Military News

Friday, August 08, 2014

Hagel, Indian Leaders Discuss Deepening Cooperation



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met in New Delhi today with top leaders in India’s new government to discuss deepening the cooperation between the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy.

In statements summarizing Hagel’s meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said Hagel and the Indian leaders discussed the importance of continuing robust defense cooperation, particularly in terms of co-development and co-production, and through military education and training exchanges.

Modi's forward-looking agenda for his summit with President Barack Obama in the fall was part of Hagel’s discussion with Modi, Kirby said, as well as new ways for the United States and India to deepen strategic ties while addressing a range of global issues.

“Topics covered in the discussion included Iraq, Afghanistan, the threat of terrorism in the Middle East, as well as security issues in the areas comprised by the Indian and Pacific oceans,” the press secretary said.

Hagel’s meeting with Swaraj was the first conversation between the two leaders, Kirby noted.

“Secretary Hagel expressed his strong desire to strengthen and deepen the relationship, especially in the defense sector,” he said. “The two leaders discussed strategic geopolitical issues, to include Iraq, Afghanistan and increasing cooperation in the Indian Ocean and Pacific regions.”

Hagel and Swaraj reaffirmed their commitment to strong bilateral relations, and both expressed the desire for a robust and energetic summit between Obama and Modi in the fall.

Southern Command Kicks Off Panama Canal Defense Exercise



From a U.S. Southern Command News Release

MIAMI, Aug. 8, 2014 – Panamax 2014, an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored multinational exercise focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, kicks off today at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Southcom and Marine Corps Forces South personnel based here, as well as personnel at Navy Forces South in Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, and Air Forces Southern at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, are among the U.S. participants taking part in the exercise.

Sixteen additional nations will join the United States during the seven-day exercise and will use simulations to command and control multinational sea, air, cyber and land forces defending the vital waterway and surrounding areas against threats from violent extremism, natural disasters and pandemic outbreaks, officials said.

Participating nations this year include Brazil, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the United States.

Panamax has evolved over the years, officials said, and now includes training for many of the 21st-century threats encountered in today’s land, sea, air and cyber environments. The exercise aims to increase the ability of nations to work together, enable assembled forces to organize as a multination task force and test their responsiveness in combined operations, they added.

This year’s mostly simulated exercise will include the use of a B-52 bomber to support maritime detection and monitoring, the first time in three years a live military asset is employed during exercise scenarios.

The Panama Canal is considered one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. Six percent of the world’s trade travels through the canal every year, accounting for roughly 400 million tons of goods. It is crucial to the free flow of trade worldwide, officials noted, and the region’s economic stability is largely dependent on the safe transport of several million tons of cargo through the canal each year.

U.S. Southern Command is one of the nation’s six geographically focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

California Guardsmen Aid in Wildfire Battle



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel and Brandon Honig
California National Guard

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 8, 2014 – In what has become a nearly annual mission for the California National Guard, Army and Air Force aviators are dousing wildfires across Northern California, where they soon may be joined by Army Guard firefighting hand crews on the ground.

Army Guard helicopter crews mobilized July 31 to support wildland firefighting efforts as dozens of fires threatened several Northern California communities.

As of Aug. 5, the crews had dropped about 430 buckets, or 2.5 million pounds, of water on the Day fire in Modoc County and the Lodge Complex fire in Mendocino County.

“Working the fire mission is the most [challenging] and requires the greatest skill level of any mission we have stateside,” said Army Sgt. Joshua Esquivel, a helicopter crew chief for Company B, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, who deployed to Iraq with his unit. “The terrain here is very difficult, and having already built that trust and confidence in the crew you’re working with … will get you through those hairy situations.”

The California Army National Guard deployed 18 helicopters beginning July 31 to support the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the California Office of Emergency Services. Two days later, the California Air National Guard deployed two C-130J planes equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems.

The MAFFS equipment, which is owned by the Forest Service but flown on National Guard planes, can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant through a nozzle on the side of the plane. Air Force Col. David Bakos, commander of the Air Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, said many of the airmen flying the MAFFS mission just returned from an overseas deployment to Southwest Asia.

“Our aircrew and support personnel are loyal to this mission and remain ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Bakos said. “I am so proud of their commitment and dedication.”

Chief Clare Frank, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s deputy director for fire protection, said the Guard crews and aircraft were in place and ready to fly within 24 hours after her department issued its request for assistance.

“Our 43-year relationship with the National Guard allows for a seamless interface when these activations occur,” she said.

In addition to the two C-130s, the aircraft include 14 UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters equipped with 660-gallon and 2,000-gallon water buckets, respectively, plus one Black Hawk dedicated for medical evacuation duty and three UH-72 Lakota helicopters, which stream near-real-time video and thermal imagery of the fires to incident commanders on the ground.

