Military News

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The guardians stand watch

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2014 - 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs -- As the sun lazily breaches the horizon, permeating the dark shadows cast from the colossal mountains that overlook the base, security forces Airmen are pushing their limits, running 45 minutes in combat gear.

They are training for the day the enemy takes the fight to their domain.

The troops are exhausted and the chief takes it upon himself to motivate his tired Airmen. He curls his mouth into a twisted smile and like a wolf howling at the moon, he shouts, "Who protects this house!?" His tired troops regain their vigor and scream back, "Defenders!"

The 31st Security Forces Squadron is entrusted with the more than 8,000 lives who work and live here. They are the first line of defense against any and all threats. Their business is force protection and they offer their life for the cause.

"We train in this gear because we work in it," said Lt. Col. Damian Schlussel, 31st Security Forces Squadron commander while addressing the flight. "You won't be in physical training gear when you're in the fight - you have to learn how to operate with our equipment and be agile enough to be effective."

No stranger to physical training, Schlussel embraces a lead-from-the-front mentality for his Airmen. During the duration of the ruck march, the 38 year old starts in the back and works his way to the front motivating Airmen along the way.

It is now 7:30 a.m. and the workday has yet to begin. This serves as a testament to the SFS mentality.

"No matter what rank you are, how old you are or what job you hold, you are still security forces Airmen," said Schlussel. "You still need to maintain the ability to defend your wingmen, the base and its resources."

After a rigorous physical training session in body armor and Kevlar combat helmets, the defenders make their way to the armory. M9 pistols, M240B medium machine guns and M4 carbines along with radios, and ammunition flow through the bars of the armory to the waiting hands of the approximately 40 Airmen preparing for their shift. After clearing their weapons, they pass through the door marked "defend with honor" to form up for "guard mount."

Guard mount is a pre-shift formation where critical information is passed to the flight before the start of the shift. During the formation, the senior NCO in charge passes along safety and critical information to insure the Airmen are safe, informed and kept up to date on all possible threats and procedure changes.

The flight is at attention and absolute silence falls over the formation. Their flight chief approaches "guard mount" and orders his defenders at ease. The first order of business today - assigning duty locations.

The man standing in front of the formation calls name by name, waiting for the appropriate response. The Airmen are divided into eight separate areas on base to safeguard 31st Fighter Wing resources to include F-16 fighting falcons and the base community through law enforcement services.

These Airmen follow a rigorous training regimen. In an overseas location, their jurisdiction falls within the base's perimeter. To ensure the defenders remain highly proficient in their job, they are tested regularly with frequent exercises. At any given moment, a radio squawks "Exercise, exercise, exercise," and security forces personnel are on high alert and tested on their responses. The threshold for mistakes is limited.

"We understand that you're human and you make mistakes but we don't excuse mistakes. We make sure you work out all the kinks because in this career field - mistakes mean lives," said Tech. Sgt. William Castro, 31st SFS flight chief. "A security forces specialist trains to hone their skills in law enforcement and combat arms to protect the base at all times."

But, what drives the Airmen through such a demanding occupation day in and day out? For Airman 1st Class Colyn Fox, 31 SFS, security response team member and flight armorer, it's the dedication and camaraderie. The feeling of brotherhood and knowing, at the end of the day, he made a difference.

"The questions always pop into my head. Would I have volunteered for this job if I knew what it entailed," said Fox. "The answer is still yes. No matter how physically and mentally demanding everyday can be, we are defenders. As big as we are as a security forces unit, it is pretty impressive to see how close we are."

Marines make waves at RF-A 14-2

by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Marines from Cherry Point, N.C. participated in a two and half week-long exercise here during RED FLAG-Alaska 14-2 where they learned skills and tactics used in deployed environments.

During RF-A 14-2, Marines from the Marine Air Control Squadron 2 and Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28 arrived with many communication tools such as radios, radars and communications suites, to practice real-world scenarios for working hand-in-hand with pilots, fellow Command and Control agencies, and other personnel that they would support in combat.

"Our mission is to provide air surveillance, air control and information exchange in the form of Link-16 digital interoperability in support of a multinational exercise," said U.S. Marine Corps Marine Capt. Terrell Watts, Marine Air Control Squadron 2 Tactical Air Operations Center detachment commander assigned to Cherry Point, N.C. "We are operating the TAOC from Pole Hill in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which is equivalent to the United States Air Force Control and Reporting Center."

