Monday, May 26, 2014

Chaplain reflects on mission this Memorial Day

By Chaplain (Maj.) Martin Adamson, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations / Published May 25, 2014

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- "Honorable." That was the word used to describe the kind of work I would be involved in at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

It made sense, so I began to use it. When people would ask me where I was deploying, and I answered, they would usually say something like, "Oh. That will be tough." I would say, "True, but it will be honorable work." Not long after my plane touched down on the east coast, I saw with my own eyes just how honorable it is.

After checking into lodging, getting into my uniform, and having a quick dinner, we formed up with the team that would be participating in the dignified transfer that evening --  an advon team, a carry team, a family support team and a public affairs team. There were others involved, of course, many behind the scenes making sure this 'no fail mission' was flawlessly executed. The longer I have been here, the more I have seen the great care taken by the AFMAO team to ensure our fallen heroes are treated with dignity, honor and respect as they are returned to the United States, and as they transition to their final resting place.

Honorable work.

In fact, "dignity, honor and respect for the fallen" is the AFMAO mission. From the preparation on the plane for the dignified transfer, to the solemn movement as they carry the flag-draped transfer case, to the impeccable care provided to the service member at the mortuary readying them for burial, to the support provided to the family, this team fulfills its mission.

There is something sacred in the way the living care for the dead. In a society that values life, we care for those whose lives have come to an end. At AFMAO, a dignified transfer is not just an empty ritual. In particular, for those who have died fighting to protect our nation, we treat them with the utmost respect. Why? Because they were a person with great value. Because they were a special individual; among all humans they were unique. Because they were "fearfully and wonderfully made." From a chaplain's perspective, they were loved by God and still are. And, because they have given us a gift -- the ability to keep living and loving in this great country.

In 2004, in Balad, Iraq, I was on the other end of this process. At the first Air Force Theater Hospital since Vietnam, we had an amazing medical team that saved many lives. Unfortunately, not everyone survived their injuries. They went home from Operation Iraqi Freedom as heroes and there was a solemn movement to carry the deceased to the plane where they would eventually come to AFMAO. We called them "Patriot Missions." Every individual on that detail showed the same honor to the person that they do here. Isn't that what we, the living, owe to those who have given their lives for this nation? For us?

The second part of the AFMAO mission is "care, service, and support for the families." There were a few family members and friends present during my first dignified transfer and there have been more since. They come together in our Center for the Families of the Fallen and are escorted to the plane to witness the return of their loved one. The depth of grief and pain they feel is known only to those who have had to go through it. We try to prepare them for the emotional impact of what they will see. It is hard. In caring for the families, our team honors them and their sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that no one should have to make -- living without their loved one who died defending our nation.

Just yesterday, a dozen of us went to a local cemetery to place flags at all the Veteran's tombstones. A few hundred were buried there. Though most had died after their military service, some had died during a time of war. World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. How many over the years paid this price? Too many. I thought of all those who cared for the fallen members and their families years ago. How did they honor them? I am thankful for their sacrifice. Isn't that at the core of our focus on Memorial Day? We express gratitude for the gift they gave which means life for us to enjoy for a time. How many more will pay this price? We do not know the answer to that question. I have found myself praying more for peace these days. But I am reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes 3, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven ... a time for war and a time for peace." The AFMAO team would like to never have to do their job, but they are ready to do what is required of them when needed - and they do it with honor. Honorable work, indeed.

(Note: Chaplain Adamson is currently deployed to Dover AFB, Del., from the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in support of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations mission.)

Dempsey Thanks Service Members, Families During Memorial Day Concert

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2014 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanked service members and their families for their sacrifices during the National Memorial Day Concert here last night.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told a nationwide audience that Americans trust their service members.

These young men and women “are willing to fight in every clime and every place. Willing to risk and even give their lives for its ideals,” the chairman said.

On Memorial Day, Americans remember the courage of their sons and daughters in uniform, Dempsey said. “We renew our strength, the strength of our nation for their deep devotion,” he said. “We rededicate ourselves to secure our national purpose: to secure the blessings of liberty.”

