Friday, March 06, 2015

AF, sister services rally at Pentagon to put focus on Close Air Support

by Benjamin Newell
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

3/6/2015 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  -- Representatives of each military service, joint warfighters, and civilian experts came together to discuss the future of Close Air Support at an Air Combat Command-command hosted summit at the Pentagon, March 2-6.

Dubbed "Future CAS Focus Week", the event served as a joint forum for more than 60 participants and senior leaders to discuss the current state of the CAS mission and existing and potential challenges, future requirements and capability gaps.  CAS is an attack by military aircraft against enemy ground forces who are in close proximity to friendly forces.

"We gathered the best minds in the joint arena to take a deep look at close air support," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command.  "Our objective is to establish a way ahead that ensures close air support capabilities meet warfighter demands today and are sustainable into the future."

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force directed the Focus Week, a tacit recognition that budget and operational concerns are forcing the services to reassess how they organize, train and equip and that it is more important than ever to take the time to assess the current state of the critical CAS mission. As the lead command for the Combat Air Forces, with a role of ensuring the right platforms and CAS experts in their cockpits, ACC was the natural choice to execute the event.

"We have flown CAS missions since World War I," said Col James Meger, Commander of ACC's 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "It's part of our DNA and commitment to our joint teammates and it will be part of our mission for another 100.  We have built a strong CAS culture with our pilots and our Joint Terminal Air Controllers.  CAS entails a highly trained force to protect our friendly forces and hunt down and kill our Nation's enemies."

In addition to representatives from each of the services, attendees included members of the Joint Staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Rand Corporation. Most important, attendees included representatives of the ground forces that benefit from CAS and the air crew and JTACs who ensure its application on the battlefield.

"Inter-service collaboration is essential in order to determine the way forward for effective CAS in the future," said Marine Corps Major Dustin Byrum, Air Officer Department Head, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, Yuma, Ariz. "As a Marine pilot and Forward Air Controller I have supported Air Force and Coalition JTACs as well as been supported by Air Force aircraft. We have to be able to operate in a joint environment. Having all of our joint partners together to talk about fire support allows us to incorporate the views and capabilities of each service."

That point was echoed by Col. Jeffrey Burdett, ACC's Assistant Deputy Director of Requirements here, who noted that collaboration was critical in the face of changing threats.

"The enemy changes and we change," Burdett said. "While the joint community conducts close air support better than ever before, the current experience [i.e. operating in relatively uncontested airspace] has degraded our ability to operate in more demanding environments. In concert with our joint service partners, we developed an understanding of where the Air Force should focus its future resources to best support the CAS mission."

Focus Week participants were divided into three groups. One group included experts in past CAS operations, who provided details on what the services have learned during more than a decade of continuous combat operations. A second studied the current state of CAS capabilities. The final group looked at emerging threats and how the services could factor those threats into training, tactics, procedures, and doctrine. Collectively, the groups approached their discussions from the perspective that CAS is broader than any particular platform.

"It's critical for those who follow our current operations to understand that CAS is not a mission defined by a single aircraft," said Rollin Dixon, ACC's Deputy Chief of Flight Operations. "We want to pull in all the experts to really look at how we will continue performing this mission, regardless of the platform we're using."

That point was echoed by the Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, who at a Defense Writers Group breakfast last month said that added that "...from the Army side, we view it [the CAS mission] as absolutely critical. What a Soldier wants to see, and what the command structure of the United States Army wants to have happen, is when circumstances on the battlefield require, we have explosive ordnances on the enemy position.  What platform the Air Force chooses to utilize in that is a matter for their discussions and decisions."

Due to the classified nature of the discussions, recommendations won't likely be made public. However, the fruits of these discussions may be changes that will impact the course of CAS training and execution for years.

"We sat down with all our joint partners, our customers, to ask them what they wanted and what they thought about the future of CAS.  From there we melded recommendations to ensure all aspects of the Air Force's CAS mission continue to develop and are improved by technology and joint interoperability," said Meger. "Most important we provided recommendations to ensure the appropriate weight of effort was placed on the mission and that the Air Force CAS culture is not just preserved but that it advances."

Stamp Sheet Honors Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipients

U.S. Postal Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2015 – This Sunday, March 8, marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the ground war in Vietnam with the deployment of 3,500 Marines. By war’s end on April 30, 1975, nearly 3 million service men and women had fought in the conflict that would take the lives of more than 58,000 Americans.

Of those who served during the Vietnam War, 258 were awarded the Medal of Honor. More than six out of 10 award recipients made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives while performing the courageous acts for which they were later honored. American military advisers had been involved in South Vietnam since the 1950s.

Honoring Vietnam War Medal of Honor Recipients

The U.S. Postal Service will honor these brave Americans by dedicating the Limited Edition Vietnam War Medal of Honor Prestige Folio Forever stamps on Memorial Day, May 25. The 1 p.m. ceremony, hosted by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service, will take place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public.

