Monday, September 29, 2014

F-35 Lightning II demonstration comes to Misawa

by Airman 1st Class Patrick S. Ciccarone
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/29/2014 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Lockheed Martin hosted an F-35 Lightning II cockpit demonstration simulation Sept. 24 through 26 at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

The demonstration was brought to Misawa in order to increase awareness of the new aircraft and to become familiar with the multi-role fighter that will ultimately be the mainstay aircraft of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations.

"The F-35 is going to be everywhere in the world," said Paul DuLaney, F-35 project manager for Lockheed Martin and former Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. "We're introducing it to Airmen here, so everyone can understand just how important it will be to the mission."

The three branches of service will each have a version of the F-35 in the near future. The Air Force is scheduled to operate a conventional take-off and landing variant, the Navy will have a carrier version, and the Marine Corps will receive a vertical short take-off and landing variant model aircraft.

"Although the three variants have different capabilities, they all will be able to perform multi-role missions in the field," DuLaney explained. "The technology implemented in the F-35 is a quantum leap in comparison to the aircraft we have today."

Currently, the F-35 is stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and is undergoing flight training operations before being permanently stationed  in other locations around the world.

"The first group of Air Force F-35s in the Pacific will be stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska," said 35th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Timothy J. Sundvall.

In addition to the various branches acquiring the aircraft, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force has also purchased the new fighter.

"The JASDF decided Misawa will be the home for the first F-35 in Japan," Sundvall said. "You will see them sometime in 2017 to eventually replace the Japanese F-2."

In time, the F-35 will also replace the current U.S Air Force assets at Misawa, the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The F-35 Lightning II cockpit demonstrations' next stop on the tour is Yokota Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Airmen share medevac capabilities with JASDF

by Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

9/26/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Taking care of your own--it is a responsibility maintained culturally by the U.S. Air Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. One way Airmen take care their own is through medical health care.

The 459th Airlift Squadron, from Yokota Air Base, Japan, flew to Kadena Air Base Tuesday and Wednesday to showcase their C-12 medical evacuation capabilities to a JASDF medical team while practicing the relatively new capability with the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

"Aeromedical evacuation is an integral part of the Air Force's mobility mission," said Capt. Thomas Powell, 459 AS C-12 pilot. "The ability to fly patients throughout the Pacific ensures them the best care available and gets them where they need to be in the shortest amount of time possible."

Powell added that the JASDF witnessing the training was a great way to standardize aeromedical evacuations in the Pacific. He said training with aeromedical teams also lends to improving medevac capabilities.

"It is an excellent opportunity to engage with other flight crew members ... it expands our mission set and makes us a much more capable aircraft throughout the Pacific," Powell said.

The lead of the JASDF medical team, Col. Tetsuya Tsujimoto, Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander, said it was a great experience to see the training first-hand. Attending the medevac flights in person, seeing it with their own eyes and having the ability to ask questions was significant to the JASDF team. Tsujimoto and other members of the JASDF AEMS will attend Cope North 2015.

"We are going to participate in aeromedical missions and patient transport on C-12s," Tsujimoto said, referring to Cope North. "We did not have any past experience with or knowledge about C-12 medevac, so we reached out to our U.S. counterparts."

Future improvements were annotated and discussions were held between members of the three organizations. Tsujimoto said he learned a lot by joining the 459 AS during the medevac training. He pointed out significant differences to keep in mind during future joint U.S.-JASDF medical training. Legal differences between the two countries make it important for each side to be cognizant of the types of medical equipment, medicine and the actual use of those medicines on patients.

"By recognizing these differences and focusing on the positive functions we have to offer each other, we will continue to build on our mutual cooperation," Tsujimoto said. "More than anything, we learned what we had never experienced before. It was a rare opportunity and a great experience in our career."

Whether it is U.S. service members, JASDF, or both, the training ensured capable hands are prepared to save lives when called upon.

"With the C-12 and the full spectrum hospital bed in the back, we will be able to haul non-ambulatory patients to Kadena where they can then be taken to Hawaii, in a much more economical manner and also more quickly than with traditional platforms," Powell said. "To be the guy that is able to fly and enable that to happen is really a special thing and it is an excellent mission to be a part of."

