Thursday, June 26, 2014

U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit welcomes new commander

By Michael Molinaro

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Soldiers, civilians, friends and family members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) welcomed a new commander on Tuesday to the ‘Home of Champions.’

Lt. Col. Bret Tecklenburg assumed command from Lt. Col. Don King Jr. at the unit’s Ceremony Hill located adjacent to Pool Range Complex. King, who commanded the unit for two years, is headed to the John. F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as the executive officer to the commanding general.
“The AMU is the home of champions,” said Tecklenburg. “I am honored to serve in this organization with these phenomenal men and women. I am humbled to be a small part of the legacy this unit has established.

Tecklenburg becomes the 21st commander of the USAMU after his tenure as the branch chief, division chief and operations planner at the Joint Special Operations Command.

He enlisted into the Army as a UH-1 helicopter crew chief and mechanic. He was commissioned in 1996 and served in a multitude of leadership positions throughout his military career. He deployed numerous times in support of overseas contingency operations, including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, serving in both infantry and special operations assignments.

To serve as the leader of the AMU is an exclusive opportunity for any officer who assumes battalion command for the first time, said Col. Brian Cavanaugh, commander of the Army Accessions Support Brigade and reviewing officer.

“The (AMU) is unique in both the value that it provides to the Army and in its organization and structure,” said Cavanaugh. “When you have the professional excellence of the people in the AMU you can achieve so much more than a counterpart with a large staff.”

King led the unit through both exciting and challenging times. Under his leadership the unit sent seven Soldiers to the London Olympics in 2012 and also saw the creation of the unit’s Paralympic team. He also guided the unit through fiscal constraints in 2013, finding innovative ways to train and maintain the right balance of capabilities to sustain the unit’s unique mission. Under his leadership, the  unit raised marksmanship proficiency Army-wide and upheld its tradition in competition, including winning every Interservice individual and team championship, said Command Sgt. Maj. William Koller.

“It’s really tough to leave this place because of the professionalism displayed every day by the Soldiers and civilians here,” King said. “They touch all aspects of the Army and are truly the best in the entire Department of Defense at what they do. It’s tough to walk away from that, but I’ll always remember the extraordinary people who make up this battalion and know our Army is better off because of this unit.”

USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Support 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.

RVTT readies JBER troops for convoy operations

by Airman 1st Class Ty-Rico Lea
JBER Public Affairs

6/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson offers extensive training facilities to develop the battle readiness of all branches on the installation, whether through hands-on or computer-based training.

One such facility is the Mission Training Complex, which includes digital and virtual training for combat operations. Within the purview of the MTC is the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer that re-creates deployed scenarios using a set of four vehicle simulators to practice combat convoy training.

The RVTT provides vehicle crews hands-on experience in a virtual environment, while allowing leaders the experience of commanding convoy operations.

"We provide a platform for active duty and reserve Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines to conduct convoy training in a virtual environment," said Karl Bruening, RVTT site manager. "The RVTT staff controls virtual forces during exercises as well as maintains the equipment performing preventative maintenance and corrective repairs to damaged equipment."

Although the RVTT program is not located directly within the MTC, the training for the program is conducted in the MCT using computer, virtual simulator training and command post operating equipment.

The RVTT has its own integrated command post, where the company commander can receive reports from his troops during a mission execution as well as issue guidance and orders, Bruening said.

Both facilities provide the space and equipment to perform and simulate scenarios specific to mission requirements.

"The MTC is designed to provide home-station operating capabilities for the units assigned here on JBER," said Russell Beauvais, MTC director. "Units conducting virtual convoy training in the RVTT practice reporting to their assigned command post as they would in a real-life tactical situation."

The MTC offers classroom instruction for the Army Battle Command System.

ABCS serves as the basis for live, virtual, constructive and gaming-based training. ABCS allows for a rapid dissemination of plans and orders and awareness of the tactical situation through the tactical internet during training and combat, Beauvais said.

The RVTT allows Soldiers to train in virtual environments similar to Afghanistan and other deployed locations with the use of animated 3D visualizations. Each vehicle simulator can be configured to act as a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck depending on the individual needs of the units, Bruening said.
"The RVTT staff work with military users to build tailored exercises to meet training requirements unique to each unit," Bruening said.

