Military News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Team Kadena exercises real-world scenarios

by Airman 1st Class Stephen G. Eigel
18th Wing Public Affairs


8/20/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Team Kadena's F-15C Eagle fighter jets and pilots participated in a mission-focused exercise on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Aug. 18-21.

With Kadena Air Base as the Keystone of the Pacific and home to the Air Force's largest combat wing, the F-15s play a big role in providing unmatched combat power and a forward power projection platform in addition to providing for the common defense of Japan.

As the largest combat wing in the Pacific, it is important to keep Kadena's F-15 pilots' skills honed and ready to go at a moment's notice.

"For the 44th during an exercise, it's an all around war-type scenario," said Maj. Brett Faber, 44th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and F-15 pilot. "The pilots are briefed from the mission planning cell and given minimal time to be able to go out there, give our own brief, fly, come back and get ready for the next sortie."

Faber said exercises like this help prepare for real-world situations by giving pilots the time compression and stress that will be present in a real life situation from the building all the way to the air.

"We have been out here working, keeping the jets fully capable to bring the fight to our enemy," said Airman 1st Class Cody Cobbs, 18th AMXS crew chief. "The exercise does prepare us for the real thing, because you are under a lot of pressure and working as fast as you can to get as many jets in the air as possible."

It takes everyone to fulfill the 18th Wing mission and that's why everyone practices and prepares themselves like it is the real thing.

"If anyone was planning on attacking U.S. or Japanese soil right now, I would say be prepared because we definitely are, and we will give you a tough fight," Faber said.

Hagel, Ukrainian Minister Discuss Russian Aid Convoy



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today spoke via telephone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey and discussed Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s recent remarks noting that the Russian aid convoy to Ukraine was not a military intervention, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

“Secretary Hagel spoke today by phone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey.

“Secretary Hagel relayed Minister Shoygu’s recent remarks on the Russian aid convoy, and Minister Shoygu’s “guarantee” that the aid convoy was not a military intervention. Secretary Hagel conveyed that he told Minister Shoygu Russia’s vehicles and forces along the border continued to escalate tensions and stressed that any discussions about potential ceasefire agreements must include Ukraine.

“Minister Heletey reported increased violence in Ukraine’s east as a result of Russia’s ongoing supply of weapons and personnel into Ukraine, and spoke about recent attacks in which innocent civilians were killed and wounded.

“Finally, Secretary Hagel and Minister Heletey discussed the status of ongoing deliveries of United States military assistance to Ukraine. Minister Heletey thanked the secretary for the continued assistance of the United States.”

In the thick of it: 34th Combat Training Squadron

by Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


8/20/2014 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark.  -- Recently, I was able to witness one of the combat exercises that the 34th Combat Training Squadron conducts at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The mission of the 34th CTS is to provide tailored joint mobility training to produce combat-ready Airmen and Soldiers. The squadron conducts Green Flag Little Rock at Little Rock Air Force Base as well as from two out-of-state detachments located at Fort Polk and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The purpose of GFLR is to exercise and evaluate the combat readiness of Air Force strategic airlift. GFLR also provides an opportunity to train with partner forces while in a simulated deployed environment.

But this was not just another routine exercise for the 34th CTS.

For the first time, C-130 aircrew members from another 19th Airlift Wing squadron would be on the ground, training for a scenario where their plane went down in a hostile environment.

Three loadmasters and one pilot, all from the 41st Airlift Squadron volunteered to be dropped in the middle of the Louisiana wilderness to test their survival, evasion, resistance and escape skills.

The team of four was monitored by two Team Little Rock SERE instructors who followed the group throughout their trek through Louisiana's sub-tropical climate.

"These guys are used to flying and conducting airdrops," said Tech Sgt. John Conant, 34th CTS SERE specialist. "They can experience what it is like from the ground and see the importance of dropping cargo on the target."

The first day started early. Members from the 34th CTS, other 19th AW squadrons and I were up at 3 a.m. to prepare for departure.

First there were pre-flight briefings informing the crew of weather conditions, flight patterns and simulated enemy threats in the vicinity of Fort Polk.

Then, we loaded up in a Humvee and the vehicle was loaded into the back of a C-130J, with inches to spare on either side.

After an hour of flying, we landed at Alexandria International Airport and drove roughly 45 minutes to arrive at Fort Polk.

Fort Polk was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. For starters, the post is massive. It consumes approximately 200,000 acres of land, including the Kisatchie National Forest.

When we arrived, signs of an actual contingency operation could be seen everywhere.

Once inside, we passed huge convoys of Army Humvees and tanks. An assortment of tactical vehicles could be seen including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, tankers and all-terrain vehicles.

