Military News

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Hagel Hosts South Korean Foreign Minister for Pentagon Meeting



American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2014 – In a meeting with South Korea’s top diplomat at the Pentagon yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reaffirmed what Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby called “the crucial role of the U.S.-South Korean alliance, which serves as a linchpin for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

In a statement summarizing Hagel’s meeting with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Kirby said Hagel and Yun reaffirmed that both sides must continue to make progress to develop and acquire critical military capabilities necessary to maintain and strengthen the combined U.S.-South Korean defense posture.

“The two discussed the importance of maintaining a robust combined defense of the Korean Peninsula as a strong deterrent against provocations from North Korea,” he added. Hagel emphasized the importance of the U.S.-South Korean alliance and confirmed the solid U.S. commitment to the defense of the South Korea, Kirby said.

Today, Defense Department officials announced the rotational deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Hood, Texas, to Camps Hovey and Stanley in South Korea.

This combined arms battalion, with about 800 soldiers and its own wheeled and tracked vehicles, will deploy Feb. 1 to conduct operations in support of U.S. Forces Korea and the U.S. 8th Army, officials said. “This action supports the United States' defense commitment to the Republic of Korea as specified by the mutual defense treaty and presidential agreements,” they added in a statement announcing the deployment.

The battalion will provide a trained and combat-ready force that will deploy with its equipment to South Korea, and the equipment will remain there for use by follow-on rotations, they added. The soldiers will return to Fort Hood upon completion of their nine-month rotation.

Challenges never stop as Air Force officer clocks up 20 '13s' in 2013

by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


1/7/2014 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- To those who know him, Lt. Col. Chris Bennett, the former 100th Operations Support Squadron commander, isn't just a runner - he's a running machine.

While many dedicated runners run regularly, some may take a break every now and then. But not Bennett.

Not only has the Houston, Alaska, native and the Airlift and Tanker Requirements chief at Headquarters Air Force Reservist Directorate, Air Staff, Pentagon, run every single day for the last three years (as of Dec. 31, 2013), he recently completed his goal of running "20 13s" in 2013.

January 2014 had barely begun and he was off doing a 50 km race - completing it in 5 hours, 33 minutes.

To date, Bennett has amassed a veritable list of running achievements - 27 marathons, at least 35 half-marathons and four ultra-marathons. Most consider an ultra-marathon as anything more than a marathon, but not one to do anything by halves, two of those the lieutenant colonel ran were (in his words) "only 50-km races" - which he ran within a week of each other. The third was advertised at 57 miles, but in reality, ended up being 61 miles to the finish line. It was the London-to-Brighton ultra-marathon Bennett ran while he was stationed at RAF Mildenhall in England.

Keep on running

While most people's bodies would still be recovering for days after completing such races, Bennett just threw on his running shoes and hit the ground, each and every day.

When 2013 arrived, Bennett set himself a new challenge for the year - to make his own "2013." He decided to run 20 half marathons before the end of the year. On Dec. 8, he achieved his goal. He completed 13 of those "13s" (or, 13.1 miles, to be more specific) while he was at RAF Mildenhall.

Where it all began

High school was where he really took to running, transitioning from "riding the pine" (slang for sitting on the bench for most of the game) and not playing very much on the school soccer team, to running track and cross country. Bennett ran his first marathon in 1993, and his second in 1998, when he qualified for the Boston Marathon.

"I continued to run the occasional marathon, and balance that with job, family and church," Bennett said. "Running was and is one of many pillars in my life, but by no means the sole one."

Marathon achievement

During 2006 to 2007, while at intermediate developmental education in Norfolk, Va., he took advantage of school life and ran his first and second sub-three-hour marathons; he completed the Boston Marathon in 2:57. Soon after, he moved to Germany, where he began sharing his passion for running with others.

"The highlight in Germany was a group of approximately 10 from European Command Headquarters that travelled to Athens, Greece, to run the Athens Marathon, where it all began," he said. "I also ran my marathon (personal best) while in Germany, at the Koln Marathon, in 2:53."

After moving to England, Bennett continued to run heavily, encouraging and motivating others to push their limits as well.