An example of RVTT training is route clearance, requiring Soldiers to properly react to improvised explosive devices along roads in a deployed environment. Another example is resupply delivery, where Soldiers transport supplies to forward operating bases while engaging enemies with suppressive fire.

"The training helps our Soldiers to stay up-to-date on the light infantry tactics," said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Saldivar, a Dog Company, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment light infantryman. "It really sharpens the fundamentals behind our training by being able to maneuver, communicate and knowing how to provide suppressive fire."
The RVTT staff control virtual forces during the exercises by adding and removing elements from the simulator experience.

"They are truly convenient, since the RVTT has training scenarios that we get to do when we're not actively in the field or deployed to either Joint readiness Training Center, [Fort Polk, La.], or an actual deployment overseas," Saldivar said.

D/3-509th Infantry has a heavy weapons platoon and an anti-armor platoon, and uses the RVTT four to five times a year, Saldivar said.

"The trainers with the MTC and RVTT allow us to go through a scenario, bring in the platoons and conduct an after-action report, look at the scenario from the beginning and end, and see where any mistakes were made within the spectrum of our standard-operating procedures," Saldivar said.

Spartan scout is USARPAC’s ‘Best Warrior’

by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

6/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Last Frontier is home to the Army's top noncommissioned officer in the Pacific Theater.

Army Staff Sgt. Adam White, a scout team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, was named the best noncommissioned officer after winning the U.S. Army Pacific's 2014 Best Warrior Challenge competition hosted June 9 to 13 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

The Warrior Challenge is a competition designed to find the best NCO and junior enlisted Soldier in the Pacific. Soldiers from Korea, Japan and Alaska travel to USARPAC headquarters to vie for the sought-after prize of best in the Pacific. The four-day competition consisted of scored events to include a written examination, an appearance in front of a formal command sergeants major board, a rifle qualification and reflexive fire range, maneuvering a daytime land navigation course, night urban orienteering course, two mystery events, and a variety of demanding warrior tasks. At the end of the competition, points were tallied and the highest scoring NCO and Soldier were chosen as NCO and Soldier of the Year for USARPAC.

White had the highest cumulative score, and bested seven other division-level NCOs from across USARPAC.

White, a native of Porter, Texas, said he did not have a lot of time to prepare for the competition, but his seven years of experience in the infantry and scouts helped him to remain confident and win. Two weeks after winning the battalion-level board, he found himself in Hawaii competing at the USARPAC level.

"As far as getting in the books and studying ahead of time, I didn't have all those answers," White said. "When I walked in the board, I knew I was not going to know a lot of that knowledge, but a big part of the board is maintaining your composure, maintaining your confidence."

White performed second best overall during the formal command sergeants major board.
"Not winning that, set me back a little bit," White said. "I was pretty well ahead of all the competition until they did the board and the written test. The second day was pretty stressful for me because I knew I wasn't as prepared as I'd like to be."

Knowing he had ground to make up, White made sure to excel at the shooting event and reflexive fire range. Remembering to keep his composure and trust in the fundamentals, he outshot his competitors to take both events and regain his footing in the race.

"Some of the guys were giving me a little bit of heckling because I'm sniper qualified," White said. "I told them that has nothing to do with reflexive fire. It's a totally different weapon system, totally different everything."

Scores were posted every day until the last day of competition. White and the rest of his fellow competitors went to the Army Birthday Ball not knowing how everyone fared on the last day of events.

"They never posted the last day's scores to leave a little mystery to the whole thing," White said.

When White was announced as the winner of the competition, he said he felt excited, but he also knew that meant he had a greater duty and obligation to his fellow competitors and their units to perform well at the next level of competition.

"Another part of getting announced as the winner is you know you're going to have to go to that next level and represent," White said. "Now, all those people that I just beat and all those units that sent guys to this competition, now I'm representing them at the next level."
White will represent USARPAC at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition in Washington D.C. in October.

RAAF, JASDF, National Guard, active duty take part in Red Flag-Alaska

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs

6/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- "Throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate," is a phrase often associated with Australians, or sometimes Americans trying to imitate an Australian accent; and while Hugh Jackman isn't available to participate in Red Flag-Alaska 14-2, perhaps two C-130J Hercules and a contingent of nearly 70 Royal Australian Air Force personnel can stand in for him.

