Thursday, October 16, 2014

403rd Security Forces prep for Southwest Asia deployment

by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens
403rd Wing Public Affairs

10/15/2014 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- During the October unit training assembly, members of the 403rd Security Forces Squadron here checked off a few more items on their mobility list in preparation for their upcoming six-month deployment to Southwest Asia.

The mission itself is the same one the squadron performed on past deployments - airbase ground defense, said Maj. Sean McGraw, 403rd SFS commander. Since the unit's last deployment as a squadron to Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2009, the SF team has seen a lot of new recruits come into the unit, providing a fresh perspective for this deployment, he said.

"What's a little unique about this (deployment) from an internal perspective is that we're a completely different unit in regards to experience and knowledge - we have a lot of new young troops now," said McGraw. "The positive aspect of that is we have a lot of young, motivated Airmen who have never deployed before and who want to deploy to gain that experience with great attitudes and willing to lean forward."

The major said the 403rd SFS will be replacing another unit at the deployed location and integrating with other units currently at that base.

Master Sgt. Lucas Applewhite, 403rd SFS operations superintendent, said some of the responsibilities SFS members are tasked with downrange include perimeter defense, manning entry control points, mobile patrols, quick response and flight line security at the deployed location. Much of their preparation for these assignments involves weapons qualifications, patrolling techniques, equipment issue and familiarization, procedures for challenging and searching, cuffing and handling of detainees, and making sure members are up to date with their computer-based training requirements.

McGraw said that the training tasks and equipment checks are not the only requirements that have to be met; ensuring personal needs of the troops are also a priority before their deployment.

"You have so many different people with so many different backgrounds, so you have to make sure their needs at home are taken care of as well," said McGraw. "The last thing you want to have is something happen at home in regards to a need that hasn't been met, because then (the reservist's) mind is focused on that (instead of their job), and can ultimately impact the mission."

This deployment will be a new experience for many of the security forces members. This will be the first overseas deployment for Senior Airman Glenda Nickens, 403rd SFS fire team member. Even though she joined the 403rd SFS in 2009, she was in basic training during the time the squadron deployed to Kirkuk.

Nickens said she was looking forward to gaining security forces experience during her deployment, in addition to experiencing the local culture. Also, she would like to use her time there to continue her education.

"I'm hoping to be able to take some online courses while I'm there toward completing my bachelor's degree in accounting," said Nickens.

Overall, Nickens said she was looking forward to the whole deployment experience.

"I'm excited to get the chance to experience a new environment and to do what I've been trained to do," she said.

Airman stops attack dead in its tracks

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

10/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In August of 2013, Alaska Air National Guard Master Sgt. Brian Neild was enjoying his weekend.

The sun was out even though the temperature was brisk, and he was with some friends wandering around a market in downtown Anchorage. They settled at a café,
a place with a view of the main Anchorage bus station.

It was then the AKANG personnel systems manager watched a woman start arguing with a middle-aged man.

The argument escalated and the man, who was roughly six-foot-two and whose dress and thin appearance implied he might be homeless, grabbed the woman by the neck and pinned her against the wall.

If those walking past noticed, they ignored it and kept walking, or they watched, but did nothing.

No one in the surrounding buildings chose to intervene.

For Neild, the choice had already been made.

"'If not me, then whom?' was the question ringing in my brain," the 176th Force Support Flight member said. "It is not my instinct to involve myself in someone else's dispute, but at the wing briefing, I had made a choice to do so. Now, that choice was coming back to me.

"I jumped out of my chair, puffed myself up as big as I could [five foot nine], and ran outside and began yelling at the man - 'hands off', 'get away from her', 'I'm about to call the cops' - I'm not sure what else I had yelled. I was scared."

Neild didn't know if the man had any weapons like a gun or a knife.

He did know, though, it was possible that's what he was stepping into.

The man told Neild the situation was none of his business, that the girl was his daughter.

The girl asked Neild to call the police. He did so as other bystanders began to gather around them. The man seemed to get the message and left.

People made sure the woman was safe. Neild's adrenaline was pumping; he was shaking as he thought about what had just happened.

