Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Theater Security Cooperation lays groundwork for PACAF Lines of Operation

by Bekah Clark
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

3/19/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of five articles about Pacific Air Forces Lines of Operation which guide near-term time, money and manpower investment to meet joint warfighter requirements associated with known and emerging threats and hazards.

In a message March 10, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander, charged all PACAF Airmen with the responsibility of prioritizing efforts to match our lines of operation, or LOOs.

Theater security cooperation, or TSC; integrated air and missile defense/resiliency; power projection; agile, flexible command and control; and resilient airmen make up PACAF's five LOOs. While all LOOs safeguard our warfighting commitment to U.S. Pacific Command, TSC sets the stage for the rest.

TSC includes all those activities PACAF Airmen conduct with friends, allies and partners to build relationships, to build allied and partner nation capabilities for self-defense and coalition operations, promote specific U.S. interests, and provide U.S. forces with peacetime and contingency access.

"TSC lays the groundwork that sets the stage for and sustains all the LOOs," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Warner, PACAF Security Cooperation Integration lead.

"For example, our Resilient Airmen LOO requires that PACAF Airmen are combat ready, comprehensively fit and aware, and cross-culturally competent," said Warner. "The best way to become cross-culturally competent is through firsthand interactions with allies and partners through TSC activities."

PACAF enhances its TSC goals through engagements with allies and partners across the region, everything from robust multilateral exercises, to small-scale subject matter expert exchanges in a specific area.

As a result of fiscal constraints and the current security environment, PACAF is focused on trying to build more multilateral engagements, meaning engagements with the U.S. and multiple allies and partners versus an engagement with the U.S. and a single ally or partner.

An example of one such multilateral engagement is Cope North, held at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in February. This year was the exercise's 85th iteration. More than 1,800 service members and approximately 90 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and Royal Australian Air Force came together for this year's field training exercise to improve combat readiness to develop a synergistic disaster response, and increase interoperability. The Republic of Korea Air Force also joined the other nations to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or HA/DR, training.

Exercises like Cope North build relationships that will enable smoother, more efficient cooperation during future exercises and real-world contingencies alike, according to Maj. Samved Patel, PACAF international affairs strategist.

Because the Asia-Pacific region lacks a treaty similar to that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. often serves as a central coordination point of sorts in what Patel likened to a hub-and-spoke system.

"The U.S. has many alliances and partnerships in the region; many other countries do not. For some countries, the U.S. is the only foreign country with which they have a treaty," said Patel. "Because of that, many countries use PACAF as a conduit to coordinate with other countries."

"If we can achieve the face-to-face interactions and cooperation in a collaborative learning environment, like an exercise, that may open doors for some countries to coordinate directly during real-world contingencies," he said.

Multilateral engagements offer many benefits, even though having more parties involved can mean a more complex planning environment.

Patel added that "individually, a country's capability might be insufficient to respond to a contingency, but when countries work together the mission can be executed successfully."

According to Maj. Trevor Cook, also a PACAF international affairs strategist, a multilateral response to a single event ties all regional security interests together, since participating countries are extremely motivated stakeholders who are highly interested in the successful outcome of the operation.

For example, because of their long-standing partnership, the U.S., working through the Philippine government, was able to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and supplies during Operation Damayan. Multiple allies in the region, especially Japan, and Australia, stepped up to help a neighbor in need during Operation Damayan, the HA/DR following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
"The knowledge, common training and common equipment shared during multilateral engagements builds interoperability, maximizing the group's collective capabilities," said Cook.

According to Cook, that interoperability is a win-win solution that directly translates into saving more lives and learning how to operate more cost effectively.

For example, "if you have multiple countries participating with C-130s, they don't each need to bring their maintainers, their support teams and their supply chains to respond to a crisis," said Patel. "Instead -- if you know how to work together -- you can share support and logistics, reducing costs and freeing up resources to support their home station mission or other ongoing contingencies."

It's through this type of cooperation that PACAF and its allies and partners are collectively able to maintain peace and stability in the region.

"PACAF has devoted resources to multiple major and smaller scale contingencies, and several large HA/DR efforts," said General Carlisle. "With continued, deliberate use of resources, we'll be able to continue to do that as a staunch partner in the Asia-Pacific region for years to come."

COMPACAF presents Posthumous Silver Star to RAAF Flying Officer

by 1st Lt. Jessica Tait
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

3/19/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander, presented the Silver Star Medal posthumously to Royal Australian Air Force Flying Officer Edward Thompson Mobsby March 14, 2014, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia.

