Military News

Monday, December 30, 2013

Georgia Guard members support largest military exercise in 60 years on the Korean Peninsula

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Capt. William Carraway
Georgia Department of Defense

UIJEONGBU, South Korea (12/30/13) - The mercury hovers at 12 degrees as snow silently falls through the Korean night. A Georgia National Guard member makes tracks through the six-inch snow, her breath steaming in the frigid air.

Reaching her duty station, she passes through security and is ushered into a world of frenetic activity. She joins a room of battle-staff members who are busy tracking convoy movement while coordinating air and sustainment assets and plotting fire missions in support of troops-in-contact. It may be 2 a.m. on a frigid December day, but she and nearly 90 soldiers of the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade are running 24-hour operations in support of the 2nd Infantry Division, the only permanently forward-deployed combat division in the U.S. Army.

While Georgia National Guard members at home were celebrating the 377th birthday of the National Guard, Headquarters Company of the 648th MEB was participating in Warpath III near Seoul, South Korea. Warpath III is an annual combined command-post exercise conducted by the 8th Army, 2nd Infantry Division, and Republic of Korea Army. Designed to enhance readiness and coordination, this year's exercise involved more than 5,000 Republic of Korea soldiers and U.S. forces from on and off the Korean Peninsula. Warpath III is the largest exercise conducted on the Korean Peninsula since the armistice of 1953.

"We are the crucial link between the point of the spear and the corps during the war fight," said Col. Scott Carter, commander of the 648th MEB. "In this exercise, we conducted area distribution center operations to support the front line of troops and were prepared to conduct follow-on missions on-order from the 2nd Infantry Division commander."

The 648th MEB was tasked by the 2ID with operating a logistical supply area (LSA) and providing command and control for seven battalions during the computer simulated exercise. The MEB performed so well at its initial LSA assignment that it was ordered by the commanding general to establish a second LSA even closer to the front line and operate two LSAs simultaneously.

Spc. Kwaderrian Rouland, 20, a geospatial engineer from Americus, Ga., was on his first overseas assignment and found himself responsible for manning the engineering station on the night shift.

"This has been a great opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of the engineering branch beyond geospatial engineering," said Rouland, who joined the Georgia National Guard right out of high school. "My first overseas assignment and I am helping train with an active-duty Army division."

Sitting next to Rouland was Master Sgt. Kevin Neal, 55, a veteran of active duty and Guard deployments who was serving as the noncommissioned officer in charge of military police operations for the night shift.

"Our job is to anticipate the questions and resource requirements of lower echelon units," said Neal, a resident of Covington, Ga. "We are getting a lot of value out of this exercise."

"What we learn here applies in Afghanistan and at home during natural disasters," said Carter. "This mission will grow our junior leaders. If our [captains] and NCOs are much better than when they got here, then our mission will have been a success."

At the conclusion of the exercise, the soldiers were afforded the opportunity to visit Seoul and learn about the history of the Korean War during a staff ride for the battle of Chipyong-ni. The soldiers also traveled to Paju and Observation Post Dora on the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea. From OP Dora, the guard members looked down on the snowy fields and darkened buildings of Kaesong, North Korea, and later descended 300 meters in a tunnel dug by North Korea beneath the DMZ. The North Korean tunnel, one of four to have been discovered traveling beneath the DMZ, is large enough to accommodate the movement of 30,000 soldiers per hour.

The 648th MEB became operational in 2007 and deployed elements to Afghanistan in 2011. The symbol of the 648th MEB is the Hydra, a mythological serpent with three heads.

"The three-headed hydra symbolizes the military police, chemical, and engineering capability of the MEB," said Lt. Col. Reginald Neal, deputy commander for the 648th MEB.

The Hydra soldiers who participated in Warpath III represented more than 20 military service specialties. The soldiers came from more than 60 different Georgia communities representing all regions of the state.

"We appreciated the opportunity to be here to assist the 2nd Infantry Division with Warpath III," said Maj. James Collie, operations officer of the 648th MEB." "We hope to be able to work with the division again in the future."

