Military News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's time to 'own it'

by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


1/28/2015 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Members of Team Whiteman participated in a resiliency-focused down day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 26, 2015.

During several 509th Bomb Wing all calls, Brig. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, 509th Bomb Wing commander, challenged members of Team Whiteman to evaluate ways to mitigate cases of suicide and to identify precursors of someone who might be contemplating taking their own life.

"We need to reinvest in our people," VanHerck told a crowd at one of the seven all calls held throughout the day. "And that starts with all of us and how we communicate with one another, how we treat one another, and how we look out for another. Look to your left. Look to your right. That's your Air Force family and we need to always have each other's best interests at heart - both on- and off-duty."

VanHerck also reflected on the base's many accomplishments over the last year with a goal of refocusing and building the team.

"It is not about me and it is not about you," VanHerck explained. "It's not about yesterday - it's about today. It's about tomorrow. And it's about us - this team right here. Together all of us will continue to refine the way we do business and to do that, each of us needs to be innovative in how we tackle both recurring problems and future challenges."

To make his vision for the 509th BW a reality, the commander stressed several different concepts, including improving interpersonal communication and not walking past a problem.

"Too often we see a problem that may not necessarily be our own," he said, "and we fail to take action. That needs to end and it needs to end now. I want us all to own the problems we see and to take steps to fix them. So if you see a problem, make it your problem. Take the necessary steps toward combating the problem and own it."

VanHerck also explained that throughout the installation, there are drop boxes available for individuals to submit their ideas openly or anonymously as to how the wing can better prepare its members for all the challenges they face.

"I want to know what you think," said VanHerck. "I want to know if you don't have the proper training or the proper resources. I want to know if you're not getting the time you need to focus on our core responsibilities - our mission, our people, and our families. I want to know if there are ways we can accomplish our mission more effectively and efficiently and give more time back to you. You're the folks that can tell me so I can own these problems too and work to fix them."

Hagel Unveils Compensation, Retirement Recommendations



By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2015 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today the release of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization report, which contains recommendations to improve the efficiency and sustainability of compensation benefits for service members and veterans.

A panel of independent, bipartisan commissioners spent about 18 months on the painstaking overhaul based on feedback from more than 150,000 current and retired service members, the secretary said in a statement.

Reforming, Modernizing Benefits

“[The commissioners] have developed a wide-ranging set of recommendations on reforming and modernizing the package of benefits we provide to America's men and women in uniform and their families, and [the Defense Department] will analyze the commission's proposals in full detail,” Hagel said.

While the recommendations released today will not affect the budget request that President Barack Obama will submit to Congress next week, they will, Hagel explained, inform future discussions between the DOD and Congress.

The president, in a statement, acclaimed the commission for their “comprehensive and thorough review” of the military compensation and retirement systems, and said he will in coming weeks closely review a number of specific proposals senior civilian and military leadership.

“In September 2013 I asked the commission to focus on protecting the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force, improving quality of life for service members and their families, and ensuring the fiscal sustainability of the compensation and retirement systems,” Obama said. “Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve nothing less.”

Commissioner Michael Higgins said the new system offers service members and veterans choice, flexibility and access.

“It really steps up and addresses the demands of new generations that we need to recruit and retain,” Higgins noted. “Modernization is where we started, and that’s what caused us to move toward a path of change … and the savings influence sustainability at the end of the day.”

Hagel recognized the commission’s support for grandfathering current service members and retirees with its recommended changes on retirement pay; its focus on protecting future recruitment and retention; and its attempt to propose savings to ensure military members will be able to field a ready, agile, and modern force capable of meeting present and future threats.

While the secretary acknowledged that the findings would be fodder for discourse and debate, he emphasized the “two highest and most solemn obligations” the country has to its military: ensure U.S. troops and their families are fairly and appropriately compensated and cared for during and after their time in uniform, and provide service members with the best training and equipment possible so they are best prepared to answer the nation’s call.

Paratroopers train with Marines in California

by Courtesy story
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs


1/29/2015 - BRIDGEPORT, Calif. -- Paratroopers assigned to Able Company, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment are training in the high reaches of the Sierra Nevada range with Marines at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center.

The month-long training rotation is affording approximately 100 Alaska-based paratroopers the chance to go through high-altitude training opportunities, including pre-environmental and mobility training, the Mountain Communication Course and the Scout Skier Course.

