Military News

Friday, July 31, 2015

Director of the Air National Guard visits Jefferson Barracks

by Staff Sgt. Brittany Cannon
131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs


7/27/2015 - JEFFERSON BARRACKS, Missouri  -- The director of the Air National Guard viewed missions firsthand, received a base tour and recognized Missouri Citizen-Airmen during his first-ever visit to Jefferson Barracks July 21.

Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III visited the historic Air Guard base, which is home to a number of 131st Bomb Wing units, along with the 157th Operations Group, 239th Combat Communication Squadron and 231st Civil Engineer Flight.

Clarke was able to visit with Missouri Air Guardsmen and see the unique capabilities they provide to the state of Missouri and the United States Air Force. The general received unit mission orientations and a walking tour of the historical Jefferson Barracks grounds.

Throughout the tour, Clarke met and "coined" several Airmen for their superior performance, including: Master Sgt. Carissa M. Correll, 131st Logistics Readiness Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Brian P. Conrey, 131st Civil Engineering Squadron; Master Sgt. Timothy J. Loyd, 239th CBCS, Staff Sgt. Kenneth A. Romero, 157th AOG and Maj. Bridget S. Zorn, 157th AOG.

"Guardsmen make the choice to defend their homeland every day," said Clarke before coining one of the Citizen-Airmen. When presenting the coin, he described his design, which includes his three Air Guard core competencies emblazoned on its face: warfighting, security cooperation and homeland operations.

"I was beyond ecstatic and completely honored that the director of the Air National Guard personally handed me his coin," said Romero. "It was a privilege I wasn't expecting."

"Our Citizen-Airmen are rightly proud to have had the opportunity to share about their roles and their missions with the Air National Guard's top leader," said Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander.  "A critical mass of our 131st people - and a critically unique, high-tech and particularly effective slate of military capabilities - remains resident here at Jefferson Barracks  These capabilities set us apart in the Guard and across the entire Air Force."

Completing the visit, Clarke said he was pleased to have met so many superior performers throughout the wing and to have toured historic Jefferson Barracks, which remains the oldest continuously operated military installation west of the Mississippi river.

Orphanage construction builds friends in Latvia

by Master Sgt. Allen Pickert
190th Public Affairs


7/28/2015 - FORBES FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ks. -- Coyotes engineer a better life for orphans in Latvia while deterring aggression at the same time.

The 190th Civil Engineering Squadron spent most of June in Daugavpils, Latvia, working with Latvian military engineers renovating an orphanage.

Funded by European Command, this humanitarian civic assistance project is designed to improve relations with the host country while practicing military cooperation. In this instance, it also happens to improve the facilities and lives of 53 Latvian orphans.

The project included major improvements to the building from the foundation to the roof, and everything in between. The more than 40 member team included eight Latvian Army engineers and the rest from the 190th.

"The different systems and language posed a real challenge the first couple of days, but we made it work." said Staff Sgt. Aaron Rowley, a first time deplorer with CES,
"They truly made it work because after the first few days, the local Latvian contractors began thinking of extra projects for our engineers because they did not expect the Americans to be so proficient in their construction skills."

Rowley was also impressed by the CES teamwork, saying it was one of his favorite things about the whole trip. The entire CES team voluntarily came to the orphanage on one of their days off to give toys and gifts to the orphans, and lend their muscle to some extra clean-up projects the orphanage needed.

While there was a lot of teamwork and relation building on the work sight in Daugavpils, the team actually stayed in an empty school house nearly a half hour away in Medumi, Latvia. Relation building continued there, much of it done through the international language of soccer.

"Maybe you couldn't talk to each other before playing, but on the soccer field it showed we are all alike." said Senior Airman Daniel Robinson-Lopez, a first time deplorer. "I liked showing the ethnic Russians that we can work together and be friends."

Eastern Latvia, the Latgale region, is full of ethnic Russians with Russian being the common language. This deployment and joint operations with the Latvian Army engineers helped to build working relations between the different regions of Latvia and the United States.

Airman 1st Class Samantha Ghareeb on her first deployment said, "My favorite things have been experiencing a new culture and the food. The people are friendly:  we've been received really well here."

While the excitement of her first overseas deployment topped her list, the teamwork of CES wasn't far from her mind, "I wouldn't want to deploy with anyone else. I feel safe with CE." she added.

Teamwork comes naturally with the 190th CES and that same teamwork grew easily with the Latvian soldiers, civilian contractors and orphanage staff.