"I recognized that I wasn't intimidated by the marathon - I was confident that I could show up at the starting line and was going to finish," he said. "That's what encouraged me to consider going longer; really long ... so I contacted the race director for London-to-Brighton, and they let me in the 2010 race - but I had to bow out due to an injury. But I reattacked for the 2012 race."

Bennett placed seventh out of 196 runners, in a time of 10:50. Only 88 runners finished the ultra-marathon in the required time limit of 13 hours.

What doesn't kill you

"That was my first attempt at really pushing into unknown territory, and I'll admit I didn't really know what I was doing, or how my body would react as I hit 40 or 50 miles," he said. "But, I liked the idea of entering a race not knowing if I had the ability to finish, and to find out how mentally and physically tough I was. It's mostly mental - just the ability to keep moving forward."

Bennett's running streak - which he began counting three years ago - hasn't been broken for a day since. He's logged 6,153 miles, run more than 831 hours and burned more than 611,000 calories. And he's still running every day.

"If you do the math, since (Jan. 1, 2011), I run approximately 5.5 miles each day," Bennett said. "Of course, some days it's more, some days it's less. My threshold is at least 30 minutes a day. In addition to the 20 '13s' in 2013, I set a goal to run 2013 miles, and passed that in mid-December. I did the same in 2012, and finished that year running 2119 miles."

Keep on running ... and running

For some people, doing any kind of running the day after you've just run a marathon is probably out of the question. Bennett does a "30 minute easy run - just to tick the box, if you will.

"My recollection of those runs, including the one after London-to-Brighton, it's usually a slow jog; perhaps a shuffle in some cases," he said. "For the half-marathons, it would normally be about 30 minutes, but could be longer. My longest run the 'next day' was another half-marathon ... yes, one weekend I did back-to-back half marathons!"

So, does this seemingly super-human runner ever break a sweat?

"Well, I'm usually pretty wiped after a half-marathon, but it depends a little on how hard I ran it," Bennett said. "Yes, I break a sweat; definitely when the weather is hot - August on the east coast of the U.S. - but even in cold temperatures, you still sweat. Over the course of the year, I was able to recover better from a half-marathon effort. With one or two easy days afterwards, I'd be back to 100 percent."

According to Bennett, his goal of running 20 half-marathons in 2013 came from a moment of insanity as he pondered a running goal for the year. His wife, Molly, also had something to do with it when she set about researching half-marathons all around the U.K. after the British ultra-marathon and before the family was to move in July 2013. Her husband wanted a challenge, and she was going to make sure he got it ...

Everyone needs a challenge

"It seemed like a good idea at the time, albeit a bit ambitious when considering it would be a race approximately every 2.5 weeks," Bennett said. "I was a sitting squadron commander, getting ready to (move) in July. It took some planning to find enough races to meet the requirement, and I tried to 'front-load' the year, as I knew I'd have some attrition (one race was cancelled due to bad weather)."

There would also be periods where he wouldn't be able to race due to moving to the U.S., so he didn't schedule races in July.

"In truth, the goal was 20 races of a half-marathon or longer," Bennett admitted. "Seventeen of the 20 were designated half-marathons; three were other distances, to meet the 20; in fact, the first two were a 19-miler and a 15-miler respectively. Race 17 was my contribution to a 200-mile relay (where one of his teammates was Col. Chad Manske, formerly the 100th Air Refueling Wing commander at RAF Mildenhall) from Cumberland, Md., to Washington D.C."

His team took a total of approximately 28 hours to run the relay race; Bennett's contribution was a total of 22.3 miles, divided into legs of 8.8, 9.2 and 4.3 miles.

"It took some creative scheduling to meet the goal, but I inquired with my running colleagues, including Molly, and all said 'yes' that my contributions to the relay were worthy of being counted toward the goal."

Wherever in the world they are held, surely many half-marathons must be the same to run?

"Indeed not," Bennett said firmly. "Assuming the distance is the same, which is often plus or minus a little for a half-marathon, the variables are the terrain (road versus trail, flat versus hilly) and weather (hot, cold, rain or wind). All those factor in to make each reason unique. I really enjoy the trail ones, but they are naturally slower and require a lot of concentrated focus due to rocks, roots, and foot placement to stay on your feet, and to watch for trail markers to make sure you don't get lost. Road races for the most part don't require a focus on the terrain and course, and allow more focus on (things such as) pace and mile splits."

