Thursday, January 30, 2014

Face of Defense: Top Marine Spouse Serves Others

By Marine Corps Cpl. Laura Gauna
1st Marine Logistics Group

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014 – The men and women in uniform are not the only ones making a difference in the 1st Marine Logistics Group here.

Dannielle Maxwell, a family readiness assistant with 1st MLG, dedicates her time to ensure the Marines and their families within Combat Logistics Regiment 17 transition smoothly into military life.

Dannielle, wife of Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Maxwell, Landing Support Co. Gunnery Sergeant, CLR-17, 1st MLG, distinguished herself throughout 2013 for her hard work and dedication to her family, community, and her husband’s unit. She was honored as the 1st MLG Spouse of the Year.

“It feels wonderful to be named the Spouse of the Year,” Dannielle said. “I am really grateful. My advice for other military spouses is just to get out there, meet people and volunteer.”

Throughout this year, she not only found time for her family life, but also used her experience as a Marine spouse to help 1st MLG families prepare for upcoming deployments.

She logged more than 600 volunteer hours supporting the Family Readiness Officer, volunteered as an aide at her son’s school, coached her children’s sports teams, assisted with Marine Corps Ball fundraisers and became the curriculum team leader for the Leadership Education Seminar, which educates spouses on taking leadership roles.

“I’m really proud of what she does,” said Dustin, her husband of almost 10 years. “She volunteers, works hard and sincerely likes helping Marines.”

For the last three years Dannielle received letters of appreciation from 1st MLG’s commanding generals.

“Dannielle took [her position as a volunteer] a step further,” said Curtis Winfree, a 46-year-old Family Readiness Officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st MLG, of Houston. “She not only did what was required but she went above and beyond. She has been to almost every homecoming we have had and provided valuable input. She has taken almost every class available to help her keep the unit up to date on valuable information. I would not hesitate to put her up for a FRO position. She is ready and understands the responsibility she would have on her shoulders.”

Dannielle certainly knows the ropes when it comes to the unit, as well as the military life in general.

She grew up in a military household. Her father, a National Guardsman, served in Operation Desert Storm when she was young. Her experience then impacts her life now.

“When my father deployed to Desert Storm it was just [my mother, sister and me] for the longest time,” said Dannielle, a 28-year-old native of Rapid City, S.D. “I remember having awesome community support. I learned to have an open mind about people. I learned there is always somebody somewhere going through something a lot worse than you are, and it’s important to lend a helping hand.”

Her ability to adapt stems from more than 28 years of combined experience being a military child and wife. She knows firsthand what it feels like to be in a new place with nobody to turn to.

“When I was a new spouse it was nice knowing [other spouses] took the time to help me [transition into the new life style],” she said. “That's why I do what I do. Those spouses really helped me then, and I want to do that for others as well.”

While giving so much of her time back to the Marine Corps community might seem overwhelming to some, Dannielle explains that it has always been what she has wanted to do.

“We used to joke that during [my husband’s] Marine Corps career, he is off saving the world, and I’d always say, ‘When you’re done being GI Joe, I get to save the world on my terms,’” she said. “I just couldn’t wait around anymore.”

Dannielle and her husband will soon move to Iwakuni, Japan, where she will have yet another opportunity to impact the community.

How Clarence got his wings - and a forever home

by Jamie Topliff
71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

1/29/2014 - VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- His name is Clarence because just like the angel in "It's a Wonderful Life," he was waiting outside the gates to get his "wings."

Clarence is the infamous Vance Air Force base "gate dog" who, until recently, made his home in the field outside the Baker Gate back in November and December.

The dog now lives with Col. James and Julie Abatti, who reside on base. Colonel Abatti is the commander of the 71st Operations Group.

The 18-month old German shepherd-Husky mix received significant attention from Team Vance members entering and leaving the base. The gate dog was being fed by people from all over base and several even tried catching him. Both Enid Animal Control and Furever Friends volunteers visited in hopes of leashing him - to no avail.

"He would just sit there and howl," said Julie.

Thought she had been leaving him food for quite some time, she decided on Christmas Day that she needed to save him from the bitterly cold temperatures that were forecasted for the weekend.