On Memorial Day, the country “honors those who honored us -- men and women from every corner of our country and every branch of service -- who gave their lives so we can live free,” the chairman continued.

The nation must look back at the heroes who have brought it this far, Dempsey told the audience.

“It is incumbent on us to look forward,” he said. “They are out there today, America’s sons and daughters. They are in Afghanistan and around the world, lacing up their boots for another day on the front lines of our common defense. In the footsteps of generations before they will march through the day with courage and commitment for each other and people they have never even met.”

Dempsey asked all family members to stand and be recognized for their service.

“Let us show that America will always stand firmly for those that stand up for her,” he said.

Memorial Day events honor U.S., French service members

by Capt. Reba Good

5/26/2014 - SURESNES, France --  -- Two hundred French and U.S. service members and civilians gathered at Suresnes Cemetery, just outside Paris May 25, 2014, to honor fallen Americans who fought and died during the two world wars.

Another 100 U.S. and French service members, civilians and families gathered at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to pay respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that same day.

The Surenes Cemetery serves as a resting place for 1,541 Americans who gave their lives during WWI, as well as 24 unknown U.S. soldiers who served and died during WWII.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the resting place for a French service member who died during WWI. While his identity is still unknown, he is daily remembered with fresh wreaths and an eternal flame.

Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa vice commander, and the USAFE-AFAFRICA Honor Guard took part in the ceremonies.

Naval War College Strengthens Asia-Pacific Partnership

From U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs

MANILA, Philippines (NNS) -- More than 100 Naval War College Alumni and guests from 14 different countries discussed important Indo-Asia-Pacific issues at the NWC 10th Regional Alumni Symposium in Manila, Philippines, May 21-23.

Rear Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter, Jr., president, U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, R.I., and Philippine Navy Vice Adm. Jesus C. Milan, flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy, were joined by U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas and U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg at the event.

The gathering served as an opportunity to support NWC's mission to strengthen global maritime partnerships while solidifying the close partnership between the U.S. and Philippines as part of a long-term rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific.

"Symposia like this one are academic conferences premised on the belief that military education is not solely the product of a brick-and-mortar schoolhouse, but rather a lifelong attempt to acquire knowledge about the profession of arms. Symposia allow us to address strategic, operational, and technical issues of relevance to the region, and table-top war games that facilitate greater understanding of the challenges lying ahead," said Carter.

Today, navies across the globe face new and uncertain challenges, and by meeting to discuss those challenges, ideas can be exchanged about how to overcome them together.

"It is my sincere hope that through meaningful exchanges, we can share knowledge to enhance mutual understanding, thereby building greater trust and confidence. It is my firm belief that we who wear this uniform and share responsibility for our nations' safety and security on the maritime commons can meet as partners to discuss new ideas and concepts," said Carter. "We have prepared a rigorous academic event. Our goal is to receive the latest information of topics by regional experts than explore them together through thoughtful discussion."

The focus of the academic portion of the event, "Strengthening Global Maritime Partnerships," was explored through a series of panels that discussed freedom of navigation, information sharing and interoperability, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

"The Naval War College Regional Alumni Symposium has been a fantastic opportunity for naval leaders from around the Pacific and Indian Oceans to address our common equities and tackle some of the challenges we face every day," said Thomas.

"On average we visit 200 ports and hold 100 exercises each year with the 35 maritime nations of this region. It's all about building partnerships and understanding. The War College symposium is a big part of our engagement and presence here in Seventh Fleet," said Thomas.

The long-standing alliance between the Philippines and the U.S. has contributed to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 60 years and efforts to strengthen the security partnership are continuing. As part of those continuing efforts, the U.S. is looking into how it can support the Philippines in its desire to build a more credible defense, and to improve its ability to respond to natural disasters.

"Much of our future depends on the peace and stability of the maritime domain. The security of the seas that unite our nations will continue to stand at the core of our individual and collective national interests. Activities such as this symposium would help cull and mine the inner depths of our visions, thoughts and ideas for creative solutions and answers," said Milan.

Since 2005, NWC alumni have gathered around the world to foster trust, friendship, confidence, camaraderie and exchange of ideas that began in Newport.

