Saturday, March 15, 2014

USS KIDD Expands Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 into Indian Ocean

By Ens. Brooke E. Schaffer, Public Affairs Officer, USS KIDD (DDG 100)

INDIAN OCEAN (NNS) -- U.S. Navy assets continue to search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 as the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) expands its patrol area from the northwest entrance of the Strait of Malacca into the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea, March 16th.

Upon receiving the updated tasking, Kidd and the two embarked MH-60R helicopters immediately transited to the new search area to continue the search and rescue mission. Kidd is covering more than 300 square miles of water space every four hours and is meticulously investigating anything that may be evidence associated with aircraft debris.

"Our helicopters are an extension of the ship's capabilities and provide us with the best chance of finding airplane debris," said Lt.j.g. Eric Bachtel, of Phoenix, Ariz., the ship's Combat Information Center Officer. "With extra watch standers in place, we are able to comb through any debris spotted from the ship or the aircraft and if needed retrieve the objects via grappling hook, small boats, or with our Search and Rescue swimmers deployed from the ship or helicopters."

Kidd searches more than 1,500 square miles of ocean each day, investigating any possible debris that may be linked to the airliner's crash. Kidd continues to support the overall Malaysian government search effort by sharing information and investigating possible leads. The Kidd crew remains persistent and hopeful that they will find indications as to the possible disappearance site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in order to shed some light on this tragedy.

VCNO Visits Norfolk-based COs, CMCs

By Defense Media Activity - Washington

Norfolk (NNS) -- The Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO), Adm. Mark Ferguson spoke with waterfront commanding officers and command master chiefs on Naval Station Norfolk, March 13.

The VCNO asked the assembled command leadership teams to share their views on fleet readiness, manning, and Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. Questions and discussion ranged from surface training programs to manning in key ratings, to suggestions for improving the SAPR training. USS Barry (DDG 52) Command Master Chief Charles Jones said he enjoyed the lengthy and frank discussion.

"I didn't expect him to address the group the way he did. He really let the questions drive the discussion, which made for a very informative and enjoyable session," said Jones.

Capt. Rick Cheeseman, commanding officer USS Monterey (CG 61) appreciated senior leader focus on readiness issues.

"I was very happy to hear the VCNO confirm that readiness accounts are getting the attention they deserve. A decade of war and contingency ops has eroded a lot of our readiness," said Cheeseman.

Adm. Ferguson wanted to hear directly from shipboard COs and CMCs the impact funding constraints are having on the waterfront. "This is about giving deckplate leaders an opportunity to communicate directly with senior leadership. Hearing, first-hand, the impact of fiscal constraints on the safety, readiness, and morale of our Sailors is critical," Adm. Ferguson said. "This direct feedback allows Navy leadership in Washington to make better and informed decisions about current programs and the future of our Navy."

For USS Cole's (DDG 67) Command Master Chief, Michael Fisher, having the opportunity to speak directly to the Navy's top leadership in an open forum is vital to the health of the Navy.

"It's very important for senior leadership to have face-to-face time with Sailors on the waterfront," said Fisher. "(Navy senior leaders) are deciding policy and determining what programs get funding, and it's up to the Sailors on the waterfront to implement those policies and programs. I think these types of engagements are the difference between success and failure."

‘1 Geronimo’ snipers shoot from Black Hawk platform

by Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

3/14/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Infantry scouts with Hatchet Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, carried out a week-0long arctic field training exercise designed to hone skills in mountaineering, arctic survival, sling load and air assault operations, and sniper precision fire from high-0angle and aerial platforms last week at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
The purpose of the training was to provide immediate, safe, accurate, and lethal sniper fire in support of ground commanders. Scouts sharpened individual and collective skills while planning and executing missions with enabling partners from the Alaska Army National Guard, allowing for improved interoperability.

Hatchet Company's scout platoon leader, Army 1st Lt. Matthew Mitchell, said the training will help his platoon provide sniper support capabilities at the battalion's upcoming Joint Forcible Entry Exercise at Fort Greely, while also improving their arctic operational abilities.

"At the end of this training, we will be better at basic skills, such as [pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections], and planning and preparation for a mission, and also following through with growing capabilities," Mitchell said.

Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, sling loaded a Small-Unit Support Vehicle and a completely gutted 1989 Chevrolet Camaro to the scouts' mountainside location.

Spc. Kyle Lupenski, a cavalry scout who was on the mountain to receive the equipment, said, "We are training in arctic proficiency, and this is a good experience for us to get out and shoot. We will be climbing these mountains with a lot of weight, and shooting down at the Camaro."

The Camaro spent the week on the mountainside as a target for high-angle fire. On March 7, it was airlifted to JBER's Malemute Drop Zone for use as a target for the aerial firing range.

The training mutually benefitted both Army components. The Alaska National Guard pilots logged flight time, and the scouts received the unique aerial platform precision fire training.
Alaska Army National Guard Capt. Brendon Holbrook, a pilot with 1-207th Aviation said, "We don't get to do this every day. It was really good to be able to support the ground element, and do some great training."

