Military News

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hagel Meets With Malaysian Defense Minister



American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Tun Hussein discussed a range of international security issues today during their meeting at the Pentagon, Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a statement.

The text of Woog’s statement reads as follows:

“Secretary Hagel underscored the U.S. commitment to deepening ties to Malaysia. The two leaders discussed a range of international security issues, including Afghanistan, North Korea, and the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in addressing regional security challenges.

“Malaysia is an important partner in Southeast Asia that is making valuable contributions to international security both on its own and in partnership with ASEAN. Secretary Hagel praised Malaysia's leadership in Southeast Asia.

“The secretary and the minister also talked about ways to enhance the defense relationship between the United States and Malaysia, including by enhancing bilateral exercise and training opportunities and exploring expanded defense trade cooperation.

“The two leaders looked forward to meeting again at the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN informal meeting in Hawaii in April.”

Virginia Soldiers get ‘great feeling’ from helping West Virginia tainted water response



By Cotton Puryear
Virginia National Guard

SANDSTON, Va. (1/17/14) - Two Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division's Domestic All-Hazards Response Team Coordination Cell deployed to Charleston, W.Va., Jan. 11 to assist the West Virginia National Guard response to a water contamination crisis that left thousands without water to drink, cook or even wash clothes.

"It was a great feeling to be able to deploy and help my neighbors out when they really needed us," said Capt. Mitchell Bierl, a liaison officer from the 29th. "This was also was a great opportunity to see what we had done right and that our training and prior coordination enabled us to respond to this emergency quickly and effectively."

West Virginia officials issued water restrictions beginning Jan. 9 after discovering that about 7,500 gallons of the chemical had leaked into the Elk River just above a drinking water plant.

Residents in nine West Virginia counties were told to stop using their water for everything except flushing toilets. More than 500 members of the West Virginia National Guard have been on duty assisting with water testing and distribution of bottled water to residents.

Once they arrived, the 29th ID team established a relationship with the staff of the West Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center and began assessing what the state might need for their response effort.

Bierl explained that the DCC has the ability to look at capabilities in National Guard units across the entire United States and can make recommendations to the impacted state on what resources might be of benefit to their situation.

After assessing the kind of outside support West Virginia might need to effectively respond to the situation, the team came up with a list of what they might need and what each state could provide.

Possible additional resources included transportation, water purification and public affairs.

The West Virginia Guard worked closely with FEMA throughout the entire operation and was able to handle the situation with organic assets, Bierl said.

If additional capabilities had been necessary, the DCC could have helped make the coordination and facilitate bringing in the additional resources into the impacted state.

This was the first time the 29th had deployed anyone since it became the primary DART, but Bierl had previously deployed to New York in support of Hurricane Sandy response operations.

"It was a great experience working with the West Virginia National Guard," Bierl said. "They offered us a warm welcome and proved to be a very tight knit and professional organization."

The team returned to Fort Belvoir Jan. 14.

Virginia National Guard members support governor’s inauguration under rainy skies

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti
Virginia National Guard

RICHMOND, Va. (1/17/14) - The inauguration of Terry McAuliffe as the 72nd Governor of Virginia, held Jan. 11, 2014, in Richmond, Va., included the support of more than 225 Virginia National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force. The Department of Military Affairs personnel provided ceremonial music during the rain-soaked event, fired a 19-gun salute with artillery howitzers and acted as the command and control for the inaugural parade, as well as the lead marching element.

"Each and every participant worked diligently to ensure the mission was executed flawlessly," said Col. Marti J. Bissell, who commanded Joint Task Force 91, comprised of the various DMA inaugural support elements. "JTF 91 brought together a variety of units not normally assigned together in order to support the inauguration. I am extremely proud of their efforts and dedication to duty."

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia, echoed Bissell's sentiment, saying, "I thought from planning to execution, the Virginia National Guard's support to the governor's inauguration was superb. I was very proud of our men and women, and I thought the inauguration, except for the rain, was a great event. The National Guard is the governor's military force, so it is important for our commander in chief to see us there and see that we support him. This was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate some of the many capabilities we have."

The day started early for many of the event participants, with the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team, trained to assist law enforcement in the event of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear attack, the first from DMA to arrive at the Virginia State Capitol, where the inauguration took place. Once there, the 34th CST roved the site, helping to ensure the event went off without issue.
At noon, in the midst of a downpour, the inauguration began, with DMA personnel spread out across Downtown Richmond conducting a variety of missions.

