Saturday, June 20, 2015

Carter opens 2015 Warrior Games

By Karen Parrish, DoD News, Defense Media Activity / Published June 19, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games opened June 19, with about 250 athletes from the U.S. and U.K. gathering at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to compete for a different victory: celebrating their new lives and their enduring abilities.

Their disabilities are often evident; their warrior spirit is more so.

The Warrior Games were established in 2010 and initially operated by the U.S. Olympic Committee. This year, the lead for the events has transferred to the U.S. military, with the Marine Corps serving as the first sponsor service.

Honoring warrior skills

Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke at the opening ceremony.

“The Warrior Games -- you … the participants in the Warrior Games, you’re the pinnacle of DOD adaptive sports programs -- activities that have helped our men and women heal together … in mind, in body, and soul,” he said.

Generations of warriors have served their nations when the most desperate call came: “Go to war,” the defense secretary said. The Warrior Games showcase their survival, he added.

Carter noted that over the past year, more than 150,000 U.S. wounded warriors have participated in 28 sports camps and 51 clinics, among other activities.

Gathering of heroes

After thanking Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford and the U.S. Marine Corps for hosting the games at Quantico, the defense secretary offered a special welcome to the British competitors and defense and legislative representatives present.

“I want to extend a warm, warm welcome to our British friends and allies -- to the 40 competitors and their guests and to Maj. Gen. (Richard) Cripwell. It’s our privilege to welcome you and our other distinguished guests,” he said.

“We’re all here because of these incredible competitors -- the warrior-athletes competing from our total force: active, Guard and Reserve alike -- the Army, the Navy … the Marine Corps … the Coast Guard, the Air Force, the U.S. Special Operations Command and the British Armed Forces,” Carter continued.

Athletes inspiring others

The secretary said he knew the athletes spent long hours in training for the competition.

“And after inspiring us with your service on duty, you continue to do so this week … on the court, around the track and in the pool,” the secretary said.

Carter also said he wanted to publicly acknowledge and thank “the family members, the caregivers, the medical professionals, the coaches, friends (and) countless others who’ve supported our warrior-athletes on their journeys to these games.”

Scheduled events through June 28 include wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, cycling, archery, field events, shooting, swimming and a wheelchair rugby exhibition.

Kunsan surge operations generate 350 sorties

by Senior Airman Divine Cox
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/19/2015 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 8th Fighter Wing tested its flying and maintenance operations during Surge Week here June 15 through 18.

F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots from the 35th Fighter Squadron "Pantons," 80th Fighter Squadron "Juvats" and 175th Fighter Squadron "Lobos," deployed here from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, flew together generating over 350 sorties during the four-day event.

Surge Week tested the skills and wartime capabilities of Wolf Pack operators, maintainers and supporting agencies to simulate pilots' wartime flying rates.

"A collective effort from multiple units made this surge a success," said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Carpenter, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "If aircraft can't fly, the Wolf Pack can't fight."

Airmen from the 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron, the 8th AMU and the maintenance back shop quickly collaborated to keep jets airborne. The surge also tested the Airmen's ability to fix and refuel the F-16 in a short timeframe.

"This was my first time conducting hot refueling operations," said Airman 1st Class Daniel Langer, 8th LRS refueling equipment operator. "I'm amazed at how many jets we can refuel in such a short period of time. It was really exciting!"

Airmen conducted hot pit refueling to rapidly refuel each aircraft and allow it to complete a second sortie, thereby maximizing the sorties flown in a short amount of time.

"The surge operations relied largely on the hot refueling program," said Master Sgt. Aaron Gammill, 35th AMU lead production superintendent. "We had coordination with LRS for fuel support and coordination with the wing to be able to get the fuel and trucks for this operation."

The surge operation is held twice a year with maintainers going on 12-hour shifts to ensure the heavy demands of flying and fixing aircraft are met.

"A typical day for us is a 12-hour shift," said Senior Airman Zachary Gant, 8th AMXS crew chief. "But during this surge, we were constantly launching aircraft, which kept us extremely busy; busier than normal."

Overall, Surge Week played a robust role in keeping the wing mission-ready.

"Completing over 350 sorties in four days in not an easy task," Gammill said. "This would not have been probable if it wasn't for the hard work of these dedicated Airmen."

Global Strike bombers conclude European deployment

by Senior Airman Malia Jenkins
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

6/19/2015 - ROYAL AIR FORCE FAIRFORD, England -- Air Force Global Strike Command deployed bombers to the European area of operations for more than two weeks to work with the United States' allies and partners in various exercises and training missions.

Three B-52H Stratofortresses from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, two B-2 Spirits from Whiteman AFB, and over 300 men and women from around the command deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford, England, during the first week of June to support BALTOPS 15 and Saber Strike 15.

The B-2s flew two missions to RAF Fairford conducting engine-running crew changes and hot-pit refueling to validate the ability of air and ground crews to extend the mission capability of the aircraft in a forward deployed location.

"Flying the B-2 here solidifies the alliance we have with several of our allies, the commitment we provide, and the power we demonstrate, which we were able to showcase on this platform with refueling the aircraft in minimal time," said Chief Master Sgt. Craig Smith, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron low observable superintendent.

While forward deployed to RAF Fairford, the B-52s demonstrated the ability of AFGSC assets to project air power anywhere and anytime. They conducted simulated air strikes, provided support to naval vessels from 15 countries, dropped inert munitions into a target zone in Latvia and coordinated with Latvian, Polish and Lithuanian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.

