Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dentists straighten out bad habits

by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/5/2014 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Wolf Pack dentists and technicians visited a local orphanage to help promote good oral hygiene for National Children's Dental Health Month, Feb. 27, 2014.

"I've met the caregivers at the facility and they are very nice," said Staff Sgt. Min Hubbard, 8th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician and trip coordinator. "It's nice to visit the often forgotten and overlooked sections in society in order to show that we care and hopefully instill in them proper oral hygiene habit that will last."

The Airmen educated the children on proper brushing, flossing and good oral care habits to ensure healthy teeth for life. While the dental clinic's goal was to promote dental health, they also helped promote relations between the base and the local community.

According to Ilmaekwon orphanage representatives, the visit was appreciated because their children learned different methods for brushing and flossing from a trusted source.

The Wolf Pack dental clinic closed out Children's Dental Health Month with the visit but hope to continue the relationship with the orphanage and ensure, not only good dental hygiene of Airmen but also the local community.

Yokota continues inspection

by Airman 1st Class Soo C. Kim
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/5/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Sirens blare in the distance, boots stomp the ground to safety and Airmen clad in chemical protection gear brace for impact in a shelter. A missile strikes the base, releasing deadly chemical agents.

It's not just a scene from the next war-themed movie, rather a simulated scenario performed by the Airmen of 374th Airlift Wing.

The Yokota Airmen continue their week-long Samurai Readiness Inspection at Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 5, 2014.

The SRI is a new Commander's Inspection Program to identify the Wing's strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to evaluate their units on their unique mission sets for effectiveness, compliance, readiness and discipline.

"With the assistance of our Wing Inspection Team members, (we received) "hands-on" experience by reinforcing positive processes and procedures, documenting our deficiencies and challenging our Airman to safely provide quality services and products to our customers," said Michael Sears, 374 LRS logistics manager. "Our process have been relatively smooth throughout (the inspection), we will continue to concentrate on "knocking off the rust."

Since the start of the inspection, Yokota has completed dozens of evaluations and scenarios, such as the ability to receive and deploy forces, aircraft mishap response, chemical warfare and executing expeditionary professional tactical airlift.

"The WIT has been able to identify both strengths and weakness from the SRI," said Capt. Gregory Kantz, 374 th AW director of inspections. "This is not a pass or fail; rather it's an opportunity for the commanders to get an honest assessment of their unit's performance across a wide range of activities."

The Yokota Airmen have been working days and nights, under difficult conditions, to prove that they can perform their duties and keep the regional stability in the Pacific theater.

"Overall, the WIT continues to be impressed with the professionalism and can-do attitude of our Airman," Kantz said. "We'll certainly identify areas in which we excel as well as others that may need some work and attention. At the end of the inspection, it'll be the spirit of our Airman that will take us to the next level."

The inspection is scheduled to continue through Friday, March 7, 2014.

USAMU hosts Army National Junior Air Rifle Championship

By Michael Molinaro

FORT BENNING, Ga. – Dozens of the nation’s top junior air-rifle shooters competed at the 2014 U.S. Army National Junior Air Rifle Championship Feb. 24-26 at Pool International Range Complex.

Hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), juniors between the ages of 14-18 from around the country competed for national titles in two divisions—Sporter and Precision—under the watchful eye of the USAMU’s world-class shooter/instructors

“I really enjoyed this match,” said Ashley Durham. “It was a huge honor to work with the AMU team. They are good at what they do, so to compete in front of them was really cool.”

Durham and her Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) teammates from Dalton McMichael (N.C.) High School brought home the Sporter Division title, holding off Fountain-Fort Carson High School. Durham led the way, adding the Sporter Division individual championship to her collection of trophies.

David Sink, from Columbia, Md., took home top honors in the Precision Division while he and his teammates from Queen Anne’s 4-H won the Precision national team championship.

Taking time out from training for the upcoming competition season, USAMU Soldiers from the International Rifle section provided instruction and mentorship for the competitors. For some of them, this match took them back to the days when they were a young shooter finding their way in the sport.

