Military News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PACAF hosts Air Force Civic Leader Program

by Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

10/22/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Members of the Air Force Civic Leader Program traveled to Hawaii to participate in a military tour highlighting the Pacific Rebalance Oct. 14 through 16.

"The goal of the Air Force Civic Leader Program is to educate and inspire influential civic leaders who act as third party advocates for the Air Force," said Wendy Varhegyi, Headquarters Air Force Engagement Division chief. "Bringing them here to the Pacific provided an incredible opportunity to show first-hand the Pacific Rebalance."

The first day of the tour established the strategic importance of the military in the Pacific with mission briefings from U.S. Pacific Command and Pacific Air Forces, providing the group an overall understanding of what Airmen are doing across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The focus shifted to the tactical level as the day progressed, featuring one-on-one exchanges with young Airmen, a laboratory tour provided by forensic anthropologists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and a visit to the Hawaii Air National Guard's brand new, state-of-the art Senator Daniel K. Inouye F-22 Fighter Squadron Operations and Aircraft Maintenance Facility.

On days two and three, the group traveled across Oahu visiting multiple military installations on the island and gaining an invaluable perspective on the contributions of each military branch to the PACOM mission. The civics learned about joint dynamics through hands-on activities and open discussions with service members, delivering an in-depth look into the mission of each component while also providing a glimpse of the overall multi-service partnership throughout the Pacific.

"There are not many places where we have the opportunity to highlight how we are operating across all the services and the joint environment," Varhegyi said. "The Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen we met this trip have been fantastic and inspirational. We enjoyed the experience immensely."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III annually hosts the Air Force Civic Leaders with the goal of education. The program and its civic leader visits to military installations serve to better inform communicators in the civilian community and advocates for Air Force issues.

"Our relationship with the military community is critical, and it's not just for financial or moral support," said David Nesbett, Air Force civic leader. "We want our military to know we are there for them in the same way we trust the military is there for us."

The Air Force Chief of Staff Civic Leader Program is an Air Staff-level program comprised of civic leaders selected by officials from Air Force major commands, the National Guard Bureau and Headquarters Air Force.

"What helps with community involvement is developing an understanding of the two different cultures and bridging the gap," Nesbett said. "When we can work together and we can understand each other, we can accomplish truly great things."

437th AW supports Operation United Assistance

by Trisha Gallaway
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs


10/21/2014 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- As the world watches the Ebola epidemic unfold, Airmen from the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., are in the thick of the fight.

Aircrews from the 14th Airlift Squadron and 17th Airlift Squadron were two of the first five crews from Joint Base Charleston that went to Africa in support of Operation United Assistance. The other three missions were carried out by the 315th Airlift Wing.

"[Our mission] was to deliver 12 members of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, along with cargo support from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., to Monrovia, Liberia," said Capt. Caroline Tetrick, a pilot with the 17th AS. "It was a complicated upload out of McGuire, with 11 pieces of rolling stock, including generators, four-wheelers and a mobile command center."

As Tetrick and her crew were finishing their mission, Capt. David Blankenstein, a pilot from the 14th AS and his crew were on their way into Monrovia from Rota, Spain, with 85,000 pounds of cargo and 19 passengers made up of both medical personnel and civil engineers from the Air Force and Army. 

"We [transported] multiple containers that will be used as a field hospital," said Blankenstein. "Each container contained a different section of the field hospital. For example, one container was a kitchen and one was a showering room."
The field hospital will be used to provide care for healthcare workers should they contract the Ebola virus.

While aircrews are required to maintain up-to-date immunizations, they were not required to take any additional immunizations before traveling to Africa. Crews did however, have to meet with Public Health and receive a briefing prior to departing JB Charleston.

"Public Health briefings are standard for crews going to other countries," said Lt. Col. Ray Clydesdale, 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander.

The Public Health briefings cover topics ranging from diseases, resources for care to the procurement of safe drinking water.

"For the affected region, we brief crews on the latest as far as the Ebola threat, but we also brief on Malaria and other diseases endemic to the region as well," said Clydesdale.

