Military News

Friday, May 30, 2014

U.S. to Continue to Lead in 21st Century, Hagel Says



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, May 30, 2014 – The United States will continue to lead in the Asia-Pacific region, but the methods will change, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here.

Hagel spoke to the annual Asia Security Summit sponsored by the International Institute of Strategic Studies tonight U.S. time, tomorrow morning Singapore time. It was Hagel’s second trip to the summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, and his fifth trip to the region since becoming defense secretary.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama laid out the next phase of America’s foreign policy, telling the audience at the U.S. Military Academy commencement that the United States will balance diplomacy, development assistance and military capabilities. A huge part of that effort will be the push to strengthen global partnerships and alliances. This is the heart of the rebalance to the Pacific, Hagel said.

“The rebalance is not a goal, promise, or a vision – it is a reality,” he said.

The secretary listed the strategy’s accomplishments in the past year, including holding a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, building partnerships with Vietnam and Malaysia, and visiting three treaty allies in the region: Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. The United States and the Philippines announced a new enhanced defense cooperation agreement, and there is progress in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, he said.

“Diplomatic, economic, and development initiatives are central to the rebalance, and to our commitment to help build and ensure a stable and prosperous region,” the secretary said. “But prosperity is inseparable from security, and the Department of Defense will continue to play a critical role in the rebalance, even as we navigate a challenging fiscal landscape.”

The Asia-Pacific is the region of potential in the 21st century, Hagel said, and the American rebalance is a recognition of that. “But even while advances in human rights, freedom, democracy, technology, and education are yielding better lives and futures for all people, and even as more nations are stepping forward to contribute to regional security, the Asia-Pacific is also confronting serious threats,” he added.

Territorial and maritime disputes in the South and East China seas, North Korea’s provocative behavior and its nuclear weapons and missile programs, the long-term challenge of climate change and natural disasters, and the destructive and destabilizing power of cyberattacks are just a few challenges in the region, the secretary said.

“Continued progress throughout the Asia-Pacific is achievable, but hardly inevitable,” he said. “The security and prosperity we have enjoyed for decades cannot be assured unless all our nations have the wisdom, vision, and will to work together to address these challenges.”

The United States will work with all responsible states to deal with these issues, Hagel said, and will encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes, uphold principles including the freedom of navigation and stand firm against coercion, intimidation, and aggression.

Also, he said, the United States will work to build a cooperative regional architecture based on international rules and norms, will enhance capabilities of allies and partners to provide security for themselves and the region, and will strengthen its own regional defense capabilities.

“One of the most critical tests facing the region is whether nations will choose to resolve disputes through diplomacy and well-established international rules and norms – or through intimidation and coercion,” he said.

The South China Sea is a prime example. The sea is “the beating heart of the Asia-Pacific and a crossroads for the global economy,” Hagel said, and China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims there.

The United States has been clear and consistent in response, Hagel noted. “We take no position on competing territorial claims,” he said. “But we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims. We also oppose any effort -- by any nation -- to restrict overflight or freedom of navigation, whether from military or civilian vessels [or] from countries big or small.”

Hagel noted that in November, he announced the U.S. military would not abide by China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea.

“All nations of the region, including China, have a choice: to unite, and recommit to a stable regional order, or, to walk away from that commitment and risk the peace and security that has benefitted millions of people throughout the Asia-Pacific, and billions around the world,” he said. “The United States will support efforts by any nation to lower tensions and peacefully resolve disputes in accordance with international law.”

Diplomacy can work, the secretary said, and it has worked in the recent past as nations across the region negotiated territorial disputes without bloodshed, coercion or provocation.

“The choices are clear, and the stakes are high,” Hagel said. It’s not about a rocky island or even the oil beneath the sea, he said, but rather is about “sustaining the Asia-Pacific’s rules-based order, which has enabled the people of this region to strengthen their security, allowing for progress and prosperity.”

The secretary announced he is tasking Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, to host regional counterparts to discuss concrete ways to establish greater maritime security awareness and coordination.

The United States needs to work with China not only to resolve legal issues, but also to stop North Korea from a history of provocations and attacks that only get more serious as the country pursues nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, Hagel said.

“The U.S.-China military-to-military dialogue has a long way to go,” he added. “But I have been encouraged by the progress we have made, and continue to make. Our dialogue is becoming more direct and more constructive, getting at the real issues and delivering more results.

“As we expand this dialogue, the United States also supports a sustained and substantive exchange with China on cyber issues,” he continued. “Although China has announced a suspension of the U.S.-China Cyber Working Group, we will continue to raise cyber issues with our Chinese counterparts, because dialogue is essential for reducing the risk of miscalculation and escalation in cyberspace.”

