense relationship and wants to continue working with Egypt to support a stable inclusive political transition.

He told Minister Al-Sisi that, on his visit to the Gulf region, he encouraged regional partners to continue playing a role in improving Egypt's economy and to play a constructive role in supporting Egypt's transition.

Secretary Hagel noted that the United States looks forward to Egypt's constitutional referendum in mid-January. They discussed the importance of a transparent process, in which the freedom of expression is protected for all citizens during the campaign period, regardless of whether they support or oppose the constitution.

Secretary Hagel also expressed concern over the recent charges involving former President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the recent violence against a Non-Governmental Organization. The Secretary noted that civil society organizations play a vital role in any democracy and that incidences such as these can undermine confidence in the interim government's commitment to a non-violent, inclusive and sustainable democratic transition.

Secretary Hagel and Minister Al-Sisi agreed to continue to talk frequently to continue to engage on these important issues in the U.S.-Egypt relationship.

Memory Lane: Randolph assumed B-29 combat aircrew training role

by Robert Goetz
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- (Editor's note: "Memory Lane" is a monthly column featuring the history of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.)

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph has long been acknowledged as an Air Force leader in the training of instructor pilots, but in the 1950s it served as a hub for the instruction of B-29 combat aircrews.

Sixty-three years ago this month, about six months after the outbreak of the Korean War, the first six B-29 combat crews trained at Randolph graduated.

Randolph assumed the role in August 1950, when the 311st Combat Crew Training Group was activated. Before Randolph, it was the Strategic Air Command to handle conventional medium bomber crew training.

In September 1950, Craig Air Force Base, Ala., "took over Randolph's pilot instructor training mission, as Randolph geared up to provide combat crew training for B-29 aircrews," according to the Air Education and Training Command History Office study "A History of Military Aviation in San Antonio."

However, Randolph continued to provide basic training for student pilots to meet the Air Force's demand of 7,200 pilots per year until July 1951.

It was not until July 1951, as the Air Force phased in nine new contract schools, that Randolph was able to concentrate its attention on B-29 training.

According to AETC history records, the training at Randolph consisted of two phases - the first for individual specialties such as pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and gunners, and the second for bringing the crew together. When training ended, each crew moved to SAC as a single unit ready for duty.

B-29 training at Randolph, which began in the Truman administration, concluded in 1956, the final year of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's first term. By then, more than 21,500 crew members had been trained.

Alaska NORAD Region earns ‘mission ready’ rating

by Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier
ANR Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Members of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region (ANR) received the highest readiness rating after performing a no-notice alert force evaluation called Amalgam Mute 14-01 here recently.

The inspector general's team from NORAD's headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., evaluated all supporting elements of ANR's mission to maintain and generate alert aircraft to intercept unidentified aircraft.

"The NORAD IG evaluated multiple facets of our mission to include our planning processes at the region level to counter both symmetric and asymmetric threats as well as our command and control of alert assets," said Air Force Col. Charles Butler, commander of the 611th Air Operations Center.

Additionally, they evaluated the Alaska Air Defense Sector, which includes the 176th Air Defense Squadron service members who man their stations 24/7 monitoring the skies, Butler said. The IG also performed a fighter alert force evaluation in accordance with standard procedures.

"This is the first time they have inspected all three areas combined," Butler added. "Usually they inspect the region, sector and fighter alert forces separately."

At the end of the biennial evaluation, ANR and its supporting units earned the rating of "Mission Ready" across the board in all areas, which is the highest rating you can receive.
"It was a huge team effort and everyone performed admirably," Butler said.

Evaluation participants included: 611th Air Operations Center; Alaskan NORAD Region; 176th Wing including the 176th Air Defense Squadron; 3rd Wing including 3rd Maintenance and Operations Groups; 673rd Air Base Wing Command Post and Security Forces; 477th Fighter Group and the 168th Air Refueling Wing stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

In the out brief, the IG team said they were very pleased and impressed, Butler said.
"The IG team was particularly impressed with our cross-command coordination and focus on safety in reference to weather and flight conditions," said Air Force Col. Brian Vaughn the 611th AOC deputy commander.

