Military News

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Face of Defense: Soldier Shares Combat Experience With Students

By Walter T. Ham IV
8th U.S. Army

CAMP JACKSON, South Korea, Feb. 5, 2014 – A combat veteran who earned the Purple Heart in Iraq is teaching a new generation of U.S. and South Korean noncommissioned officers in Korea.

Army Staff Sgt. Keith C. Thompson teaches noncommissioned officers in the Warrior Leader Course at the Wightman NCO Academy.

Attached to a reconnaissance platoon with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Waddaha, Iraq, Thompson was participating in a route clearance mission when his Stryker infantry fighting vehicle ran over a crush wire connected to a 500-pound improvised explosive device buried under the ground.

The blast injured him and two other soldiers in the Stryker.

"I remember the initial chaos to get us out of the Stryker, because the power to all the systems shut down and the door sealed," said Thompson, a 16-year Army veteran from Miami.

"Initially, I felt some fear. Once out of the Stryker, I saw soldiers pulling security and others assessing the battle damage while the medic was checking out the other injured soldiers," he continued. "I remember seeing a lot of teamwork."

After exiting the damaged Stryker, Thompson helped to treat the injured driver for shock and carry him to the medevac helicopter.

Despite his injuries, Thompson requested to rejoin his unit 10 days later.

This fateful mission occurred on Thompson's first deployment with the Vilseck, Germany-based 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment to Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He made a second wartime deployment with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011.

The staff sergeant reported to Korea in 2011 to serve with the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade, and he later volunteered to serve as an instructor at the Wightman NCO Academy, where he teaches U.S. and South Korean noncommissioned officers.

Since August 2012, South Korean army staff sergeants and sergeants have attended the Warrior Leader Course together with U.S. Army NCOs.

"I was happy to get the position where I can use my experience from combat to teach the Warrior Leader Course students on resilience, understanding the dynamics of the mission and taking care of soldiers," Thompson said. "I learn, grow and mold future NCOs."

Thompson said character, trust and competence are what make soldiers want to follow their NCOs.

The chief of the Warrior Leader Course, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Malik, said Thompson has excelled at the NCO Academy.

"Staff Sergeant Thompson is one of the most competent Warrior Leader Course small group leaders at the academy, as reflected by his high student [grades] each cycle," said Malik, from Middleburg, Fla.

In times of fiscal constraint, maintenance work orders face scrutiny

by Jim Hart
JBER Public Affairs


2/6/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A stuck door lock to an office, a broken floor tile people keep tripping over and a minor leak in a drinking fountain drain. The budget won't support all work requests. Which will be fixed now, and which might have to wait?

That's what work order prioritization is for, and why the Air Force's new prioritization system is important to units on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The JBER-Richardson maintenance contract expired Jan. 31. That contract isn't scheduled to be awarded again until next fiscal year, so civil engineer units will cover all maintenance on JBER except housing (covered separately) until then.

This means an already strapped squadron may have its workload potentially doubled - on top of the existing workorder backlog due to sequestration.

The new system assigns priorities to four tiers, with a few subsections within those tiers.
In order of importance, they are emergency, preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance, and enhancement (remodeling).

Mission impact, potential damage to property, and safety concerns have priority over other requested work.

To determine where each job fits in the priority list, the Work Request Review Board considers all pending work orders monthly.

Board members from various disciplines within 673d Air Base Wing come together to review work orders and hear the requestors explain the work needed and how it impacts the mission.

Have a fire or safety report? That helps. Have valuable equipment at risk? That also helps. Have money? That helps a lot!

"Honestly, if whatever organization is housed in a facility has funding available, that will greatly increase the likelihood of getting something through," said Air Force Capt. Ryan Oot, operations flight commander, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron.

Self help is also a good alternative, Oot said, but it also needs to go through the work order review process to mitigate potential safety concerns.

The budget is tight. As a standard, top firms in the civilian sector set aside two percent of a facility's replacement value per year to sustain a facility at its optimum level, Oot said.
"Over the past decade or so, Air Force wide, we've typically been funded at 90 percent, then it dropped down to 80 percent of that two-percent model, and the last couple years it's dropped down more," Oot said. "This year it's in the 56-percent range. That's at the Air Force level... so when it gets down to the (installation) level, we're looking at half a percent or less of the JBER (facility)-replacement value we're depending on for sustainment."

This portion of the maintenance budget is independent of civilian pay and other money. It is the raw dollar value for repairs.

The Department of Defense and the Air Force and Army must reduce infrastructure to meet new budgetary realities. It costs a lot of money to demolish structures, and Congress would have to authorize a Base Realignment and Closure process to close bases entirely. This means the budget constraints on infrastructure repairs are likely to stay tight in the near future.

Each of the repairs mentioned earlier has the potential to be a high enough tier to warrant an immediate repair. The office might house sensitive information; the tile is a potential safety hazard, especially in high-traffic areas or stairs; and the water fountain drain leak could result in damage to the structure if it's severe enough.

It's all in how they fit into the new work order process.