Wednesday, January 29, 2014

General shares vision, expectations with command

by Tech. Sgt. James M. Hodgman
U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

1/29/2014 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Commander held his first USAFE-AFAFRICA commander's call here Jan. 24.

Gen. Frank Gorenc, USAFE-AFAFRICA commander, opened the commander's call by recognizing the 4th quarter award winners and the newest promotees. He then turned his focus to the various issues affecting the command.

The general spoke about the strategic importance of USAFE-AFAFRICA. He encouraged Airman to "Step up and Step in," and stressed the importance of excellence and innovation, especially during challenging times. Before answering questions from the audience he finished by briefly covering the results from the unit climate survey and the changes to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice regarding sexual assault and sex-related offenses.

Gorenc shared why the European and African theaters are so important to the national interests of the United States.

"We are ready and we have the entire spectrum of capabilities in Europe from aerial refueling, to airlift, to fighters, to everything you could possibly want," Gorenc said. "We're here because we develop partnerships, we are a country that fights in coalitions and we are a member of the world's greatest alliance."

Building partnerships has been a major focus area for USAFE-AFAFRICA, and the command conducted more than 1,700 Building Partnership Capacity events in 2013 with nearly 60 nations, according to the USAFE-AFAFRICA International Affairs Divisions.

The general also stressed why the command is so important "We're forward, we're ready and we're ready now," he said.

"We can deploy to fight at a moment's notice. We are prepared and ready to do contingency support, engage and have ready forces now. We do persistent ISR (Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and theater ballistic missile defense now. We are ready and we are ready now."

Being prepared and ready is one of the many ways that USAFE-AFAFRICA supports the Air Force's five core competencies of air and space superiority, ISR, rapid global mobility, global strike and command and control.

The general said his command's commitment to those priorities will never stop.

"We haven't had an American on the ground attacked from the air since the Korean War. That's a pretty good track record and we fully intend to keep it that way," he said.

The general shared his expectations for all Airmen.

"I want you to step up to opportunity, I want you to be accountable for your own development and I want you to make sure your readiness is up to max level every single day. We need to encourage our Airmen to grab the keys for their own development."

While the general wants all Airmen to step up to opportunity, he also wants them to step in to potentially negative situations.

"Step in to prevent suicide. When it comes to sexual assault don't tolerate it, don't condone it, and don't ignore it," Gorenc added.

He informed all in attendance that starting in June 2014 enlisted members who commit rape, aggravated sexual assault, forcible sodomy or attempt to commit a wide range of sexual crimes will be dishonorably discharged and officer's would be dismissed from the service.

"The bottom line is we have victims out there that we need to treat with respect," Gorenc said. "This crime affects victims in ways that most crimes don't. That's the reality and we're going after this problem."

During the commander's call, Gorenc discussed the 19 changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding sexual assault and sex-related offenses from the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. Among the changes include elimination of the 5-year statute of limitations for some offenses and a person who is accused of sexual assault can now be temporarily reassigned.

The command's Unit Climate Assessment Survey results were also released.

The general emphasized that the Air Force is going through a great amount of change and despite the challenges change brings, his command is performing at a high level.

"The mission is being accomplished at an unbelievably high level," he said.

Gorenc also said the command will continue to focus on Airmen and excellence going forward.

"We're committed to making sure our Airmen are ready for the future because we know that to get to the world's greatest Air Force status it's not going to be the technology" Gorenc said. "It's going to be our people who take that technology and translate it to meet the commander's intent in theater."

Face of Defense: Airman’s Initiative Prevents Bird Strikes

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski
39th Air Base Wing

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, Jan. 29, 2014 – Both birds and aircraft in flight are a wonderful thing -- except when their paths cross.

Bird strikes are one of the leading causes of aircraft mishaps around the world, which is why Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard programs are established. BASH programs often include the use of BASH cannons -- propane-powered devices that produce a large "bang" when triggered. These noise-making cannons play an integral part in keeping the airfields, including the one here, functional and mission-ready.

But there was one slight problem here: the cannons didn't work.

That changed when one airman deployed here used a skill set that reaches far beyond his Air Force career to repair the wildlife deterrent, saving the 39th Air Base Wing about $105,000.

In addition to performing his typical duties as 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron commander, Air Force Maj. Donald Mentch devoted more than 100 hours of off-duty time and expertise to lead airmen from more than 10 units in repairing all 20 cannons, enabling them to keep the airfield bird population to a minimum.