47-year-old mom joins AF Reserve

by Maj. Wayne Capps
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/24/2013 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, TURKEY -- Imagine... your child just graduated high school and is deciding between college and the Air Force, but at 47-years-old, you join instead.

That is exactly what Capt. Karen Stewart, a newly qualified flight nurse with the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. did.

"After my son graduated from high school, he was trying to decide if he wanted to go to college or join the military. We started looking at different Air Force jobs and I saw flight nursing," said Stewart, who is a civilian nurse of 11 years. "I thought I was too old, then saw the age limit was 48 and I knew I had to try it."

Her son decided to go on to college but Stewart contacted the Air Force Reserve recruiter.

"The recruiter said I probably wouldn't make it at my age. I told him that he didn't know me and to send me the application," said Stewart. "It took 12 months to process my application but I was accepted and swore in 2 months before my 48th birthday."

Stewart said she was proud to prove the recruiter wrong. "I took my Air Force Physical Fitness test two days before my 48th birthday... and scored an excellent on it."

On her first overseas mission to Incirlik AB, Turkey, she was fully engaged in the training at hand. "She is jumping in and was doing what needs to be done. She is a real team player," said 1st Lt. Howard Crowley, medical crew director on the mission. "Her civilian nursing experience is very helpful. In nursing you never know what will happen next, you focus on critical thinking and that really helps here," he said.

"I love flying, this has been great," she said. "I think every day how blessed I am to do this."

"I don't want to see anyone get hurt but if that is the situation, I want to be able to help them," said Stewart as she reflected on the wartime nature of being a flight nurse. "If it were my child, I would want someone like me to bring them home."

"I am excited about starting this new career," she said, as she was finishing up the last leg of her first overseas training mission. "I can't stay in long enough to retire because of my age. But, I can stay in until I am 61-years-old and I plan on doing that!"

ARPC commander receives first star

by Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen
Air Reserve Personnel Center Public Affairs


12/24/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Col. Samuel C. Mahaney, Air Reserve Personnel Center commander, was confirmed by the Senate for appointment in the Reserve of the Air Force to the grade brigadier general under title 10, U.S.C., section 12203.

Since date of rank coincides with the date Senate makes confirmations, Mahaney is immediately promoted to the rank of brigadier general effective Dec. 20.

The general, who assumed command of ARPC here Nov. 5, is a 1985 graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

He has served as a B-52 electronic warfare officer, KC-10 aircraft commander, C-5 pilot, C-9A evaluator pilot, chief of a wing standardization/evaluation division, airlift squadron operations officer, operations group commander, wing commander and is currently qualified as both a C-17 and KC-135 pilot.

In addition, he was a Harvard National Security Fellow, Georgetown Legislative Fellow and legislative liaison. Mahaney is also a licensed attorney.

In 2010, Missouri University of Science and Technology awarded him an honorary professional degree in history based on faculty nominations where recipients' professional achievements are a credit to the university.

The general's experience spans a wide variety of aviation functions, duties at the Air Force Headquarters, and liaison duties with Congress. He is a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours.

ARPC provides personnel support to nearly 1 million Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and retired members, ensuring they are ready to deliver strategic Total Force war fighting capability for the Air Force.

Reservists juggle mission requirements and higher education

by Maj. Wayne Capps
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/24/2013 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, TURKEY -- Managing a full-time college course load can be hectic, but add the mission requirements of a reserve flying schedule and it can be downright difficult.

Tech. Sgts. Shayne Katirgis and Kyle Simpson, reserve loadmasters with the 701st Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., managed to fit in a C-17 mission to Incirlik, Turkey and other flight duties while on Christmas break from school.

"Not many college students can say their part time job is to fly around the world," said Simpson, a full-time student studying Physical Education at Charleston Southern University. "This is the best part time job a person could have."

Simpson, who finds it somewhat easy to manage his reserve requirements and his school life, has been a reservist for the past three years and looks forward to graduating in May and becoming a teacher. "Sometimes you feel like you never get a break but it is absolutely worth it," he said.

Katirgis on the other hand, finds it harder to balance school and flying. "I have to be honest, it is hard. Balancing a school schedule and the reserve is stressful," he said. "I might have two tests back to back, then have to drive down to Charleston to fly. Sometimes flying gets in the way... but it is worth it because I enjoy what I do."

