Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NATO Takes Prudent Steps to Reassure Allies, Show Resolve

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2014 – While solutions to issues Russia has caused in Ukraine require diplomacy, NATO is taking prudent steps to reassure allies and demonstrate resolve, a senior alliance official said.

Speaking on background, the official reiterated that the way out of these issues is for Russia to de-escalate and pull its troops back from its borders with Ukraine.

Since Russia moved into the Crimea, NATO has taken steps to bolster military capabilities in the region. The alliance has increased presence in the air with increased Airborne Warning and Control System flights and by beefing up its Baltic Air Policing missions. The United States also sent F-16 Fighting Falcons to exercise with NATO allies from the Polish air base in Lask.

NATO is deploying the two alliance mine countermeasures groups into the Baltic Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. “NATO will also conduct sorties with maritime patrol aircraft around the alliance’s eastern maritime borders to improve situational awareness,” the official said.

On land, the alliance is looking at a range of exercises to promote interoperability. The U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Italy, already has sent company-sized units to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

This will expand. The alliance is looking at its exercise program and “will revise it as appropriate for the current environment,” the official said.

U.S. officials said the alliance is looking at the annual Baltics Operations exercise and probably will bulk that up. They also are looking at Exercise Saber Strike as another opportunity to demonstrate the alliance’s resolve and capabilities.

The issues in the East throw a spotlight on the alliance. Officials say collective defense remains the core purpose of the alliance, and that remains relevant.

And, after a dozen years of conflict in Afghanistan, with alliance countries providing troops and treasure, NATO is as interoperable as it’s ever been, officials said.

“The current security environment simply reinforces the relevance and urgency of the implementation of an exercise program, but one that is informed by the changed circumstances in Europe,” the official said.

Face of Defense: Mother, Daughter Succeed Together

By Army Sgt. Angela Parady
121st Public Affairs Detachment

AUGUSTA, Maine, April 30, 2014 – When Michelle Silvermane first said she was thinking about going into the military, Amber Silvermane thought she was out of her mind -- she never thought a mom could do something like that.

Women make up less than 14 percent of the Army’s ranks, and less than 10 percent of military recruits are older than 35, so it is no wonder her mom’s seemingly abrupt decision came as a shock to Amber.

Struggling to overcome physical fears and complacency, the 37-year-old was determined to realize a dream she had held onto since she was young, and she was going to convince her daughter to join her.

Amber and Michelle enlisted in the Maine Army National Guard in 2007, less than a month apart from one another. Thanks to a sergeant at the Military Entrance Processing Center, they were enrolled in a buddy program, meaning they would stick together during their training. They went through basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., then continued on to their advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Michelle said she had always wanted to join the military, but having children in her late teens made that seem like an impossible dream for years.

“My mother worked three jobs her whole life just trying to support us kids, … but she never really had anything to call her own,” Amber said. “She always put us first, and it was always about us kids. She was the one who really wanted to join.”

When her youngest was 16, Michelle’s mind was made up. Michelle said her husband, who served in the Army until Amber was 1, was very supportive of her decision. Knowing it was something she had really wanted to do, and knowing she had the support of her family, Michelle went to the recruiter. She asked Amber -- who recently had graduated from high school and was working the graveyard shift at a call-in center -- come with her.

Amber is now a sergeant, and her mother is a specialist.

“Amber was not going in a direction I approved of,” her mother said. “She wasn’t doing anything illegal, or super bad, but I could see where it could go really bad, really quickly.”

Amber, now the full-time administrative noncommissioned officer for Maine’s Joint Force Headquarters here, said she never gave the military any thought until her mother told her she was going. She remembers thinking that the military would never be a good match for her.

“My dad looked at me, and said, ‘What are you doing right now? You aren't going anywhere. If you hate it, it’s not active duty -- its one weekend a month, and two weeks a year. Anyone can do that.’ He was right, in a way,” she said.

Amber enlisted in January, and her mother, who also works full-time for the Maine National Guard at Camp Keyes here, enlisted the next month. The two were matched up, and left for basic training that November.

“I knew mentally, I could do it,” said Michelle, a healthcare specialist for the Maine Army National Guard Medical Detachment, and full-time case manager for medical and behavioral health. Her own life experiences would give her an advantage over some of the younger recruits who may have a difficult time being yelled at or ordered around, she said, adding that she knew she could look past the yelling and screaming and see the idea was to create a mentally tough and disciplined soldier.

But changing her mindset as a 37-year-old wife and mother was more difficult than she thought, she said.

“I went from being the one who organized everyone’s lives, the one who made sure they did what they were supposed to, when they were supposed to, and were where they were supposed to be, to being told what to do and when to do it,” she said. “I think that was the hardest struggle for me.”

While both women were ready to help each other along the way, they said, they also were ready to be successful independently.

But Amber recalled when her mother was almost sent back because she was going to fail basic rifle marksmanship.