When the going gets tough, the tough get running

One of Bennett's toughest half-marathons in England was at the Cheddar Gorge, in Somerset, England.

"It was more-or-less a two-loop event, but to get to the start we had to climb up about a 600-foot hill - and I do mean climb!. At the end of loop one, we were back down at the bottom of that hill, and to start loop two, we were back to climbing - walking was the only option - to get back to the 'flat' portion where we could run again. But it was also great, as two of my kids were running the 5 km simultaneously, and I saw them near the 5 km finish as I was completing loop one, and getting ready to ascend the 'cliff!'"

Running a half-marathon at his former base, RAF Mildenhall, was a highlight for Bennett.

"We were a small community of runners, and it was great to see so many people finish their first half-marathon; one of the highlights for me is sharing my love and the benefit of running with others," he said.

Running in the family

Having such a dedicated runner for a dad and husband has certainly encouraged his family to get their running shoes on.

"But I don't force them!" Bennett said, delightedly sharing their achievements. "Molly is a veteran of two half-marathons, and she'll be toeing the line at this spring's 'Rock and Roll' half-marathon in D.C., along with my 15-year-old daughter, Katie Reed (her first half-marathon). Katie Reed was also a team member of our Ragner Relay last fall, a track and cross-country letterman in her freshman year at Lakenheath High School, and most recently a third-place overall female at the Blue and Gray 5 km (23:25) in Fredericksburg, Va.

"My 11-year-old son, Eli, has a natural gift to be a runner as well - he currently runs about a 6.50 mile and doesn't do much training," he said. "Both Katie Reed and Eli ran the Cheddar Gorge 5 km, and his tenacity enabled him to edge Katie Reed at the finish line. We have healthy competition in the family!"

Famed scientist, author visits RAF Lakenheath

by 2nd Lt. Keenan Kunst
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/7/2014 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- On the afternoon of Dec. 29, 2013, Royal Air Force Lakenheath received a surprise and impromptu visit from a member of the local community and a famed figure in the global scientific community.

Preceding the unexpected visit, RAF Sqn. Ldr. Jerry Neild, RAF commander, received a late-night call - an inquiry for a visit on behalf of Professor Stephen Hawking.

Hawking, a theoretical physicist and U.S Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, best known for his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time," is a professor at and director of the University of Cambridge's Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. He had previously sought to visit RAF Lakenheath to scatter the ashes of a friend, a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant. However, he had been unable to make it. As 2013 came to a close, he found himself available and in good health and contacted the base through his late friend's widow. Despite the late notice, U.S. Air Force and Ministry of Defence personnel made the visit happen.

Hawking arrived on base the following afternoon, greeted by Neild and Col. Mark Slocum, 48th Operations Group commander, as well as several security forces personnel, who Neild described as "astonished."

Following a windshield tour of the base and a briefing at Radar Approach Control Hawking visited members of the 48th Maintenance Group in a Protected Aircraft Shelter, where he could see one of the Liberty Wing's F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft up close.

Even beside the Strike Eagle, many saw Hawking as the most impressive presence in the hangar.

"We were in awe of Hawking and were truly honored to meet him," said Master Sgt. Patrick Robison, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance debrief NCO in charge, who helped organize the PAS visit. "The visit lasted less than an hour, but it was an experience that I will always remember."

"Having someone as decorated as him take interest in something we, the 48th MXG, maintain and fly here at RAF Lakenheath, is something special," added Staff Sgt. Joshua Angus, 48th AMXS cann manager, who also helped show Hawking the Strike Eagle.

As the tour came to an end, Hawking even posed for photos with members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron who had waited well after their shifts' end to meet the noted scientist. Neild said the impression he left was clear and that "his reputation and standing was recognized at all levels."

The 48th Fighter Wing's personnel also left an impression on Hawking, who, according to a message relayed by Neild, said he was taken aback by the intelligence of the Airmen he met and how much responsibility they have to bear.

