Saturday, March 01, 2014

Obama, Hagel Contact Top Russian Officials on Ukraine

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Mar. 1, 2014 – President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called their Russian counterparts today to express their concerns over recent events in Ukraine, according to White House and Defense Department news releases issued today.

Obama spoke for 90 minutes this afternoon with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, according to the White House release.

Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the U.N. Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act. The United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory, the White House release said.

Hagel spoke by phone with Russia's Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu this morning, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in the DOD news release.

"Secretary Hagel expressed deep concern about Russia's military intervention in Ukraine,” Kirby said in the DOD release. "He reminded Minister Shoygu that these activities ran counter to Russia's international treaty obligations and stated position that it would respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Following a Ukrainian pro-democracy coalition’s recent ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian government, the Russian military has been reported to be operating in and around the Crimea region in southeastern Ukraine, where the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet has its principal base in Sevastopol on the Black Sea. The Crimea region is home to an ethic-Russian majority populace.

In the DOD release, Kirby noted that “Hagel stressed that, without a change on the ground, Russia risks further instability in the region, isolation in the international community and an escalation that would threaten European and international security."

The United States calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine, the White House release said.

“We have consistently said that we recognize Russia’s deep historic and cultural ties to Ukraine and the need to protect the rights of ethnic Russian and minority populations within Ukraine,” the White House release said. “The Ukrainian government has made clear its commitment to protect the rights of all Ukrainians and to abide by Ukraine’s international commitments, and we will continue to urge them to do so.”

Obama also told Putin today that if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the White House release said.

As a member of both organizations, Russia would be able to participate, the White House release added.

Obama urged an immediate effort to initiate a dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, the White House release said, with international facilitation, as appropriate. The United States is prepared to participate.

Obama made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community, the White House release said. In the coming hours and days, the release said, the United States will urgently consult with allies and partners in the U.N. Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum.

The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8, according to the White House release. Going forward, the release said, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.

The people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future, the White House release said, and Obama has directed his administration to continue working urgently with international partners to provide support for the Ukrainian government, including urgent technical and financial assistance.

“Going forward,” the White House release said, “we will continue consulting closely with allies and partners, the Ukrainian government and the International Monetary Fund, to provide the new [Ukrainian] government with significant assistance to secure financial stability, to support needed reforms, to allow Ukraine to conduct successful elections, and to support Ukraine as it pursues a democratic future.”

Also, Obama spoke separately today with President Francois Hollande of France and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, according to another White House release issued today. The leaders, that release said, agreed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and they expressed their grave concern over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The leaders agreed to continue to coordinate closely, including bilaterally, and through appropriate international organizations, the release continued, and the leaders also affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law, and the future of Ukraine and its democracy.

The leaders also pledged to work together on a package of support and assistance to help Ukraine as it pursues reforms and stabilizes its economy, the White House release added.

Obama had issued a statement on the situation in the Ukraine on Feb. 28. In it, the president noted that he’d spoken “several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we've made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.

“However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” Obama continued in his Feb. 28 statement. “Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.

“It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people,” Obama added. “It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

US Navy F/A-18C Crashes in Nevada

From Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- A U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, Nev., crashed today at approximately 3 p.m. PST on a U.S. Navy range training complex, approximately 70 miles east of NAS Fallon.

Navy personnel are en route to the scene.

The Navy has not officially confirmed the status of the aircraft crewmember.

The aircraft was conducting a training flight prior to the crash.

A safety investigation will be carried out to determine the cause.

Newest Navy Warship Commissioned in Philadelphia

By Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Elena Pence, USS Somerset Public Affairs

PHILADELPHIA (NNS) -- USS Somerset (LPD 25), the Navy's newest amphibious transport dock ship, commissioned during a formal ceremony at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, March 1.

USS Somerset represents the heroic actions of the 40 crew and passengers of United Flight 93, honoring their collective sacrifice and the tremendous courage displayed in the face of overwhelming adversity. Had it not been for their brave actions, the terrorists would have likely reached their intended target and countless more lives may have been lost.