The Australians, along with the Japan Air Self Defense Force, and U.S. Air National Guard and active duty units, are just a few of the organizations participating in Red Flag-Alaska 14-2, a joint/coalition, tactical air combat employment exercise that started June 12 and runs until June 27.

During Red Flag, aircrews are subjected to every conceivable combat threat, and scenarios are shaped to meet each exercise's specific training objectives. At the height of the exercise, up to 70 aircraft could be operating in the same airspace at one time.

"This isn't war. This is as close as we can come to simulating how we would be fighting in a war," said Air Force Maj. David Balmer, 302d Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor pilot. "So, hopefully, the first time I'm under that type of stress is not when I'm actually in combat."

Commanding officer for the RAAF's No. 37 Squadron, Wing Commander Darren Goldie, said exercises like Red Flag-Alaska are an important training opportunity for his personnel.

"We'll be flying Hercules on tactical airlift missions as part of a wider group of aircraft that includes strike jets, fighters and surveillance aircraft," Goldie said.

As is often the case, foreign and Lower 48 military organizations are confronted with unique airspace challenges in Alaska, such as its rugged terrain and vast expanses.

"The training environment at Red Flag-Alaska is one of the world's most complicated recreations of a modern battle space, with simulated missiles, enemy radar systems, and 'aggressor' fighter jets," Goldie said.

Flight Lieutenant Dan Johnson, RAAF C-130 captain, is one of the pilots experiencing those challenges.

"The terrain here is unlike anything we have in Australia," Johnson said. "To come into a contested environment that has enemy aircraft and ground threats is a challenge. Red Flag is really the first opportunity we've had as a squadron to test our training."

Air Force Lt. Col Dylan Baumgartner, Detachment 1, 353d Combat Training Squadron commander, said learning how to integrate with coalition partners is a primary objective for the exercise.

"Sometimes even our own services have challenges integrating and communicating with each other," Baumgartner said. "Red Flag gives them an opportunity to learn how we plan and for us to learn how they plan. It's important to get our aircraft systems working together: radios, data links, etc."

One aircraft system the Aussies are integrating and counting on to assist in prevention of an enemy attack is a recently upgraded electronic warfare self-protection system, which makes its debut at Red Flag.

"The aircrew have been developing techniques to use these systems, but Exercise Red Flag Alaska will provide a suitably complex training environment before we ever have to employ it in the real world," Goldie said. "Everyone who comes to Red Flag Alaska gets something from this, including our maintenance personnel, logistics and supply workforce, and personnel capability specialists."

While Aussie maintenance personnel are tackling their Alaska challenges, Airmen from Nevada's Air National Guard, are also hard at work. Tech. Sgt. Tom Maples, Nevada Air National Guard, 152d Airlift Wing C-130 maintainer, is one of those Airmen.

"I believe these exercises are very important," Maples said. "As a maintainer it is my training that helps maintain mission readiness. The environment in Alaska is very challenging for flying and it's challenging as a maintainer. We have to be flexible to adapt to ever-changing conditions."

Maples said interaction with coalition partners has enhanced his unit's effectiveness.
"There is excellent collaboration with our partners, the Australian and Japanese," Maples said. "During engine changes, they have helped us with tools and knowledge. It's a great team effort to keep the mission going."

Baumgartner explained that trial and error are what provide valuable lessons for aircrews to take forward.

"I think the best thing about Red Flag Alaska is seeing the lessons come out of the fights," Baumgartner said. "When we finish the flying portion of the day, we spend a good three to four hours dissecting what went well and what went wrong. We consistently get very good feedback from our guests here."

Goldie said he agreed.

"Coming to Alaska to work alongside foreign militaries is also critical to our success on real-world operations," the Australian native said. "It is extremely fulfilling for us to have this opportunity."

While the Aussies were not able to bring a "wolverine" with them to launch at the enemy, one RAF squadron does return with its claws sharpened; the Nevada Air National Guard returns home hoping to have raised the stakes on mission effectiveness; and the Japanese fly off into the rising sunset having increased good fortune for their Air Self Defense Force.

