Military News

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Face of Defense: Soldier Grabs First Spot in Line for Operation Toy Drop



By Army Spc. Angela Lorden 362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT BRAGG, N.C., December 16, 2015 — On a cool and crisp early December morning with a hint of the winter to come in the air, hundreds of soldiers wait patiently in line at Pope Field’s Green Ramp, each of them bearing gifts for children they would never meet. Some are zipped up in sleeping bags on the cold concrete. Some are huddled over donated cups of hot coffee. All of them are there for at least one reason: to participate in this year’s “Lottery Day.”

For one soldier, this would be his second morning spent outside waiting for what has become a Fort Bragg tradition.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micheal Tkachenko, a military police officer with the 65th Military Police Company, arrived for the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop Lottery Day at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 3 -- a full day before the actual event. He and five other soldiers from his unit obtained their commander’s permission to attend Lottery Day early as an exercise of esprit de corps, as well as an opportunity to give back to the community, he said.

“It’s not just about yourself,” Tkachenko said.

Largest Combined Airborne Op

Operation Toy Drop, hosted annually since 1998 by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, collects toys to be distributed to children in need during the holiday season. Operation Toy Drop is the largest combined airborne operation in the world. Since its inception, it has collected more than 100,000 toys for the community.

In addition to Lottery Day, Operation Toy Drop collects toys in a variety of ways, including the annual Operation Toy Trot 5k race and via donation boxes at the post exchanges. Almost 1,000 paratroopers came out for Lottery Day, which offers airborne soldiers a chance to win one of 500 opportunities to jump with a partner-nation jumpmaster and earn foreign jump wings. In true lottery style, whether a soldier is first or last in line, his or her chances of being picked for a seat are the same. Although not required, paratroopers were encouraged to bring a toy and donate it at the event.

“If we get wings, it’s an extra bonus,” Tkachenko said. “But it’s more or less about just being able to participate and give back.”

Operation Toy Drop impacts the community in a lot of different ways, he said. It not only gives toys to underprivileged children, it also shows the community that the military is motivated about giving back.

“The community supports us and we support them,” he said. “We’re there to help them, not just collect a paycheck.”

More Than a Paycheck

Army Spc. Andrew Wood, an MP with the 65th MP Company and a soldier in Tkachenko’s squad, agreed that, for his squad leader, it has never been about the paycheck.

“He really cares,” Wood said. “He’s one of the [non-commissioned officers in charge] that would honestly catch a bullet for his [troops]. And he takes care of them anyway he can.”

A self-proclaimed family man, Tkachenko’s devotion to his soldiers and the military are derived from this title.

“I know some say the Army comes first, family second, but in my mind, Army is family,” Tkachenko said.

Tkachenko waited almost 26 hours to receive a little blue lottery ticket. His chance to earn foreign wings didn’t come through a winning lottery ticket, however. The enthusiasm shown by the first 10 people in line led Army Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Ammerman, commander of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, to bestow the first 10 people in line with certificates of appreciation and reserved seats on a plane that will give them an opportunity to earn their foreign jump wings.

Wings or no wings, Tkachenko had no regrets about attending lottery day, he said.

“I don’t come here for the wings,” he said.
For Tkachenko and the rest of the soldiers who brought gifts and waited in line in anticipation of a Fort Bragg tradition, this time of year was an opportunity to bond with their fellow soldiers, give back to the community that has supported them and share in the spirit of the holidays.

Schriever spreads cheer in Ellicott Parade of Lights

by Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart
50th Space Wing Public Affairs


12/16/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Schriever Air Force Base's leadership spread holiday cheer during Ellicott's Parade of Lights Saturday, Dec. 12, in Ellicott, Colorado.

Although this is the 15th year Ellicott has hosted the parade, it is the first time Schriever Air Force Base has participated.

"The relationship between Schriever and Ellicott is important and it's growing," said Chief Master Sgt. John Bentivegna, 50th Space Wing command chief. "This is our first time participating, which is great because it shows our relationship and coordination is getting much better."

In past years, the Ellicott parade has featured more than 100 floats. This year, an unexpected snowstorm hindered the amount of participation.

"The weather is definitely keeping some people away," said Col. DeAnna M. Burt, 50 SW commander. "This is usually a really big deal for Ellicott, but tonight I think only the brave are out here."

Despite the freezing temperatures, Schriever helped warm the hearts of bystanders who braved the cold.

"A lot of our kids go to school here, so it is important to get out and show that we're part of the community...even though it's cold," said Bentivegna.

Members of Schriever's spouses club, the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron and base residents attended to show their community spirit and support.

Schriever's recently-made opinicus float was on full display, covered with lights and Christmas trees donated from the 50th Force Support Squadron, and earned third place in the parade's float contest.

"Thank you to the [50th] Civil Engineer Squadron for building the opinicus float and the spouses for decorating it," said Burt. "They did a great job on it and it looks great."