The Covington-based 29th Division Band, stationed next to the stands holding McAulliffe and his family, former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as past governors, distinguished guests, and state leaders, provided ceremonial music during the inauguration.
As McAulliffe spoke the final words of his Oath of Office, the band played four ruffles and flourishes followed by 32 bars medley of "The Stars and Stripes Forever,"and the Sandston-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fired a ceremonial 19-gun salute from four M119A2 105mm howitzers.

"Everyone performed incredibly well despite downpours and potential lightning," Bissell said. Lightning had spread across the Richmond sky shortly before the start of the ceremony, forcing the artillerymen to move themselves and their ammunition indoors for safekeeping.

Despite the weather, the artillery Soldiers were honored to be part of such a high-profile event and 1st Lt. Doug Wiltsie, platoon leader, said, "The thing with these Soldiers is that they love shooting - that's what they live for, shooting those guns, and getting to do it here today is great opportunity."

Following the salute, McAuliffe offered his acceptance speech to the crowd gathering in front of the capitol as members of the Virginia Defense Force and Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard worked to ensure the success of the parade. To accomplish this, each of the 31 marching elements, which included the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets, the James Madison Marching Royal Dukes, Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H Horse Program and Equality Virginia, was assigned a VDF member to act as a guide early on Inauguration Day.

This guide directed the elements to their assigned parking spot, ensured they received lunch and, most importantly, ensured that all elements of the parade were in the correct order.

"With over 2,700 parade participants, JTF 91 met the parade participants, lined them up, moved them around the capitol and then made sure they headed home safely."

Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, Virginia Guard Land Component Commander, led the parade around the capitol, followed by the Virginia National Guard's Joint Color Guard and more than 60 Soldiers and Airmen from units across the commonwealth.

"We're the state's National Guard, and not only the leadership, including the governor and other leaders in his cabinet need to know who we are and what we do, but the citizens need to see us out there as well," said Brig. Gen. Steven T. Scott, assistant adjutant general— joint staff. "They need to see us not only in times of disaster, but also during events like the inauguration, in a visible show of support to the governor, who is our commander in chief."

In addition to the more visible roles played by the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force, DMA personnel also provided mission tracking and coordination support at the Virginia National Guard Joint Operations Center in Sandston and at the Virginia Defense Force Headquarters in Richmond, monitoring the day's events as they happened. Additionally, Soldiers from the Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command provided mission command for all Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force personnel taking part in the inauguration.

About 45 minutes after the parade ended, Long, Ortner and the joint color guard gathered just inside the Capitol's north entrance for the Virginia Guard's final official act of the inauguration. Long presented McAuliffe with one of the shell casings from the ceremonial 19-gun salute fired by the Soldiers of Battery A.

"I appreciate all that you do, and I look forward to working with you," McAuliffe told the Soldiers and Airmen at the presentation. "I am going to be there for you, because you were there for us."
The entire McAuliffe family was on hand for the presentation of the shell casing, and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe said, "It was very stirring when those cannons went off. It was very symbolic of the great service you have done."

Long then escorted McAuliffe to the Governor's Mansion for the post-inauguration open house event.
"Thanks to all the men and women in the Virginia Guard who helped plan this event and participated and put themselves out there in that terrible weather and persevered with good attitudes and professionalism," Scott said.

"The Virginia National Guard's involvement and support were critical to making Governor McAuliffe's Inaugural ceremony and parade a success," said Jennie O'Holleran, events director for the inauguration.
"From the 29th Infantry Division Band, which provided musical entertainment, to the howitzer salute and shell presentation; from the units marching in the parade, to Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force members managing the parade itself. The governor and our entire team are grateful to the Virginia National Guard, its leadership and members, for helping us pull off such a historic day."

Distance proves no barrier as 352nd SOSS wingman steps up to help another

by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Editor's note: For privacy reasons, the name of the male Airman in the following story is an alias.

Previous experience working for a crisis prevention and intervention hotline helped an Airman from the 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron potentially save a life.

Back in June 2013, Airman 1st Class Julia Cap, a geospatial imagery analyst from Calumet City, Ill., had just arrived at RAF Mildenhall. She had just finished in-processing, when "Ray," the ex-boyfriend of one of her friends from technical school, contacted her.

"He reached out to me, because his girlfriend - who was my friend - broke up with him," Cap said.

Break-up results in all-time low

"Ray" was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. His former girlfriend had recently been assigned to Japan. As a result, they had broken up.