"There are three ways to a man's heart--food, love and toys," said Julie, and with those three things, she set out to save Clarence.

On Thursday, Dec. 26, she went to the field and worked with Clarence for two and a half hours. The next day, she repeated the routine, but this time, Clarence started following her around and playing.

By Saturday morning, after just an hour and a half of food, love and toys, Clarence started following Julie as she headed off toward her home.

When she walked home from feeding him Saturday night, Clarence followed her right into her back yard.

"I never leashed him," said Julie, which is what everyone else was trying to do.

The Abattis' first night with Clarence proved to be a bit challenging. To make him feel a little more comfortable, Julie slept on an air mattress in the laundry room so Clarence could see her through the glass door to the back yard. She had to wear ear plugs to drown out the noise from the refrigerator motor and was awaked by Colonel Abatti at 3:30 a.m., Sunday, letting her know that Clarence was howling.

Julie got up and let Clarence out the back yard to go back to his field, and then returned to bed. Later that morning, she went out to the field, fed and played with Clarence, and then left.

In the afternoon, cold weather moved in so Julie dressed from head to toe, and once again, headed out to play with Clarence. But this time, the dog barked and would not go near Julie. When she removed her hat, Clarence ran across the field into her arms and the two set off for home.

That Sunday night, Julie slept in the laundry room again, but this time, Clarence was with her.
Monday morning came and Clarence headed back out to his field. Julie went out to visit him in the afternoon. On their walk home, a friend stopped to talk to Julie. Clarence got spooked and ran away.

Concerned she had lost him, Julie grabbed Clarence's toys and set out to the field to look for him. As soon as she squeaked the toys, Clarence showed up right behind her.

"That's it. We're going home," said Julie. And that's where he has been ever since.

While his name is Clarence, the Abattis fondly call him Squirt, Pee Wee and the Baby, which fits, since their other two dogs are large 10 and 11-year old Border Collie-Austrian shepherd mixes. While the Abattis' male dog, Ringo, is still the alpha, Clarence brings a whirlwind of puppy energy into the home.

He enjoys play dates with Col. Darren and Melissa James' dog, Chloe, and particularly loves the snow. Colonel James, the 71st Flying Training Wing commander, lives on the same street as the Abattis.

While Clarence and Colonel Abatti enjoy their afternoon routine of playing in the backyard, Julie is still Clarence's favorite.

She is, after all, the one who helped him earn his wings.

AFRS Broadcaster looks back on 30 years of service

by Tech. Sgt. Hillary Stonemetz
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

1/29/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- After being drafted into the Army at the tail end of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Spacek decided he wanted to take a different path in life.

"Three years was enough in the Army. I should have joined the Air Force," he said with a laugh.

While Spacek never wore Air Force blue, he did serve nearly 30 years in civil service. The Air Force Recruiting Service broadcast supervisor will retire Jan. 31.

Spacek grew up on the south side of San Antonio where he developed his passion for music, playing a fusion of blues, jazz, and rock. After the Army, he and his band recorded several blues albums and toured the United States, Canada and Europe. He also worked in some local television stations before entering civil service as a broadcast specialist in the late 1980s.

"Jimmy has a wealth of knowledge and he brings a good perspective from a historical standpoint," said Col. Marcus Johnson, AFRS Strategic Marketing division chief. "He knows what works and what doesn't work. He knows when we are on the edge of doing something innovative."

As a broadcaster, Spacek made pilot training videos for the 12th Flying Training Wing here for eight years before joining AFRS in 1994. He uses his broadcasting knowledge and experience by making customized public service announcements, supervising the "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" specials, and augmenting video production for

"Until you come into recruiting and marketing, you don't know the Air Force offers this type of job," Spacek said. "Having a good job allows me to enjoy my music career. Some days it's a job, but most days it's fun."

One of his favorite memories as an AFRS broadcaster was when he filmed a PSA with "Star Trek: The Next Generation" actors, Gates McFadden and Michael Dorn.

"The actors agreed to do the PSA for the Air Force in exchange for location rights to film several scenes of the movie, 'Star Trek: First Contact,' at the Titan Missile Museum," Spacek said.

