Military News

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Air Force 101: Talks aim to improve legislation for AF missions



By Sean Kimmons, Air Force News Service / Published January 12, 2016

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- A day after the Air Force flew a B-52 Stratofortress over South Korea in the wake of their northern neighbor’s nuclear bomb test, Air Force officers discussed the service’s nuclear capabilities with policymakers Jan. 11.

The hour-long discussion, part of an ongoing series, touched on North Korea’s Jan. 6 test and why the Air Force responded with a show of force. It also delved further into the U.S. military’s triad system, which deters a nuclear attack using strategic bombers, missile silos and submarines.

Organized by the Air Force Legislative Liaison Office at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Air Force 101 sessions inform policymakers on various topics.

“We don’t write policy. That’s not our job,” said Maj. Justin Ballinger, a legislative liaison. “What we do is educate how the policy and legislation affects us, and what we can do with what is given to us.”

The bi-monthly sessions cover “airpower from the ground up” and hot topics such as a briefing on cyber security that had officers talk about policies related to Air Force missions.

“They spoke on the things that the current legislation allows us to do and some of the things that we’re handcuffed with,” Ballinger said.

The sessions by the liaison office, which Ballinger described as an arm of the executive branch, also save time and energy to highlight Air Force matters.

“The more folks we can reach out to and educate, the better returns we get when it comes to responsiveness for policy and other issues,” he said.

At the latest session, three Air Force officers spoke to about 60 policymakers on nuclear operations -- an issue recently thrusted into the spotlight.

“It gives us an opportunity to build that initial foundation for a lot of them,” said Maj. Nathan Perry, the chief of airborne capabilities for Air Staff 10 that handles the service’s nuclear mission. “If a handful of them left this door smarter than they were when they walked in on nuclear deterrence, then mission accomplished.”

To Perry, who has flown B-2 Spirits, the session was a unique chance for him and others to communicate in person with policymakers who may alter the future of nuclear operations one day.

“For us to be able to say that we are credible and reliable all the time,” he said of nuclear deterrence, “we have to be able to correspond about it, talk about it and prove it.”

Allowing Capitol Hill staffers to interact with Airmen who’ve had prior experience on a specific issue may also indirectly shape new policy.

“Being over here talking and sharing our experience, we absolutely influence the process,” said Maj. Stephen Bonin, a senior emergency actions officer with the National Military Command Center who once served as a missile maintainer.

The goal of the sessions is to improve the decision making of policymakers.

“I can’t tell you what the composition of the triad should be or how many weapons we should have,” Bonin said, “but I can tell you all the information so you can make an informed decision.”

Eric Mattson, a Hill staffer who works for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington, said the session helped expand his knowledge on nuclear capabilities.

“As I work here there may be a time when I will work with this kind of policy,” Mattson said. “I think it’s important for us as policymakers to know what can be done better.”

One aspect that the Air Force is pushing to modernize is its aging aircraft, of which many are part of the triad system. In October, Air Force officials awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to build 100 long range strike bombers to replace legacy bombers, such as B-52s that are more than 50 years old.

Bombers play a critical role in nuclear deterrence since they’re easily visible, unlike submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The low-level flyover of the B-52 and fighter aircraft only a few hours from the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula was a prime example.

“That’s what the bomber portion gives you,” Perry said. “It allows the whole world to see that we’re getting it done. It’s definitely a game of chess and it takes a lot of work.”

How the Air Force will evolve and continue its nuclear deterrence mission will be up to those making legislation.

“You need to take a serious look at what is the strategic narrative that we want to push for some of these capabilities,” Perry told the policymakers. “Please help us use our capabilities to do what we need to do.”

SecAF makes first official visit to Travis

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


1/12/2016 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited here Jan. 8 to meet with Airmen, discuss her priorities and see first-hand Travis Air Force Base's mission and capabilities as the western seaboard's mobility air forces hub.

To begin her visit, James received a detailed mission brief from senior base leaders to discuss cornerstone functions of the installation such as the seamless Total Force integration of three separate wings, the employment of three major mobility weapons systems and Travis' strategic location serving as the lifeline to the Pacific theater.