The Prestige Folio stamp sheet depicting many of the nearly 50 living Vietnam War recipients will be previewed later. The folio, which lists the names of all 258 recipients, will be modeled after the World War II and Korean War Medal of Honor Prestige Folio stamp sheets issued in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The Medal of Honor is America’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president of the United States on behalf of Congress to members of the armed services who distinguish themselves through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.

The Medal of Honor traces its origins to the first year of the Civil War, when Congress saw the need for a formal means of recognizing or rewarding acts of heroism. In 1861, James W. Grimes, a senator from Iowa, introduced a bill to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by distributing “medals of honor.” President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law on Dec. 21, 1861. Lincoln signed a similar measure on behalf of the U.S. Army on July 12, 1862, and the country had two Medals of Honor: one for sailors and one for soldiers.

Three Medals of Honor

There are now three similar, yet distinct, versions of the Medal of Honor, one for each military department -- Army, Navy, and Air Force. The medals are similar in that each consists of a variation of a five-pointed star worn around the neck on a light blue ribbon. The Navy version is awarded to those serving in the Navy and Marine Corps, and during times of war, to members of the Coast Guard. The Air Force, which was established as an independent department in 1947, adopted its distinctive Medal of Honor in 1965. The first presentation of the U.S. Air Force’s medal took place in 1967 during the Vietnam War.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Beverly Midnight 15-2 improves Wolf Pack readiness

by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/6/2015 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Wolf Pack Airmen tested their ability to survive and operate for the first time this year with various simulated wartime operations during operational readiness exercise Beverly Midnight 15-2 at Kunsan Air Base March 3 to 6.

This exercise put Airmen to the test by incorporating simulated protests, building evacuation operations, ground, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive attacks, unexploded ordinance detection and self-aid and buddy care techniques into scenarios throughout the week.

"We put high emphasis on readiness here," said Maj. Julio Rodriguez, 8th Fighter Wing director of inspections. "We generate this exercise quarterly to ensure we are trained to upkeep our primary mission, which is being ready to fight tonight."

During the exercise, the Wolf Pack persevered through 24-hour operations and demonstrated their ability to perform under the stress of reacting to wartime actions and other hostile conditions.

"Being at Kunsan is unique, because we don't have to simulate every detail of our exercises," Rodriguez said. "We have the capabilities to go the extra mile, so we can provide our Airmen with the best training possible."

The first day of the exercise started out strong, introducing a scenario involving livid protesters attempting to force their way through the north entrance to the base. The 8th Security Forces Squadron expertly performed the appropriate actions for rules of engagement, by keeping the protesters out and ultimately continuing to defend the base.

Throughout the second and third days, indirect fire attacks were made and post attack reconnaissance teams went into full effect. North of the clinic, an unexploded ordnance device was discovered and was called in. The explosive ordnance disposal team then responded to deter the threat.

"This operation was a remarkable example of how training enhances our operational capabilities," said Airman 1st Class Taylor Lahteine, explosive ordnance disposal team member. "Every scene we encounter provides us with unanticipated challenges, forcing us to adapt and even further expand our broad knowledge of techniques and procedures. During this exercise, we quickly assess the area, the item, and we formulate a plan. Ultimately, we were able to complete our mission of protecting personnel and property, with each operator on the team making focused decisions."

During the exercise, the Wing Inspection Team, made up of subject-matter experts from the 8th FW and tenant units, inspected and observed the Airmen participating in BM 15-2.

"As Inspector General, my goal is to be the eyes and ears of the commander," Rodriguez said. "We have our WIT out there, comprised of many great senior non-commissioned officers, NCOs and company grade officers who ensure we are on the right path to being an effective wing."

Rodriguez added that as a base, we want to be 100 percent ready for anything and exercising will get us where we need to be.

"It's great to see the Airmen take pride in what they do, especially when they are out there crushing it, every step along the way," said Rodriguez.

Carter: It’s Time to Seize ‘Bright Opportunities’

By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2015 – Focusing on the difficulties that lie ahead of the Defense Department is easy, but now is also the time to embrace opportunity, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.

“Being back, I’m reminded how easy it is in Washington -- and in this building -- to focus solely on our challenges,” Carter said. “And it is indeed a turbulent, rough world out there. But as a nation and as a department, this is also a moment to continue to shine the beacon of American leadership and to seize the many bright opportunities in front of us.”

Carter was speaking at his ceremonial swearing in as the 25th secretary of defense, an event hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey at the Pentagon.

"As we know from Secretary Carter's long experience in the department, he is the right person to lead the Department of Defense at this point in our history -- not just for what he's done, but in particular for how he's done it,” Dempsey said.