The Jennifer Vaughan story: one Airman's comeback journey from near death

by Karen Petitt
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


1/2/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- There are words Staff Sgt. Jennifer Vaughan faintly remembers hearing from her family and fiancĂ© as she slowly woke up Feb. 18, 2013 from a 62-day induced coma, but it was the look on their faces that made her understand that something was "very wrong."

Unable to respond and comprehend the magnitude of the ordeal they spoke of, she shut her eyes and went back to sleep. For this once athletic and fit 30-year-old Airman who had just returned from a five-month deployment in Afghanistan, it would take several more months for her to fully wake up and regain the strength to adjust to her new life--one that a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer, and a life-saving medical procedure had changed forever.

As she lay in her hospital bed at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, Jennifer's family helped her fill in the missing pieces of more than two months of darkness. She remembered feeling ill back in October of 2012 after she returned from her deployment where she served as a public health technician. She thought maybe it was just a combination of the flu and adjusting back to the States that was causing her fatigue and shortness of breath.

For her fiancé, Master Sgt. Dan Grabski, the first in a series of terrifying moments came when she could not stop violently coughing. He rushed her into a local emergency room Dec. 16, 2012, and two days later she was flown to Barnes Jewish Medical Center in St. Louis where her condition continued to deteriorate until she was put on life support. The cancer had directed itself into her lungs and caused them to bleed, thus preventing the oxygenation of blood.

So, on Christmas Day in 2012 when Dan should have been opening presents with his three children and proposing to her as he had originally planned, he and her parents were instead presented with a difficult choice of whether or not to take her off life support as her lungs had completely failed despite being on a ventilator. No one was willing to let her go but they did not know what to do.

It was Dr. Rizwan Romee, a Washington University oncologist with the Siteman Cancer Center, who also believed it was too soon to give up and suggested a treatment for her that is normally only performed on newborn children and had never been tried before on adult patients with this condition.

Dr. Romee explained, "I see her parents crying. I see her boyfriend next to her crying. One of my nurses told me that he had planned to propose to her. I felt desperate and helpless, and it was in that moment that I felt we should try the ECMO machine, which acts as an artificial lung. The machine (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) pumps blood from the body and oxygenates it and then pumps it back into the body. It's very risky, and while most infants are on this machine for a few days, Jennifer was on this machine for 45 days."

Adding to that risk was the fact that Jennifer was also undergoing chemotherapy for her leukemia while being on the ECMO, which Dr. Romee said was "completely unchartered territory for the entire team of physicians treating her as nobody knew what to expect."

During this time, Dan brought the engagement ring into her most every day during his visits to be by her side. His life had a new normal to it, and he said he's grateful to his unit, the 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, for their flexibility and support. Her unit, also the 375th AMDS and more specifically the people in her Public Health Flight, went "above and beyond" in offering their support as well.

Tech. Sgt. Miranda Minshew, her supervisor, decided to put a team together to raise money as part of the St. Louis half-marathon in support of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. They raised $5,300 and named their group "Team Hope" in honor of Jennifer. They also decorated her hospital room--a place she would stay until July 2013--and there were more fundraising activities that provided gift cards for Jennifer's family.

"My flight is my family, and we've come together in so many ways to support our Airman," said Minshew. "I believe we've been changed for the better, and we can truly say that we live up to the Airman's creed that "We Will Never Leave an Airman Behind."

Miraculously, Jennifer not only recovered from the hemorrhaging, but her leukemia has achieved complete remission.

Dr. Romee said, "She has an excellent prognosis with the chances of her leukemia ever coming back as being quite low. Jennifer changed my perspective toward dealing with very sick patients. She taught me to trust my instincts in desperate situations and to try 'out-of-the box ideas' before giving up on those who may have few, if any, treatment options."

He also said she was lucky to be in one of the few centers in the country to have the expertise to perform this procedure. A team of surgeons and nurses rushed to place her on the ECMO that Christmas Day before she developed permanent brain damage from the lack of oxygen, and the intensive care team monitored her every minute for six weeks until she came off the ECMO and ventilator support.

With the worst behind her, Jennifer began to focus on her rehabilitation and recovery--and to live.