During the Public Health briefing, crews were instructed on how to use the sterilization and decontamination kits pre-positioned on the aircraft.

According to Tetrick, the kits were for "just-in-case" scenarios and included a jug of bleach, alcohol wipes, gloves and a mask.

Blankenstein echoed those sentiments.

"The emphasis for these kits was that they would be necessary should the need arise to move a patient infected with Ebola," he said. "We were told it would be highly unlikely that we would move infected patients."

It was also unlikely the aircrews would come into contact with anyone on the airfield who had been infected with the disease.

"We were met at the jet by an American liaison who told us that everyone coming onto the airfield gets their temperature checked daily and no one shakes hands," said Tetrick.

Time on the ground in Monrovia for Tetrick and Blankenship was less than three hours.

"We were on the ground for a little over two hours," Tetrick said. "Just long enough to offload all the cargo and people."

Prior to this mission, both aircrews had never flown into Monrovia before, and for Tetrick, aircraft maintenance issues and weather kept her crew on the ground in Rota for three days, delaying averting their travel to Monrovia.

"Finally, we made it to Liberia, picking our way through the dark and around thunderstorms to land at an airfield whose runway was not very well maintained and appeared quite old."

Tetrick and Blankenstein credit their training in helping them successfully land in Monrovia.

"Our training always focuses on supporting missions anywhere throughout the word," said Blankenstein. "We fly multiple simulators and local flying sorties that focus on the requirements of operating in and out of unfamiliar airfields."

Tetrick and her crew found other outlying factors impacted their mission.
"Some challenges that flying around Africa can bring include poor radio coverage, language barriers (many in northwest Africa speak French) and non-standard aviation procedures," she said.

Aircrews stationed at JB Charleston are no strangers to supporting humanitarian missions.

"Humanitarian aid and support type missions are one of the most rewarding missions we do in the C-17," said Blankenstein. "It always feels good being able to help other people throughout the world in their time of need when given the opportunity."
For Tetrick, this type of a mission was a first for her.

"It really felt great to be taking part in such an important cause," she said. "The crew and I felt so proud to be contributing to an international effort to stymie the spread of Ebola and bring relief to an area of crisis."

Maj. Gen. Shanahan's views, priorities for Beale AFB, 25th AF

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


10/22/2014 - 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs -- Maj. Gen. John Shanahan, 25th Air Force commander, visited Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 14 to 18 and spoke about the re-designation of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency to the 25th AF and the new additions to the numbered air force.

The 25th AF now includes the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., and the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., which were re-aligned from the 12th AF Sept. 29.

"I couldn't be more excited to have Beale and the 9th RW as part of the 25th AF," Shanahan said. "I've looked at this for many years; how can we bring all of this together? The 55th and 9th wings bring so much capability."

The re-designation allows 25th AF, realigned under Air Combat Command, to focus on ISR, electronic warfare, airborne national command and control, nuclear detection and treaty monitoring, targeting and analysis operations. The NAF will provide decision advantage from those operations, through ACC, to joint commanders, national leaders and coalition partners.

Shanahan said the 25th AF is not the same as other NAFs; it is slightly different and has a twist to it.

"What's going to make the 25th AF look a little bit different than the other NAFs is that I have responsibilities to what we call the National Intelligence Community and the Combat Support Agencies, which are the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency," Shanahan said. "Our NAF headquarters staff has to maintain that connection directly into those national agencies."

According to Shanahan, the realignment of the new NAF should be transparent to Airmen and their day to day operations.

Shanahan's top priorities for the NAF include focusing on personnel and the evolution of ISR. His goal is to be as immediate and efficient as possible when supporting combatant commanders with ISR.

"First and foremost is taking care of Airmen and their families," Shanahan said. "My philosophy is pretty simple, if you take care of people, the people will get the mission done, and they will do it exceptionally well."

In addition, Shanahan's next priority is to begin to reorient, refocus and reset how missions are carried out. The big part of his focus is how to train for a different kind of fight in the future and bring all other intelligence disciplines together in a more integrated way.