In the evaluation scenario, an out-of-communication aircraft was flying over the water. Two F-22 Raptors intercepted but maintained their distance and stayed over land versus flying out to the aircraft over water.

"You don't want to put your assets too far out over the water with high winds and associated sea states," Vaughn said. "Since it was an evaluation, we mitigated the risk by keeping the fighters over land thereby lowering the aircrews' risk. The IG team was pleased that we followed our procedures and measures keeping the aircrew safe while meeting mission objectives."

Butler praised the contributions of the civilians as well.

"They act as force multipliers by way of experience and continuity that cannot be overstated," he added. "Their efforts were noted and many of them were recognized as outstanding performers. It was a great way to pay tribute to their capability, skill and commitment.

"We attained 'Mission Ready' results because we have individuals who are dedicated and will not accept mission failure or even average mission execution," Butler concluded. "I'm very proud of all involved in the evaluation."

JBER Army, Air Force academies partner up

by Army Master Sgt. Jennifer K. Yancey
USARAK Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Senior-enlisted leaders from the Army and Air Force's academies at JBER recently formed a partnership, signifying a commitment to developing well-rounded professionals that can successfully operate in any environment.

While it's the goal of noncommissioned officer academies to produce a tactically- and technically-proficient corps, this partnership is different - it reaches across the services.
At the Air Force's Enlisted Professional Military Education Center and the Army's Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Brevard Noncommissioned Officer Academy, young leaders will soon learn the tools of understanding joint capabilities and culture.

During a visit to Alaska earlier this year, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior-enlisted advisor to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, initiated an ongoing discussion on pinpointing when junior leaders should receive enhanced joint education. Senior leadership throughout the Army, including the CJCS, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, as well as U.S. Army Alaska and U.S. Army Pacific senior leaders, support the joint familiarization initiative.

This evolving partnership at JBER was nearly a year in the making.

Command Sgt. Maj. Cornelius A. Mack, NCO Academy commandant, arrived at the NCO Academy in February. As the new commandant, he and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. J.J. Little, PME Center commandant, quickly got to work on bringing it to fruition. Mack and Little discussed how to develop strategic thinkers, young leaders with expertise in all levels of warfare, be it tactical, operational, or strategic. They looked at JBER's diversity, as well as its cultural differences between the services, concluding that as war fighters, there are things they both can improve upon.

This agreement symbolizes how each service component - at every level of warfare - contributes to a "rich heritage and unique capabilities" that NCOs will use in future complex and challenging environments, Little said. "We don't fight by ourselves. You're not going to find a conflict where any service is fighting alone ... We want to develop that relationship much earlier in their careers."

Little had the opportunity to attend both the Army's Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course (now Advanced Leader Course) and the Marine Corps' Advanced Course, training that focuses on war fighting and leadership skills necessary for gunnery sergeants to perform in various combat and non-combat roles.

"It really opened my eyes as to how the Marine Corps does things," Little said.
He added that this is exactly the type of training both schools want to provide their troops.
"We want to take the pinnacle of the Air Force and provide them the opportunity to experience a sister-service academy," he said.

Class integration is expected to begin January 2014. The rotational cycle at the Airman Leadership School is six weeks, four weeks for the Warrior Leader Course. ALS reserved three slots for their Army counterparts: recent WLC graduates who placed on the Commandant's List, recommended by the NCO Academy. Three Airmen were also identified to attend WLC.

While three is the quota for now, Mack said, "we're looking to increase numbers over time."

The two service academies do share some similarities. There is no field training exercise in ALS, just like WLC, but there is a lot of classroom instruction - an academic environment with much emphasis on leadership, management and communication.
Another shared aim amongst the joint community is realizing the strategic vision of the CJCS, "which drives joint-ness deeper, sooner in capability development, operational planning and leader development," Little said.

