Military News

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dempsey Describes Chairman’s Job as Being ‘The Dash’


By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2015 – In the world of political-military affairs, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey likes to say that he is “the dash.”

The dash is not the name of some superhero. It is the punctuation mark found between “political” and “military” when both factors exist in a given situation.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff lives at the intersection of policy objectives and the military activities used to achieve them.

“When we testify, we all get drawn into different discussions about strategic objectives and campaign objectives and political objectives,” Dempsey said during a recent interview. “But the one that lives at that intersection is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Dempsey is the 18th officer to hold the chairman position since it was established in 1947. Nominated by President Barack Obama, he was confirmed by the Senate and took office in October 2011, succeeding Navy Adm. Mike Mullen.

By statute, the chairman is the military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council. The chairman also has the responsibility of consulting with Congress on issues related to national security.

Highest-Ranking Officer, But Commands No Troops

The chairman is the U.S. military’s highest-ranking officer, but he commands no troops. “I’m an advisor on matters related to the use of the military instrument of power,” Dempsey explained. “I’m not intended to be, nor would it appropriate for me to be, an advocate for any particular strategy or policy.”

He said there are three questions asked when developing a strategy, the first being whether the United States can do something. If that something is in the military sphere, it becomes a question for the chairman.

“In that context, in that room, among our elected officials and our appointed officials, I’m the one that is most accountable to answer the question: Can we do something militarily?” Dempsey said.

The chairman shares responsibility for the second question, which is “Will it work?”

“If there’s a particular political objective, I first describe the military capabilities that might be applied against that challenge, and then I integrate that conversation about … the military instrument of power with diplomatic power, economic power, information, [and so on],” he said.

The third question is one for elected officials: Should the United States do it?

“I’m at the table, I have a voice, but at that point, my voice becomes far less prominent in the room than it is in answering the first two questions,” Dempsey said.

Nature of Job Often Misunderstood

The general noted that people who don’t understand the nature of the job -- the idea of the chairman being the dash -- accuse the chairman of being an administration stooge. “It has happened to every chairman since I’ve become aware that there was a thing called the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said.

Having served as a special assistant to then-chairman Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, Dempsey said, he has some unique insight into this.

“I remember working for General Shelton and [reading] some very hurtful … articles about him … as a lapdog of the president -- by the way, a phrase which has been reprised recently,” he said.

But a chairman has an obligation to provide military advice more broadly, the general said. Dempsey provides military advice and expertise to members of the Senate and House of Representatives, regardless of political party.

The statute is set up so the chairman can give his personal advice. But any chairman quickly comes to the conclusion that consulting with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the vice chairman, the Army chief of staff, Air Force chief of staff, the commandant of the Marine Corps, the chief of naval operations and the director of the National Guard Bureau -- is the preferred way to go, Dempsey said. He meets with the Joint Chiefs at least twice a week.

“They help formulate and articulate what we call best military advice,” he said. Those meetings are part of the chairman’s significant convening power.

“I can convene a meeting of the JCS, which I do,” he said. “I can convene a meeting of combatant commanders, who work directly for the secretary of defense. They understand that the secretary is going to ask me for my advice, so it’s very clear to them and to me that we need to be consulting with each other frequently on issues as they arise around the globe.”

Adjudicating Priorities

The chiefs of the services build their forces, the combatant commanders employ those forces, and the chairman, once again, finds himself in the middle. “I’m kind of the one in the middle of that who adjudicates the priority,” Dempsey said. “Literally, I’m at the intersection of … political objectives, military activities, service chiefs and combatant commanders, and … international partners.”

The president is the commander in chief of the military, and he chairs National Security Council meetings. These happen, on average, about once a week, the chairman said. In addition, Dempsey said, he goes to all of the principals’ committee meetings in the White House -- usually two or three a week.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Dempsey also have a scheduled meeting with the president every week.

“From time to time, either I will ask to see [the president] privately or he will ask to see me privately,” the chairman said. “I have access to him, and obviously he has access to me.”

Building Relationships

Being at the center of so many processes made him realize early in his term that the key to being effective was building relationships, Dempsey said. Any chairman must build up relationships with elected officials, appointed officials, other U.S. military leaders and foreign military leaders, he added.

