Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Army Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipients Join Hall of Heroes

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

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel honored two “remarkable” Americans today as he led the induction of the Army’s two most recent Medal of Honor recipients into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes here.

Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins, and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat -- who received the medal posthumously and was represented by his family -- were enshrined during the ceremony a day after President Barack Obama presented the duo with the nation’s highest award for valor.

The defense secretary was joined in honoring the inductees by Army Undersecretary Brad R. Carson, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, as well as the two Medal of Honor recipients’ families, friends and fellow Vietnam War veterans.

“We’re very proud of you,” Hagel said. “This whole country is very proud of you, and I think President Obama made that very clear yesterday in a very special recognition at the White House. So thank you and your family. Thank you very much.”

Honoring Vietnam veterans

Before inducting the two Medal of Honor recipients, the defense secretary, who served in Vietnam as an Army infantry noncommissioned officer, acknowledged the Vietnam veterans present who “served in battle with these men.”

“We’re very proud of you,” he said. “We’re grateful for your service, what you have done for our country and what you mean to all of us.

“You witnessed, firsthand, courageous actions,” Hagel continued. “Certainly the courageous actions of the two we honor today, but you, too, exhibited tremendous bravery on the battlefield.”

Last month, he said, marked 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the escalation of the Vietnam War -- a conflict that would result in the deaths of tens of thousands of American service members.

The Vietnam War left other service members with visible and invisible wounds of war, Hagel said, and leaving far too many selfless warriors without the dignity, respect and appreciation they deserved when they all came home.

“We still have not made things right for many of these Vietnam veterans,” he said. “But today we have the opportunity to correct the record for two of them.”

Acts of heroism

Many in the audience were probably familiar with Adkins’ and Sloat’s “stories of heroism, which again, the president described yesterday at the White House,” Hagel said.

Yet, the two soldiers’ stories bear repeating, he added.

Hagel described then-Sgt. 1st Class Adkins’ actions over the course of 48 hours as he “repeatedly put himself in harm’s way to move his wounded comrades to safety, gather urgently needed supplies, and recover the fallen.”

Adkins “almost singlehandedly repelled enemy forces when they launched their main assault, firing all the ammunition left in the camp,” the secretary said.

When Adkins missed the evacuation helicopter in an attempt to carry out a wounded soldier, Hagel said, “he led the survivors into the jungle and evaded capture for another two days.”

In doing so, Hagel said, Sergeant Major Adkins displayed a level of bravery that saved many lives and showed the enemy that American soldiers have the will to fight until the very last bullet.

The defense secretary quoted Adkins himself as he recalled his experience “with understated humility” -- “‘It was not my day to die.’”

Hagel noted while Adkins’ ordeal spanned “days and days,” Sloat’s lasted “one instant, but it was no less heroic.”

“A grenade rolled toward him, tripped by a fellow soldier, when they were on patrol in the Que Son Valley,” he explained.

“Specialist Sloat had a split-second choice to make,” Hagel said. “And less than four months into his tour of duty in Vietnam, and not even a year since enlisting in the Army, he made a selfless sacrifice to protect his brothers.”

Hagel quoted a soldier on patrol with Sloat that day, “‘I was only five to eight feet behind Don when the grenade went off. His act saved my life and the lives of others.’”

“That decision to put the greater good above self -- to sacrifice the one for the many -- reflects the core values of our military,” Hagel said.

Inspirational heroes

The defense secretary noted Sloat’s action leads other Americans to “aspire to the altruism, the dedication and the bold courage that Specialist Sloat embodied that day.”

By honoring Sloat and Adkins, Hagel said, “we hope their stories will inspire a new generation of leaders.”

The two soldiers are being honored, he said, “for the remarkable valor they exhibited on the battlefield [and] for reminding us of the awesome power of the human spirit and for symbolizing the fearless determination of the American soldier.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Hagel quoted former President John F. Kennedy.

“As President Kennedy once said, ‘A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors. The men it remembers,’” the secretary said.

“May God bless these two soldiers, their families,” Hagel said, “and all the men and women in our armed forces who, day-in and day-out, personify the ideals of our great nation.”

Building relationships key to success during Pacific Unity 14-8

by Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden
PACUNITY Public Affairs

9/16/2014 - MOUNT HAGEN, Papua New Guinea  -- New dormitories aren't the only things being built during Pacific Unity 14-8, Airmen deployed to Papua New Guinea in support of the operation are also building relationships.