Face of Defense: Aerial Surveillance Unit Aids NATO Efforts

By Paul Baker
NATO E-3A Component

GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany, June 26, 2014 – The E-3A Component based here is an integrated, multinational, rapidly deployable asset to NATO providing airborne surveillance, command, control, and communication capabilities.

These are of particular significance to the unit’s key role in council-approved operations such as Operation Afghan Assist in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

The capabilities of the component’s Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft fleet also provide flexible, efficient support for NATO exercises and for the safeguarding of summits and major international public events.

The component’s respected reputation for successful mission accomplishment stems from longstanding and very effective cooperation between military and civilian personnel from 17 nations working as a unique operational team to meet these requirements in the interests of the alliance.

The local civilian staff association represents more than 600 NATO international civilians employed in a very wide range of occupational fields: financial, legal, medical, safety, administrative, information technology, technical, firefighting and many others.

“With a workforce of this size and diversity, and with deployment rotations frequently taking place, the CSA Committee very often has a tough time keeping up with all the key issues,” said Guy Vandebeek, the CSA chairman. “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated, hardworking CSA staff committee.”

A notable aspect of working life at the component is that many staff members at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen and on deployment have a constantly changing pattern of duty hours in an operational flying environment. Key tasks include servicing and maintaining large-body aircraft equipped with complex avionics and other mission-essential systems on short notice, and immediate response to critical technical issues.

These duties include heavy lifting, crawling into very confined spaces such as aircraft fuel tanks, working at heights reaching 40 feet from elevated platforms and scaffolds, safely handling aircraft fuel, hazardous materials and industrial processes, while coping with extreme weather conditions of all kinds.

“All of this requires not only good physical fitness but also the flexibility and willingness to get the job done, whatever and wherever it may be,” said Ben Pereira, CSA vice chairman.

Good morale, team spirit and willingness to volunteer for extended time on deployment are key factors for ensuring mission fulfillment. The E-3A Component’s operational support of ISAF missions from an air base within Afghanistan, where deployed component personnel have a mandatory working week of up to 84 hours, has already entered its fourth year and is an excellent example of a context in which all these aspects are of great significance.

The component’s commander, Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, acknowledged this at the local CSA’s New Year reception in January this year.

“Whenever I see a new initiative at NATO level, I tell the people working on it that they can take the E-3A Component as a model of successful multinational cooperation,” Mueller said. “We are smart defense in action. And I make sure to tell them this could not be achieved without the experience, commitment and continuity provided by our NATO civilian staff.”

Official: U.S. Committed to Training Libyan Security Force

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2014 – While Libya's unsteady politics and deteriorating security have complicated efforts, the United States remains committed to training the country’s security forces, the Defense Department’s assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs told a House panel yesterday.

Security and successful development of Libyan armed forces are the biggest factors in Libya's transition, Derek Chollet told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

“Last year, the United States committed to help train a Libyan general purpose force of 5,000 to 8,000 personnel. This kind of force will help the Libyan government form its core military,” he said, adding Libya is paying for the training, which could take up to eight years.

The United States is not alone in building Libya's military -- it has strong international support from other nations, such as the United Kingdom, Italy and Turkey, Chollet said.

But progress has been slow, he said, citing several factors that have hampered training.

“Libya's political turmoil and a deteriorating security situation ... make it difficult to have the necessary U.S. personnel on the ground in Tripoli to execute this program,” he said. “Other factors include a lack of vetted training candidates, a lack of pledged Libyan funding, and weak security institutions.”

About 40 Libyan military members recently attended U.S. professional education courses to help build the country's security and enhance its military professionalism, Chollet noted, adding that last year the Libyans also paid for a national security seminar for 25 Libyan military leaders to attend the National Defense University here.

DOD also is helping the Libyan government develop its counterterrorism capacity, he said, through the global security contingency fund, which is expected to train several hundred Libyan special forces personnel.

Of deep concern, Chollet said, is that Libya's borders have become major areas of instability in the movement of violent extremists, the trafficking of weapons, and the massive influx of immigrants.

DOD developed a program to help build Libya's border security capacity through the global security contingency fund, he said, and the department also is coordinating with the European Union.