Army Lt. Col. Mark Kampa, a helicopter instructor pilot based at Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, said that in addition to helping the people of California, this mission is helping California National Guard aviators improve their skills, noting that the level of intensity is much closer to a wartime environment than a training environment. “These operations require precision flying,” he explained, “and that’s hard to teach in a training environment.”

On Aug. 4, more than 260 soldiers arrived at the Guard training installation Camp Roberts for four days of intensive instruction from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in case Guard troops are needed to work fire lines on the ground. The training includes two days of classroom instruction followed by two days of work in the field with hand tools.

If activated to fight fires, the hand crews will work to create fire breaks -- gaps in vegetation that act as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a fire -- and to mop up hot spots and small blazes that remain after a large fire has passed through an area.

“Our primary mission is to protect the people of the great state of California, and we train year-round to respond to emergencies such as this,” said Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California’s adjutant general. “Whether on the ground or in the air, our soldiers and airmen are always ready to fight the blazes that threaten our state each year.”

Chief Ken Pimlott, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s director, said the extreme drought conditions faced by the state this year make access to National Guard resources even more critical than in a typical wildfire season.

“The recent lightning activity in Northern California has sparked over a dozen fires,” he said. “Our well-exercised and long-standing relationship with the California National Guard allows for rapid, effective deployment of these additional resources during times of elevated fire activity.”

California National Guard aircraft dropped nearly 1.5 million gallons of fire retardant and water during nearly 1,500 aerial drops in last year’s fire season, mainly across California and the western states.

Esquivel said he and the other members of the California Guard are excited to be able to support such an important emergency response.

“You really get a sense of accomplishment on missions like these, where you’re out here helping people,” he said.

Altus AFB breaks ground for KC-46A construction

by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

8/8/2014 - ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Officials broke ground on a new construction project on Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma., Aug. 7, 2014.

The ceremony marked the beginning of a months-long effort to prepare for the arrival of the newest refueling aircraft in the Air Force fleet, the KC-46A Pegasus.

Air Education and Training Command Commander Gen. Robin Rand, Oklahoma Senator Mike Schulz and 97th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Bill Spangenthal attended the event, along with civic leaders from the area and members of the wing.

Spangenthal spoke of the refueling heritage the men and women of the 97th have thus far accomplished and declared the future to be just as successful. "It's clear we've come a long way from our humble beginnings of communicating via flashlight signals and pumping fuel by hand into aircraft wing tanks," said the colonel. "Today, we proudly train the greatest Airmen in the world to operate both C-17s and KC-135s. And soon, the KC-46 will take to the skies of Altus continuing our legacy of creating the world's best mobility aircrew members."

The new construction is estimated at $56 million and will include a flight training center, a fuselage training facility, new aircraft hangars and renovations for a combined squadron operations and aircraft maintenance unit facility.

The 97th Air Mobility Wing, already home to the Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft and KC-135 refueling aircraft formal training units, was announced in April as the new training host for the Pegasus.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited Airmen at Altus in April and confirmed the Oklahoma base as the future home of the KC-46 during an Airmen's call. "The studies are done, the evaluation is complete and the verdict is in," said James. "I am very pleased and honored to tell you that Altus will be the formal training unit for the KC-46A Pegasus."

Training is expected to begin sometime in 2016, once the first aircraft are delivered and instructor pilots have received the necessary qualifications.

Altus was selected as the formal training unit for the KC-46A because it provides great training opportunities, said Timothy Bridges, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations. Altus AFB also has better infrastructure capacity and requires considerably less new construction to train aircrew on the new airframe.

Bringing the KC-46 to Altus is an important phase of modernizing the current refueling fleet. The first KC-135s entered service in 1957, and though there have been numerous upgrades through the years, the KC-46 will provide improved capability, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, world-wide navigation and communication and airlift capability on the entire main deck floor. It is also capable of receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability, and multi-point air refueling capability.

"Tankers are the lifeblood of our joint force's ability to respond to crises and contingencies," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III of the new tanker. "The Pegasus will be capable of day and night operations and enable a rapid, global capability that will support U.S., joint, allied and coalition forces. The aircraft will also underpin our humanitarian missions."

With 179 new KC-46 aircraft expected to enter service through fiscal year 2028, the training mission at Altus is expected to be fully operational by 2023 and will train approximately 475 aircrew each year.

"The Mighty 97th looks forward to training on our newest tanker and assisting the Air Force in meeting future warfighter needs. In fact, as the Air Force becomes leaner, more efficient and more innovative, the sky's the limit for what the Airmen of Altus Air Force Base can achieve with our new mission set," said Spangenthal.

Air Force improves nuclear force manpower levels

by Maj. Eric Badger
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs


8/8/2014 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force will increase nuclear force manning at Air Force Global Strike Command missile and bomber wings beginning this fall, officials announced Aug. 7.