Throughout her day-long visit, James ate lunch with Airmen, toured a number of facilities to include Air Mobility Command's largest aerial port and held an all call to speak to the greater base populous.

During her all call, she discussed her three main priorities - taking care of people, balancing today's readiness with the modernization needs of tomorrow and making every dollar count - as well as the challenges faced by today's Air Force operating within the parameters of a fiscally constrained environment.

"Today's Air Force is the smallest it has ever been, with the smallest number of people," she said. "And at the same time, the number of missions we fly around the world has skyrocketed ... we have got to do better."

James also spoke on the importance of mobility airpower, more specifically Travis' role to the mission of Global Reach, and the capabilities the men and women here present to the strategic Air Force vision.

"You all are playing a crucial role in our Air Force and national defense because nothing happens without rapid global mobility and that's what Travis is all about," she said. "What's going on here is extremely impressive. Travis features a highly integrated Total Force, three major mobility weapons systems and one of the largest aerial ports and hospitals. Then you add on the mission-set of the Contingency Response Wing. It's a very unique blend."

James reemphasized her capstone message, "Nothing happens without rapid global mobility."
To conclude her visit, her message to the audience of service members and their civilian counterparts was simple - "Thank you for what you do."

"Thank you again for the long days, the long deployments and time spent away from home," she said. "I know this takes its toll. I hope that in the next year or two we will have changes that will ease this somewhat. But truth in advertising, I think we are going to remain a very busy Air Force. So I thank you very much."

From air to ground, RPAs partner with JTACs to accomplish mission objectives

by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


1/11/2016 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- As we enter 2016, the demand for remotely piloted aircraft in conflict areas around the world continues to rise, and with it, the misconceptions about this unique capability are on the rise.

In a time of budget cuts, manning shortages and tough decision making, achieving the maximum impact on the battlefield using RPA capabilities is a must. Partnering RPAs with Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, Air Force tactical air control party and sister service controllers is necessary to conduct to accomplish close-air-support missions.

"The environment we've been operating in the last 15 years is a permissive environment where the only thing we're worried about is the element on the ground," said Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander Air Combat Command.

Eye in the sky

RPA aircrews provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capability to combatant commanders to achieve military objectives on a constant basis.  Despite being geographically separated from both the aircraft and troops on the ground, aircrews of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remain invested in the missions they are supporting.

"The only difference between myself and a traditional aircrew member is that I'm sitting in a room half the world away," said Senior Airmen Shantae, 432nd Wing sensor operator. "This job is important to me because you can't put a price tag on saving a life."

Even with the high operations tempo, pilots, sensors, maintainers and intelligence Airmen supporting RPA operations find themselves facing manning shortages and resource constraints and thus are unable to provide every friendly on the ground with RPA support.

"The demand for CAPs [combat air patrols] and RPAs has gone up so radically, the ramp has been so high, we haven't normalized and built a system to meet the demand," said Carlisle.

With RPA capability requests at an all-time high, ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability from combatant commanders around the world on a 24/7 basis.

Dedication to the mission and providing help as much as possible are shared feelings among RPA operators.

"Being able to help the guys on the ground and bring them home is the most important, however, while providing over watch for ground forces and accomplishing the Air Force mission [this] is the best part of my job," said Shantae.

While maintaining a 24/7, 365 days a year mission has its challenges, the obstacles faced by ground forces are just as demanding.

On the battlefield

As the Air Force experiences a rise in demand for RPA capabilities they are also seeing a steady rise in the need for JTACs and TACPs.

Acting as skilled personnel on the ground, these Airmen are trained to direct the actions of combat aircraft engaged in CAS and other offensive and defensive air operations from a forward position.

"Like the RPA career field, we are seeing our fair share in manning shortages," said a JTAC assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command. "It's truly amazing what we can provide the combatant commanders as far as capabilities when we partner together with RPAs to accomplish a specific objective."

According to Carlisle, the number of daily RPA CAPs, has increased from 21 in 2008, which met more than half of the Air Force's needs, to 65 at its peak in 2015, CAPs were reduced to 60 in late 2015 allowing manning in the RPA community to stabilize and meet the current demands.