Master Sgt. Jamain Braxton, Pacific Air Forces Regional Training Center/Commando Warrior flight chief and the anti-terrorism officer for Pacific Unity 14-8 deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, said he jumped at the opportunity to provide mentorship to young security guards during a recent team building workshop for the security personnel at the Highlander Hotel in Papua New Guinea.

In addition to personal safety and protection tips, Braxton also spoke to the group about basic law enforcement, diffusing violent situations and the importance of good judgment and working together as a team.

"This was a good idea exchange really," Braxton said. "It was less about tactics and more about how to keep the guys safe when they're responding to situations. I didn't teach them how to do anything new, just how to improve upon their own methods while they taught me more about the way law enforcement is typically carried out in their culture."

Peter Howe, Highlander Hotel regional manager, said he invited Braxton to join their training because of his leadership experience and law enforcement background.

"The guys can really benefit from this cross-culture exposure and mentorship," he said.

"They value his experience and have a general respect and admiration for U.S. military in general."

Howe said Braxton helped with his ultimate goal of building team cohesion amongst the guards and empowering them to be the best.

"They were pretty excited when they found out this was happening," Howe said. "There was buzz around the hotel all week about it; they felt privileged to be a part of this."
Albert Tawia, Highlander Hotel security manager, said having Braxton take the time to mentor them instills a sense of pride in the guards.

"This was an honor and privilege of a lifetime to receive mentorship from someone in the U.S. Air Force," he said. "Emotionally and psychologically it elevates us to a new level."
Braxton said being invited to take part in the team building workshop was a very educational and rewarding experience for him as well.

"They exchanged ideas with me and I exchanged ideas with them so for them to look at me as someone they admire is humbling," he said. "I don't get a chance to have these cross-cultural experiences all the time so for someone to want to improve themselves and their team and invite me to be a part of it is overwhelming."

In addition to participating in the cross-culture idea exchange with his law enforcement brethren, Braxton is assisting the 34-manned team of U.S. Air Force construction craftsmen and support personnel from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing, alongside U.S. Air Force active duty Airmen, Papua New Guinea Defense Forces and local workers, with the construction and renovation projects at Togoba Secondary School as part of Pacific Unity 14-8.

Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation and civil authorities and military personnel.

Obama to Announce Africom Joint Force Command HQ in Liberia

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2014 – U.S. Africa Command will set up a Joint Force Command Headquarters in Liberia to support U.S. military activities and help coordinate expanded U.S. and international relief efforts to fight the West Africa Ebola outbreak, senior administration officials said on a call previewing President Barack Obama’s visit today to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

At CDC, the officials said, the president will speak with and hear from the team of experts who have been working hard on the U.S. government's response to the Ebola outbreak and epidemic in West Africa to date.

“The president has said that the United States considers the Ebola outbreak and epidemic in West Africa to be a national security priority and he has directed a response commensurate with that priority,” the officials added.

DoD support of interagency partners

In Africa, in terms of the Defense Department’s role, by the end of the week a general officer will be in place in Monrovia, Liberia, leading the regional effort known as Operation United Assistance, the officials said, describing the second of three new lines of effort DoD is adding to ongoing efforts.

“The department is part of the whole-of-government approach to help affected countries deal with one of the world's worst public health crises and the most devastating Ebola outbreak in history,” one official said.

“The Department of Defense is committed to supporting our interagency partners, specifically [the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID] and the Centers for Disease Control, as we collectively -- working together every day -- respond to the outbreak in West Africa,” the official added.

As a third line of effort, U.S. Africa Command will establish a regional intermediate staging base to facilitate DoD support for operations of USAID and other counterparts. Africom will also provide engineers to build more Ebola treatment units and establish a training site to train up to 500 health care providers a week to directly care for Ebola patients, the senior administration official said.

Ebola outbreak

According to the World Health Organization, the total number of probable, confirmed and suspected cases in the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, was 4,366, with 2,218 deaths, as of Sept. 7. Countries affected are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Of these countries, Liberia has the greatest number of total probable, confirmed and suspected cases, at 2,081, with 1,137 deaths, or 55 percent of total cases.

