Military News

Thursday, June 04, 2015

First to fight

by Airman Christopher R. Morales
JBER Public Affairs


6/4/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The U.S. Army Alaska Combatives Tournament, sponsored by the Arctic Warrior Combatives Academy, finals are scheduled June 5 at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The tournament, during Military Appreciation Week, is a chance to demonstrate the warrior ethos and show camaraderie between military members.

"The purpose for the USARAK tournament as a whole is to take the Soldiers who wanted to come out here and put them in a stressful situation putting their training to the test," said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Veagley,  AWCA noncommissioned officer in charge. "We have teams from most of the Fort Richardson battalions, and Fort Wainwright came prepared too. It's going to be a good competition overall."

Battalions and independent groups were allowed to submit a team of up to two fighters in each weight class. More than 100 fighters will participate.

The bouts are scheduled in brackets of one-on-one fights, and began with a standard rule set progressing into intermediate, and the advanced rule set is saved for the finals.

"The tournament is running real smooth; we haven't had any hiccups so far," Veagley said. "The event is going great, we have a real turn-out and a lot of participation."

Individual fighters compete for medals in each weight class; teams compete for a traveling trophy as incentive for more teams next year.

"We try to push Soldiers not to hesitate and see their own potential in the future. We tell Soldiers at classes 'if you're not moving forward, you're dying.' said Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Jones, AWCA senior instructor and combatives tournament director. "All those other nice little quotes, we mean it here."

"It's interesting to see Soldiers come into the academy so hesitant and by the end of the class we have Soldiers with a completely different mindset, one that pushes fear out of their mind rather than letting fear limit them." Jones said. "Minus the pain, there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Six countries send personnel to Papua New Guinea to build ties, capabilities

by 1st Lt. Michael Trent Harrington
JBER Public Affairs


6/4/2015 - EASTERN HIGHLANDS PROVINCE, Papua New Guinea  -- Seventy-two years ago this month, gray banks of low fog split open in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, bursting forth yellow tropical light and the hollow plunk of imperial Japanese artillery.

On Monday, the six-nation team of Pacific Angel 15-4 arrived in the Eastern Highlands Province allied against much longer-established tropical enemies: disaster and disease.

The Pacific Angels - doctors, dentists, plumbers and planners from Papua New Guinea, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia - tumbled out of trucks Monday in Goroka, a town of 20,000 a mile above sea-level, to deliver humanitarian assistance and build disaster relief abilities with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

The rumble of Japanese engines still punctuated the background hum of jungle crickets, though now they were Toyotas and Nissans scrambling up mountain roads joining highland villages for the first time. The thunder came only from storm clouds, and "flame of the forest" was just the local name for a scarlet climbing vine.

In a country that ranks 157th on the United Nations Human Development Index and receives nearly U.S. $1 billion in foreign aid annually, the few hundred thousand dollars dedicated to the crew and equipment of the Pacific Angel Papua New Guinea mission are just a drop of sweat in the fluctuating tide of aid funds to the country's shores.

Yet the value of the exchanges taking place in tropical medicine, public health and engineering belie the relatively low bottom line. The Pacific Angel approach encourages partner countries to build relationships and make do with the resources available at the nearest highlands hardware store - versus a Lowe's in California or an Army supply depot in Hawaii.

Pacific Angel is about taking the complexity of managing peacetime in Papua New Guinea and giving it a structure that might withstand worse, said Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Fowler, the Pacific Angel Papua New Guinea mission commander.

Pacific Angel missions to Nepal in 2012 and 2014, for instance, helped more than 9,000 people in that country. More critically, the missions brought together the Nepali, American, Australian and other military and civilian aid agencies who later formed the joint task force that responded to the chaos following the devastating earthquake near Kathmandu six weeks ago.

"Disaster is chaotic enough," said Lt. Col. Courtney Finkbeiner, a U.S. Air Force nurse and leader of the operation's medical subject matter expert exchange teams. "All of the [Papua New Guinea] medical professionals know how to care for patients; we only try to show them how to organize in a crisis."

The operation helps Papua New Guinea military and civil health groups recognize and cope with the complexity of a disaster, Finkbeiner said, like the typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods characteristic of the South Pacific.

A litany of American briefings and supply handouts might not resonate in a country where conveniences like freeway-width roads and cross-country shipping can't be taken for granted, even in the best of times.

Papua New Guinea is located in the Pacific "ring of fire," at the collision point of several tectonic plates. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods are a part of life here, which makes disaster relief capabilities vital both to individual countries within the ring and their neighbors.

The PNG National Disaster Centre, first developed in concert with the U.N. Development Program, now has one of the most active disaster response, mitigation and relief programs in the South Pacific.

"We have to leave our [Western] urge to instantly 'fix' everything at home," said Air Force Col. Joseph Anderson, the Pacific Air Forces command surgeon. "Instead of writing checks for equipment, we're investing in sustainability."