"It breaks my heart to think about the moment of decision before Dr. Romee stepped in and how hard that was for my family," she said. "I want to tell everyone that there is so much out there that can help us, and we shouldn't give up so easy. I can't imagine what would have happened if it weren't for Dr. Romee. In fact, I'm indebted to the entire team of doctors and nurses who took care of me ... how can I say thank you for my life back? I can't thank them enough."

With Jennifer on the mend and things looking brighter, Dan brought in a backpack with a baseball where the ring was hidden and officially proposed on March 9. It was a love of sports that brought them together--their first date being a hockey game--and for Jennifer, a St. Louis native and "huge" Cardinals fan, "it was the perfect proposal."
Now, back home and looking forward to the New Year, she reflects on how "life is so different."

"I look different. I feel different," she said. "Thankfully my cancer is in remission and at some point my lungs should be strong enough to where I won't need to carry my own oxygen. This experience was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, but I know it was for a reason. Part of that is hopefully to help other patients who can be saved with the same procedure I was ... that would be ideal."

Also different will be life in the military which will come to end soon as she is undergoes a Medical Evaluation Board.

"I joined the Air Force to be part of something special, something bigger than myself, and I've enjoyed my time in the service. I've met lifelong friends and obviously met my future husband through the military," she said. "I spent five years in North Dakota and served proudly for my country in Afghanistan, which was an amazing experience I will never forget. I was incredibly fortunate to be stationed back in my hometown before all this happened to me, and the support from my flight showed how much the Air Force is like family. However, I know that I'm not physically able to keep up with the demands the Air Force expects from us because of tissue scarring and just how much my body has been so beat up ... so I'm OK to separate now after enduring this past year."

She said she's working on planning a very simple wedding with immediate family and in taking care of a surprise new addition to their family--her first child due in June.

"I thought I was getting ill again, but found out the great news. I'm nervous and happy, and I'm focused on being as healthy as possible for our child. It's been an incredibly challenging year filled with every emotion possible. One thing I've learned is that it's OK to feel a wide range of emotions as you work through any trauma, and that it is a necessary part of the healing process."

The smile and twinkle in her eyes have returned, said Dan, just like when they first met.

"I knew she wanted to live and to laugh again," he said. "I never gave up on her because I knew she had the strength to make it. She is an amazing woman, and I'm lucky--we're all lucky--to have her."

Cavalry Rotational Deployment Supports Asia-Pacific Rebalance



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2014 – The rotational deployment of a cavalry battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, to South Korea next month is part of a broader effort to rebalance U.S. forces to the Asia-Pacific region in support of the defense strategic guidance released in January 2012.

Defense Department officials announced today that the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, will deploy to Camps Hovey and Stanley on Feb. 1.

About 800 soldiers that make up the combined-arms battalion will deploy for the nine-month rotation with their wheeled and tracked vehicles in support of U.S. Forces Korea and 8th U.S. Army, officials said. Their equipment will remain in South Korea for use by follow-on rotations when the unit returns to Fort Hood.

The deployment underscores the U.S. defense commitment to South Korea and is part of enduring U.S. rebalancing efforts within the Asia-Pacific region, officials said. Posturing a trained, combat-ready force in the region allows for greater responsiveness to better meet theater operational requirements, they added.

An Army attack reconnaissance squadron became the first U.S. rotational land forces in the region when it deployed to South Korea in September. The 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, deployed with 30 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Its 380 members are operating in support of 8th Army, the 2nd Infantry Division and the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Army Lt. Col. Brian Watkins, the squadron commander, reported.

As with the deploying cavalry battalion, the squadron will leave its aircraft behind after the deployment is completed for use by the follow-on rotational unit, which will come from U.S. Army Alaska.

The Army rotational deployments are just one aspect of the rebalance. Marine Rotational Force Darwin was the first new rotational arrangement in the Asia-Pacific region designed to bolster U.S. theater engagement.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama in November 2011 that Australia would host the rotational units. The intent, they said, was to build a rotational presence up to a 2,500-member Marine air-ground task force that would exercise with the Australian defense force and train regional militaries.

In building toward that goal, the first rotation of about 200 Marines deployed to Australia in April 2012, just months after the United States and Australia announced the initiative, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matthew Puglisi, officer in charge of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, told American Forces Press Service in a telephone interview.