“Secretary Carter's known for bringing judgment and candor to decisions, and for explaining those decisions in clear and honest language. This is something those of us in the armed forces very much appreciate,” the general noted.

Besides Dempsey, speakers included William J. Perry, the 19th defense secretary, and Justice Elena Kagan, who swore Carter in at the ceremony.

"Since 1947, there have been 24 people sworn in as the secretary of defense. None of them, none of them better qualified for this job than Ash Carter. Qualified by intellect, by temperament and by experience," Perry said before Carter was sworn in.

Carter served under Perry during the Clinton administration, and today called him “the model of a modern secretary of defense.”

“Our nation and the world are safer because of your leadership and intellect -- and also because of your civility,” Carter said of Perry.

Kagan said of Carter that, “If you walk around this town and talk to people, what everybody says is … he is the perfect man for this job, the consummate public servant, the person who by virtue of his experience and his judgment and his good sense and his brilliance will be able to deal with the challenges that this important office has.”

Highest Honor

It is the highest honor to serve as America's 25th secretary of defense, Carter said.

“The men and women of this department will not only continue to protect our country, but also ensure we leave a more peaceful, prosperous and promising world to our children to live their lives, raise their families, dream their dreams,” he said.

American service members, DoD civilian employees and contractors are serving at home and abroad in support of U.S. national security interests, the secretary said.

“We are standing with our friends and allies against savagery in the Middle East,” Carter said. “In the Asia-Pacific, where new powers rise and old tensions still simmer and where half of humanity resides, we are standing up for a continuation of a decades-long miracle of development and progress underwritten by the United States.

“And in cyberspace,” he added, “we are standing with those who create and innovate against those who seek to steal, destroy and exploit.”

Think Outside the ‘Five-sided Box’

With budgets tightening and technology and globalization revolutionizing how the world works, the Pentagon has an opportunity to open itself to new ways of operating, recruiting, buying, innovating and much more, the secretary said.

“America is home to the world’s most dynamic businesses and universities. We have to think outside this five-sided box and be open to their best practices, ideas and technologies,” he said.

“… In realizing all these opportunities, previous generations and my recent predecessors … have blessed us with a remarkable inheritance: a more secure country, a stronger institution, and the world’s greatest military,” Carter said.

This generation owes the same legacy to those who come after it, the defense secretary said, something he will remember every day he is in office.

“Just as I wake up every day committed to putting in a day of service worthy of our extraordinary men and women in uniform,” he added.

Carter said his greatest obligations as defense secretary will be to help the commander in chief make wise and caring decisions about sending troops into harm’s way, to ensure troops have what they need to fight and win, and to ensure the welfare and dignity of service members and their families.

“Thank you for all that you do,” the defense secretary said to service members in the audience. “Thank you for the trust that you place in me. I will do my best to live up to it.”

Combat training prepares battlefield Airmen

by Senior Airmen Duane Morgan
174th Attack Wing

3/5/2015 - SYRACUSE, N.Y.  -- Members of the 274th Air Support Operations Squadron at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base here completed eight days of close air support training Feb 16 at Barry M. Goldwater Range in Gila Bend, Arizona.

The Barry M. Goldwater Range is one of the largest live fire aircraft ranges in the United States.

"This training gave us the opportunity to train with live aircraft, live ordnance, and to get on an observation point and actually see bombs being delivered on target," said Tech. Sgt. David Cook, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller with the 274th. "The range environment itself was realistic to the type of terrain that we might encounter down range."

The training was a joint effort that involved JTACs from the United Kingdom with close air support provided by Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from Luke AFB.

"Because training is practice for combat, we try to make training as realistic as possible for our Airmen," said Master Sgt. Joshua Deweese, chief JTAC instructor at the 274th. "This way if or when our Airmen deploy, there will be little to no surprises."

JTACs deploy with Army units and direct the action of combat aircraft operating in close air support and other offensive operations. The goal of the Barry M. Goldwater Range training was to not only challenge the JTACs; it was to complete skills evaluations and currency controls to sustain their readiness qualifications.

"With the winter weather, it sometimes affects our ability to get currency controls locally," said Cox. "The trip to Gila Bend was good because it gave us the opportunity to get as many of our JTACs current here in the squadron, as well as create new JTACs."

The 274th ASOS was initially designated a combat communications squadron shortly after WWII and stationed in Roslyn, on Long Island. The unit transitioned to an air support operations squadron and moved to its current location at Hancock Field in 2000. The move allowed the unit access to the Fort Drum Bombing Range, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 20th ASOS to enhance their training.

Secretary of the Air Force visits Idaho

by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Pokorney
124 Fighter Wing

3/6/2015 - GOWEN FIELD, Idaho -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited here Feb. 19 during a visit of Idaho Air Force installations.

James' visit included meetings with the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and civic and elected officials followed by an all call attended by Idaho Air National Guardsmen.