The joint training opportunity is part of U.S. Army Alaska's initiative to enhance partnered high-altitude, cold-regions training.

Upon completion of basic mobility training, the members of Able Company will transition from students to the opposing force for the 26th Marine expeditionary Unit.

The Camp Lejeune-based MEU is completing a deployment validation field exercise.

This is the first time an Army unit has served as the OPFOR for a Marine unit at the training center.

Normally, a battalion-sized MEU has to give up a company to serve as the opposing force during an FEX.

Having USARAK forces on hand will allow the entire MEU to train as one unit, while giving Able Company valuable experience in fighting a uniformed force in conditions that are familiar to Alaska-based Soldiers.

The FEX is largely unscripted, the scenario updated daily based on real-world news and intelligence events, said Brandon Schroder, an exercise planner at MWTC.
For Able Company, this means the freedom to maneuver at will against the 26th MEU within the deployment validation.

The outcome of the fight will be based on which unit can out-maneuver and out-fight the other, providing valuable experience to both commands.

Like USARAK's Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, MWTC provides "turn-key" ease of training, according to Schroder. A unit arrives and gets to train immediately.

The instructor-led, pre-environmental and basic mobility training makes graduates Department of Defense level-one mountaineers, another similarity to USARAK's NWTC.

To the paratroopers who are NWTC graduates, the opportunity to conduct similar training at the Marine center adds to their proficiency.

"I think coming from Alaska gave us a leg up for this kind of training; guys knew what to expect." said Army 1st. Lt. Matthew Ray, Able Company's executive officer. "They're used to the cold temperatures, so there wasn't a shock factor."

The developing partnership between the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and the Northern Warfare Training Center in Alaska is extremely important, in that both centers provide a range of climate types and expansive terrain for units to train in extreme-cold-weather, high-altitude regions within the Department of Defense footprint.

This partnership effort will continue in February, when senior leaders from the MWTC join other military leaders from around the world at USARAK's Cold Regions Military Mountaineering Collaborative Training Event at the Northern Warfare Training Center.

Preparing for success: Osan maintains ready force with IPE

by Senior Airman David Owsianka
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/29/2015 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- As service members arrive at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, they will receive individual protective equipment from the 51st Logistic Readiness Squadron IPE unit.

In nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, IPE clothing and equipment are used to protect an individual from biological and chemical hazards and some nuclear effects. All mission essential personnel will receive their gear within the first 10-days upon arriving on station.

"It is imperative we issue chemical gear, because North Korea uses chemical warfare," said Senior Airman Tyree Johnson, 51st LRS IPE technician. "With that being said, we have to be ready to fight at all times with us being so close to the border."

The mission of the IPE unit is to ensure that all essential personnel in-processing at Osan receives their chemical gear.

Each person will receive a training bag and real-world bag. The training bag includes a canteen, web belt, personal carrier, training boots, training coat and trousers, gas mask, vest, plates, training gloves and inserts. The real world bag contains two pairs of coats and trousers, two pairs of boots, M8 paper, M9 tape, two gas mask filters, an M295 decontamination kit, and two pairs of gloves and inserts.

"I believe it is essential that we have the equipment, so that we are always prepared," said Capt. Keyanna Spears, 51st LRS vehicle management flight commander. "The way the world is now, we never know when we will need to put it on."

During operational readiness exercises, service members will train with the equipment to prepare themselves for potential real-world contingencies.

"Having trained with the equipment, it has helped prepare me to know what to wear and what to expect," Spears said. "The scenarios also put me in the mindset that this could happen at any time and we always need to be ready."

The IPE unit allows service members to be more equipped in case of an emergency.

"Training with the equipment helps Airmen support the overall mission, because it allows us to be better prepared and more knowledgeable of what we are doing here at Osan," Johnson said.

Future missileers get immersion experience at F.E. Warren

by Senior Airman Veronica Ward
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs


1/29/2015 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- A group of approximately 20 cadets who are slated to enter the missile operations career field upon graduation this summer, visited F. E. Warren AFB Jan. 15-17 to learn about the mission and see it firsthand.

The immersion trip was organized to introduce and welcome future missileers to the team and allowed cadets to learn about the importance of the nuclear mission, said Maj. Gen. Richard Clark, a 1986 USAFA graduate and vice commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

"You don't start building leaders when they're majors, you start building leaders when they're cadets," Clark said during a briefing at the Academy prior to accompanying the group on the trip. "It takes years to get the right leaders in command and right now we need an infusion of excellence."

