Thursday, January 09, 2014

Secretary Thanks Warriors, Staff at Brooke Army Medical Center

By Maria Gallegos
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Jan. 9, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made his first official visit to Brooke Army Medical Center Wednesday.

Hagel was welcomed by BAMC Commander Col. Kyle Campbell and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Pumphrey at San Antonio Military Medical Center followed by a meet-and-greet with wounded warriors service and staff members.

“You inspire me,” Hagel told 1st Lt. Micah Andersen, who was rehabilitating at the burn center rehab gym. Andersen was injured by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in Afghanistan June 1, 2013.

“BAMC offers the best care in the world,” Hagel told him as they discussed Andersen’s injuries and the care he was receiving at the medical center. 

“I know, this is the best place to be,” Andersen replied.

Following the visit, the secretary met with Col. Donald Gajewski, Center for the Intrepid director, for a tour of the out-patient rehabilitation facility.   Afterward, he spoke at a town hall meeting with service members, their families and staff to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

“I’m here to first better understand the tremendous work you do here and what this place represents,” he said.  “It’s about hope for a better life for you and your families and all our people. It’s about how each of you are inspiring others who are with you now but will come after you - families inspire, you inspire, people who work here, docs and all of his team, they are an inspiration. I want to acknowledge that because we occasionally tend to drift over that element of what is done in a tremendous facility like this.”

He said that with all the advances in medical technology, it is the people who make a difference.

Hagel also touched on the new law covering future retirement benefits for veterans and pledged medically disabled veterans will be exempt from cuts in benefits.

“Let me assure you that all disabled families — all of you in this room — will be exempted from any adjustments in the rate of growth,” Hagel said to the group. “We’re not going to do anything that would inhibit the progress of this institution.”

The new law suggests that working-age military retirees would see their pensions increase at a slower pace, with cost-of-living adjustments pegged to the rate of inflation minus 1 percentage point. Once they turned 62, they would go back to receiving adjustments pegged to the full rate of inflation.

Hagel said that the provision will not take effect until 2016 and that the administration and Congress have two years to fix the law and grant an exemption for disabled vets.

“We’ll make it work – we’ll fix it – and we’ll do it so it doesn’t hurt,” the secretary said.

Telling the story

Commentary by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

1/9/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Lightning flashes deep in the clouds as rain thunders down on the roofs of buildings and creates large puddles on the ground. The electricity zapping through the air is the only natural light source in that area as the moonlight is blocked by the dark clouds above. Time goes on, dawn approaches and the rain stops; the clouds begin to dissipate.

The mixture of fresh humidity in the air, the clouds and the rays of light as the Earth rotates so the sun is visible on the horizon cast a rainbow illusion against the snow-capped mountains, a breathtaking sight seen only by early risers such as those out for a run before work.

Other early risers are out as well -- photographers. Perhaps not professional, official photographers taking photos for an organization or company, but those with an interest or passion for photography get up to take advantage of the beautifully lit scene.

With today's digital technology, it's easy to take reasonably good photos. The computer in the camera offers the option for it to do most of the work for the photographer. I often use these techniques myself, and I'm one of the official installation photographers.

I went to a Public Affairs workshop a few years ago in San Antonio where the theme for the week was that we're not just photographers, or journalists, or videographers; we're storytellers. We need to be familiar and comfortable with the different mediums. That's a good idea even if you're doing it for fun.

When you're out capturing stories, consider your mission. The PA mission is to tell the military story to our military and to the public. We have something in common: we all have to customize our work for our intended audience. The audience that we're producing for makes a huge difference in the type of product needed.
If you're taking pictures just for fun, try different times of the day. Focus on people, maybe your family and friends. If you're practicing and wanting to get better, there are some things to consider.

Is it a photo just to put on your personal social media page, or something you're hoping will go viral? Is it something written that's intended for some friends to read and nobody else, or a release meant to tell the world something important? What your story is intended for makes a difference. Is it for personal enjoyment or to publish to mainstream media outlets? Some things need to get authorized first, or at least a little operational security applied.
Are you trying to improve your skills? Do you know what to look for?

If it's a photo, what shutter speed, F/stop and ISO are being used? What lens and filter are being used? Is the camera in program, aperture, shutter priority or manual mode? How would you compose the photo? Why? If it's being written for publishing, is the Associated Press style guide or the inverted pyramid being applied? If it's for literature or school, is MLA or APA style being applied? If it's bullet writing for a performance report or award package, what acronyms and grading system are being used? If it's video, is sequencing being used? Is the audio clear and without too much background noise? There are several options and tools to get the job done.

