Friday, March 21, 2014

SECNAV Visits Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay

From Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs

KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay March 21 to tour the facility and speak to Sailors and Marines at an all-hands call.

Mabus began his remarks by highlighting the work done by those stationed at the base and recognizing the importance of the submarine force to the Navy mission.

"Thank you for the work you do," he said. "The level of skill and expertise at Kings Bay is extraordinary. Because of people like you, nobody can match what we do...America depends on you."

Mabus also addressed his priorities for the Department of the Navy and the importance of the Navy and Marine Corps mission.

"The presence we provide gives our leadership options," said Mabus. "The Defense Strategy is a maritime strategy and nobody can do that better than the Navy and Marine Corps."

Mabus went on to discuss how his focus areas of people, platforms, power and partnerships support the Navy and Marine Corps' ability to maintain a worldwide presence.

Much of the focus, however, was on people.

"People are the edge we have," said Mabus, "and we're trying to do things for Sailors and Marines like increasing sea pay."

Following the all-hands call, Mabus took the time to answer questions from Sailors and Marines in attendance and pose for photos.

While at the base, he also visited with Marines assigned to Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Kings Bay and toured USS West Virginia (SSBN 736), the Trident Refit Facility and Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic.

AF Undersecretary headlines F-35 unveiling at Luke AFB

By Senior Airman Grace Lee, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Published March 21, 2014

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- Luke Air Force Base celebrated the arrival of its first F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter with an unveiling ceremony here March 14.

The event was attended by approximately 500 people, including elected officials, community leaders, representatives from partner nation air forces and many Luke AFB Airmen.

"Today's ceremony embodies, to me, commitment," said Eric Fanning, the Undersecretary of the Air Force. "For the Air Force it represents our commitment to the F-35. This weapons system is critical for the Air Force continuing to provide decisive air superiority around the world. This fighter will dominate anything else, anywhere in the world that any other country produces."

Joining the undersecretary on stage was Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer; U.S. Rep. Trent Franks; Gen. Robin Rand, the Air Education and Training command commander; Brig. Gen. Michael Rothstein, the 56th Fighter Wing commander and Lorraine Martin, the vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics F-35 program.

"I'm really honored to be here on such an historic day for Luke Air Force Base," Brewer told the audience, with the aircraft on display behind him.

"I am thrilled for all the military, for the residents of the West Valley and for our state," the governor said. "As a charter member of Fighter Country Partnership, I am immensely proud to stand with you to welcome this incredible aircraft to the Valley of the Sun."

The aircraft, which arrived at Luke AFB on March 10, is the first of what will eventually be 144 F-35s assigned to the base, for a total of six squadrons. The first aircraft is assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, which recently reactivated in October 2013 and traces its lineage back to World War II.

Luke AFB was also named as the F-35 pilot training center for seven partner nations. The first partner nation to train here is expected to be Australia, which should have two F-35s at the base by the end of 2014.

"The F-35 is virtually undetectable to its enemies and will provide the Air Force a decisive edge in battle," Martin said of the jet's capabilities. "It is an agile, versatile, high-performance, nine G-force, multi-role fighter that provides unmatched capability and unprecedented situational awareness."

Rand emphasized the strategic importance of the F-35 for the Air Force.

"The F-35 Lightning II will deliver warfighting capabilities essential to the security of our nation for decades, and we will maintain our Air Force's ability to employ lethal force against 21st century threats," he said. "Folks, here's the truth: this airplane is a war bird, and that's how it will be used. Let's not forget what our Airmen are here to do - they're here to keep our children and our grandchildren safe. And the F-35 is going to be the platform -- the neatest, best machine available to do that."

CSAF showcases Air Force, Airmen to Georgia civic leaders

By Airman Dillian Bamman, 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Published March 21, 2014

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III spoke to approximately 180 members of Leadership Georgia, a group of influential state citizens and leaders, about the Air Force's contributions to national security and the innovative spirit of its Airmen at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., today.

"People kind of forget what exactly it is that we do," Welsh said. "This nation was founded on a common idea that the greatest thing a nation can give its people is freedom, so you can hold your own destiny in your own hands."

Welsh said the U.S. Air Force is the greatest in the world because of the hard work and dedication of Airmen. And their contributions have been pivotal to the success of the joint warfighting team, something that doesn't happen by accident.

"Since 1943, over seven million men and women have deployed around the world during contingency operations," Welsh said. "Over ten thousand of them have died, but not one has died from enemy aircraft dropping a bomb on them. It takes people like you see in uniform today that are dedicated to their jobs to make sure air superiority happens."

Welsh also spoke about the importance of pride and his family's military legacy.

"(My dad) wore the Silver Star, has five Distinguished Flying Crosses and has over 9,000 flying hours," Welsh said. "When dad handed off those wings for graduating Air Force pilot training to my son, John, he handed over more than just a piece of metal. He handed off an Air Force, an unbelievably capable and powerful Air Force."

Welsh also shared stories of Airmen, highlighting their background and how they contribute to mission, like Maj. Isaac Bell, an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot.

