Thursday, July 24, 2014

Military Mail Changes Will Save $4 Million Annually, Official Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 – Changes to military postal operations will save the Defense Department $4 million annually while providing services comparable to those of any U.S. Postal Service office, a senior Military Postal Service Agency official told DoD News.

James Clark, chief of the agency’s operations division, said the changes will go into effect during October and November.

“As it relates to the Internet Change of Address and Postal Automated Redirection System, we are automating the redirection process of first class military mail,” he said. “It will improve transit times. It would save costs in both transportation and labor overseas, and improve overall services.”

The Military Postal Service Agency facilitated the transition to a more efficient system that’s in line with the USPS and will produce millions of dollars in savings for DoD.

“When we did the business case study we had to determine what our return on investment would be,” Clark said. “So we did that with all the major commands, solicited their input, and are looking at $4 million in cost avoidance each year across DoD.”

This takes into account labor and transportation costs, he said, noting that the savings likely will be greater, given the time that has passed since the case study was conducted.

The current redirection process is manual, Clark said, with mail shipped from the United States to overseas servicing military post offices, who then manually redirect it somewhere else -- whether that’s to another military installation overseas or back to the United States.

Clark noted when the new process goes into effect domestically, the automated equipment is going to intercept that letter if a change of address is on file and redirect it to the new address.

“One of the biggest things that our customers … need to know is that in addition to their out-processing at the military post office, they’re going to have to go online at and complete an Internet change of address,” he said.

That process, he added, is what feeds the automated systems to allow them to intercept and redirect mail within the United States.

These changes will help to offer authorized military post office patrons the same services and systems that are available at any USPS post office in the U.S. However, if customers fail to perform that change of address online, they will not receive the benefits of these new technologies,” he said.

Similar to the existing USPS change-of-address process, authorized MPO patrons can expect to be charged the same $1 verification fee to their credit or debit cards, just as they would if they were changing their domestic address. The fee verifies that the person who is making the change of address is accountable for that information.

These new services are a realization of the vast differences between USPS addressing and historic military addressing. MPSA is working with USPS and each of the services to update military addresses to conform with USPS standards.”

The takeaway is all of the entities that have a stake in this are working together to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible and do our best to limit impeding existing services.

With the majority of military addresses complying with USPS automated systems, and the Military Postal Service Agency working to stay engaged with the USPS, Clark said, a majority of service members will be able to benefit from the service.

“It is important to us that we stay in lockstep with USPS as they develop their technologies and service improvements,” he said. “We want equitable service for our service members and their families overseas, because they deserve it.”

JBPHH Fuels Division pumps life into RIMPAC

by Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs

7/23/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Two hundred multinational aircraft are expected to fly 4,000 sorties during Rim of the Pacific 2014, making the air component a significant part of the world's largest maritime exercise; but there's a saying in the petroleum, oils and lubricants community: "Pilots are pedestrians without fuel."

"Aircraft can't fly without fuel ... no fuel, no flights," said Alphonso Parks, Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor-Hickam Fuels Division chief.

To do their part to keep the flying mission on track, the fuels division provides refueling support for all aircraft assigned to and transiting through JBPHH.

Parks said the amount of aircraft deployed here and participating in RIMPAC has increased the demand for fuel, and they are issuing an average of 1.5 million gallons per week in support of the exercise.

An average of 611 aircraft are refueled at JBPHH per month, but Parks said that amount is on track to more than triple by the end of RIMPAC.

"RIMPAC doesn't change what we do or how we do it, but it does increase the workload," he said.

In addition to providing JP8 fuel to aircraft, the fuels division is also supporting the ground and sea missions by supplying diesel fuel for the two tent city locations on JBPHH and Ford Island, and, for the first time in RIMPAC history, refueling small Navy patrol boats.

"We're like a gas station in the middle of the ocean," said Parks.

The Fuels Division prepared for more than six months to ensure there was proper planning for the division to successfully meet the demands of the exercise.

"Every time there is an exercise we learn," said Parks. "We know what to expect during RIMPAC now and how to adjust to make sure the mission gets accomplished."

Senior Airman Trevor Kuhns, who is deployed here in support of RIMPAC from the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, said he's also learning from the joint and multinational aspect of RIMPAC.

"This is my first time supporting RIMPAC and I've been surprised at how similar our refueling processes are to our joint and international counterparts," he said.

With this year's RIMAC hosting 22 nations, 49 surface ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft Kuhns said he's proud to be an integral part of such a big mission.