During that initial contact from Ray, Cap realized that he was at an emotional low point. She knew this was a chance for her to step up and step in.

Step up, step in

"During my (crisis prevention and suicide awareness) training, there were three key words that we would pick up on - helpless, hopeless and worthless - and (Ray) used all of them," Cap said. "He was saying things like, 'I don't know what to do; she's all that I have. I have nothing left...' In our training, when someone gives you some sort of cue, you ask right away, 'Do you feel like hurting yourself?' or, 'Are you thinking about suicide?'

"I asked (Ray) if he'd thought about hurting himself, and he said yes," Cap said. "From there, I told him he needed to go and talk to his chaplain or supervisor and he said he was going to."

After checking back in the next day, Ray said his chaplain was on leave and he didn't want to speak with his supervisor. In addition, since he was in the intelligence career field, Ray was worried he might lose his security clearance because of how he was feeling.

Looking for the signs

"Initially, he said he didn't know what to do; he felt very hopeless - like he didn't have anything else left for him," Cap said. "He was talking about life in general, about his relationship, and said he hated his job."

Ray also said he regretted joining the military, and felt he shouldn't have persuaded his then-girlfriend to join the military either.

"Even if I hadn't had training, I think I would have picked up on the fact he was in trouble, just because of the way he was talking," Cap said. "We were emailing each other - that's the way he reached out to me - and in one day I would get six or seven emails from him, without having even responded to any of them. He was just very needy, and that's what I picked up on."

Cap's prior training taught her to encourage Ray to get help and also to have him think about things he had to hold on to.

"He was talking about getting a new car, and had been putting the money away to save up for it," she said. "Then he said he shouldn't have done that, but instead should have used the money to go and visit his girlfriend right away. But he was really excited about the car, so I told him, 'Well, you might not have this relationship any more, but you have all this money saved up for a car, which you're really excited about.' (I knew to keep him) looking into the future and at the positives."

The 352nd SOSS Airman also reminded Ray he would be seeing his family soon and that would help make things easier for him, as it would take his mind off his problems.

"When people are in that zone of where they only see the negatives, it's really hard for them to see any positive future - they sometimes just need reminding of the good things that are still there," she said.

Getting backup

After about a week of regularly emailing back and forth with Ray, Cap knew the time had come for her to elevate the situation since Ray was not getting any better. After having given Ray an ultimatum - speak with his supervisor or chaplain or she would contact her leadership - Cap realized that she had no choice but to get others involved.

She explained to her supervisor what was going on, and the two of them worked with her first sergeant to reach out to Ray's first sergeant.

Cap continued to speak with Ray. At one point he was on an uptrend because his ex-girlfriend had spoken with him again, but within a few days his ex-girlfriend had stopped talking to him and Ray fell back into his depression.

Thoughts becoming actions

It was a Monday when Ray was feeling so low that he was prepared to drive his car off the road.

"He was emailing throughout the day, and when I got off work I had text messages from him, asking me to call him," Cap said.

Ray had been to visit his family in Houston over the weekend and was making the drive back to San Antonio so that he could begin his shift at 2 p.m.

"I called (Ray), and he said, 'I need you to talk to me; I'm having really bad thoughts. I'm driving home and I found myself driving at 100 mph.' He was freaking out, so I told him to pull over, because he was in no state to drive."

Cap stayed on the phone with Ray, talking to him for more than three hours as he continued his trip home. During this time, her leadership contacted Ray's first sergeant.

"The entire conversation kept going back to (his ex-girlfriend) but I kept taking him on tangents, asking how his family was, what he did over the weekend, about future plans," she said. "He'd planned a trip with his dad to New Orleans and the east coast, so we talked about that and his car."

Although she knew she was doing the right thing, Cap was nervous about the situation.

"You could just tell that his emotional state was like a roller coaster," Cap said. "There would be times he'd be laughing, and then other times he was just hysterical. Every time I tried pulling him off the subject, he would (bring it) back to her somehow."

Crisis averted

When Ray finally arrived at his house, his grandparents, his supervisor and some security forces Airmen were waiting for him.

Ray's leadership took him to the hospital and put him on suicide-watch for two days. The chaplain visited with him there, and when Ray found the courage to unburden himself, he began to feel better about his situation.

"I got an email from him recently, thanking me," Cap said. "He told me, 'My family really appreciates it, and I honestly think that if you hadn't been there to help me, I wouldn't be here today.' So that shows the magnitude of how serious he was about the situation."

Look out for others

No matter what the time of year, it's always important to look out for others, especially those who may not have family with them or nearby.

