Monday, November 24, 2014

The Air National Guard's Strategic Planning System steering committee hosts quarterly meeting

by By Maj. Mary L. Harrington, ANG, PA Advisor to the DANG and CCM

11/21/2014 - PENTAGON -- The steering committee for the Air National Guard's Strategic Planning System (SPS) held a quarterly meeting on November 19-20, 2014 at the Pentagon Library.

Air National Guard (ANG) SPS members include regional leaders who provide strategic guidance for the Director of the Air National Guard (DANG), Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke, III.

The steering committee members assemble quarterly to share field-driven updates for strategy development and direction.  "We do not make decisions about man power or equipment...we are strictly a forward thinking, strategic, field-driven advisory group," said Brig. Gen. Jon Kelk, Assistant Adjutant General, California Air National Guard and outgoing chair of SPS.

Highlights of the meeting included a change of SPS leadership.  The chair changed from Kelk to Brig. Gen. Kevin W. Bradley, New York Air National Guard.  The vice chair changed from Brig. Gen. John E. McCoy, Wisconsin Air National Guard, to Brig. Gen. Robert L. Shannon, Jr., Georgia Air National Guard.

"It was an honor to chair the SPS steering committee for the past two years; it was an enlightening experience. I believe we were very effective in our efforts to provide strategic guidance for the DANG and The Adjutants General, and I am very pleased to have finalized the latest version of our Strategic Master Plan," said Kelk.

The initial Strategic Master Plan, which will be updated every two years, has been distributed to National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and ANG Wing leadership.  The SMP is an ANG twenty-year forward look, from 2015 to 2035; the document intends to provide "a guiding path of ANG contributions necessary for an agile Air Force to adapt to rapidly changing strategic environments and provide for the security needs of the nation," with an emphasis on the ANG's role in the total force, the strengths of the  ANG(unit- equipped, community based, dual-use, cost-effective, and experienced), and the deliberate development of Guard Airmen.

Meeting updates included State Partnership Programs, presented by Maj. Gen. Donald A. McGregor, National Guard Bureau director of policy, strategy, plans and international affairs; an AF Strategic Overview, presented by Maj. Gen. David W. Allvin, Director of Strategy, Concepts, and Assessments, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force; the Total Force Continuum, presented by Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Cathcart, Special Assistant to the Director, Air National Guard; The Adjutants General (TAG) update, presented by Maj. Gen. Steven A. Cray, TAG, Vermont; Geographically Separated Units, presented by Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Gammon, Chief of Staff, Utah National Guard; and updates from the Priority Chairs, Air Director Field Advisory Council (ADFAC), Director of Staff, Air Component (DOSAC), and the Enlisted Field Advisory Council (EFAC).

Max Thunder: Yokota trains combat mobility

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

11/21/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 36th Airlift Squadron participated in Exercise Max Thunder 14-2, flying alongside Republic of Korea military counterparts to integrate their airlift capabilities in a simulated combat environment.

Max Thunder is a biannual, large-scale employment exercise aimed at increasing U.S. and ROK interoperability and ultimately enhances the two countries' commitments to maintain peace in the region.

"We are the only C-130 airlift piece in the Pacific, so it is critical that we have this experience on the peninsula," said Maj. Andrew Baker, 36th AS weapons and tactics flight commander. "When the call goes out from the commanders in South Korea, [anything from humanitarian relief to combat operations], we are right next door and we are going to support them with whatever they need."

These exercises highlight the longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and reaffirm the United States' commitment to stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We are actually participating with the Korean C-130s in our formations and flying with a lot of Korean fighters ... we are committed to them; we are committed to their people," Baker said.

ROK and U.S. forces participating in the exercise have the ability to accept follow-on forces. Interoperability with dissimilar aircraft, like the Yokota C-130s flying with fighters, enables aircrew members to be battle-ready for many potential situations.

"One of the things we are limited to here at Yokota is we have to fly high for our low-level training -- about 1,000 feet above ground level," Baker said. "When we get to Korea, we can get as low as 500 feet above ground level.

"Into the Korean peninsula, we are going down low and getting familiar with the terrain, and that's going to really help us if we ever need to exercise that option," Baker added.

According to Capt. Shawn Hooton, 36th AS flight commander, Korea offers certain mission complexities that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

"Radio procedures are slightly different, the terrain is challenging, but not substantially hazardous, and the coordination process is entirely specific to Korea," Hooton said. "Not to mention, we are sitting in Japan planning a flight in Korea, 700 miles away."

The 36th AS was able to showcase their combat airlift capabilities in the simulated contingency operation, taking advantage of the training opportunity.

"We were very lucky to complete our training," Hooton said. "Any occasion [where] we plan a training flight, any number of limiting factors could potentially cancel our mission. It could be inclement weather, unavailability of airspace or a slew of other potentials."

But, Hooton said that is the nature of the mission here, and his team is prepared for those cases.