Over the years, Spacek has helped create thousands of PSAs and dozens of videos for

"We had to hire a production company to do a lot of the bigger video projects, like commercials, because we don't have the manpower," Spacek said. "But doing some of the smaller stuff in-house saves the Air Force a lot of money."

The "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" special is another project that Spacek plays an integral part in producing.

"It takes months to book a country artist and arrange the production schedule," Spacek said. "Sometimes we find an artist who wants to participate but they are too busy. I work with their management teams to select an artist, then try and come up with a recording time. We need to have the program produced and delivered to country music stations across the country by mid-November."

As the project supervisor, Spacek has directed specials with artists such as Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and George Strait.
"It is the Air Force's gift to radio stations and their listeners to show our appreciation for all their support," Spacek said. "Country music fans have always gone out of their way to support military men and women serving around the world."

The public service program, which is designed to help ease the programming load for station program directors during the holidays, includes spot breaks for stations to sell commercial time. The Christmas special is distributed to more than 2,000 country stations nationwide. Last year's Christmas special earned nearly $1 million in Air Force awareness. Spacek was able to book the big name country artists because of his connections in Nashville, Tenn.

"Jimmy has a lot of relationships with a lot of organizations," Johnson said. "He will be greatly missed. He's going to be walking out with a lot of talent and contacts that will be hard to recoup, but I'm sure we'll still see him around."

Spacek still works the music scene in south Texas on nights and weekends. He is an active member of the San Antonio Blues Society and he has seen his music surge in popularity in France in recent years.

In addition to his day job and music gigs, he volunteers twice a month with "SoldierSongs and Voices," an organization that provides free guitar lessons and song writing assistance to military veterans.

"Music heals the wounds you can't see," Spacek said.

After he retires, Spacek said he plans to travel overseas with his wife, pursue music full time, and record another album.

"I guess I should also say I'm going to focus on projects around the house," he said with a grin.

Make your time in Alaska count

by Airman 1st Class Omari Bernard
JBER Public Affairs

1/30/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARSON, Alaska -- Single? Short on cash? Looking for something to do? Check out the Single Airman Program.

Soar through trees on zip lines in Talkeetna, learn to fly planes with the Aero Club and glide down mountains on skis in Girdwood.

Alaska has many adventures to offer and the Single Airman Program can provide these opportunities for free.

SAP is an Air Force initiative, endorsed by the Office of the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

The objective is to provide Force Support Squadron resources to foster a strong culture, mission and sense of community.

Not an Airman? Not a problem. SAP is available to all single service members stationed here. The program helps promote camaraderie.

"Our goal is to get the single Airmen and Soldiers out of the dorms and barracks doing things in Alaska," said Michelle Hartman, 673d FSS major programs director.
SAP offers a variety of free activities year round.

Previous trips included ice climbing, snowmachining, skiing and snowboarding, introductory flight lessons, and jet boat tours in Denali.

"The Single Airman Program is a great way to get out of the dorms," said Senior Airman Alec Carlisle, an interface control technician with the 611th Air and Space Operations Squadron. "My favorite trip so far was when we went zip lining in Talkeetna. Flying through trees and over a lake was one of the most fun things I've done since I've been here."
Events are first-come, first-served, Hartman said, and spots for events fill up quickly.
"A lot of the time we do it in different groups depending on the (provider) that we go through," Hartman explained. "For zip lining, we normally send out six to eight people per group, so then we would send out three groups a day. We normally do them on the weekends and during the summer.

"We did the jet boat experience where 45 people were able to go, and the feedback I received from that was outstanding." Hartman said. "Everyone was laid back and able to have fun."

SAP also funds the wireless Internet, furniture, and fitness equipment available in the Wired Cafe and the dormitories.

According to statistics gathered by SAP here, more than 1,500 single service members have taken advantage of this free program since its start in October 2011. The program advertises trips through Better Opportunities for Single Service Members and the First-Term Airmen Center.

"It's great that it's free," Carlisle said. "Alaska is a pretty cool place and I'm glad that I get to go out and enjoy it."

"This program is about giving back to them," Hartman said. "I feel this is making a big difference. I measure our success from the outcome of everyone coming back from the trip. When they come back and have smiles on their faces - basically that's how I judge it."
For events or more information visit or call 552-8529.

