Friday, November 13, 2015

USS Emory S. Land Arrives in Sepanggar, Malaysia

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brandon Shelander,
SEPANGGAR, Malaysia (Nov. 12, 2015) (NNS) -- The submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) arrived in Sepanggar, Malaysia, for a port visit Nov. 12.

"I'm looking forward to a productive engagement with members of the Royal Malaysian Navy," said Capt. Mark A. Prokopius, commanding officer of Emory S. Land. "My predecessor had a successful visit this past May and the Malaysian submarine force was very interested in the capabilities of the tender as the ship brought alongside the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Jacksonville (SSN 699). We will have another opportunity for them to see the tender in action."

While in port, Land Sailors will host Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) sailors on board for a subject matter expert exchange and ship tour and will attend a reception hosted by the RMN. Capt. Prokopius will also meet with the RMN Area II Commander as well as the RMN Submarine Force Commander. Sailors will also participate in a soccer tournament with local Malaysian teams.
Land Sailors will also have the opportunity to experience Malaysian culture while enjoying the natural beauty of the surrounding land and seascapes through Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) coordinated events.

"It's cool because I get to experience a totally different culture," said Engineman Fireman William J. Sherhouse. "This is the second country I've been to since I joined the Navy and I love to try out new food and meet new people."

Land continues the U.S. Navy's ongoing commitment to theater security, cooperation and friendship with local partner navies.

Emory S. Land is a forward deployed expeditionary submarine tender on an extended deployment conducting coordinated tended moorings and afloat maintenance in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.

Georgia on my mind

by 1st Lt. Justin W. Lewis
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band Flight Commander

11/13/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Republic of Georgia Army Private 1st Class Vasil Kulijanishvili was patrolling the perimeter of Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan with his unit Sept. 22, 2015 as one of 885 Georgian soldiers supporting NATO's Operation Resolute Support when he was attacked and killed by Taliban militants.

The next day, Republic of Georgia Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili led a national moment of silence and the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, ordered the embassy's flag to half-staff.

Kelly said that Private Kuljanishwili's "bravery and sacrifice in support of international security symbolize the heroism and valor of Georgian soldiers who fight shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Marines and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan - as equals, friends and brothers."

I had just arrived to my new assignment at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band, Ramstein, AB, Germany when the band was invited to go to Georgia to strengthen our national relations with the country.  Our leaders believed that American Airmen performing in-person and on television before millions of Georgians could transcend language barriers, building on existing cooperation to enhance proven partnerships between the countries.

The Air Force has been using music to build partnerships, reassure allies and maintain military traditions in Europe since the 1940s, and to many of the band's Airmen, serving as American ambassadors of goodwill was an every-day occurrence here.

But this was all new to me.

In the middle of the night on Oct. 15, I found myself in the Tblisi International Airport in Georgia with police and curious onlookers watching as 33 USAFE Bandsmen retrieved strangely-shaped suitcases filled with tubas, tambourines and trumpets from baggage claim.  We crammed onto a bus and took off down George W. Bush Boulevard into the capital city with Georgian military police escorts; lights flashing.

The next morning, I learned more about this beautiful yet complex society and its 2,000 year-history from a taxi cab driver who expressed his appreciation for America and told me how hard it was growing up in a Soviet "colony." In broken English, he said he wanted his sons to "know freedom," but Russia had cast a "dark shadow."

The taxi driver's perspective echoed the comments Gen. Phillip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, made to Congress earlier this year: "[Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine] have implemented political and economic reforms to advance democracy and integrate with Europe; however, their ability to make further progress is significantly constrained by Russian interference and pressure."

I couldn't help but think of those words as we traveled through the rural countryside to our first concert in Gori, Georgia.

Gori, a city of approximately 50,000 people and birthplace of Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, is located just a few kilometers from the border that caused conflict during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Russians bombed and occupied the city, local leaders were forced to flee and more than a dozen citizens were killed.

We took the stage at a beautiful Soviet-era theater that was starting to show its age, and Georgian soldiers - some straight out of basic training, I was told - filled the theater. As I stood in the wings, I peered out at the camo-clad crowd as the house lights dimmed and I wondered if music could truly transcend language barriers and enhance partnerships.

As the band's commander led both national anthems and went on with the show, I was surprised how much American music the Georgian soldiers knew. It was as if this American music was a part of them. Their faces brightened. There was smiling, cheering and even dancing. It was a powerful moment.

I thought of America's influential economy, its military might, its geopolitical pull, and then I watched as Georgian soldiers reacted overwhelmingly to American music.

Could culture itself be one of America's most powerful exports?

Could it be a symbol of freedom and a beacon for human rights?  Could the power of attraction to American culture inspire nations to cooperate and see eye-to-eye in a way military force, by itself, couldn't?

When it was my turn conduct the band, the announcer thanked the soldiers for their dedication in support of NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and dedicated 'Amazing Grace', sung by Master Sgt. Michele Harris, to Georgian Army Private First Class Vasil Kulijanishvili who was killed in Afghanistan just a few weeks prior.

As I led the band through that pensive hymn, I couldn't help but think about Private Kulijanishvili and his fellow service members on the rapid reaction force at Bagram. I thought of his family and friends. I also thought of all those Georgian soldiers packed into that old theater listening to the USAFE Band.