"We plan, we flex, we fly, and then we flex some more," Hooton added.

Max Thunder is part of a continuous exercise schedule, strengthening the U.S.-ROK Alliance and helping both nations fulfill their obligations to the Mutual Defense Treaty. The exercise is a regular training event held twice a year.

New York National Guard Continues Storm Relief Mission

By Army Col. Richard Goldenberg
New York National Guard

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 – The New York National Guard had 780 personnel on duty today in western New York as part of Operation Lake Effect, the relief mission for areas blanketed last week by up to 7 feet of snow.

Six hundred troops were assigned directly to the task force working in the Buffalo area.

As snow clearing continues, soldiers and airmen are working to minimize effects of anticipated flooding.

“Our guys are motivated,” Army Capt. Jared Kausner told TV station WIVB. “Their motivation alone is keeping us going, and progress has been going good so far.”

About 50 soldiers sandbagged houses last night in a West Seneca housing development known to be in a flood-prone zone. Stockpiling of sandbags continues today.

Since the mission began, soldiers and airmen have conducted 8,405 manhours of snow removal, manned 54 traffic control points, conducted 55 transportation missions for medical personnel and patients, placed 2,500 sandbags, delivered 200 meals and cleared 700 fire hydrants, along with continuing snow-removal missions, Guard officials said.

UH-72 and UH-60 helicopters are standing by for missions at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rochester, as along with 20 high-axle trucks on standby with crews to respond to flood-related incidents. Four Humvees have been assigned to a response force in case water rescues are needed. Meanwhile, satellite communications equipment was being moved into the area to support state agencies responding to the snowstorm.

Dozens of Vehicles Involved in Effort

Forty-four dump trucks, 13 front-end loaders, 77 Humvees, 13 tractor-trailers, 20 Bobcat/skid steer-type vehicles and two bulldozers are assigned to the mission, mainly working snow removal.

Two large runway snow blowers had been working around the clock, and the Department of Transportation appears to have no more missions for those specialized pieces of equipment, so they will be sent back to Hancock Field Air National Guard Base today unless another mission comes up. These vehicles are less effective with wet snow, officials explained.

“Our soldiers and airmen will continue to clear snow from fire hydrants and will clear storm-water drains in low-lying areas to assist with flood prevention,” a New York National Guard statement said. “Sandbag productions operations at Erie County Community College and the Hamburg DOT facility will continue. Guard soldiers will continue to assist law enforcement with traffic control operations in Hamburg and will provide general assistance to law enforcement in both Hamburg and Boston.”

Work Explains Strategy Behind Innovation Initiative

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 – The Defense Innovation Initiative will help to develop more innovative leaders and identify new operational concepts, but sequestration is still “a problem we need to address as a nation,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said yesterday.

Work discussed the new initiative on Gannett's "DefenseNews With Vago Muradian" program.

Echoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement last week, Work compared elements of the innovation initiative with the department’s first two “offset” strategies, which began in the 1970s.

“The United States has never, since the end of World War II, tried to match our potential adversaries tank for tank, airplane for airplane, person for person, missile for missile,” Work said. “We have always sought an offset.”

Sequestration Limits DoD’s Freedom of Action

Generally, that strategy has been based around people, technology, and then-new operational concepts, Work said.

“Regardless of the budget would be, we would want to do this,” he added. “But under sequestration, our freedom of action is really going to be limited.”

The threat of sequestration, with its nearly $1 trillion in potential spending cuts, was a central topic in Work’s interview with Muradian.

“The president’s been very clear,” Work said. “The national security of the United States is not well served by sequestration. We just have to keep pointing out that if you want a budget-driven strategy, go to sequestration. If you want us to have a strategy that’s good for the nation, then go more with the president’s budget.”

In the memorandum that established the initiative, Hagel noted that “downward fiscal pressure will constrain the way we have traditionally addressed threats.” That pressure will demand a more innovative and agile defense enterprise, the memo said.

Most Important Aspect is People

Work noted that the initiative has five key aspects, but emphasized that the initiative isn’t all about technology. “The first and most important thing is about our people,” he said.

Work discussed the other elements of the departmentwide effort, including the reinvigoration of wargaming, the creation of a long-range research and development program and an increased focus on making DoD business practices more innovative. “If you have more budget top room, you can make more bets and see which one plays out,” he said. “At sequestration, you just simply can’t.”

The deputy secretary made it clear that a budget-driven strategy is not ideal, but he said it’s what will happen if sequestration continues. Unless Congress acts to change the law, sequestration spending cuts resume in fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1.

The innovation initiative is timely, despite budget uncertainty, Work said. He referenced the example of the department’s second offset strategy, which remained in place through several presidential administrations and provided an operational advantage for four decades.

“What we can do in the next two years [of this administration] is kind of set the course,” Work said. “Once you get the strategy right, they generally go across administrations and over time.”