Barksdale Airmen participate in Military Appreciation Basketball game

by Staff Sgt. Sean Martin
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

1/29/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.,  -- Barksdale Air Force Base Airmen and Bossier Parish Community College faculty and staff stepped onto the hardwood with one common in mind, to come out victorious in their first face-to-face battle.

BPCC started strong and generated a 12-point lead right out of the gate. BAFB retaliated with an 18- point run in the first half.

Each team gave it their all and after two hard fought halves, the game ended in a tie-73-73.

It was a hard fought match and in the end, both teams won.

"This was the first BPCC vs. Barksdale, co-ed basketball game," said Jim Henderson BPCC chancellor. "We hope this will be an annual event between us."

The idea to hold a game like this came from the college's student life department and athletic foundation.

"We thought it would be a great idea to showcase our appreciation for the military and the men and women of Barksdale," said Henderson.

BPCC is a large supporter of the men and women of Barksdale. This event was one way to show that support.

"BPCC is a military friendly school and take great pride in that," said Henderson. "That appreciation begins and ends with our relationship with Barksdale. We greatly appreciate what Barksdale does for this community day in and day out."

The event Saturday was much larger then BPCC had anticipated it to be.

Although this event has happened just once, Henderson would like to have more events like this in the future.

"This event has the potential to turn into something truly special," said Henderson. "We are very grateful to the leadership at Barksdale for allowing their Airmen to be able to come out and participate in events like this."

Tech. Sgt. Alvin Johnson, Air Force Global Strike Command head coach, expressed his gratitude toward BPCC faculty and staff for hosting this event.

"Myself and the Airmen on the team would like to thank the BPCC faculty and staff for holding an event like this," said Johnson. "They were wonderful hosts and took great care of us. It showed us the great deal of support we have from our local community."

Air National Guard makes avoiding birds during flying operations easier

by Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Bynum
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs

1/30/2014 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.  -- The Chief of Safety from the 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, Nev., briefed Air National Guard safety leadership and other key safety personnel Jan. 28 here on new innovative anti-bird strike procedures that are making Air Force flight operations safer.

Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony D. Machabee, 152nd AW chief of safety, led a team of citizen Airmen to bridge the gap between two existing technologies improving upon the work done by Dr. Russell P. DeFusco, a doctorate biologist and bird aircraft strike hazard expert, to take the Air Force BASH Program to the next level.

"Avoiding birds in Air Force flying operations just got a lot easier," said Air Force Col. Edward L. Vaughan, chief of safety of the ANG. "The Google Earth plug-in for [U.S. Avian Hazard Advisory System] has been unusable by most Air Force and ANG flying operations until now ... Lt. Col. Machabee and his team at the Nevada Air National Guard have pioneered the successful application of the Google Earth plug-in for bird strike risk mitigation."

In 2006 the Air Force Safety Center directed the AHAS contractor to add a Google Earth plug-in. While the Google Earth plug-in has been available for some time, it was unusable as a viable tool for Air Force and ANG units until now. The 152nd AW Safety Office took integrated data from AHAS in conjunction with Google Earth to break the code to make a usable tool depicting real-time bird activity using the Bird Avoidance Model, Soaring Model, and Next Generation Radar data to employ the BASH Google Earth Situational Awareness tool.

"I am proud to work with such talented citizen Airmen with the technical know-how and skill to put this solution together," said Machabee. "Before this innovation, all you had to look at was tabular data and try to figure out where the birds strike hazards were; now we have an easy-to-use visual aid to help our Airmen."

This pioneering approach allows aviators to graphically view real-time bird activity along low-level training routes and transition bases moments before they launch their low-level missions and establish risk levels based on the data and alter or delay flight plans. By using the information provided with the BASE GESA tool, Airmen can now make quick decisions regarding flight safety.

"Bird strikes are a serious safety concern for all flying operations," said Vaughan. "Each year, tens of millions of dollars and often lives are lost due to bird strike related mishaps. Just last month, the Air Force lost an $8 million training aircraft in Texas due to a bird strike."

