Military News

Friday, January 03, 2014

Face of Defense: Marine Thanks Family, Corps for Support



By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Shane Mellor
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa

STUTTGART, Germany, Jan. 3, 2014 – The Marine Corps is known to breed strong, resilient warriors to face enemies and dangers unimagined to the citizens they protect. But for a lot of Marines, this strength comes not from recruit training but from the family, brothers and sisters in arms, and chain of command of the individual Marine.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Raymond Diaz, the comptroller chief for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa here, drew strength from these exact sources while serving and in his personal life.

For Diaz, the Marine Corps was his ticket out of the small country town of Brawley, Calif.

“The recruiter nailed it. He marched into my economics class; he was loud, told us only 1% could claim the title of ‘U.S. Marine.’ He told us he was looking for a special kind of individual, the opportunities to travel, for education; I knew it was the place for me,” Diaz said.

Diaz married his high-school sweetheart and started a career that took him from southern California to Hawaii, leading to recruiting duty in Austin, Texas. Along with the responsibilities and duties of being a Marine, recruiting duty proved to have its challenges which led to stress, poor diet habits and lack of exercise.

“I was on a steady diet of two energy drinks for breakfast, fast food for lunch and would occasionally grab a quick dinner,” Diaz said. “I was constantly tired and lethargic and I attributed it to my daily routine.”

He continued, “As Marines, we are taught to push through the pain to accomplish the mission; that it wasn’t that bad and I thought it would go away as soon as I transferred to my next duty station. My health and my marriage were being deprived, but my wife kept life together at home and I kept fighting to accomplish the mission at work.”

Completing his recruiting tour, Diaz was transferred to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where a physical health assessment was performed as a standard check-in procedure. The blood work caused concern enough to refer him to a specialist and eventually a couple of trips to the emergency room where a stomach scan revealed a five-inch cancerous tumor lodged in his colon.

“There was a history of cancer in my family but at 30 years old, my mother had not told me the details,” Diaz said.

The medical tests provided evidence the cancer was spreading and prompt attention was needed. Diaz was scheduled for immediate surgery.

As Diaz readied for surgery, he and his wife were joined by his parents and the doctor began the pre-surgery checklist which would reveal new surprises to the situation. The group answered question after question without hesitation but when his wife was asked if she was pregnant, the delayed response was enough to confirm she was in fact carrying their first child.

“So that is how my parents found out we were pregnant, with me laying on a gurney about to go into a lifesaving surgery and my wife pregnant,” Diaz said. “I told my mom and dad we were planning on surprising them; we were just not intending this to be the way. Never have we cried tears of happiness and sadness.”

The road to recovery after cancer is never an easy one, but with his wife and new child, Diaz found a new mission -- to fight for them. This was his bedrock when he was given the choice of medical retirement or chemotherapy using an experimental drug that had the potential for a full recovery.

Diaz said it was the hardest decision of his life, but his wife reminded him of how important it is that their child had two healthy parents.

“She was my strength. Even after we decided to go ahead, things got tough,” Diaz said.

His recovery was full of complications. A weakened immune system made minor infections grave threats to his life and allergic reactions and medications meant multiple returns to the hospital.

Diaz recalled telling his wife that he wanted to quit.

“At that point, she took my hand and put it on her belly,” he said. “I felt our child move and I knew there was a higher reason for me to continue to fight. I found the strength to fight on.”

Diaz recalled the important lessons he’s learned in the Marine Corps, and his gratitude for the support of his Marine buddies and his superiors.

“Just as we learn in the Marine Corps, we are always capable of doing more than we think possible -- of pushing on,” he said.

Diaz fought until the cancer was in complete remission. He returned to full duty as the father of a new baby and with a rejuvenated and reinforced love for the Corps.

His wife and child were his reason to fight, Diaz said, noting they gave him the courage to live. The Corps, he added, was his reminder of his higher calling, not just as a Marine, but as a husband and a father.

“I always want to be known as the guy that can ‘pick up the log’ and be a contributing factor,” Diaz said.

His cancer is in remission, Diaz is back on full-duty status and he was recently promoted to gunnery sergeant.

Citizen Airman embraces the title--literally

by 1st Lt. Lori Fiorello
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/23/2013 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- The sky's the limit for Senior Airman Adedapo "Odie" Odupitan, a medical technician with the 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron here, who raised his right hand and became a U.S. citizen, Nov. 8.

Odupitan, along with approximately 30 other foreign service members, swore in during a naturalization ceremony here at the Co-located Club.