The pen is mightier than the sword; a picture is worth a thousand words; video makes stories appear to come to life. I recommend rounding yourself with these different story-telling tools.

These three mediums are all different tools to tell the story with, and stories are everywhere. Creative angles and artistic perspective can make just about anything look interesting.

If you're up in the early morning hours because you want to capture the beauty, or whenever and wherever the situation may be, remember there are more options out there. Don't limit yourself to just one way to tell a story. If the story is worth being told, it's worth being told well.

Force support squadron earns AFRC awards

477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

1/9/2014 - Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska  -- Air Force Reserve Command named the 477th Force Support Squadron's military personnel program best in the command and bestowed top honors to its operations officer Dec 6.

For the second year in a row, the squadron's military personnel section earned the AFRC-level Gerrit D. Foster, Jr., Award, which is awarded annually, at the end of the fiscal year, to the command's top military personnel program. The AFRC Directorate of Personnel and Manpower Programs announced the awards in a memorandum.

"This is really something everyone in our military personnel section should be proud of," said Lt. Col. David Kurle, 477th FSS commander since Sept. 7. "These Citizen Airmen and civilians work extremely hard during the week and over unit training assemblies to meet the needs of the 477th Fighter Group.

"I am really happy for them, it validates a lot of effort over the past year," he said.

Senior Master Sgt. R. Adam Keele, the section's superintendent for the past three-and-a-half years was also proud of his team's efforts.

"Obtaining the title 'Best MPS in AFRC' during a time of manning issues, dwindling resources, increasing workload and increased deployments for MPS members, speaks volumes about the caliber and resiliency of our Airmen," he said. "I think this is tremendous recognition of the fine work our MPS performed over the last year.

"We have served our customers with pride, passion and dedication," Keele said.

In addition to the MPS award, Capt. Magaret Kuntz, the squadron's operations officer, was named the AFRC Personnel Company Grade Officer of the Year at the installation level. It was Kuntz's first time receiving this honor.

"This award is truly a recognition of the outstanding team found in the 477th Force Support Squadron," she said. "Their exceptional dedication to service is inspiring and motivating. It's an honor to lead such a fantastic group of Citizen Airmen."

Kuntz and the 477th FSS Military Personnel Section will go on to compete for the same awards at the Air Force level.

Army to Restructure Warrior Transition Units

From a Defense Department News Release

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2014 – The Army announced today it will restructure its warrior transition units as the service prepares for a scheduled withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a continued decline in the number of combat wounded.

Warrior transition units are located at major military treatment facilities and provide support to wounded, ill and injured soldiers who require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management.

According to Brig. Gen. David Bishop, commander of Warrior Transition Command and the Army’s assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition, “These changes will improve the care and transition of soldiers through increased standardization, increased cadre-to-soldier ratios, improved access to resources on installations, and reduced delays in care. They are not related to budget cuts, sequestration or furloughs.”

As part of the restructuring, the Army will inactivate five WTUs and establish more than a dozen community care units across 11 installations by Sept. 30. The transition will include inactivating nine community-based warrior transition units, which currently provide outpatient care and services for Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers who do not require day-to-day care, allowing soldiers to continue their recovery closer to home.

After the transition, those soldiers will be assigned to community care units located on Army installations. Soldiers will not have to move or change their care plans, officials said.

Community care units will stand up at the following Army installations: Fort Carson, Colo.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Forts Hood and Bliss, Texas; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Forts Benning, Stewart, and Gordon, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Fort Belvoir, Va.

Forts Belvoir and Knox will each have two community care units. All nine community-based warrior transition units will close: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Utah and Virginia.

The Puerto Rico unit will become a community care detachment under the mission command of the Fort Gordon Warrior Transition Battalion.

Warrior transition units slated for inactivation include: Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. Each location has fewer than 38 Soldiers assigned to the WTU, as of Dec. 20, 2013.

Officials said every attempt will be made to allow reserve component cadre to serve out their tours. Active-duty personnel assigned to units set for inactivation or force structure reductions will be reassigned according to current Army Human Resources Command policies. Civilian employees impacted by the force structure changes will be reassigned based on their skill sets, the needs of the Army and available employment opportunities.