Training in the JPARC secluded the Marines from the base; however, communication allowed the Marines to work side-by-side with RF-A participants.

"RED FLAG-Alaska provides our air control agency with a live flight venue that has more aircraft flying during each event than we typically get during a U.S. Marine Corps exercise, the number of aircraft gives operators a better feel of what they can expect in a combat situation," said Watts. "This exercise also gives Marines an opportunity to work with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force counterparts in order to develop inter-service communication skills that will allow us to function better as a team in combat."

Junior enlisted Marines applied their hands-on training and worked with other brothers and sisters-in-arms to gain the ultimate exercise experience.

"This exercise went flawlessly, our radar systems were up and operating this whole time," said Lance Cpl. Atley Kutlecinar, MACS-2 radar technician. "This is my first time actually moving anywhere with our 59 radar and to see the whole thing transfer and come together has been really interesting."

RF-A provides U.S. Marine Corps Air Defense Marines with an opportunity to perform their job during complex scenarios.

"Coming to Alaska gives us the ability to practice planning and the logistics of moving a detachment to an austere location and operate without the rest of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, said Watts. "It is a great opportunity for company grade offices and junior staff noncommissioned officers to develop their leadership skills and operational efficiency."

Although Marines from Cherry Point are not expected to return for the final two RED FLAGs this calendar year, future Alaskan exercises are on their radar.

"If funding is available, we hope to come back in the future because we can bring our equipment and operate as we would in a real-world scenario." said Watts. "In the case of this exercise, we have Marines from two squadrons being provided with excellent training, troubleshooting and development for 25 distinct U.S. Marine Corps Military Occupation Specialties."

Airmen, aircraft continue Greenland mission

by Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/2/2014 - KANGERLUSSUAQ, Greenland -- Approximately 70 Air National Guard Airmen and two ski-equipped Air Force LC-130 Hercules aircraft completed the fourth rotation in the Arctic region to support the National Science Foundation June 27-30 here.

Only two rotations are left before the 2014 season comes to a close.

A group of Airmen and LC-130s head for the Arctic region every year to support the National Science Foundation and get real-world training out of their base at Kangerlussuaq.

The Airmen and aircraft are with the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing based out of Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia, N.Y. During the U.S. winter season, the 109th AW is supporting Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica, and in the summer months, the unit flies to Greenland to not only continue their support for NSF but to also train for ODF.

"The overall mission here is two-fold," said Capt. Rachel Leimbach, the supervisor of flying (SOF) for the most recent rotation. "Our primary mission is in support of the NSF and CPS (CH2M Hill Polar Services). We fly missions to (forward-deployed locations) for the enhancement of science - similar to what we do in Antarctica."

The LC-130s are the only aircraft of its kind in the military, able to land on snow and ice and fly supply and refueling missions to the different camps NSF works out of, both in Greenland and Antarctica.

"The other part of our mission is training out of Raven Camp," she said. "There is minimal science that we do at Raven, making it primarily a training site, which is how we get the crews ready for Antarctica."

Greenland makes for a much safer environment to train aircrews for the ODF season, she said.

Besides the aircrews, deployments to Greenland also consist of maintainers to tend to the aircraft, Airmen with the Small Air Terminal to handle the cargo and passengers, the first sergeant, and various other support staff to help keep the mission going.

"We have about 40 maintainers here this rotation," said Master Sgt. Joseph Deamer of the 109th Maintenance Group who has taken the trip to Greenland about 15 times since joining the unit in 1996. "Our primary mission is to fix the aircraft so they fly their missions while here."

Master Sgt. Scott Molyneaux of the Small Air Terminal has also been up numerous times. "My first time here was in 2003 and since then I've been up at least once a year."

Each year maintenance and weather delays and cancellations are pretty typical, but Molyneaux said his section and everyone else still push on to complete the mission. "We have a great working relationship with the CPS civilians and the research staff that goes up to the camps. I think that helps us get our work done because it's their cargo that we're moving."

Tech. Sgt. Amie Moore is also with the Small Air Terminal. In March she returned from a six-month deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, with other members of the 109th Small Air Terminal, making it clear the Airmen at the 109th AW can do it all.