"Partnering two different capabilities from the air and ground provides us with the ability to develop patterns of life for targets," said the JTAC.  "If and when the time comes to strike, we can do so with accuracy. This is instrumental in moving to a safer military for future conflicts. Not to mention, having the RPAs provide over watch from the sky makes us feel safer as well."

In addition to CAP reductions, the Air Force strives to provide more Airmen with the training needed in simulated environments.

In 2008, a "virtual trainer" for JTACs students was built at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. This facility allows JTAC and TACP personnel the opportunity to work side by side with RPAs on the Nevada Test and Training Range.

"The close proximity of the school house to Creech and the RPAs give us the capability to train in a life-like environment while allowing the guys on the ground the opportunity to see the aircraft up-close," said the JTAC. "In addition, we get to meet the crews we could possibly work with in the future so we aren't just a voice over the radio...we're people too."

The message that the voices on the radio are people too is something the Airmen of the RPA community can relate to as well.

"What I would tell the world is, don't call me a drone," said Shantae. "Drones are autonomous; they can't participate in CAS missions, they have no heartbeat, there's no skips, there's nothing there. It takes a human to work with humans. My heart skips when I hear a JTAC's voice on the line who's engaged in a TIC [troops in contact] situation. I'm not a drone; I'm just the new age operator."

Yet creating perfect synergy capable of engaging the enemy from both the ground and the sky isn't an easy task its one Air Force officials are dedicated to use move in the future.

"What our Remotely Piloted Aircraft professionals are doing in today's fight and in preparing for future conflicts is simply incredible. RPAs and their operators are in the highest demand from our Combatant Commanders because of the situational awareness and strike capabilities that they enable. Despite being some of the newest weapon systems in the Air Force inventory, RPAs fulfill critical demands in every theater 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said Carlisle.

Marshall Center Seminar Addresses Russia, European Security



By Christine June George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, January 12, 2016 — Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine, concerns among its neighbors and NATO allies, and Russia’s newly published national security strategy that identifies NATO as a threat are all elements of the changing security dynamics in Europe -- and topics for discussion at the Marshall Center’s first European Security Seminar-East here yesterday.

“These changes are forcing us to rethink concepts of security cooperation, economic interdependence and the prospects for continued European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation and integration,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here, a German-American partnership. “As the situation is new, we must think anew, and armed with this new thinking, face the coming challenges, real and imagined."

The seminar included 58 participants representing the respective ministries of defense or ministries of foreign affairs from 28 countries. Dayton said Germany asked specifically for the Marshall Center to conduct the seminar to "examine the challenges emanating from the east."

The idea for this seminar, and a sister seminar -- European Security Seminar-South, which is scheduled for May -- came from discussions held in Berlin in 2014, citing shared U.S. and German concern about the changing security environment in Europe, Dayton said.

“These participants are high-level officials who are dealing with these problems every day,” said U.S. Army Col. John Knightstep, ESS-E deputy director. “We are giving them time to share, reflect and think of possible changes or alternatives to current European-Atlantic policies and new strategies for the region.”

Regional Conflicts, Vulnerabilities, Disorder

Dr. Ralf Roloff, senior German professor at the Marshall Center’s College of International and Security Studies said the ESS-East and ESS-South are "of utmost importance for European regional security today.

“[The] overall intent for both seminars,” he said, “is to bring more awareness to what is really going on in the region -- to pulse the region -- then provide to our stakeholders better information about what is a possible policy that could achieve European regional security.”

Roloff explained that the seminars aim to go beyond bringing people together to develop a common understanding. "We are going to develop comprehensive strategies with the participants to address conflicts, vulnerabilities and the disorder in those particular regions,” he said.

Publishing Strategies, Recommendations

The seminars will ask participants will express their perspectives on the current situation and then identify the implications of all these developments with the shared and joint neighbors, the European Union, NATO, Partnership for Peace Consortium countries, and the main partners of the Marshall Center -- Germany and the United States. At the end of the five-day seminar, the participants present their strategies and policy recommendations on how to engage, contain and deter Russia’s resurgence in eastern Europe.