"Pay attention to people's behavior, and if you think something is even slightly wrong, just ask them," Cap said. "Our shop is really good; some days I come into work and I just don't want to talk to anybody, but the girl I work with in my office always asks if I'm okay."

Knowing people are looking out for others' welfare can be all it takes to open another's eyes.

"Sometimes you don't even realize you're projecting a sad or upset attitude - but just for someone to call you out on it, it's kind of eye-opening. You then have the opportunity to say, 'I'm just having a bad day,' or "Actually, I need to talk to someone.'"

Editor's note: For those who find themselves in a predicament they cannot figure out on their own or find themselves in need of direction, there are several options available. Below are a few:

· RAF Mildenhall Chaplain: Duty hours - 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, DSN 238-2822 or commercial at 01638-542822. After hours - DSN 238-2121 or commercial at 01638-542121 and ask for duty chaplain.

· Mental health clinic: DSN 226-8603 or commercial at 01638-528603.

· Military Crisis Line (for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa) DSN 118 or commercial at 00800-12738255.

Air control squadron returns from deployment

by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 606th Air Control Squadron returned Jan. 15, 2014, following a deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

More than 100 families reunited during a homecoming ceremony at one of the squadron's maintenance bays.

The squadron comprises Airmen from 19 different careers, specifically focusing on creating a self-contained support unit for air power. They act as an expeditionary communications unit and employ many types of equipment to maintain airspace superiority -- even in austere environments. The Airmen train throughout the year to arrive in a deployed environment, set up a bare base and begin synchronizing forces and warfighting functions of the pilots overhead, all with little-to-basic infrastructure in place.

One section of the 606th deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, to offer deployable radar, radio and data-link capabilities where the Airmen averaged a 99 percent overall mission effective rating.

"There is no air superiority without air control," said Maj. Gabe Hull, a 606th ACS member who commanded the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron at Kandahar. "We bring the capability to create an accurate air picture. We also create communication channels for operators to see and communicate with the pilots. Any time you have aircraft flying, you have to have the ability to communicate."

The 606th Airmen also deployed to other locations throughout Southwest Asia to support more than 250,000 square miles of persistent long-range radar, data links and radio communication.

"We create order out of chaos," said Staff Sgt. Paul McGachey, a 606th ACS member who worked as a northeast battle management area controller and tank controller in Southwest Asia. "In a deployed environment, there are many squadrons that perform specific objectives and individual missions. They all need to communicate with each other, and we prioritize and manage the communication assets.

"We deployed in the peak of the fighting season and stepped up during the busiest time of the year," he continued. "I'm glad to be back, but we had an awesome experience on our deployment."

Dempsey: Leaders Can Make a Difference in Challenging World



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 – Now is the best time for leaders to make a difference in a challenging world, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told students and faculty at the National Defense University here Jan. 14.

“Our nation, and really our world, needs our leadership,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “It needs every good idea you have and a thousand more because the challenges we face are legion.”

Dempsey spoke about a different kind of deficit than he normally does. Since he took office more than two years ago, the chairman has focused on budget issues. To the students, he spoke of a “deficit of understanding between those who serve in uniform and their fellow citizens.”

By this, the chairman said he does not mean he is worried about the military losing contact with America.

“The American people not only appreciate the military, but manifest their appreciation for us in very powerful ways,” he said. “They trust us as an institution more than any institution in America.”

Dempsey said he’s concerned about the public’s lack of understanding of the military’s role not only in war, but during “the everyday business of protecting our national interests and promoting our values.”

“I worry that the American people don’t really know what they are buying with the significant budget authority they grant us,” he said. “They mostly do it on faith that we are making the right decisions.”

Dempsey vowed to increase his commitment to have a conversation with the American people and national leaders about the role of the military in war and peace.

The conversation should also occur within the military, he said.

“There are young captains and ensigns and petty officers and staff sergeants out there who are also wondering, because all they’ve known for the past 12 years is conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Dempsey said. “They are wondering what’s next and we owe them an answer with that.”

Part of the reason Americans need to be more familiar with the military has to do with how the military fits within a whole-of-government strategy, the chairman said.

“And a part of that is the role of the United States in the world,” he said.

The realization of the power of the whole-of-government approach, Dempsey said, grew from the experiences following the 9/11 attacks.

“Angry, radical individuals, syndicates and affiliates don’t have embassies, they don’t have formal economies and they don’t present formal military targets,” he said.