Four Former Blackwater Employees Found Guilty of Charges in Fatal Nisur Square Shooting in Iraq



Four former security guards for Blackwater USA were found guilty today of charges stemming from the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq, that resulted in the killing of 14 unarmed civilians and the wounding of numerous others.

The jury verdicts, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, were announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

The defendants include Nicholas Abram Slatten, 30, of Sparta, Tenn.; Paul Alvin Slough, 35, of Keller, Texas; Evan Shawn Liberty, 32, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin Laurent Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tenn. Slatten, who was accused of firing the first shots, was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder. Slough was found guilty of 13 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 17 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense. Liberty was found guilty of eight counts of voluntary manslaughter, 12 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense. Heard was found guilty of six counts of voluntary manslaughter, 11 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense.

“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.  “Seven years ago, these Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers on innocent men, women, and children. Today they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families. I pray that this verdict will bring some sense of comfort to the survivors of that massacre. I want to thank the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who have fought for the past seven years to bring justice to the memories of those who were gunned down in Nisur Square.”

“Today’s verdict demonstrates the FBI's dedication to investigating violations of U.S. law no matter where they occur,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “International investigations such as this one are very complex and frequently dangerous. This case took a tremendous amount of coordination to bring over a large number of foreign witnesses in support of this prosecution. I commend the FBI Special Agents, Task Force Officers, Intelligence Analysts and Language Specialists and our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for working to bring those responsible to justice and conveying some measure of comfort to the victims’ families in Iraq.”

The verdicts came on the 28th day of jury deliberations and followed more than two months of trial. The Honorable Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered that the four defendants be detained pending sentencing. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

The murder charge against Slatten calls for a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Each of the voluntary manslaughter counts against the other defendants carries a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Each of the attempted manslaughter counts carries a statutory maximum of seven years of incarceration. The weapons offense carries a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.

Another Blackwater security guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, pled guilty in December 2008 to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter. Ridgeway, who testified as a government witness in the trial, has not yet been sentenced.

The defendants worked for Blackwater USA, a private security contractor that was paid by the U.S. government to provide protective services to U.S. officials.

The trial began June 17, 2014. Over the next 10 weeks, the government presented testimony from 71 witnesses, including 30 from Iraq. This represented the largest group of foreign witnesses ever to travel to the United States for a criminal trial. The witnesses included 13 people who were wounded in the shootings, as well as relatives of many of those who died. The government’s witnesses also included nine members of “Raven 23,” the Blackwater team that was on the scene on the day of the shootings.

According to the government’s evidence, at approximately noon on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, several Blackwater security contractors, including the four defendants, opened fire in and around Nisur Square, a busy traffic circle in the heart of Baghdad. When they stopped shooting, 14 Iraqi civilians were dead. Those killed included 10 men, two women, and two boys, ages 9 and 11. Another 18 victims were injured.

The four defendants and 15 other Blackwater security contractors were assigned to a convoy of four heavily-armed trucks known as a Tactical Support Team, using the call sign “Raven 23.” Shortly before noon, Raven 23 learned that a car bomb had detonated in central Baghdad near a location where a U.S official was being escorted by a Blackwater personal security detail team. Raven 23 team members promptly reported to their convoy vehicles, and the convoy drove to a secured checkpoint between the Green Zone and Red Zone.

Once there, in disregard of an order from Blackwater’s command, the team’s shift leader directed Raven 23 to leave the Green Zone and establish a blockade in Nisur Square, a busy traffic circle that was immediately adjacent to the Green Zone. While occupying the southern part of the traffic circle, seven of the 19 members of Raven 23, including the four defendants and Ridgeway, fired their weapons, resulting in the deaths or injury of the unarmed Iraqi civilians there. While leaving the traffic circle, Slough continued to fire his weapon, resulting in additional deaths and injuries.