Thousands of guests, including military veterans and family and friends of the crew, witnessed the ship coming to life and enter the naval service. Distinguished guests included the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Adm. Jonathan Greenert and the Honorable Pat Toomey - United States Senator, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, delivered the principal address and spoke of the ship and employment to the nation.

"Somerset is a welcomed edition to the Fleet, make no mistake, this vessel along with the other San Antonio Class Amphibious ships represent America's commitment to security around the world," said Amos. "When this ship sails the worlds oceans, she will carry the spirit and determination and the fighting spirit that has always defined America."

Somerset's commanding officer, Capt. Thomas L. Dearbon, spoke of her crew and her namesake's heroic actions.

"We are here today to not only honor and pay tribute to the heroes of United Flight 93, but also to celebrate the commissioning of this great ship USS Somerset," said Dearborn. "Somerset will leave a legacy that will never be forgotten by those wishing to do harm to this country. A ship is but a steel vessel, it is the crew that brings the ship to life. USS Somerset is truly a fine warship and the crew that mans her, is second to none."

At the conclusion of the remarks, Somerset's ship sponsor, Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, the wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, gave the time-honored command to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

"[Flight 93 passengers and crew members] exemplified such courage and bravery that day as they sacrificed themselves to protect others and to rally our nation they were indeed the first warriors in this war on terrorism," said Myers. "Today we come together as families, but mostly as Americans to celebrate and witness this momentous occasion and wish the USS Somerset and her crew Godspeed."

The commissioning was the culmination of a week-long celebration in Philadelphia honoring the ship, her crew and the legacy of the 40 passengers and crew member of United Airlines of Flight 93. The ship will be homeported in San Diego.

Troops for Teens connects Airmen and students

by 2nd Lt. Meredith Hein
24th Air Force Public Affairs

Troops for Teens, a mentoring and tutoring partnership between 24th Air Force and South San Antonio Independent School District, officially kicked off Feb. 22 with an event for students and mentors. 
"This is an important partnership between the South San Antonio ISD and 24th Air Force to mentor and tutor these students," said Capt. Dacia Sexton, 24th AF A8/9 senior cyber analyst and head of volunteers for the 24th AF staff.  "We have an opportunity to make a difference in these students passing their standardized tests, moving to the next grade level, making positive career choices and even staying in school."
The Troops for Teens program seeks to foster an environment of education, mentorship and leadership opportunities for students in San Antonio, according to Maj. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin, 24th Air Force commander. 
"This program allows Airmen to give back to the community by exercising 'Service before Self' and molding the future leaders of America," said Sexton. 
Through the program, mentors will meet with students at their school to help with tutoring in basic subjects, including algebra, biology, English, geography, and geometry.  In addition, the students will be invited to base events to see what life in the military is like. 
The two-part program aims to successfully mold students into well-rounded individuals armed with the skills and knowledge needed to make educated career decisions, according to Sexton. 
 "This is such a great opportunity for both the mentors and the kids involved," said Lt. Col. Roy Jones III, A5/6 deputy director and head of 24th AF's efforts in the program.  "We're grateful for the chance to give back to our local community in a way that is mutually beneficial." 
The kickoff event, held Feb. 22 at the McLaughlin home, included lunch and games which gave a chance for students and mentors to get to know each other. 
During the event, McLaughlin thanked the mentors, students and educators involved in the program. 
"We're so happy to have you here, and thankful for the chance to build this relationship," said McLaughlin.  "This is just the starting point of a great partnership."
There are hundreds of children in the South San Antonio ISD who are eligible for this program, and school officials are working to get as many students as possible involved. 
Currently, 30 mentors from 24th AF are involved in the program, with tutoring scheduled to begin in March. 
"I'd call on anyone who is interested in helping out to get with their unit POCs and find a way to be involved," said Jones.  "Every action on our part can make an impact on a kid's life." 
For information on how to get involved in the Troops for Teens program, contact your unit POCs:
24th Air Force: Capt. Dacia Sexton
67th Cyberspace Wing: Chief Master Sgt. Rhonda Buening
688th Cyberspace Wing: Maj. Pablo Juarez
624th Operations Center: Capt. Erica Fuller

Team Yokota prepares for upcoming exercise

by Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Preparation was the buzzword for members of Team Yokota this week, as they began to get ready for next week's Samurai Readiness Inspection at Yokota Air Base.