Leaders called upon the military following 9/11, the chairman said.

“We have been militarily successful and our intelligence apparatus has been incredible,” Dempsey said. “But aggrieved individuals remain and continue to propagate and new, even more complex, threats are emerging.”

The fight today is less abut ideology than enemies attempting to overturn the status quo, and it makes for interesting bedfellows, Dempsey said. Rising powers, non-state actors, criminal groups and religious groups align for a long or short time to change the way the world does business.

“They don’t collectively agree on what they want, only on what they don’t want,” the chairman said. “As the architect of the status quo, the United States therefore responds when North Korea enters one of its provocation cycles. We surge when Iran makes threatening gestures. We anguish over Syria and South Sudan.”

All this means the military must become more agile in the future, the chairman said.

“We’ll have to embrace change or risk irrelevance,” Dempsey said.

Face of Defense: Star Quarterback Salutes Army Cousin



By Army Sgt. Antony Lee
International Security Assistance Force Regional Command South

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Jan. 16, 2014 – Minutes after Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston led his team to victory in the Bowl Championship Series championship game on Jan. 6, 2014, he was conducting a post-game interview with a reporter on national television.

During the interview, with cameras and reporters surrounding him, Winston gave a shout out to his cousin, Army Spc. T’Ola Winston, a 4th Infantry Division soldier currently serving at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

“My cousin in Afghanistan [is] watching this game -- T’Ola Winston,” he said.

Thousands of miles away, T’Ola, who indeed was in Afghanistan watching the game, smiled in joy. It was joy not for herself -- after all, not everybody gets a shout-out on national television immediately following one of the biggest sports events of the year -- but joy for her cousin Jameis, or “Jaboo” as she calls him.

“In that moment, it’s beyond words,” T’Ola said. “You can’t even explain the joy I felt for him, knowing how hard he works.”

T’Ola is a signal support systems specialist who joined the U.S. Army in January 2011. She is currently stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, and she deployed to Afghanistan -- her first deployment -- as an orderly room clerk.

She was originally scheduled to leave Afghanistan in January -- making for about a six-month deployment -- but when the need for a reliable soldier to work in the Regional Command South command group arose, T’Ola’s name entered the discussion as a candidate.

At the time, T’Ola, who had previously wanted to stay in Afghanistan longer and serve as an orderly room clerk for another company in the battalion, was prepared to return to Colorado. When she was later notified about the possible position with the command group, she was hesitant at first.

After talking to her family and praying about it, T’Ola decided to take the job as the administrative assistant for Army Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Clark, RC(S)and 4th Infantry Division command sergeant major.

“She was one of the names that popped up,” said Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Young, T’Ola’s supervisor. “After talking to her, the boss decided she would be the one we would bring up here.”

T’Ola has been in the job for only about three weeks, but Young, who also works for the RC(S) command group, believes she was the right choice for the job.

“I have a junior soldier with a lot of potential,” Young said, adding: “She’s been helping the division command sergeant major out greatly.”

T’Ola, who considers Hueytown, Ala., and Bessemer, Ala., as her hometowns, is also an athlete; she played basketball at Bevill State Community College.

After she received her associate degree at age 22, she considered joining the military -- something she says had been a big desire.

After her friends and family talked her out of it, however, she later became a substitute teacher and an assistant basketball coach for Hueytown Middle School -- at the same time Jameis Winston was a student there.

Years later, in 2011, she finally decided to join the U.S. Army.

“I was 28, and it was a now-or-never type of deal for me,” she said. “I decided to follow my desire.”

It is a decision she is glad she made. She even added an extra year of service to her contract during the deployment and would like to serve in the military for the long term, she said.

“We live in the greatest country in the world, and serving in the military is a good thing to do,” T’Ola said. “The military has been a great experience for me. I’ve enjoyed it.”

She is also thankful for the opportunity to continue serving in Afghanistan as she supports the International Security Assistance Force mission of training, advising and assisting Afghans as they continue to lead security missions protecting their country.

Before she started working for the command group, T’Ola served as the orderly room clerk of Company C, HHBN, 4th Infantry Division. She helped maintain accountability of the soldiers in her company, managed the company’s awards system and prepared the personnel status report every day.

Now, as an administrative assistant for Clark -- who is the senior enlisted adviser for RC(S) -- she organizes his calendar, schedules appointments, and is in charge of his administrative duties. It is a job important to the daily management of Clark’s schedule.

“Being in the command group has been a great experience,” T’Ola said. “I’m glad I made the decision to stay.”