By using the innovative BASH GESA tool to graphically plan low-level training routes, the Air Force and ANG can mitigate the risk of bird strikes. Prior to departure, crews will determine bird strike risk along the low-level training routes or at the transition airfields by referring to the BASH GESA tool. This new capability has the potential of saving lives and millions of dollars in damage caused by bird strikes each year.

"This is just another example of Air National Guard Airmen identifying a problem and coming up with a viable solution," said Vaughan. "Our Airmen proved that focused execution can turn a good idea into a winning solution. Flying operations will enjoy an effective new tool in mishap prevention."

Hagel Hails Poland as Important Strategic Ally

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WARSAW, Poland, Jan. 30, 2014 – Poland continues to be an important strategic ally through NATO, in Europe and around the world, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here today during a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.

Hagel spent the day with Polish military and government leaders. In each meeting -- with Siemoniak and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski -- the secretary emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Poland strategic alliance, noting Poland is a strong U.S. partner and a good friend.

The secretary said he would continue that emphasis tomorrow during meetings with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“I want to particularly acknowledge and thank Poland for its contribution in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland was a partner with the United States in both of those wars at great sacrifice,” Hagel said.

“Over the last few years we have opened up a new chapter of friendship, of partnership that dates back to America’s independence, when Poland’s great Gen. Casimir Pulaski volunteered to serve under George Washington,” the secretary added.

Pulaski was so good at leading U.S. troops on horseback that he’s considered the father of American cavalry, Hagel said. Hundreds of U.S. monuments, memorial plaques, streets and parks are named in his honor.

For Hagel, the U.S.-Poland relationship is personal.

“My grandmother’s maiden name was Konkolewski,” he said, “and her parents were married in a little village here in Poland [called Kiszkow] that I will have the occasion to visit tomorrow. This is the location of the rebuilt church where they were married, and the minister gave me copies of the marriage license.”

The United States and Poland, whose defense cooperation is strong and enduring, Hagel said, are bound by culture, history and personal relationships, and by shared interests in peace and security.

Hagel began his first official trip to Poland as defense secretary this morning in a snow-covered urban landscape under cloudy Warsaw skies, in temperatures that a gusty wind dragged into the single digits.

This afternoon he visited Piłsudski Square and its Tomb of the Unknown, which holds the unidentified body of a young soldier who fell during the Defense of Lwów. The battle for control of that city took place in the early 1900s between attacking forces of the West Ukrainian People's Republic and local Polish civilians who were later helped by regular Polish Army forces.

At the tomb the secretary laid a wreath and signed the guest book.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to salute the brave fallen Polish soldiers represented here at this solemn monument,” he wrote, signing the entry “Chuck Hagel."

Afterward, at the Ministry of National Defense, Hagel met with Siemoniak before the joint press conference.

In his opening statement, the defense minister praised the United States’ decisive role in such historical events as the early years of Poland’s struggle for independence, and Poland’s entry 15 years ago into the NATO alliance.

Siemoniak said Poland is ready for concrete action to modernize its armed forces through the great financial effort that is taken by its citizens and through organizing regional security policy.

“The effectiveness of these actions and our efforts depends on the support and presence of the United States,” Siemoniak added. “There is no thinking about the safety of Poland and this part of Europe in the 21st century without the United States.”

For his part, Hagel noted tangible examples of growing U.S.-Polish military cooperation, including in missile defense, where the United States and Poland continue to work bilaterally and through NATO to respond to ballistic missile threats.

“The United States is firmly committed to deploying a U.S. missile defense system to Poland. We look forward to this system coming online in 2018 as part of phase three of the European Phased Adaptive Approach,” Hagel said.

A second example of cooperation is the groundbreaking joint aviation detachment at Powidz Air Base, where Hagel will travel tomorrow.

There, he said, American and Polish airmen train and work side by side every day. The detachment sends an important defense capability message to U.S. allies and partners, the secretary said, adding, “The message is that the United States remains committed to European and Polish defense.”

It also shows that the United States and its allies are open to new and innovative ways of thinking about how militaries can collaborate and bring more value to single and joint capabilities, Hagel said.

“The United States greatly appreciates Poland inviting us and hosting that detachment,” he added.