December 30, 2013, was epidemiological week 1 for the outbreak. Sept. 7 was epidemiological week 36.

One official said the president will detail a significant expansion of the Ebola fight that “represents a set of areas where the U.S. military will bring a unique capability we believe will improve the effectiveness of the entire global response.”

Expanding Ebola treatment capability

The official described such capabilities as those that would help expand access in Ebola treatment units throughout the region, improve first responders' capacity to identify and diagnose cases and trace contacts, and improve the ability to conduct well-supplied community care campaigns that reach every primary health care center throughout Liberia and eventually the region to reduce the risk of transmission.

“We believe these efforts taken in total along with significant efforts made to expand the international investment … as part of the comprehensive response will turn the tide from the high-transmission epidemic that continues to grow every single day to one where … we start to see over many months a significant reduction in cases and deaths,” a senior administration official said.

At DoD, to date the department has deployed operational planners and contributed more than 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment and more than 10,000 diagnostic assay kits, which are blood-test kits for the Ebola virus.

DoD brings skill sets

The department also has one mobile laboratory on the ground and has two more on the way to West Africa, and it’s preparing to deploy a 25-bed hospital that will be used to treat health care providers, the highest-risk group of people in the region.

“DoD is going to remain focused on all these efforts but we're also going to … focus on contributing command and control, logistics support, training and engineering support,” one of the senior administration officials said.

“We're bringing those skill sets that are unique to DoD in direct support of our interagency partners,” the official added, “to address the ongoing Ebola crisis in western Africa.”

EOD welcomes home last Army support team

by Lois Walsh
96th Test Wing Public Affairs

9/15/2014 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- When a team of explosive ordnance disposal technicians returned from deployment Sept. 14, it closed the final chapter in a mission that lasted more than a decade.

Family, co-workers and friends of Tech Sgt. Joseph Burke, Tech. Sgt. Michael Edwards and Senior Airman Joshua Frehner, assigned to the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron's EOD Flight, welcomed the men home. The team's deployment was the last for Eglin EOD technicians supporting Army combat commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest war since Iraq hostilities began in 2003.

"Ever since I've been in EOD, it's been wartime EOD," said Edwards. "It's kind of weird to come back and not have that anymore. We'll have to see what kind of changes come up."

According to Maj. Joshua Connell, program director, Air Force EOD, EOD Airmen completed almost 20,000 missions in Afghanistan.

"Our Airmen responded to 6,546 improvised explosive devices, conducted 2,665 post blast analyses, and executed 5,093 unexploded ordnance incidents," Connell said. "Six hundred explosive ordnance disposal technicians left their mark in the history of Enduring Freedom."

Filling requests for forces to support the Army peaked in 2010, said Capt. Nicholas Pulire, EOD flight commander. It was at a time when the Air Force EOD was manned at 74 percent. Locally, 36 out of 45 assigned were deployed at any given time.

"It was grueling," Pulire said. "The test mission was ramping up to support the wars and the guys here spent every day on the range with sometimes three test missions to support in a day."

As the Iraq and Afghanistan drawdowns progressed, the mission became less operational and leaned toward training its troops as opposed to supporting combat operations like clearing routes by diffusing explosive ordnance, ground maneuvers and convoying into villages. While EOD will continue to deploy, it will be in support of Air Force missions like airfield operations.

The 96th EOD Flight is slowly getting back into a routine. Two Eglin EOD technicians were killed during the war. Eight suffered debilitating injuries and have, or are in the process of being medically retired. Their disabilities range from traumatic brain injury due to concussive events to severe joint injuries from the heavy equipment carried. Those positions can now be filled with a new generation of EOD technicians who are deployable and healthy enough to support the mission here and overseas. Once they are in place, the shop will be at full capacity.

"Our main purpose is to train for our next conflict to be able to fill combatant commander requirements," Pulire said.

Now the EOD technicians will settle in to what could be considered a "peacetime" environment even though Frehner thinks the Air Force and Army missions could continue to overlap and "we'll still train for all that."

But for now, the EOD family is enjoying being reunited with loved ones and settling back into a routine.

"I'm happy to be home. We left in February and that was long enough for me," said Frehner. "A lot of people spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and to be the last one is rewarding."

The entire flight is glad to have its Airmen back safe and back with families.