Mack said the goal is to develop cultural awareness in troops early in their careers, "so by the time they become senior leaders," he said, "they've already adapted to a joint culture, (the) differences in regulations, procedures and policy."

Both institutional competencies also hope to see an increase in merging operations in a joint environment.

"As time progresses, we hope to make both services better because we understand each other a lot better," Mack said. "There are things the Air Force may do that we can add to our arsenal, and vice-versa. Things we can do to make our Soldiers and Airmen more adaptive in a joint community."

Joint Base Airmen support Toys for Tots campaign and Wounded Warriors

by Master Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn
15th Wing Public Affairs


12/18/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- More than 70 toys new toys were handed over to the Marine Corps Reserve "Toys for Tots" program during the opening ceremonies of the 2nd Annual Super Draft Softball Tournament here Dec. 14.

Around 65 players from the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam community supported the Air Force Sergeant's Association sponsored event which also donated funds from the registration fees to the Wounded Warrior Project.

The two-day tournament, which was a backyard baseball style draft, was open to all JBPH-H community members willing to donate an un-wrapped toy to the Toys for Tots campaign sponsored by the U.S. Marines Corps Heavy Marine Helicopter Unit 463, stationed at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, Hawaii.

"I would like to thank everyone for coming out and supporting the softball tournament and AFSA," said Chief Master Sgt. Leslie Bramlett, 15th Wing command chief, during the opening remarks of the tournament. "AFSA has a special place in my heart. They help take care of our Airmen, their benefits and their families. Not only does AFSA help advocate for us in Washington D.C., but they also support us locally."

The Toys for Tots campaign is a charitable tradition supported and executed by service members since 1947. Toys for Tots Hawaii has established a close, working relationship with local social welfare agencies, church groups and other local community agencies to distribute the toys.

Col. Terry Scott, 15th Wing vice commander, thanked the participants for their support and encouraged everyone to keep the bigger picture in mind while enjoying the event.

"You all are helping to make someone's holiday a lot better," said Scott.

Quality over quantity for potential Airmen

by Airman 1st Class David C. Danford
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/18/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The first step one takes on the path to becoming an Airman is the one that takes you over the threshold into a recruiter's office. On Yokota Air Base, this office can be found in building 316 on Airlift Avenue and is manned by Master Sgt. Victor Donado Jr., 369th Air Force Recruiting Squadron Pacific enlisted accession recruiter.

The differences between stateside and overseas recruiting include the possible recruit pool, consisting only of dependents, the large area of responsibility for the recruiter and Yokota having specific requirements for a recruiter to be stationed here. The recruiter must have already served in that position in the United States and have experience working with the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).

Donado has served 11 years as an Air Force recruiter, a voluntary special duty, in San Diego, El Paso Texas and Washington D.C. before being stationed at Yokota in August of 2012.

Donado volunteered for the chance to give back to the Air Force.

"The Air Force has been good to me and it opened doors for me to grow as a person and also as a professional," Donado said. "I would like others to have the same opportunities."

Yokota's recruiter is also the MEPS liaison for all bases in mainland Japan. This allows potential recruits to complete the entire process through one point of contact at Yokota.

"It's almost one-stop shopping in a way because you get to do everything here," Donado said.

With a long qualifying list and Air Force personnel reductions, he advises high school seniors to begin the process with six to eight months left in their senior year. The enlistment process can take up to a year so preparation is key. One reason the process takes so long is that the Air Force is constantly raising its standards to meet the new focus on quality airmen.

"Right now the standards are higher... much higher," Donado said. "Right now we're not dealing with the numbers, it's more the quality of the recruits."

For those interested in enlisting for active duty contact Donado at 315-225-7328. For Air National Guard call 312-382-9710 and 315-225-6388 for the Air Force Reserve.