The two nations also are working to expand training and exercises through the aviation detachment, including regional partners such as Romania, which is the latest NATO member to acquire F-16 fighter jets.

Because Poland has demonstrated its leadership, willingness and commitment to play a significant leadership role in Central Europe, Hagel said, the U.S.-Poland partnership and the joint action site are particularly important and well suited to future exercises and training opportunities.

These are but a couple of the concrete, tangible expressions of American’s strong security relationship with Poland, the secretary said, and they clearly reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Central and Eastern Europe, and they form a foundation to support an enduring partnership with these countries in this region well into the future.

“As Poland explores options for its own missile defense capabilities,” Hagel said, “there is an unmistakable opportunity for us both to forge even closer cooperation in this area, leveraging cutting-edge technology and enhanced NATO capability.”

This, he added, will benefit Poland, the United States and the entire transatlantic alliance.

“The minister and I also discussed today a continuing commitment to supporting Poland’s defense modernization efforts,” the secretary said.

“In an era of fiscal pressures that reside on both sides of the Atlantic,” Hagel added, “this investment is particularly required to move our alliance further, deeper, closer into the 21st century, ultimately allowing both our militaries to collaborate much closer on more findings in the future.”

Following Poland, Hagel will travel to the Munich Security Conference in Germany to participate Saturday with Secretary of State John Kerry in a joint panel and to meet with counterparts and officials from other nations on the sidelines of the conference.

These will include a first meeting with the new German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, British Secretary of State for Defense Philip Hammond, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedyev and Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

Air Force, Global Strike Command taking aggressive action to address crew force challenges

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

1/30/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Global Strike Command commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson held a press conference at the Pentagon, Jan. 30, to discuss the Air Force's response to the recent investigation within the ICBM crew force.

Brought to light by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, numerous ICBM crew force members at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., were implicated in an investigation centered on proficiency test cheating at the base. The monthly tests, which have a minimum passing score of 90 percent, are used as a validation of crew members' knowledge of the nuclear mission.

"We can now report that there are a total of 92 crew members who have been identified as having some level of involvement," James said. "That means either participating in the cheating, or knowing something about it and not standing up and reporting it."

"But what I want to reassure you of is that I remain confident, and having gone there to our bases last week, I am even more confident, in the safety, reliability and effectiveness of the nuclear mission," the secretary continued. "There are multiple checks and balances in this system, and there are a variety of ways we ensure reliability and safety, not the least of which are the fact that we have Department of Defense inspections and outside groups that come in to evaluate our nuclear teams to ensure they know how to perform and how to do their jobs."

In what Secretary James referred to as "an abundance of caution," the crew members currently involved in the investigation have been temporarily decertified.

"I'll tell you right up front, there is no operational impact in the mission at Malmstrom AFB," Wilson said. "We have contingency plans for an event like this."

"Those who have not been decertified are pulling additional alerts; they typically pull eight alerts per month, now they're pulling 10," Wilson explained. "Staff crew members are also augmenting the crew force to pull those extra alerts."

Crew members from 20th Air Force have been called in to backfill for the 341st Missile Wing instructors and evaluators who are pulling additional alerts, the general said.

"We'll look at options of other bases potentially augmenting Malmstrom AFB in the future," Wilson said. "We'll also look at, as we get the new people out of Vandenberg AFB, diverting some of those who would have gone to all the bases into Malmstrom."

This week, Wilson initiated a commander-directed investigation to look into the test compromise. Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, vice commander of Air Education and Training Command, will lead the effort.

"He'll look at how we train and test, and closely examine the leadership environment and oversight," Wilson said. "This investigation will end by late February, and at that time, I'll review the results and make decisions on any necessary changes."

"We're going to take this wherever it goes," he continued. "With the information [Holmes] brings me, we're going to take swift and deliberate action."

Additionally, the command is kicking off a Force Improvement Program as a means for Airmen to have a voice in addressing issues that affect their mission.

Small working groups of junior officer and enlisted Airmen from operations, maintenance, security forces and mission support will be charged with pinpointing areas for improvement. These FIP working groups will visit all three missile bases in order to identify challenges and propose solutions.