The Air Force will plus-up nuclear enterprise manning levels by hundreds of positions at select bases, with the first wave of Airmen expected to arrive through the next few assignment cycles.

As outlined by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, the manning plus-up is part of a broader series of measures and incentives designed to improve the culture and mission effectiveness of the service's nuclear force.

"We've been saying that the nuclear enterprise is the number one mission, and the Air Force is putting its money where its mouth is," James said. "We must show Airmen that there's value in this mission by making the appropriate investments in people, weapon systems and infrastructure. The Air Force has worked and will continue to work to identify and rearrange funds to make important improvements within our missile and bomber forces."

The wholesale changes being made in the nuclear enterprise are designed to empower Airmen, and ensure they have the resources they need for this priority mission, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

"We have great Airmen serving on our team and we owe it to them to make things better," he said. "It's important to recognize that we are just at the beginning of this process. Raising manning levels is one in a series of immediate changes."

The increase in nuclear force manpower by installation is as follows:

Barksdale AFB, Louisiana: The 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB will gain 31 positions, filling jobs primarily in areas such as maintenance and munitions.

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming: The 90th Missile Wing and 20th Air Force will gain 242 positions to improve manning primarily in the operations, maintenance and security forces career fields.

Malmstrom AFB, Montana: The 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB will gain 216 positions to improve manning primarily in the operations, maintenance and security forces career fields.

Minot AFB, North Dakota: Minot AFB will gain 303 positions. The 5th Bomb Wing host unit is expected to increase by 69 positions in areas including operations and maintenance. The 91st Missile Wing will grow by 234 positions. Those Airmen will primarily serve in jobs such as operations, maintenance and security forces.

Whiteman AFB, Missouri: The 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB will gain 56 positions, primarily filling jobs in the maintenance career field.

Tinker's 513th provides AWACS support for major Pacific exercise

by Staff Sgt. Caleb Wanzer
513th Air Control Group Public Affairs


8/8/2014 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- More than 60 reservists from the 513th Air Control Group and the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron returned home last week after a nearly two-week mission to support the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

The 970th flew the only E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft in the exercise, according to Lt. Col. Brent Vander Pol, the 970th commander and the detachment commander for the trip.

"What we were able to accomplish was huge," Vander Pol said. "We were able to get our secure link up and running, providing all of the other allied assets with everything we could see. For us to get and stay connected to the Navy, that's a huge win for us."

Navy communications Sailors flew on the E-3's first mission and worked directly with aircrew members to set up Link 16 capability.

"The Link 16 connectivity provides all the ships, aircraft and other coalition units the ability to exchange tactical data that enhances their situational awareness," said Navy Lt. David Hogg, a joint interface control officer with the Navy's Third Fleet, who flew on board the AWACS.

The link also allows the air operations center to see everything the AWACS radar detects in real time, he said. This allows U.S. and allied forces to share the same information securely.

Vander Pol said that the staff members of the air operations center were surprised by the amount of data that the E-3 provides.

"There was a huge gasp on the floor of the center when this massive amount of data they hadn't been seeing appeared on the displays," he said. "Everyone has to play his or her role in the exercise, and it was really good to see what we could provide."

Even though the E-3 Sentry wasn't the only AWACS to participate in RIMPAC, it provided the largest radar picture, Vander Pol said.

The Navy's E-2 Hawkeye, which provides a similar AWACS capability, also flew missions in RIMPAC. The E-2 is capable of launching from an aircraft carrier but has a smaller range than the E-3 Sentry. The E-3 is the largest AWACS in the U.S. military inventory.

In total, Airmen from the 970th flew five missions, totaling more than 33 hours in the air, where they controlled more than 50 fighter and refueling aircraft.

According to Lt. Col. Wayne Polinksi, the chief air battle manager for the 970th, RIMPAC involved many large-force exercises where U.S. and allied fighter aircraft split into teams and practiced combat maneuvers.

The Navy also contributed to the training, adding high-priority targets in the form of ships that needed to be destroyed in a short amount of time. This required the 970th air battle managers to work quickly with the air operations center and fighter aircraft.

"It was a pretty lean mission," Polinksi said.

The 513th Airmen weren't the only reservists to play a part in RIMPAC 2014. Four KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft and about 65 Airmen from the 507th Air Refueling Wing also at Tinker provided a vital capability to the exercise.

The 507th, along with six other refueling units from the U.S. and Canada, offloaded fuel to aircraft during the exercise, extending flight times for fighters and allowing for better training.

"We were able to work with the reservists from the 507th and had a lot of mutual support," Vander Pol said. "At the end of the day, it was just a bunch of guys from Oklahoma helping each other out."