"I'm happy to do my small part to put planes in the air," he said. "Planes don't fly on hopes and dreams, they fly on jet fuel, and that's what we provide."

Air Guardsmen, Reservists Help Battle Western Wildfires

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 – Air reserve components are providing crews and planes to support civilian firefighting efforts in the West, the commander of the effort said in a DoD News interview.

When civilian authorities are strained, they can call on eight C-130 aircraft equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system, said Air Force Col. Charles D. Davis III, commander of Air Expeditionary Wing Wildland Firefighting. Davis is with the North Carolina Air National Guard, is based at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, for the effort.

When civilian firefighters “need a surge capability, they call on us,” Davis said.

The aircraft come from four different wings -- three from the Air Guard and one from the Air Force Reserve.

For the last few days, crews have battled forest fires in Northern Utah. The aircraft launched from Boise and flew six sorties. The aircraft carry a 3,000-gallon tank filled with fire retardant. “We fall right in line and drop the liquid,” Davis said.

The aircraft use prearranged tanker bases to reload. So while the aircraft launch from Boise, by using the tanker bases they are able to “fight the fire all day long,” he said.

The aircraft don’t put the fires out, Davis said, noting that rain is the only thing that will end the danger. “We’re more containment,” he said. “We do not put [the retardant] on the flames. We put it around the fire to stop it from expanding.”

The aircraft and crews come from the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard, the 146th Airlift Wing from the California Air Guard, the 153rd Airlift Wing from Wyoming and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

621 CRW welcomes new commander

by Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
621 Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

Col. James A. Copher took the reins of the 621st Contingency Response Wing from Col. Martin A. Chapin in a change of command ceremony at the Global Reach Deployment Center here, July 24, 2014.

Copher came to the 621 CRW from Southwest Asia, where he served as the vice wing commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. His responsibilities at the 380 AEW included air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air battle management, control and reporting center, ground attack, air support, theatre security cooperation and airlift mission in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia.

Copher is a command pilot with more than 3,500 flying hours in the C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender, C-12 Huron, T-38 Talon, and the T-37 Cessna aircraft.
The 621 CRW is headquartered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey with additional forces stationed at Travis Air Force Base, California and various Army and Marine Corps installations worldwide. The wing is tasked with rapidly deploying its 1,500 Airmen to quickly open and operate airfields, establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations and liaise with partner nations to foster the development of their air mobility systems through education and outreach.
During a speech in the ceremony, Copher expressed his appreciation.
"I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve with the CRW," Copher said. "Thank you for placing the trust and confidence in us to lead the CRW into the future.
"It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to serve with an outstanding team of disciplined professionals who care about their mission and their profession, who care about the people they serve, as well as the people they serve with. Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and for making a difference every day."

Intelligence Must be Applied to be Useful, Official Says

By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ASPEN, Colo., July 24, 2014 – Intelligence collection alone isn’t sufficient to secure the nation, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers said here today.

“What do you do with the intelligence?” he asked the audience at the Aspen Security Forum. It has to be applied to actions, Vickers said, and that falls into two categories: direct and indirect action.

Indirect action is when the United States works with international partners to build their capacity and to capture terrorists, the undersecretary explained. Examples run “from the French in Mali to individual host countries who help us critically,” Vickers said. “The Pakistanis and Yemenis, in particular, have done very important things in this regard.”

The Defense Department prefers to use indirect action because threats are distributed globally, he said, but it isn’t always possible.

“It depends on whether they're capable and then willing,” the undersecretary said. If a potential partner nation is willing, but not capable, capacity-building programs can come into play, he said.

Direct action involves special operations forces, such as those used in the bin Laden raid and capture operations in Libya, he said, as well as unmanned Predator strikes.

Since 2008, when the war against al-Qaida expanded into areas outside of armed hostilities, the single most important instrument in degrading al-Qaida has been Predator strikes, he said.

“Hands down,” the undersecretary said. “It doesn't mean it'll be the most important going forward in the future -- it's still essential today -- but it has been our most important.”

The Predator was instrumental in DoD’s single most important accomplishment over the past year, Vickers said.

“We had very, very serious threats emanating out of Yemen last summer, … and some very rapid action not only disrupted that threat, but set it back,” he said. “And again, that was largely Predator strikes that did that.”

The most significant threats to the United States emanate from Syria, Yemen and from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, Vickers said.

