Military News

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

US, Australia, Japan launch Operation Christmas Drop



By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado, 36th Wing Public Affairs / Published December 09, 2015

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- With the holiday season now in full swing, C-130 Hercules aircrews and support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, began spreading cheer and joy while practicing critical humanitarian aid/disaster relief (HA/DR) training by delivering donated goods via C-130 to more than 56 of the Pacific's most remote and populated islands.

The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, with a celebratory "push ceremony." Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron here, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from JASDF and RAAF gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.

Ongoing since 1952, Christmas Drop is the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission and impacts more than 20,000 islanders annually. C-130 aircrews will deliver nearly 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop (LCLA) training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau.

"Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance; that's the beauty of this operation, its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam," said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th WG commander.

The ceremony allowed international and civic leaders from the three nations to join volunteers to witness the celebratory loading of the first pallet of supplies into one of the C-130s that will carry the supplies to their destination.

Addressing the RAAF and JASDF, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said "Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.

"Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he continued. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower."

Over the course of the next eight days, the joint teams will train together on LCLA airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with critical supplies and humanitarian aid donations ensuring each island is provided a delivery of useful goods this holiday season.

"This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid HA/DR and resupply missions at a moment's notice throughout the region and around the world," DeLaMater said.

Taking nearly seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.

"An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam."

From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.

"We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year's Operation Christmas Drop possible," said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th AMXS superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. "We began this process for the event in March and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome."

The airdrop missions will allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, while coming together to lend a helping hand to Guam's island neighbors in Micronesia.

Exercises Focus on Speed, Army’s Commander in Europe Says



By David Vergun Army News Service

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2015 — Because Russians can operate on their interior lines and quickly shift forces around, all exercises conducted by the United States and its European allies place heavy emphasis on speed, the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe said today.

Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges spoke at a Pentagon news conference.

By “speed,” Hodges explained, he means speed to recognize a potential crisis, speed to act politically and speed of assembly and movement of troops to the point of crisis by road and rail. Once in place, he said, speed and proper execution of operation also would depend on interoperability among all of the U.S. allies, so that's the focus of training and exercise.

The general then provided an overview of Russian actions and the responses by the U.S. and its European allies.

Russian Actions

Hodges noted that as recently as a few years ago, the United States thought Russia could be a partner. Russian-led incursions into eastern Ukraine and occupation of Crimea changed all that, he said.

The Russians have not allowed independent monitoring to determine Russian compliance with the Minsk Agreement, the general said. Since September, he added, there have been several hundred cease-fire violations, and Ukrainians have been killed.

Although a lot of Russia’s heavy equipment has been pulled back from the border area with Ukraine, Hodges told reporters, the infrastructure remains in place and the Russians could quickly ramp up if they wanted to.

In Crimea, Russia has 25,000 soldiers, a credible air defense and its Black Sea fleet, which is capable of blocking U.S. and ally access to the Black Sea, where Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia are located, he said.

Moving westward, Hodges said, the Russians have a significant naval and ground force in Kaliningrad, a wedge of Russian territory between Lithuania and Poland. That force, he said, could effectively cut off access to the Baltic area.

Furthermore, Russian officials have talked about Denmark, Sweden and Romania in terms of being nuclear targets, an irresponsible use of words, the general said. "So you can see why our European allies are nervous,” he added.

Alliance Response

NATO allies are working on speed of response, Hodges said, noting that the alliance’s Wales summit was all about preventing crisis, improving deterrence and being more responsive.

An outcome of that was the development of the alliance's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, to which the United States is contributing a rotational brigade out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Because Eastern Europe is not a small distance from Fort Stewart, Hodges said, the United States has set up what it calls European Activity Sets in Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania. That includes about 1,300 vehicles, including tanks and howitzers, he said.

By September, he said, the United States expects to have additional EAS sites in Poland, Estonia and Latvia, and by 2017, in Hungary. National Guard units are welcome to add their equipment to any of those sites, he added.

All of this is being funded by the European Reassurance Initiative, and Hodges said he's optimistic funding will extend into 2017.