Mobsby was the co-pilot of a B-25 Mitchell bomber shot down during a mission over Papua New Guinea in 1942, killing all five crewmembers aboard. He was serving as part of a combined Australian and US aircrew.

"Today, we right a wrong," said Carlisle. "We correct an oversight that is nearly three-quarters of a century old by properly honoring the gallantry and courage of Royal Australian Air Force Flying Officer Edward Thompson Mobsby, presenting his family with his Silver Star."

The Silver Star Medal is the third highest decoration for valor that can be awarded in the U.S. armed forces and is awarded for gallantry in action against the enemy.

With the rest of the American crew receiving the medal posthumously in 1942 and 1943, Mobsby's daughter Jennifer Read carried on her mother Erica's quest to honor her father.

"We, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and our extended families are so very proud and grateful for this amazing day," said Read in an interview with ABC News.

"In December 2010, we were informed that the wreckage...had been positively identified as the plane in which my father was shot down."

The recovery of her father's remains revived Read's quest for her father's Silver Star and corrected a 72 year administrative oversight. She and her twin sister, Rae Rayner, accepted the Silver Star on their father's behalf.

"It matters to Jenny and Rae, his daughters, to see their father rightly honored. It matters to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know that they are the scions of a hero," Carlisle emphasized.

During the ceremony, Carlisle recognized and acknowledged the gallantry and courage Mobsby exhibited alongside his American crewmembers.

"Our Airmen need to know that they can rest assured that their bravery in battle will be honored," said Carlisle. "That even seventy-two years from now, the selfless sacrifices they are making will be remembered. That their service matters, and will be rightly honored. Heroes will not be forgotten."

US begins training sorties in Poland

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/18/2014 - LASK AIR BASE, Poland -- U.S. Fighting Falcons assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, began off-station aerial training for the first time since their arrival at Detachment 1, 52nd Operations Group here, March 18.

The training enhances interoperability, allowing pilots to take advantage of a unique opportunity to operate across the range of military operations with precise full-spectrum capabilities.

"Bilateral training is essential for future operations within NATO responsibilities," said Lt. Col. John Peterson, 555th Fighter Squadron commander. "When we execute operations in possible real-world situations, we need to have taken the opportunity to train with our fellow NATO nations. In this case, having been invited by the Polish government to train with Polish air force counterparts, it's a unique opportunity for us to combine forces."

On the first day of flying, 16 pilots acclimated to a new airspace and local area procedures. Due to information provided by Polish air force pilots, the flying mission was a success.

"Flying in a different environment poses several challenges, most importantly ensuring the safety of your flight with little knowledge of our emergency airfields," said Capt. Kirby Sanford, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot and chief of training. "Fortunately, we were provided the information we needed to successfully and safely execute on day one due to an in-brief from our Polish counterparts."

As the training continues, the scenarios become more complex allowing pilots to exercise their capabilities to a comprehensive extent.

"We are going to be able to enhance each one of the tactical training missions and take our skill sets to the next level," said Sanford. "This will be even more evident when we get the opportunity to train in the air with the Polish fighter pilots."

Reflecting upon previous training missions with NATO allies, Sanford realizes influential lessons learned through bilateral integration.

"I flew with Bulgarian aircraft in 2012 and with the Portuguese F-16s a month ago. There are so many lessons learned and each one provides insight to how we are able to effectively pick up our entire operation and be ready to train or fight within a matter of days in a different NATO country," said Sanford. "The most important piece of information I've learned, each country brings something to the fight and in my opinion--that's what makes our coalition efforts so effective."

Aerial training will continue with the integration of Polish F-16s to strengthen U.S. and Polish communication and combine in-flight tactics.

Obama Presents Long-overdue Medals of Honor to 24 Soldiers

By J.D. Leipold
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2014 – Twenty-four U.S. Army veterans from three wars -- World War II, Korea and Vietnam -- received upgrades to the highest military decoration for uncommon bravery and gallantry at a White House ceremony yesterday.

President Barack Obama presented posthumous Medals of Honor to family members and representatives of 21 of those soldiers, and draped the sky-blue ribbon and five-pointed star-bearing medals around the necks of the three living veterans from the Vietnam War.

Each of the 24 had received a Distinguished Service Cross for the same fearless actions for which they were now receiving long overdue upgrades to the Medal of Honor.