"I can't stress this enough; this is a grass-roots-level effort," Wilson said. "From the bottom, up, that's where the solutions are going to come from."

The results from the working groups are due by the end of February. This feedback will be reviewed by Wilson, who said that he would act upon the things he could act upon and take the other suggestions to whatever level necessary to implement solutions.

"Our nation demands and deserves the highest standards and accountability from the force entrusted with the most powerful weapons in the world," Wilson said. "There's 25,000 people that make up the Airmen and civilians of Global Strike Command. If you got to meet them, you'd see that for the vast majority of them, they not only abide by, they live our Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. They make me really proud every single day."

Kentucky Air Guard member always a defender, on duty and off

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Senior Airman Desiree W. Moye
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA(1/30/14) - Staff Sgt. Kenneth Soto, a Kentucky Air National Guard member who is deployed here as a security response force leader for the 387th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for heroism Jan. 21.

Soto was presented with the medal at an undisclosed air base for intervening during a domestic violence incident while off-duty in March 2013.

"Security forces personnel are trained to respond on and off duty to people in need," said Soto, whose home unit is the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky.

Soto was in his hotel room during a college band trip to Hartford, Conn., when he heard a disturbing commotion next door. He decided to intervene when he heard a young lady screaming in agony.
"I ran down the hallway to see what was up and when I found the room I knocked on the door again and again until the guy answered," he said.

Being unarmed and off duty wasn't a deterrence in Soto's eyes, because gaining entry to the victim's room and confronting the perpetrator was his only option, Soto said.

"Once I actually saw the victim, it was an abysmal sight," he said. "She was unconscious and bleeding profusely."

According to the award citation, Soto forced the attacker to the ground and placed him in a subdued position before assessing the victim's injuries. He administered first aid, and safeguarded her and the scene until local authorities arrived.

Responding law enforcement noted that Soto performed admirably and potentially saved the victim's life, the citation said.

"I always mention Kenny Soto as the guy that saved my life that night," said Hannah Sanders, the victim, and Soto's good friend. "If he didn't stop it when he did, one more blow to my skull could have killed me."

Col. John Klein Jr., 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, lauded Soto's actions during the medal presentation.

"I am humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to pin a medal on a true hero," he said.
Lt. Col. Matthew Groves, 386th Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander, echoed Klein's sentiment.

"His response is a beacon of courage," said Groves, who is also deployed from Kentucky's 123rd Airlift Wing. "It was simply heroic of him, and I'm proud to serve with him here and back home."
Soto, however, doesn't agree with their description of him as a hero. He sees the sequence of events as simply a reflection of his security forces training.

"I know for a fact that if any of the defenders I have had the privilege to serve with were there, it would have gone down the same way," he said.

South Dakota Guard Soldiers make history as the state’s first female artillery crewmembers

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Sgt. 1st Class Theanne Tangen
South Dakota National Guard

RAPID CITY, S.D. (1/20/14) - Two young women made South Dakota Army National Guard history by enlisting as the first females to serve as Multiple Launch Rocket System crewmembers in the state.

Pfc. Erika Cotton, 19, of Volga, recently graduated from 13M crewmember Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill, Okla., and Pvt. Stephanie Kasten, 18, of Hazel, will be attending her advance training this summer. Both are members of Battery A, 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion in Aberdeen.

The Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, is a highly mobile, automatic system that fires surface-to-surface rockets and missiles from the M270 platform. From inside the cab, the crew of three can fire up to 12 MLRS rockets or two tactical missiles.

Cotton and Kasten's opportunity to serve as MLRS artillery crewmembers comes at a time of significant change in the U.S. military. In January 2013, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced the rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, which restricted women from joining artillery, armor, infantry and other combat roles.

The policy change now allows women to serve in every position within the SDNG.

"In the case of Pfc. Cotton and Pvt. Kasten, they have an opportunity to be part of the historical push to allow females to perform a job based on their abilities and not their gender," said South Dakota Army Guard State Command Sgt. Maj. Susan Shoe, senior noncommissioned officer. "That is huge. The opportunity for these two female Soldiers to learn a job they want is the significant change that was needed for our military to continue to be successful in the 21st century."

