Military News

Friday, March 14, 2014

Face of Defense: Father, Son Compete for Marksmanship Title



By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez
1st Marine Logistics Group

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., March 14, 2014 – The smell of black powder lingered as gunfire cracked through the firing line. Elmo Anderson watched his son, Marine Corps Sgt. Erik Anderson, squeeze off controlled and accurate rounds from his M-16A4 service rifle.

For Erik, the range here was not much different from the wilderness of Lake Preston, S.D., where his father taught him how to hunt pheasant as a child.

The sergeant -- a motor transportation operator with Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group -- competed against his father in the Western Division Matches here from Feb. 24- to March 7, where the top Marine Corps shooters on the West Coast gathered to test their marksmanship skills.

“We shoot together and are a team,” Elmo said. “For the 2014 Western Division Matches, we were on the same relay together during the whole first week. We’ve always been competitive, so we challenged each other.”

Erik joined the Marine Corps to follow in the military footsteps of his father, who is a former medical technician with the Air Force and officer in the Army National Guard. Throughout his career, Erik used the marksmanship skills he learned from his father to do his job as a machine gunner with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, deploying to Iraq four times before coming back to the Marine Corps to become a motor transportation operator.

“When I was a kid, all the neighborhood kids would want to go out and play,” said Erik, who added that he longed to join them.

“At the time, I didn’t think it was too fun when my father would have me stay with him and do schoolwork or learn shooting or how to be a mechanic,” he said. “But looking back, there are so many things I’m thankful for. He taught me everything I needed to be a man.”

For the Andersons, learning how to shoot was a family tradition. Both father and son learned how to shoot at an early age.

“My dad and grandfather taught me how to shoot when I was 10 years old,” said Elmo, now 60. “I got Erik involved in shooting .22-caliber rifles and the .410-gauge shotgun at a young age, too.”

Elmo became a medical pharmaceutical director after his military service. His work gave him opportunities to travel with his family. “We traveled to Washington, Colorado and Nebraska, which are all good hunting states,” he said. “We hunted deer, elk, pheasant and antelope.”

As Erik progressed in skill, Elmo trained him in the more complex aspects of marksmanship and handling of firearms such as reloading ammunition, sighting in different weapons and building their own weapons platforms.

“We do a lot of target shooting, so we get a lot of experience with different rifles and different sights,” Elmo said. “I also make him reload his own ammo so he understands how the ballistics tables and coefficients work..

“Erik and I just recently made an assault rifle platform,” he continued. “He bought the lower receiver and drilled it out, while I bought the upper receiver and customized the iron sights.”

To this day, Erik said, he continues to hone his skills alongside his father, and frequently visits him at his home near Las Vegas.

Training together paid off for the father-son duo. Erik won a bronze medal in the rifle portion of the 2014 Western Division Matches. Before this, he won medals in the 2013 Western Division Matches and the 2012 All-Navy Marksmanship Competition for his proficiency with pistols.

Erik plans on participating in the All-Navy Marksmanship Competition later this year and other local marksmanship competitions in the future.

The father and son said they enjoy being able to support each other while having some friendly competition.

“It’s just a matter of me being there,” Elmo said. “Of course, that ended quickly when he beat me,” he added jokingly. “He’s way better than me now, but I’ll always be there for him.”

Budget, Strategy Dominate Dempsey’s Facebook Town Hall



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2014 – In the second town hall meeting he has conducted on his Facebook page, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff fielded questions from around the world yesterday that focused largely on the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget request and its correlation with U.S. military strategy.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey had joined Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Capitol Hill to testify on the budget request earlier in the day before returning to his office in the Pentagon’s “E” ring for the 40-minute social media session.

“This budget is a pragmatic way forward that balances as best as it can, our national security and fiscal responsibilities,” the chairman said during the Facebook session. “It provides the tools for today’s force to accomplish the missions we’ve been assigned — rebuilding readiness in areas that were – by necessity – de-emphasized over the past decade.”

