Military News

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hagel Talks with F-35 Pilots, Maintainers at Eglin AFB



By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., July 11, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was busy here yesterday on his first visit to this Air Force base on the Florida panhandle, talking to pilots from the 33rd Fighter Wing, meeting with and thanking service members and briefing local and national reporters.
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The visit was one of three stops on a two-day trip that also included visits to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia and Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Announcing the trip earlier this week, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said Hagel wants to ensure the Defense Department stays focused on long-term concerns affecting American interests and allies in Asia, Europe and worldwide.

The secretary made the visit despite the July 3 grounding of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter fleet after a fire that occurred in an aircraft on the runway here.

“The [F-35 engine] inspections are complete, and I got a good report this morning from some of the pilots and the maintenance people on their thinking about [the fire],” Hagel told reporters here. Separate safety and accident investigations prompted by the fire are ongoing, an Eglin public affairs officer said.

“We're not going to put the F-35 in the air [or] send it anywhere until we are absolutely convinced and know that it's safe to fly,” Hagel said. “As to timing, I'll leave that up to the experts, who will come back to us and make a recommendation.”

Hagel has prioritized investment in the F-35 because the multirole aircraft has advanced capabilities that he and others agree are essential to maintain the nation’s aerial dominance and confront emerging threats, Defense Department officials said.

The 33rd Fighter Wing here is home to the F-35 Integrated Training Center, which is responsible for training F-35 pilots and maintainers for the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and some international partners. The aircraft has three variants, designated as the A, B and C models. The first F-35 arrived at Eglin in July 2011. Today, the base has 49.

The United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have aircraft personnel, maintenance personnel and pilots in training, and the center has graduated six international pilots and 57 international maintainers, officials said.

The 58th Fighter Squadron here became the Air Force’s first complete F-35A squadron after the 33rd Fighter Wing received its 26th. The wing continues to build toward initial operational capability in 2016, officials said.

So far, the F-35 program has delivered 97 aircraft -- 28 to test units and 69 to operational or training units. Together, the aircraft have logged more than 16,000 flight hours, DoD officials said.

For fiscal year 2015, the Navy requested $3.3 billion for eight aircraft -- two for the Navy, six for the Marine Corps -- and the Air Force wants 26 aircraft for $4.6 billion. Over the Future Years Defense Program, the Navy requested 105 aircraft for $22.9 billion and the Air Force wants 238 aircraft for $31.7 billion.

After speaking with the 33rd Fighter Wing pilots, the secretary got a feel for sitting in the cockpit of an F-35 -- “SECDEF CHUCK HAGEL” was printed in white on the aircraft’s stealthy gray surface -- and then spent some time with the airmen here.

“I appreciate, first, the opportunity to say hello, to bring you greetings from President [Barack] Obama and the people of the Defense Department, but also to tell you how much we appreciate what you do and the hard work, the effort, the sacrifice, the service that you give our country,” Hagel told about 180 service members. And I know it's important to you, because you wouldn't be doing this job if you didn't feel pretty strongly about our country. I want you to know we know that.

“I want to thank your families,” he continued, “and I want you, in particular, to tell your families and your spouses how much we appreciate their sacrifice and what they do to support you.”

Hagel spoke about his experience in the F-35 and seeing his name on the side of the aircraft below the cockpit.

“They didn't let me push any buttons this morning,” he joked, “but they gave me a very good sense of this aircraft, its capabilities, what it can do [and] how important it's going to be to our security.”

The secretary also described his meeting with the Navy and Marine Corps F-35 pilots and maintenance chiefs and the questions he asked them about the aircraft: Do they have confidence in the aircraft? Can it do what its proponents believe it can do?

“We went around the table, and I told them I needed clear, direct and honest answers,” the secretary said. “And they were clear, direct and honest with me on what they thought about a lot of things -- in particular, the aircraft.”