The second rotation of U.S. Marines wrapped up its six-month deployment to Darwin in late September, with the third rotation to increase five-fold when it deploys this spring, Puglisi reported. About 1,150 members of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, are scheduled to deploy from Camp Pendleton, Calif., complete with an infantry battalion, logistics and aviation detachment.

Meanwhile, the Navy has started littoral combat ship rotations in Singapore. USS Freedom completed its first rotation in November, basing its operations at Singapore's Changi Naval Base after its arrival in April.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, is a big fan of rotational units, which he said provide an “uptick in presence” that complements that provided by the 330,000 service members permanently based within the Pacom area of responsibility.

“What they provide is an ability to work with our allies and to leverage the capabilities of the allies across all aspects of peace to conflict,” Locklear said. Rotational forces, he added, also provide a regional presence that could pay dividends if the United States had to flow more forces into a particular area to protect the interests of the United States and its allies.

Departing Pentagon Policy Chief Reflects on Term



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2014 – Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, China and the shift to the Pacific -- all of these issues and more have been on the plate of James N. Miller during his tenure as undersecretary of defense for policy since May 2012.

Miller leaves his post tomorrow and reflected on his term during a roundtable discussion with reporters yesterday.

The war in Iraq officially ended shortly before Miller took office. Iraq has continuing problems, Miller said, and the United States will continue to work with the Iraqi government to solve them. Still, he added, the United States will not deploy troops to Iraq to combat a resurgence of al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists. The Iraqi military can cope with that problem, he said.

“Iraq is being affected by spillover from Syria, as well as from its internal dynamics,” Miller said. “We are continuing to assist the Iraqis and looking for ways in which to do that effectively, but we are not looking at redeploying military forces.”

After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, the transition to Afghan-led operations was completed in 2013, the outgoing Pentagon policy chief said. The transition to Afghans assuming full security responsibility continues, he added, and will be completed this year.

A key to success in the country is Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s signature on the pending bilateral security agreement between his country and the United States. The agreement would allow a much-reduced number of American troops to remain in the country to train, advise and assist Afghanistan’s national security forces and would allow for Americans to conduct certain counterterrorism operations.

“With the BSA and international involvement, there are very good grounds for optimism,” Miller said. Without the agreement, he added, the United States would have to begin planning for the “zero option” – no troops in Afghanistan in 2015.

“It is not desirable for Afghans or for others, but ultimately, this is up to the Afghans,” Miller said.

U.S. national security strategy is based on global engagement, and the rebalance of U.S. strategy to the Asia-Pacific region is recognition of this fact, Miller said, noting that the United States is strengthening alliances and partnerships in the region.

“Japan’s recent announcement on the Futenma replacement facility is a big deal,” Miller said. The governor of Okinawa cleared the way last month for relocation of a Marine Corps air base to a less-populated area of the Japanese island.

Engagement with China is a central part of the rebalance, Miller said. “While the military is not the only element, … increasing the percentage of our forces and the quality of our forces that go to the Pacific are key elements,” Miller said.

Sustaining global leadership also means sustaining global presence in other regions, the undersecretary said, and building the capacity of partners in the Middle East and Africa is an important aspect of U.S. military engagement.

Miller said the U.S. military partnership with Israel has never been stronger, and America continues a presence in the Persian Gulf. Support for French troops in Mali last year and continuing efforts to build counterterrorism capabilities – most notably in Yemen and Libya – are good examples, he added.

The United States needs to continue to engage with Russia and also increase engagements with other rising powers, such as India and Brazil, Miller said.

The Obama administration has emphasized a whole-of-government approach to national security, which some people call “smart power.”

“Having a strong, capable, ready military is critical to that – hard power is integral to smart power,” Miller said. “We’ve worked hard to guide our military posture and our programs – including the drawdown – strategically.”

Miller noted that as a number of studies have unfolded during this decade -- -- the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review in 2010, a strategic guidance study under then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the recently concluded strategic choices management review, and now the run-up to the next Quadrennial Defense Review -- the administration has continued to implement and adapt previous reviews. These include the nuclear posture review, the ballistic missile defense review, and the space policy review, and the administration also has been formulating cyber policy, he said.