Africa Command Deals with Emergencies as it Builds Capacity

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2014 – U.S. Africa Command will expeditiously deal with operations on the continent, and will continue growing partner nations’ military capabilities, Army Gen. David Rodriguez said today.

Rodriguez, who has led Africa Command since April, spoke with reporters during a Pentagon roundtable discussion. “While there are multiple challenges in Africa, I am optimistic about the future,” he said.

The general reiterated the command’s strategy and said he believes it is helping Africans promote peace and security. “Our basic premise is that it is Africans who are best able to address African challenges, and our strategy focuses on developing partner nations’ military forces through a wide variety of programs,” he said.

Across the continent, he said, a new generation of leaders with promise for the future is coming to the fore.

“We also recognize an increasing regional and international integration and a readiness by both African nations and African organizations – such as the African Union – to respond to crises in places like Libya, Somalia, Mali and now the Central African Republic,” Rodriguez said.

The command also seeks to maintain good military-to-military contacts on the continent and is working to strengthen multinational organizations, he noted.

The command stresses an interagency, “whole of government” approach, the general said. Africa Command works closely with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and increasingly with multinational partners.

He acknowledged there are problems on the continent. Mali, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic require regional and international attention, he said. “I strongly believe our cooperative approach … will make enduring change possible,” he said.

South Sudan is the current flashpoint on the continent, Rodriguez said, adding the U.S. government hopes the peace process in the world’s newest country will continue to work. On the ground, opposition forces loyal to South Sudan’s vice president continue to battle government forces loyal to the president. Africa Command had to act to protect U.S. citizens in the country, the general said, who have been evacuated.

The joint force acted quickly and appropriately, he said: The East African Response Force went into the area quickly, reinforced the embassy in Juba and brought people out. “The second effort was to go into Bor to get people out of there,” the general said.

The special operations task force came under fire and four Navy SEALs were wounded, Rodriquez said.

DOD aircraft later went in to the region and brought people out. “If you look at it, it was a great effort from the whole joint team,” he said.

In South Sudan, the process worked as it should, Rodriguez said. State Department officials recognized the situation and notified Africa Command personnel quickly. The command was able to move the forces quickly to the trouble spot and the team had the training needed to be effective.

The model of interagency partners working together at the command is working, Rodriguez said. This helps the combatant command make the linkages into the agencies.

The United Nations is very active and he said the United States continues to look at ways to support it. “We are continually evolving,” he said. “In the Central African Republic, the main (capabilities) continue to be … in airlift and movement. We’re starting to look at that at the behest of the U.N.”

The areas where nations need help are almost always the same, Rodriguez said: intelligence, mobility and logistical support. “We do a good job with very small teams … that help out a significant amount,” the general said.

He noted there is a small cell in Mali that helps the U.N. mission there, for example.

The African Union has requested Africa Command help move Rwandan peacekeepers into the Central African Republic, he said. “We are planning and coordinating those efforts with the Rwandans and the French right now,” he said.

Hurlburt Airman wins JINSA award

by Airman 1st Class Jeff Parkinson
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

12/12/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- A combat controller from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron received the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs Grateful Nation award Dec. 2 in Washington, D.C.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Blout was selected for this award because of his work as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller in Afghanistan.

In one instance, he helped a nearby U.S. service member who was severely wounded and engaged in a gunfight. Blout selected a small team and led them on a one-mile sprint toward the hostile fire to locate his wounded teammate.

Then, Blout placed himself between the wounded service member and the nearby enemy force. While returning fire, he coordinated a medical evacuation and an AC-130 gunship attack on the enemy.

Blout's team held their ground during an intense fire fight. Blout exposed himself several times to identify insurgent positions as he coordinated a series of attacks, which ultimately ended the action.

Blout was one of six warriors recognized in our nation's capital for their superior conduct and exceptional service.

"It was a surreal experience," Blout said as he recalled the award ceremony. "I am humbled and honored to be recognized for this prestigious award and to represent the Air Force and Air Force Special Operations Command."

The award recipients represented each of the five branches of the military and the U.S. Special Operations Command.

"I was very happy to share the evening with my wife Amanda, [Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel and Chief Master Sgt. Bill Turner, AFSOC commander and command chief, and Lt. Col. Michael Flatten, 720th Special Tactics Group deputy commander]," said Blout. "Receiving the award with fellow service members and having it presented by [Adm. William McRaven, USSOCOM commander] was a good feeling."