After the show, we mingled with the soldiers in the crowd. They were euphoric. The language barrier did not hinder our interactions as the smiles, pats on the back, and the music said things words couldn't. This enriching person-to-person interaction was at the very core of our goal of preserving partnerships, sustaining relationships and improving capacity and interoperability. It wasn't about the music, but the music was the tool that helped us build bonds of trust with these young soldiers who could one day share a battlefield with Americans.

Air Force International Affairs builds international Airmen

By Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / Published November 12, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force’s International Affairs deputy shared why building global air force partnerships through integrating political-military relationships, security assistance, technology and information disclosure issues ensures relationships endure during an Air Force Association monthly breakfast Nov. 10.

Allies and coalition partners from around the world listened while Maj. Gen. Lawrence M. Martin Jr. tied shrinking budgets, natural disasters and asymmetric threats to the necessity of building partnerships – not only for the immediate threats the world faces, but also to prepare for future threats as well.

“We believe the best way we can successfully take on these challenges is by building global partnerships, because we are stronger together,” Martin said. “Building the relationships needed for today’s challenges takes time, diligence, effort and persistence -- a commitment to preparation in the advance of possible threats.”

Today, the Air Force has more than 1,500 international Airmen working security cooperation activities. They serve as air attach├ęs, regional affairs specialists, political affairs strategists, air advisors, combat aviation advisors, instructors, international health specialists and other critical roles around the globe.

“While our senior leaders and diplomats cement the formal relationship with our partners, it’s these international Airmen who forge the personal relationships with partner nation Airmen, taking the one-on-one, daily actions that result in real, enduring partnerships,” Martin said.

One of Martin’s examples was how we are currently fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Twelve partner nations are currently participating in combat operations against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Coalition Airmen have collectively flown more than 61,000 sorties, including 7,800 airstrikes, in support of operations in Iraq and Syria.

“I want to emphasize that a strong coalition like the one currently fighting ISIL takes time and effort to develop,” Martin said. “Our partners had to take deliberate action before participating in the coalition.”

According to Martin, training and exercising with partners is a vital part of building a team. Through total force integration, the Air Force uses the Air National Guard to provide pilot training to coalition partner pilots. Every year more than 18 international partners participate in Red Flag exercises in Nevada and Alaska and exercises are encouraged amongst allies to respond whenever necessary.

“As we continue down the path toward building strong global partnerships, we are going to need our international Airmen more than ever,” Martin said. “It’s the trust knowing that your teammates will do everything in their power not let each other down.”

Air Force shows leadership, commitment in Dubai

By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Strang, U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFNS) -- American Airmen showcased the capability of airpower through senior leader engagements, Airmen interactions with a global audience, and aircraft on the ground and thundering through the skies at the 2015 Dubai Airshow during the week of Nov. 11.

The Airmen are a part of a large U.S. presence as every service branch supplied both man and machine to increase and sustain relations with not only the Middle East region, but to send a message to allies around the world.

“We are here to send a visible signal of the importance of the relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States,” said Lt. Col. Allen Specht, the deputy director of theater security cooperation for U.S. Air Forces Central Command. “Collectively, the Department of Defense components provide a robust presence, which highlights our commitment to key strategic partners."

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James highlighted the importance of working with allies.

“We are here to put our best foot forward,” James said. “We need to be good role models and not only showcase our equipment, but the importance of training and interoperability with our allies.”

James, who is on a multination trip visiting Airmen in the region, said the Air Force needs allies in the fight, as one nation’s efforts cannot win a conflict alone.

“As Airmen, we know the importance and significance of what airpower can do,” she said. “It can do a lot. However, it can’t do everything. We need to work with ground forces to secure the region, and that includes our allied partners.”

The United Arab Emirates falls under the AFCENT area of responsibility. The AFCENT commander, Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., sees firsthand the importance of working together with other nations.

“In AFCENT, we are involved with our coalition partners to include the (United Arab) Emirates,” Brown said. “They are doing great work and we have the same mindset stemming from how we train together. Each nation brings a different capability to the fight. The Air Force is committed to our partners by bringing capabilities and force enablers for mission sets that our allies may not have. We are all here to work together for peace and stability in the region.”

A part of those capabilities and force enablers include the Air Force assets showcased at the Dubai Air Show. The Air Force provided an F-15E Strike Eagle and C-130J Super Hercules as static displays, as well as performed flying demonstrations by the B-1B Lancer and F-22 Raptor.

The aircraft are AFCENT assets, which, according to Capt. James Wirthlin, a 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flight surgeon, help showcase the three AFCENT priorities: deliver airpower, defend the region and develop relationships.

“The aircraft we have on display show we can deliver airpower through many different platforms, from intelligence gathering, to strike aircraft, to cargo movement,” Wirthlin said. “It also shows that we can and will defend the region when necessary, and the fact we have all four branches of service here also showcases our will to develop relationships throughout the region.”

The airshow, which ended Nov. 12, was expected to be the largest show to date with an anticipated 1,100 exhibitors from 60 countries and 65,000 trade visitors. Over 150 aircraft are also booked to appear.

Col. Neal Oakden, the show’s commander of U.S. Air Force forces, said the event was a success from the start.

“This is a good show that has been well staffed and organized,” Oakden said. “We have received great logistics and support. The (United Arab) Emirates have been great hosts.”

Oakden said the overall goal of the U.S. presence at the air show is to support the American partners in the region.

“We are here to be a visible presence in the region,” he said. “We want to let all our allies know we are committed to them in securing peace for future generations.”