Saturday, October 31, 2015

Face of Defense: Soldier Develops Apps to Help His Comrades

By Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division

FORT HOOD, Texas, October 29, 2015 — Today, almost everything is on the Internet, and mobile devices place that immense collection of knowledge in the palms of our hands.

But not everything is online -- or at least much of it isn’t readily accessible -- so one noncommissioned officer is using the power of the Internet to help soldiers.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Russell, mortar platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, develops mobile applications to provide troops and their families with tools to help them navigate their duty stations and surrounding communities.

About 15 years ago, while stationed in South Korea, Russell struggled to get from one place to another in the foreign country. It was an irritating reality that Russell said he just became accustomed to over time. Russell recalled that experience when he returned to South Korea last year with the Charger Battalion for a rotational deployment. He was shocked, he said, that there were still very few resources to help soldiers navigate the local area.

“There was nothing being done about it, except through each area’s publication, so I didn’t like that,” said Russell, a Fayetteville, North Carolina, native. “So I said, ‘Let me try making an app.’ The app was really for my soldiers, because they were new. Korea was not new to me.”

After getting the runaround from a couple of mobile application developers, Russell said, he took matters into his own hands.

“I was like, ‘Well, I’ll teach myself,’ so I went on Google,” he said. “I tell people now, ‘I went to Google University, and my professor’s name was YouTube.’ That is who taught me.”

One-Stop Shop

The app, called Penn Around, serves as a mobile one-stop shop stocked with all the resources a soldier assigned to South Korea might need. Penn Around consolidates a variety of information under one umbrella, Russell said.

“When the app first started, it started small,” said Army Sgt. Melvin Dizon, fire direction computer check assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-12 Cav. “It was basically the bus schedules of all the camps. That helped, since being 1-12, we weren’t from Korea. It was the best thing that was out at the time to help soldiers who were transitioning figure out where to go.”

Inside the roughly 13-megabyte file are resources ranging from bus schedules and military lodging information to MyPay, taxis and exchange vendors.

And the response has been positive.

The app has more than 5,000 downloads and an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. “Very convenient app,” one reviewer wrote. “It provides access to all the bus schedules as well as keeps me up to date with what’s going on.”

Dizon said that Russell put care, thought and the concerns of his soldiers into the development of this resource.

“Sergeant Russell approached each member of our platoon, because he said he was going to start an app to help soldiers transition and get around Korea,” Dizon said. “He took ideas from every soldier in our platoon, so whatever ideas we first pitched to him, he added that to the initial app when it first came out. Ever since then, it actually evolved. Now it has the SHARP program on it. It has the movie times. Whatever you needed as a soldier out there, it eventually ended up on the app.”

Off-Duty Time

Russell spent a lot of his off-duty time ensuring he was going through all the right channels and getting permission from all the right people at every step of the way -- a lot of work for a noncommissioned officer who simply wanted to help his soldiers learn how to traverse the Korean Peninsula.

Russell’s concern for the welfare of others didn’t stop there.

The single father sought information about safe neighborhoods in which to rear his son. This quest for knowledge grew into “Tx Corral,” another mobile app that serves as a tool to keep citizens informed of what’s going on in their neighborhood and in neighboring towns.

It taps into the social media feeds of various law enforcement agencies and provides access to services that contact nearby cab companies and tow trucks using the GPS location from the user’s phone.

Russell dedicated a lot of time to traveling throughout Central Texas to obtain permission from the various agencies involved to use their information.

Having tackled Central Texas and the Land of the Morning Calm, Russell is currently working on prototype apps for U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Japan.

In all of the programs he is working on, Russell said, he considers what is important and relevant to the soldiers at that specific assignment. What is a priority for soldiers in Hawaii isn’t necessarily what’s important to soldiers in South Korea, and vice versa, he explained.

As the apps are all free to download, there is no monetary gain for Russell. But he does get the satisfaction of knowing he may have helped a soldier answer the same questions he once had.