The United States also remains committed to building the capacity of allies and partners in the region through about 130 exercises and engagements, and about 700 port visits annually.

“Next month, the United States will host its annual Rim of the Pacific exercise, the world’s largest maritime exercise, that will feature the first port visit by a New Zealand naval ship to Pearl Harbor [in Hawaii] in more than 30 years, and will include Chinese ships for the first time,” Hagel said.

This cooperative regional security plan will help to build trust and confidence across Asia, Hagel said.

“From Europe to Asia, America has led this effort for nearly seven decades,” he added, “and we are committed to maintaining our leadership in the 21st century.”

AETC director recognized for efforts in international training

by Tech. Sgt. Beth Anschutz
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs


5/30/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- The Director of International Training and Education for the Air Education and Training Command was recently recognized for exceptional leadership and his commitment to promoting career development within his team.

George Gagnon was awarded the 2014 Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership for his efforts as leader of both his directorate and the Air Force Security Assistance Training Squadron.

As the executive agent for all Air Force sponsored international training, Gagnon leads a very specialized and professional work force. His team is responsible for the operational and financial management of an enterprise that represents more than $9 billion in training value.

AETC/IA and AFSAT operations personnel manage contracts between governments, develop and implement training programs and process international students through training in the United States. The financial management personnel on his team manage direct purchases of training, while adhering to sometimes complex rules and regulations governing international commerce.

Although the team doesn't administer any training themselves, without their efforts, international training wouldn't get done.

"Think of us as a business that works between the United States and other countries to help them determine training requirements, what training they can afford and how that training needs to be done," Gagnon said.

"Our mission in AETC is to train the world's best Airmen in the world's best training environment. If we in turn bring our international partners into this training world, then we have expanded our team. We're training future partners, future allies, future teammates and leaders."

Gagnon's leadership and diplomatic skills were lauded after his team successfully built enduring and effective partnerships through support of a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA Fleet Modernization Program. The $30 billion program will transform the RSAF from a contractor-based aircraft maintenance and training system to an indigenous and sustainable enlisted and officer force by 2019.

John Rush, AFSAT Director of Operations, said there has never been an international training requirement of this size and scope. AFSAT professionals designed and crafted the master training plan for more than 5,500 maintenance technicians, more than 200 pilots and Weapon System Officers, and the transition of the RSAF cadre to the new digital F-15SA variant with expanded capability and weapons.

"Global partnerships like this are important to our continued security, now more than ever," Rush said.

"One of our responsibilities is to use purposeful and mutually beneficial involvement with other nations to promote peace, security and opportunity. Security Assistance Training is an effective way to do that," Rush said. "We seek to be the partner of choice to provide Air Force training to other nations."

Rush met Gagnon in Officer Training School in 1981. Their paths continued to cross throughout their respective careers and the two have been working closely since 2008. He said he is not surprised Gagnon received an award intended to recognize executives devoted to public service and leadership.

"Mr. Gagnon's directorate is responsible for the management, funding, development and execution of training for over 10,000 international students annually, both in the U. S. and overseas. Over 140 countries look to the U. S. Air Force for training. In the context of world politics and international security this is enormously important." Rush said. "There is no one more dedicated or devoted to service of the U.S., the Department of Defense, the Air Force and AETC than Mr. Gagnon."

Gagnon said the award he received is because of the efforts of his team and he is very lucky to be a part of such an important mission.

"When you talk to Airmen around the world, they look at the U.S. as a model. We are the standard. When we go out and fight in the future, we are not going to be alone. We will be fighting beside the allies and partners that we have created, the same people we have trained today," Gagnon said. "It's very rewarding to be a part of international relationship building at the very lowest level."

Armed Services YMCA Extends Family Memberships to March



By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2014 – Military families using fitness centers and respite day care through the Armed Services YMCA will be able to continue their memberships until March of next year, a morale, welfare and recreation program official said yesterday.

MRW program analyst Chris Wright said the Military Outreach Initiative, a five-year contract between the Defense Department and the Armed Services YMCA, was set to expire recently, but it has been extended to March 17, 2015.

The initiative originally reached out to the families of deployed Guardsmen and reservists to give them an opportunity to join a YMCA free for fitness, recreational activities and respite child care, Wright said. It began with the Guard and reserves, he explained, because their families, in most cases, didn’t live close to major military installations, where they could use base fitness and childcare facilities. The program later was extended to active-duty families.

“It provides spouses an outlet during stressful times, and an opportunity to maintain fitness, physically and mentally,” he said.