"I feel like this mission allows us more ownership," she said. " I'm very proud that we're the only ones who do it."

Master Sgt. Michael Lazzari was the first sergeant for the rotation and said this was his first trip to Greenland.

"It's quite a unique mission up here, and the roles of the first sergeant are very extensive," he said. His role as first sergeant is to take care of everyone deployed and their needs in all areas. "It can be hectic but it's still a lot of fun."

Lazzari said he spoke to the first sergeants who had been up to Greenland before him to better prepare for the deployment. "I felt great coming into it for the first time and had a good idea of what to expect. Everyone here was a great help. This isn't the first trip for a lot of people, so I relied on their experience to help me do my job well."

Typical rotations in Greenland last about two weeks and consist of an average of three to five aircraft. The season starts in the March/April timeframe and comes to a close in August; however, there's not much downtime for those supporting the Greenland mission.

"We have our Greenland planning conference in October to start preparing," Leimbach said. "It's a lot of preparation to get ready."

While they start their planning in October, Airmen and the ski-equipped aircraft are on their way to Antarctica for Operation Deep Freeze.

Whether they're in Greenland training, in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, in New York supporting the state mission or in Antarctica supporting the National Science Foundation, the members of the 109th Airlift Wing are ready for whatever mission comes their way.

Hagel to Visit Submarine, Aviation Bases in South

By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will depart tomorrow for a two-day trip to military bases in Georgia, Florida and Alabama, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

The trip is intended to ensure that the Defense Department stays focused on the long-term concerns affecting U.S. interests and allies in Asia, Europe and around the world, he said.

“Throughout this trip, the secretary will highlight and see firsthand some of the core capabilities that he prioritized in our budget submission earlier this year to ensure that our force is ready, agile, modern and effective to confront the full range of challenges that we'll face in the future,” Kirby said.

Hagel’s first stop will be at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southeastern Georgia. The base is home to some of the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic and guided-missile submarines.

“The secretary has made a longstanding personal commitment to the health of our nuclear force and has made it one of his highest priorities to ensure that the United States maintains a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrence force,” the admiral said.

The visit is part of Hagel’s ongoing review of the nuclear enterprise, which included visits to several intercontinental ballistic missile sites earlier this year, Kirby said. At Kings Bay, Hagel will tour the ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee and visit a Trident submarine refit facility, and he’ll also speak with submariners, the admiral added.

July 10, the secretary will travel to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which is home to the Air Force’s first full squadron of F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft and is where the next generation of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps F-35 pilots and maintainers are being trained.

“The secretary's visit, particularly at this time, sends a strong message to our international partners that the United States remains fully committed to the F-35 program,” the admiral said. The F-35 fleet was grounded July 3 following a fire that occurred in an aircraft still on the runway at Eglin. The incident remains under investigation.

Hagel is confident that the investigation will help the F-35 return to flight, Kirby said, adding that the secretary is looking forward to hearing more firsthand from the personnel at Eglin.

Hagel’s final stop is at Fort Rucker, Alabama, the home of Army aviation. The visit is a chance to highlight the Army’s aviation restructure initiative, the admiral said, and to thank Army aviators for their hard work over 13 years of demanding operations that include airlift, close air support and casualty evacuation.

July 11, the secretary will welcome Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to the Pentagon, Kirby said.

The secretary met most recently with Onodera at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Among the issues the two defense leaders are expected to discuss are Japan's recent announcement on collective self-defense, the current process of reviewing and revising Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, and ongoing efforts to strengthen the joint alliance -- including trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Australia -- as the region confronts an evolving range of security challenges, including threats from North Korea, Kirby said.

First SEAL Takes Helm as Naval War College President

By Lindsay Church, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Rear Adm. P. Gardner Howe III relieved Rear Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., as the 55th president and first Navy SEAL in command of the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island, during a change of command ceremony with the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert, July 8.

"I am very happy with the job [Carter] has done here," said Greenert. "He has refined the curriculum and moved it in a direction that is refocused towards the fleet."

During the ceremony, Greenert noted Carter's accomplishments in completing the initial phases of the Naval Leadership Continuum, establishing the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center, and examining the future naval war at sea.

"Carter was the right leader at the right place at the right time," said Greenert. "Thank you for setting the stage for future analysis, for future planning, and for future development. We'll deep dive into the war at sea, Gardner will take it from here."