633rd SFS Airmen, Hampton police train to enhance JBLE

by Senior Airman Kayla Newman
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/28/2015 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  -- Driving on a military installation isn't a privilege many receive, and until recently, if a civilian or military motorist waspulled over for a driving infraction, the ticket was taken to the violator's first sergeant for repercussions. Now, civilian ticketed motorists will have to answer to a federal magistrate.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 633rd Security Forces Squadron recently spent a week working side-by-side with the Hampton Police Division to obtain their Virginia state radar certification.

"This is significant for [SFS] because it's one of the duties of law enforcement," said Sgt. Pelham Felder, Hampton PD Homeland Security unit supervisor. "It gives them the training and experience so they can go out and be more efficient as far as traffic safety and enforcement."

During the 16-hour classroom portion of the certification, SFS personnel spent time learning Doppler Theory and principles before practical testing, where they became proficient at setting up and testing the radars.  Once it was time to apply what was taught, the Airmen could visually estimate the speed of a vehicle.

According to Senior Airman Sean Lennon, 633rd SFS Base Defense Operations Center controller, while SFS personnel have used radars in the past, they didn't have the Virginia State certification required to issue speeding tickets to civilian motorist.

"Now we have the authority to write speeding tickets to civilian personnel and actually have that individual appear in federal magistrate court, along with the ticketing officer," said Lennon. "For uniformed members, it's more of a base charge. Once they have a certain amount of points they can be denied base driving privileges."

With the radar certifications, SFS personnel and Hampton PD hope this will encourage drivers on the installation to slow down and abide by the traffic laws.

"Hopefully this causes people to slow down. I'm sure people see a lot of people speeding, especially when they are leaving base after work," said Lennon. "Hopefully they realize it's not the most important thing to get off base two minutes early."

Carter to Visit Asia-Pacific Region, Discuss Rebalance With Partner-Nations’ Leaders

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, October 29, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter begins an eight-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region tomorrow, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.

During his third visit to the Asia-Pacific in eight months, the secretary will meet with leaders from more than a dozen nations across East Asia and South Asia to help advance the next phase of the U.S. military’s rebalance in the region by modernizing longtime alliances and building new partnerships, DoD officials said.

Among numerous meetings, Carter will attend the 47th annual U.S-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers Plus meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Davis said.

The secretary also will deliver the keynote address at the 3rd annual Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, before returning to Washington.

The forum brings together leaders and key stakeholders in the defense community, including members of Congress and civilian and military leaders from the Defense Department and industry to address national defense health and encourage discussions that promote policies to strengthen the U.S. military, according to the forum’s web site.

Commentary: AFRL people: A national asset

by Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello
Commander, Air Force Research Laboratory

10/28/2015 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- We recognized Air Force Research Laboratory's top scientists and engineers on Oct. 22 during the AFRL Fellows and Early Career Awards banquet. It was a spectacular event.

We inducted seven senior researchers as AFRL Fellows, our most prestigious honor, representing the top 0.2 percent of our professional technical workforce. Another five S&Es were presented awards for truly exceptional leadership potential and research contributions early in their careers.

They were spotlighted from among a small, diverse and highly talented workforce of 3,511 engineers and scientists, who are charged with providing our nation's Air Force with revolutionary, relevant and responsive capabilities. It's an awesome responsibility and our efforts focus on all three domains of air, space and cyber.

The fact that both Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, and Dr. Greg Zacharias, Chief Scientist of the Air Force, joined in honoring these men and women underscores senior Air Force leaders appreciate what AFRL brings to the table. AFRL is the global technology integrator that brings agile, innovative and trusted value to the U.S. Air Force.

In September, I attended the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference, where the theme was "Reinvent the Aerospace Nation." Leaders clearly emphasized we cannot do that without great people. Our senior leaders understand that the people are the platform for which innovative ideas, strategies, and technologies are delivered to the fight. The people, along with innovation and technology will remain the pillars of the American strength and its determination.