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Rose, senior noncommissioned officer for the 1-147th Field Artillery, recognizes the importance of Soldiers joining the military regardless of gender.

"I am proud when anyone raises their right hand to swear in and serve, female or male," said Rose. "I hope they are looking for a challenge and a chance to learn and grow within a professional organization."

A self proclaimed "daddy's girl," Kasten, a senior at Hamlin High School, who plays hockey and enjoys hunting, wanted to join the Guard and do something similar to infantry. Kasten talked with her recruiter prior to the policy change about her potential opportunities.

"At the time when I talked with my recruiter, I found that all of the jobs I was interested in were not available to females," said Kasten.

Women restricted from joining the field artillery has been the norm for Rose, who has served in the Guard for the past 29 years.

"It was that way when I joined the field artillery in 1985. At the time, we were required to lift 100 pounds to load rounds into the cannons," said Rose. "Today, we use cranes to load and transport rockets. We no longer have the demands of lifting heavy rounds. I see nothing in the field artillery tasks that would limit females from performing any assigned duties."

As 13M crewmembers, Kasten and Cotton's job duties are to drive and maintain the self-propelled launch vehicles, reload ammunition and resupply vehicles, test and maintain the fire-control systems and mount radio sets and communication systems.

A few months after Kasten's discussion with her recruiter, she called to inform her that women are now eligible to join the field artillery for the first time in the history of the SDNG; if she was still interested.
Kasten signed up and became the first woman to enlist in the SDNG as an MLRS crewmember.

"I like to shoot guns, so being able to shoot missiles really stuck out to me and I felt capable of being the first female in the unit," she said.

From the time Kasten enlisted up until now, she has felt welcomed in the unit and is treated no differently despite being the first woman, said Kasten.

Not long after Kasten joined, another young woman chose to take the challenge and enlist. Cotton, a freshman studying Animal Science at South Dakota State University, knew she wanted to serve her country since attending her school's Veteran's Day program when she was 15.

"Joining the South Dakota National Guard had been in the back of my mind since my freshman year of high school," said Cotton. "It was that year's Veteran's Day service that really got the wheels turning. When all of the servicemen and women stood up to be recognized, I just knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of."

Cotton recalls the moment her recruiter came to her family's house to talk about the different units and jobs available in the Guard.

"He explained to my parents and me that there were a few openings here, a few openings there and then he mentioned field artillery," said Cotton. "I said without hesitating that is what I want to do, causing my mom to jump when she heard me say that. Who wouldn't want to drive huge rockets around and shoot missiles?"

The thrill of having the opportunity to shoot rockets is what motivated Cotton to accept the challenges of joining a unit not accustomed to women.

"I was told by a few others that there would be some people who don't think it's a woman's job," said Cotton. "I knew that I would have to work hard from the start, physically and mentally, to prove that I can actually do this. And that's what I've been doing."

Cotton credits her can-do attitude and work ethic to growing up on her family's ranch near Volga.
"Even though I am a female, my dad still taught me everything from how to fix fence, to drive our old Massey tractor, to breaking ice for our cows," she said. "I am very appreciative of how I was raised; thick skin, an open mind and a South Dakota work ethic has gotten me pretty far in life."

Diversity, opportunity and perspective are all positive reasons to accept females into field artillery, said Rose.

"We currently have several female Soldiers that work within our battalion, these two happened to have stepped up to be the first to join the 13M career field in South Dakota," said Rose. "They have made a big commitment to themselves and their country. In my mind they have joined an elite group of people that are willing to be called upon in the time of need."

Rose anticipates more females will be joining the field artillery and looks forward to their first female officer.

"We are currently looking for our first female 13 series career field artillery officer," said Rose. "That will also be a historical moment for us and that individual."

State Command Sgt. Maj. Shoe agrees with Rose about the future of women serving in any SDNG position.

"Throughout recorded history, women have been an integral part of the military, whether officially or unofficially," said Shoe. "The last decade of wars has proven that the operational definition of combat means engaging the enemy in many capacities and not necessarily on a proverbial 'front line.' Women should be given the opportunity to serve in a position they can excel at and shouldn't be categorized in any manner other than the bottom line, can you do the job or not? If you can, then go for it!"
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