Odie was born in Nigeria, lived there until he was 12, and then moved with his Dad who accepted a contract working for a Dutch Airliner in Malaysia. There, he diligently completed high school and the equivalent to a four year degree here in Electronic Electrical Engineering, which granted him approval for a job in the states under a six year work Visa.

"The job wasn't exactly what I thought I was signing up for," said the new American, "I was under the impression I would be doing some sort of engineering work, but I ended up working a contract job in a warehouse, where I ended up living for months."

In an effort to get closer to his original plan, Odie decided to make adjustments.

He cold called a local car dealership. But after finding out there weren't any engineer openings, he accepted an open sales position to get his foot in the door.

Odie's unwavering work ethic moved him up the ranks quickly to become assistant sales manager then on to manage all of sales for the dealership.

But as his successes increased, so did his aspirations. He had dreams of getting into the medical field, and was afraid he'd lose focus by staying at the dealership. But before he walked away, he made the deal of his life.

"I met my wife, Heidi, at the dealership when she came in to buy a car," said the former sales manager. "I realized her sales person was making too much of a profit on her sale and I had to call her back in to drop the sales price." The lovebirds married only months later.

Heidi didn't forget about his gesture, and returned the favor when she was considering joining the Air Force Reserve and introduced Odie to her recruiter, Master Sgt. Chris Brown, in August 2012. Odie learned about the assortment of medical opportunities in the wing, and within a month, he was the one who recited the oath of enlistment.

"I told the recruiter that I have my ducks in a row ... don't beat around the bush, tell me what I need to do to get into the medical field," said a steadfast Odupitan.

Brown not only cleared a path to the medical community, but he also provided a roadmap to become a U.S. citizen. At a naturalization ceremony in November, Odie found himself raising his right hand a second time. With this achievement, he plans on going for the hat trick by pursuing a career as a commissioned officer and physician's assistant with the wing.

"The U.S. is the land of opportunity, but not everyone puts in the hard work and perseverance that comes along with it," said the American. "I am never going to cut my life short from opportunity."

Odupitan is a certified emergency medical technician and a volunteer firefighter with the Black Diamond Fire Department in Auburn, Wash. He has chased the 'American Dream' of prosperity and success since first stepping foot on U.S. soil, and has worked his way up from sleeping in a warehouse to selling cars, and demonstrates his gratitude by serving his community and his adopted nation.

"I wouldn't be where I am right now without the opportunities (in the U.S.)," said the Reservist. "I now have the opportunity to become the person I want to be (as well)."

Pentagon Announces Upcoming Changes to Imminent Danger Pay



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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2014 – The Defense Department announced today changes in imminent danger pay that will go into effect June 1, DOD spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told reporters here.

“This is a process that began [in 2011],” he said, and “included in-depth threat assessment from the combatant commands. It was made in coordination with the Joint Staff, combatant commands and military services.”

Warren noted this policy change was not a budget-driven decision, but part of a routine recertification that “happens every couple of years -- it’s an ongoing process.”

According to a DOD news release announcing the recertification, the combatant commands conducted in-depth threat assessments for countries within their areas of responsibility.

Following the review, the release stated, it was determined that the imminent threat of physical harm to U.S. military personnel due to civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions is significantly reduced in many countries, resulting in the discontinuation of imminent danger pay in those areas.

Periodic recertification of IDP, according to the news release, ensures that imminent danger designations match the actual conditions of designated countries so that the department can provide fair entitlements and benefits. The last recertification was completed in 2007.

The DOD news release noted the following areas would no longer be designated as imminent danger areas for IDP purposes:

• The nine land areas of East Timor, Haiti, Liberia, Oman, Rwanda, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

• The six land areas and airspace above Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro.

• The four water areas of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and the Red Sea.

• The water area and air space above the Persian Gulf.

“Of specific note,” Warren said, “imminent danger pay will remain in effect for the following: Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Egypt.”

Although 2013 statistics are not currently available, Warren noted the year prior, 194,189 personnel received imminent danger pay.

“Approximately 50,000 less will be receiving imminent danger pay,” he said. “In [2012], we spent approximately $500 million on imminent danger pay. This will result in a reduction of approximately $100 million.”

The benefit provides troops in imminent danger areas about $7.50 per day up to the maximum monthly rate of $225, Warren said.

Generational Changes Important to Air Dominance



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2014 – The last time American soldiers or Marines came under aerial attack was during the Korean War.

The fact that it has been more than 60 years since an enemy launched a successful aerial attack against Americans did not happen by accident.

U.S. airpower strategy is based on having air dominance in any conflict. Air dominance means marrying the best pilots in the world with the best aircraft, and tying them together with the best tactics.