“I shot this very competition when I was a junior,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hank Gray. “It was hosted by the (National) Guard back then. It’s rewarding to go from a competitor to host and do the same thing for the future generation of shooters like it was done for me.”

The USAMU supports our nation’s youth by fostering junior participation in prestigious state and national rifle competitions, promoting firearms safety, and connecting them with the expertise and professionalism of the Army and its Soldiers. Gray said he and his teammates enjoyed the exchange with the junior shooters and the opportunity to answer their questions about shooting and the military.       

“The neat thing about being a member of (the USAMU) is that we are looked at as the experts,” Gray said. “As a former junior shooter they know we have been there — they know the things we are going to tell them are things we experienced before. I made the same mistakes and this is how you get past them.”

Despite being billed as a national championship and the prestige that goes along with it, attendees said that the professionalism of the USAMU is what stood out the most at this year’s event.

“Being here has been very uplifting,” said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Davis, who brought the McMichael High team to the match. “The USAMU made it more than just a fun match -- they provided a learning environment. They were the first to step in and show the kids how to do something or another way of doing it.

“All of (the juniors) commented on how top notch the USAMU Soldiers are.”

USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Brigade, Army Marketing and Research Group and is tasked with enhancing the Army’s recruiting effort, raising the standard of Army marksmanship and furthering small arms research and development to enhance the Army’s overall combat readiness.

Exercise Saharan Express 2014 Commences

By Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

DAKAR, Senegal (NNS) -- Naval forces from the United States, along with African and European maritime partners, commenced the fourth annual multinational exercise Saharan Express 2014, March 6.

Exercise Saharan Express 2014, being held in waters off West Africa, is an at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation, tactical expertise and information sharing practices among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the region.
The week-long exercise will take place in two areas near the coasts of Cabo Verde and Senegal. There will be an in port preparatory phase and then the 11 participating ships will go to sea to test maritime security skills.

"Over the course of the next two weeks, we will work on interoperability, communications, coordination and familiarization. More than that, though, we will work to come together more closely as a team linked by the common purpose of ensuring regional maritime security," said Capt. John Tokarewich, Saharan Express 2014 exercise director, in remarks during an opening ceremony in Dakar. "Through cooperation on events like Saharan Express, we are able to provide a more robust and unified team to ensure regional maritime security."

While the Senegalese hosted the opening ceremony and is providing the port facilities for a majority of the ships, senior leaders and participants recognize this is a truly international collaborative event.

"Together, we will build brotherhood, friendship, and the essential confidence to counter the challenges that we collectively face," said Rear Adm. Cheikh Bara Cissokho, Senegalese chief of navy staff. "Over the course of these seven days of intense activities, I am convinced that we will achieve the assigned objectives of reinforcing our command and control systems, perfecting the techniques of our boarding teams, practicing interoperability of capacities and common procedures."

Saharan Express aims to test a wide variety of skill sets such as visit, board, search and seizure, medical response, radio communication, and information sharing across regional maritime operations centers (MOCs). Participants will execute tactics and techniques within scenarios that mirror real world counter-piracy and counter-illicit trafficking operations as well as actions taken to deter illegal fishing.

Exercise Saharan Express is one of four Africa-focused regional "Express" series exercises facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet.

The exercise serves to demonstrate and test skills that are developed as part of Africa Partnership Station and ongoing efforts to increase maritime domain awareness. Started in 2007, Africa Partnership Station is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.

African partners expressed the importance of this type of collaboration through the Express series exercises and ongoing APS activities.

"The techniques, tactics and procedures that will be practiced during this exercise, as well as the substantial efforts of our partners, actively contribute to addressing illicit trafficking and illegal fishing," Cissokho said. "It will also permit dismantling the arms trafficking networks that contribute to terror groups, those in armed conflict, and illegal activities in the region."

Cooperation is key to success, echoed Tokarewich.

"Already, we are seeing the benefits of regional collaboration. More cooperation among the partners can only help with addressing the problems of maritime security, such as stopping illegal fishing and illicit trade, while promoting a more stable economic environment," said Tokarewich.

Participants in Saharan Express 2014 include Morocco, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Senegal, Liberia, France, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands United Kingdom and the United States.