"This ceremony is 70 years in the making and today, we have the chance to set the record straight," the president said, noting that more than a decade ago Congress mandated a review to ensure heroism of veterans wasn't overlooked due to prejudice or discrimination. During that review, the 24 soldiers -- Hispanic, Jewish and African-American -- were identified as deserving of the Medal of Honor.

"This is the length to which America will go to make sure everyone who serves under our proud flag receives the thanks that they deserve," Obama said. "So with each generation, we keep on striving to live up to our ideals of freedom and equality, and to recognize the dignity and patriotism of every person, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they pray."

Obama invited each living soldier to the stage, one at a time, dressed in uniforms they could have worn in their 20s, but they now were filling out in their 70s with a full complement of ribbons and badges that testified to their skills as young soldiers. Their citations were read, their Medals of Honor were draped, and handshakes were exchanged.

"These are extraordinary Americans. They are exemplary soldiers," the president said.

Following the presentation to the three Vietnam veterans, Obama called them all to the stage.

"Santiago Erevia, Melvin Morris, Jose Rodela -- in the thick of the fight, all those years ago, for your comrades and your country, you refused to yield," he said. "On behalf of a grateful nation, we all want to thank you for inspiring us -- then and now -- with your strength, your will, and your heroic hearts."

Sons, daughters, nephews, brothers, wives, friends and representatives of the 21 soldiers who didn’t live to receive the long-overdue recognition each were called to the stage to hear their soldier's citation read aloud for a final time.

While some fought tears, others smiled, faintly remembering. Then each was presented with the framed citation and Medal of Honor their soldier had earned. There was little doubt their soldiers would never be forgotten again.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is very rare where we have the opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary courage and patriotism of such a remarkable collection of men," Obama concluded. "We are so grateful to them, we are so grateful to their families, it makes us proud and it makes us inspired."

The hardest letter one Airman ever wrote

by Master Sgt. Matthew McGovern
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

3/19/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARLHARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- "I don't even know how to begin this letter, or how to begin to explain why I did this," one Airman wrote. "But I have to try."

It was the hardest letter this young officer would ever write.

He placed the letter neatly on his computer keyboard so his family would get it.

It was 1999 and this young man appeared to have everything going for him: a wife, Linda, two handsome teenage sons whom he adored, J.R. and Ryan, and a
promising Air Force career for this prior-enlisted officer.

On the surface, things appeared to be going well; however, pressure was mounting that no one could see.

"There are a million reasons [why] I reached this point," he struggled to write. "Some you may understand now, and some you may never understand."

With overwhelming pressure at work, unresolved marital issues, separation from his family and agonizing feelings of extreme hopelessness, on March 11, 1999, Capt. Robert Swanson, decided to end his life.

"Linda, I know you will never forgive me for this," he continued to write. "I am sorry, but I have no hope left. Ryan and J.R., please don't make the mistakes I have made in my life. I am sorry for what I have done."

Resolute in his decision to end the pain, he went into his garage, started his truck's engine, and washed down nearly 50 anti-depressant pills with whiskey. He climbed into the bed of his idling truck and went to sleep hoping to never wake again.

But he did wake up.

"I woke up 12 hours later," said Swanson recently. "The truck was still running and though I was groggy, I was coherent enough to go into the house and call my office to let them know that I was going to be late."

His co-workers thought it was odd he didn't show up for work, and after failed attempts to reach him by phone, they could tell there was something wrong when they finally received his call at noon.

"Based on the sound of his voice and his slurred speech, I knew it was urgent that I get to his apartment," said his then supervisor, Mr. Robert Williams, a major at the time, who grabbed his own supervisor and went to the house. "When we arrived, it was clear he needed assistance, but it wasn't clear why. We immediately took him to the base hospital where he was treated and kept for observation."

Still shaken and confused following this, his second attempt to end his life, by overdosing on medication, Swanson pondered how he had failed again.

Fifteen years later Swanson, now a Colonel and the Pacific Air Forces Chief of Weather Operations, knows suicide wasn't the right answer to his problems.

He found not only the hope he craved but also life-renewing reasons to keep on living.

"If I could tell this young captain anything, I'd tell him to hang on; the future gets better," he explained. "I'd tell him he'd miss the opportunity to see his boys grow into young men, and that he'd miss the opportunity to see the pain and agony subside and the chance to see the sun shine again."

His path to healing was not easy. He met with a psychiatrist almost daily for six months for intense therapy sessions designed to put him back on the path to a healthy state of being.