"Every aspect of the trip has far exceeded my expectations." said Senior Master Sgt. Casey Batterton, 190th CES member. "The most rewarding, by far, is the impact we are leaving on the 53 orphans. I could not be more proud of the Airmen, non-commissioned officers and Latvian engineers that made this happen, however I'm always quick to brag on family."

SECAF praises total force effort during Utah visit

by Capt. Jennifer Eaton
Utah Air National Guard JFHQ/PAO


7/29/2015 - SALT LAKE CITY -- The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, was the distinguished guest speaker at an "All Call" held at Hill Air Force Base July 24, with more than 400 civilian and military members of active-duty, guard and reserve components in attendance.

Secretary James considered it an absolute honor to have the opportunity to spend time touring Air Force installations worldwide and spent more than an hour addressing a variety of topics and fielded questions from the crowd.

"Visiting with our amazing Airmen is the biggest privilege of my professional life," said James.

Her formal remarks highlighted many of the key messages she regularly delivers to Air Force stakeholders on Capitol Hill. These included the size of the current Air Force, "the smallest we've seen since the service's inception;" challenges posed by aging equipment and aircraft; issues related to troop readiness; and the worldwide explosion of threats to national security.

"Everywhere we turn, the Air Force is asked to do more with less," said James. "The high ops tempo means that we are an Air Force under some stress."

As the individual in charge of the Air Force's annual budget of more than $139 billion, James can attest that much of the tension boils down to the financial tug-of-war between the Air Force and Congress where some differences in opinion occur on how to strike an effective balance between the readiness of today and the needs of tomorrow.

"We can't do one or the other," she said. "We've got to do both."

James challenged the audience; however, to stay focused on taking care of each other and the mission at hand and not spend too much time worrying about budgetary and procurement efforts.

"You have enough on your plates," she said. "Count on me for the best support I can provide to secure what we need to move forward."

James' remarks resonated with attendees like Vallaree McArthur, an Air Force employee who serves a civilian role at Hill AFB and as a Mission Support Group First Sergeant with the UTANG.

"Secretary James did a great job outlining top priorities in a way that was pertinent to military and civilian concerns," said McArthur. "She touched on quality of life improvements; recruiting and retention; striking a balance between maintaining versus modernizing assets; and holding everyone accountable to schedules and budgets ... the ideas and the presentation were spot on."

James' visit also included various facilities tours, meetings, and opportunities to speak with civilians, officers and enlisted members from across the state.

"We were honored to have Secretary James visit Utah," said Major General Jefferson Burton, Utah National Guard Adjutant General, who attended a dinner with military and civic leaders in Secretary James' honor.

"She is a visionary leader who is clearly committed to the total force concept," said Burton.
"In fact, she [James] took the time to express her gratitude for the contributions made by Utah Air National Guardsmen through missions conducted around the globe."

James said this type of total force integration is a great way for the service to "leverage the full innovative potential of all our Airmen," noting that Utah is leading the way in such efforts.

The caliber of Airmen she meets as she travels the globe, and their collaborative efforts come as no surprise, she said.

"Everywhere I go, I've been so impressed by our people...active, guard, and reserve units," she said. "They are the reason we're the greatest Air Force in the world."

Security Forces Get Unconventional During Tactical Training Exercise

by Airman Nitza Reynolds
125th Fighter Wing


7/30/2015 - CAMP BLANDING, Fla. -- Airmen from the 125th Security Forces Squadron are participating in a training exercise at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Florida to help them prepare for upcoming deployments.

These Airmen, with help and guidance from Counterdrug Task Force Training Instructors, also part of the Florida National Guard's 20th Special Forces group, are being trained on how to move tactically in an urban environment, assault target buildings while under fire, and the basics of air base defense.

Tech. Sgt. Kyle Showalter, 125th Security Forces Training Section, believes this training will be beneficial to airmen by taking them out of their comfort zones and using different styles of training.

"I want them to get a little bit more experienced to be able to see a different mindset."  said Showalter. "Traditionally, Security Forces is trained as a conventional force. These guys need to get out of that a little bit... and get more unconventional. That seems to be the type of warfare we're dealing with now and thinking in a 360 degree mindset as opposed to just one post, one way, at one time. They need to be able to see opposite threats, all threats all around them."

According to Airman 1st Class Austin Hendrix, 125th Security Forces Squadron, the training that he and the other security forces airmen are going through has been helpful in getting them comfortable and ready for deployment.