“And then ISIS or ISIL also has aspirations,” he said, using acronyms for an organization known alternatively as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “It's focused on its area right now, but it is in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al-Qaida, … and so they're a threat not to be discounted as well.”

But for now at least, most of the attacks attributed to groups holding Salafi jihadist ideology are focused on the “near enemy,” or the country they’re involved in, Vickers said.

Foreign fighters who hold Western passports -- including Americans -- pose a near-term threat, and they number in the thousands, the undersecretary noted. Many of them go overseas to fight a local war, but are “skimmed off” for external operations, he said.

Foreign fighters, both Western and non-Western, are going into Syria in much higher numbers than similar fighters were going to Iraq at the height of the Iraq war, Vickers said. It’s critical to take away these sanctuaries from groups who may be interested in attacking the United States, he added.

But military options generally are the last resort in counterterrorism, the undersecretary said.

“We prefer ‘capture and detain’ for intelligence purposes to lethal direct action,” he said. “We prefer indirect action -- working with partners -- to direct action. But when we have to do direct action, we do.”

Every situation requires its own response, Vickers said.

“When you look at our counterterrorism strategies as applied to specific groups or countries or a region, they're very tailored approaches,” he explained.

For example, in Mali, after al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took over the northern half of the country, the French intervened, and the United States provided an important enabling role.

“That was the right solution for that,” Vickers said. “In other cases, it's a different set of instruments.”

Army Needs Balance, Interoperability, Odierno Says

By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ASPEN, Colo., July 24, 2014 – In the debate about how large the Army should be as the Defense Department faces the return of sequestration spending cuts in fiscal year 2016, it's more important than ever to build a balanced force, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said last night.

"I've been very clear … the president's strategy, that he built and we all signed up for in 2012, is a strategy that we think is sound," he said.

Under that strategy, the Army would shrink to about 490,000 soldiers, the general told the audience at the first day of the Aspen Security Forum.

"We believed that that size and the capabilities that come with that would allow us to execute that strategy,” Odierno said. “Since then, we've had some things come in the way, such as sequestration."

Based on the current budget, the Army will instead go down to about 440,000 or 450,000 soldiers by 2016, he said.

"What we don't know is what's going to happen after '16," Odierno said.

"If it goes to full sequestration, we're going to go to 420,000,” he added. “And I've been very clear that at 420,000, we cannot execute the current strategy. We will not have the capacity or capability to do it."

If full sequestration returns as scheduled, the general said, the national defense strategy would have to be rewritten. "For me, that is something that is somewhat concerning, because since 2012, the world has not become a safer place," Odierno said.

The Army must remain a balanced force as it downsizes, he said. Drones and special operations forces provide the capability to go after just one kind of threat -- terrorists, the general said.

"So if you believe that's the only threat we have, that's the way to build your force,” he added. “I personally believe we have much more diverse threats that we're going to face."

Declining budgets and unstable security situations also put greater importance on interoperability with U.S. partners and allies, he said.

"Our NATO partners have significantly decreased their spending on security, so we have to better understand what all our capabilities are,” the general said. “We have to understand what our strengths and weaknesses are. We have to work together to build multinational capability to solve these problems."

The tensions between Ukraine and Russia are a "wake-up call" for NATO, he said, adding that “over the last several years, we've allowed our capabilities in NATO to slip." It's time to rebuild NATO's capacity, Odierno said.

"We have to start doing more exercises, more interoperability,” the general said. “We have to have some reassurance of our eastern partners, and we have to make sure we are serious about those. I think we are doing that through small-level exercises today."

EOD community builds bilateral relations

by Senior Airman Jose L. Hernandez-Domitilo
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/23/2014 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!"

After these words are shouted, what is left to hear is the sound of a "KABOOM!" from a nearby explosion slowly overshadowed by the resonating splashes of the morning Pacific Ocean.

It is just another day on the job if you ask any of Misawa Air Base's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team members, but not entirely.

At the team's side are fellow Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces and U.S. Navy members, partaking in a joint bilateral EOD exercise at the Draughon Bombing Range, July 15, 2014.

Master Sgt. Cary Gibson, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight chief, explained that the objective of the training exercise is to demonstrate their ability to gain access to vehicles suspected as improvised explosive devices.

They incorporated the JMSDF EOD team as a way to show them the ins and outs of how the U.S. military's EOD teams operate. On this occasion the team was demonstrating their ability to utilize vehicle access explosive tools that have been perfected over the last decade at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are tools the Japanese don't necessarily have access to, explained Gibson.