Carter departs the NWC following his appointment to vice admiral and assignment as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

"Today I relinquish the most significant assignment of my career," said Carter. "This past weekend I came back here to the hallways of the NWC. There was nobody here and I just wanted to walk through and soak in the flavor of the NWC.

"I reflected on the naval giants who have come before me. Their portraits are hanging all over the campus here - such history, such passion, and such success in shaping the Navy's future."

Carter, a Rhode Island native, took command of NWC as the 54th president and first naval flight officer in history to hold the position. While appointed as president, he refined the college's educational and research programs and worked to reconnect NWC with the fleet.

"For the first time in the 130 year history of the NWC, this institution will be led by a member of the naval special warfare community, better known as the SEALs. Their motto is; Ready to lead, ready to follow, never quit, the only easy day was yesterday," said Carter. "Rear Adm. Howe, I am sure you are ready to lead, and the last 12-months have shown me that every member of this remarkable command is ready to follow, and they will never quit."

Howe, a U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School and National War College graduate, holds dual Master of Arts degrees in national security and reports from his most recent assignment as commander of Special Operations Command, Pacific.

"I am incredibly humbled, honored and excited to be standing in front of you as the 55th president of the NWC," said Howe. "Rear Adm. Carter, thank you for your stalwart leadership over the last year at the NWC, the Navy's home of strategic thought. A son of Rhode Island and clearly a rising star in the Navy, you have advanced this institution with intellectual initiative and relevance, and as you promised last year, you have respected, protected and promoted the institution."

Army National Guard Soldier Pleads Guilty in Connection with Bribery and Fraud Scheme

To Date, 24 Individuals Have Pleaded Guilty in Ongoing Corruption Investigation

A soldier of the U.S. Army National Guard pleaded guilty today for his role in a wide-ranging corruption scheme involving fraudulent recruiting bonuses from the Army National Guard Bureau.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas made the announcement.

Sergeant First Class Eduardo Ruesga-Larracilla, 41, of San Antonio, Texas, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud, and one count of bribery of a public official.

The case against Ruesga arises from an investigation that has led to charges against 26 individuals, 24 of whom have pleaded guilty.

According to court documents, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker Inc. (Docupak) to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP).   The G-RAP was a recruiting program that offered monetary incentives to soldiers of the Army National Guard who referred others to join the National Guard.   Through this program, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for a referral.   Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payment through direct deposit into the participating soldier’s designated bank account.   To participate in the program, soldiers were required to create online recruiting assistant accounts.

Ruesga admitted that between approximately January 2010 and approximately October 2011, he conspired with a recruiter and paid him for the personal information of potential Army National Guard soldiers.   Ruesga further admitted that, in order to obtain fraudulent bonuses, he used the personal information for these potential soldiers fraudulently to claim that he was responsible for referring these soldiers for enlistment in the National Guard.

Ruesga is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 9, 2014 before U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia in San Antonio, Texas.

This case is being investigated by the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit.   The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne, Heidi Boutros Gesch, and Mark J. Cipolletti of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

Kentucky Air Guardsmen test survival skills at Taylorsville Lake

by Master Sgt. Phil Speck
123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/2/2014 - TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. -- More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air National Guard participated in land- and water-survival training at Taylorsville Lake here June 5 through 7 practicing skills that could one day save their lives.

The pilots, co-pilots, navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters and flight surgeons were required to extricate themselves from parachute harnesses while being pulled through the water by a personal watercraft, demonstrate their use of single-person and 20-person life rafts, and navigate a challenging land course using maps and compasses.

Lt. Col. Nick Coleman, commander of Kentucky's 165th Airlift Squadron, said the refresher course, which is required every three years, is a great review of skills the Airmen learned at U.S. Air Force Survival School, a 2 ½-week course offered at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, for all new aircrew members.

"It's really good to get everyone out and into an environment that you would actually be in, and re-learn and refresh all the stuff that we learned years ago at basic survival training," he said.

The refresher isn't as in-depth as the initial course -- it doesn't include practical experience for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape techniques -- but the participants still have plenty of material to cover, said Master Sgt. Del Brumbaugh, an aircrew flight equipment specialist with Kentucky's 123rd Operations Support Squadron.

Nine Airmen from the flight equipment section staged the training, which covered survival vests and flare signaling in addition to land navigation and water survival.