"After the excitement was over, we went back inside the café," the native of Fair Point, N.Y., said. "I was asked to stick around in case the police needed a statement. I needed to let the adrenaline dissipate as well. I was a little shaky."

The police never showed up, so if someone thinks that making a call is all they need to do, they're probably wrong, he said.

"The manager gave me a bunch of free drink coupons and thanked me for helping the girl," the master sergeant explained.

"My friend was impressed with the whole thing. She exclaimed, 'That was pretty brave, I couldn't do something like that! Why did you do it?'

"I shrugged and said, 'I thought there might be a camera.'"

His friend didn't get the joke, so he explained bystander intervention training.

"When I heard that the entire wing had to go through another sexual assault briefing, I probably rolled my eyes," he said.

"After all, I knew I wouldn't sexually assault anyone. The odds are I'll never even witness something so violent.

"Why should I waste valuable work and training time hearing about someone else's mistakes?

"As the man grabbed the woman ... my mind flashed with memories of the video we watched in that training. They had a presenter who was pretty effective, and entertaining, too. There's a video of a guy getting physical with a woman - people are just walking by, not helping. I had felt embarrassed for my gender."
Neild said he may have not acted if he hadn't been through the training.

"I will remember that when we have our next mass briefing, whether it is suicide prevention or sexual assault or something else that seems like it may not apply to me or my workcenter," he said.

Neild recently received the Green Dot Bystander Award during the Domestic Violence Prevention Month opening ceremony held at Covenant House Alaska.

Melissa Emmal, deputy director for Abused Women's Aid in Crisis, presented the award.

The Green Dot program is aimed at stopping incidents of violence before they start, Emmal said.

Violence is not tolerated, and everyone is expected to do their part, she said.

"Do what I did, and make a conscious choice to intervene if [you] see something like that," Neild recommended. "When it came up, I'd already made the choice, when I watched the [training] video.

"I wouldn't be the person who just walked past. I'd already made the choice, so I acted on it."

Grand Forks SNCO awarded 2014 Visionary Leadership Award

by Airman 1st Class Bonnie Grantham
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/15/2014 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Senior Master Sgt. Shae Alamo, 319th Medical Group Superintendent, was recently awarded the 2014 General Wilma Vaught Visionary Leadership Award October 7.

The Gen. Wilma Vaught Visionary Leadership Award was created in 2012 to honor retired Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught  who was the first woman to be promoted to the position of a general officer in the comptroller field.

In order to receive the award, an individual must exhibit innovation, commitment, and a selfless spirit of service while being inspiring to others. The recipient must also show efforts to integrate women into the Air Force by improving opportunities for them.

"It's an honor to receive this award," said Alamo. "I feel privileged to represent the base, the Air Mobility Command, and the Expeditionary Center."

Col. Paul Smith, 319th MDG commander, said Alamo epitomizes the qualities and characteristics recognized by the Gen. Wilma Vaught Visionary Leadership Award.

"Her selfless spirit of service and her inspiration to others have quickly marked her as a key leader and outstanding superintendent here in the medical group," he said. "This recognition of her contributions to the integration of and improving opportunities for women in the Air Force is an acknowledgment to what she's doing to ensure the men and women wearing our uniform are all seen as Airmen."

Alamo said she believes it is important to listen to her Airmen. She said listening to young Airmen is what helps keep the Air Force modern and relevant. It wouldn't have been possible for her to be where she is in her career if not for her Airmen guiding her and presenting her with leadership opportunities, she said.

"My leadership has been given to me by Airmen and NCOs," said Alamo. "You don't get an award on your own. The Airmen, big 'A', have made me successful."

She also mentioned her mentor, Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey, 7th Air Force command chief master sergeant, is who she turns to when she needs advice.

"She guided me and mentored me to be the best Airman I could be," said Alamo. "I seek her out for all kinds of advice."

While Alamo consistently replied humbly when asked about her qualifications and achievements for this award, others who have worked with her in the past were quick to point out what makes her so qualified for this recognition.

"Alamo is the most professional senior NCO that I've met in my 16 years in the Air Force," said Maj. Thomas Oziemblowsky, 319th Force Support Squadron commander.