For U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Jehu Humphries, officer in charge of EOD Mobile Unit 5, working bilaterally with the JMSDF members is nothing new, as they have always had a long standing relationship with their EOD counterparts.

"The EOD community is very tight knit," said Humphries. "Any chance we can get to work together with fellow EOD members from different units, we are open to it."

While a language barrier exists between Japanese and American forces, there are similarities between how they operate. There is a foundation for the way they all communicate, and that's EOD.

"Our units are more similar than you'd think," stated Humphries. "With EOD, we speak a very common language. If we hint at what we are talking about, then there's already an understanding of what that is."

The beauty of the community is no matter what nationality or branch of service, Humphries said, there is an immediate connection anytime EOD members get together. It is the commonality of having the same mission of saving lives and protecting people.

"It is important for the Japanese to get out here and train with us," said Manzi. "The range gives us the ability to demonstrate our capabilities for their awareness."

In addition to exhibiting techniques at Range Day, the Misawa EOD team also works closely with the students at the local Japanese EOD school, allowing their Japanese counterparts to apply their skills on and off the range.

"What I enjoy most is meeting new people and building friendships," said Manzi. "We hope we can continue to work with them in the future."

Thunderbirds rip through Wyoming skies

by Airman Malcolm Mayfield
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

7/22/2014 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are an aerial demonstration squadron that performs precision aerial maneuvers that demonstrate the capabilities of the Air Force's high performance aircrafts to people throughout the world.. The three main objectives of the Thunderbirds mission are recruitment of new Airmen, providing a positive representation of the Air Force and increasing retention of current Airmen.

The Thunderbirds gave two sports figures the opportunity for a ride of a lifetime.

Wes Welker, Denver Broncos wide receiver flew July 20 with Maj. Tyler Ellison, operations officer, and Cory Sullivan, Root Sports analyst and former Colorado Rockies outfielder flew July 21 with Maj. Michael Fisher, advanced pilot and narrator, witnessed the capabilities of the Thunderbirds from the best seat in the house-the cockpit.

The pilots performed a number of maneuvers including: loop, barrel roll, four-point roll, eight-point roll, knife edge and low-altitude maneuvering, which will also be performed during their air show July 23 at Laramie County Community College.

Before they were launched down the runway of the Wyoming National Guard base, the Thunderbirds celebrities were briefed on the equipment they would be using, safety devices and how not to pass out.

"It's like a roller coaster on steroids. We have slow, fast and faster and there's no brake," said Maj. Michael Carletti, Thunderbirds flight surgeon. "The most important piece is breathing."

During Welker and Sullivan's initial briefings before their flights, they were taught different techniques to handle the pull of the jet. With breathing being one of the main focus points, muscle tightening and flight equipment were also explained.

The importance of pushing forward, or "puke and rally," after being sick was also discussed.

With the knowledge from the mentorship of the Thunderbirds crew, Welker managed to make it through the flight.

"It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed that experience," Welker said. "I don't know if I'll be doing it again anytime soon, but I'm glad I did it and I definitely enjoyed it."

Though Welker said he enjoyed the honor of flying, he still had to push the envelope to keep up.

"I felt fine through all of it," Welker said. "Trust me, there were times that I wanted to pull the bag out but I kept strong and I was able to get through."

The day after Welker took flight, it was time for Sullivan to do the same.

"I can't even begin to describe the feelings up there," Sullivan said. "It was intense. When we did the inverted pass, it was like you're hanging off the Earth."

Sullivan said he was impressed the Thunderbirds pilots can control the jets while under such physical strain.

"It was enough just trying to keep my eyes open," he added.

Training is absolutely integral to making sure people have a successful flight, Fisher said.

"They had everything together," Welker said. "The whole breathing tip was huge, using oxygen and getting air definitely helped me."

Without the guidance of the Thunderbirds crew, handling the amount of force created during their flights would be challenging.

"This is such a foreign experience to people. Without training there's no way they'd be able to know how to handle it," Fisher said.

Along with training, a good crew is always essential to a good flight, Fisher said.

"None of that would have been possible if it wasn't for every single one of the men and women in the blue suits who worked behind the scenes to make sure we had a safe sortie," said Fisher.

With the combined effort of the whole Thunderbirds crew, they preform aerial demonstrations all across the nation and were able to give two gentlemen front row seats.

"I definitely enjoyed it and enjoyed my time here and I want to thank the thunderbirds and the whole Thunderbirds crew for giving me this opportunity and I definitely cherish it," Welker said.