The purpose of the inspection is to help provide unit and group leaders with feedback about how well their people and programs are prepared, trained and compliant. This will be the first time Yokota is practicing many of the skills that will be tested in next week's exercise since moving to the new Air Force Wing Inspection Team concept.

As a key element to Yokota's mission as the primary airlift hub for the Western Pacific, the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron delivers equipment to personnel and aircraft to fulfill wartime missions and deployments. With more than 190,000 items and $36 million in assets, the supply section plays a crucial role that impacts the wing's mission.

"We help process deploying personnel by giving them the required equipment to ensure tasked Airmen deploy quickly and efficiently," said Airman 1st Class Angel Sanchez, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual personnel equipment technician. "Before people deploy, we test as many masks as possible and inventory everything we have to support Yokota's mobility requirements."

As information regarding the exercise began coming out this week, the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepared aircraft for rapid mobility response. Maintainers were given a four hour timeline to install a C-130 Hercules aircraft nose landing gear and flight deck armor, but the team was able to accomplish the task in just one and a half hours.

"Equipping aircraft with the necessary items quickly and correctly is critical to the mission," Staff Sgt. Aaron Wermy, 374th AMXS maintainer said. "Remaining a positive attitude and a state of urgency to get the job done is essential for mission success."

While the exercise will be challenging, the Airmen of Yokota will be up to the task according to Col. Mark August, 374th Airlift Wing commander.

"Next week will be a challenge, but we will demonstrate our ability to defend this installation and deliver Professional Airlift," he said. "In doing so, we will showcase what it takes to be the Best Wing in the Pacific."

USS Rentz Returns from Deployment

From Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) returned to San Diego from a seven-month deployment to the 4th Fleet Area of Operations (AOR), Feb. 28.

Deployed since July 25, 2013, the officers and crew of Rentz, in conjunction with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 and U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, disrupted four shipments of cocaine, totaling nearly 2,000 kilograms, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America as part of Operation Martillo.

Launched in January 2012, Operation Martillo targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus, and is an international, interagency operation which includes the participation of 14 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational criminal organizations moving illicit cargo.

"The crew worked long and hard during Rentz' final deployment to the 4th Fleet in support of the U.S. Southern Command's Counter-Transnational Organized Crime Operations mission," said Cmdr. Lance C. Lantier, Rentz' commanding officer. "I could not be more pleased in terms of the crew's performance and the achievements made on our final mission as the sole U.S. Navy warship deployed in the region."

Rentz' interdictions were:

Aug. 10, 2013, A U.S. Navy aircraft spotted a suspicious fishing vessel approximately 260 miles north of the Galapagos Islands. Rentz intercepted the vessel and a U.S. Coast Guard LEDET 104 boarding team and Rentz crew members boarded the vessel and discovered some 963 kilograms of cocaine in the fish hold. The contraband was seized and four suspected smugglers were taken into custody.

Nov. 30, 2013, the Coast Guard Cutter Rush and LEDET 401 aboard the USS Rentz teamed up to seize some 460 kilograms and detain three suspected smugglers from a Costa Rican fishing boat approximately 50 miles South of Isla de Cohiba, Panama. The vessel had been spotted by a Navy aircraft. Cocaine was discovered hidden in fishing buoys on the boat.

Dec. 17, 2013, U.S. Coast Guard LEDET 401 aboard USS Rentz seized approximately 313 kilograms and detained three suspected smugglers from a fleeing Ecuadoran vessel some 240 miles northeast of the Galapagos Islands. The suspected smuggler's boat was stopped by airborne marksman shooting out their engines.

Jan. 20, 2014, U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel and coordinated with USS Rentz to intercept it. Coast Guard LEDET 406 aboard the USS RENTZ seized 243 kilograms and detained three suspects who stopped their boat after a Coast Guard marksman aboard one of the USS Rentz' helicopter fired warning shots.

