Wednesday, June 24, 2015

23d AMXS keeps A-10s flying during DRAGON STRIKE

by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman
23d Wing Public Affairs

6/22/2015 - AVON PARK AIR FORCE RANGE, Fla. -- Team Moody sent more than 100 maintainers and 36 tons of cargo from the 23d Maintenance Group to Exercise DRAGON STRIKE to keep 10 A-10C Thunderbolt IIs ready for flight here, June 6-13.

DRAGON STRIKE was a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) oriented exercise including close air support (CAS), surface-to-surface fire and combat search and rescue missions, each requiring A-10 maintenance support.

"The importance of the 23d MXG at DRAGON STRIKE was to ensure our A-10s could successfully perform their portion of the exercise, which was to provide outstanding CAS for our JTACs and joint partners," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Drew Vorhies, 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge.

The joint exercise mirrored a deployment for the maintainers, unlike their standard temporary duties to other Air Force bases according to Vorhies.

"Our Airmen learned how to operate out of a bare-bone, austere-like environment down at Avon Park," Vorhies said. "We have gotten very spoiled with the standard Nellis, Barkesdale and Eglin [temporary duties], that it's refreshing to pack up a large maintenance package and deploy to a place we are not as familiar with."

"Once we got into a good battle rhythm down there, it was just like we were performing maintenance back home," he added.

The operations tempo generally changes when maintainers deploy to remote locations and DRAGON STRIKE was no different.

"This was a good exercise to prepare us for [deployments]," said Senior Airman Jeffrey Veazey, 74th AMU A-10 avionics specialist. "We're doing just as much work here as we would do [at Moody], but with much less manpower."

Even through the long hours and deployment-like conditions, the 23d MXG kept the A-10s ready to fly for the entire eight-day exercise.

"Maintaining 10 aircraft at an austere location like Avon Park is no small feat," said Vorhies. "Our maintainers ensured that we did not lose a single exercise sortie due to maintenance. As usual, the 23d MXG easily overcame those difficulties and did an outstanding job supporting DRAGON STRIKE."

Carter Discusses Baltic Sea Exercise, Praises U.S. Troops

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2015 – The annual Baltic Operations exercise demonstrates the United States’ commitment to defend the alliance in light of recent Russian actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told service members aboard the USS San Antonio in Estonia yesterday.

The secretary said he wanted to impart two messages as he spoke to service members aboard the ship, which was in Estonia to serve as the lead U.S. ship of the 43rd BALTOPS sea exercise, a recently concluded multinational exercise held annually since 1971. This year’s BALTOPS concluded June 19.

Carter first emphasized how the ship’s operations in the Baltic Sea are important to Europeans.

“And the reason for that is you stand in a long line of Americans who have stood behind Europe and freedom in Europe,” he said.

BALTOPS is about the U.S. alliance with NATO and its commitment to defend all NATO territory, Carter said, particularly in light of recent Russian aggression.

“We didn't want this new challenge, because we've been busy for the last decade and a half,” the secretary said. “We've had Iraq [and] Afghanistan. We've got plenty going on in the world, but then all of a sudden, you have behavior by Russia.”

BALTOPS Important to Europe

The BALTOPS mission is “highly, highly visible in Europe,” Carter said, calling it a “very big deal.”

Europeans find the exercise reassuring because of what U.S. service members in the BALTOPS mission stand for, he said.

“So thank you on behalf of not only your own country, but all of these countries here in Europe for what you've been doing here,” Carter told the service members.

People Make U.S. ‘Greatest Fighting Force’

“The reason we're the greatest fighting force the world has ever known isn't just because we've got magnificent ships like the San Antonio [and] it's not because we have great weapons and that kind of thing,” Carter said. “It's because of the people we have; it's because of you.”

The secretary said he wakes every morning to that thought.

“You're what it's all about. I know that. And your readiness, your welfare, your equipment, your deployments are what I give my utmost care to,” he said.

“So my heart is so with you guys all day, every day, and I wanted you to know that. We're not only very proud of what you're doing for the world, but we're proud … to be associated with you,” Carter added.

People “are what matters most to me and [that is] my highest priority as secretary of defense,” Carter said, “I wanted to meet with you tonight.”

He greeted each service member and gave them a defense Challenge coin.

Team Navy's Arrows Hit Their Targets at the Warrior Games

By Robin Hillyer-Miles, Fleet and Family Readiness Public Affairs

QUANTICO, Va. (NNS) -- The second day of the Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games competition kicked off early for Team Navy's archers on June 22, and concluded with two bronze medals.

The metal bleachers rang with cheers while seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members battled through several elimination rounds. Teams and individual archers were grouped according to the bows they used -- recurve or compound.

One of Team Navy's compound teams -- which included Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class John Dusseau, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Roel Espino, and retired Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Adrian Mohammed -- brought home the bronze medal after a nail-biting finish and an emotional wait for the final results.

Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Jamie Byrd, one of three Coast Guard athletes on Team Navy, shined in the individual recurve competition. After hours of tough contention, Byrd advanced to the finals and won the bronze medal.

Later, as third seed in the wheelchair basketball bracket, Team Navy faced off against a worthy adversary in Team Air Force. The winner was slated to advance to the gold-medal match against the Marines.

Parents, spouses, children, friends, volunteers, and fellow athletes filled Barber Gym with screams of excitement. The teams showed their appreciation by zipping back and forth, trading baskets, and revving up the score. Team Navy won decisively with a final score of 44 to 27.

"Team Navy played an excellent game," said retired Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Hector Varela. "We showed heart and were aggressive. Now we just need to continue that momentum in the game for the gold." Varela joined the Navy in 1988 and said he enjoyed his naval career until he lost his left leg above the knee due to a motorcycle accident in 2012.

The game's highest-scoring player was retired Navy Chief Yeoman Javier Rodriguez Santiago, who put up 14 points throughout the game. His teammates turned in outstanding performances as well, making critical passes, rebounds and steals.

"We played great defense!" said retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande. "Wounded warrior wheelchair basketball is a beneficial sport to me, as it allows me to compete on a professional level." After serving for more than nine years, Lemerande's Humvee was struck by a pressure plate anti-tank mine during his second combat deployment.

Thirty-nine seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors are competing on behalf of Team Navy this year. The Warrior Games are being held June 19-28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Approximately 250 wounded warrior athletes are participating in the competition.

Team Navy is sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW)-Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. Team members have upper-body injuries, lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses and/or post-traumatic stress.

Secretary Reviews Collaboration With Canadian Counterpart

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Canadian Defense Minister Jason Kenney today reviewed the ongoing collaboration between the United States and Canada in the operations to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria, Defense Department officials said.

Carter and Kenney are in Brussels, where they are attending a conference of NATO defense ministers.

“Secretary Carter commended Canada for its contributions -- particularly their training efforts in northern Iraq -- and he and Minister Kenney discussed ways the United States and Canada can continue to work together on this issue,” officials said in a statement summarizing the meeting.

Ukraine Situation

The two defense leaders also discussed Russia's ongoing aggression in Ukraine and international efforts to provide assistance directly to Ukraine and surrounding countries, both bilaterally and through NATO reassurance initiatives, officials said.

Carter and Kenney also reiterated their support for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and pledged to continue coordinating closely on collective defense, the statement said.