He explained Alamo worked in the 319th FSS until she was chosen to fill the chief master sergeant position she currently holds in the 319th MDG. He said that she was chosen for the position in a career field outside of her expertise based on her outstanding leadership skills.

Alamo's advice to young Airmen striving to be successful in their Air Force career is it is important to take chances and learn new things.

"Be willing to take the challenge to get outside of your comfort zone," said Alamo. "If you don't get outside of your comfort zone, you can get stuck in a rut. Challenge yourself to be bigger and better than just yourself."

AFCOMAC is the stepping stone in munitions community

by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2014 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- When the Department of Defense needs ammunition Airmen trained for mission readiness, they call Beale Air Force Base, Calif., to carry out the task.

Beale is the home of the Air Force Combat Ammunition Center (AFCOMAC), which provides the Air Force munitions community with advanced training in mass combat ammunition planning and production techniques.

"We are very unique; we are the only school house in the Department of Defense that does this," said Master Sgt. John Shaw, 9th Munitions Squadron AFCOMAC planning superintendent. "AFCOMAC is the only place you are able to receive this type of training. It is so unique we have accommodated other branches to participate in the class."

AFCOMAC is a school for senior airmen and above to either receive 7- or 9-level upgrade training. Eight classes are held each year consisting of 70 students per class and lasting three weeks. Each class consists of personnel from each rank and is divided up into three teams. The teams work as they would in an operational environment.

"Our students come from across the Air Force and have three weeks to learn the academics, the builds, and put them in the field for the Iron Flag exercise, which is the final portion of the course" Shaw said. "It's a huge leadership challenge to bring students together with their strengths and weaknesses."

The students will have to build approximately 1,000 bombs in three and a half days during the Iron Flag exercise. The exercise simulates an order of munitions, which has to be assembled, inspected, and delivered to a simulated aircraft for loading.

"Students get to see all the different ammunition configurations here," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Adam, 9th MUNS AFCOMAC combat advisor. "Every aircraft has different configuration. Their fins are aligned differently, accessories can vary for the bomb rack, and there are a lot of little nuances with aircraft that require a lot of attention to detail."

The Iron Flag exercise tests the students' abilities to assemble their work pad, follow their created plan of execution, meet order numbers, time and quality, and repack the work pad. The AFCOMAC cadre evaluates each team throughout the exercise.

"We tell them when they arrive; this is the most challenging exercise they will face while they are in the Air Force," Shaw said. "Executing this monster of a mission is a challenge, but we prepare them to execute and complete the mission. Students will go back to their duty stations as leaders in the career field and be ready for real-world objectives from the training they received while at AFCOMAC."

SALITRE participants bring smiles to Chilean children

by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
Texas Air National Guard Public Affairs

10/16/2014 - ANTOFAGASTA, Chile -- More than 30 military members from five countries visited the Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital children's ward in Chile, Oct. 11, as part of a community outreach event for SALITRE 2014.

The U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are participating in this year's exercise, which is being hosted by Chile at Cerro Moreno Air Force Base, Oct. 6-17. The military members brought gifts and spent time visiting with the hospitalized children.

"We did a good thing here. Hospitalized children can always use a little sunshine and a friendly smile to help their healing process," said Col. (Dr.) Richard Vatt, flight medicine, 136th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional guardsman, who is in Chile augmenting for the 149th Fighter Wing flight doctor during SALITRE 2014., "Parents all over the world love their children, it's not any different here in Chile."

The hospital visit is considered to be a social responsibility by the Chilean air force, who hosted the visit. It is a way to establish community relations between the local residents and the military.

"This visit [to Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital] is to show our local community that SALITRE 2014 is not all about combat missions, but a humanitarian mission as well," said Vilma Vega Berrios, internal communications, Chilean air force. "It is our way of connecting with our communities."

Among the military members visiting the hospital was Maj. Andrew Davenport, F-16 pilot, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional guardsman and a full time internal-medicine doctor in private practice, who speaks fluent Spanish. He comfortably communicated with the children, understanding their complaints and responding with a kind smile and words of encouragement.