The current plan to field variants of a fifth-generation aircraft is one arm of that strategy.

Just the idea of a fifth-generation aircraft is a relatively new concept. It really only cropped up when the U.S. Air Force called for what became the F-22 Raptor. As the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps develop the Joint Strike Fighter – the F-35 Lightning 2 – there is more discussion of fifth-generation capabilities.

The idea of generations of aircraft “really came around with the F-22,” said Lt. Col. Brian Stahl, an airpower strategist with the Air Force. “As we looked at past aircraft, the main thing we were looking at were generational changes and improvement in capabilities. So as you looked at the first jet aircraft like the P-80 and into the F-86s move into the F-4s with air-to-air missiles and into the fourth generation aircraft you have better avionics, increased maneuverability, specialized mission sets. As you move into the F-22 it is a linear progression of all these things.”

But what are the previous generations of jet aircraft that have maintained aerial dominance since Korea?

The first generation of jet aircraft began in World War II. The German Messerschmitt 262 was the first jet aircraft that saw widespread combat in the war. American and British designers were concurrently working on jets, but none saw combat.

The P-80 Shooting Star was the most successful American jet. It was a trailblazer for the U.S. Army Air Forces. The straight-wing aircraft first flew in 1943, and was built by the Lockheed Skunk Works in 143 days. The aircraft first flew with a British engine. It did not see combat during World War II, but was a workhorse in the early days of the Korean War. The Air Force and the Navy flew what became known as F-80 aircraft into the 1970s. The T-33 training aircraft was a variant of the F-80 and served in that role into the 1980s.

The Bell P-59 Airacomet and Republic F-84 Thunderjet are also considered first-generation aircraft.

In Korea, the F-80 was clearly outclassed by the MiG-15. This swept-wing aircraft produced by the Soviet Union flew at least 100 mph faster than the F-80s.

Enter the North American F-86 Sabre. This swept-wing fighter bridged the gap between first-generation fighters and the second generation.

The F-86 more than held its own against the MiG-15. The aircraft cruised at more than 600 mph. In a dive, it could break the sound barrier. The F-86 gave United Nations forces in Korea air superiority – not air dominance – over the battlefield. North Korea launched a night air attack against U.S. forces on April 15, 1951, killing two soldiers. They were the last American ground casualties from an aerial attack.

Designers of second-generation aircraft took lessons learned in Korea and incorporated them into the aircraft of the so-called Century series of aircraft. This generation roughly runs from the mid-1950s to 1965.

Technological advances made this era a hothouse of aviation growth. Designers built aircraft with swept wings, delta wings and area-ruled fuselages. Engine breakthroughs enabled second-generation fighters to sustain supersonic speeds in level flight.

Advances in radar, missile technology and changes in tactics defined this generation of aircraft. The thinking at the time was that dogfighting was a thing of the past. Designers built aircraft that would climb quickly, fly fast and, using only missiles, shoot down intercontinental bombers.

The first aircraft of the Century series was the F-100 Super Sabre. The jet, also built by North American, was an outgrowth of the F-86. It was capable of sustained supersonic flight. Introduced in 1954, the F-100 started as an air-superiority fighter and segued into a close-air support platform in Vietnam. Other aircraft of the Century series are the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief and the Convair F-106 Delta Dart.

The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom 2 is the finest U.S. example of the third generation of fighters. Developed for the Navy and Marine Corps, the aircraft was also adopted by the Air Force in 1963. The Phantom is a two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber. The many-hyphenated designation means the aircraft was one of the most capable in the inventory. It is still serving in air forces around the world.

Fourth-generation aircraft are the workhorses of American air power today. The F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon are the Air Force fourth-gen aircraft. The Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet is a fourth-generation aircraft. The now retired F-14 Tomcat is also considered a fourth-gen aircraft.

All these jets were designed in the mid to late 1970s and took the lessons learned from the Vietnam War. The emphasis was again on maneuverability. Dogfighting, stealth and radar avoidance came to the fore. The aircraft have been continually updates with new targeting pods, new radars, new materials. The classic example of this is the F/A-18 Super Hornet that while based on a 1970s airframe, is one of the most capable aircraft in the world.

Currently, the United States has the only fifth-generation fighters. Russia and China are working to catch up. The Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor is operational and capable of worldwide deployment. Lockheed-Martin also designed the F-35 Lightning 2 and that will be used by the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations.

The aircraft are the most advanced in the world and their capabilities are being kept purposely vague. They incorporate the latest in stealth technology, the latest avionics, communications, sensors and weaponry. These are all fused together giving pilots improved situational awareness, while reducing the workload.