One of those relationships is with the American people, he said, and he feels an obligation to speak periodically about the military to the American people at large.

But also, he said, a private first class wants to know that if he or she is asked to go into harm’s way, someone is thinking about the implications at the national level. “And that happens to be -- generally speaking -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he added.

Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens takes USARAK reins from Shields

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs


7/17/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Maj. Gen. Michael Shields relinquished command of U.S. Army Alaska to Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens in a change-of-command ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Pershing Parade Field July 10.

Officials nominated Shields for directorship of the Pentagon's Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (previously the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) and promotion to lieutenant general.

In his remarks, reviewing officer Gen. Vincent Brooks, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, placed the ceremony in context of the Army's nearly 150-year history in the 49th state.

"Today's ceremony marks another milestone in the long history of the Army in Alaska," Brooks said. "Since 1867, there has been an Army presence in a place long recognized as a strategically important location for the United States of America. That strategic importance continues today as we advance our national efforts to rebalance in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region, and as we continue to pursue our interests in the Arctic. Alaska is important to both of these efforts."

Brooks said numerous USARAK deployments to Afghanistan, peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, and partnership exercises with allied nations during Shields' tenure show the value of the Army in Alaska.

"Our arctic warriors under Major General Shields were found in places like Nepal, Mongolia, Chile, not to mention Deadhorse and the top of Mount McKinley - amazing work by a great outfit commanded by a great commander," Brooks said. "This command - filled with arctic-tough Soldiers who are unique in the joint force - demonstrated to anyone who was watching that Alaska is a strategic location for the United States, and that we can project forces from here to any place our national leaders order them to go."

Shields echoed Brooks' sentiments during his remarks.

"No organization in the U.S. military can do what these Soldiers do," Shields said. "They're the cold-weather and cold-regions proponent of the Army. They're expected to be the experts in the conduct of decisive action in support of unified land operations as well as operationally effective in extreme cold-weather environments."

Shields thanked many of the senior officers, noncommissioned officers and civilians on his staff for making his command successful. He also recognized USARAK's civilian neighbors for their support.

"To the entire Alaskan community, thank you for your patriotism and loyalty," he said. "Nowhere else in the world will you find a community more supportive of the military and so willing to express their gratitude. The love and unconditional support our Soldiers enjoy in Alaska is something special to witness and experience, and we don't take it for granted."

Above all, Shields expressed gratitude to USARAK's Soldiers.

"America is fortunate to have such dedicated, outstanding warriors, and I'm proud to have been part of such a great team," he said. "It's been an honor to lead you."

Most recently, Owens served as director of Joint Operations, U.S. European Command. He has served in every officer leadership position from platoon leader to brigade commander.

"In choosing Bryan Owens for this command, the Army chose a leader with both the warfighting credentials of a seasoned infantryman and a vast array of high-level staff positions as a warrior statesman," Brooks said.

Brooks acknowledged Owens and his wife, Jen, would face challenges, including the recently announced drawdown of more than 2,600 USARAK Soldiers.

"We are counting on Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens and Jen to move this command forward, working through the challenges of implementing the Army's directed reductions here in Alaska while also increasing the pace of engagement activities and demonstrating our capabilities around the region," he said. "I'm confident that Team Owens will be successful, because - as Bryan is known to say - in the end it comes down to leadership."

Shields - who served with Owens when they were battalion commanders at Fort Bragg, North Carolina - said he is confident the new commander is the right Soldier to succeed him.

"He has an incredible reputation, which has only grown," Shields said of Owens. "He's led a brigade in combat. He knows what sacrifice and training is required to train units ready to answer our nation's call in support of any combatant commander. Bryan Owens is simply the right leader at the right time to lead the Soldiers of U.S. Army Alaska."

Owens' previous assignments include deputy commanding general-operations (South), 25th Infantry Division in Iraq; commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia; and chief of staff for the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Owens expressed his feelings at assuming command.

"It is truly a pleasure to be back with Soldiers again and to serve in such an awesome place," he said.