The military members from each country went from room-to-room handing out gifts such as toys, balls, patches and hats, as each child eagerly waited to accept them. The parents were grateful for the early Christmas presents and they too had big smiles.

"The concern the parents have for the care of their child--it's universal," Vatt said. "It's an experience I will not forget."

Teaming Up to Throttle Back

by Airman Connor J. Marth
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2014 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho (Oct. 14, 2014) --
Every second hundreds of gallons of water pour over the edge and fall more than 75 feet before crashing into the turbines below. At the C.J. Strike Dam energy is created by the tremendous power of water.

However, with the demand for energy rising, the hydroelectric plant alone is not enough to keep the region running.

Consuming an average of 5 million kilowatts per hour of energy each month, Mountain Home Air Force Base is one of the most prominent energy consumers in the Treasure Valley region. However, it only consumes less than one-third of the Hydro Electric plants energy output.

"It's not just the base, it's the region as a whole," said Joseph Armstrong, the 366th Squadron energy manager. "Idaho Power cannot create enough energy from the hydro electric plant alone; we need everyone to try to throttle back on using energy."

While the base may not be the only place where energy can be conserved, support from high energy use areas could lessen the load on the C.J. Strike Dam.  Throttling the use of energy on the weekends or while not in the home allows Idaho Power to keep rates low, conserve water and help keep money in the state of Idaho.

"If housing along with your hangars and commercial buildings on base practiced simple energy saving measures, it could reduce your base energy bill by tens of thousands every month," said Steve Floyd, Idaho Power Major Customer Representative.  "That goes a long way toward using your money elsewhere."

With more money at the base's disposal, new renovations and improvements can be made to facilities, events and workplaces base-wide. The benefits made possible by this extra revenue could make quite a difference in quality of life for those living and working on base.

"This money we save goes back to the base," said Armstrong. "It's used to make residents and visitors lives more comfortable through renovation and improvement of base facilities."

Programs put on by base energy management offer opportunities for families to help get the most out of energy conservation.  One of the best ways for base housing to contribute is to participate in the Energy Management summer event known as the FlexPeak program.  The event is designed to lower energy consumption during times of peak demand.

"Through the FlexPeak Program we are supporting the regional grid, we are reducing our energy consumption and are in essence helping Idaho Power to not have to go onto the public grid and purchase other power at a higher cost," said Armstrong. "If Idaho Power has to purchase public energy then that cost will be passed onto its consumers."

With help from Idaho Power and Base Energy Management, MHAFB can continue to live comfortably while reducing its energy intake.

"It's all about using our resources wisely, in order to do that, we have to establish good habits," said Armstrong. "Mountain Home Air Force base has done an excellent job in the last 10 years and is helping to prevent grid blackouts, shortages, and higher cost of utilities."

Airmen restore American history at Gettysburg

by Airman 1st Class William Johnson
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

10/15/2014 - GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Fighting broke out once again on the frontlines of Gettysburg. However, it wasn't the battle sounds of cannons and muskets being fired from the Union and Confederate Armies heard, it was the sound of overgrown brush being pulled from the ground and the sound of a rotting fence being torn down in a battle that pitted Airmen against Mother Nature.

More than 100 Team Dover Airmen armed with rakes, clippers and wood cleared out overgrown brush and rebuilt sections of a 300-yard fence line behind the historic Sherfy House Oct. 10, 2014, to help preserve one of America's most famous battlegrounds at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The volunteer trip was organized by the Dover Air Force Base First Sergeants Council and the trip itself was led by Master Sgt. William Garcia, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, who said it was a major success.

"As a first sergeant, we like to take charge and lead certain volunteer opportunities and I think this is one of the most worthy events we could have done," said Garcia. "But today would not have been possible without all of our volunteers. Everybody has smiles on their faces and we are getting a lot of work done quickly and professionally in a short amount of time. It really is a great thing to see."

This was the second time this year where volunteers from Team Dover have traveled to Gettysburg to help preserve the park. A similar clean-up event took place in the spring led by the Air Force Sergeants Association, Chapter 201.

Amanda Whitmore, Gettysburg National Military Park volunteer program assistant, said the park is always impressed by the quality of work performed by the volunteer Airmen.