Some 2,700 YMCAs across the nation participate in the initiative, Wright said, adding that the memberships are paid through Overseas Contingency Operations funding, because the initiative is tied to readiness and deployment.

“As we continue to draw down efforts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, that requirement is beginning to decline,” he explained. “We want families to understand that as popular as it’s been, this program is beginning to draw down to prepare for the end of the contract, and [we are] looking for other opportunities.”

Other services will remain available to families of deployed service members who live in remote locations following the end of the contract next year, Wright said. For example, through the White House’s “Joining Forces” initiative, free personal training and gym memberships are being donated by members of the American Council on Exercise and the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, DOD officials said.

Additionally, Wright said, military installations offer fitness programs and child care, and families can check for opportunities through their service’s MWR program.

“We encourage families and service members to remain engaged, healthy and seek recreational and physically activities that help maintain their fitness level,” Wright said. “DOD wants people to live healthy.”

‘Friction Points’ Stoke Asia Tensions, Locklear Says



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, May 30, 2014 – The situation in Asia has become more serious in recent months, with nations engaging in territorial disputes at “friction points,” the commander of U.S. Pacific Command said here today.

In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III said these friction points -- primarily areas of the East China Sea and the South China Sea -- endanger stability not only in this part of the world, “but in the entire interconnected economic global system.”

Nations need to be careful about their rhetoric and provocative acts, the admiral said, because these could escalate.

Territorial disputes must be solved by negotiation and legal remedies, Locklear said. “We encourage all nations in the region to avoid all provocation, and avoid miscalculation,” he added.

Tensions and disagreements are inevitable, Locklear said, but security and stability demand other ways of solving these frictions.

The United States is a Pacific nation, he noted, and America has been involved in security in the region since the early 1800s. “For about the last 70 years, we have been the centerpiece of the security architecture here,” Locklear said. “In that 70 years, the peace and prosperity has helped not only the American people, but has helped the people of every country in this region.”

U.S. security in the Pacific allowed Japan, South Korea and the nations of Southeast Asia to prosper. The American security has affected the Indian Ocean nations. China, too, has benefitted from the stability American security fosters, the admiral said.

“What we aim for in this century is another 70 years of peace and prosperity,” Locklear said. “The U.S. doesn’t need to be the guarantor of security, but we will certainly remain here and participate.”

Pacom’s role is to ensure U.S. interests are protected and that American allies are protected, and to be a stabilizing influence, Locklear said. This means engagement and maintaining dialogue with nations across the spectrum, he added.

“The United States has many, many, many things in common with China,” said Locklear, noting both nations need and desire peace and stability in the Pacific region.

Locklear is in Singapore to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual Asia security conference.

Hagel: Thousands of Russian Troops Pull Back from Ukraine's Border



By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2014 – Thousands of Russian troops have pulled back from Ukraine’s border in a move Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called “promising” yesterday during a media briefing en route to Singapore, one of the stops on his 12-day trip to Alaska and countries in Asia and Europe.

The secretary said he had not spoken with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about Russians pulling troops back from the Ukraine border.

“We do know that thousands of Russian troops have been pulled back and are moving away, but we also know that there are still thousands of Russian troops there that have not yet moved,” Hagel said.

In early to mid-March, according to news outlets, the Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Russian Defense Ministry both announced a buildup of Russian troops on several segments of the eastern borders between Ukraine and Russia.

At the Pentagon today, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, confirmed that at least two-thirds of the Russian forces have repositioned off the border. DOD continues to monitor the situation, he added.

“The remaining forces appear to be packing up and preparing to depart the border as well,” and returning to their home bases, Warren said, noting, “We welcome this.”

But the Pentagon spokesman said it doesn’t change the fact that for the past several months the Russians have radically destabilized the situation in Ukraine.

“They still maintain a significant force presence in Crimea, and we continue to call on them to work to stabilize Ukraine, to prevent militants from flowing into Ukraine and to help bring a peaceful resolution,” Warren said.

“The Russians continue to contribute to Ukraine’s destabilization through their efforts to support Russian-backed separatists and the fact that they failed to secure their borders so weapons and militants could flow across the border from Russia and Ukraine,” he added, “so we continue to call on them to take concrete steps to bring peace throughout the region.”

On his way to Singapore, Hagel said, “Any time you're moving troops and equipment and assets away, that's promising. But [the Russians] are not where they need to be and won't be until all of the troops that they positioned along that border a couple of months ago are gone.”

Standing down to knock down sexual assault

by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


5/29/2014 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- The Wolf Pack took a pause from its mission to address sexual assault May 22, 2014 during a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down day.

Col. Kenneth Ekman, 8th Fighter Wing commander, addressed the wing for the first time, reflecting on the wing's mission and abilities while motivating the pack to charge against a nationwide battle.