"I read your file; you're really good at telling us everything we want to hear," his psychiatrist told him. "I've seen your IQ and you're smarter than I am. Nothing I'm going to do, or say, is going to get through to you, until you are willing to take a chance, and let me try to help you."
Only when he was ready to accept his psychiatrist's advice, did he start to heal--and the healing came almost immediately.

"We got rid of the anti-depressants," Swanson said. "I hated them, and they really interfered with me making real progress."

His psychiatrist taught him how to look at the world realistically; how to examine different events in his life, sort through his reactions to these events and figure out what is normal behavior and what emotions are distorted.

"People who are depressed have a distorted view of the world," Swanson explained. "For example, if a depressed person breaks a glass, they feel terrible, like an utter failure as if nothing is ever going to work again properly."

Since 1999, Swanson learned how to face life's challenges head on and understands that negative feelings like anger, depression, and guilt doesn't result from bad things that happen to him, but from the way he thinks about them.

He learned to make healthy changes on his road to happiness and has accomplished many of his life-long goals including: earning his Ph.D., completing more than 20 marathons, re-marrying, witnessing his sons graduate from college, and achieving the rank of colonel.

"I'm at the happiest point in my life now and I want to show others that they also can make it through and be happy again," he said.

Swanson went from writing the hardest letter of his life as a captain, to making one of the hardest decisions of his life as a colonel - to go public with his suicide attempts, in hope of possibly reaching someone struggling with overwhelming emotional pain.

"I've been thinking about coming forward for quite some time," Swanson said. "I can't help but feel that one of the reasons I'm here, and why I survived two serious suicide attempts, is to make a difference in someone else's life."

With the uncertainty sequestration has on the Air Force and the on-going force-shaping decisions affecting every Airman, he thought this was a critical time to come forward.

In 2009, a fellow weather officer was notified during a deployment that he had not been retained following an Air Force reduction in force (RIF) board. Three weeks after returning home, he committed suicide.

"It was devastating to lose a fellow Airman, but I understood his pain and I understood, in some ways, what led him to make the decision to end his life, even though it is one I wish he had decided differently on," Swanson explained.

"I know our Airmen are worried about what will happen next with their career, will they survive force shaping, and if not how it will it affect them and their loved ones," Swanson said. "It is to be expected that Airmen may be a little anxious, depressed, sad and overwhelmed with emotion and not know exactly how to handle it. Some may even reach the point that I reached on March 11, 1999, when I tried to take my own life -- this is why I have decided to come forward."

Lt. Col. Andrew Cruz, PACAF Chief of Mental Health Services, is hopeful that more Airmen will get assistance when needed.

"It's important to understand that seeking help isn't a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage and strength," said Cruz. "The Air Force is doing its best to change the stigma of mental health, primarily through our communication efforts and how it's characterized. The Mental Health Clinic is just one resource. People can access Military Family Life Consultants, Military OneSource, chaplains, behavioral health providers in patient centered clinics, and many other national and local resources."

Swanson encourages all Airmen to remember to keep wingman communication lines open and to take the opportunity to seek help from chaplains, mental health, and other trained therapists, if needed--for yourself or others.

"The right mechanism to receive help is different for everybody. It's finding that right person and getting to the point where you accept there may be an alternative future," he explained. "Not every psychiatrist, psychologist, or chaplain is going to be the right person for that. You've got to connect with your therapist, and sometimes it may take similar backgrounds or personalities to make this happen."

Suicide is a decision that can't be undone and Col. Swanson is proof that those feelings of depression and hopelessness can be overcome with the right help--life does get better.

"What I know for sure is that suicide is a permanent fix to short-term problems," Swanson said. "But I can promise you, that if you work hard at changing how you view the challenges we all face in life, you can get through anything-and I mean anything. So I encourage everyone who is a part of our Air Force family to seek the help they need to get them back on the road to a healthier outlook on life."

For more information about suicide awareness and prevention, visit:

The Army’s Army Hosts Kid-Friendly ‘Boot Camp’ for Children of the Fallen™

Surviving military families head to Fort Bragg’s Camp Mackall for outdoor adventure and wilderness survival training

Fayetteville, NC – March 19, 2014 – Children of fallen soldiers in Fayetteville/Cumberland County, NC, will get to enjoy an all-day military boot camp on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014. Hosted by The Army’s Army, in partnership with the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program at Camp Mackall and Fazoli’s of Fayetteville. Organizers are expecting a number of Children of the Fallen members and their families to take part in this unique event where they will learn a variety of wilderness survival skills, such as how to build a shelter in the woods and how to purify water.