"EOD technicians are all volunteers and they are a unique group of people who are motivated for many different reasons, but who all strive to do their best," Pulire said. "That's the reason the Army asked us to come back over and over again, because our techs are competent and the Army knew we could get the job done."

Air Force leaders discuss nuclear enterprise

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

9/16/2014 - WASHINGTON -- The nuclear enterprise must modernize to remain a viable and essential part of the United States' defense strategy, maintained Air Force senior leaders at the Air Force Association's annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here, Sept. 16.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, was joined by Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander and Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration assistant chief of staff at a panel to discuss the current state of the nuclear enterprise.

"We're supremely focused on making sure we have a force that is safe, secure and effective every single day," Wilson said. "We've got a credible force that deters our adversaries and assures our friends and we're working hard on building and empowering the team and shaping the future"

Much of the discussion centered on the modernization efforts the Air Force is undertaking in regards to its nuclear force.

"Our rival powers are investing billions of dollars to modernize and improve their nuclear systems, so to remain credible we must ensure nuclear capabilities remain an Air Force priority," Finan said.

AFGSC is coordinating with the AFNWC to procure an alternative for the Minuteman III ICBM weapon system. These intercontinental ballistic missiles, first introduced in the early 1960s, are reaching the end of their life cycle and are due for replacement.

"We are moving forward with the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program as a replacement for the current Minuteman III missile system," Finan said. "However, until the GBSD comes online, we must continue to modernize and sustain our current Minuteman III system. We are doing this through upgrades to the launch control centers and launch facilities as well as modernizing missile components to ensure the Minuteman III continues to be a credible system until it is replaced."

The upcoming Long Range Strike Bomber was also a topic of discussion.

"We're partnering with Air Combat Command on the LRS-B," Wilson said. "It will be essential as we move forward to have a bomber force that can penetrate any place on the globe and hold any target on the planet at risk."

Other modernization efforts discussed included the new Long Range Standoff Missile, a replacement for AFGSC's UH-1 helicopters and a new variant of the B61 Nuclear Bomb.

In addition to the Air Force's two legs of the U.S. nuclear triad, partnership with the Navy was also discussed.

"We need to make sure that everybody understands how valuable the triad is in protecting America." Harencak said. "The triad is complementary, and it is the best defense of the nation against its only existential threat."

"We realize that this is not a zero sum game," Harencak continued. "We need to work together to convince the American people and our government leadership, of the value and relevance of the triad... As we work toward common adaptable systems and as we modernize our nuclear forces, one of the key things we do is we make sure we are attached at the hip when it comes to advocating for a strong nuclear deterrent. It's as relevant today, and it will be as relevant tomorrow, as it was in 1954."

New Chiefs Pinned at DC Navy Memorial

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Thirty-four new chief petty officers were pinned at an official pinning ceremony held at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16.

Vice Adm. Bill Moran, chief of naval personnel, was on hand as the guest speaker and delivered prepared remarks to a crowd of family, friends and fellow chief petty officers there to support and celebrate this significant milestone.

This is the 121st class of chief petty officers to join the Chiefs Mess, following a long legacy of senior enlisted leadership.

CNP Remarks as delivered:

"What an awesome day! I am absolutely thrilled to be here...and honored to participate in what is arguably the most celebrated of all ceremonies in our Navy...and a Joint pinning ceremony, at that - courtesy of the United States Air Force.

Friends, families and Distinguished Guests: Good afternoon! And to so many members of the public in the background, please join us...celebrate with us today!

To these new Chief Selects up here - congratulations....for some of you this day has arrived pretty fast for others it's taken the better part of a 20 year career...but all of that is in the past, from here on out you, along with over 3900 others, have a new start...a rebirth if you will...well done!

Pinning ceremonies like this one are going on all over the world today, wherever the Navy is - but I can't imagine a more prominent setting than this one.

Our Capital's original architect, Pierre L'Enfant - conceived this memorial "to celebrate the first rise of the Navy and consecrate its progress and achievements"...well is took a while, but it was finally completed...in 1987...talk about a continuing resolution...

Some things never change.

But our Navy was patient to get it right...and thanks to the Navy Memorial Foundation, and a Nation who truly loves her Navy...here we are...along Pennsylvania venue...honoring one of our proudest and happiest traditions in Naval service...on a spectacular September afternoon...to "consecrate the progress and achievements" of 35 of our Navy's newest members of the Mess...