Eielson offers NCOA in-residence course

by Master Sgt. Jason Vaught
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Throughout an enlisted Airman's career, there are key opportunities to develop skills to lead, manage and supervise Air Force personnel by completing designated professional military education courses.

With current fiscal constraints, Pacific Air Forces and the Elmendorf PME Center devised a process to deploy a mobile education team to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to provide an opportunity to complete in-residence PME closer to home.

"The Elmendorf PME Center has a long history of employing mobile education teams," said Chief Master Sgt. JJ Little, Elmendorf PME Center commandant. "Sending one instructor from [Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska] to Eielson at a cost savings of $400,000 dollars this year was an answer to the impacts of sequestration."

The savings benefit not only the Air Force, but also allow the students to spend more time with family.

"I think it's an added advantage; PME is extremely important," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Mosher, NCO Academy student and 354th Security Forces Squadron kennel master. "Finding ways to do that by reducing costs and allowing students to remain closer to their families is a win-win overall."

The class of mostly active duty and guardsmen share similar views on having the in-resident class.

"It's nice being at home, especially during family emergencies, wind storms or power outages," said Tech. Sgt. John Tweed, 168th Maintenance Squadron communication and navigation avionics technician. "I can still be home to take care of those things."

The NCOA class on Eielson consists of one instructor and the local students, who join to be part of the class that runs concurrently out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"The class I'm teaching is the noncommissioned officer class from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson 14-1," said Tech. Sgt. Jarod Cappon, Elmendorf PME Center instructor currently deployed to Eielson. "This flight is competing against the other flights at Elmendorf. We have to mirror our schedule, mirror our movements, so everything we do is at the same rhythm and same pace as the classes happening on Elmendorf."

The infrastructure, facilities and Airman Leadership School staff on Eielson was essential in making the in-resident NCOA class possible.

"They handled numerous logistics and coordination issues for us and ensured everything was in place for the instructors to teach," said Cappon.

The advantages of a mobile education team are not only reaped by the Air Force, but by friends, families and graduates as well.

"We're talking about a significant life event here," said Little. "To finish this level of PME as NCOs locally, where families, co-workers, supervisors and peers are able to attend the graduation at Eielson is a huge team-building endeavor that will reap benefits in the future."

Hickam Airmen partner with 25th Infantry Division for VALEX

by Staff Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- A team of Airmen from the 535th Airlift Squadron recently paired up with Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division for a validation exercise to confirm the unit's ability to rapidly deploy a contingency response force from Wheeler Army Airfield Dec. 16.

The unit loaded two HUMVEES and 35 Soldiers into a C-17 Globemaster III for the VALEX, which was the first of its kind to be conducted from Wheeler.

"We just needed to see how feasible it was ... if it was possible," said Army Capt. Adam Thompson, 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment ground liaison officer, of the VALEX. "We've done them before from other locations but we wanted to see how much time it might save and if this could be another site troops could be deployed from."

Thompson said successful completion of the exercise was evidence of the great work of two phenomenal units.

"As we continue to deal with the dwindling budget we're going to have to be more creative in how we solve problems and this is just one way we can do it by using our local aircraft and local flying hours to support the 25th ID," said Col. Michael Merritt, 15th Operations Group commander.

Merritt said the flight was a historical event for the 15th Wing and highlights the continued great relationship the wing has with the 25th ID.

Though the VALEX took only a few hours from start--processing the personnel in preparation for their simulated deployment--to finish--loading the Soldiers and equipment onto the airplane--the mission was actually a culmination of nearly a month of coordination.

"Overall it went really well," said Maj. Ken Kirkpatrick, aircraft commander and 15th Operations Group chief of standard evaluations. "Execution is the easy piece, planning takes the most work. The execution is what we do all the time, it's what we train for ... what we did today."

Though there were a lot of moving parts, Kirkpatrick said the highlight was getting a chance to work closely with their ground counterparts--an opportunity that is quickly becoming a common occurrence as Hickam units partner with the Army and Navy to jointly accomplish the mission.

