Monday, December 23, 2013

Military mission doesn’t stop for the holidays

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Blake Mize
JBER Public Affairs

12/23/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- For many military members, the holidays are a welcomed opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Whether they choose to be with their immediate family or travel to wherever they call home, it's a nice way to decompress; make up for some of the time they spend away during the year and let the stress that accompanies military life to melt away, if only for a short time.

This is not the case, however, for all service members. The military mission never fully ceases and many troops are required to fulfill that mission no matter what the calendar reads. And some, even if they are at their home duty station and permitted time off during the holidays, are not able to be with their families.

"It isn't always easy when we are apart on the holidays, but my family has accepted the fact that it is a part of my career," said Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Williams, 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron. "They support me in all that I do with the Air Force. We are disappointed when we have to be apart, but we know that we will still be able to celebrate the holidays together when I get home - it may just be a few hours later than everyone else on the block."

For those with a different family dynamic, working during the holidays presents broader challenges.

"I am a single parent of a nine-year-old girl and she will be at a friend's home Christmas Eve and day," said Air Force Master Sgt. Phillip Williams, 673d Air Base Wing Command Post senior emergency actions controller. "Without them, another close friend and sitters, I would not make it. Those friends are a blessing to me. My daughter doesn't like it and I can't blame her, but she knows I work shifts and there's nothing I can do about it. I tell her it will get better, but it's the nature of our career field and we all know it."

Although it's not possible to prevent every family from being separated for the holidays, many service members without families make an effort to shoulder the load during this time to make sure as many families can be together as possible.

"Because I'm single, I try to volunteer to prevent folks with spouses and kids from going," said Air Force Capt. Ian Crawford, 517th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot, who is part of a crew going on a resupply mission over Christmas and New Year's. "With that being said, I don't get the opportunity to go back home for the holidays or stay here and enjoy some down days in the local area. We all understand that it's part of the job and being gone during the holidays is always a possibility."

Working during holidays is nothing new for military members and for many, it's old hat.

"Over the course of my career, I have probably worked on 15 major holidays," Williams said. "The flying mission in the Air Force doesn't stop for a holiday. If that plane requires fuel, I have to be here to accomplish that mission of getting fuel on the plane and getting the plane back up in the air."

And even though it may not be the most desirable scenario, most military members realize it comes with the territory.

"Working on the holidays is just part of the business, and I have never had a problem doing it," said Air Force Capt. Jared Hieb, 517th AS C-17 pilot who is the aircraft commander for the resupply mission. "The bottom line is that the job has to get done."

Army National Guard officers receive additional training for War College

By Tech. Sgt. David Eichaker
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. (12/23/2013) - Since 2010, Army National Guard officers have attended the Army Guard's Pre-Basic Strategic Art Program course as a preparation to attend the BSAP course at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

"The Pre-BSAP course, which is run by the Army Guard Strategic Plans (and Policy Branch) prepares (officers) for BSAP through study of course objectives in an abbreviated but challenging atmosphere for the purpose of emphasizing the unique skills and attributes of successful Army strategists," said Army Lt. Col. Victor Parziale, of the Strategic Plans and Policy Branch and course author of the Pre-BSAP.

He added that declining graduation rates from the BSAP course within the Army Guard triggered the implementation of Pre-BSAP.

The course teaches the foundation in strategic and operational theory, consisting of introduction to classical and modern strategic theory, critical thinking and power theories based on the operating environment such as air, land and sea, Parziale said." In addition, the course assists in evaluating potential officers for the strategist field."

"The rigor of the preparatory course helps to reduce the shock of academic immersion while at the U.S. Army War College," said Parziale, adding that those who continue on to BSAP benefit from an informed experience for both the course and their tenure as an Army strategist.

In order to attend the course, Soldiers must hold the rank of captain through lieutenant colonel, have a master's degree, complete both the Defense Strategy Course and their professional military education and demonstrate the ability to serve at the operational and strategic level, Parziale said.

"Strategists lead multi-disciplinary groups and facilitate senior leader decision-making by assessing, developing, and articulating policy, strategy, and plans at the national and theater levels," said Parziale, adding that through education and experience, strategists integrate the instruments of power across the Army, Department of Defense, and throughout the joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational environment.

Leadership of the Army Reserve, after recognizing the benefits of Army Guard members attending Pre-BSAP, followed suit and began participating in the program.

Feedback from graduates continues to inform and shape the Pre-BSAP course, Parziale said. BSAP is expected to undergo transformations over the next two years by extending the course from 14 weeks to 18 weeks, which will allow for additional curriculum, and expand the course to joint and interagency communities.

"These two prospects alone instruct us to prepare our set of course offerings and accordingly accept reserve component members from the other services," Parziale said.
Those who complete the course move on to assignments that serve the needs of the Army staff, joint staff, and combatant commanders around the globe, said Parziale.

Medal of Honor Recipient, Korean War Veteran Rudy Hernandez Dies

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 – An Army veteran who earned the Medal of Honor for heroic actions while stationed with G Company, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team near Wontong-ne, North Korea, May 31, 1951, died Dec. 21 in Fayetteville, N.C.