"I fully commit myself to you and your families as we continue to provide trained and ready forces in support of worldwide contingencies, support theater engagements in the Pacific and the Arctic, and military operations in the Alaska Joint Operations Area in order to contribute to a stable and secure environment.

"I look forward to leading this awesome team as we create opportunities and tackle the challenges that lie ahead, including new ones announced by our Army leadership," Owens continued. "There is no doubt that [USARAK Soldiers] are the Army's premier cold-weather, high-altitude cold region experts, and I'm proud to join your ranks."

4 FW Airman shines at Inter-Nation Championship

by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/17/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Her journey was full of unknowns. She was thousands of miles from home and in a very unfamiliar land. As foreign as she felt, there was one 7-ft wide circle that made her feel right at home.

For Airman 1st Class Jessica Johnson, 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician, it was the moment she had long waited for. As she stepped into the circle, she remembered all the training; the blood, sweat and tears she had poured into preparing for this opportunity.

She grabbed her weapon of choice, mentally prepared herself, and launched it downrange.

"11.44 meters," the official exclaimed.

The mark was good enough for Johnson to place second in the individual shot put competition during the 2015 Headquarters Aircom Inter-Nation Athletics Championship in Amsterdam, and contributed to the U.S. Air Force Europe women's team taking home the gold medal.

"My goal was to come in first place or throw over 12.5 meters, but I fell short of those," Johnson said. "I was disappointed in myself. The feeling of competing on that level is hard for me to describe. I'm truly blessed I had the opportunity to represent the Air Force on that stage."

Shot put is a track and field event where individuals toss a heavy, metal ball known as 'the shot' as far as possible. For years, Johnson honed her craft in the sport, dating back to February 2009 when she was a sophomore in high school.

"I've always enjoyed sports," Johnson said. "I participated in a couple of different ones, but I wanted to try something new and challenging."

After joining the military, Johnson continued training for competition. In February 2015, she discovered the Air Force sports program and immediately upped her game.

"I began going to the gym more and more," Johnson said. "I performed weight training three to five times a week and threw four to six times each week, anywhere from one to two hours."

As part of the selection process, Johnson compiled statistics on her shot put performance and traveled to two different track meets to compete, winning one of them in Washington D.C.

"It was refreshing to compete again after all these years," Johnson said. "After getting my feet wet at a couple of competitions, I knew this was the sport for me."

After applying for the U.S. Air Force Europe team and spending months preparing, Johnson was selected for the team.

"The last time I competed was back in high school, which was more than four years ago," Johnson said. "I hadn't had adequate training since then."

When not competing or training, Johnson can be found working in the 4th AMDS as a public health technician, where she is highly regarded by her coworkers.

"Johnson is goal oriented and on track to achieve her goals," said Staff Sgt. Svetlana Alviar, 4th AMDS community health NCO in charge and Johnson's supervisor. "As an Airman, she led a volunteer event which shows her commitment to growing her leadership skills and potential for doing greater things in the future."

Johnson now focuses on completing upgrade training, but afterward, she plans on competing in more events.

"I plan on applying for the Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Military Championship that takes place in South Korea at the end of this year," Johnson said. "After that, I'll apply for the World Class Championship program."

Although thousands of miles into her journey, Johnson's quest for the World Class Championships are just beginning.

"Throughout my life, my family has always been a strong foundation of support for me," Johnson said. "With them behind me, my drive for competing will never run out."

Beale maintainers achieve "black-letter" status on Dragon Lady

by Airman Preston L. Cherry
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs


7/17/2015 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California -- Members of the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assigned to the U-2 Dragon Lady here were recognized for an accomplishment that hasn't happened in 13 years in the aircraft maintenance field here on July 13, 2015.

The achievement, known in the maintenance community as a "black-letter jet," happens when a plane flies with zero discrepancies, even minor flaws such as small cracks, chips or anything that does not risk flight safety. Most aircraft fly with multiple minor discrepancies that pose little to no effect on flight.

The age of the U-2 plays a significant role in making the achievement uncommon.