"Part of this training is for the group to get situated and learn how to tactically move and to try to get us ready." said Hendrix. "We will be deploying in a few months so we're trying to get everyone prepared for what might happen downrange."

This team of instructors has a lot of experience between them that is necessary for effective training. Along with the extensive training, knowledge, and experience of the National Guard Counterdrug instructors, there is a team of security forces instructors from the 125th Fighter Wing.  All of these instructors have deployed to multiple locations, worked with local national forces, and third country national forces. The different levels and types of experience that these instructors have will help prepare the Airmen for any situation they may encounter.

"All that experience comes into play with these troops when they get out overseas and see what they're going to see." said Showalter. "Some of them are going to more built bases than others; some of them may get forward deployed to other places.  I want these guys to be able to react and do everything that they need to do and that's when this experience comes into play."

9th Air Refueling Squardron recogonized as best in Air Force

by Senior Airman Charles Rivezzo
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


7/30/2015 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 9th Air Refueling Squadron was recognized July 18 as the "Top Air Refueling Section in the Air Force" after being presented the Albert L. Evans award during the 36th annual Boom Symposium at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

Refueling squadrons across all major commands and refueling platforms compete for the prestigious award. The Evans award was established in memory of Senior Master Sgt. Albert L. Evans, a pioneer in the history of Strategic Air Command's air refueling operations. The purpose of the trophy is to annually recognize, on a rotational basis, the most outstanding Boom Operator section in the Air Force, based on the accomplishments and professional qualities of the assigned Boom Operators.

"I think this achievement punctuates a tremendous year for our squadron and especially our Boom Operators," said Senior Master Sgt. Shane Hickman, 9th ARS superintendent. "Our Boom Operators are now part of a select few that have won this prestigious award and no one will ever be able to take that away from them."

Throughout 2014, the 9th ARS served as the cornerstone unit for Operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve, maintaining a significant worldwide presence and ensuring U.S. objectives were met. Duing this period of activity, the 9th ARS executed more than 1,700 combat missions, offloading 41.8 million pounds of fuel to U.S. Air Force, joint and coalition aircraft over Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The squadron engaged in multiple Department of Defense capstone missions within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, including leading the coalition strike group conducting the first air strikes on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces in Syria - a mission that featured the first female Emirati flight lead.

The men and women of the 9th ARS have maintained what they refer to as the "Gucci standard." A mantra they say epitomizes "executing the mission safely, swiftly and with pride."

"Gucci is a symbol of excellence and prestige that our squadron truly exudes each and every day," Hickman said. "The Gucci standard is always performing at the highest possible level. It is always setting the bar high and going above it. It is always pushing yourself and the team to the limit and never being satisfied with mediocrity. It is having a mindset that no one individual is bigger than the team."

Gucci aircrews also provided crucial air-to-air refueling support for the first Iraqi offensive to reclaim the Mosul Dam - a significant asset - in northern Iraq.

But offloading fuel wasn't the only mission-set the squadron was called upon for. The iconic "triple-threat" of the KC-10 Extender was similarly on display as the 9th ARS transported 3.9 million pounds of cargo and moved more than 3,000 passengers.

With a considerably high operations tempo and approximately 45 Boom Operators within the in-flight refueling section, these Airmen spent roughly 200 days of the year away from home.
According to squadron officials, this is the third time the 9th ARS has earned the Albert L. Evans award and the first time since 2006.

"We could not have achieved this award if it were not for the efforts of our entire Gucci team," said Hickman.  "This achievement is just another example of "upholding that standard and mindset."

Carter Congratulates New Chairman, Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered his congratulations to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva on their respective confirmations as the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Both have proven their mettle throughout their careers -- from General Dunford's first years as an infantryman to his leadership both in Afghanistan and of the Marine Corps, and from General Selva's early days as a pilot to his leadership of our military's transportation command,” Carter said in a statement released today.

The defense secretary said he looks forward to working closely with the defense leaders in their new roles, adding, “President [Barack] Obama and I -- and our nation's security -- will benefit greatly from their sage counsel and strategic perspective gained over years of operational experience.”

Dunford will become the nation’s 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, succeeding Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and Selva, who will succeed Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld, will become the 10th vice chairman.

“We will pay full tribute to our current chairman and vice chairman in short order, but today, on behalf of this department and its men and women in uniform, I thank General Dempsey and Admiral Winnefeld for their decades of dedicated service to our country,” Carter said.