Katirgis has been a reservist since 2006 and is a student at South University's College of Pharmacy. "You just have to do it," he said when asked how he manages the busy life. "You have to just put your nose to the grindstone and do it. Getting a doctorate isn't easy anyways, but adding the military to the mix just adds to the stress," he said.

But, Katirgis credits the training he has received while in the military with helping him deal with the hectic schedule. "My military training really helps with the stress in dealing with an accelerated 3-year doctorate program," he said. "You just have to prioritize everything."

"My Christmas break is a perfect example of some of the stress that can be added. I had to make up my October, November, and December UTAs (Unit Training Assemblies) while on break. Other students get to give their brains a rest but I have a check ride. But, there is a payoff," he said while reflecting on the benefits of being a reservist. "You get a chance to get away from school and experience a different tempo."

Both men agree that their squadron has been very flexible with their flying schedules. "I can basically choose when I want to fly. It is easy to get on flights and fly during school breaks and weekends," said Simpson.

"When I get back from a weekend trip and tell my classmates what I did, they can't believe it," said Simpson. "Like I said, I think this is the best part time job a student could have."

Master Sgt. Dennis Moore, evaluator loadmaster from the 701st Airlift Squadron, who gave both aviators check-rides, or recurring flight evaluations on the holiday mission to Turkey, summed up the pair's chaotic schedules. "We all have to balance home, life and being a reservist. It is what we do," said Moore. "They don't do it for the money, they do it because they are patriots."

Answering the call ... even during the holidays

by Senior Airman Bobby Pilch

12/23/2013 - INCIRLIK AIRBASE, TURKEY -- It's six days before Christmas and the last place I thought I would end up this week would be Scotland and Turkey. Welcome to being an Air Force reservist.

When duty calls, there is never a perfect time and it always seems to occur when we have something pressing at our civilian job, a family obligation or near a holiday. But this is what we signed up for, right?

One minute, we find ourselves in a routine between home, work, family and friends as if it were like an orchestrated playbook. Then, in an instant like a caped crusader, the uniform goes on and we head off to perform our assigned tasks and duties. Entering a culture and environment less than one percent of the U.S. population has had the pleasure to experience or be a part of.

While friends and family back home are getting last-minute stocking stuffers, preparing for visitors and planning what will be served for Christmas dinner, the flight and aeromedical crew I am serving alongside during this mission are conducting critical training in order to maintain proficiency in their skillset.

I find myself in great company, surrounded by dedicated, professional and motivated individuals who put service before self and are pretty damn excellent in what they do. It's rewarding and contagious and keeps me coming back for more.

When I enlisted in the Air Force Reserve almost four years ago, I was told I would meet amazing people and the experience would open doors for me both personally and professionally. I can honestly say that this has held true for me thus far and that my short time as a reservist has been nothing short of what was told to me from the beginning.

So, the fact that I am thousands of miles away from my home leading up to Christmas does not leave me without family. In fact, I am just spending a little more time with my other family who happen to be in the Air Force Reserve.

JBPH-H set to host first Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational

by Staff Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs


12/30/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Thirty Air Force wounded warriors will face off against 90 other athletes during the first Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational hosted by Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Jan. 8-10.

The week-long event will be the largest joint-service competition to take place outside of the annual Warrior Games.

"The goal of the Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational isn't necessarily to identify the most skilled athletes, but rather to showcase the incredible potential of wounded warriors through competitive sports," said Tony Jasso, Air Force Wounded Warrior Adapted Sports Program manager.

The Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational is one in a series of adaptive athletic events leading up to the 2014 Warrior Games, an annual competition among wounded warriors from all branches of military service.

The Pacific Invitational will be an Olympic-style competition in which the activities are modified to meet the abilities of the warriors, and is open to service members with upper-body, lower-body and spinal cord injuries, serious illnesses, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The athletes will train for two days prior to competing in cycling, seated volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball events.

According to Jasso, adaptive athletic reconditioning helps wounded warriors build strength and endurance while drawing inspiration from their teammates.