Other key training events during the week included operating the SUSV in a mountainous arctic environment, and conducting long-distance and night-fire ranges.

Hagel Discusses Ukraine With French Defense Minister

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone this morning with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss the situation in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby reported.

"Secretary Hagel and Minister Le Drian affirmed the solidarity of the NATO alliance and discussed the importance of the United States and France continuing to working closely with one another to support Central and Eastern European allies,” Kirby said in a statement summarizing the call.

The two defense leaders discussed their respective reviews of bilateral military cooperation with Russia, he added, and they pledged that senior officials from both the United States and France will continue to remain in close touch on those matters in the days ahead.

Hagel and Le Drian also discussed ongoing U.S. assistance to French operations in Africa, Kirby said.

Air Force continues force management programs

Published March 15, 2014

Washington (AFNS) -- Air Force leaders announced a resumption of all force management programs March 15 following a recently discussed strategic pause.

“After providing senior leadership a chance to evaluate the programs and assess our early progress, we are ready to resume immediate processing of voluntary applications in most categories and begin notifying Airmen of their status,” said Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “We expect to receive final approval authorities early next week for a select few categories, like rated and health professions, at which point we will be actively processing all voluntary applications.”

Notifications to Airmen could start as early as next week, the general added.

Cox also confirmed previously-announced force management boards would proceed as currently scheduled. The eligible populations for those boards will remain the same with the exception of a small group of about 500 Airmen who will no longer be eligible for the current voluntary or involuntary programs. Those individuals will be personally notified of their eligibility status by the Air Force Personnel Center.

“Resuming the current programs on the previously announced schedules and under the same basic criteria means minimal changes for our Airmen,” Cox said.

One item assessed during the pause was the pace of the programs and whether or not the Air Force could achieve required reductions on the original schedule. The analysis revealed the need to include a second round of programs in 2015.

“Airmen who were eligible for programs during the first round in 2014 will not be eligible for the retention boards in 2015, unless they have specific negative quality force indicators,” Cox said.

Ensuring well-performing Airmen are not subject to multiple involuntary programs is key, according to the general.

Details on the nature and timing of the second round of programs will be announced in the coming weeks.

The general continues to encourage eligible officers and enlisted Airmen to apply for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Pay programs. The current TERA application window remains open to March 26 and the VSP application window is open to May 1.

For more information on force management, force shaping, reduction in force and other personnel programs, go to the myPers Web site at

Commander, U.S. Strategic Command talks deterrence

by Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Boutte
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

3/13/2014 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo.  -- U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, visited Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 10 to observe the mission here and share his thoughts with base personnel on issues facing the command and how the B-2 is important to STRATCOM's mission and goals.

Haney began his visit by having breakfast with company grade officers here at Whiteman. He fielded questions from the group of lieutenants and captains, discussing current issues in the Air Force and describing the success of Whiteman's deterrence and assurance mission, specifically mentioning the impact of the B-2's participation in Exercise FOAL EAGLE in March 2013. He also discussed the importance of integrity at all levels.

Losing one's integrity does not happen all at once, Haney said. Instead, people typically lose their integrity as part of a process. He said one small decision after another eventually erodes one's integrity, and developing personal guidelines and expectations is key to preventing that from happening.

Haney also visited Airmen on the job, receiving a tour of the B-2, as well as various munitions the aircraft would drop in combat situations.

At lunch, Haney asked Airmen about their concerns and ideas for improving working and living conditions. He also stressed the importance of their contributions to our nation's nuclear deterrence mission, and stressed the same message of integrity that he had emphasized at breakfast.

"Do not sacrifice your integrity for anything," Haney said. "Integrity is the key to success."

He ended the lunch by posing the question, "Who is your mentor and who are you mentoring?"

During a session with Whiteman's officer corps, Haney reiterated that the B-2 plays a key role in the global strike mission, and the combined efforts of the various other USSTRATCOM missions are what make each individual mission collectively strong. He stressed the importance of the nuclear triad and the B-2's unique capability to deter and assure threats now and in the future.

USSTRATCOM relies on various task forces for the execution of its global missions, to include space and cyberspace operations, missile defense, global command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global strike and strategic deterrence, and combating weapons of mass destruction.

Haney's final challenge to Whiteman Airmen - never stop learning.

Aircraft Carrier Extends Operations in Mediterranean Sea

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

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2014 – The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush will remain in the Mediterranean Sea a few days longer than originally scheduled, a Defense Department spokesman said here today.

Army Col. Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters the extension allows for additional training and enhances maritime capabilities in the region.

“This is a few more days over what the original plan was,” he said. “There’s two reasons: one is to conduct these additional training opportunities, and frankly, because a lot of what we’re doing there now is an effort to reassure our allies.”

The carrier left Norfolk, Va., to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.

On the situation in Ukraine, Warren said the department continues to monitor situation “very closely” and continues to call on Russia to de-escalate the situation.

“Russian intervention in Ukraine, we’ve said all along, is a violation of international law and international agreements to which Russia is a signatory,” he said.