“They provided the president and me with sound advice and steadfast leadership, keeping the nation secure and helping make sure our military remains the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” he said. “For that, our nation is ever grateful.”

Securing Airspace, JBER supports PRSC tenant unit

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs


7/31/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- All around Alaska, and out into the Pacific, little white domes dot the mountainside, coastlines, and islands-- the only tangible evidence of America's invisible armor.

The domes are operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by a small crew of mostly contracted civilian Airmen.

They drive up precarious, ice-covered slopes, braving 40 mile-per-hour winds in -40 degree temperatures with little to no medical support nearby as part of their daily work.

These are the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, (PSRC) formerly known as 611th Air Support Group, long-range radar sites. Their mission: track aircraft through Alaska's airspace and it's borders.

The PRSC manages 21 installations across the Pacific which, due to their locations, cannot be accessed by normal means, said Lt. Col Robert Bartlow, 611th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

The only way to get in or out is by plane or by barge.

In addition to constantly scouting the skies, some of the installations also serve as emergency airfields to which Air Force planes can divert should they need to make an unscheduled landing.

Others, like Wake Island, also serve as a halfway point, a gas station for planes to refill on their way to other Pacific locations.

"The missions at each one of those installations is a little bit different," Bartlow said. "Eareckson Air Station serves as an airfield, but also has a Cobra Dane radar system which is essentially a space-tracking asset that supports Air Force Space Command and the Missile Defense Agency."

Much like an air base wing would support its squadrons, the PRSC does the same with its three squadrons and one detachment, Bartlow said.

However, the difference is that the PRSC is a tenant unit, which means that they do not have their own base and infrastructure.

For that, the PRSC relies on the 673d Air Base Wing, and on the 3rd Wing for transportation to and from their sites.

It is this support from JBER units that enables the PRSC to ensure unauthorized aircraft do not come into American airspace.

The long-range radar sites are primarily run by contracted employees, with the maintenance being contracted as well. These contracts are accomplished through a partnership between the 766th Specialized Contracting Squadron and the 673d Contracting Squadron, with the 766th handling the larger contracts and the 673d providing construction and commodity contracts.

Because of it's unique facilities and mission, the PRSC offers opportunities JBER Airmen may not normally have, Bartlow said.

Airman 1st Class Joshua Quap, 673d Contracting Squadron, contracting specialist became one of those lucky few when he flew up to Indian Mountain to perform a final inspection for a boiler that was recently installed through his contracting squadron.

"It's definitely a different place, it really is. It was awe-inspiring, to say the least," said Quap. "It really shows Alaska for what it is."

"We [also] partner with the 673d Civil Engineer Group," Bartlow said. "We exchange personnel from time to time to expand their experience. We've received support with a couple of their engineering assistants who have been helping us out for several months to augment our folks and go out to these sites.

"It's great for us because we had more work than we could cover with the people we had," he said. "It's also great for them because it's an opportunity to get out and see something different, and to have an opportunity to provide direct oversight on some very unique projects.

"It's a win-win."

The 673d Force Support Squadron manages all PRSC manpower; all of their funding goes through the 673d Comptroller Squadron, and the 673d Logistics Readiness Group provides vehicle maintenance to PRSC locations.

"There needs to be Air Force equipment and vehicles on those island that needs to have an air force maintainer to take care of, and they readily offer those folks up and they spend months out there," Bartlow said.

"They do a lot of great work in making sure our equipment and vehicles are squared away."

The American military is made of several branches, each with unique missions and methods.

In the same way, JBER houses different units, each working separately for their own mission, but also together for a bigger one.

"We've got working relationships with all of them and are very pleased with the support they offer," said Air Force Captain Ben Shearer, PRSC executive officer. "Our mission would absolutely not be possible without their support, they enable us every single day to do our jobs."

ANG Band of the Midwest perfectly tuned

by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
185 ARW Wing PA


7/29/2015 - SIOUX CITY, IA -- The Air National Guard Band of the Midwest played a variety of music as part of a summer concert series entitled "Heroes Among Us" held here at the historic Grandview Park Bandshell.

The 566th band provided multiple ensembles including: Harmony in Blue, Permanent Party and a Concert Band performing both traditional and contemporary selections.