There was even a simulated village that looked and felt worlds away from the Louisiana that I had seen. We passed through the village on our way to meet up with the SERE team. Signs were in foreign languages, and there were Afghans as well as Americans dressed up as villagers.

We passed huts with women in cultural attire in front of them, selling accessories. Even a goat or two could be seen roaming the streets.

By the time we met up with the SERE instructors and students, they had been in the wilderness the entire night and day before.

The team was using multiple devices to signal an Air Force C-130 to their location.

The C-130 roared overhead and dropped a sandbag that simulated much-needed supplies.

"When these four Airmen are flying, dropping a pallet on target is almost like a game," said Tech Sgt. Justin McCaffrey, 19th Operations Support Squadron SERE noncommissioned officer in charge. "But when they've been out here, they realize how important it is to be on target. You could be shot when retrieving the cargo."

After the team successfully retrieved their cargo, they hiked through the woods to get closer to their destination.

"This part of the exercise will teach the Airmen to do whatever it takes to get out of hostile territory, as well as being stealthy, silent and hidden when in a chaotic environment," said Lt. Col. Russell Parramore, 34th CTS detachment operating location alpha commander.

As part of their hike, the SERE students snuck past foreign military police and a crowded village. Again, they began hiking the wilderness toward their final destination- the landing zone.

Once we reached the landing zone, the Airmen contacted nearby Soldiers for a quick extraction.

Parramore set off several smoke grenades, and within minutes, there were two UH-60 Black Hawks circling overhead.

"It is important to know how to communicate with other Airmen as well as Soldiers in a deployed environment," said Conant.

The helicopters landed and a team of Soldiers surrounded the extraction point as well as our small group, to determine any potential threats.

After the Airmen and Soldiers spoke with each other, all of the troops were prepared to board the Black Hawks.

We ran through flying blades of grass and falling branches and jumped onto the aircraft.

Within seconds we were strapped into place and soaring over the vast wilderness. Apache attack helicopters could be seen flying nearby, to ensure protection.

After the ride, the SERE students and their instructors disembarked the Black Hawk and were debriefed by several Soldiers.

When their mission was completed, the Airmen reflected on their experience and said that they had all learned something.

"Before, I was one of those loadmasters who would see an airdrop as another routine job," said Airman 1st Class Dustin Thomerson. "But after being out here, you really get a sense of how important performing each airdrop is to the people below."

All aircrew Airmen are required to go through SERE training. But after initial schooling, Airmen are only required to attend a SERE refresher training every three years.

"But this opportunity was not a requirement," said Conant. "These Airmen volunteered to practice SERE skills in a new environment, and they were able to make their own decisions out here, instead of being guided or instructed the whole way."

The general consensus from the four students was that they garnered experience and new perspective, all while seeming to have a great time, throughout the unique combat training exercise. Being a part of Green Flag Little Rock gave the Airmen an opportunity to see what they do every day yet from a different viewpoint.

"This team of Airmen has paved the way for other Team Little Rock members to learn new skills and techniques in working with our integral Army partners," said Lt. Col. Steve Smith, 34th CTS commander. "Hopefully in the future, we can have more Airmen come down and experience what this group accomplished over the past two days."

Sometimes when completing daily tasks and duties, it is easy to forget what combat airlift is all about. Seeing the 34th CTS put all that training into action emphasized the global importance that combat airlift holds.

Work Highlights Importance of U.S.-South Korea Alliance



By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

SEOUL, South Korea, Aug. 20, 2014 – On the first day of Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s first official visit here with military and political leaders, talks focused on the North Korean threat, the importance of cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and key capabilities needed for the U.S.-South Korea bilateral relationship, a senior defense official said.

The deputy secretary’s first stop today was at the U.S. Forces Korea Headquarters building where he met with USFK Commander Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti and Leslie A. Bassett, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Scaparrotti also is chief of the United Nations Command and Combined Forces Command.

During a working lunch the officials discussed current issues in the alliance, the official said, and in particular focused on the threat from North Korea.

Later this afternoon Work visited the Blue House, a complex of buildings that includes the executive office and official residence of the president of the Republic of Korea, and whose name in the Korean language means “pavilion of blue tiles.”

There, the deputy secretary met with the new National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, who as recently as June had been South Korea’s minister of national defense, before President Park Geun-hye named him to her cabinet.

During his visit, Work brought Kim greetings from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who the defense official said knew Kim well in his previous year as minister.

Also at the Blue House, Work met with South Korea’s new Defense Minister Han Min-Koo and other senior government officials.