With a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, a master’s in aerospace engineering and a doctorate in electrical engineering, Mentch said, he felt it was his obligation to offer his skills to fix the broken cannons. "If there is something on base that isn't working right, someone needs to voice that," he said. "People who know how to fix it will answer."

The repairs have given back one of the primary wildlife mitigation tools to the airfield management team here.

"Any time we can utilize another tool in our war against airfield wildlife is a positive thing,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Troyer, 39th Operations Squadron deputy airfield manager. "With the BASH cannons operational, we can now send percussion blasts anywhere on the airfield with the click of a button.

"When the airfield is an uncertain and uncomfortable environment for birds and wildlife, we've done our job," he continued. "The only thing we want flying on or off our airfield is our aircraft."

The 39th Air Base Wing commander, Air Force Col. Craig Wills, presented a commander's coin to the deployed airman and named him as a "Pick of the 'Lik," a weekly recognition tool for excellent airmen here. His assistance with the BASH program will be remembered and appreciated long after he returns to his home station.

"Major Mentch's actions epitomize the kind of innovation the Air Force needs, especially right now," said Air Force Col. Brent Bigger, 39th Air Base Wing vice commander. "Not only did he save money, there's no doubt the cannons he repaired make our airfield safer daily."

AMC hosts chief learning officer round table

by T.G. Kistler
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

1/29/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Fifteen chief learning officers from companies across the nation came together here recently to exchange ideas about learning organizations and transformation plans.

Dr. Darcy Lilley, Air Mobility Command's chief learning officer, said the discussion provided insight for their mission. Her office explores innovative ways of learning to spread excellence across the command.

As AMC moves away from the old learning model of train for deployment, deploy, recover, train for deployment etc., the in-garrison force is the future norm. The command's challenge, then, is to keep Airmen involved and motivated through innovative learning.

The learning office's main concern is supporting mission accomplishment, not pursuing advanced academic degrees. While post-secondary education is important, the AMC learning office focuses on learning at the individual and organizational level.

This lines up with the AMC commander's third priority: training.

For example, an organization may create a training video to help teach others how to perform a task. Millions of people have learned how to play guitar or change out engines this way, proving that videos can be effective.

By conducting the training on-demand through video, Airmen can also gain access to the best trainer in AMC. They can train when they are motivated to learn, instead of when their supervisors tell them to attend a class.

This means they potentially will learn more quickly and comprehensively, at a reduced expense.

Defense Connect Online, or DCO, also enhances learning. It is one of AMC's virtual solutions to the current fiscal climate and reduced travel for face-to-face meetings.

During a recent online conference, Gen. Paul Selva, AMC commander, met with 300 junior officers, junior noncommissioned officers and junior civilian employees.

The perceived feeling of anonymity on DCO, although names were visible, encouraged participants to ask the commander more questions than they might in a traditional setting. The commander was able to answer their questions and improve their learning experience.

That is the ultimate goal. The AMC learning office plans to help every Airman become a lifelong learner with a positive approach to new learning experiences.

Pentagon Links Prosperity to Asia-Pacific Partnerships

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – U.S. prosperity increasingly is tied to the Asia-Pacific region, a senior Defense Department official told the House Armed Services Committee here yesterday.

Michael D. Lumpkin -- the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, performing duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy -- reported the region accounts for one-third of global trade, including $1.4 trillion in two-way trade annually with the United States.

“Half of the world's shipping by tonnage passes through the waters of the South China Sea,” Lumpkin said. “As countries and people throughout the region become more prosperous, it's ever more important to the global economy [that] the United States will be an active partner in the region's growth.”

The strategic rebalance toward the region, he added, also reflects strong, enduring ties with Asia-Pacific countries, where the United States has long supported security and stability through its military presence and partnerships.

Lumpkin noted that the Defense Department’s role in the rebalance is only part of the broader U.S. government effort that includes diplomatic, social, cultural, political and trade initiatives.

To address 21st century challenges, DOD is modernizing its defense alliances and partnerships, including with treaty allies in the region, Lumpkin said. In addition to reviewing defense guidelines with Japan's Defense Ministry for the first time since 1997, he added, DOD is realigning its forces to ensure a sustainable presence over the long term, notably with its Marine Corps presence on Okinawa.

He also cited plans to enhance defense and space architectures in South Korea. “A new cost-sharing agreement … completed earlier this month will help to ensure that we have the resources necessary for the combined defense of the peninsula,” he told the House panel, noting the ongoing commitment to the conditions-based transition to the South Korean military of operational control of forces on the Korean Peninsula during war and a plan to effectively counter North Korean provocations.