The Pacific Angel mission attempts to build relationships, working more with the people of Papua New Guinea's military and medical teams and less with their gear.
"The time to exchange business cards is not at the scene of a disaster," Anderson added.

Appreciating that context of mutual reliance and assistance is critical to understanding the aid picture in the South Pacific.

John Donne wrote that "no man is an island." No country is an island, either, even if its geography consists of lots of them.

In that sense, Finkbeiner said, "if we did Power Points every day, we'd entirely miss what it's all about, and what life here actually looks like."

The Pacific Angel approach emphasizes cooperation over one-way instruction, building friendships which lead to cheaper and unexpectedly simple solutions.

"We all have different outlooks," said Philippine Army Capt. Donald Palmer, a doctor with the Philippines Medical Corps, "but in a situation like Pacific Angel, we have to consult with each other. We take our [national] experiences and turn them into multilateral ability, where each country can help the other."

In the initial days of the mission, U.S. and Papua New Guinean biomedical equipment technicians - repairmen for sensitive and expensive hospital machines - made the rounds of a military hospital outside Port Moresby, the capital.

A rediscovered screw brought one stalwart machine built in the 1960s back into order. Repairing a single broken switch on another faulty appliance fixed another. The two repairs doubled the number of functioning X-rays in the country.

Buried under paperwork in another office stood a foreign-donated ultrasound machine which the resident radiologist said had sat, unused, for half a decade.

The machine, it turned out, was fine. No one could turn it on because the buttons were labeled in Mandarin. Last week, Papua New Guinean and U.S. technicians knelt side-by-side, punching through a painstaking array of button keys, and finally the machine clicked to life. Now there are English labels.

The ability to look at babies in the womb has breathed new life, such as it were, into the clinic, too.

Thus, missions like Pacific Angel attempt to help local government and international aid agencies respond more quickly to crises within a country's borders and assume control of recovery more quickly in their wake - enabling them to better use the equipment, training and connections they already have.

A number of the same groups who worked and trained together in previous Pacific Angel and humanitarian assistance missions are together again in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, including the Guam-based 36th Contingency Response Group - specialists in crisis logistics - along with USAID, engineers and medical teams from all branches of the American and Pacific partner militaries.

For many of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force members, all the disaster training and activity resonate strongly with their experiences.
"We've been through the real things, many times before," said Papua New Guinea Defence Force Maj. Wilson Andrews, lead host nation planner for Pacific Angel.

This summer marks the eighth year of Pacific Angel missions. The teams will be training in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through June 8.

Special tactics Airmen participate in fitness standards study


By Senior Airman Eboni Reece, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs / Published June 04, 2015

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- Nearly two dozen members of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron participated in a physical fitness study that analyzed mission requirements for battlefield Airmen.

The physical fitness tests were part of an in-depth study to scientifically measure battlefield Airmen’s operational mission requirements to better correlate them to the Air Force’s physical training and performance standards for the special operations community.

Not to be confused with the Air Force Fitness Assessment standards that measure general health and fitness for all Airmen, these physical tasks are based upon the operational requirements of a particular Air Force specialty code -- the same standards apply to all members of an AFSC, independent of age and gender.

In support of the two-month study at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Airmen from various career fields participated in tests that will be recorded and analyzed to develop and validate recommendations for occupationally specific, operationally relevant and gender-neutral physical tests and standards.

During the course of one week, members from the Air Force Fitness Testing and Standards Unit at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, conducted a series of tests with Airmen from the 26th STS. These tests were used to assess areas such as muscular strength, speed, endurance and agility. The studies to develop and validate physical and mental standards will provide data for the Air Force’s Women in Service Review implementation plan.

“The key crux of this is what physical fitness tests best predict operationally relevant, occupationally specific physical movements, physical patterns, and physical requirements.” explained Dr. Neil Baumgartner, a lead researcher. “We went to the career field experts, and they helped us narrow down a very broad list of requirements, down to the most arduous and critical physical tasks.”

The results from this study will provide scientific measurements regarding the physical demands for each battlefield Airman specialty. So in turn, qualification and training requirements can be more precisely correlated to the demands of the Air Force specialty.

“This scientific study was conducted to validate the closed career fields’ operational physical fitness standards,” said a member of the 26th STS participating in the study. “It is my duty to ensure the physical standards reflect the necessary operational requirements that lead to success on the battlefield in any condition, for any mission.”

Less than 1 percent of all Air Force career fields are yet to be available to women. That small percentage is comprised of six career fields that include special tactics officers, combat rescue officers, special operations weather enlisted, combat control, tactical air control party and pararescue. Although women represent 19 percent of the Air Force population, the highest of any other service, opening these few remaining career fields to all members, regardless of gender, increases the amount of available recruits for battlefield Airmen positions, as well as the Air Force’s opportunity for success.