"It's good that the Latvian JTACs controlled the first B-52 drops and it's somewhat symbolic," said Lt. Col. Timothy Brock, Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy Latvia bilateral affairs officer. "Its good training, it's live training for the JTACs themselves, and it also sends a strong message that Latvian JTACs are capable of employing weapons like that this far East."

"The whole thing enhances the interoperability of these various militaries, especially when you put together an exercise like this," Brock added. "We have 13 different countries participating in this exercise. As you look at building force providers, when you do something like this it builds capacity."

U.S. Strategic Command's bomber missions provide unique opportunities to integrate and train with Geographic Combatant Commands and the United States' allies and partners in joint and coalition operations and exercises. This deployment provided unique opportunities for AFGSC Airmen to conduct these operations from a forward-deployed location and in partner-nation airspace. 

"I think it's been a real successful outcome for the B-52s here as they've spent the last two weeks at RAF Fairford," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. "They participated in both BALTOPS and Saber Strike, got to work with all our international coalition Joint Terminal Air Controllers, as well as participate with mine operations, [and] work with the B-2s doing the engine-running crew change and the long-duration sorties with the B-2s."

"Our aircraft and personnel did great. They showed off we're a real visible presence anytime we come to Europe. We have a lot to learn and we have a lot to teach with the B-52s, so there's a great training opportunity that happens there," Wilson added. "There's also a deterrence message that adversaries around the world look and see this NATO and coalition team that's training together, that's learning from each other and learning each day how to be better at what they do, and it sends a deterrent message to would-be adversaries: don't think about messing with NATO."

The deployment to RAF Fairford was specifically designed and closely coordinated with the United Kingdom and regional allies and partners to ensure maximum opportunities to synchronize and integrate United States bomber capabilities with their military assets; strengthening and improving interoperability, as both organizations work toward mutual goals.

"I'm glad Minot AFB and all the folks who are at Minot can come here to the United Kingdom and experience some great partners and great teammates," Wilson said. "The feedback I'm getting is it's been a win-win relationship for everybody."  

The Airmen supported five missions each for Saber Strike and BALTOPS, including the first ever inert munitions drop in Latvia by B-52s with Latvian JTACs calling in air strikes as well as the first ever MK-62 Quick Strike mine drop in the Baltic Sea.

U.S. Air Force wraps up Saber Strike participation

by Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales
U.S. Air Force in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

6/19/2015 - RIGA, Latvia -- After two weeks of training, learning and building partnerships Saber Strike 15 in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland came to a close June 20, 2015.

Saber Strike 15 provided 14 nations and more than 6,000 service members an opportunity to develop skills and interoperability not only among themselves but also with U.S. Air Force assets.

The USAFE and the Air National Guard provided close air support in the form of F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolts II, and B-52 Stratofortress. The C-130J Super Hercules joined the exercise providing on time cargo deliveries and a jump platform for paratroopers. In addition, the KC-135 Stratotanker provided the fuel to keep the CAS going for those joint terminal attack controllers on the ground training with multinational ground force units.

"The biggest take away from Saber Strike is just the opportunity to work with our partners and the unique training here that we couldn't get anywhere else," said Maj. Joey Lubbers, 435th AGOW director of staff. "Also just working with different partners from different nations Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, and sharing ideas about how to operate more effectively together in a NATO capacity."

Unique training opportunities allowed the 37th Airlift Squadron and 435th Contingency Response Group to test the capability of establishing an airfield on an unknown grass field and then landing a C-130J on that designated area.

Other opportunities included JTACs embedding Latvian army units to show what airpower can provide to ground forces.

"When you are in a deployed environment you may not know who you're going to be working with if you don't deploy with the unit your are supporting," Tech. Sgt. Todd Jensen, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron JTAC. You can go as a one or two person team and support people you haven't met before but if you have that network already put in place because (events like Saber Strike) you can build that knowledge base right of the bat and have an understanding of that squadrons expectations and jump right into training and fighting."

The Air Force made history during Saber Strike 15, when a B-52 Stratofortress performed the first bomb drop at Adazi Training Area, Latvia. It also provided close air support to ground forces' offensive-defensive operations during Distinguished Visitors day. It wasn't the only CAS airframe around though.

The A-10s providing CAS were able to hear a British accent come over the radio, or a Latvian JTAC in order to know and understand each other. This was the first time the 175th Wing, Maryland ANG, sent eight A-10 to participate in Saber Strike providing close air support to multinational ground force units.

The Pennsylvania and Michigan KC-135 refuelers and A-10 units from across the U.S. came together to host the Latvian and several distinguished visitor showcasing the Air Force and what it brings to the battle. The refuelers improved their interoperability among themselves to improve their capabilities with 17 missions providing more than 25,600 gallons of fuel.

"Saber Strike 2015 serves as another shining example of the enduring partnership that exists between Michigan and Latvia through the State Partnership program," said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, 127th Wing commander, Michigan Air National Guard.  "The Wing and the State deployed people and equipment in a substantive demonstration of our resolve to support our partners and to let them know that Michigan has been, and will be, a true friend in times of peace as well as in times of trouble."

While Saber Strike came to a close, it is just one of many exercises helping build partnerships and build interoperability between the U.S. and NATO allies and continuing to support the stability in and around the Baltic Area.