DOD has bolstered interoperability with Australia, Lumpkin said, by deploying up to 2,500 Marines and additional aircraft to that country’s Northern Territory.

Also, “the department is negotiating a framework agreement with the Philippines, which will provide U.S. forces the opportunity for greater rotational presence and will contribute to the Philippine armed forces' modernization and capacity-building efforts,” he said.

Work also continues with Thailand's military to implement the Joint Visions Statement for the alliance, Lumpkin said, noting its focus on “supporting interoperability, encouraging Thailand to take a greater regional leadership role and strengthening relationships at all levels.”

Building a strong relationship with India and China remains a critical element of DOD’s long-term strategy in Asia, Lumpkin said.

“As rising powers, they have a special role to play in the future security order,” he added. A successful partnership with India continues to evolve based on shared interests, including maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counterterrorism, he explained.

DOD also continues to engage with China, where cooperation directly supports the maintenance of the Asia-Pacific region’s peace and stability, Lumpkin said, calling it a key component to the overall U.S. approach in the region.

“We have made progress in cooperative capacity building in areas such as military medicine, counterpiracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said.

Pentagon leaders also expect progress in Burma over the coming years, Lumpkin said, with the development of defense ties contingent on human rights, democratization, national reconciliation and suspending defense ties with North Korea.

Partnerships will exceed the boundaries of the battlefield, the acting undersecretary said, with deepening cooperation in areas such as space and cybersecurity. Overall, Lumpkin said, multilateral efforts, exercises and partnerships represent a critical avenue for increasing familiarity and building habits of cooperation that help nations effectively work together and reduce the risk of miscalculation when military forces interact.

“The Defense Department will continue to prioritize the Asia-Pacific region in our activities, exercises and investments over the coming years,” he said.

Chairman’s Corner: Trust Transcends Gender

By Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – In the days following September 11, 2001, women and men took to the seas, to the skies and to the sands in defense of our country. It’s worth noting that women served in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq because they were needed. They shared a common commitment to their nation with their male counterparts in squadrons, ships and squads.

Today, and every other day, women and men, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers faithfully serve our nation at home and abroad. We celebrate their contributions. They make the United States military the dominant military force on the planet.

Victor Hugo once wrote, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world and that is an idea whose time has come.” One year ago this month, we repealed the combat exclusion on women in the military. We formally recognized reality — that women serve courageously in combat zones whenever or wherever their nation calls. By this act, we codified our commitment to offer everyone in uniform equal professional opportunities to serve the nation.

We continue to work to make this a reality throughout the force. We’re reviewing standards, not to artificially lower them but to ensure we have them right. We’re educating leaders. As our sacred responsibility, we are committed to improving the readiness of the force while also increasing opportunities for our women in uniform. These two goals are complementary, not contradictory.

When in contact with the enemy, the individual soldier, sailor, airman or Marine doesn’t consider whether their comrade in arms is a man or woman. They care about whether they can do their job. There is a simple explanation for this: trust transcends gender.

The service of our women and men in uniform is worthy of recognition today and every day.

DOD Seeks to Modernize Mail Delivery of Election Materials

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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – A multiagency effort is underway to modernize the mail delivery system to improve delivery of election materials to military and overseas voters, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program said here today.

Matt Boehmer testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on how the Defense Department is improving ballot accessibility.

“The Military Postal Service Agency is serving as the lead agency in an effort with the Department of State and the United States Postal Service to lead an effort to modernize military mail delivery,” he said. Boehmer said the department recognized the time required to redirect mail once it has arrived overseas hinders the ability to cast an absentee ballot.

“The system will redirect election material to military and diplomatic addresses similar to how the civilian change-of-address system works,” he said, noting it should be available in October.

Boehmer noted Congress and the judicial system repeatedly have affirmed that voting is a citizen’s most fundamental right. “The Federal Voting Assistance Program is committed to two voting assistance tenets: promoting the awareness of the right to vote, and eliminating barrier for those who choose to exercise that right,” he said.

“Last year, FVAP and the Defense Department exemplified this commitment by advancing three major initiatives, Boehmer said: creating a robust information portal, implementing greater voter assistance capabilities and starting work on increasing mail delivery efficiency.