JBER honors POW/MIA day with somber ceremony

by Tech Sgt. Raymond Mills
JBER Public Affairs

9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Service members honored missing and fallen comrades Sept. 19, during a POW/MIA ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

According to Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office, National POW/MIA Recognition Day honors prisoners of war and missing service members and their families, and highlights the government's commitment to account for them.

"The POW/MIA ceremony is an opportunity to honor service members whose service takes an unfortunate turn and places them in the most difficult circumstances with little we can do to assist them," said Sen. Mark Begich. "Service members should take comfort in knowing that if they are ever a victim of these circumstances, their military brothers and sisters will continue to honor their service, support their families, educate the next generation about their sacrifice, and most importantly that they will never be forgotten."

The U.S. military honors a tradition of the "no man left behind" philosophy with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command being core of that philosophy.

"It is important to hold this ceremony so the families and friends of prisoners of war and those missing in action can be assured that our nation has not forgotten their heartache and the services of their loved ones," Begich said. "These families live under a cloud of uncertainty and despair, being denied the return of their loved one or closure.  It is an especially cruel kind of heartache that most of us will never know.

"The ceremony should also serve as a reminder to all service members that the ethos of the American military is that we don't leave people behind.  If we cannot keep the promise to bring them home from the battlefield, we will keep them in our hearts and will continue to honor their service and sacrifice.  We need to keep those service members missing in action and those who were prisoners of war as well as their families in our thoughts and prayers because our nation owes them a great debt. The POW/MIA ceremony is an important opportunity to renew and strengthen our resolve that we will never forget."

According to their website, the POW/MIA Accounting Command conducts global search, recovery and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts to support the Department of Defense personnel accounting efforts.

"I am proud to live in and serve for a nation that continues to support a pledge to leave no one behind," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Handy. "We recognize that just because someone is missing for a long time, this does not make our efforts to locate their missing less important. Those efforts go on. We must and will continue to do everything in our power to recover the remains of missing Americans, or to resolve the fate of these servicemen. Today's generation of men and women in uniform must know that we will keep that solemn commitment to them as they protect our nation's interests around the world, for the sake of generations to come.

"They say I will not falter, I will not fail," Handy said. "Just don't forget me. These are the men and women we serve with today, who honor those who sacrificed before them."

Handy is the commander of Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force-Alaska, 11th Air Force, and Alaska Region, North American Aerospace Defense Command at JBER.

Since 2003, JPAC has identified more than 700 missing Americans and more than 1,800 have been repatriated since efforts began in the 1970s according to their website.

Operation United Assistance Helps in Liberian Ebola Fight

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2014 – The Defense Department’s contribution to the fight against Ebola in Liberia is taking shape as more service members and building supplies arrive in Monrovia, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said here today.

DoD is working in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the lead agency for the U.S. government’s range of efforts against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, the ministries of health in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have reported 6,553 probable, confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease and 3,083 deaths in the Ebola outbreak as of Sept. 23.

Among the three nations, WHO notes, Liberia has reported the highest number of cases, at 3,458, and deaths, at 1,830.

U.S. service members in Monrovia

Warren said that about 150 U.S. service members are now in the Liberian capital Monrovia, conducting a range of activities in support of USAID, as U.S. Africa Command sets up a joint force command headquarters there to support U.S. military activities.

Army Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, commander of U.S. Army Africa, Africom’s Army component, commands the joint center and Operation United Assistance.

Warren said a 25-bed hospital arrived over the weekend, its parts distributed among three C-17 aircraft. The hospital, which he said came from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, will be dedicated to treating health care workers who become infected with Ebola.

“There's a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for today,” Warren added, “and we expect the 25-bed hospital will be up and running sometime in the middle of October.”

Forty more personnel also arrived over the weekend, he said. Thirty-four will be dedicated to setting up the hospital, and six will set up a mobile laboratory.