The son of a migrant working family in rural California, U.S. Army Cpl. Rodolfo “Rudy” Hernandez enlisted at age 17 and was stationed in Germany before being sent into battle, where 54,200 American Soldiers perished in the Korean War.

Hernandez and his platoon were among the first to be sent to battle on Hill 420.

His 11th and final airborne operation involved Hernandez jumping from just 600 feet above ground, into the enemy’s lair behind the North Korean capital.

“We jumped into the enemy ... Before the jump I felt like John Wayne,” Hernandez reported in a 2004 interview to The Point, a U.S. Army newspaper in Germany.

“By the time my chute opened, I was already on the ground,” Hernandez said. “The first round that went over my head was artillery. Afterward I felt this big,” he said, holding his fingers about an inch apart. “I knew they meant business.”

But hope seemed to diminish along with the beleaguered platoon’s ammunition, as enemy fire -- mortars, heavy artillery and machine gun bullets -- rained on the soldiers, causing multiple casualties.

According to Hernandez’ Medal of Honor citation, he and his comrades were forced to withdraw, but, wounded in an exchange of grenades, he continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of his onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative.

With a head wound and a jammed rifle, Hernandez scrambled to put his bayonet in his rifle and bounded toward the enemy. His charge stymied their advance and enabled his platoon to regain the lost ground.

Hernandez killed six enemy troops before losing consciousness after a grenade exploded near his head and blew off part of his skull. Thirty days later, he would awaken in a military hospital temporarily unable to speak or use his arms and legs.

In a White House ceremony, President Harry S Truman presented Hernandez the highest military decoration for combat heroism on April 12, 1952.

Hernandez spent his post-war years working for Department of Veterans Affairs, retiring in 1980. He is survived by his wife and three children from a previous marriage.

Training Command Sailor Awarded Shore Mineman of the Year

By Kimberly M. Lansdale, Center for Surface Combat Systems

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Mine Warfare Training Center (MWTC) on board Naval Base Point Loma announced Dec. 23 the selection of one of its instructors as Shore Mineman of the Year for 2013-2014 by The Association of Minemen (AOM).

Mineman 1st Class Rebecca Cross, MWTC's Mineman "A" School leading petty officer (LPO) and also an instructor at the school house, was recognized by AOM for her accomplishments.

"It is a very humbling experience and the highest honor I could receive from my rate," Cross said.

According to Cmdr. Wes Cooper, MWTC's commanding officer, Cross is an extraordinary mineman.

"MWTC is honored that Petty Officer Cross was selected," he said. "She is very involved both inside and outside the mineman community. In addition to being the Mineman "A" school LPO, she is the course manager for our Versatile Exercise Mine Systems course, the command supply officer, ammunition inventory manager, and one of our command career counselors. She also coordinates MWTC volunteer events with numerous organizations in the local community. Petty officer Cross is not only an exceptional representative for MWTC, but also minemen who are stationed throughout the world."

Cross joined the Navy from her hometown of Pensacola, Fla. She has served in the Navy for more than 13 years, including tours on board the now decommissioned OSPREY - class coastal mine hunters USS Raven (MHC 61) and USS Cormorant (MHC 57).

Cross, who has won several Junior and Senior Sailor of the Year awards throughout her Navy career, said as an instructor, she brings her knowledge, experience, and passion for mine warfare to future minemen.

"My philosophy in the classroom is to teach our future minemen to think outside the box and impress on them that as minemen, we either find a way or make one," she said. "We are the bread and butter of the fleet."

Initially, Cross joined the Navy to serve four years but world events impacted her decision to stay in the Navy.

"After the attack on the USS Cole (DDG 67) and the September 11 attacks, I decided to make the Navy a career," she explained. "Mine warfare needs Sailors to do the job."

Cross says she could not have accomplished her goals without the tremendous support of MWTC and her family.

"The staff in Mineman "A" School have been my rock and I share this award with them because without them, it would not have been possible," she said. "I want to thank Cmdr. Cooper, the chief's mess, the Corpus Christi Commander Mobile Mine Assembly Group (COMOMAG), and the Association of Minemen for considering me for this honor. Most importantly, I want to thank my husband John and my family for supporting me in my choice to serve in the greatest Navy in the world in the best rate. John has always been my biggest supporter for my hopes and dreams in the Navy."

The Center for Surface Combat Systems' mission is to develop and deliver surface ship combat systems training to achieve surface warfare superiority. CSCS headquarters' staff oversees 14 learning sites, including Mine Warfare Training Center and provides almost 70,000 hours of curriculum for close to 700 courses a year to more than 40,000 Sailors. The training center uses a mix of blended learning comprised of instructor led classes, hands-on labs, simulation and computer-based training.

Reservists train, provide holiday mission support

by Senior Airman Bobby Pilch
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

12/23/2013 - INCIRLIK AIRBASE, TURKEY -- During the week before Christmas, many Americans are preparing for holiday dinners, grabbing last-minute gifts and spending time with friends and family.