The budget request also provides the underpinning to modernize the force for the challenges of the future, he said. It ensures “that we’re globally networked and that we can continue to provide options for the nation,” he said, “and it reflects – in real terms – how we’re reducing our costs of doing business and working to ensure that the force is in the right balance.”

But the budget request also reflects tough choices for the military, the general acknowledged, including cuts in force structure. The Army, he noted, would reduce in size to 440,000 to 450,000 active duty soldiers. At that level, the Army will be able to meet its mission with some increased risk, Dempsey said. “Below that level,” he added, “the risk becomes significant.”

If Congress supports the request and continues that support after fiscal 2015, Dempsey said, “we will remain the world’s finest military — modern, capable and ready, even while transitioning to a smaller and more affordable force over time,” he said. “However, as I said last year, we need time, we need certainty, and we need flexibility to balance the institution to allow us to meet the nation’s needs for the future.”

The chairman also received questions about the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan. Dempsey returned last week from a trip to the country to get first-hand appraisals from troops and commanders.

“The principal reason for us to remain post-2014 is to maintain pressure on al-Qaida,” the chairman said in answer to the questions. “We’ve got to do this not just in Afghanistan, but wherever they are, either directly or through partners. It’s also important to support the Afghan National Security Force to continue to develop and be a stabilizing influence for their country.”

A total U.S. and NATO withdrawal from the country would risk Afghanistan’s isolation – again, the chairman noted. “Having come out of a decade or more isolation imposed by the Taliban’s ideology and inward focus, the risk would be that Afghanistan would regress and become a safe haven for al-Qaida and other terrorist networks,” he said.

The bilateral security agreement negotiated between the United States and Afghanistan would allow U.S., NATO and partner nation service members to remain in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist security forces. President Barack Obama recently directed the military to begin planning for a full withdrawal by year’s end in light of the possibility that no BSA, as the agreement is known, would be in place. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has thus far refused to sign it, though it was approved by a national council of Afghan elders and community leaders.

Dempsey addressed the notion that the United States does not need the agreement to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

“I’ve noted that we need the BSA for more than legal protections,” he said. “We need it as a demonstrated commitment by Afghanistan that we are partnered with them for specific purposes and that we are not considered occupiers in their country post-2014. It’s the commitment to the partnership that we need. Only with that commitment will our forces be protected in every sense of the word.”

The prospect of changes to military retirement remains a hot-button issue for service members. The chairman reassured his questioners that the fiscal 2015 budget request does not propose any changes to the current retirement system.

“However, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is taking a holistic look at our current retirement system,” the chairman said. “Their proposals are due in February 2015.”

No matter what the commission recommends, the chairman said, Defense Department leaders “will continue to recommend that if there are any future changes to retirement, those who are already serving must be grandfathered in the current program.”

Ethical lapses, misconduct, criminal behavior – all have the chairman’s full attention, Dempsey told the Facebook town hall meeting participants. “The Joint Chiefs and I are committed to making sure our military leaders of all ranks uphold the trust we've earned within our ranks and with the American people,” he said, and he stressed that the overwhelming majority of service members uphold the best traditions of American and the military.

“There will always be a few who let down the team and the nation,” he added. “When they do, we hold them accountable.”

The military is working on a variety of initiatives ranging from training and education to 360-degree assessments to help prevent and mitigate problems, he said. “Ultimately, we must ensure the character, competence and culture of our force meets the high standards that the American people — and our men and women in uniform — expect and deserve,” he said.

One questioner asked the chairman about Joint Force 2020, a concept that stresses the military’s agility and flexibility as the United States faces unclear and unknown threats in the future. It has been one of Dempsey’s key themes since he took office in 2011.

“I can confidently say that in 2020 we will still be the most powerful military in the world if we continue with the strategy as we have laid it out in the Quadrennial Defense Review,” the chairman said. “We must achieve the right balance between capacity, capability, and readiness to remain successful. Budget constraints have forced us to accept more risks – risks which we believe we can manage at this level.”

Again, the chairman said, if sequester-level cuts return in fiscal 2016 “then the risks will grow, and the options we can provide the nation will dramatically shrink. That’s a gamble none of us should be willing to take.”