After travelling Ellicott Highway, the parade ended at the Ellicott Community Center where Santa and Mrs. Claus were waiting with cookies, hot cocoa and presents for the children.

"Our spouses group helped [Santa] by doing a collection of toys for the kids," said Burt. "It is so great to be out here for the first time and to participate in such a wonderful event--hopefully this can become a Schriever tradition."

Cooperative Strategy Forum Focuses on Pacific Maritime Security



By Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal Defense Media Activity - Hawaii

HONOLULU, December 16, 2015 — Gaining a better understanding of each other’s viewpoints and fostering improved future collaboration was the focus here Dec. 14, as representatives from 10 partner nations gathered for a two-day cooperative strategy forum.

The forum, co-hosted by the chief of naval operations, took place at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

In a keynote speech, Navy Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, shared his expectations of those operating in the waters of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Responsible, Safe Compliance With International Law

“I’m focused on the behavior of all naval and maritime forces in the region, not on any specific country,” Swift said. “I expect all naval and maritime forces, including my own, to operate responsibly, safely and in full compliance with international law.”

Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons operations, plans and strategy legal advisor and oceans policy advisor for the chief of naval operations, explained how the forum builds relationships and strengthens collaborative efforts between the United States and its allies.

“This forum is designed to facilitate an exchange of views among all our allies and partners in the region,” Gibbons said. “This exchange of views helps us to understand each other’s approaches to the challenges in the region but it also facilitates personal relationships between the attendees.”

Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Odom, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies military professor and Cooperative Strategy Forum organizer, said that the center also benefits from these types of multinational events.

Maintaining Regional Cooperation

“One of the top three priorities in our curriculum, both in workshops and courses that we teach, is now maritime security,” he said. “For us to hold an event here where you have the leaders or representatives of the leaders of the navies throughout this region discussing ways to cooperate on maritime issues is clearly quite an opportunity for us.”

As part of the event, Swift explained why maintaining cooperation between partner nations in the region is important.

“Today, all Indo-Asia-Pacific nations benefit from a rising tide of prosperity,” the admiral said. “We all have major stakes in this region’s continued success, especially at sea, where so much of our trade, investment and interaction take place.”

Swift then offered his thoughts on the way ahead for the region.

“I’m convinced the continued promotion of the rules-based system that evolved over the past 70 years remains the best way forward for all nations in this region, large and small, to continue to rise peacefully, confidently, securely, and economically,” he said. “My concern is that after many decades of peace and prosperity at sea, we may be seeing the leading edge of a return of ‘might makes right’ to the region. Such an approach may once again impact the vibrant but vulnerable, waters of Southeast Asia.”

SJAFB impacts local economy

by Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


12/14/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Five months after the United States entered World War II, Seymour Johnson Field, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, activated during the summer of 1942. After the war, in 1946, the installation deactivated.

Led by then Goldsboro mayor, Scott B. Berkley Sr., local community leaders spearheaded a successful campaign to reopen the installation, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base reactivated in 1956.

For nearly 70 years since, the base has been a central part of the community. There have been many advancements, improvements and changes over the years, but one commonality is the support and teamwork between the community and installation.

The base employs approximately 7,000 personnel, including active duty and reserve military members, civilians and private businesses with an overall economic impact for 2014 exceeding $594 million. These figures reflect payroll, appropriated funds, non-appropriated funds and various contracts.

According to Scott Stevens, Goldsboro city manager, there is much more to the picture than numbers alone. The presence of the installation has shaped the community since it first opened.

"When I came here four years ago, I knew the city and county catered to the military because it's such an important part of our economy," Stevens said. "What I didn't realize was that the military was so good to the city and county. I've been on teams that didn't feel like teams because I was always giving, but in the relationship between the city, county and Air Force here, it feels like a team. They do all they can to support the community through volunteerism and supporting local retailers. Everybody I've interacted with on base has been phenomenal in trying to help us."

In the spirit of teamwork, the community supports, and in turn benefits from, several military activities, such as installation construction and inspections, reserve weekends and air shows.

"Anytime there's something happening on base that requires more than base personnel, or an event is held that attracts new people, it's going to bring money into Goldsboro," said Betsy Rosemann, Goldsboro travel and tourism director. "The relationship between city and base is intertwined. That's what improves our economy."

One weekend every month, hundreds of reservists assigned to the 916th Air Refueling Wing report to their respective units on base, creating another economic boost, 12 times a year.

According to Rosemann, roughly 500 of those personnel stay in Goldsboro hotels and frequent local restaurants. Room and food sales during these weekends alone account for roughly $140,000 each month.