Hagel said he appreciated their evaluations, which made it clear that they had tremendous confidence in the aircraft.

“Some of the pilots told me it was the best aircraft they'd ever flown. Some said it was the easiest and simplest aircraft they'd ever flown,” he said. “I was particularly happy to hear that, “because I believe this aircraft is the future for our fighter aircraft for our services.”

Hagel said he knows there are issues with the F-35.

“I don't know of a platform that we've ever had -- that we've ever designed … and then put into service -- that didn't go through issues,” he said. Safety is the first priority, he added.

Hagel also spoke about the shrinking defense budget and the prospect of sequestration -- massive spending cuts that will resume in fiscal year 2016 unless Congress changes the current budget law. The Defense Department is working with Congress to try to prevent what he called the worst results of abrupt and indiscriminate spending cuts, the secretary told the service members.

“I know the world today … is as complicated and dangerous as maybe it's ever been -- as you know, because many of you have served all over the world,” he said. “This puts … pressures on all of us to deal with these threats and dangers in a wise way, a steady way, that assures our security.”

Such difficult days can offer opportunities to adjust and recalibrate and to do things that will make everyone stronger in how they think and respond, the secretary added.

“As we come down out of this second long war, … there's always a natural reset and process,” Hagel said. “But I think it's important that we all understand that steady, wise, careful leadership is required today by the United States, maybe more than at any time in your careers.”

The F-35 program involves such working with U.S. partners and helping those partners build capability and strong relationships, Hagel said. The F-35's nine partner countries are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Many partners have ordered their first aircraft, and pilots and maintainers from the United Kingdom took delivery of their first F-35B jets here, where they train with their U.S. counterparts. Israel and Japan chose the F-35A through the Foreign Military Sales process.

“We are doing things we've never done before in building partnerships and helping our partners develop capabilities to deal with threats,” Hagel said, noting work that all of the services are doing with U.S. partners around the globe.

“We'll always be the senior partner, but we need partners,” the secretary added. “We always need friends around the world and people around the world who are willing to work with us, and we're willing to work with them.”

Later, in response to a question from a local reporter about the prospects for Eglin’s future, Hagel called the Florida panhandle an important area of the country for the defense establishment.

Other major military bases in the immediate area include the Pensacola Naval Air Station, home of naval aviation in the United States, Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach, and Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City.

The training, history, support, tradition, facilities and infrastructure add up to what the secretary called “a strong future for a very close relationship with the Defense Department and this part of the country, in particular this part of Florida.”

Face of Defense: Woman Leads Bradley Crew to ‘Top Gun’ Status



By Heather Graham-Ashley
3rd Corps

FORT HOOD, Texas, July 11, 2014 – Army Maj. Chrissy Cook made history in the 1st Cavalry Division last month when she led her Bradley fighting vehicle crew to "Top Gun" status during gunnery exercise, making her the first female Bradley commander to do so.

Cook, an engineer officer and for 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, led her crew to a top score of 835 with nine of 10 engagements as the Army continues to open doors to women in direct combat roles.

The engineer branch has long been open to women. "We are all trained the same," Cook said, noting that female engineers were not authorized to go into a combat arms unit until reaching the rank of major. "That's been open for awhile," she added.

When her unit's Bradley gunnery came up, Cook filled in for her battalion commander. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," she said. She and her crew trained for six months -- mostly on nights and weekends, because of Cook's work commitments.

"We went through the same things as other crews," Cook said. "We had the same struggles as everyone else, but my crew had the added struggle of working around my schedule." Still, she added, her Bradley crew is a happy one and shares the same camaraderie that close-quarters training and working environments commonly breed.

She said her crew does not look at her as a woman, but as a qualified officer. "I haven't been treated any differently," Cook said. "They didn't look at me as a female. They looked at me as a leader and as a soldier."

Her crew agreed that Cook is no different from other commanders.

"She's just another commander. I didn't think about it any differently," explained Army Pfc. Paul Kurashewich, Bradley driver. "She's a good Bradley commander."