"The reach and impact of our law enforcement teams is greatly expanded by our partnerships with the U.S. Navy, other agencies and nations in the region," said Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. "The cartels, or transnational criminal organizations behind this smuggling, are engaged in wide-ranging illegal activities, destabilize the regions in which they operate, and engage in brutal and ruthless violence to further their criminal activities. They threaten the security of our homeland and we need to aggressively thwart their smuggling operations. Every shipment stopped denies these criminal organizations the funds and resources they need to perpetuate their violent, destructive practices," he said.

Overall coordination of counter narcotics patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific region is done by an interagency joint task force based in Florida. U.S. law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations occur under the tactical control and authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, Calif.

"The success of this deployment clearly stands out as a testament to the mindset that has driven this ship since 1984," said Lantier. "That is, we have always stood ready, put the mission first, and always got the job done."

During their deployment Rentz also transited through the Panama Canal for a port visit to Cartagena, Colombia and to participate in the multinational exercise UNITAS 54-13 from Sept. 7-15, 2013. UNITAS, Latin for "unity," is a combined South American and U.S. sponsored annual exercise series that incorporates several North and South American nations and fosters friendly, mutual cooperation and understanding between participating navies.

Rentz will conduct operations and training within 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile AOR upon return.

Joint, interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. 3rd Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.

Information Access Equals Mission Success, CIO Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2014 – Mission success depends on the ability of the Defense Department’s leaders to act decisively based on the most timely and accurate information, DOD’s chief information officer said here yesterday.

“Information is a strategic asset,” Teresa M. Takai said in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness and management support subcommittee.

Takai was joined in her testimony by Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, and Kevin J. Scheid, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer.

Ensuring commanders and troops can access secure information networks is the keystone of the department’s efforts in building the Joint Information Environment, Takai said.

The department is undertaking “a very ambitious effort” to realign and restructure how the networks, hardware and software housed in its data centers is constructed, operated, acquired and defended, Takai said. The goal, she explained, is to provide better information access to users while improving not only the department’s ability to defend the networks and data, but also to make them responsive to changing technological and operational factors.

The effort is in direct support of the department’s information technology acquisition process and its business transformation efforts, Takai noted. By standardizing technology across the department, she told the panel, acquisition becomes cheaper and easier.

The Joint Information Environment is intended to empower military decision-making and provide warfighters and mission partners with a shared IT infrastructure, Takai said. This consists of combined networks with common configurations and management and a common set of enterprise services with a single security architecture, she explained.

“The ultimate benefit of the JIE is really to the commander in the field,” Takai said. “It really allows for more innovative integration of information technologies, operations and cyber security. It's really the tempo more appropriate to our fast-paced operation conditions.”

Additionally, a single security architecture enables cyber operators at every level to see the status of networks, therefore providing more reliable operations and security, she said.

“The complexity of our networks today makes it very difficult for our cyber operators to actually see who's on our network to be able to defend our networks as we would like them to,” Takai said.

One of the ways the department is reducing network complexity is through consolidation of data centers, operation centers and help desks, she said. The move is intended to provide users and systems with timely and secure access to the data and services needed to accomplish their assigned missions, regardless of their location.

Existing program initiatives and modernization funds will be used to deploy and switch networks throughout the department to JIE standards, Takai noted.

“Simply stated, JIE will help improve our ability to field capability faster and more efficiently,” she said, “and allow us to be better stewards of taxpayer resources.”

It's also important that the department increases visibility into the IT budget and spending patterns and strengthens the analysis of IT investments as part of its overall governance and oversight processes, she said.

The CIO’s office is working together with the department’s cost assessment, acquisition and management offices to identify ways to address the systemic conditions that led to the current “stovepiped” IT infrastructure, Takai said.

“This is critical if we are to achieve the agility and responsiveness from IT that our warfighters demand,” she said.

The intent is to develop new processes in acquisition and budgeting that will endure in an IT environment that is constantly evolving, Takai said.

“Maintaining information dominance for our warfighter is critical to our national security,” she said.

The efforts the department is making “will ensure that the department's information capabilities provide better mission effectiveness and security and are delivered in a manner that makes the most efficient use of our financial resources,” Takai said.