In addition, the United States, he said, has a “laser focus” on the immense challenges and risks involved with operating embassies in uncertain security environments, Chollet said.

“We will do what it takes to protect our people and to bring to justice those who do us harm,” Chollet said. Additional U.S. military forces are in the region to respond to numerous contingencies, he added. It was at U.S. installations in Benghazi that four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya were killed when extremists attacked in 2012.

The United States has an unrelenting commitment to hold accountable those who harm Americans, Chollet reiterated, citing the recent capture of [Ahmed] Abu Khatallah who is accused of being a key figure in that attack.

Khatallah’s capture “was due to the combined efforts of our military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel,” Chollet said. “And as the president stressed just last week, with this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans.”

MQ-1B Predator Accident Report Released

Release Number: 062614

6/26/2014 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Loss of telemetry downlink signal and an unprogrammed pitch over caused the crash of an MQ-1B Predator 7.5 nautical miles North of Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 30, 2013, according to an Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report released today.

The remotely piloted aircraft was deployed from and controlled by the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron at Holloman AFB when the accident occurred. The crew was attempting the landing phase of the flight after 6.5 hours of normal operation when sporadic signal data from the aircraft caused the crew to go-around in order to preclude a difficult and potentially unsafe landing. The continued degradation in the telemetry downlink signal prompted the crew to put the aircraft on its emergency "lost link" mission profile. While the MQ-1B was operating in accordance to its preset emergency mission profile and under its own control, it performed an unprogrammed pitch over, departed from controlled flight and crashed into the ground. The AIB could not determine what caused the departure from controlled flight.

The aircraft and two inert training munitions were destroyed on impact, with a loss valued at approximately $4.5 million. There were no injuries or damage to other private or government property.

South Carolina Guard Partners With Colombian Soldiers

By Army Maj. Cindi King
South Carolina National Guard

MELGAR, Colombia, June 26, 2014 – South Carolina National Guard soldiers teamed with members of the Colombian army to exchange knowledge on maintenance techniques in Colombia this month.

The South Carolina National Guard has worked with Colombia since 2012 through the National Guard Bureau-led State Partnership Program. The SPP is a Department of Defense program that links U.S. states with partner countries to support mutual security cooperation objectives.

Fifteen soldiers from the 742nd Support Maintenance Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, met with Colombian army maintenance personnel to work on weapons systems, night vision goggles, and vehicles. This was the second meeting between the team partners following their engagement last fall.

“This visit was a bit different for our soldiers,” said Army Capt. Justin Montgomery, commander of the 742nd SMC. “We now have a better understanding of the fight our Colombian partners are still engaged in [against narcotraffickers and other criminals] and how critical their maintenance program is to sustain their mission. As soon as items are repaired, they go right back to the front lines.”

Colombia also is interested in improving its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities with the support of the South Carolina National Guard. With Colombian forces getting closer to achieving their own long-term security goals, their focus is shifting to humanitarian assistance as they work to improve the lives of Colombian citizens.

Montgomery said his team always understood the value and importance of using training manuals and maintenance standard operating procedures, but the Colombians have to not only implement these systems, but also ensure everything that comes for repair is ready to be used in combat.

“When our soldiers deploy, we are sent overseas and face the enemy far from home,” Montgomery said. “The Colombians are in this fight in their own country, and that is very humbling.”

Coordinating these efforts was Maj. Dave King, SPP director for the South Carolina National Guard, who ensured the partners were meeting the strategic objectives of the combatant commander aligned with the goals of Colombian military.

According to King, maintenance is a key skill the guardsmen can provide, primarily because their expertise and use of equipment mirrors that of the Colombian military.

“The equipment used by the Colombian army is very similar to the U.S. Army,” King said. “The unique capabilities our soldiers bring are different approaches to maintenance and techniques that the Colombians may not be familiar with. We hope to assist the Colombians with establishing a maintenance culture.”

Montgomery said this mission has been a unique opportunity for his soldiers, by using their skills in different environment and seeing the value of helping another country.

“Colombian soldiers are among the best in the world,” Montgomery said. “They've shared their skills training with others in the region and we're pleased to be working with them on this maintenance program.”