"I have heard the word 'family' ascribed to this group more than I have heard any other wing in my career and so we spent some time to address a threat to our family," said Ekman. "Just like the North Korean threat, we trained to defeat that threat to our Airmen."

The Wolf Pack family strengthened its bonds and resolve by holding all-calls, silent walks and group discussions to find ways to minimize and prevent sexual assault at Kunsan. The training focused on identifying predators and perpetrators versus focusing on victims and victim care.

After each squadrons' all-call brief, Wolf Pack members marched out of the theater in a single file line to a 'silent walk,' lined with 99 helmets representing the sexual assault cases at Kunsan dating back 10 years. In between each of the 99 were sets of three that symbolized the statistically unreported cases believed to have occurred on base.

"I am glad that we are taking steps to fix this problem," said Senior Airman Israel Selwick, 8th Medical Operations Squadron bioenvironmental technician. "I didn't think these things happened so often because it's hard to understand how people do not respect each other."

The stand down day was just one day, but Ekman is continuing the work of previous wolfs in following the President's, Secretary of Defense's and higher headquarters' directive in preventing, identifying and combating sexual assault.

"The Wolf Pack is out in front of this issue and people talk about the Wolf Pack in the pentagon; about how well the Wolf Pack is doing in coping with sexual assault and in changing and building a better climate," said Ekman.

Mustangs take third in softball tournament

by Senior Airman David Owsianka
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


5/30/2014 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- The Osan men's softball team took third place during the 24th Annual Pacific Wide softball tournament at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, Republic of Korea, May 23 to 26.

The tournament began with 18 teams playing six round-robin games to determine which seed the teams would be placed in to start the tournament.

The Mustangs went 6-0 during the round-robin games giving them the first-place position for their division. Osan defeated teams from USAG Daegu, ROK; Shanghai, China; North Carolina; Misawa Air Base, Japan; Yokota AB, Japan; and Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Osan faced the Yongsan team during the first round of the tournament.

The Mustangs jumped to an early 6-2 lead after the first inning. Osan struggled in both hitting and fielding during the second and third innings allowing Yongsan to take a 10-7 lead.

Ben Whitehead, 7th Air Force, led off with a single to help the Mustangs start a comeback in the fourth inning. The team also hit three home runs helping them take a commanding 18-10 lead. Continuing to add to their lead, Osan defeated Yongsan 22-12.

After defeating Yongsan, the Mustangs came out swinging against the hard hitting Joint Task Force team from Hawaii hitting three home runs in the first inning leading 4-2. Both teams battled back and forth throughout the game fighting to take control.

JTF led 20-19 going into the final inning of the game. The Mustangs swung away in the last inning putting 14 runs on the board to take a 33-20 lead. Allowing only two runs in the bottom of the inning, Osan advanced to the quarterfinals to face the Legion team.

The Mustangs continued their hot hitting in the first inning as Justin James, 51st Logistic Readiness Squadron, knocked a three-run home run out of the park to start the game. It was followed by three home runs to take a 7-6 lead at the end of the first inning.

Osan struggled offensively over the next four innings only putting up four runs allowing Legion to take an 18-11 lead going into the sixth inning. The Mustangs found life in the top of the inning hitting two home runs and putting up eight runs to take a 19-18 lead.

Unable to keep Legion from scoring, the Mustangs fell short losing 29-19. The loss put the team into the loser's bracket to face the JTF team again.

JTF came out swinging during the first two innings hitting seven home runs to take a 10-4 lead over the Mustangs.

After stopping JTF from scoring any runs in the third inning, the momentum of the game began to change to Osan's favor. The Mustangs scored five runs before the first out, and regained the lead 11-10 before the end of the inning.

The Mustangs defense continued to make it tough for JTF to score as they put up three runs over the final four innings as Osan won the game 20-13.

In the next game, Osan faced Legion in the semi-finals for the second time.

Osan struggled to score during the first two innings with Justin James' home run being the only run scored for the Mustangs. Legion had a 5-1 lead to start the third inning.

The Mustangs rallied off of two home runs in the top of the third to take an 8-5 lead. Legion responded with nine runs to regain their lead. Unable to add any more runs, Osan lost the game 19-8 to take third place in the tournament.

"Coming in third place is a great accomplishment considering the skill level of the teams we played against," said Robert Waddle, 51st Medical Support Squadron.

Waddle is proud of what his players have gained from playing in the tournament.

"The players have learned that there is more to softball than just hitting and playing defense," Waddle said. "They have a better understanding of how to play and work as a team, and pick each other up when someone makes a mistake.