In his discussion with Kim, the deputy secretary described his role and focus on Northeast Asia posture issues for the Defense Department.

“They both underscored the importance of [the U.S.-South Korea] alliance to peace and security in the region,” the senior defense official said.

Work underscored the U.S. priority and emphasis on the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region in particular, the official added, “and a big part of that are our alliance relationships -- the importance of having capable, modern and effective alliances.”

The defense official said Work is visiting South Korea as the annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise is getting underway.

Ulchi-Freedom Guardian is a U.S.-South Korea military exercise known before 2008 as Ulchi-Focus Lens, the world's largest computerized command-and-control implementation focusing mainly on defending South Korea from a North Korean attack. The exercise was initiated in 1976 and is conducted annually in August or September.

“This is a good opportunity for the deputy secretary to see the exercise first-hand,” the senior defense official said, “[and] see the coordination and cooperation first-hand.”

Officials at the Blue House had a long conversation about the North Korean threat and the unprecedented provocation cycle, including such incidents as missile launches, artillery fire in the Yellow Sea, the infiltration of small unmanned aerial vehicles, and the looming threat of a fourth nuclear test, each of which undermine stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region.

“The deputy secretary underscored the importance of a strong and effective and capable alliance in deterring and responding to the North Korean threat,” the defense official said. “This is a point he emphasized in both his meetings today.”

The officials discussed the importance of trilateral cooperation with Japan and they had long conversations with Kim and Han about the importance of a strong and effective alliance and bilateral capabilities that are required for that, the senior defense official added.

Work thanked Kim and Han for the roles they played in the special measures agreement, which provides for South Korean cost-sharing support to offset costs associated with stationing U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula.

The 2014-2018 agreement will provide for continued South Korean support in logistics, labor and construction and will help ensure that the United States has the resources needed for the combined defense of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim and Han both praised Scaparrotti for the day-to-day role that he plays in the alliance, the senior defense official said.

The deputy secretary highlighted the importance of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and thanked the South Korean leaders for their support.

“It’s important that we're transparent, that we work through issues together as an alliance,” the official said, “because both sides recognize the importance of a strong U.S.-Korea alliance, especially in the current situation on the peninsula with North Korea.”

437th AW Airmen make most out of free time

by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs


8/19/2014 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Airmen from the 437th Airlift Wing recently sacrificed their free time by volunteering at a Columbian orphanage during a recent mission.

The aircrew, comprised of Airmen from several different Joint Base Charleston squadrons, was flying a U.S. Southern Command mission in support of a Capstone Military Leadership Program mission.

"Capstone missions support flag officers as they go through the National Defense University," said Maj. Adam Dalson, 17th Airlift Squadron director of staff and mission commander. "During these trips, they travel around the world visiting different countries and meet with heads of state, ambassadors and dignitaries and get first-hand experience with the missions and problems these countries are experiencing."

One of the benefits of a Capstone mission though, is the aircrew may actually get a few days off from flying. To fill this extra time, Dalson's team decided to do something positive with their time on the ground.

The Capstone mission was taking the crew to Mexico, Colombia, Honduras and Panama, but it was while they were on the ground in Colombia the crew was able to volunteer at a local orphanage.

"We talked with the hotel concierge to see if there was a place we could volunteer our time," said Dalson. "Bogota (Colombia) isn't the safest city to hang around in. With the high local force protection levels, there were a lot of neighborhoods we couldn't visit. Luckily, the next day, the concierge told me of an orphanage called La Casa de la Madre El Nino, and how we might be able to visit the kids there."

"The mission commander set (the volunteer opportunity) up for us and our aircraft commander introduced it to the group," said Senior Airman Laura Reed, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "We were all extremely excited and ready to help."

"The crew jumped at the opportunity," said Dalson. "The orphanage was originally described as worse than it actually was, but the crew was surprised by how beautiful it really was."

"It was set up nicely; they took wonderful care of the kids and there was a ton of staff," said Dalson. "They've been operating successfully for more than 70 years as a family business. The lady who met us there was actually the great granddaughter of the lady who started the orphanage."

The aircrew teamed up and collected $800 out of their own pockets and purchased toys and toiletries for the children. When they got to the orphanage, they split into two groups; one for the older kids, and one for the younger children.

"I'm a dad myself, so I know that babies are easier," joked Dalson. "We were indoors taking care of the children, feeding and playing with them."

The other group of Airmen were out in the open backyard area playing with the older kids, said Dalson.

"It was great watching the other group play outside with the kids," said Reed. "The kids didn't speak English so they used hand motions to communicate with us."