"The Air National Guard band program is meant to represent all of the members of the Air National Guard", said Master Sgt. Doug Mattsey, 566th band member. "We come out into the community, we represent a well-trained military force that can be activated at any time, our mission is to tell that story and do it through the gift of song and music."

All of the musicians are traditional guard personnel typically performing one weekend a month and 2 weeks during the summer unless they are deployed. The 2 week period is usually intended for concert tours like "Heroes Among Us" to provide music and to tell the Air Guard story.

This year's concert tour has them performing in Sioux City then throughout South Dakota in Sioux Falls, Hot Springs and Rapid City.

The Band of the Midwest is attached to the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, stationed at the Peoria Air National Guard Base. Their primary area of responsibility is a ten state region in the upper mid-west that includes Iowa and South Dakota. Beyond that the band performs for both civilian and military audiences throughout the United States and the world.

Winnefeld Would Repeat 37-Year Career ‘In a Heartbeat’




By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 – Looking back on a 37-year career, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., says he “would do it again in a heartbeat.”

The ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired today. As the day approached, he spoke about his experiences as the military’s second-highest-ranking officer.

Budget concerns dominated Winnefeld’s four-year term. He spent much of his time battling for more resources during an era of budget cuts.

He took office Aug. 4, 2011 -- two days after the Budget Control Act became law. A naval aviator, he flew F-14 Tomcats and commanded at every level from squadron to combatant command. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva succeeds Winnefeld, and will now take up the budget battle.

The vice chairman serves as the chairman in the chairman’s absence and has portfolios all his own. Those break down to investment, strategy and policy and people, the admiral said, adding that they must all be in balance for a healthy military.

Budget Control Act Generated New Challenges

The Budget Control Act threw the system off-kilter, he said. “Whenever you ask a large organization to either not grow as fast as it thought it was going to grow or actually shrink as far as its resources go, it’s a tremendous internal and external challenge,” the admiral said.

The external challenge is making sure the public and members of Congress know exactly how these changes affect the military’s mission to protect the national security interests of the United States, he said.

Internally, the challenge is to “marshal your creativity and keep people out of denial,” Winnefeld said, “and actually try to get something done where you can rebalance this portfolio so that we can defend the national security interests of the country as well as we can with the means that we’re granted.”

The military will continue to look for ways to save resources, either by cutting ineffectual programs or finding new ways to employ forces and equipment, he said. And, Winnefeld said, he and the rest of the Joint Chiefs will continue to stress that any forces sent into harm’s way will have the training, equipment and leadership needed to get the mission done.

But military readiness has suffered under the Budget Control Act and sequestration, the admiral acknowledged.

“I have a saying that ‘Readiness has no constituency,’ and it’s really true,” Winnefeld said. Saving force structure at the expense of readiness hollows out the force, he said.

“The services early on in this kind of process will say, … if we have to get smaller, we’re going to stay ready,” he said. “But when it comes to jumping off that cliff of actually cutting force structure, it’s very hard for them to bring themselves to do that.”

Cuts Worry Troops, Impact Strategy

Many leaders say it is easier to build readiness than it is to recover force structure. But these cuts have a deeper effect, Winnefeld said.

“When the money goes away and you’re not flying anymore, it hurts morale, it hurts retention, it hurts your ability to go off and fight quickly if you need to be able to fight,” he said. The services can recover over time and with a lot of money, the admiral said, but it is difficult to climb out of the readiness hole.

With already announced personnel cuts, many service members are worried that they will pay the price with longer and more frequent deployments, Winnefeld said. That concern is echoed by senior military and civilian leaders, he added.

“There have been a couple of instances lately … where we’ve come to the conclusion that … we have to do less,” the admiral said.

Winnefeld said that the military’s senior leaders understand that budgetary issues will force them to adjust missions.

“When we’ve gone over to the White House and explained that, when we’ve gone upstairs to the secretary of defense and explained that, they always ask a lot of questions,” he said.

“They want to make sure that our facts are right and that sort of thing. But they’ve never once pushed back and said, ‘No, I understand that this is going to be harder on your people, but you just have to do it.’ They’ve never said that.”

Sometimes, it is the military ethos that causes the problems. “Part of it is we’ve got such a can-do ethic around here that we don’t want to say we can do less,” the vice chairman said. “That’s part of the battle.”

It takes money and resources to fulfill a strategy -- particularly in terms of operational tempo, he said. “At some point we’re just going to have to say I’m sorry, we can’t do this one thing,” he said. “We’re going to have to trim back.”