"Dover AFB is one of the largest groups in our Adopt-A-Position Program that comes out and helps restores the park," said Whitmore. "I think they do a phenomenal job every time they come out and we really couldn't appreciate it more."

Many of the Airmen who volunteered in the spring volunteered for this trip as well. Staff Sgt. Caleb Dubourg, 436th Maintenance Squadron aerospace pulse technician, is one of those Airmen who made the two and a half hour drive to Gettysburg.

"I wanted to come back and volunteer again because I want to help preserve one of America's greatest battlefields," said Dubourg. "I think this is a great way for Airmen to show their support for the community and it gives younger Airmen a chance to observe American military history first-hand."

For some Airmen, this was their first time volunteering at Gettysburg but it won't be their last.

"I wanted to come out and make difference," said Robert Romano 436th MXS aerospace pulse apprentice. "People from other countries come and visit parks like this to get an impression about us as Americans and I wanted to do my part and make sure they get the right impression. I'm looking forward to returning in the spring to help out again."

Officer Training School graduates first total force class

by Phil Berube
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2014 - Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. -- Air Force Officer Training School moved one step closer to complete total force integration with its first-ever simultaneous graduation of active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard officer trainees Oct. 10, 2014.

The first graduating class of fiscal year 2015, which consisted of 193 new second lieutenants, included 73 active duty and 12 Reserve members completing Basic Officer Training and 108 ANG officers completing the Academy of Military Science.

This is the first time OTS ran through its new eight-week curriculum for both active duty and ANG officer trainees in parallel, which included combined lecture sessions and parade and drill training. The previous courses were 9.5 weeks for active duty and six weeks for ANG.

"The simultaneous training provided the same great training to two great officer candidate groups," said Col. Scott Lockwood, OTS commandant.

Total force integration is also evident in the makeup of OTS staff and command positions. Lockwood is the second ANG officer to hold the position of commandant, which rotates between an active duty and an ANG officer. Additionally, active duty and ANG trainees are instructed by an integrated staff representing all Air Force components.

While this is the first time active duty and Guard students have shared a common eight-week curriculum and graduated as one class, the ANG has been commissioning its officers at Maxwell for the past five years.

In 2009, the Guard moved AMS, its commissioning school, to OTS from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base near Knoxville, Tenn. The move came three years after then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley expressed his vision of a "shared common experience" at a single location for active duty, Reserve and Guard officer trainees.

Lockwood agrees with the concept, calling it "one furnace, one metal."

"Currently, with the increased focus on the total force in Air Force missions, OTS is working to merge BOT and AMS programs and training into a singular OTS culture, setting the stage for working and cooperating as a total force from the inception of an officer's career," he said.

That proposal is being looked at by the director of the Air National Guard, the adjutants general of each state and territory and Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Education and Training Command, Lockwood added.

The presiding officer for the Oct. 10 combined graduation ceremony and parade was Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, vice chief, National Guard Bureau.

In fiscal year 2014, OTS commissioned 748 second lieutenants and trained more than 1,300 officers through its Commissioned Officer Training and Reserve COT programs. AMS commissioned 511 Guard officers during that same time period.

Every Airman Counts: Wingman culture key to resiliency

by Col. Michael Manion
403rd Maintenance Group

10/15/2014 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- We've all encountered bad news or a series of bad news or bad days.  Each person reacts differently to news of setbacks such as injury, failure, tragedy, loss, and extreme stress.  How they respond is dependent on their ability for resiliency; the ability to bounce back.

Coach Vince Lombardi said, "It is not whether you get knocked down. It's whether you get up again ..."

Being resilient doesn't mean avoiding the issue; it means facing it; bouncing back from it, and recovering to previous levels of performance or even higher.  People can develop the ability to successfully overcome setbacks.  To assist Airmen, the Air Force had a mandatory stand-down day in 2012 to discuss resources available to support Airmen and the importance of strengthening mental, physical, social and spiritual skills to bolster resiliency.  A key point emphasized during that stand-down was that seeking help for yourself, or for fellow wingmen, is a sign of strength.