Ebola treatment units forthcoming

“We are planning to set up 17 Ebola treatment units, each with a 100-bed capacity,” Warren said. “These have not yet begun to flow in, but we do anticipate having the initial [units] set up and functional in the next several weeks.” As they are completed, he added, the units will be turned over to the Liberian government and staffed by local and international health care providers, not by military personnel.

WHO reported that 360 Ebola treatment beds were available in Monrovia as of Sept. 21. Completing the 17 new units will add 1,700 more treatment beds to help the desperately sick population in that city and beyond.

Warren said the Operation United Assistance personnel also will set up a training facility for health care workers near Monrovia, as well as an intermediate staging base in Senegal.

“The president has made it very clear that this is a national security priority,” Warren said. “The Department of Defense is moving as fast as it possibly can to support USAID in this effort.”

Global Health Security Agenda

On Sept. 26, President Barack Obama hosted representatives of 44 countries at the White House for a summit on the Global Health Security Agenda.

The GHSA encompasses a group of capabilities that all countries eventually must have to make the world safer and more secure. As nations gain capabilities, such as disease surveillance and reporting, they will be able to act together as an international community to prevent, detect and respond to all infectious disease outbreaks.

“Ebola will not be the last biological threat we face,” the chair of the GHSA, this year the United States, said in a statement released after the summit.

“Even today, in other parts of the world, highly pathogenic avian influenza, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, and drug-resistant bacteria continue to pose serious threats to the health and well-being of all people,” the statement said.

“The same resolve we are demonstrating in the face of Ebola,” it added, “must be sustained so that robust health systems are in place to enable a more rapid and effective response to the next outbreak, no matter what the source.”

The summit announced over 100 new commitments to implement 11 action packages, including specific targets and indicators that will be used as a basis for making sure that national, regional and global capacities are developed and maintained over the long term.

The action packages and commitments made to them will form the core GHSA work over the next five years, the statement said.

Grand Challenge for Development

After the summit, Obama announced a Grand Challenge to help health care workers fight Ebola. On Sept. 27, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah posted a notice about it on his blog.

“This Grand Challenge for Development will unite the global community in the quest for ingenious ideas that deliver practical and cost-effective innovations in a matter of months, not years,” he wrote.

He asked for new ideas to help ensure that treatment sites, communal transport units and burial sites don’t become infection sources, and for new solutions that strengthen the safety and increase the comfort of protective suits worn by health care workers -- from improving the fabric design to measuring a health worker's temperature and heart rate.

“We need new ways to simplify clinical processes, including point-of-care diagnostics. And we need new tools that continue to create a safer clinical environment, including improving infection control and waste disposal,” Shah wrote.

With international partners, he added, the United States will translate the expertise and ingenuity of scientists, innovators, engineers and students worldwide into real solutions.

“With your bold thinking and engagement we can give health workers the tools they need to win this fight,” Shah said.

200 wounded, ill and injured service members competing in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

9/28/2014 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The 2014 Warrior Games officially opened today at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, highlighted by a march of the more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans who will compete in the fifth annual competition. With 2,000 people in attendance, 2014 Paralympic sled hockey gold medalists Paul Schaus (Buffalo, New York) and Rico Roman (Portland, Oregon), both Purple Heart recipients, lit the cauldron to signify the start of the Games, which features athletes from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Command competing in seven sports through Oct. 3.

"It's truly humbling to share my Paralympic medal with these athletes and see them smile," said Roman, who is taking the season off from competitive sled hockey. "I hope that Paul and I inspire these men and women to pursue their Paralympic dreams after competing at the Warrior Games. I hope this is just the beginning for them. It's fun to be a part of this experience with all the different branches but of course, I'm rooting for Army."

Roman, a retired Army staff sergeant, had his left leg amputated above the knee after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device while serving his third tour in Iraq in Feb. 2007. A father of two, Roman was introduced to sled hockey by Operation Comfort, an organization dedicated to assisting injured U.S. service personnel at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Following a gold-medal performance at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships and a second-place showing in 2013, Roman went on to make his Paralympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, where Team USA became the first nation to successfully defend a Paralympic title in sled hockey, beating Russia 1-0 in the gold medal game, aired live on NBC.