Some 400 soldiers are now helping allies train and equip Ukrainian troops in the western part of the country, Hodges said. It's part of the Joint Multinational Training Group Ukraine, which includes British, Lithuanian and Canadian trainers.

A Two-Way Street

Hodges noted that training has been a two-way street, as Ukrainians have been helpful in describing what happens during a Russian attack. For instance, they've tuned their ear to differentiate among different types of unmanned aerial vehicles and when they hear certain ones, they know missiles will soon follow, the general said.

The United States hasn't had to fear attack from the sky in decades, Hodges noted. As the U.S. learns more and more about Russian capabilities, he added, it has employed opposition force teams in German training areas to test their capabilities against things such as air power, jamming and intercept capabilities.

Lastly, Hodges said that while the United States has done and will continue to do a lot, each European country is responsible for its own defense as well, in terms of training and equipment.

"We don't want Russians to miscalculate that we're not capable or willing to respond," the general said.

Battaglia: Fitness, Resiliency 'All Connected'



By Claudette Roulo DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2015 — Resiliency has been a central theme of Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia’s time as senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As co-champion of DoD’s Total Force Fitness program, which takes a mind-body-spirit approach to fitness in support of readiness, Battaglia visited thousands of troops around the world to talk about resiliency’s importance in their own lives and in the lives of their families.

The program provided a framework for the military services to build their own resiliency programs, enabling each service to adapt the concepts to their own unique needs, he said in an interview with DoD News.

He explained that all the services are different in their own ways, but they're identical in their concept, scope and initiative; they all have the ability to maintain a resilient service member, family member, unit and organization. “Readiness has a direct connection into resiliency," Battaglia said. "If you're not resilient, your readiness is not going to be as high as it should be, and that affects warfighting and that affects the ability for our men and women to do the nation's bidding. It's all connected.”

Battaglia said he knows the program works because it worked for him.

Changing What it Means to be Fit

“We as a military have changed our culture -- it's still in progress -- but changed our culture on fitness; meaning [not just] running and pullups and sit-ups and crunches. While that is fitness, Total Force Fitness is a much more holistic way of looking at well-being and readiness,” the sergeant major said.

He said senior leaders being willing to take a public stand, such as former Sergeant Major of the Army Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler III, who has discussed his own struggles with post-traumatic stress following a rocket explosion in Iraq, “helps younger folks to say 'Hey, if they can do it, maybe I can do it too.’”

Battaglia acknowledged the lingering stigma out in the force, "but, boy, have we gotten much better with it,” he said. “That credit needs to go to folks who are not ashamed and who have the sort of courage and comfortability to stand in public or stand before subordinates and say 'I did it.' And that was my small contribution -- that at one time I was affected and impacted by the stigma of saying, 'You know what? I'm not as fit as I used to be. I'm not as fit as I think I should be. Let me see someone about it.’

“As I gave it an honest look, I saw what Total Force Fitness could do, but it also showed me how unfit I was,” the sergeant major said.

Recognizing When There’s a Problem

In 2005, Battaglia was injured in Iraq and was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. But, he said, if it wasn’t for his wife, he would never have admitted to himself that something wasn’t right.

“It was Lisa who really enlightened the seriousness of how unfit [I was]. You know, you would have expected that if it wasn’t myself [who noticed] it would have been my NCO or my boss or somebody who is as close. ... But they don't sleep in the same bed at night, so spouses ... see things, hear things and witness things that we sometimes don't see ourselves,” Battaglia said.

“That was the breaking of the ice. All prior to that, the post-deployment health assessments all contained various questions -- 'Of course I'm ok, of course I'm ok. I'm ready to go; I'm ready to go back again.' That's what we train for, that's the strength that we're expected to have,” he said.

But, the sergeant major emphasized, recognizing that you need help and seeking it out when it’s needed is a critical piece of total fitness.

“We want that to happen, because if it's left untreated, that's where the liability and vulnerabilities come in, and the risk even increases,” .he said. “We want to get them whatever help they need to manage the injury or the illness, thereby returning the mind, body and spirit to an optimal level of performance.”