"(Major Bell) fought in Combat Outpost Keating, a horrible fight in Afghanistan where two Army Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor," he said. "The first airplane at the scene of the event was an F-15E, (Bell's) airplane. With his coordination, those two Soldiers got out of the fight alive. I could find at least 300 people here at Moody (AFB) with extraordinary stories like Major Bell's. Airpower starts right here in Georgia."

Having been the 347th Operations Group commander from June 1995 to April 1997, Welsh said it's always a pleasure coming back to Moody AFB and Valdosta.

"I have traveled the world a lot, whether it was with me and my family, or as a dependent traveling with my father," he said. "I've never lived anywhere more than three years at a time in my life. The only place that we were stationed at that felt like home, besides Texas, was here at Moody Air Force Base in the state of Georgia."

Welsh personally thanked the members of Leadership Georgia for what they do for the Air Force in addition to their contributions to the state of Georgia.

"Thank you for welcoming these Airmen to your businesses, your schools and your homes," Welsh said. "I can't repay you for that, but I can thank you for it. This is your Air Force, we serve your interest and we're also proud to do it."

Marine awarded Purple Heart

by Staff Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/21/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized awards given to military members injured in the line of duty. A marine recently received the award at the Marine Corps detachment on Luke Air Force Base for injuries sustained while fighting in Afghanistan.

He vividly recalls the events that led up to his injury and the difficult road to recovery that earned him one of the United States' oldest awards.

"I was on patrol with a squad from the 1st Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.," said Keith Darnall, a retired Marine Corps staff sergeant who served as a counter intelligence specialist. "We stopped at an area frequently visited to check its potential to be developed into a fortified position. I was holding a security position with my interpreter when I noticed a male Afghan watching us from the south side of the river."

Darnall went to speak to his squad leader about the suspicious individual and as their squad moved out of sight, the Afghan detonated an improvised explosive device. The device detonated right under Darnall and his squad members, killing one Marine and leaving another with serious fractures from the blast.

"When the bomb went off, I just remember hearing the explosion and seeing things flying," he said.

Darnall's training immediately took over after the blast as he slowly regained consciousness.

"I dragged my interpreter to cover and started directing the Marines around me to take up positions in case of an ambush," he said.

Darnall sustained a traumatic brain injury from the blast and to this day has issues with his memory and concentration.

"We can be in the middle of a conversation and I will completely forget what we were talking about," he said.

He suffers from chronic migraines and some days is unable to get out of the bed. He also sustained damage to his spine. These injuries have prevented him from spending time with his family like he wants to.

"The worst part is not being able to spend time with my kid," Darnall said. "I will start to play with my son and 20 minutes later I get a migraine, and I have to tell him, 'Daddy has to go lay down right now. I can't play with you,'" he said. "It sucks because I can see he really wants to spend time with me."

Darnall has no regrets though. Joining the Marines is one of the best things he has done, he said. He is grateful to have received the Purple Heart, but at first he was skeptical whether he deserved the award.

"Before I had these injuries, I was skeptical of other people who said they had injuries," Darnall said. "I grew up deploying where if an injury wasn't severe, you didn't get a Purple Heart. These types of invisible injuries were hard for me to accept initially because I didn't understand the extent of my injuries."

Darnall now has a new respect for people with similar injuries. More people should receive this award for these injuries, he said. However, he knows that cases like his are difficult to prove. He takes life on a day-to-day basis and is grateful to the Marines Corps for recognizing his service.

Hagel Praises Ukrainian Restraint in Call With Defense Minister

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 – In a phone conversation with Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel repeated his praise for the restraint demonstrated by Ukrainian forces in Crimea and commended Tenyukh’s leadership, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

"For his part, Minister Tenyukh updated Secretary Hagel on the situation in Crimea and throughout the country,” Kirby said in a statement summarizing the 35-minute call. Hagel reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine and stressed that officials are actively reviewing Ukraine's request for military assistance materials, he added.

"Both leaders agreed on the need to find a diplomatic, peaceful resolution to this crisis," Kirby said, and Hagel agreed to stay in close contact with Tenyukh going forward.

USS Elrod Assumes Escort Duty for ‘Morning Glory’ Tanker Ship

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

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 – The U.S. Navy’s USS Elrod relieved the USS Stout of its escort duties for the Morning Glory tanker ship March 19, Army Col. Steven Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, told Pentagon reporters today.

The Navy initially took control of the commercial tanker in international waters by request of the governments of Libya and Cyprus following its seizure earlier this month by three armed Libyans.

The Morning Glory, according to a DOD statement, is carrying cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company, and was illicitly obtained from the Libyan port of As-Sidra.

Warren said 34 sailors from the USS Elrod are aboard the Morning Glory and all USS Stout personnel have departed the ship.

“We’re going to hand over the Morning Glory to Libyan naval authorities within the next day or two in international waters just outside of the territorial water line,” he said.

Everything will be turned over to the government of Libya, Warren noted, including the three Libyans, the entire 21-member organic crew of the Morning Glory, the ship and all of its contents.

The change of escorts was for administrative reasons, Warren said. The USS Stout is assigned to the U.S. European Command area of operations, while the USS Elrod has the U.S. Africa Command area of operations.

The USS Elrod, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is homeported in Norfolk, Va., and deployed Jan. 14 to the 6th Fleet area of operations.