507th ARW tackles new inspection system

by Maj. Jon Quinlan
507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

11/21/2014 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 507th Air Refueling Wing completed the new unit effectiveness inspection capstone event as part of the new Air Force Inspection System, receiving an overall "effective" rating by the 40 member AFRC Inspector General team.

The capstone event was held during the November Unit Training Assembly and concluded on Nov. 4. Inspectors from various functional areas looked at four major graded areas, including managing resources, leading people, improving the unit and executing the mission.  All major areas were graded "effective."

"The new AFIS is the largest positive cultural change I've seen in my Air Force career," said Col. Brian S. Davis, 507th Air Refueling Wing commander, during opening remarks during the November UTA.  "This new process allows our commanders to actually manage the requirements and have accountability. It creates and helps maintain a culture of empowerment."

According to inspectors, the Air Force Inspection System requires a complete mindset shift in how Airmen think about inspections. Despite the challenges of implementing a completely new system, the 507th ARW was able to get all benchmark inspection items accomplished prior to the Oct. 1 deadline, setting up the wing for success.

"I'm so proud of our team," Colonel Davis said. "I want to personally thank you all for a spectacular job well done with the UEI! The Okies set the standard and I am amazed at the hard work you all put into our program. We were able to pull together an excellent team to complete the [Commanders Inspection Program] requirements."

There are five grading tiers for the new AFIS program starting with the highest rating of outstanding, then highly effective, effective, marginally effective and ineffective being the lowest.  For a unit to be 'effective' all requirements in all mission areas must be met. Leaders must treat Airmen with respect and provide a healthy and safe work environment.  Continuous self-improvement efforts are made and critical programs and process are measured and few significant deficiencies are noted.   

The inspection report listed several positive issues noting that the wing overcame significant challenges during sequestration, furlough and government shutdown with highly detailed and prioritized spend plans. The 507th Operations Support Squadron Customer Authorization/Custody Receipt Listing was highlighted as the best program seen to date in AFRC.

Many around the wing noticed that this inspection was much different than previous UCIs.

"The number of inspectors was much smaller, and as most people noticed there was a big emphasis on the group interview sessions where the AFRC team focused on getting the Airmen to voice problems or strengths they have noticed, " said Maj. Robert Atkins, director of inspections.

While the formal capstone inspection is complete, the local IG team emphasizes that this new system is a continuous process and validation happens every two years.

"The backbone of the new program is for every Airman to identify problems they find to the 507th IGI office ... with limited wing inspection manpower, we rely heavily on every Airman identifying observations within the wing. One such way is thru the MICT database, or anyone can call or send us an email on programs or deficiencies that are not part of a checklist." Major Atkins said.    

Five superior performers were named; Maj. Jeffrey Milburn, 465th ARS/OGV; Capt. Brandon Lewis, 507th FSS/FSO; Senior Master Sgt. Rick Skelton, 507th OSS/OSL; Master Sgt. Claudia Borquaye, 507 LRS/LGRDX; Senior Airman Atueayu Wilson, 507th FSS/FSMPS.  Two teams -- Maj Esther Mitchell's Medical Readiness team and Capt. Lisa Morris's Medical Readiness team -- were named "Superior Teams."

President Announces Hagel’s Resignation as Defense Secretary

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 – Praising Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s “class and integrity,” President Barack Obama announced today at the White House that Hagel will leave his post.

The president said Hagel has agreed to remain in his position until a successor is nominated and confirmed. For that, Obama said, he is “extraordinarily lucky and grateful.”

“When I asked Chuck to serve as secretary of defense, we were entering a significant period of transition,” Obama said. That transition included the drawdown in Afghanistan, the need to prepare our forces for future missions, and tough fiscal choices to keep our military strong and ready.

Last month, Obama said, Hagel came to him to discuss the final quarter of his presidency. It was then that Hagel initially determined that, having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service, the president added.

A Steady Hand

“Over nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary defense secretary,” Obama said, crediting Hagel for providing a steady hand during the modernization of the administration’s strategy and budget to meet long-term threats, while still responding to immediate challenges such as ISIL and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Hagel said he is “immensely proud” of what the department has accomplished during his tenure.

“I believe we have set not only this department, the Department of Defense, but the nation on a stronger course toward security, stability and prosperity,” the secretary said.

Privileged to Serve

Hagel called his opportunity to serve as defense secretary the “greatest privilege of my life.”

In the meantime, Hagel said, “I will stay on this job and work just as hard as I have over the last couple of years, every day, every moment, until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.”

The United States of America can proudly claim the strongest military the world has ever known, Obama said.

“That’s the result of the investments made over many decades, the blood and treasure and sacrifices of many generations,” he said. “It’s the result of the character and wisdom of those who lead them as well, including a young Army sergeant in Vietnam who rose to serve as our nation’s 24th secretary of defense.”