Building one's mental skill allows you to critically examine how your thoughts and attitude impact your behavior; it's even been said that an optimistic attitude can be learned.   The benefits of physical activity are improved mental awareness and the ability to more readily deal with stress.  A social skill refers to having peers you can engage with for support.  Building spiritual skill refers to cultivating purpose and meaning for however someone chooses to define that.  Strong spiritual foundations often help people deal with difficult situations.  A combination of all the above is often mentioned as the reason why many prisoner of war survivors made it back home.

Airmen with poor resiliency skills may not be equipped to notice or correct their situation, and that's where a good wingman needs to step in.  Being a good wingman transcends friendship, flights, and squadrons; it is something we do as professional Airmen and something we owe to those with whom we serve.  It is our responsibility -- if we see someone in need, we reach out to them.  It's the little gestures that can make a significant impact or can be the catalyst for resilience to blossom.  It often doesn't take much to make a difference.  The willingness to listen as someone talks through their feelings or fears; stopping by their workplace or meeting with them after work just to check up on them and to offer them the encouragement to keep taking the steps to rebound their situation can make a huge difference.  A positive attitude, a genuine sense of concern, and some of your time might be all it takes to get an Airman back on the vector to recovery.  If you determine you don't have the skills necessary to help the Airman get back on track, then take that next step, and get them in touch with the right personnel and/or resources.  Every Airman counts.  

By continuously cultivating mental, physical, social and spiritual skills, an Airman may get knocked down, but should be able to get up again on their own. We as wingmen need to be vigilant for those that are struggling to get up again, and do what it takes to help them recover to previous performance levels or even higher. We owe this effort to our fellow Airmen; it is the bond that makes us the world's greatest Air Force!

Face of Defense: Guard Soldier Aids Comrades Beyond Battlefield

By Niki Gentry
Tennessee National Guard

LOBELVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 16, 2014 – Army Staff Sgt. Pamela Pugh, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and 14-year member of the Tennessee National Guard, was contacted during the late summer by two of her fellow soldiers who found themselves homeless and in dire need of aid.

A platoon sergeant for her unit here, Pugh immediately took the initiative to help her comrades in arms, not only by her own actions, but also with help of numerous resources now available to military personnel, veterans and their families.

“These are my soldiers. I take care of them every month, and they know I care about them whether on or off duty,” Pugh said. “They know they can call me any time, especially when they are having difficult moments in their life. I take extreme pride in helping these soldiers. They are like my family, like my kids, and I feel an obligation to assist them as best I can.”

Study shows extent of veteran homelessness

Battling homelessness among service members and veterans has become a priority in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs published a study identifying nearly 58,000 homeless veterans nationally on one single night in January 2013.

Lori Ogden, director of development for Operation Stand Down Tennessee -- a nonprofit organization that provides free help to Tennessee veterans – said the unemployment rate among veterans in the state is 6.9 percent, and one in five homeless persons are veterans. VA and other agencies continue to develop programs to reduce the number of homeless who have a military background, she added, yet they emphasize the need for further support within Tennessee and across the country.

Pugh’s story began when she was contacted by a young soldier in her platoon who was living in a rescue shelter in Nashville, Tennessee. Using her knowledge of resources available through the Tennessee National Guard Family Programs section, the Enlisted Association of Tennessee, a local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other agencies, she was able to find financial assistance, temporary lodging and full-time employment for the Guard member.

Helping a second soldier

Pugh’s aid did not end with the one homeless soldier. Shortly afterward, she helped another member of her unit in a similar situation. The second soldier had sought refuge in a rescue shelter during an interim period prior to attending a state educational program.

Pugh helped the soldier obtain lodging and financial aid. Beyond the resources she accessed during the first soldier’s issues, Pugh was able to get other members of her unit to assist in moving the second soldier’s personal belongings during the transition to her school.

“The actions of Staff Sergeant Pugh are keeping with Army values, the Noncommissioned Officer’s Creed and are a true reflection of the nature of the Tennessee National Guard,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Scott, the senior enlisted leader for Tennessee. “Not only are our soldiers and airmen assisting their nation, state and communities, but they are dedicated to their fellow team members as well.”