“Children of the Fallen members have all endured a tragic loss, and we are committed to hosting regular events which facilitate their development and demonstrate the support available in their community,” commented Janine West, Executive Director of The Army’s Army.  “We’d like to thank SERE, Fazolis and our event sponsor Fayetteville Sam’s Club, for providing this unique opportunity to help enrich the lives of these military families.”

Children attending the event will enjoy a day of interactive instruction and outdoor adventures, as they explore the area around Camp Mackall. In addition to building shelters out of surroundings in the woods, they will learn how to start a fire without matches, how to identify poisonous wildlife and even practice some primitive cooking techniques. 

“We are honored to be partnering with The Army’s Army again on this special event benefiting children in our community who have lost a parent or guardian in the war,” commented Mike Zalampas, Club Manager of the Fayetteville Sam’s Club. “Through our support of the Children of the Fallen mentoring program, we are able to show our appreciation for surviving military families in meaningful and valuable ways.”

The event will be led by SERE instructor Gordon Smith, who spent 26 years in the Special Forces. The SERE program provides Special Operations soldiers, including Special Forces candidates, Civil Affairs, Military Information Support and Special Operations aviators and crew, with training in survival, evasion escape and the Code of Conduct. Special Forces students train at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School for up to two years to become qualified to join Special Forces. SERE is one of the steps in this rigorous training.

Children of the Fallen was established by The Army’s Army as a mentoring program to help children who have lost a parent or guardian in the armed forces. Through this program, and the continued support from partners and members, The Army’s Army is able to host fun, interactive events for surviving families, as well as pair children with supportive mentors.

If you would like to make a donation to The Army’s Army to help support initiatives like the Children of the Fallen Mentoring Program, please contact Janine West at (910)709-9671 or

About The Army’s Army:
The Army’s Army is a nationally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization made up of citizens and businesses who have pledged their support to those in the military. We do everything we can to make soldiers, veterans and their families feel welcome, appreciated and safe. The Army’s Army is dedicated to “watching over those who watch over us©.” For additional information, please visit or

USAMU Soldiers finish one-two in Texas, shoot their way to world championships

By Michael Molinaro

FORT BENNING, Ga. – Three Soldiers from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) earned a trip to the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Championships at the Spring Selection match this past weekend in Kerrville, Texas.

Trap shooters Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Hadden, Spc. Seth Inman and Pvt. Austin Odom shot their way onto the USA Shooting Shotgun Team after four days of intense competition March 13-16.

“Shooting is an individual sport, but it’s always best when the Army team is on top,” Hadden said. “If I wasn’t shooting I was watching my teammates, pulling for them. We are extremely pleased with how things played out.”

At the competition, shooting scores from the fall selection match held last October were combined with the spring scores to determine qualification for the ISSF Championships, which will be held in Granada, Spain. Hadden was in first place based on his fall scores, and continued to dominate from the beginning of the spring competition. He shot a 238 (out of 250 targets) and claimed the first final. The Pendelton, Ore. native is a three-time World Cup Gold Medalist and wants to add a World Championship medal to his collection.

“The world championships are a big deal in this sport and a stepping stone towards the Olympics,” Hadden said. “As my career winds down it would mean the world to me to win a medal there.”

Inman, a Lexington, Mo. native, will shoot in his first World Championship representing the Army after holding on to second place throughout the match. Like Hadden, Inman was in second after the fall match and kept a firm grip on the position after equaling Hadden’s score of 238.

“It’s a great feeling,” Inman said. “We put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. Now we need to keep driving on, staying focused as we get prepared to compete at the worlds.”

Fresh out of basic infantry training, Odom won the junior division and a trip to Granada for the World Junior Championships. Having graduated just two weeks ago, the Benton, Ark. native shot a 226 and closed out the weekend with a victory in the finals to put an emphatic stamp on AMU’s performance in Texas.

As the trap team’s elder statesman, Hadden said there is satisfaction and a sense of achievement when a new recruit fulfills the promise they demonstrated during AMU recruitment.

“(Odom) only got about five or six days of training in after having to go through in-processing, so to shoot the scores that he did after that kind of layoff was phenomenal,” Hadden said. “It feels really good when the guys you bring to the team are working out.”

Besides qualifying for the World Championships, Hadden and Inman will also shoot at the Championship of the America’s (CAT) this fall. Both championships are the first two qualifying matches for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, and shooters can earn quota slots for their respective countries.