Approximately 60 members of the Class of 2015 are slated to train as missileers after graduation, with the intent that this group will bring a new perspective into the career field.

"If they come together and become the nucleus, they can infuse a unique level of teamwork to the field, lean on each other, and as the team grows they can pull others in," Clark said. "My hope is that they can evolve with the modernization of the force and become the new thinkers. They are at the front end of the change that is starting now."

Current missileers led cadets through a three-day immersion, answering questions about the daily actions of young lieutenants going into the career field.

"I'm excited to show them everything about the nuclear career field," said 1st Lt. Jason Ponce, 90th Operations Group. Ponce, a 2012 Academy graduate who guided the group through the experience, along with 1st Lt. Heather Randall, also with the 90th OG.

Officers from the squadron to major command levels took part in briefings and demonstrations, offering advice and encouragement to the future missileers.

"We're here to help expand their knowledge and awareness of what this mission entails," said Maj. Joshua Henderson, a career missileer and Academy air officer commanding of Cadet Squadron 7. "By doing so--exploring the operations, maintenance and security forces elements of the mission at F.E. Warren--they'll be better enabled to understand what they are going to see and set the bedrock of their future success as missile combat crew commanders."

Throughout the trip, cadets held discussions with lieutenants who went through the training missileers enter upon graduation and received responses to rumors they'd heard about the career field.

"I didn't know much about the (missileer) career field," said Cadet 1st Class John Fernandez, CS-5 . "I was pretty hesitant, but now I know what I'm getting myself into. It seems like a good community."

Officers agreed this immersion is beneficial to cadets, allowing them perspective prior to becoming lieutenants.

"They deserve to go into the career field with the best posture they can and have every opportunity to be successful," Clark said. "By getting their questions answered, they can start with their eyes open. They already have every tool they need from USAFA. Now they need a vision with purpose of who they want to be."

The majority of cadets agreed the immersion, though not available for every career field, has given them a more informed outlook.

"It was really awesome being able to see not only what the missileers do every day but also being able to see the different components such as security forces and the maintenance side," said Cadet 1st Class Kerri Schmidt, CS-3 . "I'm actually really glad I'm in this career field now, seeing everything that's happened, and I'm looking forward to the future."

Fernandez expressed the same sentiment.

"I'm looking forward to getting experience, getting into an operational career field, and serving my country," he said.

U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran awarded Purple Heart

by Master Sgt. Todd Wivell
62nd Airlift Wing


1/28/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- After 45 years of waiting, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Campbell, a Gig Harbor, Wash., resident and Vietnam Veteran received his Purple Heart during a ceremony at the American Lake Veterans Hospital Chapel, Jan. 25th.
   
With more than 100 members in attendance, including members of Team McChord, local government agencies, community supporters and family, Campbell was presented his Purple Heart by Congressman Derek Kilmer, representing the 6th District of Washington.
  
"Today is a day to think of the obligations we owe all our men and women who have served their country," said Kilmer. "Whether they have served in past or current conflicts, our nation has a solemn obligation to properly recognize them for their service.

"Today is a day to say thank you to John, to honor John and remember those obligations. Today we reflect on the fact it is never too late to say thank you."
   
Campbell was wounded Jan. 1, 1970, during an enemy attack while he was stationed in Laos. Due to the fact that his mission was classified, he was forced to wait for it to become declassified and in 2014 it was and he was awarded his Purple Heart with a back date of Jan. 1, 1970.

"The early morning hours of Jan. 1, 1970 my life changed forever," said Campbell. "I was wounded after a rocket hit our location and killed my fellow service brothers Bob, Tony and Dennis. To me, the real reason I am here today is to honor these men who lost their lives that day.

"War is not like what you see in the movies and of most of you here today know this. I will never know my fellow service brothers full names or anything more about them but I will remember them with the memories I have of them and honor them with his ceremony."

One of the members that Campbell talked about remembering was Capt. James Cross, an Air Force member he had served with and who was missing in action until late 2008.
   
"The POW/MIA table in the back of the room today is so important to me," said Campbell. "It is a remembrance of my brothers like Capt. Cross and it is a constant reminder of the men that gave their lives for me."

Campbell returned from Laos to his family and began to make an immediate impact on his community.
 