Stahl says the biggest change from fourth-gen to fifth-gen is stealth. Fifth-generation fighters use the latest stealth technology.

Another difference is the way information is gathered, processed and used. Stahl flew F-16s and F-22. In the fourth-gen aircraft, the pilot is a system operator, he said. “An F-16 or F-15 pilot is constantly working the radar or working the targeting pod; all of these different sensors that require input from the pilot,” he said.

“In the F-22, all that is integrated and you have a synthesis of the data,” he continued. “Where the pilot was the operator before, now the jet is doing the integration and operation of the sensors. The pilot can now spend less time operating the systems, and more time actually processing the data.”

In other words, the pilot becomes more a tactician, instead of just trying to ensure the right information out of the systems on board.

Each generation of aircraft costs more. The F-80 cost about $110,000 a copy. The F-86 ran about $220,000. An F-100 Super Sabre ran about $700,000, while the F-4C Phantom was about $2.5 million. An F-15 Eagle ran about $30 million a copy. The F-22 Raptor costs about $133 million, with the F-35A coming in around the same range.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welch said that he doesn’t ever want a fair fight. In a fight between fourth-generation fighters and fifth generation aircraft, he noted, the fourth-generation fighters would be shot down before their pilots even knew the fifth-gen fighters were in the air.

This is at the heart of the need for fifth-generation capabilities, he says.

Army to Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons Aboard Ship



By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

PORTSMOUTH, Va. , Jan. 3, 2014 – Some 64 specialists from the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center are expected to depart for the Mediterranean in about two weeks aboard an American-owned ship, the Cape Ray, to destroy chemical weapons from Syria.

The nearly 650-foot-long ship, now here, will travel to a yet-to-be specified location in the Mediterranean, where it will take on about 700 metric tons of both mustard gas and "DF compound," a component of the nerve agent sarin gas. Specialists will then use two new, recently installed “field deployable hydrolysis systems” to neutralize the chemicals.

Aboard the Cape Ray will be 35 mariners, about 64 chemical specialists from Edgewood, Md., a security team, and a contingent from U.S. European Command. It's expected the operational portion of the mission will take about 90 days.

During a visit here yesterday, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said preparations began before the United States even knew it was committed to the mission -- or that the mission would ever materialize.

“There was a recognition that something was going to happen in Syria, in all likelihood that would require us to do something with those chemical materials that were known to be there,” he said.

In December 2012, a request was made to determine what could be done if the U.S. was asked to participate in destruction of chemical weapons from Syria.

By the end of January 2013, a team with the Joint Project Manager for Elimination and the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center had evaluated existing technology and configurations for neutralization of chemical weapons and recommended using the hydrolysis process. Construction of a deployable system began in February, and the first prototype was available in June. A second was available in September.

“We could have waited to see what happened and then reacted to that, or we could have moved out ahead of time and then prepared for what might happen or was likely to happen,” Kendall said. “Fortunately … we took the latter course.”

Aboard the ship, an environmentally sealed tent contains two FDHS units, which will operate 24 hours a day in parallel to complete the chemical warfare agent neutralization mission.

Each unit costs about $5 million and contains built-in redundancy and a titanium-lined reactor for mixing the chemical warfare agents with the chemicals that will neutralize them.

About 130 gallons of mustard gas can be neutralized at a time, over the course of about two hours, for instance, said Adam Baker, with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Edgewood, Md.

The FDHS systems can, depending on the material, process between 5 to 25 metric tons of material a day. With two systems, that means as much as 50 metric tons a day of chemical warfare agents can be destroyed. The mission requires disposal of 700 metric tons of material. But the plan is not to start out on the first day at full speed, Baker said.

“There is a ramp-up period,” he noted. "It's going to be a slow start. We're going to go very deliberately and safely.”

Rob Malone, with the Joint Project Manager for Elimination at Edgewood, Md., said the two chemical warfare agents will be neutralized with reagents such as bleach, water or sodium hydroxide.

“They are doing a chemical hydrolysis process. It brings the chemical agent together with a reagent, another chemical,” Malone said. “It creates a chemical reaction that basically destroys the chemical agent in and of itself.”

The result of that neutralization process will create about 1.5 million gallons of a toxic “effluent” that must be disposed of, but that cannot be used as a chemical weapon. Malone said the effluent is similar to other toxic hazardous compounds that industrial processes generate. There is a commercial market worldwide for disposing of such waste, he noted.

Baker said the effluent will be acidic and will be PH-adjusted to bring it up to “above neutral,” as part of the process. The end result will be a liquid that is caustic, similar to commercial drain openers, he added.