Finally, further away, north of the traffic circle, Slough and Ridgeway again fired their weapons, resulting in the injury of three more unarmed Iraqi civilians.

The first to be killed was Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 21, an aspiring doctor, who was driving his mother to an appointment. His mother, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, 44, a medical doctor, also was killed. Others who died included Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, 9, who was traveling with his family; Osama Fadhil Abbas, 52, a businessman who sold used cars and who was enroute to a business meeting; Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, 47, a delivery truck driver, and his 11-year-old son, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud; Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, 52, a businessman; Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, 18, an Iraqi soldier who was standing at a military checkpoint; Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, 55, who was traveling with her daughter on a public bus, and who was in the area to get documentation for a trip to holy sites; Ibrahim Abid Ayash, 77, a gardener, who was traveling in another bus; Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, 33, and his cousin, Usday Ismail Ibrahiem, 27, who were out looking for work with the Iraqi Army; Mahdi Sahib Nasir, 26, a taxi driver, and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein, 54, a motorcyclist who was commuting to work.

The jury considered charges involving injuries to 14 men and three women. Because of travel issues, witnesses to support an 18th charge of attempted manslaughter did not appear at the trial, and the charge related to that victim’s injuries was dismissed by the government.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior and the Iraqi National Police provided cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion, John Crabb, Jr., Christopher R. Kavanaugh, T. Patrick Martin, and David Mudd, of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The case was originally indicted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan M. Malis and Kenneth Kohl.

Baseball Honors Veterans on World Series Stage



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Ft. Meade, Md., Oct. 22, 2014 – America’s game honored America’s best as Major League Baseball dedicated the first game of the Giants-Royals World Series to America’s veterans.

Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald watched as Army Staff Sgt. Pedro Sotelo threw the first pitch to start the best of seven series last night.

“We’re talking about America’s veterans and America’s game,” Winnefeld said during a short press availability before the game. “It’s a real honor for us in uniform, for Major League Baseball to think enough of us to dedicate this first game of the World Series … to veterans.”

Winnefeld and McDonald joined Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in the Veterans Honor Annex at the Kansas City, Missouri, VA center. Major League Baseball provided much of the money to build the annex. Selig called the decision to honor veterans a “privilege.”

Looking around the facility, McDonald offered his gratitude for the facility. “It’s a great way to show those who have borne the battle … that we support them and that we support their families,” the secretary said.

“We all understand the symbolism of the military and the symbolism of the uniform, and the symbolism of those we’ve lost,” Winnefeld said. “Those veterans watching tonight -- the first pitch of the World Series thrown by somebody in uniform -- their hearts will beat a little faster, they’ll be very proud of that young man out there and they will wish him the best.”

Sotelo, who served in Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, did the services proud. He threw a perfect strike to Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

Electrifying energy efforts at Minot AFB

by 2nd Lt. Ian Parks
5th Civil Engineer Squadron


10/17/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D.  -- Would you be surprised to learn that October is Energy Action Month? Most people would be and just as many would be surprised to find out reducing energy usage is one of the key goals for the Air Force. In fact, the goal to reduce energy consumption for fiscal year 2013 was set at 24 percent for the Air Force.

While overall Air Force energy consumption was reduced by 21.4 percent, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, demonstrated its excellence, coming in with a 32 percent in savings. The reductions have largely been due to recently completed projects such as Dorm 214, base operations and the installation of ground source heat pumps in the 5th Mission Support Group and 5th Contracting Squadron.

One project the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron currently has underway is the installation of door seals at the 5th Maintenance Group aircraft maintenance docks. The docks were originally constructed to provide shelter for the nose and fuselage of the B-52H Stratofortress. The result was an oversized opening in the doors to allow the tail to extend outside. During the winter months, that opening allows wind and the bitter cold to enter the hangar. The door seals will take care of this issue by allowing the doors to fit snuggly around the tail, keeping heat trapped inside.