DOD Supports U.S., Allied Response to Russia-Ukraine Crisis

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Mar. 6, 2014 – The Defense Department is working to support the coordinated U.S. response to Russia’s recent aggression toward Ukraine, and to help Ukraine and U.S. allies and partners in the region, DOD and administration officials said here today.

The United States is focusing diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, and senior administration and defense officials continue to engage with their Russian counterparts.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry is meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today, for example, and this week the United States announced a $1 billion package of economic assistance to Ukraine, and the European Union announced a $15 billion assistance package.

This morning, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that allows the administration to initiate financial sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities that steal assets, engage in destabilizing activities, or take flight unlawfully. The administration also is imposing visa restrictions on those responsible for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Defense Department is making substantial contributions to U.S. and international efforts in support of Ukraine. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey summarized the department’s activities this morning in advance of their testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on the president’s fiscal year 2015 defense budget request.

Hagel said he strongly supports the administration’s efforts, including the steps Obama has taken to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia, and the continued collaboration with European partners.

“Earlier this week, I directed the Department of Defense to suspend all military-to-military engagements and exercises with Russia. And yesterday, I announced a series of steps [the department] will take to reinforce allies in Central and Eastern Europe during this crisis,” Hagel told the panel.

The steps include increasing joint training through the DOD aviation detachment in Poland, made up of airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing who train and work with their Polish partners at Lask Air Base in central Poland.

“I was advised this morning that [the partnership at Lask] continues to move forward,” the secretary said, adding that the department also will augment its participation in NATO's Baltic air policing mission. He told the House members that six F-15s have arrived in Lithuania within the past 24 hours.

In his remarks, Dempsey said he is deeply engaged in DOD support of the diplomatic approach to resolving Ukraine's crisis.

“I'm engaged with our NATO allies. I've spoken both yesterday and today with my Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, and will continue to maintain that line of communication,” Dempsey told the panel.

Also this morning, on a White House background teleconference with reporters, senior administration officials discussed details of the new visa restrictions and the executive order released today in support of Ukraine.

“Since the Russian intervention in Ukraine, you have seen us work on several lines of effort to mobilize international unity, to condemn the Russian intervention, to impose cost on Russia for debt interventions so they are isolated politically and economically [and] to provide additional support for the government in Kiev,” a senior administration official said.

The best way to make sure the rights of Ukrainians and ethnic Russians are being protected is to use international monitoring, he said.

“A monitoring team from the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] has arrived in Ukraine [and] moved out to different parts of the country. The team has an important set of experiences and capabilities to ensure that basic rights are being protected. We believe that that monitoring mission should expand into Crimea and can be the basis for a way of deescalating the crisis,” the official added.

Representing broad international unity, the North Atlantic Council, European allies and G-7 countries all have condemned Russia’s aggression, he added, and the United States has suspended preparatory meetings for the G-8 in Sochi, Russia.

The United States also has cancelled discussions associated with deepening trade and commercial ties with Russia, the official noted, “and with today's actions we take an additional step to impose costs on Russia and those who are responsible for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The executive order gives the United States flexibility to target individuals and entities responsible for violating international law and Ukrainian sovereignty, the official said.

“We are also imposing certain visa restrictions that further impose a cost on individuals responsible for the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the official said.

The senior administration official added, “There are individuals who have had their visas pulled or will be banned from visas, and those individuals -- who I won't give names or numbers -- do include Russians and Ukrainians.”

Such actions should send a strong message that the United States and its allies intend to impose costs on Russia for the Ukrainian intervention, the official added, and they give the United States flexibility to respond based on Russia's actions, whether positive or negative.

Hagel Outlines Compensation Reform Proposals in Budget Request

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

WASHINGTON, Mar. 6, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addressed compensation reform over the past two days during testimony before Congress on the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee today, Hagel called compensation a “critical” issue.

“Regarding compensation reform, taking care of our people … means providing them with both fair compensation as well as the training and tools they need to succeed in battle and always return home safely,” he said. “To meet those obligations under constrained budgets, we need some modest adjustments to the growth of pay and benefits.”

The secretary described those adjustments and noted all the potential savings would be re-invested in training and equipping troops.