"The Goldsboro local community has impressed me beyond words since I arrived here in 2013," said Col. Craig Shenkenberg, 916th ARW commander. "They are so supportive of our Airmen and continually support the military in a way that is second to none. Members of the 916th ARW travel from near and far to serve our nation and we simply could not do what we need to do without the tremendous support of our civilian partners. I have a deep appreciation and admiration for the people of Goldsboro and Wayne County."

The community also supported the 2015 Wings Over Wayne Air Show and Open House, selling out all 13 Goldsboro area hotels as the event brought an estimated 220,000 people and $4 million to the local economy over the air show weekend.
Stevens said the city recognizes the impact of the installation, and they actively lobby on its behalf.

"As the economy goes up and down, the base has been a stabilizing factor for Goldsboro," Stevens said. "We talk with Air Force leaders all the time to find out what's happening with the installation. Would Goldsboro look the same without Seymour Johnson [AFB]? Absolutely not. The diversity they bring and the diverse businesses they attract, improve our quality of life. We want to make sure that we as a local community have been a good host and we have done everything we can to support our local installation."

42 years of Christmas cheer: Offut Airmen make children's holiday bright

by Senior Airman Rachel Hammes
55th Wing Public Affairs


12/15/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Three boys fought with foam swords in front of a giant Christmas tree, pausing occasionally to fall dramatically to the ground in a parody of injury. Presents were stacked under the tree, spreading outwards from the lit branches in tantalizingly bright holiday wrapping paper. A line of children stretched around a table, waiting while a young girl had a superhero mask painted on her face. Other children chatted and laughed at tables spread across the room, coloring pictures and eating breakfast sandwiches - and candy.

This organized cheeriness inside the Pointe at Rising View at Offutt Air Force Base, was part two of the holiday event hosted by the Reconnaissance Crews Booster Club, which began hours earlier on Saturday, Dec. 12.

The children had been up since 6 a.m., picked up by volunteer chaperones and taken to local stores to buy winter clothing and shoes. Each child was provided with a $200 budget out of Booster Club funds.

"They got to pick out whatever they wanted," said Capt. Meredith Brown, a member of the 55th Operations Group Commander's Action Group, who volunteered as a chaperone. "The chaperones got to help with sizes and things like that, but they got to choose whatever toys and clothes they wanted. I think them having the freedom to shop and have a little independence that way is cool. They get an opportunity to meet new people, too."

Following the shopping trip, the children were brought back to the Pointe at Rising View and given breakfast. In addition to the face painting, children got to participate in a magic show and receive a visit from Santa, who passed out the gifts under the tree.

"I'm having a good day," said Mariska Kassi, a 10-year-old who participated in the event. "I got to go shopping and I got to have fun with my sister. My favorite part was the actual party, because they had great food. There were activities and there was plenty of space for people to have sword fights."

This is the 42nd year the Booster Club has hosted the event, which provides support to underprivileged children selected by their schools' Head Start programs.

"When we take the kids shopping, we see that a lot of them are wearing shoes that are too small," said Capt. Sarah Cooke, a coordinator of the event and an RC-135 Rivet Joint pilot here. "For some of them, this might be the only holiday celebration they get, and this might be the only warm winter clothing they have all year round."

Cooke has helped coordinate the event for the last two years. Planning starts in January of each year, and the pace doesn't slow until after the event in December. Funding is provided by the Booster Club through the Combined Federal Campaign, while the presents under the tree are the result of a 55th Wing toy drive.

"I think this event is important because the money comes from Sarpy County, and you can visibly see that it is benefitting Sarpy County members," Cooke said. "Every year for the last 42 years we have been able to make a difference in the lives of members of our community, and I really think that speaks volumes for community involvement, community support and camaraderie at Offutt. I never have to send out volunteer requests - I just get e-mails from people interested in volunteering."

U.S., Japan Agree to Host-Nation Support for U.S. Troops



By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2015 — The United States and Japan agreed in principle to a new five-year package of host-nation support for U.S. armed forces stationed in Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.

Under the cost-sharing agreement, Japan will spend about 189.9 billion yen annually, or about $1.6 billion, Davis said, adding that Japan’s funding maintains “a stable level.”

The agreement takes effect April 1, 2016, and will directly support the operational readiness of U.S. forces in Japan, a DoD official said.

Support Aids U.S. in Asia-Pacific Rebalance

“What’s important to note is by [Japan] covering a share of our costs for the base workforce, utilities, training relocation and facilities improvement, this host-nation support package will help sustain the U.S. military presence in Japan, a key part of the United States’ rebalance to Asia and the Pacific,”  Davis said.

“We appreciate the cooperation embodied in Japan’s host-nation support,” he added. “This package will complement a series of significant accomplishments that have strengthened our alliance over the past year.”

Japan’s continued support to making important financial contributions to the alliance with the United States is important to both nations, he said.

“We both derive significant strategic benefit out of it,” Davis said. “The alliance has served us well for decades, and we’re glad it’s going to continue to be positioned going forward for success.”