FVAP recently optimized its website, the director said, by re-organizing content to enhance the user experience and implementing a section of the portal to track performance metrics for voting assistance officers. Updated online training will be released in the early spring, he added.

To improve voting assistance capabilities, Boehmer said, FVAP created a suite of materials in 2013 to provide absentee voters with specific information.

Boehmer also discussed a bill before Congress to amend the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act to improve ballot accessibility, among other purposes, and said the Defense Department supports the bill’s initiatives. “However, we’d like to work with the committee to clarify some of the technical requirements to make sure that we are success in meeting the intent of the bill,” he added.

FVAP is already working to address some of the initiatives listed in the bill, Boehmer said. “We currently link voters to state systems where they’re available,” he noted.

Officials are working with an internal Defense Department system to prompt service members updating their address to complete a new federal post card application upon every address update. Officials also are capable and willing to create annual training by the 2016 general election for our active duty military members, he said. It would lead them to the FVAP website to complete a new federal post card application or to decline assistance.

Boehmer said language in the bill “that requires DOD to send an electronic transmission of a completed FPCA to the appropriate state and election officials is a concern. The way the bill is written, he explained, it appears to focus entirely on an electronic process that would prove costly and could be incompatible with election rules in the 55 U.S. states and territories.

“Removing this requirement would remedy the department’s concern with this section,” Boehmer said, “and recognize the role of states to field their own systems and offer electronic voter registration.”

Boehmer expressed his gratitude to the committee for its desire to help in improving the voting process.

“We appreciate the Congress’ ongoing interest in improving military voting,” he said.

Snowden Caused ‘Massive, Historic’ Security Damage

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – The ongoing leaks of classified documents by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden amount to the most “massive and damaging theft of intelligence in our history,” the director of national intelligence told Congress today.

James R. Clapper delivered the assessment as he and other officials from the intelligence and law enforcement communities briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on worldwide threats to the nation, from ongoing espionage and cyber operations by an assertive Russia and a competitive China to more diversified threats posed by al-Qaida and other terror groups that have benefited from the Snowden disclosures about sources and methods, making them harder to track.

Seven months after Snowden gave documents about the NSA’s highly classified metadata and eavesdropping programs to several newspapers, the nation’s top intelligence officer described “the profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continue to cause,” which he said has left the nation less safe and its people less secure.

“As a result, we’ve lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared with us by valued partners,” he said. “Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft, and the insights they are gaining are making our job much, much harder.”

Snowden has been charged with espionage and stealing government property, and he remains a fugitive from justice in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.

Clapper would not say during today’s hearing whether he believes the Russian government has gained access to the Snowden trove, saying that question should be addressed in a classified setting.

While a range of threats including counterintelligence efforts by China and Russia to a more diffuse and, therefore, harder to track al-Qaida were listed as leading security threats, concerns about the Snowden leaks overshadowed the hearing, with Clapper calling on the former contractor to return the classified documents and prevent more damage to national security.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Defense Intelligence Agency director, characterized the disclosures as “grave,” with the consequences likely to prove deadly to American forces someday. “We will likely face the cost in human lives on tomorrow's battlefield or in some place where we will put our military forces,” he said.

Overall, Clapper said, the leaks and the allegations of abuse of intelligence that they generated, as well as furloughs, government shutdowns and salary freezes have taken a toll on those “who have done their utmost to protect this country and do so in a lawful manner.” In addition, he warned the diminished morale and resources of the intelligence community will have a corresponding effect on national security.

“The impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified by the substantial budget reductions we're incurring,” he said. “The stark consequences of this perfect storm are plainly evident. The intelligence community is going to have less capacity to protect our nation, and its allies, than we've had.”

The hearing also touched on risks to national security posed by the civil war in Syria, which Clapper said has “become a huge magnet for extremists” who are getting training “to go back to their countries and conduct more terrorist acts.” The intelligence community estimates that more than 7,000 foreign fighters from 50 countries have gone to Syria since the start of the civil war, he said.

One issue of concern to lawmakers was security for the Winter Olympics that open in Sochi, Russia, next week, given several recent suicide bombings in the region and the history of unrest in the Caucuses in general.

National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew G. Olsen said the United States remains very focused on the problem of terrorism in southern Russia, but he characterized an uptick in threats related to the games as “what we expected, given where the Olympics are located.”

The Russian government, he said, understands the threats and has devoted substantial resources to security. The greater threat is to softer targets in the greater Sochi area and in the outskirts, he said, where there is a substantial potential for a terrorist attack.