“My mother is an extraordinarily smart woman. She is driven and passionate, but can be easily discouraged,” Amber said. “To this day, she struggles with shooting. After a day at the range, we would come together and she would be tearing herself apart. I would look at her and tell her, ‘You are smart enough, driven enough; you have to stop talking yourself out of things. You have to stop being so detrimental to your own progress.’”

That blunt support helped the team graduate from basic training together, and quickly reversed roles when they both arrived in Texas for their health care specialist training. Michelle would have to rein Amber in at the end of a long day of classroom activities, almost forcing her to focus and study so that they could make it through together.

“She wanted to go for a walk, go to the gym or the PX, but there was a very real chance that she wasn't going to make it through AIT the first time if she didn't buckle down,” Michelle said. “I would tell her, you are not getting recycled, not here, not now. Open that book. We are going to study and we are going to get you through this.”

Now, they work doors away from one another, and get lunch together nearly every day. Amber said her mom has become a personal counselor for her, and one she doesn't have to pay for. Because they both live and breathe the Army life on a full-time basis, she said, they understand a lot of the same things.

“You don’t always know who you can talk to -- who will keep what you say confidential,” Amber said. “But I can tell my mom anything. She can tell me anything, [and] it doesn’t go anywhere. She gets me.”

Michelle said she has seen a change in Amber, who has found focus and direction, while maintaining her happy and carefree outlook.

“I never expected either of us to accomplish what we have already accomplished,” Amber said. “Everyone has aspirations to be something someday, but that’s just it. No one defines it. I never thought my mom would really do this. I know I never thought I would be here.”

Laughlin and Keelser Airmen win 2013 AETC Cost Conscious Culture Award

by Capt. Ashley Walker
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

4/30/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- Air Education and Training Command officials announced winners of the 2013 AETC Cost Conscious Culture (C3) Annual Awards 22 April.

Tech. Sgt. Jeffery Randolph, 14th Operations Support Squadron, Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, was awarded C3 Individual of the Year. The 47th Civil Engineering Squadron Energy Team, Laughlin AFB, Texas, was awarded C3 Team of the Year.

"These awards recognize the important contributions AETC members have made towards creating a culture of cost consciousness within the First Command. Their willingness to challenge established processes and identify ways to reduce costs and maintain mission effectiveness has positively shaped AETC's future," said Maj. Kurt Schmidbauer, AETC chief of budget integration. "Their actions provide us valuable examples of actions all AETC members can take to enable us to overcome some of the challenges associated with our current budget environment."

Randolph, an Aircrew Flight Equipment Airman, found ways to save money by assessing and changing processes in his office. He eliminated all paper technical orders by consolidating all documents into a digital library and identified duplicate inspection tracking practices. Randolph used his mechanical skills to refurbish an electric powered cart, saving the unit $7,000 for a replacement.

The 47th CES Energy Team was the first to use energy saving performance contracts (ESPCs), which requires no up-front costs for the Air Force since contractors recoup costs through future energy-savings. The team members include: 1st Lt. Garrett Karnowski, 1st Lt. Christian Ocasio, 2nd Lt. Christopher Logue, 2nd Lt. Charles Heim, Senior Airman Evens Perjuste, Airman 1st Class Mark Anthony Concepcion, Leslie Adams, and David Morin.

The Energy Team's efforts include base-wide xeriscaping, or a drought-tolerant landscaping, which reduces irrigation demand by 24 million gallons of water. Another project included a No Heat/No Cool program where heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in 180 buildings were disabled or limited to conserve energy.

In 2012, Gen. Edward Rice Jr., the former AETC commander, created the C3 program to highlight the need for innovation to face the current and future budget constraints. A cost-conscious culture focuses on achieving savings by enabling all Airmen to make cost effective changes.

The annual C3 award program was developed for units to recognize individuals and teams who demonstrate key principles of developing a Cost Conscious Culture to achieve savings.

World War II Internment Camp Survivors Honored 70 Years Later

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2014 – Eight U.S. Army Air Force Airmen who were interned at Wauwillermoos, Switzerland seven decades ago were finally honored with the Prisoner of War Medal today.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presented the awards to seven surviving men who in 1943-44 were “barely old enough to grow facial hair,” Welsh said, while flying bombing missions into the heart of Nazi Germany, fully aware of the fear and peril awaiting them, when they were shot down over Switzerland.

“During that time period, for these men and their bomber crewmates, the chance of surviving a combat tour without being shot down, captured or killed, was about 25 percent – a one in four chance of survival,” Welsh noted. Aircraft loss rates of 30-50 percent he said, were not uncommon on missions against the most well-defended targets.

“It’s the kind of courage we read about in books, that people make movies about and that these humble, grateful survivors praise on their fallen comrades but rarely seem to recognize in themselves,” Welsh said. “But make no mistake about it – these men have that kind of courage.”