This may mean fewer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, Winnefeld said. It may mean reducing the Navy’s forward presence, he said, or it may mean fewer Patriot batteries.

“Every service feels this,” he said. “We’re going to have to be willing to stand up and say we’re going to have to do less with less. And we can -- and I’ve never had pushback on that,” the admiral said.

Respect for Those Who Serve

Winnefeld and his wife are champions of service members and their families, especially of wounded warriors. “These are young men and young women who have raised their right hand, volunteered,” he said.

“They went in and they got hurt serving their country,” the admiral said. “And we owe everything we can to try to do the best we can for these warriors and their caregivers and their families to make sure that we take care of the ones who have given more than the average in the service of their country. It’s a moral obligation that we have, and it’s going to be with us for decades.”

Winnefeld said he wants the military to remain one of the most respected entities in America.

“The most important thing that we can do is maintain the trust of the American people,” he said. “It means, first of all, your own personal integrity and always doing the difficult right thing rather than the easy wrong, and purging it from our ranks when we find people who don’t get that.”

It also means being competent, the admiral said. “What that means is working hard, going the extra mile to learn your job, taking care of your people, making sure you can execute the mission, and just being dead-set dedicated to the mission that you’re on,” Winnefeld said.

He says that when he asks young service members if they want to trade places with him, none take him up. “It’s a delight to see these young millennials coming in, and they’re so smart, and they’re better than we ever were, and capable,” he said.

“They want to serve,” he said. “They want to do something important. For all the challenges that we deal with every day, seeing those young people come in just gives you all the faith in the world that we’re going to be OK.”

An Unexpected Career

Winnefeld has had a plethora of experiences in his 37-year Navy career. He flew off the wing of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear bomber right after a Sukhoi Su-15 shot down a Korean Air Lines 747 passenger jet and killed all 269 passengers and crew. It was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, Winnefeld said.

While serving as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, he worked on the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and later flew combat missions during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

As commander of the USS Enterprise on 9/11, he ordered the carrier -- then completing a deployment -- to turn around and head back to the Arabian Gulf. The ship was in position to launch some of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He went on to command U.S. Northern Command before his selection as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

When he graduated from Georgia Tech’s Navy ROTC program, he had no plan “other than to be a fighter pilot and take it from there,” he said.

“I almost left the Navy when I was young. I was in this sort of two-month window when I had to decide whether to take a bonus or leave. But I knew I was going to miss the people and I was going to miss the mission and the excitement, and so I decided to stick around.

“And it’s just gotten more and more interesting every year that I’ve been in,” he continued, “and it’s just a wonderful life. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat.”



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 – Looking back on a 37-year career, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., says he “would do it again in a heartbeat.”

The ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired today. As the day approached, he spoke about his experiences as the military’s second-highest-ranking officer.

Budget concerns dominated Winnefeld’s four-year term. He spent much of his time battling for more resources during an era of budget cuts.

He took office Aug. 4, 2011 -- two days after the Budget Control Act became law. A naval aviator, he flew F-14 Tomcats and commanded at every level from squadron to combatant command. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva succeeds Winnefeld, and will now take up the budget battle.

The vice chairman serves as the chairman in the chairman’s absence and has portfolios all his own. Those break down to investment, strategy and policy and people, the admiral said, adding that they must all be in balance for a healthy military.

Budget Control Act Generated New Challenges

The Budget Control Act threw the system off-kilter, he said. “Whenever you ask a large organization to either not grow as fast as it thought it was going to grow or actually shrink as far as its resources go, it’s a tremendous internal and external challenge,” the admiral said.

The external challenge is making sure the public and members of Congress know exactly how these changes affect the military’s mission to protect the national security interests of the United States, he said.

Internally, the challenge is to “marshal your creativity and keep people out of denial,” Winnefeld said, “and actually try to get something done where you can rebalance this portfolio so that we can defend the national security interests of the country as well as we can with the means that we’re granted.”

The military will continue to look for ways to save resources, either by cutting ineffectual programs or finding new ways to employ forces and equipment, he said. And, Winnefeld said, he and the rest of the Joint Chiefs will continue to stress that any forces sent into harm’s way will have the training, equipment and leadership needed to get the mission done.

But military readiness has suffered under the Budget Control Act and sequestration, the admiral acknowledged.