Another issue that is being addressed on base is the use of Energy Management Control Systems. These systems allow for remote viewing and control of the heating ventilation air conditioning systems within buildings. Once these systems are installed, the 5th CES can detect and address issues before a noticeable change in temperature is identified by tenants. The EMCS is being installed in 125 buildings and will lead to savings of approximately $315,000 a year, paying for the project within five years.

What does all of this mean for each of us as individuals though? Even with all these improvements, Minot AFB still has massive energy consumption.

The base needs the help of every Airman and their family members to combat energy waste. This involves turning off lights in areas not in use, turning off computers, keeping windows closed in the dorms, closing overhead and hangar doors, and keeping thermostats better regulated. All of these seemingly small things can add up in a hurry to produce a big savings. But here at Minot AFB, where our Airmen continually exceed the standard, it is fully within our grasp to make the necessary changes and continue to serve as the example for the Air Force!

Dobbins Hercules represents at Rome air show

by Senior Airman Daniel Phelps
94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


10/21/2014 - ROME, Ga.  -- A team from the 94th Airlift Wing brought a C-130 Hercules to the Wings over North Georgia air show in Rome, Georgia, Oct. 18 -19, to showcase the aircraft and let the public know about its capabilities.

The crew and pilots gave tours of the bay area and cockpit and showed visitors how trauma medical dummy "Lieutenant Dan" worked.

"People have loved this," said 1st Lt. Anthony Toste, 700th Airlift Squadron pilot. "We've had a constant line out here of 30 to 40 people for a good four hours."

Guests asked tons of questions from how much fuel the jet used to its range and speed and for explanations of what the aeromedical technicians did, Toste explained.

The Hercules pilots also met several former C-130 aviators, the pilot added.

With the extensive history of the jet, it isn't too surprising to run into former crew of the Hercules, Toste commented.

"Over the years I've run into 50 to 60 of them," he added. "The C-130 has been around for so long and is so recognizable. It hasn't changed that much."

One guest was particularly fascinated by the jet. 11-year-old Glen Sheppard toured the jet and wanted to get photos with the Airmen, saluting each one, enlisted and officer alike.

"My son has been loving this," said Scott Sheppard, Glenn's father. "He's infatuated with the Air Force. I was in the Marines for a couple years and have been teaching him about the military."

"The excitement of the kids has by far been my favorite part of this," Toste said. "They have been all over everything. They make this worth it."

Chief of Naval Personnel Visits Naval Special Warfare



By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Les Long, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) Vice Adm. Bill Moran visited Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Sailors during an all hands call on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, October 21. Moran discussed a variety of topics, including enlisted retention boards, retirement, and compensation.

"I don't often get to see and talk with NSW Sailors for a lot of reasons, mostly because you're always deployed," Vice Adm. Moran said. "I have enormous respect for this community, from the enablers to the tactical guys to the boat drivers."

One of the topics Moran addressed was Sailors' concerns about the possibility of another enlisted retention board (ERB). The ERB was a manpower reduction tool that resulted in a force reduction of nearly 3,000 Sailors in 2011.

Moran said, "We didn't do a very good job communicating about the ERB and the program was not executed very well. I can stand here and confidently tell you we don't have another ERB planned because we've stabilized as a force."

Discussions in Congress regarding changing the current retirement system for military members has service members across all branches worried that their benefits will be changed or reduced.

"If there's a change to the Navy's retirement system in the future, it will only affect Sailors who join after the system change. If we come up with a better system in the future, you will have the opportunity to opt-in, but you will never be forced to opt-out of the current system."

Moran also responded to rumors that service members were facing a possible pay cut.

"Your pay will continue to increase, but it's not going up as fast as many of us have seen over the last 13 years. Over time, our pay has caught up to and jumped slightly ahead of our civilian counterparts," said Moran.

Moran said, "My role and commitment to you is to ensure, the best that I can, that you're properly compensated, you're properly taken care of, and, most importantly, your families are properly taken care of."

As the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. Moran answers to the Chief of Naval Operations on matters of the Navy's manpower readiness. He also serves as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel, Training Education/N1) and oversees the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Personnel Command and the Navy Manpower Analysis Center.