I've already been warned by my Fleet Master Chief, April Beldo -

That although these awesome Sailors will never forget where they were when their leadership team told them the news that they were selected for Chief Petty Officer...Or forget when they donned khakis for the first time, staring in the mirror, admiring the view...Most likely, not a single one of them will remember a word spoken today.

So allow me a few thankful words to our families, friends and mentors present today...Listen, we would not have this Navy, or the opportunity to serve...nor, if proven worthy, the opportunity to lead...
if not for our families who support us....and serve every bit as much as we do.

To you, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, daughters and sons, grandparents, uncles and aunts, let me say, on behalf of our entire Navy: Thank You.

Thank you for raising these Sailors to serve a cause greater than self. Thank you for sharing the joys and the sacrifice, the pain and the victories...the heart ache of long separations, and the eye-watering joy of reunions...this day is largely due to you, and we thank you for these gifts of service to our Navy and nation.

To our larger Chief's Mess, mentors who are a bit more rested than the selects...and all our retired Chiefs - perhaps even more rested - and deservedly so....you are their source of strength, their watering place...their example...their new brothers and sisters...and when they look in the mirror from this day forward...they will also see you in the reflection.

Chief Petty Officers, past and present, family members, please stand until we are done thanking you, in a small way, with a round of applause.

Chief selects....I humbly offer only three short themes for you on this glorious NEW birthday of yours -

They are all centered upon the vital reason you were tested, selected, and soon, pinned as Genuine Chiefs: LEADERSHIP...and these themes are not new...they are simply honor, humility and courage.

The Chief -- has always been our bedrock of unchanging loyalty and integrity. I say those terms separately, with purpose: loyalty and integrity. They are not the same. It is your leadership that will mark the difference.

I'll never forget the best example of integrity and fierce loyalty I ever met - one of my former Command Master Chiefs, who said to his fellow Chiefs, before he strode ashore for the last time:

"Those anchors do not define you. You define what those anchors mean to the world."

In other words, from today forward, it's game on.

Honor those who got you here, honor those who plowed this ground long before you....LEAD with honor.

And after this glorious day is complete, past this celebration, past all the congratulations...it will not be about you...it will be about the Sailors you lead. And though today you all look very young to me...those Sailors out there are even younger...while they may observe officers, they study Chiefs...that means you...

So no end-zone dances, no spiking the ball...you aren't the cool, fast receivers in blue anymore (just a tip from an old guy)...you know how ridiculous defensive linemen look when they find themselves with the ball and score....please don't embarrass yourselves (humor)...

Seriously -- each one of you now represents the entire Mess to all of us - to a Nation. You're now full partners in our firm; you share in the profits of our success, and will carry the burdens of our toughest challenges. You also form our first line of courage....doing what's right, when right is right...it's about doing the right thing for the right reason...

And always giving the unvarnished truth - when asked, or more appropriately, when not asked....many say the Mess is the backbone of our Navy...I humbly offer that you are the conscience of our Navy.

Believe me, every day there will be an opportunity to look deep inside, to do what's right. And, as we all know, a few of your Sailors may, from time to time, disappoint you. I say, be glad for that disappointment, and smile with it. Lift them with your spirit as a united Mess. Measure women and men not by their mistakes, but how they recover from them. Reward failure, for without it, there is no true attempt at greatness.

Finally, let me speak of Engaged Leadership.

Despite the worst sandstorms of conflict around us, at home and abroad, the worst we can ever do is brace for impact, or hide or heads, and hope it just passes by.

No, we are all here to take a stand in the front...to always do the right thing.

When our Sailors are up working on the toughest tasks, late at night, they need you there...when our Sailors are in their spaces, studying to advance, they need you there...when our Sailors are out on liberty, releasing a little steam, they need you there.

And you know, when things go awry, it's human to blame others - the infamous "them" -- Well, you and I are now "them". We have the watch! And as long as our Mess stands united, as leaders of honor, leaders of humility, leaders of courage, nothing is impossible.

Class 1-2-1, marking 121 years of the Mess, I ask you, one more time:

To define each day what it means to be The Chief...and what those anchors mean to the world. God bless each one of you, you families and this great country...Navy Chief, Navy Pride.

Thank you."