Sunday, March 29, 2015

Celebration of life: ninth CMSAF James C. Binnicker

By Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs / Published March 29, 2015
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. -- Family members, friends and Airmen are mourning the loss of an American treasure -- ninth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker.

More than 1,000 people gathered to celebrate his life during a ceremony at the Emerald Coast Convention Center here March 28.

Everyone who spoke emphasized the fact that Binnicker made a difference in all the ways that really mattered.

“He was an iconic Airman,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. “He set the standard as an innovator and as a leader. His direct honesty connected him with every Airman he came across. He cared so much. He made us all want to follow him.”

Binnicker continued to inspire Airmen long after he retired. For 15 years, Binnicker spoke to every ALS class at Hurlburt Field, reaching at least 4,200 Airmen.

Chief Master Sgt. Cory Olson, the 1st Special Operations Wing command chief, said he did this because he had a passion for anything and everything to do with Airmen.

“Chief Binnicker always gave his time and energy to Air Force events,” Olson said. “He was very funny, larger than life, and a great story teller with extremely quick wit. He treated people the way he wanted to be treated … much like his ‘Mom Rule.’”

As the CEO and president of the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Florida, Binnicker incorporated the “Mom Rule” into the village’s mission and philosophy.

The “Mom Rule” is simple. When making a decision that impacted the residents, the staff should ask themselves:

– “Would I do this to my mom?”
– “Would I do this for my mom?”
– “Would my mom approve?”

Chief Binnicker always said that if they could answer the questions correctly, they would know they were doing the right thing.

He spent 15 years at the village, providing more than 400 residents a loving and secure place to call home. One resident remembers meeting Binnicker and thinking he was the janitor.

Alice Coffman, who spoke at the ceremony, said that she saw Binnicker vacuuming when she first moved into the village. During her 15 years living at the village, she learned just how down-to-earth the chief was and saw firsthand how he truly cared about the residents like they were his own family.

During Hurricane Ivan, he refused to leave the village because he wanted to take care of everyone.

“When our power went out, he was outside cutting down trees,” she said. “He started up the grill and cooked us all hot dogs and hamburgers.”

Another resident, Judy O’Brien, said Binnicker was their best advocate.
“He definitely had our backs,” she said. “His door was always open, and we were greeted with a big smile, honor and respect. He was a wonderful man, courageous leader, and he gave back so much more than he ever received.”

Sen. Don Gaetz described Binnicker as a servant leader.

“He was a great man because he was also a good man,” Gaetz said during the ceremony. “He took me around the village and introduced me to the residents, and he didn’t just know everyone’s name, he knew everyone’s story.

Binnicker was a genuine man of character, courage and wisdom, and his legacy will live on.

Years ago, Binnicker said he wanted to be remembered for doing his best.

“Jim … Chief, you did your best,” Cody said. “And, your best was more than enough … you added joy to our lives … you brought triumph and glory to our Air Force.”

Carter Domestic Trip Focuses on ‘Force of the Future’

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2015 – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is kicking off a national discussion on building "the force of the future" and what the Department of Defense must do to change and adapt to maintain its superiority well into the 21st century, a Pentagon spokesman announced today.

Building the force of the future requires the department to bring in the best technology, the best ideas from industry, and -- above all -- the best people to defend the nation, said Army Col. Steve Warren, who noted Carter will embark March 30 on a two-day domestic trip that will focus on the future force theme.

Warren said the first day of the trip will take Carter back to Philadelphia, where he attended Abington Senior High School.

There, Warren said, the secretary will deliver an important speech on his vision for how the department must prepare for the force of the future and continue to attract the best and brightest from all communities.

Attracting New Generations

During his first week at the Pentagon as defense secretary, Carter spoke urgently about building the force of the future being one of his top priorities.

“We must be open to change to operate effectively in an increasingly dynamic world,” Carter told the Defense Department’s workforce during his first all-hands meeting at the Pentagon, “to keep pace with advances in technology and to attract new generations of talented and dedicated Americans to our calling.”

Next, Carter will travel to Fort Drum, New York, where he wants to hear first-hand from soldiers and their families, Warren said. Many of the fort’s soldiers have deployed time and again over the last several years, he added, and the secretary wants to talk to them about ways the military can retain its best people and their battle-tested skills.

Retaining Proficiency

On his final stop, Carter will visit Syracuse University, where he will hold a roundtable discussion with members of the ‎Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The topic will be transitioning service members back into society.

Afterward, Warren said, the secretary will make remarks and conduct a question-and-answer session with Syracuse students.

Carter will return to Washington on March 31.

NBA’s Houston Rockets Visit Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., March 28, 2015 – Crisp winds snapped across the sprawling grounds here today as members of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets visited gravesites of fallen service members, met with an Army widow, and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Rockets face off against the Washington Wizards tomorrow. But today, the Houston team members opted to tour the cemetery and later in the day they met with Defense Secretary Ash Carter at the Pentagon as part of “Commitment to Service,” the Defense Department’s partnership with the NBA.

Jane Horton, whose husband, Army National Guard sniper Spc. Chris Horton, was killed in action in Afghanistan Sept. 9, 2011, led Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale and his team throughout Arlington’s grounds, including her husband’s gravesite and the Memorial Amphitheater.

Widow Recalls Husband’s Service, Sacrifice

Horton, 28, told the team her husband was only 26 when he succumbed to enemy fire in Paktia province while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Even though my husband died at such a young age, he still had eight more years than so many buried here who died at age 18,” she said. “There was nothing more that Chris wanted to do than serve his country during wartime and unfortunately he was one of 2,215 that were killed in Afghanistan.”

The significance of the setting seemed to resonate with the basketball team members who read gravestones belonging to service members close in age to the athletes.

Former Boston Celtic McHale joined Rockets shooting guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard in the wreath-laying ceremony.

“I think we’re all here because of the sacrifices people made not only over in the Middle East, but starting with World War I and World War II,” McHale said. “My father fought in World War II and so did my uncle so I’m very proud of their service.”

‘It’s a Great Honor and a Blessing to be Here’

Harden described his participation in the ceremony as “an amazing experience.”

“I got to do something that the President does every year,” he said. “It’s a great honor and a blessing to be here.”

Howard shared Harden’s sentiment, calling his visit an honor and humbling.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Howard said. “To be in the presence of these great people is amazing and it’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”

Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/U.S. Army Military District of Washington, noted the precision and significance of the changing of the guard ritual that ensures the tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather.

Tomb Guard sentinels, all volunteers, are elite members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.