AFRL people are at the foundation of every Air Force weapon system currently fielded and on the horizon. They absolutely are a national asset. Collectively, AFRL people are the lens that focuses the national technical base on Air Force needs, to provide tomorrow's warfighters with an unfair advantage.

Working closely with our industry, academic, international and other government agency partners, AFRL people fulfill the critical leadership role of turning science into warfighting capabilities.

I frequently get asked what's the next big thing ... What's on the horizon? My answer is always the revolutionary game-changers which AFRL and others are focusing on: hypersonics; directed energy; autonomy; nanotechnology; and unmanned Systems. But, we are also charged with thinking about the next game-changers, technologies like: quantum technologies, additive manufacturing and synthetic biology. This mix of game-changing research will continue to evolve and revolutionize how we fight in the future.

However our contributions to leverage science and technology to enhance the capabilities of today's warfighters and to rapidly respond with solutions to the urgent "We need this now" problems are equally important. Our research supports all service core functions and major commands by addressing prioritized capability gaps.

It's true that focused science and technology investment has given the U.S. a qualitative military advantage. Our peers and adversaries had decades to study the American way of war.  So it should come as no surprise they're investing heavily in their own technology, and they are catching up fast. Our technical dominance is no longer assured. The work by AFRL people to prevent technological surprise and to deliver agile capabilities is more important now than ever.

From advanced turbine engines, to human performance augmentation, to advanced space situational awareness, AFRL people are at the cutting edge, focused on providing America's Airmen the best technology at the right time. We owe them a debt of gratitude. I could not be more proud to serve as their commander.

Team 5-0 members support children at Good Grief Camp

by 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

10/28/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Service members from Schriever Air Force Base and other military installations around Colorado Springs volunteered as mentors at a National Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp Oct. 10 - 11, 2015, at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The camp was hosted and sponsored by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a not-for-profit organization that has held grief counseling camps across the nation for more than a decade.

According to their website,, "The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers compassionate care to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in our Armed Forces. Since 1994, TAPS has provided comfort and hope 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources, all at no cost to surviving families and loved ones."

TAPS is a national organization that was started to help family members in the grieving process. Bonnie Carroll, TAPS president and founder, was the wife of Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, who passed away in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992. Following his death, she was unsatisfied with the resources available to assist those in her same situation.

TAPS became a way for families to get together for counseling and support through the loss of a loved one in the armed forces. Master Sgt. Steven Grant, 50th Space Communications Squadron section chief of network infrastructure, attended the event for the second year in a row.

Grant explained why supporting children at the Good Grief Camps is so important.

"The kids experience not only a loss in their family, but they also experience a kind of identity crisis, because they're no longer military affiliated," explained Grant. "What TAPS gives them is an opportunity to get with other kids in their same position, open up to some of the grieving process and by tying in military members, it kind of gives them [back] that connection to their loved one."

At the beginning of the weekend-long camp, parents and adult family members dropped off their children with the mentors before heading to their own peer counseling activities. The early portions of the activities were in a very relaxed social environment. Kids in attendance were not forced to interact, but instead given freedom to talk/play with their mentors as they felt comfortable.

"We went over each child's information sheet prior to the actual event and mine said she was very shy," said Staff Sgt. Taylor Koch, 50th Space Wing administrative assistant and Good Grief Camp mentor. "I was thankful to know what to anticipate. She took about 10 minutes to warm up but once she did she didn't leave my side."

Throughout the weekend, kids attending the camp participated in activities and games ranging from sports, to crafts, to music.

"They actually had an excellent musician come in, we made a drum and he talked about the language of music," said Grant. "The kids were able to beat the drum and have an outlet to express their frustrations and their feelings through music so it was an excellent program."

Koch explained that volunteering for the program is not for everyone, but is a rewarding opportunity.

"We heard four and five-year-olds talk about some pretty heavy things," she said. "But just knowing you've made an impact like we did is so overwhelming and rewarding. I would highly recommend anyone who is interested to get involved."