"This was a 1980 model," said Chief Master Sgt. John Pinksaw, 9th AMXS superintendent. "A 35-year-old airplane scored zero defects. Try to find that on a 35-year-old car."

Maj. Stacey Ferguson, 9th AMXS commander, said the effort takes determination, and because of parts and timing, it's difficult to attain.

"It's like pitching a no-hitter," Pinksaw said. "The pitcher tries to throw a perfect game every time, but the chances of that happening are rare."

Pinksaw said a form used to verify the inspection status of an aircraft receives different red marks by an aircraft inspector, each mark representing a different discrepancy status of the aircraft. If everything is in perfect working order, a single letter initial of the last name of the inspector is marked in black ink.

"When they handed me this form, I almost fell down," Pinksaw said. "I immediately ran over, grabbed the boss and said, 'Look at what the guys did!'"

Staff Sgt. Stefan Watkins-Krukowski, 9th AMXS dedicated crew chief of tail #1067, said the achievement took hard effort and was a great way for the crew to showcase pride in their work.

"We were high-fiving, hugging and all smiles," Watkins-Krukowski said. "There was nothing that was going to bring us down that day."

Although many crew members from the 9th Maintenance Group were associated with the accomplishment, a select few were recognized and awarded for taking the initiative.

Recognized maintenance Airmen:

Tech Sgt. Bruce McClaskey
Staff Sgt. Stefan Watkins-Krukowski
Staff Sgt. Brad Wiebelhaus
Staff Sgt. Jeffery Austin
Senior Airman Alex Pollard
Airman 1st Class Mathew Webb

"I'm just so proud of all of these guys," Ferguson said. "It's no small feat to take care of the Air Force's entire high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fleet. Every day is important, every mission is important, and every story is important. We've got combatant commanders around the world depending on us to do that job right. These guys embody that."

Hungarian air force performs first historic air refueling with help from NATO ally, partner

by Senior Airman Kate Thornton
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


7/17/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England  -- The Hungarian air force hosted U.S. and Swedish air force personnel between June 21 and 30, 2015, at Kecskemét air base, Hungary, to learn air-to-air refueling for the first time.

Following a recent tasking to perform close air support for global operations, the Hungarian air force made this new capability a priority.

The NATO allies and partners met for a two-week familiarization period enabling the Hungarian JAS-39 Gripen pilots to perform air-to-air refueling in a safe and controlled environment before applying the new skill in combat.

"To get the right mission strength, we need to have air-to-air refueling, that's why we turned to the U.S. to get some AAR capability and initial training," said Hungarian air force Brig. Gen. Csebe Ugrik, Kecskemét AB commander.

As the only permanent U.S. Air Force air refueling wing in the European theater, the aircrew and tanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England, was the go-to unit to provide practical training after the classroom portion.

"Now we could finally start this training and get this very important force multiplier capability for the Hungarian Gripen fleet," said Hungarian air force Lt. Col. Tamas Szvath, Hungarian AF fixed wing training commander.

Although the Gripen aircraft has the ability to air refuel, the Hungarian pilots needed training.

Three instructor pilots from the Swedish air force Gripen Operational Testing and Evaluation unit were responsible for the training syllabus, basic training and the Hungarian instructor pilot training.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Benjamin Kline and Tech. Sgt. Daniel Maas, 351st Air Refueling Squadron instructor pilot and boom operator, instructed the Hungarian students using the KC-135 Stratotanker as the training platform, which gave them an idea of what to expect when communicating and air refueling with the U.S. tanker.

After three days of academics taught by representatives from the two guest air forces involved, the pilots took flight for hands-on familiarization.

"In the beginning of the training we're trying not to focus on [a quota of successful contacts]," Swedish air force Capt. Fredrik Borgström, Gripen instructor pilot said. "We want to make sure the performance is safe, corrections are made after feedback and they continue to improve. Then in the end we want them to handle those corrections by themselves and analyze their own behavior."

Along with learning air refueling, the Hungarians needed instructor pilots to maintain the new skills. The Swedish instructor pilots trained two individuals after they had completed their basic air refueling training.

"You have to start somewhere," Borgström said. "It is not ideal to become an instructor when you've just recently done your basic training, but we show them the tool box so they have a way to move forward with training."