"Staff Sgt. Campbell's story becomes more heroic as we reflect on his action after his return to our community," said Kilmer. "He came to the Northwest and made it his life's goal to help save those who needed help in the community."

Campbell dedicated his life to help troubled children, young teenagers and battered women. He became a sponsor of a teenage youth group and later became an executive of the Genesis House, a place to help protect battered women and children, mentor them and give them the skills needed to turn their lives around.

"Staff Sgt. Campbell exemplifies the distinction that has been bestowed upon him for his service and I am proud to be a part of this ceremony today," said Kilmer. "I am eternally grateful for his service to our country and his ongoing contributions to this community."

"I want to thank my wife of 46 years and my son for supporting me through these years," said Campbell. "It was not until 2010 that they learned for the first time that I was in combat and was the only one to come home, they didn't even know I was wounded as I just never talked about it.

"They have loved me and supported me through all those years and I am grateful they are here today to share in this ceremony with me."

What is an SVC?

by Senior Airman Rebecca Blossom
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


1/28/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- "What is an SVC?," asked Col. David Kumashiro, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, to a group of 24 females during a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response sensing session.

The commander thought the question would be easy to answer, yet only one person knew what the Special Victims' Counsel is or does.

"It's an evolving field of legal representation," says Capt. Kennard Keeton, Air Force SVC to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord region. "To put it simply, an SVC is an attorney who represents a victim of sexual assault and their interests alone."

An emergent resource, the Air Force SVC program was implemented Jan. 28, 2013.

Since becoming an SVC in the JBLM region, which includes Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, Keeton has represented more than thirty individuals across the globe. While an SVC may be referred to you, if one is not you may request one to represent you.

"No one who is eligible for an SVC, and requests services, goes without representation," he says. "We will go wherever our services are needed."

Those services include confidential legal advice, legal assistance, and restricted reporting without repercussions, and attending interviews, hearings, trainings, and courts-martial, with only the best interest of the victim in mind.

These services aren't necessarily the same as services from a judge advocate officer in the base legal office.

"The legal office represents the government's interest in the prosecution. Typically, the government's interest is to see justice done, and if warranted, send the offender to jail," says Keeton. "Often our interests align, but I'm advocating for my client's interests alone, which may or may not differ from what the government wants to do."

As the field grows, the scope of SVC representation expands as well, explains Lt. Col. Andrea deCamara, Air Force SVC Division chief.

"SVCs currently represent more than 30 child victims, a completely new area of practice, and the SVC Charter is being revised to make it clear that SVCs may advise and assist client-victims who have experienced retaliation," said deCamara. "The military justice landscape has evolved to ensure victims are treated with dignity and respect throughout the courts-martial process.

"Our SVCs stand at the forefront of that evolution, making a difference in the lives of sexual assault victims and in the culture of our Air Force."

While the SVC program continues to develop, SVCs continue to serve as a valuable resource for Airmen who may not know what to do if they become a victim of sexual assault.

"With an SVC, the Airmen have someone they can go to, to demystify the process," says Keeton. "Someone who is familiar with, well-versed in, and has been through the process numerous times, who can help them make informed decisions, and give them back as much power as possible. You have someone fighting for you with only your interests at heart."

For more information, contact the JBLM SVC at 253-982-5210, or visit the SVC office located at 100 Col. Joe Jackson Blvd, Suite 3115.

U.S., China Announce Defense Talks



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2015 – U.S. and Chinese defense officials will meet at the Pentagon Feb. 5 for the Defense Policy Coordination Talks, according to a Pentagon official.

David Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, will host the talks with Rear Admiral Li Ji, deputy director of the Chinese ministry of national defense foreign affairs office, according to Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Pool.

The U.S. delegation will include representatives from the Joint Staff, U.S. Pacific Command, the State Department, and the National Security Council staff, Pool said, while the Chinese delegation will include representatives of the Ministry of National Defense and relevant military bodies.

The meeting, the spokesman said, is an important component of the broader program of engagements between the two nations' militaries, which seeks to foster sustained and substantive dialogue, deepen practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and focus on enhancing risk reduction.

This year's talks, he added, will emphasize the positive momentum sustained in the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship over the past year, which included historic agreements to establish new confidence building measures between the two militaries, and endorse the robust program of engagements planned for the rest of the year.

Following his training, Airman assists injured skier

by Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer


1/26/2015 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- It was a cold, sunny day at Monarch Mountain ski area near Salida, and Senior Airman Elliott Cox, 721st Security Forces Squadron Airman, was heading to the lodge to meet his companions after enjoying a day of snowboarding.