Although the relatively short runway at Wheeler, 5,600 feet, added a unique dynamic to the flight, by all accounts it was a successful operation.

"We proved that we can land in what is probably a more difficult place to land at," said Merritt of VALEX. "We proved that we can do that and we can do it successfully. It was a good flight--good sortie."

Kunsan Airman races to Female Athlete of the Year

by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


12/18/2013 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- The Air Force named its top male and female athletes of 2012. One of those named is an 8th Medical Group Airman who finished within the top 100 in all her marathons.

Maj. Elissa Ballas, 8th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy and health and wellness center flights commander, competed and won the 2012 Athlete of the Year. The Air Force annually recognizes a male and female athlete who excelled in their athletic accomplishments over the past year. Along with athletic performance, the judges also take into consideration other military awards, honors or civic recognition.

"These outstanding athletes are among the best in the military, which is amazing considering they trained and competed during their off-duty time," according to an Air Force Personnel Center release.

Ballas is no stranger to training off-duty, sometimes running an average of 60 miles a week. Ballas, who came in first out of 1,122 female military competitors during the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, was surprised and honored when she found out.

"The night before I found out, I had been talking to Staff Sgt. Brad Williams (the male winner) and he pointed out that the results had not been released yet," said Ballas. "The next morning I had the email and I was shocked to see both of our names on there! It was just a great feeling since I know Brad and we have been stationed together before."

Additionally in her list of accomplishments she finished 16th out of the nation's top 52 female runners and 74th out of 382 total competitors during the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in Squaw Valley, Calif.

"Running and sports are such a big part of my life, so it feels wonderful to be recognized for something that I love to do so much," said Ballas.

Ballas initially took inspiration from her father and now her motivation also comes from her superiors allowing her compete and excel in the events she enjoys.

"The shift over the last 5-10 years to emphasize the importance of fitness in the Air Force has really helped me get where I am," said Ballas. "Fitness has always been very important to me, but over the last few years, I've gotten a lot more support from leadership to push me the next level."

While the award pushes Ballas to a new level, she is humbled by being named the Air Force's top female athlete and has no plans to stop competing.

"As for what's next, I will continue racing just as I always have been," said Ballas. "I am looking forward to moving back to the U.S. in 2014 and doing some more races there. I have been overseas since 2010, so I can't wait to do some of the fun races in the states."

Spartan paratroopers jump in arctic gear

by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- For the first time since returning from Afghanistan last year, U.S. Army Alaska's 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conducted an arctic airborne operation Dec. 12 from a C-130 aircraft onto JBER's Malemute Drop Zone.
Paratroopers conducted a unique "tailgate" jump, donning the complete arctic over-white winter uniform with ski equipment and the arctic sustainment packing list as a rehearsal for upcoming airborne operations in northern Alaska next year.

The purpose for conducting arctic airborne training events is to maintain mission readiness for operating in arctic conditions, whether in conflict, humanitarian support or military support to civil authority mission sets.

Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Henderson, an infantry paratrooper assigned to C Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, said the Soldiers are getting a feel for jumping with the equipment.

"We are testing out jumping with the skis and the capabilities to see if we can start implementing it in our training," Henderson, a native of Keystone Heights, Fla., said. "The skis would give us a lot more mobility on the battlefield."

Once on the ground, the jumpers de-rigged their equipment snowshoed and skied to the rally point on the drop zone.

Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Richard Scott said this jump would give his paratroopers a new experience and prepare them future arctic training events.

"We need to have the arctic equipment that includes our skis and poles," Scott said. "We are evaluating and rehearsing how we fight in our skis and how we move in them."
Despite the weather, no one was feeling it, according to Scott.

"This just validates to all of our paratroopers that you can give any challenge or task to a paratrooper and we can come out here and do it and get the job done in these types of conditions," Scott said.