"Fitness and teamwork are a way of life in the military," he said. "Serious illness or injury can profoundly impact that way of life, often confining a service member to a hospital bed and significantly altering his or her physical capabilities. Adaptive athletic reconditioning is proven to have positive and lasting effects on recovering service members' physical and emotional wellbeing."

Jasso said adaptive athletic reconditioning also helps the athletes having greater self-esteem, lower stress levels and fewer secondary medical conditions.

"The competition will be a chance for the wounded warriors to showcase their abilities and share their stories of recovery," he said. "It's also a chance to increase awareness of the programs and services available to seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and their families while educating the public on the value of adaptive athletic reconditioning and the healing power of sports."

For more information on the Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational or to volunteer for the event, contact Tech. Sgt. Lenny Myers at leonard.myers@us.af.mil or Master Sgt. Amy Winn at amy.winn@us.af.mil.

AMLOs meet for training all-call

by Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs


12/20/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- 
Thirty-two 621st Contingency Response Wing air mobility liaison officers got a chance to get together for the first time in four years for an AMLO Training All-Call here Dec. 3 to 6.
The week was filled with a number of sessions covering AMLO issues, drop-zone and landing-zone operations training, air drops, dynamic cone penetrometer training, and self-aid buddy care training.
"Your work directly supports the war-fighter, and (Air Mobility Command) and (18th Air Force), as well as the team at the (Expeditionary Center), understand that mission very well," said Maj. Gen. Frederick "Rick" Martin, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander assigned here. "It's an honor to meet each of the AMLOs and learn more about our future opportunities to maximize our effectiveness. We discussed many objectives and  I look forward to working with AMC and 18 AF to get those codified and  track through closure."    
AMLOs provide air mobility expertise to their aligned Army and Marine brigade and division and corps level commanders. The AMLO operating locations include Ft. Drum, N.Y.; Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Ft. Stewart and Ft. Benning, Ga.; Ft. Campbell and Ft. Knox, Ky.; Ft. Polk, La.; Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern, Germany in addition to Vicenza, Italy.
"During my visits throughout the CONUS and European and Pacific theaters, I made a point to try to meet with the AMLOs at the various locations," Martin said. "I am an advocate for the skills you each bring to the mission.  You are an extremely valuable asset.  You are true enablers of rapid, global mobility."
According to Capt. Ed Sutton, 101st Airborne Division AMLO assigned to Ft. Campbell, Ky., they rarely get a chance for everyone to get together and standardize processes and discuss issues.  
"This is our opportunity to hopefully improve things and also knock out some training," Sutton said. "Our goal is to discuss career progressions, standardization, and the future of the AMLOs with the war in Afghanistan drawn down. Also, we're discussing our future concepts in support of operations in the pacific, what we need to do, reorganize and change to make that happen."  
According to Sutton, the plan is to have the AMLO all-call on an annual basis.
"It was a yearly thing but it hasn't been done in the last four years due to budget issues. This is something we hope to bring back," he said.  

Recruiter's professional relationship with Airman's family saves a life

by Christa D'Andrea
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- When the text came into his phone Oct. 30, Staff Sgt. James Tench immediately picked up the phone to call the sender. This text, unlike the hundreds of others received, wasn't a question from a recruit; it was from a mother who was crying out for help.

The mother of an Airman, who Tench had recruited and put into the Air Force just six months ago, was reaching out to the recruiter for support. Her son, a technical school trainee, had written a disturbing status on his Facebook page that said, "last night was unsuccessful, but I will try again."

This, among a rash of other grim social media posts, raised a red flag for this Air Force mom.

"The mother told me I was his [the Airman's] mentor and that she needed my help," said Tench, a nine-year Air Force veteran assigned to the 313th Recruiting Squadron, headquartered in North Syracuse, N.Y.

Tench had been working with the individual since the Airman was a junior in high school.
"I had a great relationship with the whole family and they always knew they could trust me," Tench said.

This trust is what led the anxious mother to call the Albany, N.Y., recruiter.

Tench said when the mother first called she was extremely worried about her son and described how the Airman had written a farewell letter to the family and that he had an "unattached attitude," which was outside her son's normal behavior and character.
The recruiter's first reaction was to calm her down.