The tanker and Gripen aircrew flew approximately six hours daily for six days to ensure the pilots understood their new capability. The training event also developed better interoperability between the air forces.

"Our job is to sustain and project air power," Kline said, "We're here to enable the Hungarians with this new military skill set."

After days of performing only dry contacts with the tanker, the pilots were confident enough and took fuel for the first time, proving they were ready to perform air refueling safely and correctly.

"For the future of the Gripen fleet, it means we have a capability the Hungarian air force has never had before," Szvath said. "Our partners who provided this help to us have written their names in the history of Hungarian military aviation."

First installation complete on third largest AFWET upgrade

by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


7/15/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- A key system that helps ensure the global free flow of information throughout all military branches and other government agencies is undergoing a major overhaul.

Led by a team at Hanscom Air Force Base, the AFWET system is receiving its third largest upgrade to date, known as the Modernization of Enterprise Terminals, or MET, for short.

Using a variety of satellites to transfer both classified and unclassified data, these terminals provide the backbone for the Global Information Grid and keep Airmen connected across the globe. Structurally, AFWET are heavy- or medium-fixed Wideband Global SATCOM, or Defense Satellite Communication System, terminals comprised of a radome, electronics and a 38- to 60-foot dish antenna.

Recently, the program team completed the first successful MET kit installation for the AFWET system located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, signifying the modernization effort is well on its way.

"AFWET is a system of systems, and the MET upgrade modernizes approximately 60 percent of the terminals," said Shawn Patterson, AFWET program manager, who has spent more than a decade working on the program. "We are steadily ramping up and expect to have another three installations completed shortly."

The Ramstein terminal is the first of 32 systems the Air Force is responsible for updating. However, MET is a Department of Defense initiative, which will impact an estimated 90 fielded joint terminals altogether.

Since the AFWET program team performs implementation and integration organically -- meaning without the use of prime contractors -- it takes advantage of partnering with other services to reduce cost.

For example, the Air Force was able to benefit from research and development performed by other military branches. In addition, the Hanscom program team utilizes a government-off-the-shelf approach, which helps maintain a joint standard, promotes a standardized software baseline and results in lower prices on joint terminal purchases with the Army.

"Savings have been quite substantial -- in the millions of dollars," Patterson said. "Since this is an enterprise system, and not specifically for Airmen only, capability as well as cost falls to all of the services."

The AFWET program team's primary focus is the MET modernization; however, it is also responsible for the overall life cycle of the terminals, which includes modernizing and sustaining the remaining 40 percent of the terminals.

"We are the product support integrator," Patterson said. "Addressing other sustainment issues outside the MET modernization is all part of keeping the system alive."

There are 25 targeted sustainment actions currently underway with an additional 15 to 25 slated for next fiscal year, according to the AFWET program manager.

Some of the sustainment actions include reliability and software modifications, technical refreshes on alarm systems, modem upgrades and updating fiber communications, terrestrial equipment and routers.

With each completed MET and sustainment effort, the life span of the AFWET system is extended.

"The successful installation of the first MET upgrade marks an important milestone in the progress of the AFWET program," said Col. Todd Krueger, Space, Aerial and Nuclear Networks Division senior materiel leader. "Mr. Patterson and his team have done an outstanding job of preparing for worldwide installation and support while focusing on affordability. They are delivering critical global connectivity for the joint warfighter."

Carter Approves Force-Protection Steps in Wake of Chattanooga Shootings



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved immediate force-protection steps in the wake of yesterday's shooting incidents in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that left four Marines dead and a Navy sailor wounded, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said today.

Carter also has directed the services to examine additional steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of service members and civilians at military installations, Cook said in a statement, and has asked for recommendations by the end of next week.

The Defense Department continues to gather information on the circumstances surrounding the tragedy in Tennessee, including the specific security measures in place at the two facilities, Cook said.

“[The secretary's] thoughts and prayers are with the families of the four Marines who lost their lives in this horrific act, and those injured in the shootings,” Cook's statement said. “He is grateful for the service members and first responders whose quick actions likely saved lives."