According to the Air Education and Training Command, the Air Force’s intent is not to raise or lower any standards. If an individual meets the standards and wants to be a battlefield Airman, he or she will have the opportunity based on skill and ability, not gender.

“We welcome any Airmen, male or female, who can obtain and maintain the high standards of performance and competence that make us successful on the battlefield,” said another member of the 26th STS participating in the study. “If a person can meet the standards, maintain the pace and endure the selection process with our other candidates, then they will do just fine. In special tactics, exceeding the standard has always been the standard and that will not change.”

Since 1993, the Air Force has integrated women in combat operations by placing females in combat aircraft. Partaking in this study is just another way for the Air Force to continue to make positive changes toward gender integration in all aspects.

Civil engineers plumb their way to brighter future for PACANGEL

by Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs


6/4/2015 - EASTERN HIGHLANDS PROVINCE, Papua New Guinea -- In the remote highlands high above Goroka, Papua New Guinea, sits Gahuku Primary School, the Pacific Angel engineering team's largest project. More than 1,000 students climb up and down rickety stairs daily while ferrying between eight classrooms with standing room only.

Fourteen U.S. military civil engineers work with counterparts from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, the New Zealand Army and the Australian air force to renovate five sites across the Eastern Highlands Province.

The team is working at three schools to replace old doors, locks, broken windows and screens, install lights in classrooms and put working plumbing and sinks in a science laboratory for the first time.

"Our primary focus is to take out the safety hazards and improve the electrical work," said Master Sgt. Steven Viau, 15th Civil Engineer Squadron lead engineering planner for Pacific Angel. "We'll cover [exposed wires] and put in a conduit to make sure no one gets shocked ... The engineers will accomplish a number of projects ranging from electrical to structural requirements ... All-in-all, this makes it a safer place for students to come to school every day."

Following the government's decision to make primary education free for all Papua New Guineans, many students who had been left out now stream back to school. Last year, there were 500 students at the school, said Andrew Songo, Gahuku Primary School chairman.

Although the recommendation for classes is 40 students to one teacher, there are more than 100 students in each of the eight teachers' classes, ranging from children to adults in their late twenties, according to Songo.

Working together the nations shared techniques and traded knowledge allowing them to increase efficiency and come together to help the local community.

"It's a very rewarding feeling to be able to come out here and see all the students and see a smile on their faces," Viau said. "They know we're here to help, so it's a humbling experience, and it's one of those that will probably never be forgotten by any people here, as well as the students and staff [who] work here."

At the end of the project, the chairman for the primary school thanked the workers for their outstanding job.

"I can't put into words how happy I am to have our local defence force and the other nations help fix our school," Songo said. "Seeing our defence force working with the other nations, we feel like we are a part of the South Pacific. It will be nice for the students to be able to get what they need to learn, and we can come together to give them those better opportunities."

Pentagon Inducts WWI Soldiers Into Hall of Heroes



By J.D. Leipold
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2015 – A pair of World War I soldiers were inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon yesterday.

Army Pvt. Henry Johnson, an African-American, and Army Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish-American, were each posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama at a June 2 White House ceremony, following the upgrade of their Distinguished Service Crosses to Medals of Honor.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work hosted the Pentagon event.

“This ceremony is a reminder that we redress the prejudices of the past and appropriately honor our nation’s heroes,” Work said.

“It is a feature of our republic and the American people themselves that we have the ability to correct our course, and that the nation’s long arc of history does not bend toward injustice … it bends toward justice,” the deputy secretary said. “In the case of Pvt. Johnson, it was racism … in the case of Sgt. Shemin, it was anti-Semitism … it is important that we acknowledge the injustices and mistakes of the past and rightfully honor those who have given so much on behalf of their country.”

Work added, “And, particularly as a military institution that represents literally every single member of this nation, every citizen, regardless of race, regardless of belief, regardless of preference, it is imperative that we do all we can to fix the wrongs from the past.”

Pvt. Johnson

Nearly a century ago, Johnson enlisted with the 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment, an all-black National Guard unit that became known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” which later became the 369th Infantry Regiment of the 93rd Infantry Division. Johnson’s unit was sent to the Western Front in 1918 and attached to a French command.

Johnson, with another soldier, came under attack while standing sentry duty. Surrounded by about 12 German soldiers, he and his comrade fought the enemy with grenades and rifle fire until their ammunition was spent. Seeing the other sentry being dragged off into captivity, and disregarding a slew of wounds, the 5-foot-4-inch Johnson used his rifle as a club before it finally splintered. Then he pulled a bolo knife, stabbing and hacking the enemy until American and French troops arrived on the scene to aid in repelling the German forces. Johnson was awarded France’s highest medal, the Croix de Guerre with the Gold Palm for exceptional valor.