"I knew the Airman was currently in class so he was in a safe environment," Tench described.

He also indicated the mother was worried this would harm her son's career, but "I told her that our first priority is his life and well-being and that the Air Force will take care of him."
He then called Master Sgt. George Baker, the 313th RCS first sergeant. Baker was returning home from an event with other squadron members at the time the call came in.
"I Googled the number for the Airman's command post, and was transferred to the young man's first sergeant," Baker said.

After reviewing the Airman's Facebook page, "I urged him [the first sergeant] to get eyes on the Airman immediately, which they did."

Baker said what struck him the most was the Airman's friends actually hit "like" on the grim posts that had been posted.

Within hours, Tench called the mother back to relay her son was safe and had been pulled out of class to receive help.

"She was much more comfortable and optimistic about this situation. She was in tears and very thankful for our help," Tench stated. "The mother and I texted back and forth for the next two days and kept me up-to-date with everything. She said her son was calling again and that he felt so much better after talking to someone."

"Staff Sergeant Tench did exactly what he should have by contacting me," Baker said. "Thanks to his positive relationship with the Airman's mother during the recruitment process, she could count on him to help. This event reinforces for me the importance of a positive recruiter, recruit and family relationship. If the relationship is a positive one based on respect, customer service and professionalism, people know they can count on us."

Baker added that the Airman is very likely here today because of Tench and the positive relationship he developed with the family.

The two-time Gold Badge recruiter said he always knew being a Wingman was important and that he tries to be the best one possible; however, "until this moment I never fully grasped how important."

"I now preach being a Wingman to everyone I enlist," Tench said.

Today, the once-distraught Airman has completed technical training and is now conducting Recruiter Assistance Program duties with the recruiter who enlisted him into the Air Force and helped save him.

Altus Airmen support humanitarian assistance mission to Haiti

by Airman 1st Class Klynne Pearl Serrano
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


12/20/2013 - Port-au-Prince, Haiti  -- Altus Airmen delivered 136,000 pounds of humanitarian aid to Port-au-Prince, Haiti recently.

Members assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron, 97th Security Forces Squadron, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 97th Maintenance Directorate all played an important role in the humanitarian aid delivery.

"We delivered more than 130,000 pounds of rice, beans and corn meal that will be distributed to various orphanages in Haiti," said Maj. Jody Turk, 730th Air Mobility Training Squadron assistant director of operations. "This delivery alone will provide 30,000 meals and feed about 10,000 children. It took a lot of planning and cooperation between the different agencies to make this mission successful."

The food donation was provided by Operation Ukraine, a non-profit relief organization that collects and distributes supplies around the world.

"Our U.S. Air Force is number one," said Kathy Cadden, Operation Ukraine founder and president. "Without the U.S. Air Force there would have been thousands of kids that would have died. We feed anywhere from 8,500 to 10,000 children a month and that would not be possible without the Denton Program."

The Denton Program is a commodity transportation program that is authorized under Title 10 U.S.C. Section 402, which provides the authority for Department of Defense to use any extra space on U.S. military cargo aircraft to transport humanitarian assistance materials donated by non-governmental organizations, international organizations and private voluntary organizations for humanitarian relief.

Humanitarian aid deliveries made by the U.S. Air Force through the Denton Program are making a significant difference in the area where the supplies are delivered.

"We are touching lives and making a difference," Cadden said. "The death rate of children has gone down 75 percent in the area where this food is going, which is tremendous because about one-fourth to one-half of children die before they reach the age of five."

According to Cadden, the educational rate in the area where the food is being delivered has also gone up about 80 percent.

"The Denton Program has saved lives and is improving the quality of education in Haiti," Cadden said.

B-1B Accident Report Released

Release Number: 123013

12/30/2013 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- A displaced fold-down baffle in the left overwing fairing of a B-1B Lancer led to a fuel leak and a series of detonations that disabled the aircraft prior to it crashing Aug. 19, 2013, near Broadus, Montana, according to an Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report released today.

The four crewmembers ejected safely and sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The aircraft was destroyed, with the government loss valued at approximately $317.7 million. There were no injuries to civilians, and damage to private property consisted of burnt pasture land.