The orphanage is home to more than 100 children age 14 and under.

"Most of these kids come from a pretty rough background," said Dalson. "It's humbling to help these kids and show them they have opportunities for a positive future and that there are people out there who really do care about them."

Lt. Col. Paul Theriot, 17th AS commander, was proud these Airmen chose to spend their time doing such a good service for others.

"There is no expectation that crews need to do this kind of thing; but if you make the decision on leg one of the mission to have a positive, safe journey, it will happen," said Theriot.

More than just helping the children in need, Dalson said he and his team had such a good time they look forward to being able to do things like this on future missions.

"I would go back there in a heartbeat," said Dalson. "Nothing but big eyes and huge smiles; it was by far the best part of our trip."

Reserve maintainers putting peddling to good use

by Tech Sgt. Katie Spencer
459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


8/20/2014 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- Staying in shape is a core requirement for the Air Force.  For some, the requirement comes easy. For others, it can be a challenge.

But for some members of the 920th Rescue Wing's Maintenance Squadron, it's just like riding a bike. Literally.

The MXS started a cycling club in 2011, and it has members not only from maintenance but from the operations and aeromedical staging squadrons, as well as a small group of retired 920th Airmen. The group meets after duty hours to train and socialize.

"We have our group rides on the weekends," said Master Sgt. Mike Monopoli, an aircraft production control specialist with the 920th MXS. "We meet at a restaurant, bike 30, 40 or 50 miles, then come back to point A and have breakfast. It helps build camaraderie."

The team rides for fun. But they also train to participate in community charity rides.

"We couldn't find events that were competitive, so we decided to participate in charity rides," said Monopoli. "We are doing all these miles, so why not put it to good use?"

Their charity rides include biking for breast cancer awareness and the annual Tour De Cure, which benefits the American Diabetes Associated and includes 70 miles of spinning metal spokes, rolling rubber wheels and turning handlebars.
  
"We've done the Tour De Cure every year for three years, and it is one of the challenging ones," said Senior Master Sgt. Juan Maldonado, superintendent of the 920th Maintenance Operations Flight. "We have always had people deployed during the time of the ride. But this year we should have 10 to 15 riders. We hope to make it a big event."

The group gets sponsorships from local restaurants and pubs, and also hosts fundraising events. They've raised $10,000 as a team.
  
Aside from charity events, the bikers participate in community events such as the Rocketman Florida Triathlon, which is sponsored by Air Force Reserve.

"We are looking forward to doing the biking part of the Rocketman," said Monopoli. "We are going to reach out to the group and see if we can start a few teams. It'll be fun to be on different teams and gunning for each other. If my team loses, I'll never hear the end of it."

The Rocketman Florida Triathlon is scheduled for Oct. 12, and Monopoli says it'll be great training for other big rides they have coming up, the three-day, 375-mile ride they plan to do in Puerto Rico this January.

"The key to train for big races is to just ride and ride and gain mileage," he said. "Right now we average 100 miles a week. So by that time we should be hitting 250 to 300 miles a week."

While the group trains for rides around the community, there is another benefit to adding mileage on their bikes - it helps keep them fit to fight.
 
"Biking has greatly improved my run time," said Maldonado. "My time has decreased by 20 to 25 seconds. To some people that may not be much. But for me and my age, a 25-second difference is big." For Monopoli, the benefit is more mental than physical.

"If I can endure the grueling conditions of being on a bike and riding that long, I feel I can handle a PT test of 20 minutes of exercise (omit "of exercise)," he said. "For me, I still get nervous before test. But I always think in my head, 'if I can sit on a bike in the blazing heat, wind, sometimes rain, all these nasty conditions - I can do the run."

Biking is also therapeutic for these maintainers.

"You're on the bike and its freedom," said Maldonado. "You forget about everything. It's a great way to decompress. It clears your mind."

Whether biking for charity, biking for fitness or biking for Zen, these Air Force Reserve bikers push themselves to always strive for excellence in all they do.

Face of Defense: Marines Hone Firefighting Skills



By Marine Corps Cpl. J.R. Heins
2nd Marine Expeditionary Force

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Aug. 20, 2014 – More than 20 members of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point's Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting unit practiced extinguishing simulated aircraft fires to prepare them for the conditions and stressors of real missions.

The purpose of the Aug. 14 training “is to familiarize the Marines with being around fire and the techniques they would use to combat it," said Marine Corps Cpl. Brian Lorys, a firefighter with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.

The Marines use a Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device to obtain the most realistic training, according to Lorys, who hails from Bradley Brook, New York. The MAFTD provides several types of training situations for the Marines by releasing fire from different directions at various heights and locations on the aircraft.

