Monday, January 06, 2014

Pentagon Reaffirms Commitment, Confidence in Iraqi Capability

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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2014 – The Defense Department remains committed to helping the government and people of Iraq to root out terrorists seeking safe haven, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told reporters here today.

“We’re working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate al-Qaida-affiliated groups so that tribes, working with security forces, can root them out of populated areas,” he said.

Warren noted some “early successes” along those lines in Ramadi.

“Tribal forces and police, with the Iraqi army providing overwatch, appear to have isolated the [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] in pockets of the city,” he said. “It’s still early, however.”

In working closely with the Iraqi government, Warren said, the primary assistance has come through the State Department’s foreign military sales program.

“We’re also continuing to accelerate our … foreign military sales deliveries with an additional 100 Hellfire missiles ready for delivery this spring,” he said. “These missiles are one small element of a more holistic strategy.” They’ve proven effective at denying ISIL terrorists the safe-haven zones they’ve sought to establish in western Iraq, he added.

Warren said the Defense Department is committed to promoting stability in Iraq, and that more than $14 billion in equipment, services and training have been delivered to the Iraqi government since 2005.

For example, in the last year, Warren said, the United States delivered six C-130 aircraft, a rapid Avenger surface-to-air missile battery, 27 helicopters, and 12 P301 patrol boats.

“And we’ve expedited delivery of those 100 Hellfire missiles, along with 10 ScanEagle [unmanned aerial vehicles], which will be delivered this spring,” he said.

Warren also reiterated Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent message that no U.S. forces are being sent to Iraq.

“I think Secretary Kerry was pretty clear this weekend that we will not be sending forces into Iraq,” he said. “But we, … like I said, are very much committed to the Iraqis.”

The colonel added that the Iraqi army is very capable, and that its capabilities are increasing, largely due to the foreign military sales equipment the United States has sent there.

Warren said service members working in the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq and Marine Corps security forces at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad number between 100 and 200. U.S. forces are not doing mission planning, he added, noting that the Office of Security Cooperation works at the ministerial level. “It is the line [of communication] that we have from the department into Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi army apparatus,” said he explained.

Despite media reports, Warren said, he has confidence in the Iraqi army.

“Ramadi is already back under Iraqi control, so I’m confident that the Iraqi army is a very capable force,” he said. “[And] I think Secretary Kerry said it best: this is [the] Iraqis’ fight to fight.”

Face of Defense: Airman Seeks to Make Difference in Africa

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Antoinette Gibson
Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti, Jan. 6, 2014 – Two million people died, 4 million were displaced, and thousands more fled during a civil war in his native Sudan, but one “lost boy,” now an American airman, has returned home.

When he was 5 years old, Air Force Staff Sgt. Deng Pour had a life filled with gunfire and attacks. He and his family moved from village to village to stay alive. One night, Sudanese government troops ambushed the village where they were living, forcing him to flee from Sudan to Ethiopia.

“The thought of leaving never really crossed our mind until that night,” Pour said. “My aunt and I left everything we had and headed for Ethiopia. My aunt told me my mom had to stay behind to take care of my grandmother, but little did I know that my mom had been actually captured.”

Pour said they survived by eating grass and mud. They watched many men, women and children being killed. When he got tired, he said, his aunt would carry him on her back as they walked miles at a time, ran from troops and avoided bombs dropped from planes.

After three months of unimaginable hardship, Pour and dozens of others arrived in Ethiopia to a refugee camp, where they were safe, but often had little to eat. A year later, his mother joined them, and they felt as if the camp was going to be home, he said.

“When I saw my mom, I was so happy. I just knew everything would be OK, and we would have a normal life,” Pour said.

But after three years, the Ethiopian government was overthrown, and a civil war broke. The family fled back to war-torn Sudan.

“People kept saying, ‘You have to leave; you have to leave.’ We heard the gunfire get closer,” he said. "We felt like it was life or death. We knew the road ahead would be tough, but we had to go. My mom, uncle, cousins and I headed toward Sudan, and my aunt fled with others to Kenya."

About half of the young people who fled Ethiopia -- more than 500 -- failed to complete the journey back to Sudan, Pour said. Those who survived embarked on a long, difficult walk to return to their home. Some were shot, and others were killed by wild animals or died of hunger, thirst, disease or utter exhaustion. Some died crossing the crocodile-infested Pibor River, Pour said. “But once again, I made it. I survived,” he added.

Pour said their home in Sudan was not how they left it. Their village had burned down, and the livestock had been killed. They made do with hardly anything, Pour said. One day, a plane flew in to deliver aid to his country, and Pour and his cousin stood watching in amazement.