“First, we will continue to recommend pay raises,” he said. “They won’t be as substantial as in the past years, but they will continue.”

In his written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Hagel said a little more than two-thirds of department’s fiscal 2015 budget -- $341.3 billion -- funds day-to-day costs, which includes pay and benefits for military and civilian personnel. Military pay and benefits, including health care and retirement benefits, are $167.2 billion, or about 34 percent of the total base budget, the statement notes.

“And there are no proposals to change retirement in this budget,” Hagel said.

The defense secretary’s second statement on compensation pertained to the continuation of subsidies for off-base housing.

“The 100 percent benefit of today will be reduced,” Hagel said, “but only to 95 percent, and it will be phased in over the next several years.”

The defense secretary also noted “we are not shutting down any commissaries.”

“We recommend gradually phasing out some, … but only for domestic commissaries that are not in remote locations,” he said.

The fourth adjustment is the merging of the department’s health care systems. “We recommend simplifying and modernizing our three TRICARE programs, merging them into one TRICARE system,” he said.

This system, Hagel said, would have modest increases in co-pays and deductibles for retirees and family members, and would encourage use of the most affordable means of care.

“Active duty personnel will still receive health care that is entirely free,” he added.

Youngstown C-130 fleet reduced

by Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.
910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

3/6/2014 - YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio  -- With little fanfare, the 910th Airlift Wing said goodbye to a member of the family.

Recent Air Force structure changes eliminated four C-130 Hercules tactical cargo transport aircraft from the wing's Primary Aircraft Inventory (PAI). Two of the aircraft were on loan to the C-130 training facility in Little Rock, Ark. since 2011 and were permanently transferred to that facility's inventory on Oct. 1, 2013. The third and final aircraft, Tail 3021, scheduled to leave YARS as part of the force structure changes, flew out of YARS for the last time, March 5. The fourth aircraft taken from the 910th's primary inventory will stay at YARS but become a Back-up Aircraft Inventory (BAI), a spare aircraft with no personnel or funding associated with it.

Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Sam Phillippi, crew chief of Tail 3021, looked over the aircraft, wistfully, leading preparations for it to fly out of YARS for a final time.

"It's a great airplane. It really, really is," said Phillippi. "It's been to the desert, it's deployed a bunch of times and it was our 2009 (Air Mobility Command) Rodeo bird. I hate to see it go."

It seemed something was trying to keep this particular C-130 at YARS as long as possible, even if only for a day or two, as an ice storm in Little Rock cancelled the aircraft's originally scheduled departure on March 3, 2014.

But, 48 hours later, the weather cleared and Tail 3021, touted as one of the wing's most reliable aircraft and also noted to have the most flying hours for the wing's assigned aircraft, lifted into a cloudy, cold Northeast Ohio sky for the last time in the foreseeable future.

Phillippi said he and another crew chief will stay with Tail 3021 for a couple more days after arriving in Little Rock as they work to transfer the aircraft and all of its on-board equipment to the Arkansas installation's inventory. Following this final assignment as the aircraft's crew chief, the 910th maintenance specialists will return to YARS to continue their work on other 910th aircraft.

After the aircraft is officially transferred to Little Rock, it will be flown to the C-130 depot at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins AFB, Ga., for a complete maintenance overhaul. During the overhaul, all vestiges of the aircraft's assignment at YARS and the 910th including the familiar red, white and blue "Youngstown" tail flash and other wing markings will be removed.

The reduction in aircraft assigned to the 910th will also cause the loss of approximately 50 full-time and 150 part-time positions. The position reductions will take place throughout Fiscal Year 2014 which ends Sept. 30.

910th AW Commander Col. James Dignan said while the wing could not control changes to the Air Force structure; the unit would make every effort to assist its personnel affected by the personnel reductions.

"We will assist in any way we can to make these transitions as painless as possible in these uncertain times," said Dignan.

In addition to assisting those affected by the reductions at the air station, the commander said the 910th would do everything possible to keep people in the Valley and beyond informed about the mission and capabilities the air wing and installation provide to the nation.