Everyone who works on a fire truck is required to take the training, Lorys said.

"The training helps everyone," said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cory Carden, a firefighter with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274.

"For the newer people, it allows them to experience real-life situations,” Carden said. “And for the people who have been here a while, it keeps everything fresh in their heads and helps build muscle memory."

Each situation the Marines encounter during the training simulates a real aircraft fire, Carden said.

"If we do not take this training seriously and suddenly the real thing rolls around we won't be ready and someone will get hurt," Lorys said. "It is our job to remain prepared to face the fire for hours on end if needed. How intense we train will reflect how well we perform."

Silver Star awarded to 22nd STS Airman



by Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

8/18/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash --

Four combat controllers and two tactical air control party members from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron were presented eight medals during an awards ceremony here Aug. 18.

Combat controllers and TACP members are trained special operations forces who deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, and provide air traffic control and close air support.

"Today we're going to recognize six of our Special Tactics Airmen. We've got one Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Valor, four Bronze Stars and two Combat Action medals," said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, Air Force Special Operations Command commander. "In all these cases we're going to award today, they were being shot at. They were outside the wire and being shot at as they engaged the enemy. That's what we're awarding today."

Tech. Sgt. Matthew McKenna, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest combat military decoration, for distinguishing himself by gallantry during a 13 hour firefight with enemy forces in Afghanistan.

McKenna was the fourth 22nd STS member to earn the medal for operations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the 31st Special Tactics Airman to receive the medal since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

During the battle in Afghanistan, McKenna and his team found themselves in a vulnerable valley position, outnumbered by a fierce enemy closing in on their position from higher ground.

McKenna controlled air and ground sensors in order to carry out air strikes on 10 insurgents preventing a cataclysmic ambush.

At one point in the conflict, he discovered his team was running out of ammunition and coordinated an aerial resupply at two locations placing desperately needed munitions within 50 feet of the endangered service members.

As the enemy closed in on their position, McKenna ignored his teammate's urgencies to find cover as he rushed into the kill zone, exposing himself to heavy fire in order to control danger-close air strikes.

A danger-close air strike is an attack from airborne assets that are targeting an area within 600 meters of a friendly force.

The strikes were perfectly placed, saving the lives of friendly forces pinned down by the enemy fire and allowing the team, almost completely out of ammunition, the time and space to move up the mountain to an emergency exfiltration point.

His actions secured the survival of his team against a challenging enemy, allowing them to beat back three counter-attacks contributing to 103 enemies killed in action before withdrawing to safety.

"These are very humble individuals and don't like to be in the lime light," said Heithold. "They don't want to be highlighted up here for what they've done because frankly, many of [their teammates] in the audience have done these same things."

McKenna was also awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during that same deployment. In that time, he controlled 431 aircraft during 23 ground combat operations, which led to the capture of 26 enemy insurgents and 67 enemy fighters killed in action.

During numerous operations, he safeguarded his teammates by exposing himself to direct fire in order to coordinate aircraft to neutralize enemy fire allowing his team to complete their mission.

Five other Airmen were also recognized for their valiant actions in combat.

Staff Sgt. James Sparks, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his actions during a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan. Attached to an Army special forces team, he was able to integrate airpower into 26 combat missions where he controlled 142 different aircraft maintaining fire superiority. His actions resulted in the neutralization of five key leaders, 14 enemy killed in action and three captured.

Tech. Sgt. Bridger Morris, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. Within this time, Morris disrupted insurgent networks by directing 207 aircraft employing air to ground attacks on the enemy which resulted in 23 enemies killed in action and eight captured.

Tech. Sgt. Tyler Britton, 22nd STS tactical air control party member, was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. In addition to his joint attack controller duties, he was involved in a three day operation where he engaged the enemy with accurate fire in order to extract wounded teammates out of harm's way.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Luera, 22nd STS tactical air control party member, was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Force Combat Action medal for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. During one operation, Luera exposed himself to gunfire in order to adjust aircraft fire to maximize the effectiveness of each airborne attack he called which resulted in the death of six enemy Taliban members including a key Taliban commander.

Staff Sgt. Douglas Perry, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Air Force Combat Action medal for his active participation in combat in connection with a military operation on Aug. 26, 2013, while serving with Operation Enduring Freedom.

"I would argue that the 22nd STS and the 24th Special Operations Wing is by far the most decorated unit in the United States Air Force," said Heithold. "I'm not bragging or here to trumpet our successes. But I will tell you one thing. I'm awful proud to be the commander of AFSOC and to be the commander of
these men and women out there getting it done."