"It was a pretty good average day at the mountain," Cox recalled. But it would quickly become anything but an average day.

On Jan. 2 Cox rushed to the aid of Ali Watts, 62, who broke her femur and lay helpless at the side of the slope. Cox relied on his training, took control of the situation and assisted Watts until the ski patrol and medical personnel arrived. He continued assisting them in getting Watts safely down the mountain where she was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.

He was just heading down the run, passing a bit of a clearing when he caught sight of a woman off the side of the trail laying in powder waving and shouting for help.

"I heard her screaming for help. I knew it wasn't someone kidding around," Cox recounted. "I knew I was the first person (to respond) and I had to take initiative."

Cox took action, coming up to Watts and quickly seeing by the position of her leg that all was not right. He drew upon his security forces training as a first responder, as well as training he received prior to deploying to Afghanistan, to help her. His quick action made a bad situation much better.

Approaching Watts, Cox noticed her position was awkward. Watts, who was trained as a nurse, told him her femur was broken. He called out to another skier, sending him for the ski patrol. He then got behind her and supported Watts, relieving some of the pressure on her broken bone.

Watts, a veteran skier, had just completed a black diamond slope coming to a place where it emptied into some other, less advanced runs. To that point she was having a great day on a new pair of skis and boots. She saw some nice powder, decided to take a run through it and suddenly found herself flying through the air. She doesn't remember much about it, but the one thing she does remember is horrible.

"I heard it, a noise nobody wants to hear," Watts said, recalling the sound her femur made when it snapped. She knew it was bad; the notion was confirmed when she saw her right foot turned 180 degrees in the wrong direction. "Then the pain flooded in, indescribable pain."

But immediate excruciating pain was just one worry Watts had at the moment.

"I only had my voice so I yelled. It felt like forever and I was afraid my voice would run out and it was all I had," she said, shadows from the terror of the moment playing across her face as she recalled the incident.

For her it seemed an eternity. A few skiers passed by, not hearing her cries for help, before Cox arrived. Kneeling upon his snowboard, Cox supported Watts and comforted her for about 10 minutes until medical help arrived. They administered pain medications, and stabilized her before moving her to the medical care area and then to a helicopter that would take her to the hospital.

Because of their ski equipment and the fact Cox was primarily behind her the whole time, Watts did not know what Cox looked like and did not have a chance to thank him until a meeting in her hospital room Jan 15. It was an emotional meeting.

"I finally get to see what you look like," Watts said.

Watts was visibly moved facing the person who came to her aid and provided comfort when she needed it most. Cox was thoughtful, being praised for something that was an immediate response for him.

"I don't remember seeing you, but I remember leaning on you and thinking, 'thank God.' You felt so present," Watts said. "You held my hand and I was grateful. Here was a man I never met telling me it would be OK. And I felt it would be."

"I am grateful I could be there for you," was Cox's reply. "When I saw you waving, because of my training I knew I needed to take the initiative and do something instead of waiting for someone else."

Because Cox responded to directions from the medical care team, understanding the situation because of his background, he was integrated into her care and transport. His experience and action under pressure was not lost on at least one of the medical responders: Capt. Eric Miller, 140th Medical Group, Buckley Air Force Base and a member of the Monarch ski patrol medical team. Miller nominated Cox for the Gold Knight Award for his action in helping Watts.

"It's a good feeling, I am appreciative of (the nomination). I didn't think I was doing anything different than anyone else would," Cox said.

Cox, who wants to make a career of being a first responder, policeman or firefighter, said the meeting was heartfelt.

"How life changing it can be to know how I helped her," he shared, "At first I didn't know how powerful (the meeting with Watts) would be, but I am glad to help."

Watts' recovery will take some time. She won't even be able to put weight on her leg for about three months. But she is a fighter, recently recovering from a bout with cancer, so the chances of Watts hitting the slopes again is reasonable. And when she does she wants Cox to join her.

"We should arrange to go to the slopes together," she told Cox. He looks forward to that day.

Call it fortune, call it fate that Cox was there right at the time he was needed. Call it serendipity that the first people providing her assistance were in the Air Force and worked in a coordinated fashion to get her off the mountain. But maybe it is more than that.

"My dad was in the Air Force," Watts said. "I think he would be proud that it was people from the Air Force."