Both aircraft and crew were assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. When the accident occurred, the pilots were participating in a post-deployment training flight allowing them to become current on combat-mission readiness training items.

The wings of the B-1B move from a forward position to an aft position to increase the aircraft's performance at different speeds. During a training mission, the pilot leveled the aircraft off at an altitude of roughly 20,000 feet. While on a descent to 10,000 feet,

he swept the wings from the forward to the aft position. During the sweep, the aircraft developed an undetectable fuel leak in the main fuel line. Unbeknownst to the crew, approximately 7,000 pounds of fuel leaked into the aircraft during the training mission.

Eventually, the fuel contacted exposed portions of the hot precooler duct, ignited, and caused an explosion that separated the left overwing fairing from the aircraft.

Ignited fuel streamed from the exposed left overwing fairing cavity, heated one of the aircraft's fuel tanks, and ignited the fuel vapors inside the tank. This detonation spread through the fuel venting system that connects the fuel tanks in the aircraft, and resulted in a cascade of detonations that caused a complete and permanent loss of power to the crew compartment.

According to the results of the investigation, at some time prior to pilot's initiation of the wing sweep, the left fold down baffle became detached at one or more points, preventing it from folding as the wing swept aft. Because the baffle was detached, the wing pushed the baffle into the overwing fairing cavity where the tapered edge of the baffle cut a v-shaped hole in the main fuel line.

For more information, contact Air Combat Command Public Affairs at (757) 764-5007 or e-mail accpa.operations@us.af.mil.
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Face of Defense: Marine Corps’ Commandant Visits Troops



By Marine Corps Sgt. Jennifer Pirante
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

ARABIAN GULF, Dec. 30, 2013 – Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett, and distinguished guests visited the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer Dec. 27 to thank Marines and sailors assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group for their service.

Just days after visiting troops in Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, Amos, his wife Bonnie, Barrett and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota L. Meyer continued their holiday venture to wish a Merry Christmas and happy holidays to the Marines and sailors deployed halfway around the world aboard Boxer.

Marines and sailors gathered on the flight deck where Amos spoke to them about warrior ethos and praised them for their selfless service during the holidays.

"We want you to know that we care deeply for you and the fact that you are away from your family," Amos said.

Bonnie Amos, "First Lady of the Marine Corps," thanked the Marines for their service and reminded Marines and sailors to thank loved ones back home who also serve on the homefront while their warriors are away.

"There's no other place on the planet that we want to be or that we should be during this special time of the year than right here," Barrett said. "We're privileged that we get to serve in this capacity, and we're humbled that you do serve because you could be doing anything that you wanted in your life. So I'm blown away and I'm humbled."

The commandant's visit coincides with his "Reawakening Tour," during which he and Barrett seek to "return to our roots...to those time-tested policies and orders that we intuitively know are right."

Barrett said that out of an estimated 310 million Americans in the United States, four percent of the nation wears a military uniform and less than one tenth of a single percent will ever wear the uniform of a United States Marine.

"You chose to be tougher people and to make a difference," he said. "The great tragedy in life is not death -- it's not having a purpose. If you look at our young history -- 237 years old -- that's how old our nation is. This is the first time we have ever been at war this long -- we are going on our 13th year. Never in our nation's history have we fought this long with an all-volunteer force."

Meyer, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Marine Corps corporal during the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, also addressed the crowd. When asked about his award, Meyer admitted that he did not want to accept it because "it's not about me.”

"It's just as much yours as it is mine," Meyer said as he insisted that anyone who wears the uniform would have done the same thing as he did in that situation.

Marines and sailors took turns taking photos with Amos, Barrett, and Meyer before their departure.

Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer ARG and, with the embarked 13th MEU, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Rewarding valor

by Airman 1st Class Saphfire Cook
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


12/30/2013 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- Special Agent Nicolo Solarino earned a Bronze Star Medal with Valor for saving an Airman's life following a rocket attack on a base in Southwest Asia in 2004.

Solarino, currently assigned to Air Force Office of Special Investigations Det. 217, received the medal during a ceremony held at the Mirage Club here, Nov. 26.