Mobility Airmen ready and responsive anytime, anywhere

by Maj. Michael Meridith
18th Air Force


12/19/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- As the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela drew the world's attention to the African continent, mobility Airmen raced against the clock to ensure President Obama's security, communications, and mission support was in place.

Within days those would become part of an international effort to help end violence in the Central African Republic.

Minutes after the international press announced Mandela's death on Dec. 5, planners at the 18th Air Force and the 618th Air and Space Operations Center, Tanker Airlift Control Center, Air Mobility Command's operational warfighting arm, began working to support anticipated Presidential travel to South Africa. Linking up with their counterparts at U.S. Transportation Command and Air Forces Africa, 18th Air Force planners immediately began the complex effort of orchestrating the movement -- and then things got complicated.

An initial deadline of Dec. 11 quickly shifted to Dec. 10, leaving the team with only about 60 hours to move thousands of tons of equipment halfway across the globe in advance of the President's arrival. Capitalizing on lessons learned from earlier Presidential trips to Africa, the planners crafted a sophisticated network of Airmen and infrastructure at overseas locations in Puerto Rico, the Indian Ocean, Africa, and Europe to support the 24 airlift aircraft, that included 23 C-17 Globemaster IIIs and a C-5 Galaxy. In addition, the lack of fuel availability over vast distances and in Africa mandated the support of four KC-135 Stratotankers and 12 KC-10 Extenders.

Around the same time, Defense Secretary Hagel announced the U.S. would support French and African peacekeeping efforts in the Central African Republic, or C.A.R., specifically the airlift of Burundi troops to the C.A.R.

"Our ability to accomplish the short-notice planning to support the Burundian deployment without losing focus on the execution and branch planning for the President's travel demonstrates the dedication and agility of the 18 Air Force/618th team," said Col. Kurt Meidel, the 18th Air Force's Director of Operations.

Within days of the announcement, as the presidential support operation began to switch gears to the redeployment of personnel and equipment, the 18th Air Force's air operations center and the 618th Air and Space Operations Center, Tanker Airlift Control Center, had already coordinated two C-17 aircraft to transport more than 800 Burundi peacekeepers and equipment from Uganda to the C.A.R., where they were greeted by cheering crowds.

"The scale of the rapid support of a Presidential movement into an auster location with only 60 hours to execution was impressive," said Maj. Gen. Barbara Faulkenberry, the 18th Air Force vice commander. "It was a testament to the phenomenal planning and coordination that is simply a fact of how we do business."

Simultaneous execution and quick pivoting is nothing new for mobility Airmen. In 2011, Air Mobility Command forces successfully responded to the near-simultaneous demands of humanitarian relief to Japan while supporting combat operations in Libya. In the case of the Africa missions, the nimbleness of the enterprise built not only on support to past presidential missions, but a foundation of continued engagement on the continent.

Since 2011, the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron has conducted engagements and training with African partner nations where air mobility operational support is either non-existent or insufficient. The squadron is a tailorable, expeditionary organization whose members have expertise in command and control, air operations, aerial port operations, and aircraft maintenance. Additionally, since December 2012, the 818 MSAS has conducted three engagements training their counterparts in the Burundi military in cargo preparation and load planning.

"It was great working alongside the Burundi Air Force," said Capt. Louis Crooms, the 818 MSAS senior air advisor, who noted that the Burundis his team trained had since assisted in an African Union mission to Somalia. "It was great to know they were able to put the skills we taught to use. In fact, I recently received an email from one of my counterparts saying that all people we trained with were using those same skills for the Central African Republic mission. He thanked us and asked when we we're going back. To me, that's the mark of success for our efforts ... Africans helping Africans".

Although operations in Africa continue, AMC planners continue to look "around the corner" in anticipation of new requirements, ensuring the flexibility and readiness that is the hallmark of mobility Airmen.