Pour’s uncle asked the pilot if he would take Pour and his cousin to Kakuma, a refugee camp in northern Kenya. Saying she wanted a better life for them, Pour said, she sent them alone to the refugee camp, where the elders from their local village formed loose family groups and took care of them. Pour said he and thousands of other southern Sudanese children became known as the “lost boys of Sudan.”

At the camp, they attend school and learned basic reading, writing and arithmetic. For the next five years, life got better.

“Sept. 17, 1999, is a day I will never forget,” Pour said. “That was the day my aunt adopted me as her son and sent for me to come to the U.S.”

By then, Pour was 16. He could barely speak English and found himself below the academic standard, he said, but he worked day and night to continue to learn.

Pour graduated from high school was accepted into Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky on a soccer scholarship, but it didn’t take him long to realize he was wasting his time. He wanted to join the Air Force, he said, but he was unable to because he didn’t have a green card.

“I knew as soon as I got my green card that I would join the Air Force,” he said.

In 2006, an Air Force recruiter traveled three hours to meet Pour at his home in Fergus Falls, Minn. The recruiter assured him he would do whatever he could to help him enlist in the military. Pour either could wait a year for the job he wanted or go right away by leaving his specialty open. Without hesitation, Pour took the first available job to enlist in the Air Force.

“Services was my first job, but once I was able to retrain, I cross trained into the chaplain corps," Pour said. "I knew was where God called me to be.”

Pour has been in the military for seven years, with assignments at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. He has deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan, and now is deployed to Africa. Life hasn’t always been easy since he left his country, he said, and mentors such as Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Dayton Lowry reminded him there always will be better days.

“Chief, as well as many others, motivate me, and the Air Force is a community where everyone wants to come and help,” Pour said. “There is always a leader or mentor there when you are ready to give up. I have faced many roadblocks in my life, but I’ve been reminded that if you are determined, you can accomplish anything.”

Pour is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa religious affairs office here, where he works in a variety of support roles, building morale among the combined forces and helping partner nation militaries in improving their military chaplaincies.

“He is a valuable member to our team,” said Navy Capt. Dana Reed, director of religious affairs. “With a past that is so rich in this region, he provides us with firsthand knowledge on customs and traditions with our partnering countries.”

Pour said his goal in Africa is simple: to make a difference. "As I was going through my struggles, many people went out of their way to help me. … The Air Force is a way for me to give back, to serve my adopted country, because I know I’m representing something greater than myself,” he said. “The mission here at [the task force] helps people. It helps my people.”

For a long time, Pour said, he was unable to tell his story, but he tells it now because it may leave someone encouraged. His 25-year journey since leaving Sudan has made him who he is today, he added.

MQ-1B Predator accident report released

Release Number: 010614

1/6/2014 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va -- An MQ-1B Predator turbocharger failure and wind gusts led to the crash of the aircraft at Jalalabad Air Base, Afghanistan, June 27, 2013, according to an Air Combat Command Abbreviated Accident Investigation Board report released today.

The remotely piloted aircraft was deployed from the 432d Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. When the accident occurred, the Launch and Recovery Element crew from the 62d Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron was flying a classified surveillance mission out of Jalalabad Air Base, Afghanistan. The aircraft and one air-to-ground AGM-114 Hellfire missile were destroyed on impact, with a loss valued at approximately $4.5 million. There were no injuries or damage to other government or private property.

According to the report, the crew noticed indications of a possible turbocharger failure during the mission, including a decrease in altitude and low airflow into the engine compared to the engine's revolutions per minute. The Mission Control Element Crew completed the appropriate checklist, and notified air traffic control that the aircraft was unable to maintain altitude. Roughly eight hours into the flight, the MCEC turned over control of the aircraft to the Launch and Recovery Element Crew, who initiated the aircraft's return to the landing airfield, and ran the appropirate checklists. The maintenance operations superintendant was in the ground control station, and agreed with the crew that the turbocharger was unresponsive and suspected of failure.

During the final approach for landing, the air traffic control tower reported wind gusts within operational guidelines. However, upon crossing the runway threshold, the aircraft experienced a strong gust of wind, which led the mishap pilot to deem the conditions no longer safe for landing. The pilot executed procedures for a go-around, but the aircraft was unable to sustain flight and impacted the ground at approximately 800 ft. past the departure end of the runway.

The Accident Investigation Board President found by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was a combination of mechanical failure of the engine's turbocharger and gusty wind conditions during the attempted landing. Additionally, the board president found by a preponderance of evidence that insufficient technical guidance, operational acceptance of aircraft weight-waivers, and the decision to go-around substantially contributed to the mishap.

For more information, contact Air Combat Command Public Affairs at (757) 764-5007 or e-mail