Support mechanisms worked seamlessly

Pugh, members of her unit and the Tennessee National Guard’s soldier and airman support mechanisms worked seamlessly to help those encountering difficult times in their lives, Scott noted.

“Our National Guard is a family, and when any of our own are in need of assistance, we come together to support each other,” he said. “It is with great pride that I was allowed to witness the functioning of our internal support network to assist one of our own. Staff Sergeant Pugh is a credit to her unit, as well as her fellow service members. She recognized a need and proactively sought out the necessary resources to take care of our Guard personnel.”

Hagel Praises Army’s Strength, Resilience

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

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel commended the Army today for its contributions to national defense over the last 13 years of conflict and noted that demand for the things the Army does for the nation will not diminish during the period of uncertainty and change that lies ahead.

Speaking during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference, Hagel said this is a time of great transition for the Army as the U.S. military responsibly ends its combat role in Afghanistan and transitions to a train-advise-and-assist mission.

“The Afghan national security forces will be fully responsible for their country's security,” he said, “an accomplishment made possible by the tremendous sacrifices of American troops, our [International Security Assistance Force] partners and the Afghan people.”

Army service during volatile times

“As the Army emerges from over 13 years of large-scale combat operations -- the longest in its history -- it faces new challenges,” Hagel said. “The world’s becoming more volatile, less predictable, and, in many ways, more threatening at the same time our defense budgets are declining.”

The theme chosen for this year’s AUSA symposium -- Hagel said, which is “Trusted Professionals: Today and Tomorrow” -- is well-suited to describe the kind of soldiers America will need as it navigates this period of change and uncertainty, the secretary said.

More than 1 million U.S. soldiers have deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 13 years, Hagel noted.

“One out of six of these soldiers was deployed to both countries,” Hagel said. “More than half-a-million soldiers -- 30 percent of them Guardsmen and reservists -- endured multiple deployments. As ground forces, they shouldered a heavy burden”

“Seventy percent of U.S. personnel wounded in action over the last 13 years were from the Army,” he continued, “and countless soldiers have come home with visible -- and invisible -- wounds of war.”

The enduring obligation to take care of them and their families, Hagel said, is a sacred responsibility that the nation must always uphold.

“Through the crucible of combat, and a grinding counterinsurgency campaign, the American soldier fought on,” he said. “As a result, today’s Army is as battle-tested as it has ever been.”

Hagel said of all the soldiers who served in Iraq since 2003, nearly half are still on active duty or in the National Guard and reserves, and of those who served in Afghanistan, almost two-thirds are still in the Army.

America’s Army today

The strength, resilience, and dedication of the Army, Hagel said, is what makes it the foundation of America’s national security and its contribution to U.S. security is as critical today as ever.

“We see it in West Africa,” he said, “where soldiers will soon deploy as a key part of America's contribution to the global effort to stop the spread of Ebola before it becomes an even more of a grave threat.”

Hagel said it is also seen in Poland and the Baltics, where soldiers are reinforcing and reassuring NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression, and in Iraq, where soldiers are deploying to train, advise and assist Kurdish and Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Soon, he added, it will be seen in Saudi Arabia, where soldiers will help to train and equip members of the moderate Syrian opposition.

“The president has been very clear that he will not commit our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Hagel said, “or become involved in the war in Syria.” This is not because of a belief that wars can be waged without committing troops to combat, he said. The strategy in Iraq and Syria does require forces on the ground, he explained, but they must be local forces.

“This is not only the best way to degrade, and ultimately defeat terrorists,” Hagel said, “it is the only sustainable path to defeating terrorism and extremism.”

Demand not diminishing

The defense secretary noted that while a another Iraq or Afghanistan-type campaign is unlikely, this does not mean that demand for the Army is diminishing, or that the Army’s place in U.S. national security strategy is eroding.

While there are no longer 150,000 soldiers engaged in ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hagel said, there are still almost as many soldiers either deployed or forward-stationed in nearly 150 locations around the world. This includes 80,000 soldiers in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility and nearly 20,000 soldiers in South Korea standing ready to “fight tonight.”