Johnson stayed with his regiment until it returned home at war’s end. Suffering from 21 combat wounds, Johnson was unable to work as a train porter, his profession before the war. His wife and children abandoned him and he died destitute in 1929 at age 32. Johnson had suffered grievous wounds, yet he never received disability pay upon his discharge.

It wasn’t until 1996 that Johnson received a Purple Heart. In 2002, after further reviews of documented first-hand accounts of what he had done in battle, the Army awarded Johnson the Distinguished Service Cross.

Sgt. Shemin

Undersecretary of the Army Brad R. Carson told the story of Shemin, who distinguished himself by his fearlessness and extraordinary heroism while serving as a rifleman with the 47th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Division, near Bazoches, France.

“From his trench, it was recounted that he could see Americans injured, dying and littering the battlefield,” Carson said. “What happened next is best recounted by his superior officer that day … he wrote that with utter disregard to his own safety, Shemin sprang from his platoon trench, dashed out across the open into full sight of the Germans, who maintained a furious burst of machine gun and rifle fire.”

During Aug. 7-9, 1918, Shemin on three occasions left cover and crossed an open space of 150 yards to rescue the wounded. After officers and senior noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Shemin took command of the platoon until he himself took a round through his helmet which hospitalized him for three months.

“Let us call it duty, honor, patriotism, love -- whatever we call it, let us be grateful that our country seems to be so blessed with an abundance of this scarce breed of person -- Sgt. Shemin and Pvt. Johnson being two of which we honor today,” Carson said.

“The fates of Pvt. Johnson and Sgt. Shemin after the war would not be the same,” he continued. “Sgt. Shemin would go off to Syracuse; he would play football, study forestry and live a long life until the 1970s anchored by eternal varieties of faith and family -- a family of more than 60 who join us today.”

Before presenting Medal of Honor flags to Army Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard on behalf of Pvt. Johnson and to Elsie Shemin-Roth, daughter of Sgt. Shemin, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn spoke.

“Today, we honor the legacy of these great soldiers by dedicating ourselves to building soldiers in their likeness, as professionals and leaders of character, protecting our great nation and all that it stands for … the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Allyn said.

U.S., India Sign 10-Year Defense Framework Agreement



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2015 – In India, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar signed a 10-year defense framework agreement yesterday, highlighting the growth of defense cooperation between the two countries.

Carter is on a 10-day trip focused on the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

The agreement signed in India yesterday is an outgrowth of a meeting that was held between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January.

Working Together

Out of that meeting grew the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative. The idea is for India and the United States to work closely together to develop military capabilities both can use.

Yesterday’s agreement included plans to cooperate in developing a mobile solar energy power source that could be used in remote areas and in developing a lightweight protective suit effective in chemical and biological hazard environments.

In India, Carter also met with Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Carter also became the first U.S. defense secretary to visit an Indian operational military command -- the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam.

“This is just one more of many signs of what a positive trajectory we continue to be on with the defense community here in India,” Carter said during a media availability in New Delhi.

The secretary’s visit capitalizes on the convergence of India’s Act East policy and the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Under the Act East policy, India will focus on improving relations with Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other East Asian countries. And the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region recognizes the increasing importance of Asian nations to the global economy.

“These two things come together when it comes to maritime security, maritime domain awareness,” Carter said.

He also spoke of the convergence between Prime Minister Modi’s “Make In India” policy and the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative.

Cooperative Technology, Industrial Relationships

“The heart of that is to create cooperative technology and industrial relationships that are not just the buyer-seller kind,” the secretary said. “Both we and the Indians want to move beyond that, and there’s no reason why that can’t occur in the sense that industry wants to do it. We’re very willing to be flexible, creative. We are being that with a number of pathfinder projects.”

The agreement requires both countries to cut through the “historical burden of bureaucracy,” he said.

“It’s the burden that we carry forward from the fact that we were two separated industrial systems for so long during the Cold War,” Carter said. “It just takes time to get the two of them together.”

‘Everybody Wins, Everybody Rises’

The secretary reemphasized his message delivered at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore earlier in the week -- the “everybody wins and everybody rises” approach to the Asian security architecture.

“That's what the United States believes in and is championing -- a vibrant Vietnam, it’s eager to do more, and we’re doing more with them,” the secretary said, “and India, an India that’s not only rising economically and militarily but is also a regional security provider now and in the future.”

The secretary expects the cooperation under the 10-year framework to increase. The nations are talking about cooperating on jet engines and aircraft carrier technology, he said.

“Some of the projects that we’re launching just now are, in part, intended to blaze a trail for things to come,” he said. “And the other thing to keep in mind is that the whole point is to make these industrially and economically successful projects. So they are not things that can be dictated by the governments; we try to involve industry.”