“I have a saying that ‘Readiness has no constituency,’ and it’s really true,” Winnefeld said. Saving force structure at the expense of readiness hollows out the force, he said.

“The services early on in this kind of process will say, … if we have to get smaller, we’re going to stay ready,” he said. “But when it comes to jumping off that cliff of actually cutting force structure, it’s very hard for them to bring themselves to do that.”

Cuts Worry Troops, Impact Strategy

Many leaders say it is easier to build readiness than it is to recover force structure. But these cuts have a deeper effect, Winnefeld said.

“When the money goes away and you’re not flying anymore, it hurts morale, it hurts retention, it hurts your ability to go off and fight quickly if you need to be able to fight,” he said. The services can recover over time and with a lot of money, the admiral said, but it is difficult to climb out of the readiness hole.

With already announced personnel cuts, many service members are worried that they will pay the price with longer and more frequent deployments, Winnefeld said. That concern is echoed by senior military and civilian leaders, he added.

“There have been a couple of instances lately … where we’ve come to the conclusion that … we have to do less,” the admiral said.

Winnefeld said that the military’s senior leaders understand that budgetary issues will force them to adjust missions.

“When we’ve gone over to the White House and explained that, when we’ve gone upstairs to the secretary of defense and explained that, they always ask a lot of questions,” he said.

“They want to make sure that our facts are right and that sort of thing. But they’ve never once pushed back and said, ‘No, I understand that this is going to be harder on your people, but you just have to do it.’ They’ve never said that.”

Sometimes, it is the military ethos that causes the problems. “Part of it is we’ve got such a can-do ethic around here that we don’t want to say we can do less,” the vice chairman said. “That’s part of the battle.”

It takes money and resources to fulfill a strategy -- particularly in terms of operational tempo, he said. “At some point we’re just going to have to say I’m sorry, we can’t do this one thing,” he said. “We’re going to have to trim back.”

This may mean fewer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, Winnefeld said. It may mean reducing the Navy’s forward presence, he said, or it may mean fewer Patriot batteries.

“Every service feels this,” he said. “We’re going to have to be willing to stand up and say we’re going to have to do less with less. And we can -- and I’ve never had pushback on that,” the admiral said.

Respect for Those Who Serve

Winnefeld and his wife are champions of service members and their families, especially of wounded warriors. “These are young men and young women who have raised their right hand, volunteered,” he said.

“They went in and they got hurt serving their country,” the admiral said. “And we owe everything we can to try to do the best we can for these warriors and their caregivers and their families to make sure that we take care of the ones who have given more than the average in the service of their country. It’s a moral obligation that we have, and it’s going to be with us for decades.”

Winnefeld said he wants the military to remain one of the most respected entities in America.

“The most important thing that we can do is maintain the trust of the American people,” he said. “It means, first of all, your own personal integrity and always doing the difficult right thing rather than the easy wrong, and purging it from our ranks when we find people who don’t get that.”

It also means being competent, the admiral said. “What that means is working hard, going the extra mile to learn your job, taking care of your people, making sure you can execute the mission, and just being dead-set dedicated to the mission that you’re on,” Winnefeld said.

He says that when he asks young service members if they want to trade places with him, none take him up. “It’s a delight to see these young millennials coming in, and they’re so smart, and they’re better than we ever were, and capable,” he said.

“They want to serve,” he said. “They want to do something important. For all the challenges that we deal with every day, seeing those young people come in just gives you all the faith in the world that we’re going to be OK.”

An Unexpected Career

Winnefeld has had a plethora of experiences in his 37-year Navy career. He flew off the wing of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear bomber right after a Sukhoi Su-15 shot down a Korean Air Lines 747 passenger jet and killed all 269 passengers and crew. It was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, Winnefeld said.

While serving as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, he worked on the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and later flew combat missions during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

As commander of the USS Enterprise on 9/11, he ordered the carrier -- then completing a deployment -- to turn around and head back to the Arabian Gulf. The ship was in position to launch some of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He went on to command U.S. Northern Command before his selection as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

When he graduated from Georgia Tech’s Navy ROTC program, he had no plan “other than to be a fighter pilot and take it from there,” he said.

“I almost left the Navy when I was young. I was in this sort of two-month window when I had to decide whether to take a bonus or leave. But I knew I was going to miss the people and I was going to miss the mission and the excitement, and so I decided to stick around.

“And it’s just gotten more and more interesting every year that I’ve been in,” he continued, “and it’s just a wonderful life. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat.”