"It was an honor to be selected as one of the torchbearers for the Warrior Games," Schaus said. "It's a great privilege to be out here with everyone who is competing. My advice to these athletes is to chase your goals. Take it one day at a time and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. You can do whatever you want to do."

Though retired Marine Corps Corporal Schaus is entering just his third season with the No. 1-ranked U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, he is already a force to be reckoned with for Team USA. Two-time world champion Schaus had both legs amputated above the knee after being injured by an improvised explosive device while on a rural patrol in Afghanistan in June 2009. While undergoing rehabilitation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Schaus was introduced to sled hockey and he immediately found a passion for the sport. The determined veteran played two seasons (2010-12) with the USA Warriors, an organization that provides ice hockey programs to injured service members, before shifting his efforts to a full-time performance with Team USA.

The torch relay started with competitors in the Warrior Games:  Retired Army Capt. Frank Barroqueiro; Marine Cpl. Jorge Salazar assisted by Sgt. Eric Rodriguez; Retired Navy Chief Yeoman Sharona Young assisted by Sonar Technician Surface 2nd Class Shericka Goza; Air Force MSgt Axel Gaud-Torres; and Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Franklin, Special Operations Command. Franklin then passed the torch to Schaus. The Marine veteran handed it to Roman, who lit the cauldron, signifying the official start of the Games.

Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and other facilities in Colorado Springs, including Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy, the 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte is a competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans hosted by the USOC and supported by the Department of Defense, AT&T, BP, Dow, Semper Fi Fund, The Fisher House Foundation, The Daniels Fund and USO. It started in 2010.

Additional guests for today's festivities included the participants' friends and family, team support staffs, community and military leaders, government officials, sponsors, and USOC and National Governing Body staff members.

Charlie Huebner acted as the master of ceremonies. Other event highpoints included a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kat Strus and remarks from Deloitte Principal Mark Goulart, USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Garfola Wright.

"The men and women competing this week at the Warrior Games are the epitome of the American spirit," said Huebner, vice president of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. "This week, we are celebrating the resiliency of our wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans, and the determination that brings them to Colorado Springs to compete for their respective branches. It is incredibly humbling to be alongside our nation's heroes as they experience the power of sport. While medals will be won over the next six days, the most important result is the awareness that the Warrior Games and its competitors create nationally about the impact and need for sustainable physical activity programs at the community level for persons with physical disabilities and visual impairments. The United States Olympic Committee is proud to play a role in helping provide those opportunities."

Starting tonight at 4 p.m. with the first sitting volleyball match at the U.S. Olympic Training Center's Sports Center 1 and 2, five U.S. Armed Forces teams (Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations) will face off in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. Competition schedules can be downloaded by clicking here.

Individual and team medals will be awarded as well as the Chairman's Cup, which is given to the highest-performing service branch. The Marines claimed the honors for the past four consecutive years. Eight athletes will also vie for the title of Ultimate Champion, which is a pentathlon style event that pits warriors against each other in a variety of disciplines. Winners of the Chairman's Cup and the Ultimate Champion trophy will be acknowledged during half-time of the Oct. 4 Air Force/Navy football game at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Competitions are free and open to the public while the Closing Ceremony will take place as a part of the Air Force/Navy game day festivities.

Altus produces mission capable boom operators

by Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

9/29/2014 - ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- For the past 16 years the 97th Air Mobility Wing has been the only school house for training initial KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator students, which trains around 265 Airmen and international students a year.

Boom operators are aerial refueling specialists who conduct the offloading of fuel to U.S. Air Force and partner aircraft. They also deal with passengers, cargo, aeromedical evacuation missions and back up the pilots to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft.

Altus AFB hosts two Boom Operator Weapon System Trainers in its KC-135 aircrew training facility. The BOWST is an inflight refueling training simulator that helps students become proficient in operating in a boom pod before they step into an actual refueling aircraft.

"I think this training is effective enough to prepare our students for operating in the aircraft. They must complete 16 simulator missions which is an hour a piece with pre-briefing and debriefing requirements as well," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Miller, 54th Air Refueling Squadron student training management charlie flight superintendent.