Grant explained there was a diverse group of youth in attendance, some who were comfortable and some who needed more time to open up. For most of the children however, he said he could definitely see a positive change in their demeanors by the end of the camp.

The impact of volunteering is even more powerful as a parent, Grant shared.

"Being a father of three, it really got me to think about what would happen if I were to pass away, you know, I would want someone to be there for my children," said Grant.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wounded Warriors, Prince Harry Inspire Each Other

By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity

FORT MEADE, Md., October 29, 2015 — It's not every day you get to meet a prince, but several of America's injured service members were given that chance yesterday, showing off their adaptive sports skills to Britain's Prince Harry, who visited Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to officially launch the 2016 Invictus Games.

Prince Harry was greeted by cheers -- and some squeals -- when he entered Wells Field House. He, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, were introduced as if they were the stars of their own basketball game, slapping hands with the athletes who lined up to meet them.

"All right, ladies, Prince Harry is here. Don't act like you don't notice," Mrs. Obama said as the crowd laughed.

But why he was there is a serious subject that's dear to his heart.

Prince Harry is no stranger to war. He spent 10 years in the British army and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan -- deployments that he said "changed the direction of my life." He revealed how, after his first deployment, he shared a flight home with three British soldiers in comas and a Danish soldier who had been killed in action. That's when the reality of war really sunk in.

"From that moment, I knew I had the responsibility to help all veterans who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries to lead healthy and dignified lives after service," he said.

He's trying his best to keep to that promise, including in America.

Keeping His Promise

In May 2012, Prince Harry met with five injured Defense Department service members in Washington, D.C., before accepting a humanitarian award for his charity work with wounded warriors. He then attended the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado, which is where the idea for the Invictus Games was born.

"I saw the power that sport could play in the recovery of both mind and body," he said. "I left Colorado with a determination to broaden this to an international audience."

The Invictus Games are something retired U.S. Army Sgt. Blake Johnson is excited about. The 23-year-old, who shattered his knee in a car crash in Germany, was pumped to show off his wheelchair basketball skills for the prince and the first lady.

"I think it's great. I'm grateful they gave me the opportunity to see them," said Johnson, a 2015 Warrior Games participant. "When I first got involved with [adaptive] basketball, that was the first team sport I did, and I'll never forget it. That was kind of my turnaround point. I was like, 'This is making me happy.'"

More than 400 service members from 13 countries competed in last year's inaugural Invictus Games in London. U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Angelo Anderson, who was shot several times on a combat patrol in Afghanistan in 2010, was one of them.

"It was just amazing. For [Prince Harry] to have us in his backyard and welcome us with open arms was huge," Anderson said. "I think I can speak for all the other athletes in all the other countries in saying that it was an incredible experience."

"The games epitomized the very best of the human spirit -- men and women who had not only adjusted to life, but embraced it, proving what can be achieved post-injury rather than focusing on what cannot," Prince Harry said.

Anderson agreed.

"I hope the games inspire the person who can't see past their injuries and dark times," he said. "It really helps them find that new normal. You're not just Joe Amputee down the street. You're a Joe that can help make a difference."

Breaking Down Barriers, Changing Perceptions

The four days of games in Orlando are meant to help the athletes break down barriers and change perceptions, especially when it comes to invisible injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder and people's fear of asking for help.

"This fear of coming forward as a result of the stigma which surrounds mental health is one of the greatest challenges that veterans face today," Prince Harry said. "We have to help them all to get the support that they need without fear of being judged or discriminated against. Not only is it OK to talk about it, we have to talk about it."

The first lady said the games are about showing the world stories of grit, courage and grace.

"These are the stories that our wounded warriors and their families are living out every single day, whether the cameras are around or not -- whether we're here or not,” she said. “You guys are doing the work that makes us proud."

Prince Harry and Mrs. Obama, who spoke before the event's exhibition game kicked off, also sprinkled in a little friendly smack-talk.

"I guess I should apologize to him in advance for all the gold medals that America will win in Orlando," the first lady said.

"You better bring it, USA," the prince said in return.