Senior leaders challenge Airmen to reaffirm commitment to core values



WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody issued the following message to the Airmen of the United States Air Force:

Being an Airman is more than a job. When we voluntarily raised our right hands and took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, we became members of the profession of arms. Underpinning that profession is the sacred trust given to us by the American people. To meet their expectations, we must build our lives and shape our service on the foundation of our core values: Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do.

Throughout our history as a service, Airmen with tremendous moral courage have taught us there is no replacement for virtue, character, dignity and respect. Today’s Airmen -- active, Guard, Reserve and civilian -- must continue this tradition.

When Airmen fail to live up to our core values, the reputation of all who serve is tarnished. We must have the strength of character to do and say the right things at the right times, always with diplomacy, tact and respect. Being a wingman does not mean protecting those who lack integrity or fail to uphold the core values; it means not tolerating them. You are accountable not only for your actions, but also for failing to take action if you see bad behavior.

Today we challenge each and every Airman to reaffirm their commitment to our core values by finding new ways to live these values each and every day. This reaffirmation will strengthen the trust between Airmen, and our commitment to one another. It also reassures the American public we are worthy of their trust.

Thank you for representing the Air Force so well and exhibiting pride and courage in our service. If you have questions about our core values, please seek out guidance and assistance from people who can help: commanders, first sergeants, chaplains and inspectors general are available to provide counsel and advice. Because of who we are, and what we do, Integrity, Service and Excellence carry special meaning for all of us.

Always remember that it is an honor to be called “Airman.” We must earn that honor, every day.

CTAR Enhances Saharan Express 2014



By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) David R. Krigbaum, Saharan Express Public Affairs

DAKAR, Senegal (NNS) -- Participants in Exercise Saharan Express 2014 are the first to field test the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Coalition Tactical Awareness and Response (CTAR) Joint Concept Technology, a new tool for combating piracy and illicit activity throughout the world's oceans.

The exercise takes place on the waters off West Africa and at three West African Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs), which track ships and coordinates operations. Part of the scenario involves naval ships from partner nations intercepting suspect vessels conducting illicit trafficking. CTAR was brought into Saharan Express to help identify ships navigating through a specific waterspace.

"The idea is to take new technology and insert it into an operational venue and evaluate it for its usefulness to support operations," said Gary Shaffer, Office of Naval Research science advisor to U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and operational manager for CTAR. "Since the technology is in its infancy, what we're trying to do for this exercise is to test the integration of its data for use by the MOC and improve operators' maritime domain awareness."

International maritime regulations require all ships more than 300 tons to have Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders which identify and help track the position of each vessel by transmitting the ship's unique AIS code along with the vessels' current position, course, and speed. Coastal radar and low-earth-orbit satellites can also find and track vessels at sea transmitting their AIS data. Ships being used for illicit activity such as piracy or illegal trafficking usually operate without AIS, or turn it off, and are invisible to these means of detection and tracking.

CTAR uses commercially available Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites to find ships, day or night regardless of the weather. In the past, using satellite imagery has been expensive and at times would take up to 12 hours to receive, thus providing little or no value to current operations. With CTAR, data is downlinked from the satellite to a local Mobile Ground Terminal while it is still overhead, processed, and sent to the U.S. 6th Fleet MOC in Naples, Italy, where it is ingested into the global AIS repository called Maritime Security Safety Information System (MSSIS).

For Saharan Express the Senegalese Navy displays the data in its MOC in Dakar. The data is used in conjunction with other information gathered from other sources. Suspect vessels can be identified based on ship size and heading after comparing the vessels which are broadcasting AIS with the full list of vessels provided by CTAR data. Those vessels spotted without AIS can then be contacted and their operations investigated.

CTAR also aids in sharing data.

"What CTAR brings to the table is the capability to freely share all of the data that's collected with anybody and everybody, so data from CTAR is being ingested into MSSIS and Sea Vision," said Shaffer. "From there, any of the African partners can analyze and visualize the data, and do what they need with it."