Next up in Kerrville are the Men’s skeet and double trap matches. The World Championships will be held Sept. 6-20 and the CAT games are scheduled for Oct. 11-20 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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

'Frankenherc' lives on with new mission

by Paul Zadach
934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/19/2014 - MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION -- The retired C-130 affectionately known as "Frankenherc", a long time fixture at the 934th Airlift Wing, will live on again as part of a different aircraft. The retired aircraft was a conglomeration of different C-130s and was used for training at the 934th before it was dismantled, demilitarized and much of it sold for scrap last fall.

Monday, the wings were crated and loaded up for transport to Robins Air Force Base, Ga., where they will fly again on a new aircraft. The outer wings will be refurbished and put on the U.S. Coast Guard aircraft #83-0507. This aircraft will get a new center wing, along with the refurbished outer wings and then modified to be able to do firefighting duties with the U.S. Forest Service, according to Chuck Boehm, Program Manager/Logistician at Robins AFB.

"We still have additional wing components that will be flown to Robins on one of our airplanes later this week," said Mike Dressen, 934th Airlift Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron. "We also have some other pieces that are on the 'save list' in a supply warehouse awaiting shipment to be used for other aircraft." The salvaged parts will save the cost of purchasing new ones and may also keep an aircraft in need of parts from being grounded.

While Frankenherc's presence may now be absent on the 934th ramp, it lives on in its new airframe and mission.

Hagel, Army Leaders Induct ‘Valor 24’ Into Hall of Heroes

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

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel led a celebration correcting an injustice today, as 24 Army veterans whose heroics spanned three wars were inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes here.

President Barack Obama presented to the Medal of Honor to three living heroes and to family members or representatives of the 21 others at the White House yesterday. All had previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, but a congressionally directed review resulted in their awards being upgraded.

Joined by Army Secretary John M. McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, the defense secretary noted that today’s event also celebrated the nation’s highest award for valor.

“We are here this morning to celebrate the heroism of 24 selfless individuals,” Hagel said, noting that their acts of gallantry in battle merit the nation’s highest recognition. “We are also here to correct an injustice of history to help right 24 wrongs that should have never occurred.”

Before honoring the Medal of Honor recipients themselves, Hagel recognized a friend of one particular recipient for his determination to ensure Pfc. Leonard Kravitz, and other deserving soldiers, received their rightful recognition.

“I want to recognize another soldier here today, a man who President [Barack] Obama acknowledged and commended yesterday,” Hagel said. “His name is Mitch Libman. He was the driving force behind this effort to award the Medal of Honor to Jewish and Hispanic service members who had earned it, but had never received it because of racial or religious discrimination.”

Hagel said when Libman discovered his childhood friend had been denied the Medal of Honor, he decided to do whatever was necessary to rectify it.

“He never gave up,” the secretary said. “And though it took a long time -- too long -- he was able to see the record set straight, not only for his friend, but for 23 other soldiers. Mitch, on behalf of everyone in this auditorium, and this country, thank you. We’re grateful for your hard work and your persistence.”

Hagel also expressed gratitude to Army officials and others who helped to identify and verify every heroic deed being honored at the ceremony.

Hagel also noted three of the 24 medal recipients -- Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela, Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris and Specialist 4th Class Santiago J. Erevia, who all were promoted to the next rank before leaving the Army -- were in attendance at the induction ceremony.

“Some of these soldiers gave their lives in service to this nation,” he said. “Others have passed away, but we are honored to have three of the recipients here with us today. The names that grace the walls of the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes belong to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who represent the essence, the finest, the best of military service.”

The defense secretary also related a story of a Jewish chaplain who survived the carnage at Iwo Jima 70 years ago and paid tribute by leading his fellow Marines to dedicate a cemetery on the island.

“They were burying their friends and their comrades,” Hagel said, “men of all religions, all races [and] all creeds.”

In mourning them, Hagel said, the chaplain observed, “Here no man prefers another because of his faith, or despises another because of their color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Thus do we memorialize those who, having ceased living with us, now live within us. Thus do we consecrate ourselves, the living, to carry on the struggle they began.”

The defense secretary said the two dozen Medal of Honor recipients’ induction into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes continues to honor their valor.

“Today, on the doorstep of our nation’s capital, we honor 24 heroes with the same solemn pledge that was given on the island of Iwo Jima -- that their sacrifice shall never be in vain,” Hagel said. “Thank you for what you all have done for our country.”