The advantages of training in the BOWST are that instructors can select the type of aircraft to refuel and there in no physical contact to make mistakes.

"The learning process here is pretty strenuous - it's a lot of long days, longer nights and then some hard tests," said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Greg Adams, 97th Training Squadron student. "The most challenging part for me is doing something I've never done before in my life."

The students begin their training by learning aircraft systems with Canadian Aviation Electronics instructors, and then once accepted by the flying training unit instructors in a simulator check, they head towards the flightline.

"Well, the flightline portion of our students' training is five flights and a check-ride," said Miller. "This timeline is dependent on other factors like student progression, a functional aircraft and a receiver aircraft that is fully operable as well. If all goes smooth, this training usually lasts a month."

Miller has been an instructor boom operator for the past nine years. "I would say that as an instructor here at Altus, you have to be prepared for everything. This can be the student who knows everything or nothing at all, the sick students, the inexperienced pilots behind our aircraft, etc.," said Miller. "The key is finding how to hit home with the students and make sure they understand what you are telling them. For some students this could be their very first time in an airplane and it certainly is their first time refueling multi-million dollar aircraft when they come to us."

Boom operators must be flexible with their schedule to ensure they are accomplishing the mission.

"Don't spend too much time goofing off you have to get your nose in the books from the second you get here in order to be successful," said Adams. "It will be long, it will be hard, but it's going to be worth it in the end."

For Miller, he's refueled just about everything and emphasizes to his students just how important the job is. "There is not a more rewarding feeling when you've refueled an F-16, F-15, F-18, whatever it may be, with a full load of bombs and they return to you later completely empty," said Miller. "You know that you helped protect those troops on the ground at that moment."

Brothers in Arms

by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

9/29/2014 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C.  -- Sacrifice of service to one's country is a common thread all service members share, but two Airmen here at Joint Base Charleston share an even stronger bond.

Second Lt. James Davis and Senior Airman Dustin Davis are brothers.

"Our father instilled in us the belief that you're never too good to serve your country," said James.

James and Dustin grew up moving around a lot since their father, retired Master Sgt. Robert Davis, served in the Air Force.

Dustin, the eldest, was born in South Carolina and two years later James was born in Guam.

"My brother and I were pretty close growing up being only two years apart in age," said Dustin. "We have always had the same interests, hobbies and played the same sports. It doesn't surprise me we both ended up joining the Air Force."

Their family eventually settled down in Maryville, Tennessee, where their father finished his career as an Air Force recruiter.

"Even though our father served in the Air Force he never pressured us into joining," said James. "He wanted us to go to college and choose our own paths; but Dustin and I always had the idea of serving in the back of our minds."

After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Dustin knew he wanted to do something more than just work at a traditional job. He wanted to do something his father could be proud of, so in 2010, Dustin enlisted in the Air Force.

"It felt good to be carrying on the tradition and when I heard my brother was going through Officer Training School, it made me feel even prouder," said Dustin.

In 2013, James graduated from college and was commissioned into the Air Force as a second lieutenant, but he still would need to receive his first salute.

"He called me a few weeks before the commissioning ceremony and asked me if I could give him his first salute," said Dustin. "I was honored and took the event very seriously. My little brother was becoming an officer."

Dustin traveled to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, where he gave his brother his first salute. After the salutes were exchanged, they each handed one another a personalized coin to commemorate the moment.

"Neither of us knew the other had a coin, so I was just as surprised as he was when he handed me one right back," said James. "Definitely a moment I will never forget. Very few people can say their first salute came from their own brother."

Dustin and James parents were in attendance and pinned on his first rank of second lieutenant.

With JB Charleston being both James and Dustin's first duty station, they realize how unique and fortunate they are.

"I couldn't believe that my brother was actually coming to Charleston," said Dustin. "I remember waiting and waiting for him to arrive and when he finally showed up I was ecstatic."

"Being brand new to a place you've never been before and having someone who knows the area and can show you around makes a huge difference," said James. "And that guy who knows the area also happens to be my brother."