Army 2nd Lt. Arnulfo Ahumada, jump Bradley commander for the crew, said working with competent female leaders is nothing new for him, as he was surrounded by them while attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. "They always kept up, and some were better [than the male cadets]," he said.

Cook credits her crew with the success they have found under her leadership. "It's all about the crew," she said. "I wouldn't be here today if not for the crew."

Her family also played an integral role in preparing her for gunnery, she said, as her 8-year-old son helped her with chair drills at home. "I tell him he's part of history, too," she added.

Cook also had the support of her husband, an executive officer with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and her 5-year-old daughter. She said she hopes her efforts send a message to her children.

"I want them to know they can do anything they want," she said.

Cook is quick to note that she is not the first female Bradley commander, but said she is optimistic that more roles will continue to open to women. She offered some advice to other women who are moving into jobs that historically were done only by men.

"It's tough -- any adjustment is tough," she said. "It's about standards. Your leadership, your drive, will get you through."

Missileer duty offers immediate, long-term dividends

by Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs


7/11/2014 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Missileer duty offers rewards right away that continue to enrich an officer's career even after he or she leaves the career field, according to Academy Class of '86 and '10 graduates.

Col. Stella Renner, the Academy's vice commandant for culture and climate and an '86 graduate, said she picked up lessons in teamwork and taking responsibility during her missileer years.

"My first crew commander taught me many things that I didn't appreciate until much later," Renner recalled. "She ingrained into me the idea that we really were working with a nuclear weapon system, and there was no room for shortcuts. We followed the checklist and did every task the same way, whether on alert, in training or under evaluation."
Owning one's mistakes is a hard lesson that also pays off, Renner said.

"We are all human, and we all make mistakes. I, like many others, made some mistakes on alert, and reporting those mistakes to my chain of command was never easy," she said. "While the short-term impact sometimes stung, the longer-term result was building a reputation that enabled the rest of my career."

Renner and other missileers also worked to help one another to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place, she said.

"Having someone double check your work and doing the same for them is a professional courtesy, not a critique," she said. "It didn't matter if we were tying in target coordinates, reviewing quarterly award write-ups or correcting uniform discrepancies. We had one another's backs. It didn't matter who I was on alert with; it was just the way things worked."

The Air Force encoded many of those early lessons in the core values in the 1990s, Renner said. The lessons she learned "were bigger than the missile community, bigger than the operational community; they were values taught across the Air Force in every community."

Capt. Rachel Lovelady, who graduated in 2010, said she's developed her peer leadership skills and learned more about the Air Force role in nuclear deterrence. Despite her initial struggle with some of the more technical aspects of her training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., the English major devoted time to learning about some of the enlisted jobs in the ICBM business.

"You get to learn a lot about maintenance if you try," she said. "I've learned more about missile maintenance than I ever thought I would."

She's also learned a lot about the people she works with. Daily commutes from F.E. Warren to missile alert facilities give officers plenty of time to interact, she said.

Renner said the ICBM career field may not be glamorous, but that takes nothing away from its importance. A classmate at the Marine Corps War College at Marine Base Quantico, Va., reinforced this point when she attended in 2005-2006.

"I was a bit concerned," she said. "My classmates were officers who had forward deployed and engaged in direct combat for our country, and I was the one who had stayed behind, 'safe' on alert. I was very surprised when one of my classmates talked to me about ... the responsibility and dedication it would take to perform that mission. It brought back to me the importance of the nuclear deterrence mission."

Alert duty does offer excitement, if not glamor, Lovelady said.

"Any number of things can happen. No alert is ever the same. You can have really quiet alerts ... or you can have the busiest alerts where you forget to eat your food," she said. "Any number of things can happen: security events, missiles that respond to tests in ways you don't expect them to."

Lovelady, now a senior evaluator with the 90th Operations Group, no longer performs regular alert duty, but both the career itself and the people she works with keep her excited about her job.