“Details will change, but the basic strategy – defend the homeland, engage with friends and allies – will not,” Miller added.

The policy chief did not ignore the budgetary effect on the department, stressing that Congress has to be part of the solution.

“Congress needs to work toward reasonable compromises on our budget,” he said. “I think, over time, we need to get back to more bipartisanship on policy, programs and budgets. In order to be credible as a nation, we’ve got to be able to work together. We’ve got to do better at working across the aisle and working between the administration and Congress.”

The undersecretary said he has no immediate plans for a follow-on job, and that he intends to get reacquainted with his wife and five children.

Face of Defense: Cancer Survivor Deploys to Afghanistan



By Army Staff Sgt. Tramel Garrett
18th Military Police Brigade

CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan, Jan. 7, 2014 – On a warm summer day in July 2010, Army Sgt. Jessica Echols of the 18th Military Police Brigade decided to go for a run to relieve some stress. While running, she began to have problems breathing and experienced excruciating stomach pain.

She recently had been assigned to Germany, and doctors believed her problems were due to her not being acclimatized. After a couple weeks off, she decided to try running again.

This would change her life forever.

Echols was awakened by a stranger after she collapsed on the side of the road. She received medical attention and numerous blood tests, which led to the removal her gallbladder in December 2010. After a successful surgery, it was time for a follow-up appointment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. She believed her medical troubles were over, but as it turned out, they were just beginning. Tests revealed that she had massive tumors on her liver.

“For a moment, time stopped,” Echols said. “I could hear the clock ticking, and I couldn’t hear the doctor’s voice.” At first, she believed the doctor was mistaken.

But the reality hit, she said, and she immediately started crying when she realized she was just diagnosed with cancer. She learned that she had two tumors, one on the front and one on the back of her liver. The tumor in the front was attached to an artery, interfering with the blood flow to her heart.

Two weeks after the diagnosis, Echols was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District of Columbia to be close to her family. She would have to prepare for life-threatening surgery. Six people had undergone the same procedure, she said, and only four survived.

“I just tried to spend as much time as possible with them,” she said. “They were all praying for the best and were great supporters.”

Echols said she thought about everything she wanted to accomplish in her life and in the military, and that she wanted to pull through the surgery not only for her family, but also for her fallen comrade, Army Sgt. Princess C. Samuels of Mitchellville, Md.

Echols, a human resource specialist, joined the Army Reserve in 2005 while attending college. She wanted to pursue an active duty career and joined Samuels, her best friend, at Fort Hood, Texas. The two were motivated to go as far as they could within the military ranks together, Echols said.

While waiting to deploy to Iraq, the two friends made a pact to continue their military service until retirement. But Samuels was killed in action Aug. 15, 2007.

At her friend’s funeral, Echols said, she promised her fallen comrade she would continue her military service and a make positive impact.

“I told her that I loved her and that I would continue to live life to the fullest for the both of us,” she said.

“It just added to the fact that I knew I needed to fight and that I still had other things in life that I wanted to do,” she added, “so giving up was not a choice.”

Echols needed four months to recover before returning to Germany. “I couldn’t sit up for a month,” she said. “I could only eat ice chips and Jell-O, but I was happy to be alive.”

She slowly began physical training with walking and swimming. One day the pain in her stomach returned, and she feared the worst. In February 2012, another abnormal growth was discovered on her liver. Fortunately, this was a noncancerous tumor, and it was removed at Landstuhl.

“I was so thankful the tumor was benign. I do not want to go through that surgery again,” she said. “Going through chemotherapy was one of the biggest challenges of my life.”

Echols said she fought a long battle to be cleared for a deployment, determined to serve beside the fellow soldiers who were so supportive during her crisis.

“I’m happy I was able to recover for all the surgeries,” she said. “I feel I’ve showed myself that I’m a determined person. I have so much more that I want to do in the Army. I had two doctor appointments a week until I was cleared to deploy with my unit. My leaders here support me, and I wanted to give back to them, as well as my country.”

Now, Echols is cancer free and is deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Military Police Brigade.

“My service to my country means the world me,” she said. “I wanted to share my story and show people that you can overcome any obstacle. Cancer is very scary, but you should never give up, even if the odds are against you.”