"As mobility Airmen, our charge is to be ready to respond anywhere on the globe where we're needed," Faulkenberry said. "Thanks to the expertise of our planners and our continuing efforts to build the capacity of our partner nations, we were able to very quickly answer America's call and support the international partnership seeking to stop the sectarian violence and restore security in the Central African Republic."

Tracking Santa



by Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier
ANR Public Affairs

12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- NORAD conducts a special mission on Dec. 24 - tracking Santa across the globe to ensure Santa experiences safe travels during his yuletide journey and Alaskan NORAD Region plays a vital part in that mission.

U.S. and Canadian servicemembers of the ANR, utilize 15 radar stations to monitor Santa as he traverses the airspace around the northern latitudes of North America. It's a mission ANR has successfully accomplished for 50 years.

"We ensure Santa's flight is successful and safe within the 1.3 million square miles of Alaska airspace he will be traveling," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Cordiner, 176th Air Defense Squadron air surveillance technician, Alaska Air National Guard.

"This is a very important mission and making sure all goes safely as planned is imperative," Cordiner said. "We only get a few distinguished VIPs of this caliber every year. The bottom line is making sure his flight goes as planned delivering toys to all the good children."

Like other regions within NORAD, aircraft are on stand-by at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept and fly alongside Santa also known as "Big Red One" and his reindeer to assist in any way.

The tradition of NORAD tracking Santa, or NTS, dates back to Christmas Eve of 1955.
According to the noradsanta.org website, the program began December 24, 1955, when an incorrect phone number encouraging children to call Santa on Christmas was printed in a local Sears Roebuck and Co. newspaper advertisement.

Instead of Santa, the number actually dialed the Air Operations Center at Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor organization, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The phone that rang that night was the top-secret crisis phone - and a call on that line meant serious trouble.

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night, was not amused, he said in a 2005 interview.

He answered with a crisp "Yes, sir?" expecting to hear Air Force Gen. Earle Partridge, the NORAD commander, giving an order.

Instead, a little boy told him what he wanted for Christmas.

Shoup was suddenly even less amused, and started looking around the AOC for whichever Airman was on the phone and trying to stifle a grin.

"I thought, 'Someone's playing a joke, and I don't stand for that,'" Shoup said in the interview. "If I see who's laughing out there, I'm going to nail him good."

But no one was laughing. The little boy on the other end of the line sensed something was amiss.

"You're not Santa," Shoup recalled him saying.

"Oh-ho-ho, yes I am," Shoup responded.

Soon, the phone was ringing constantly - and Shoup pulled some Airmen aside and told them to answer the calls and "just pretend you're Santa."

Instead of having Sears pull the ad, Shoup offered the kids something else - Airmen would check the radar for Santa's official location as he made his journey across the globe.

Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa's location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the globe who inquire as to his whereabouts.

Shoup passed away in 2009 at the age of 92, but his spur-of-the-moment decision to be Santa lives on.

Any who play a part in that mission are honored.

"This is my third time to participate in NTS and I am deeply honored to be a part of it," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Cirena Pritchett, 176th ADS identification technician.

"Santa is a great man who brings happiness to all the little boys and girls of the world and I will ensure he has no interruptions while making his deliveries here in the great state of Alaska."

"This is my first Christmas with the unit and my first time being able to support Santa in such a direct role and ensuring his mission success," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Watkins, 176th ADS tracking technician, Alaska Air National Guard. "I am happy to be a part of this very important mission and I wish Santa a safe flight and God speed."

When not tracking Santa, the ANR mission is to continuously provide warning of an aerospace attack within the region.

ANR maintains aerospace control, peacetime air sovereignty and appropriate aerospace defense measures in response to hostile actions.

The Regional Air Operations Center component of ANR is composed of all Active Guard members, Canadian Armed Forces service members, and active-duty augmentees.

It's gone more high-tech than phones these days. Children of all ages interested in tracking Santa can do so at www.noradsanta.org/. There is also the NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook page at facebook.com/noradsanta, or follow Santa's progress on Twitter @NoradSanta.