At the timeof the rocket attack, Solarino was a senior airman assigned to the 887th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron in Southwest Asia.

"When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to do one of two things: join the military or become a cop," Solarino said. "Security Forces afforded me the opportunity to have both sides of the coin."

On Sept. 11, 2004, he was performing customs inspections on personnel and equipment when his post came under attack.

A 107 millimeter rocket detonated nearby and Solarino was thrown approximately 10 feet. Once he recovered, he assessed his surroundings and noticed a fellow Airman down and suffering from life-threatening injuries.

"I could see the fear in Nic [Solarino's] eyes and I know he could see it in mine," said retired Senior Airman Brian Koflage, wounded warrior. "I was laying there, legs and hand gone, but I was still conscious. I just remember Nic [Solarino] telling me that everything was going to be okay while he worked to save my life."

While still under enemy fire, Solarino made his way back to his tent and retrieved Self-Aid Buddy Care supplies, personal protective equipment and Koflage's identification. Once Solarino returned, he and another Airman continued to perform emergency medical care on Koflage, all while using their bodies to shield him from subsequent rocket attacks.

"One of the things I've noticed about Solarino is his ability to think 10 steps ahead while staying in the present," said Special Agent Emily Gebo, AFOSI Det. 217 commander and the ceremony's presiding official. "That skill is what helped him save a fellow Airman's life that day."

Solarino stayed with Koflage until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported him to a field hospital.

"After what we went through together that day, our paths are forever intertwined," Solarino said.

As a boy, Solarino collected Gulf War and Desert Storm trading cards. To commemorate his heroics, Koflage went to a card company and had a trading card made in Solarino's honor.

"My actions that day are forever memorialized on this card," Solarino said. "As someone who collected these types of cards, this is a huge honor."

Family members, base leadership and Congressman Ron Barber, second district of Arizona representative, attended the ceremony. 

"Solarino is a quiet and humble professional," Gebo said. "If it wasn't for the efforts of Senior Airman Koflage to get him recognized, we may never have even known about his actions."

The Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement of service and is the eighth highest award that can be received. It is one of four medals presented for heroism.

"A lot of credit goes to the doctors who worked on me after the attack and, yes, ultimately they saved my life," Koflage said. "But I think about it like this: if not for Nic [Solarino] and what he did, they wouldn't have even had the chance."

Airlift Operations Complete in Central African Republic



By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2013 – Initial airlift operations are complete in the Central African Republic, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said here today.

A small U.S. Air Force support team and two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft began airlift operations Dec. 12 in response to a French request for airlift support. The U.S. airmen conducted 16 flights from Burundi to the Central African Republic, Warren said, transporting 857 Burundi troops, 73 pallets of equipment and 18 Burundian military vehicles.

The Burundi troops -- a light infantry battalion -- are part of an African Union-led international support mission intended to help prevent the further spread of sectarian violence, Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a Dec. 9 statement.

Fewer than 10 Americans remain on the ground serving as liaisons with the French military, Warren said.

Also, three of the four U.S. service members wounded Dec. 21 in South Sudan have returned to the United States for treatment, Warren said. The fourth remains in a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

All four service members are in stable condition, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The service members were wounded when they attempted to evacuate Americans from the town of Bor, South Sudan, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. They were hit by small-arms fire from unknown forces when their three CV-22 Osprey aircraft attempted to land in Bor. Africom is reviewing the incident, Warren said.

To date, more than 870 people have been evacuated from South Sudan on a mix of military and charter aircraft, he said. The Defense Department has flown three airlift missions with C-130 Hercules aircraft and one mission with a C-12 Huron.

Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Africom’s commander, ordered a platoon-sized element of Marines and a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft to Entebbe, Uganda, on Dec. 24 to serve as a contingency force, Warren said. The Marines are part of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, based at Moron Air Base, Spain, and were initially sent to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, before being moved to Uganda.

Rodriguez had earlier ordered elements of the East Africa Response Force to be positioned in Juba, South Sudan, to augment security at the embassy.

“This is all exactly what you’d expect [given the security situation],” Warren said. “It’s a combatant commander positioning forces in such a way that he’s got options.”