"My three priorities are: one, taking care of people; number two, striking a balance between readiness today and readiness tomorrow which means modernizing our aircraft and our Air Force across the board; and third, in this very tight budget period, making every dollar count," said James. "We're the best Air Force on the planet but we're an Air Force under strain from a number of different angles. And something's got to give--the question is--what will that thing be?"

James addressed budgetary constraints and the projected 124th Fighter Wing classic association with the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, which flies the Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft.

"If this proposal goes through, our goal is to transition the most important part of this weapon system--which are the humans--into good, new jobs that are going to take our Air Force into the future," James said.

"Stay tuned, this is really only the beginning for [fiscal year 2016]," said James. "We are going to be working very closely with Congress over the next few months. I remain hopeful that we will work this out with a whole-government approach that will lift this sequestration burden and allow us to fully give America the Air Force that people want and deserve.

"Please stay focused on the mission, on what you're doing, taking care of one another, being good wingmen--that's your job and you've been doing it magnificently," said James.

"The Air Force budget situation, as we all know, is very serious," said Col. Sherrie L. McCandless, 124th Fighter Wing commander. "For now what the Secretary of the Air Force briefed is exactly where we are. The plan for the 124th FW hasn't fundamentally changed. We have great Airmen, we have a strong family here at Gowen and we have a community that clearly values our contribution. Please stay proud and continue to embody combat excellence."

Missouri Airmen, Soldiers win high honors at National Guard Bureau media contest

from Missouri National Guard Public Affairs Office
Joint Forces Headquarters Missouri National Guard

3/3/2015 - JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri National Guard public affairs Airmen and Soldiers took home top honors in several categories of the National Guard Bureau's annual media contest, including three overall individual achievement awards.

Missouri is especially proud of Staff Sgt. Elise Rich, the Air National Guard's Outstanding New Broadcaster, and Sgt. Clay Beyersdorfer and Senior Airman Nathan Dampf, who were named Print Journalists of the Year for the Army and Air Guard, said Capt. John Quin, Missouri's state public affairs officer.

"All three are traditional Guardsmen who push themselves hard during drill weekends and training events to make sure they're telling the Guard's story," Quin said. "They, along with their fellow award recipients, represent a joint public affairs team that is second to none."

Rich and Dampf both serve with the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, and excel at covering the Guard's only nuclear-certified bomb wing, said Capt. Jeff Bishop,  public affairs chief for the wing.

"These awards are particularly noteworthy because they're judged on a variety of the Airmen's best stories from across the year, and not just a single entry," said Bishop.  "Traditional Guardsmen, who only get about a dozen or so 'at bats' per year, have to swing for the fences every time. I know Staff Sgt. Rich and Senior Airman Dampf will hit it out of the park whenever they step up to the plate." 

One wing having two award winners in overall individual achievement categories is a major accomplishment, Quin said.

"Captain Bishop and his superintendent, Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison, are great leaders who really empower their Airmen," Quin said. "It's worth noting that Captain Bishop is a contest winner himself and received top honors for a commentary he wrote about effective mentorship. Seeing how his Airmen performed, that is clearly a subject that he knows a lot about."

In the Army National Guard competition, the Missouri Army National Guard 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment's Sgt. Clay Beyersdorfer took home top honors with the Paul D. Savanuck Military Print Journalist of the Year award, while Sgt. Mariah Best took third-place honors in the Outstanding News Article category.

Both Soldiers had spent part of 2014 deployed to Afghanistan with the unit, said Maj. Sandy Stover, their commander. Beyersdorfer served as a print journalist for the 4th Infantry Division in Kandahar, Afghanistan, producing an extraordinary number of articles and photos used on a regular basis by news outlets like NBC Nightly News, CNN and ABC.

"Sgt. Beyersdorfer is the epitome of a Citizen Soldier," Stover said. "Although he had only one course remaining in order to complete his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri, he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan in 2013. He became one of the most trusted and effective military journalists in the theater."

Best, too, served as a journalist in Afghanistan. She also worked in the media operations center in Kandahar, monitoring coverage of International Security Assistance Forces in the news cycle.

"Sgt. Best's coverage of the International Women's Day in Afghanistan, her award-winning news article, captured an unprecedented time period in which Afghan women were training to become police officers," said Stover. "The United Nations' theme for Women's Day was 'inspiring change.' Like the theme, Sgt. Best's excellent writing and outstanding service reflect how one person can make a difference."

The Missouri National Guard public affairs office at state headquarters here also took in honors.  The team won first place in the Outstanding Digital Presence category. The office also teamed with the Museum of Missouri Military History and 135th Military History Detachment for third-place honors in the Community Relations Special Events Category for the opening of the Museum of Missouri Military History here.

First place winners will go on to compete at the respective Army and Air Force service levels; with winners at those levels competing in the prestigious Department of Defense Thomas Jefferson awards program.