James is a 437th Operations Support Squadron intelligence officer and Dustin is a 628th Comptroller Squadron finance specialist.

"Even though I am on the operations side of things and he is on the support side our mission is the same," said James.

Both brothers have a great appreciation for what the other does and enjoy learning about how the officer and enlisted ranks work together.

"James knows that I'm not just throwing away travel vouchers daily," Dustin jokingly said. "I have also gained even more respect for officers and how personal they take their position and responsibilities."

Both brothers plan to make a career out of the Air Force.

19th AF activates under AETC

9/29/2014 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Education and Training Command will re-activate a streamlined 19th Air Force Oct. 1, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

Gen. Robin Rand, the AETC commander, will appoint Maj. Gen. Michael Keltz as the commander of the newly re-activated numbered air force.

"Activating 19th (Air Force) under AETC will allow for appropriate command and control, efficient management of limited resources, consistency across installations and will clarify responsibilities between the major command and subordinate units," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.

The 19th Air Force was inactivated in 2012, in the hopes of gaining efficiencies. However, a review of mission oversight and execution, directed by Rand, showed a need for realigning responsibilities to reinforce proper command relationships and training oversight.

"This restructuring within AETC will move all formal aircrew flying training missions under General Keltz's command," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "AETC has a wide range of responsibility when it comes to training and educating Airmen. Our flying training mission requires a significant level of coordinated oversight to ensure our Airmen in the skies remain the best in the world and 19th Air Force will take on that responsibility."

The 19th Air Force will include 19 training locations, 10 regular Air Force wings supported by six Guard and Reserve wings, approximately 32,000 personnel and more than 1,350 aircraft of 29 different models. No new positions or authorizations, including the commander's, will be created as a result of the new NAF. The infrastructure and manpower of 19th Air Force will be drawn from previously existing resources. The major general command position will shift from AETC's directorate of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration.

(Information courtesy of the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)

Peleliu Visits Subic Bay, Prepares for PHIBLEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight, USS Peleliu Public Affairs

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), along with Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, Amphibious Squadron 11 and embarked Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), pulled in to Subic Bay Sept. 27 prior to beginning Philippines-U.S. Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2015.

This is the Peleliu's first port visit to the Philippines in nearly four years when it visited during its 2010 deployment.

"For many of the Sailors and Marines on Peleliu, this is their first visit to the Philippines, and they are extremely excited about being able to experience the hospitality the Filipino people provide every time the Navy and Marine Corps visits," said Capt. Paul Spedero, commanding officer of the Peleliu. "On the other hand, we also have service members who are from the Philippines, or have family members living in the Philippines, and our visit serves as a homecoming for those individuals."

Peleliu, the flagship of the Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group (PELESG), along with USS Germantown (LSD 42) and embarked 31st MEU, will participate in PHIBLEX 15 from Sept. 29 to Oct. 10 throughout the islands of Palawan and Luzon.

"As this is Peleliu's final deployment before decommissioning, we are honored to participate in the 31st iteration of PHIBLEX," said Spedero. "Our forces are exceedingly proficient at conducting combined joint amphibious operations between U.S. maritime services and our partners, especially the Philippines."

PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Navy and Marine forces with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This exercise continues to strengthen the interoperability and working relationships between the two nations through a range of operations including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.

"The Marines of the 31st MEU have been looking forward to working with our Philippine counterparts for some time," said Col. Romin Dasmalchi, commanding officer of the 31st MEU. "The Marine Corps has had a long-standing relationship with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and it's always an honor to train with them."

Approximately 3,500 U.S. Sailors and Marines will train side-by-side with 1,200 Philippine sailors and marines to conduct field training exercises, which include small arms and artillery live-fire training. In addition, the combined forces will conduct humanitarian and civic assistance projects.

"Exercises like PHIBLEX prepare us to work together for real world contingencies like disaster relief operations," said Dasmalchi. "When the 31st MEU responded here for Operation Damayan, the relationships that had been established through exercises like this were critical to ensuring an efficient response to our partner and ally."

Peleliu is the lead ship in the Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group, commanded by Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, and is conducting combined exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.