For the 513th, the mission to RIMPAC was much more than just a routine training opportunity.

"Everyone in the unit realized that this trip was a chance for us to shine and to tell the story of the 513th," Vander Pol said. "We certainly got the attention of our joint and allied partners with what we were doing."

Twenty-two nations, more than 50 ships and submarines, about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in exercise RIMPAC in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Prepares for Storm



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2014 – Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is maintaining Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 4 as Tropical Storm Iselle bears down on the state.

TCCOR 4 indicates that destructive and sustained winds of 50 knots are possible, officials said in an article posted on the installation’s website.

At that readiness level, officials urge military and Defense Department personnel and their families to complete their disaster kits and emergency preparations, and to continue to listen to the news for updates.

The joint base continues to operate its emergency operations center to monitor the storm and ensure the safety and security of base personnel, officials said, adding that the base continues to be fully mission-capable, with potential follow-on actions contingent upon weather updates.

Residents living on base were urged to be prepared to safely shelter in place, though no evacuations of the housing areas were planned. Residents were notified if they are within a flood zone before the storm arrived.

People living off the base, particularly in coastal evacuation zones or in areas prone to flooding, were urged to be aware of the locations of the nearest City and County of Honolulu shelters in case they needed to evacuate.

The USS Missouri Memorial is closed today because of the storm.

Officials urged people affected to monitor updates on the joint base’s website and its Facebook page.

Eielson AFB selected as preferred alternative for first overseas-based F-35As

8/8/2014 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials announced Aug. 7 that Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, was selected as the preferred alternative to host the first F-35A Lightning II squadrons in the Pacific area of responsibility.

Eielson was selected due to its ability to support the mission, economic factors and environmental considerations.

"Basing the F-35s at Eielson (AFB) will allow the Air Force the capability of using the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex for large force exercises using a multitude of ranges and maneuver areas in Alaska," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "This, combined with the largest airspace in the Air Force, ensures realistic combat training for the DOD."

Proximity to the range complex will enable the Air Force to take advantage of approximately 65,000 square miles of available airspace for realistic, world-class training in the Air Force's most advanced fifth-generation fighter.

The Air Force uses a strategic basing process to make basing decisions. Each decision takes an enterprise-wide look as it evaluates potential basing locations. This deliberate and repeatable process uses criteria-based analysis and military judgment.

"Now that we have identified Eielson AFB as the preferred alternative for the Pacific Air Force's F-35s, we will use our strategic basing process to determine the best location for the 18th Aggressor Squadron's F-16s. Eielson (AFB) will be included in the bases considered," said Timothy A. Bridges, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations.

The basing decision for the F-35A will become final upon successful completion of the environmental impact analysis process. The Air Force expects the first F-35As to arrive at the selected location in 2019. The chosen base is projected to receive a total of 48 F-35As.

"The F-35 will be based at locations capable of meeting combatant commander requirements, while being accessible to respond to all contingencies outlined in our national security strategy," said Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III. "In addition to complementing the F-22's world class air superiority capabilities, the F-35A is designed to penetrate the most advanced air defenses and deliver a wide range of precision munitions."

Golden Bear Shadow Program

by Senior Airman Madelyn Brown
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


8/8/2014 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- In an effort to bridge the gap between junior enlisted Airmen and wing leadership, Travis Air Force Base has implemented the "Golden Bear Shadow Program," scheduled to occur at various squadrons throughout the year.

The program will allow for Col. Corey Martin, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, to accompany a junior Airman as he or she accomplishes their daily duties. While the base commander will have an opportunity to learn about the daily challenges of accomplishing the mission at the tactical level, the Airman will have the opportunity to gain a strategic-level perspective of the mission.

Martin will visit with a different Airman from each group, to include the 60th Medical Group, 60th Mission Support Group, the Director of Staff, 60th Maintenance Group and the 60th Operations Group.

The first shadow event occurred in the pharmacy of David Grant USAF Medical center with Airman 1st Class Ashley Deason.

"The Golden Bear Shadow Program was highly beneficial because it was a great opportunity and privilege to work alongside Col. Martin to show the importance of how pharmacy assists with the mission," Deason said. "With this program, it gives Airmen the opportunity to show their hard work and dedication."

As the program cycles through the different groups, the commander is scheduled to visit with a different unit or squadron upon every "Shadow Bear Program" visit in order to gain a diverse, first-hand experience with Travis Airmen.

Each group commander will have the task of nominating a section and Airman within the group to be shadowed. Additionally, a photographer from the 60th AMW Public Affairs office will accompany the Airman and commander, and take a photo in the work environment to be sent to the selected Airman's family.

"It is a privilege for me to spend time on the job with our Golden Bear Airmen," Martin said. "I am so impressed with their selfless, relentless work and I look forward to working alongside them."