“There are also 40,000 soldiers under Central Command; 28,000 soldiers in Europe, and thousands more in both Africa and South America -- some of whom I visited in Colombia last week,” Hagel said. “The demands on the Army will only grow more diverse and complicated going forward. Threats from terrorists and insurgents will remain with us for a long time, but we also must deal with a revisionist Russia -- with its modern and capable Army -- on NATO's doorstep.”

The Army, Hagel said, will remain essential to helping to deter and confront every national security threat facing the country.

Maintaining a ready and capable force

There will always be a need for a modern, ready, well equipped, well-trained standing Army, the defense secretary said.

“But maintaining a ready and capable Army as we come out of 13 years of continuous large-scale combat will not be easy,” he added. “For the Army to fulfill its role as a guarantor of our national security, our soldiers must continue to be exceptionally well-led, well-trained and well-equipped.”

Hagel said this is especially true in a global security environment that is more unpredictable than ever and that will require America to lead the world in response.

“We must not forget the lessons of history,” he said. “We’ve seen how quickly a battle-hardened army can wither into a force that is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to carry out its mission, and we've seen the consequences.”

In July 1950, Hagel said, five years after America’s military victory in World War II, the soldiers of Task Force Smith were sent to the first battle of the Korean War with orders to halt the North Korean advance. Under-trained, under-equipped, outnumbered and unprepared, they were routed within hours of engaging the enemy, Hagel said, ultimately suffering a casualty rate of nearly 30 percent. Soldiers paid for poor training, equipment and leadership with their lives, the secretary said.

“We’ve also seen how past drawdowns sought to protect the training and equipment that is the essence of military readiness,” he said.

Hagel noted that retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, AUSA’s president and former Army chief of staff, used the mantra “No More Task Force Smiths” after Operation Desert Storm and the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s as the Army made “difficult but necessary decisions” reducing the force in order to safeguard readiness.”

“Today,” the secretary said, “‘No More Task Force Smiths’ must once again be our motto. We need to maintain an exceptionally ready Army.”

Budget challenges and adaptability

Due to “deep, steep, and abrupt defense budget cuts” imposed by sequestration, Hagel said, the Army had to cancel many critical training rotations, leaving it with only two active-duty brigade combat teams fully ready and available to execute a major combat operation.

Army readiness improved, with 12 out of 37 brigade combat teams trained to the highest levels of readiness, Hagel said, thanks to the budget compromise reached in December by President Barack Obama and Congress and the Army’s “relentless focus on training.”

“While this is a direct result of the Army's ability to adapt to unreasonable budget constraints,” Hagel said, “it falls short of what I believe is sufficient to defend our nation and our allies with minimum risk. We must continue to put readiness first in the current budget environment. [That] is why we have modestly reduced the size of the Army and protected training and maintenance in our budget.”

Trading readiness for capacity is the path to a hollow force, Hagel said, and despite temporary relief, sequestration remains the law of the land.

“If Congress does not act,” he said, “it will return in 2016 -- stunting and reversing the Army’s readiness just as we’ve begun to recover, and requiring even more dramatic reductions in force structure.”

The defense secretary said the department could face a $70 billion gap in its budget over the next five years if Congress “prevents us from moving forward … with these changes.”

“DoD's leaders understand that there will be less resources available,” Hagel said. “But the Army -- and our military -- needs Congress to be a partner in responsible, long-term planning and budgeting. We will continue to urge Congress to put an end to sequestration -- an irresponsible deferral of responsibility.”

Challenges the military faces will become far more difficult and dangerous the longer the tough choices are deferred, the secretary added.

Responsibility of leadership

Hagel said the future security environment remains uncertain, and trying to predict it will continue to be as challenging as ever. He quoted former President Woodrow Wilson, who predicted to Congress “a growing cordiality among nations, foreshadowing an age of settled peace and goodwill.”

“He spoke those words 101 years ago,” Hagel said. “We all know that history proved him wrong. The so-called ‘war to end all wars’ was anything but a war to end all wars. A century later, we cannot know for sure what conflicts, challenges, or threats the next 100 years may bring or the next 10 years may bring.”

“We cannot say for certain whether history will be repeated or made anew,” Hagel said, “but we must prepare our institutions for the unexpected and uncertain. That is the greatest responsibility of leadership.”