But the courage of these eight men, Welsh recounted, wasn’t limited to the skies over Western Europe. “Each of them has a story about a mission that didn’t go well, about a day when he and his crew were the ones who didn’t return, about a day when his aircraft was either shot down or damaged so badly that they had to crash land in Switzerland.”

Today’s ceremony came about as the result of nearly 15 years of effort by U.S. Army Maj. Dwight S. Mears, an Iraq war veteran and an assistant professor of history at West Point, to learn more about his late grandfather, Army Air Force Lt. George W. Mears who was captured after his B-17 Superball was shot down in 1944.

“My grandfather was wounded, his controls were shot away and he lost two engines, but he managed to fly the crippled bomber to Zurich, where the entire crew was interned,” Mears wrote.

Because Switzerland was neutral during the war, the Americans were not allowed to leave the country but many, including the eight survivors wanted to get back into the fight or return home, Welsh explained. “For those who tried to escape and were caught, the punishment was severe.”

They were captured and interned with the very basest criminals in Swiss society, Welsh said. “They slept on lice-infested straw, sewage and waste overflowed in many of the common areas; many prisoners became very sick and there was no medical treatment available.”

There was, however, solitary confinement, starvation and mental terror, the general added. And after the war, many of the survivors carried the secrets of the horrors they endured.

Switzerland’s neutrality rendered internees ineligible for the POW medal because existing law required captivity by a belligerent in a declared conflict, or alternately captivity by “foreign armed forces hostile to the United States,” Mears wrote.

Congress passed an amendment to the FY2013 defense bill that allowed the Wauwilermoos airmen to be considered for the medal. The Air Force agreed that these airmen deserved recognition for their sacrifices while trying to reach Allied lines in France.

“They served each other and our country proudly; they saved a world and they inspired a nation,” Welsh said.

Award recipients were:

Retired Lt. Col. James I. Misuraca

Retired Maj. James V. Moran

1st Lt. Paul J. Gambaiana

1st Lt. James F. Mahon

Tech. Sgt. Alva H. Moss

Staff Sgt. John M. Fox

Sergeant William G. Blackburn

Sergeant George E. Thursby

Senate Confirms Work as Deputy Defense Secretary

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2014 – By voice vote late today, the Senate confirmed Robert O. Work, a retired Marine Corps colonel, to be the next deputy secretary of defense.

Christine H. Fox has been acting deputy secretary since former Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter stepped down in December.

In a statement issued shortly after the Senate vote, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he welcomes Work’s confirmation.

“Bob is an admired and tested leader, with a distinguished career of public service, including during his time as an officer in the Marine Corps and as undersecretary of the Navy,” Hagel said. “He brings to this position a depth of experience, knowledge, and expertise that will greatly benefit the Department of Defense. I look forward to working closely with Bob to strengthen our defense enterprise and help safeguard America's security.”

Hagel added that the Defense Department owes a deep debt of gratitude for stepping in to serve during the transition. “I am grateful to Christine for her wise counsel, steady leadership, and her constant dedication to our men and women in uniform,” he said. “She will be greatly missed.”

Work stepped down as undersecretary of the Navy in March 2013. Since then, he has headed the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

A distinguished graduate of the Naval ROTC program at the University of Illinois, Work was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in August 1974. During his 27-year career, he held a wide range of command, leadership and management positions. He commanded an artillery battery and artillery battalion, and was the base commander at Camp Fuji, Japan.

His last assignment in uniform was as military assistant and senior aide to Navy Secretary Richard J. Danzig.

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 2001, Work joined the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, first as the senior fellow for maritime affairs, and later as the vice president for strategic studies. In these positions, he focused on defense strategy and programs, revolutions in war, Defense Department transformation and maritime affairs.

Work also was an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where he taught defense analysis and roles and missions of the armed forces.

In late 2008, he served on President Barack Obama’s DOD Defense Transition Team. In this role, he led the Navy Department issue team, and he served on the defense policy, acquisition and budget teams.

Work earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Illinois and master of science degrees in systems management from the University of Southern California, in space system operations from the Naval Postgraduate School, and in international public policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies..

Hagel Meets With Egyptian Foreign Minister at Pentagon

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met today with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy to discuss recent events in Egypt and the Middle East, as well as the defense relationship between the United States and Egypt.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said Hagel assured Fahmy that the United States remains committed to advancing shared security interests in the region, including counterterrorism, border security, and Sinai security. He thanked the minister for his support to those missions and for that of Egypt's armed forces as well, Kirby added.

“The two leaders discussed political developments in Egypt, to include the need for a proper balance between security and freedom,” the press secretary said. “Secretary Hagel stressed the role of political inclusiveness and dissent in the democratic process and asked Minister Fahmy to help encourage peaceful dissent by releasing activists and journalists who have been detained.”

Hagel and Fahmy also discussed Egypt's judicial process, including U.S. concerns over recent mass trials and death penalty sentences, Kirby said, adding that the secretary urged the Egyptian government to ensure due process rights are being afforded to all Egyptians.