JINSA was founded in 1976 as a non-profit, non-partisan organization to advocate on behalf of a strong U.S. military, a robust national security policy, and a strong U.S. relationship with Israel and other like-minded democracies.

"So many of my teammates have done incredible things in the battlefield in the past year, and I'm lucky to work with these guys," Blout said.

Blout has also been nominated to receive the Silver Star for his actions.

Hagel Visits Troops, Defense Nuclear Facilities in New Mexico

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Jan. 9, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was impressed with what he saw here yesterday at an Air Force base on the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, where two facilities represent a large and historic part of the nation’s nuclear weapons expertise.

The secretary spent the morning in San Antonio, visiting troops, wounded warriors and their families, and hospital workers and staff at Brooke Army Medical Center and its Center for the Intrepid. He then traveled here for briefings at Kirtland Air Force Base and the Air Force Materiel Command's Nuclear Weapons Center, whose responsibilities include nuclear system programs acquisition, modernization and sustainment for the Defense and Energy departments.

Also on the nearly 52,000-acre base is the main facility of Sandia National Laboratories, where scientists and engineers develop, engineer and test non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons. An initial version of the lab was established in 1945 in the early days of the Manhattan Project, a research and development program that produced the first atomic bombs during World War II.

During his visit to Sandia and Kirtland, Hagel met with experts and discussed microsystems and engineering science applications, proliferation assessment, the advanced hypersonic weapon concept, and other topics.

Afterward, while briefing reporters who are traveling with him, Hagel said he wanted especially to visit Sandia “because modernization, research and development, [and] that technical edge that we have been able to maintain, is critically important … in the world we’re in today.”

Technology in particular, he added, has increasingly driven complications, combustibility and new dimensions in the global environment.

At the lab, he said, “I was impressed not only with the technical capability but with the people.”

Because of the critical skills required in any institution, but particularly in the area of nuclear weapons, nuclear modernization and research and development, Hagel said, the United States must continue to be able to recruit and keep cutting-edge minds worldwide on its team.

The secretary said he also was impressed with the people he met at Sandia and Kirtland, including “what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and the commitment they have made to this country and [its] future.” They understand the privilege of helping to make a better world, he added.

Today, Hagel will travel to Cheyenne, Wyo., to visit the Missile Alert Facility and Launch Control Center, where he will receive briefings and have lunch with missile combat crewmembers and security forces.

Afterward, Hagel will move to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, where the 90th Missile Wing, activated in 1963, operates 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the base, he will hold a troop event for up to 200 service members.

“I think it’s very important that all of us who have some responsibility for the national security of this country pay attention to every aspect of that responsibility,” Hagel said, “and certainly the nuclear component of our defense capabilities -- the deterrence capabilities that nuclear gives us.”

The secretary said he firmly believes that nuclear deterrence probably is the reason there has been no World War III. “We've had wars, but not on the scale of what we saw in the first half of the 20th century,” he said.

Hagel said another reason he visited Sandia and Kirtland yesterday and will travel to Cheyenne today “is that the American people have to be assured of the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear component of our national security.”

In a fact sheet released a year ago, the State Department said the U.S. government is committed to modernizing the nuclear weapons infrastructure to support a safe, secure and effective nuclear weapons stockpile in the absence of nuclear explosive testing. In accordance with the Nuclear Posture Review, the State Department fact sheet said, the National Nuclear Security Administration identified a path forward.

The modernization focuses on recapitalizing and refurbishing existing infrastructure for plutonium, uranium, tritium, high-explosive production, non-nuclear component production, high-fidelity testing and waste disposition. It also will preserve and enhance essential science and technology tools for assessing and certifying weapons without nuclear explosive testing.

“These investments in science, technology, engineering, manufacturing and information technology infrastructure will sustain the capabilities that underpin the stockpile and other national security missions,” the document said.

During his visit here, Hagel acknowledged the high cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure, but noted the importance of nuclear weapons continuing to stay secure and safe. In a December report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that between 2014 and 2023, the costs of the administration’s plans for nuclear forces will total $355 billion.

“This country has always been willing to make that investment,” Hagel said, “and I think we will continue to make it.”

The secretary said he believes Congress will be a strong partner in this effort. “I’m often asked many questions by members of Congress of both parties and both houses about nuclear modernization and about our investment and our commitment, so I look forward to that continued conversation,” he said. “We’ll get into the specifics of that when I present our [defense] budget, probably within the next two months.”