One of the devices they employed is a Hanging Harness Trainer, a large metal frame in which an aircrew member is suspended above the ground while wearing a parachute harness. It simulates what would happen if the Airman were to become caught in a tree while parachuting from a disabled aircraft, Brumbaugh said.

The exercise requires Airmen to slowly and safely lower themselves to the ground using a piece of gear in their survival vests called a Personnel Lowering Device.

Water-survival training gave aircrew members the opportunity to deploy and use life preservers and rubber survival craft. Students were then pulled across the lake by a personal watercraft to simulate what it would be like if they had parachuted into the ocean, and the tides or wind had begun to drag them across the surface of the water by pulling on the parachute canopy. Students were required to release their canopies to stop the dragging action.

"If you don't detach yourself in a sufficient amount of time, the parachute could actually drag you underwater and cause you lose consciousness or possibly drown," Brumbaugh said.

The crews also practiced using pyrotechnic signaling devices such as the Mark 124, a day and night flare which gives rescue crews a visual reference to a downed aircrew's position. Pen gun flares, which are rocket-propelled foliage-penetrating flares, were also used. They can reach of an altitude of 300 feet to break above the tree line.

The land-navigation course was negotiated using maps and compass headings. After finding waypoints, they aircrew members came to a rally point from which they completed the last part of the course using radio communication.

"The biggest challenge for us is to add as much realism to the scenarios as we can, because the crux of our career field is that we maintain the equipment we hope the aircrew never have to use," Brumbaugh said. "If they are using our equipment, they are having a bad day."

Vella Gulf Conducts Underway Engagement with Turkish Navy

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Edward Guttierrez III, USS Vella Gulf Public Affairs

AEGEAN SEA (NNS) -- The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) conducted joint maritime operations with the Turkish navy fast attack craft TCG Dogan (P 340) and TCG Marti (P 341) after departing Kusadasi, Turkey on July 6.

Vella Gulf, Dogan and Marti conducted a surface exercise and a flag communication exercise during the engagements. U.S. Navy ships regularly hold similar events with partners and allies to foster relationships and strengthen interoperability.

"Vella Gulf was pleased to conduct another in a series of exercises with our NATO ally Turkey," said Capt. Robert Katz, Vella Gulf's commanding officer. "Our interactions with the Turkish Navy during our deployment have shown them to be highly proficient and professional; this exercise was no different. We look forward to working with them again during Exercise Breeze in the Black Sea."

The surface exercise required the participants to repel a simulated attack by small fast attack / fast inland attack craft. The second part of the exercise required the ships to communicate only via the use of signal flags.

Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, is conducting naval operations with partners and allies in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in order to advance security and stability in Europe.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

Mount Whitney Arrives in Zeebrugge, Belgium for Navy Days

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Luis R. Chavez Jr., Nsvy Public Affairs Support Element-East Detachment Europe

ZEEBRUGGE, Belgium (NNS) -- The U.S. 6th Fleet command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) arrived in Zeebrugge, Belgium, July 3 to participate in the Belgian Navy Days 2014.

Belgian Navy Days 2014 is a maritime festival similar to the U.S. Navy's Fleet Week. During Belgian Navy Days 2014 Mount Whitney will be hosting a reception, providing ship tours and participate in a rowing competition between navies from various nations.

"Mount Whitney primarily arrived to Zeebrugge for Belgian Navy Days," said Capt. Craig A. Clapperton, commanding officer of USS Mount Whitney. "The events during Belgian Navy Days allow us to strengthen our strategic relationship with the Belgian Navy and other participating navies both professionally and personally."

Sailors will be able to take in all Zeebrugge, and the neighboring city of Bruges, has to offer while their time in port, including many historical churches, town squares, museums and local delicacies such as Belgian chocolate.

"I'm very anxious to get off the ship and experience Belgium," said Ship's Serviceman 3rd Class Krista N. Singleton, assigned to USS Mount Whitney. "I've heard there's so many sites to see and places to visit and, of course, I have to get Belgian waffles and chocolate."

Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners. The civil service mariners perform navigation, deck, engineering and supply service operations, while military personnel support communications, weapons systems and security. It is one of only two seaborne Joint Command Platforms in the US Navy, both of which are forward deployed.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and inter-agency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.