But one group of reservists assigned to the 315th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., took to the sky Dec. 19 to accomplish critical training and bring fellow deployed Airmen home in time for the holidays.

First Lt. Howard Crowley, a newly minted flight nurse with Charleston's 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and college instructor, left his home in Florence, S.C., to obtain needed training during his first overseas mission.

"It's hard sometimes," he said, "especially since my wife is pregnant with twins, but the mission comes first ... this is what I signed up for. Being a new flight nurse, you have to get training when you can, even though it is the holidays."

While it can be difficult for Airmen to leave their families behind during the holidays, the stress and concerns weigh heavily on the family members back home, too.

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Geers is new to the 315th AES as an aeromedical evacuation technician. It's a dream job for her. One of her sisters called her before she left the base, and she described her sister's reaction to the trip.

"She texted me after we hung up and said she burst into tears," said Geers. "She is excited for me but just a little nervous. It is sad to miss the pre-holiday get-together events ... but it is worth it because we are getting great training and this is what we signed up for."

Nearly 20 Airmen achieved critical skills on the trip.

Capt. Stan Schmotzer, aircraft commander and pilot assigned to the 701st Airlift Squadron, touched on what this mission meant to him and the role he and his Airmen play day in and day out as reservists.

"You're always needed, and that's why you are here," said Schmotzer. "You're never forgotten and always supported. We understand the sacrifice.

"We are one big unit and family," he said. "Especially in the Reserve."

Africa Command Repositions Forces to Increase Flexibility

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 – The commander of U.S. Africa Command is repositioning forces in East Africa in an effort to attain maximum flexibility to respond to State Department requests, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters here today.

Warren also told reporters that three of the four U.S. personnel who were wounded Dec. 21 when they attempted to evacuate Americans from the town of Bor, South Sudan, will be evacuated to Landstuhl Army Hospital in Germany. The fourth will be evacuated when his condition stabilizes.

The four injured U.S. service members are currently in a hospital in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. They were hit by small-arms fire when their Osprey aircraft attempted to land in Bor.

Based on the current situation in South Sudan, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the commander of Africom, moved elements from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response from Moron, Spain, to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

“By positioning these forces forward, we are able to more quickly respond to crisis in the region, if required,” a defense official said. The Djiboutian government fully agrees with the movement.

The moves are precautionary, and there is risk associated with this or any other military operation, the colonel said.

“As everyone would expect, the combatant commander is repositioning forces in the region in an effort to give himself the maximum flexibility to respond to any follow-on request from the Department of State,” Warren said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been following the situation very closely, and is in nearly continuous communication with the combatant commander, the official said.

There has been no discussion about the U.S. military helping reposition United Nations forces, Warren said.

Defense Department and other government contracted aircraft have evacuated more than 300 personnel out of South Sudan’s capital of Juba including about 100 yesterday.

Thousands of U.S. Personnel Serve Overseas During the Holidays

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 – For many American service members, the holidays are just another work day.

In a news conference last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey reminded Americans that their military is deployed worldwide, performing missions that keep their fellow citizens safe.

In his last news conference of 2013, Dempsey pointed out that, in addition to service members in combat zones, about 250,000 men and women in uniform are deployed overseas during this holiday period.

“I wish their families a peaceful and calm and happy holiday season, as their loved ones are forward-deployed all over the world, doing what the nation asks them to do,” Dempsey said.

And where are they based this holiday season?

There are roughly 39,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan, down from 66,000 at the beginning of 2013. The mission in Afghanistan has changed this past year, with Afghan security forces taking the lead throughout the country. American, NATO and partner forces are training and mentoring Afghan units. They are also providing logistics and air support, maintenance and intelligence assets. This does not mean the job is safe. The International Security Assistance Force announced a service member in Regional Command-East was killed over the weekend.

In South Sudan, 45 Americans are deployed to provide security for the embassy in the capital city of Juba.

There are about 28,000 American service members in South Korea standing watch on the demilitarized zone -- often called the last Cold War frontier. Another 39,000 Americans are based in Japan, providing security for that critical ally.

There are roughly 43,000 Americans in Germany, 11,000 in Great Britain, 11,000 in Italy and 1,000 in Belgium. The number of American service members in Europe has dropped significantly from the mid-1980s, when 350,000 U.S. troops were based in West Germany alone.

Thousands of sailors and Marines are afloat this holiday season, patrolling the sea lanes to ensure they are open and safe. They represent the U.S. commitment to global security.

In Africa, about 2,500 Americans are based in Djibouti, while others are performing training missions in other nations of the world’s second largest continent.

In the U.S. Southern Command area of operations, about 5,500 U.S. service members are working with allies and partners throughout Central and South America.

But it is not just those service members deployed overseas who work on the holiday. Thousands of airmen will man the consoles in the missile fields of the American West. Others will watch the skies for threats, while still others will be ready to respond to these threats.

Thousands of service members will care for brothers and sisters who are wounded or sick this holiday season. Others will provide services for the families of those deployed.

And wherever there are military personnel, there are DOD civilians and civilian contractors working right alongside them. Thousands of civilians will spend their holidays manning their duty stations to provide needed support for America’s best.