Roloff said the recommendations will be published and presented to the Munich Security Conference in February.

“The Munich Security Conference is a really important and big event on the annual calendar of security policy and international diplomacy,” he said. “It’s the most important and prestigious security conference on the globe.”
He said conference attendees typically include heads of state, diplomats, senior flag officers and journalists. This year, the MSC's title is “The New Dynamic in the East; Conflicts, Vulnerability and Disorder; Russia and The West."

Sessions aim to improve legislation for Air Force missions



By Sean Kimmons, Air Force News Service / Published January 12, 2016

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- A day after the Air Force flew a B-52 Stratofortress over South Korea in the wake of their northern neighbor’s nuclear bomb test, Air Force officers discussed the service’s nuclear capabilities with policymakers Jan. 11.

The hour-long discussion, part of an ongoing series, touched on North Korea’s Jan. 6 test and why the Air Force responded with a show of force. It also delved further into the U.S. military’s triad system, which deters a nuclear attack using strategic bombers, missile silos and submarines.

Organized by the Air Force Legislative Liaison Office at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Air Force 101 sessions inform policymakers on various topics.

“We don’t write policy. That’s not our job,” said Maj. Justin Ballinger, a legislative liaison. “What we do is educate how the policy and legislation affects us, and what we can do with what is given to us.”

The bi-monthly sessions cover “airpower from the ground up” and hot topics such as a briefing on cyber security that had officers talk about policies related to Air Force missions.

“They spoke on the things that the current legislation allows us to do and some of the things that we’re handcuffed with,” Ballinger said.

The sessions by the liaison office, which Ballinger described as an arm of the executive branch, also save time and energy to highlight Air Force matters.

“The more folks we can reach out to and educate, the better returns we get when it comes to responsiveness for policy and other issues,” he said.

At the latest session, three Air Force officers spoke to about 60 policymakers on nuclear operations -- an issue recently thrusted into the spotlight.

“It gives us an opportunity to build that initial foundation for a lot of them,” said Maj. Nathan Perry, the chief of airborne capabilities for Air Staff 10 that handles the service’s nuclear mission. “If a handful of them left this door smarter than they were when they walked in on nuclear deterrence, then mission accomplished.”

To Perry, who has flown B-2 Spirits, the session was a unique chance for him and others to communicate in person with policymakers who may alter the future of nuclear operations one day.

“For us to be able to say that we are credible and reliable all the time,” he said of nuclear deterrence, “we have to be able to correspond about it, talk about it and prove it.”

Allowing Capitol Hill staffers to interact with Airmen who’ve had prior experience on a specific issue may also indirectly shape new policy.

“Being over here talking and sharing our experience, we absolutely influence the process,” said Maj. Stephen Bonin, a senior emergency actions officer with the National Military Command Center who once served as a missile maintainer.

The goal of the sessions is to improve the decision making of policymakers.

“I can’t tell you what the composition of the triad should be or how many weapons we should have,” Bonin said, “but I can tell you all the information so you can make an informed decision.”

Eric Mattson, a Hill staffer who works for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington, said the session helped expand his knowledge on nuclear capabilities.

“As I work here there may be a time when I will work with this kind of policy,” Mattson said. “I think it’s important for us as policymakers to know what can be done better.”

One aspect that the Air Force is pushing to modernize is its aging aircraft, of which many are part of the triad system. In October, Air Force officials awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to build 100 long range strike bombers to replace legacy bombers, such as B-52s that are more than 50 years old.

Bombers play a critical role in nuclear deterrence since they’re easily visible, unlike submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The low-level flyover of the B-52 and fighter aircraft only a few hours from the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula was a prime example.

“That’s what the bomber portion gives you,” Perry said. “It allows the whole world to see that we’re getting it done. It’s definitely a game of chess and it takes a lot of work.”

How the Air Force will evolve and continue its nuclear deterrence mission will be up to those making legislation.

“You need to take a serious look at what is the strategic narrative that we want to push for some of these capabilities,” Perry told the policymakers. “Please help us use our capabilities to do what we need to do.”