"I've been here almost four years and would love to stay in this career field," she said. "We're always ready, and I think that's so cool. We can get direction and do whatever the president wants us to do at the drop of a hat. We're really the only nuclear strike capability that can do that.

"But I also love the people," she added. "You're all company-grade officers -- you're all peers. You're part of a really tight-knit family, and I love that."

Hagel, Onodera Discuss Reinterpretation of Japan’s Constitution



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has held his first meeting with his Japanese counterpart since the government in Tokyo announced it would reinterpret the country’s pacifist constitution to allow Japan to take on greater military responsibilities beyond self-defense.

Hagel met at the Pentagon today with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and in a joint press conference afterward said the United States strongly supports the move, calling the decision by Japan’s government bold and historic. If approved by parliament, Hagel said the change would enable the U.S. ally “to significantly increase its contribution to regional and global security and expand its role on the world stage.”

The United States and Japan will work together now to revise U.S.-Japan defense guidelines. “Today, we confirm that these new guidelines should be in place by the end of this year,” Hagel said. The revisions will allow Japan to participate more fully in such areas as ballistic missile defense, counterproliferation, counterpiracy, peacekeeping, and a wide range of military exercises.

The two countries also will be able to work more closely together on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and other areas, Hagel said. “We can raise our alliance to a new level, and we intend to do that,” he said.

The two said they discussed what the United States and Japan will do to modernize the alliance to ensure it is prepared to address emerging threats and challenges. Onodera said he and Hagel also discussed security in the broader Asia Pacific region.

Hagel reiterated the longstanding U.S. position on a territorial dispute that the Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China, are under Japan’s administrative control and fall under the U.S.-Japan mutual security treaty.

“The United States opposes any attempts by any country to change the status quo through destabilizing unilateral actions, and we oppose any effort to restrict overflight or freedom of navigation,” Hagel said. China declared an air defense zone over the islands last year.

Both defense leaders stressed the importance of good relations with China.

Stratcom Chief Outlines Deterrence Challenges



By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2014 – Strategic deterrence in the 21st century is complicated, challenging and vastly different from that of the Cold War, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said yesterday.

Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney said extremist organizations, significant regional unrest, protracted conflicts, budgetary stresses and competition for natural resources could have strategic implications for the United States and the world.

“While terrorism remains the most direct threat to our nation -- particularly weapons of mass destruction -- we are also dealing in advances in state and nonstate military capabilities across air, sea, land and space domains, and cyber security,” the admiral told an audience at the State Department’s George Marshall Conference Center.

Some nations continue to invest in long-term modernization with strategic capabilities, he added, some are replacing their older systems, while others are modernizing based on their perceived need in the geopolitical situation. He cited India, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, North Korea and China as examples of nations developing modern military capabilities.

When Russia recently invaded Ukraine and overtook Crimea, Haney said, Russian troops also exercised “their strategic ability, not just their conventional capabilities.” On May 8, he said, “Russia conducted a major strategic force exercise involving significant nuclear forces and associated command control six months from the last one. And I don’t mean just moving it around. I mean demonstrating firing each part of their associated arsenal.”

While adversarial threats grow against the United States, the nation still retains the strategic advantage, he said, although potential adversaries are moving quickly in their development of destructive capabilities.

“While we have improved and increased our cyberspace capabilities, the worldwide threat is growing in sophistication in a number of state and nonstate actors,” he said. “As we monitor developments, we must not lose sight of nation states and non-nation-state actors [that] continue to have goals of obtaining proliferation,” Haney said. “As long as these threats remain, so too does the value of our strategic capabilities to deter these threats.”

The Stratcom commander emphasized the importance of the U.S. nuclear triad.

“Each element of the nuclear triad has unique and complementary attributes in strategic deterrence,” Haney said. “As we look at ballistic missiles and air response capabilities to the survivable leg of our submarine capability to the heavy bombers, the real key is integration of all three that make a difference in the deterrence equation for any country that would want to take us on. And it works.”