Tail 3021's elimination from the 910th's primary inventory reduces the wing to eight C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned and one back-up aircraft. Six of the nine aircraft remaining at YARS are modified to carry out Air Force Reserve Command's aerial spray special mission. The 910th AW is home to the DoD's only large-area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability and conducts approximately 25 specialized missions at various installations across the country annually. Additionally, YARS has several training features, such as its 3,000-feet long short-field training assault strip and its airfield night vision training lighting system, used by many military and government agencies from around the Northeastern United States. The YARS flightline and hangar areas are also designed to base and maintain 16 C-130 aircraft.

"We have a duty to the American people and Congress to keep them informed about how tax dollars are spent here. We have many assets unique to our installation and we will continue to spread the word about what the 910th and YARS provides to the national defense," concluded Dignan.

Official: DOD Strives for Middle East Stability, Security

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Mar. 6, 2014 – With a lens on the Syria spillover and the growing threat of terrorism and sectarianism in the Middle East, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs today reaffirmed the Defense Department’s commitment to the stability and security of regional partners.

Derek Chollet said efforts will continue to thwart al-Qaida and its associated movements, confront external aggression directed at U.S. allies, ensure the free flow of energy from the region and prevent the development, proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction.

“The Department of Defense is keenly focused on building the capacity of our partners to fight extremism and support U.S. national security interests,” Chollet said. “We’re working hard to sustain and enhance our military capabilities in the region.”

He reported that the historic transformation in the region during the last three years offers the United States both opportunities and challenges to address core security interests.

“As U.S. military forces have withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, we are also addressing questions from regional partners about our intentions … and commitments over the long term,” Chollet said.

Currently, he said, U.S. and allied forces have a military presence of more than 35,000 personnel in and around the Arabian Gulf. And in line with DOD’s recent release of the Quadrennial Defense Review, the commitment will not wane, he said.

“Despite budget pressures, we will maintain a robust force posture in the region,” Chollet said.

He also outlined examples of how DOD works to improve partners’ military capabilities, particularly Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

In Iraq, DOD works with State Department officials to advise the Iraqi government on long-term strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant organization in what Chollet described as “a very serious situation.”

“Achieving security and stability must include a political solution involving all the people of Iraq,” Chollet said. “The Iraqi security forces have proven competent at conducting counterterrorism and stability operations.” But, he acknowledged, the Iraqis also have gaps in their ability to defend against external threats, specifically in areas such as integrated air defense, intelligence sharing and logistics.

“We remain very committed to working with the Iraqi government to develop its military and security abilities,” he said.

So far, Chollet reported, the Iraqis have purchased from the United States about $250 million in key capabilities, such as Hellfire missiles, ground tanks, rockets, small arms and ammunition. “Those articles have either been delivered or expected to arrive in the next weeks,” he said.

Regarding Lebanon, Chollet said DOD officials continue to see the Lebanese armed forces emerge as the sole legitimate defense force and critical component of the nation’s long-term stability and development. U.S. assistance totaling about $1 billion toward the Lebanese internal security forces strengthens Lebanon’s capacity and supports its mission to secure its own border, Chollet explained.

“We work to maintain strong ties between Lebanese and U.S. officers and officials through international military education and training,” Chollet said, adding that Lebanon has the fourth-largest such program in the world.

DOD also promotes institutional reform through a Defense Institution Reform Initiative with the Lebanese armed forces, he noted.

Similarly in Jordan, Chollet said, the United States remains committed to maintaining a strong defense partnership. “U.S. security assistance helps build the capacity of the Jordanian armed forces, promotes interoperability between our two militaries, enhances Jordan’s border security and counterterrorism capabilities and supports military education and training,” he said.

DOD has provided equipment and training to supplement the Jordanian border security program and improve the capability of its military to detect and interdict illegal crossing and attempts to smuggle weapons of mass destruction, Chollet said. DOD provided the Jordanian government with about $300 million in foreign military financing funds, he added, and has both active joint exercise and officer exchange programs.

Regarding Syria, Chollet reported the United States and its allies have military forces in Jordan manning a Patriot missile battery and an F-16 unit as they assist Jordanians with the planning necessary to strengthen its defense.