Malone said the operational plan includes a cycle of six days of disposal plus one day for maintenance of the equipment. On board will be about 220 6,600-gallon containers that will hold the reagents used in the disposal process, and will also be used afterward to hold the effluent.

“Everything will be kind of contained on the ship throughout the entire process,” Malone said.

The U.S. has never disposed of chemical weapons on board a ship before. But it has spent years disposing of its own chemical weapons on land, using the same process that the FDHS uses. The chemical process is not new, and neither is the technology. The format, field-deployable, is new, however. The platform, aboard a ship, is also new. These additions to the process have created challenges for the team.

“This has not been done on this platform, not been done at sea,” Baker said. “But it is taking the established operations we've done at several land sites domestically and internationally and is applying them here.”

In the United States, the U.S. military has been destroying its own chemical weapons for years at places like Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and the recently-closed Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ala. Lessons from those facilities and others were used to develop the process that will be used aboard the Cape Ray to destroy Syrian chemical weapons.

The process for disposing of mustard gas was used at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The process for disposing of DF compound was taken from Pine Bluff Arsenal, Baker said. The processes and technologies from those locations were scaled down to make them transportable.

“So there is no mystery about the process,” Kendall said. “It is a slightly different scale that we are doing it at here. We had fixed installations that had hydrolysis units that could do this job. But what we did not have was a ‘transportable, field deployable’ [system], the words we're using for these systems, that could be moved somewhere else.”

Malone, who has 20 years of experience destroying chemical weapons for the United States, said doing on a ship what he has done on land for two decades required some additional thought and effort.

“We had to figure out on the Cape Ray how to operate in three dimensions,” he said. The FHDS systems are inside tents inside the ship, for example. But the chemical weapons may be loaded on the ship on the deck above, and additional materials will be a deck below the FDHS equipment. On land, everything is spread out and on one level, he said.

“That's been the significant challenge and things we've had to overcome to get the Cape Ray ready for deployment,” he said.

Additionally, vibration studies were done to learn how lab equipment would operate on board a ship, he said. And the equipment had to be modified to anchor it into the ship using chains.

The U.S. chemical weapons demilitarization program often handles munitions that contain chemical weapons, such as rockets and projectiles that include a casing and explosive as well as the chemical component.

“That's that part that really limits throughput a lot of time, the de-mating of the explosive from the chemical agent and the body,” Malone said.

But aboard the Cape Ray, the mission will be different. It is not munitions that are being demilitarized, but liquid chemical agents.

“This can be done fairly quickly because all of the material we are receiving are going to be in a bulk configuration,” Malone said. “It's in large vessels, easily accessible, and for us it gives us a very high throughput.”

Rick Jordan, captain of the Cape Ray, a mariner for 40 years and an employee of contractor Keystone Shipping Company, said for this mission his crew expanded from 29 to 35. The additional six will support mainly what he calls “hotel services” on board the ship.

“We've got some really good folks on here that know how to train, and we've been training them,” he said. “They've got all kinds of shipboard damage control, damage control training and that sort of thing.”

He also said there is plenty of support for spill response as well as for fire suppression.

“The whole key here is teamwork,” he said. “There has been an unbelievable amount of teamwork in this whole process, from the Maritime Administration, Military Sealift Command, to the Keystone Shipping Company. I'm humbled by what is going on here. We've had about three or four days of hard training together where we've been making mariners out of them, and they've been making chemical destruction folks out of us. And we're going to continue to train. The whole trip will be a combination of production, training and being ready for the worst case scenario.”

Jordan said he has not yet received sailing orders, but estimated the time to sail to the center of the Mediterranean Sea at about 10 days. The mission will last 90 days.

That 90-day mission has about 45 days built in for “down days” due to bad weather. So the mission could be shorter.

“Weather is the single most important factor as a mariner that I have got to consider,” Jordan said. “The good news for the Cape Ray is we have lots of things to mitigate weather on board.”

He said the ship is equipped with stabilizers to dampen any roll. He also said that because the ship really has no destination, but is rather meant to serve as a platform, he can navigate around weather if need be.

Sea trials for the mission have already begun, and the Cape Ray will do more sea trials before it departs on its mission in about two weeks. It’s expected the mission will include the neutralization of about 700 metric tons of chemical weapon agents. Those agents will be transferred to the Cape Ray from both Danish and Norwegian ships in a process expected to take about one or two days.

“Exactly where and how that process will take place has not been finalized yet,” Kendall said.

U.S. Navy assets will provide security for the ship while it conducts operations, Kendall said.