Haney pointed out that while the United States has sought to have a world free of nuclear weapons, those weapons still have a role in strategic deterrence and in the foundational force, “until we can get rid of them.”

“We must continue to lean forward with arms-control agreements while continuing to provide assurance and deterrence,” he said. “As a nation, we must create strategies and policies to deal with this diverse, multidisciplinary-problem world we live in, because we have to deliver strategic stability and effective solutions in a conscious manner, given today’s fiscal environment.”

Haney urged students in the audience to challenge traditional thinking.

“Successful 21st-century strategic deterrence lies in our understanding that this is not about a Cold War approach,” he said. “It’s about understanding that deterrence is more than nuclear.”

And while U.S. nuclear weapons are just as salient today as in the past, Haney said, “it’s understanding that what our adversaries are willing to risk requires deep understanding.”

Successful deployment shapes future training for all ACS units

by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago
103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs


7/10/2014 - SEA GIRT, N.J. -- Airmen from the 103rd Air Control Squadron deployed to the National Guard Training Center here June 8 - 18 where they successfully established remote connectivity to specific simulation systems located in Connecticut, an achievement that, according to unit leadership, had never been accomplished before by any air control squadron.

The deployment began with an advanced echelon team, or ADVON, led by Lt. Col. John Breisler and 2nd Lt. Fred Bond, both assigned to the 103rd ACS, which left for Sea Girt on June 5 to prepare for the arrival of the bulk of the unit's Airmen, who departed on June 8.

"ADVON and main body convoy arrivals at the tactical site were smooth and efficient," said Lt. Col. John Breisler, who served as the deployment's chief of maintenance. "The convoy commanders managed their respective convoys well; this is significant considering the number of newer unit members in the convoys."

The mission was to deploy much of the unit's equipment and personnel via convoy to establish a functional tactical site in the field. From there the goal was to utilize radio, satellite and various theater deployable communication systems to connect with multiple locations, including their own home station in Orange, Connecticut, where some of the unit's Airmen remained and participated.

The unit is trained and equipped to establish largely self-sufficient tactical sites from which they provide command and control support to military aircraft. From establishing generator power and building tents from which to work, to connecting operations modules to remote radar feeds and setting up on-site communications, a deployment like this is a significant undertaking. But the men and women of the 103rd ACS are no strangers to these tasks, having supported missions throughout Southwest Asia in recent years.

The major challenge was establishing and maintaining connectivity with the unit's Control and Reporting Center Simulation Package, commonly referred to as the CSP, located back in Connecticut. The system enables operators to remotely inject simulated aircraft and situations into realistic tactical air control training scenarios so Airmen can interact with them from the field.

After nine months of preparation and with 80 percent of the squadron deployed in field conditions, the Airmen of the 103rd ACS were able to establish the necessary connections, receiving data from the simulation package and from as far away as Iowa to control two designated training air spaces in which they created simulated midair scenarios such as refueling, close air support and aircraft detection in the designated locations.

"A team effort by dedicated professionals," said Lt. Col. William Neri, commander of the 103rd ACS.

Such a mission took effort from personnel of all ranks, including Airman 1st Class Kyle Romitti, a maintainer assigned to the squadron, who along with his fellow Airmen took turns on three main shifts to monitor the squadron's 24-hour satellite connectivity.

"It's interesting, and it's nice to know that we have such a big role in what's going on here; without us, there's no communication," said Romitti.

The unit's success in remotely connecting with their CSP will be documented and eventually be used as a template for all air control squadrons, said Breisler.

"There was no approved method of using the CRC Simulation Package for field training before this deployment," said Breisler. "Thanks to a tremendous amount of work from our folks, the 103rd ACS paved the way for all active-duty and Guard units, our proven process will set the new standard."