"Together, classmates have strengthened global maritime partnerships in Yokosuka, Japan; Naples, Italy; Valparaiso, Chile; Manama, Bahrain; Singapore; Cartagena, Columbia; Stuttgart, Germany; Toulon, France, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Now, thanks to the generosity of the Philippine navy and Adm. Milan, we can add Manila to our list of host cities," said Carter.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command,/U.S. 4th Fleet holds Operational Naval Committee Conference with Colombian Navy

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Adam Henderson,U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Delegates from the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet met with members of the Colombian Navy, May 20-21, during an Operational Naval Committee (ONC) conference.

Hosted by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO) in Mayport, the ONC brings together representatives from the U.S. and Colombian Navy so they may meet in person and share insights on their countries mutual goals of maritime security in Latin America.

Rear Adm. George Ballance, commander, USNAVSO and U.S. 4th Fleet, welcomed the Colombian delegates.

"The focus of these conferences has much to do with working toward mutual security goals between our two navies," said Ballance. "But, I hope you do not only concentrate on work; as these are opportunities for us to get together as friends, develop relationships, and learn about the culture of our two nations."

Ballance also mentioned the importance of continuing to find unique ways to increase information sharing amongst the two navies, especially in today's resource challenged environment. He discussed the critical role of secure information exchange systems in advancing our navies ability to collaborate during exercises and day-to-day real world operations.

"It is a great opportunity to be a part of this ONC," said Capt. Juan Hogan, deputy, Maritime Operations Center director, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, U.S. Delegation ONC chairman.

The U.S. and Colombian's have a strong maritime partnership and have conducted several multinational exercises and operations together. The Colombian Navy participated in PANAMAX 2013 as the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) and hosted UNITAS 2013 in Cartagena. We look forward to receiving the Colombian navy here in Mayport once again as the CMFCC for PANAMAX 2014.

"I know this conference will go a long way in preparing for future engagements with Colombia," said Hogan, a Federal Way, Wash., native.

Though ONCs have been held for years, the agreements they produce and engagements they lead to directly support the nation's maritime strategy, which emphasizes cooperative relationships with international partners.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

USAFE-AFAFRICA commander takes part in Luxembourg Memorial Day event

by Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/25/2014 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- A Memorial Day ceremony took place May 24, 2014 at Luxembourg-American Cemetery and Memorial to honor the service members buried here who died while serving their country in World War II.

More than 5,000 men and women from the U.S. armed forces are buried here including U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton.

"We gather to honor those who have worn our nation's uniform, and more importantly, we join to remember their service and sacrifice," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. "Whether serving in time of war or peace, America's military forces have been sustained by one common driving belief and that belief is in freedom."

Memorial Day is not only a day to honor those who died in World War II but in all conflicts the U.S. has fought.

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, His Excellency Mr. Xavier Bettel, thanked the U.S. for the sacrifices they made to liberate Luxembourg in World War II.

"70 years ago, young Americans came to Luxembourg to fight for us. They didn't know who you were, how we lived, but they fought for our liberties," Bettel said. "We should never forget what they did for us."

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Douglas E. Lute, thanked those who served and reflected on the achievements that were made by the men and women in World War II.

"While we remember this Memorial Day, the thousands resting peacefully here and the many tens of thousands of their brothers and sisters also resting on European soil," said Lute, "let's remember that they fought and died to end a great war. They fought and died also to lay the foundation of the peace that we have enjoyed ever since."

USAFE-AFAFRICA maintains a forward presence, allowing the building of new and deeper partnerships across Europe and Africa.

"Places such as this cemetery say all that needs to be said about the ties that bind America and Europe," Lute said.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa maintains its readiness to execute NATO commitments and preserve allied and partner interoperability.

"As in World War II, this generation of military service members is not alone but is also joined by our friends, our allies and our partners who share a commitment to freedom," Gorenc said. "This commitment is reflected by our combined partnership as we work together to ensure the security of our nations."

The ceremony ended with cannon fire and the playing of the U.S. and Luxembourg national anthems.

"We mark this day as a celebration of selfless sacrifice, the legacy of our armed forces is a proud and honorable one," Gorenc said. "No matter where they have been called to serve, they have responded exceptionally."