Military News

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

McChord Soldiers and Airmen train for Pacific contingency mission

by Sgt. Leon Cook
20th Public Affairs Detachment

1/20/2016 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- An underwater earthquake occurred off the coast of Guam, sending massive tsunami waves over the tiny island in the Pacific. Hundreds were killed, the Navy base was swept away, and the property damage is incalculable. Relief efforts were quickly organized. The U.S. Army's only regionally-aligned corps, I Corps, based in JBLM, set up medical and food aid as well as assistance in finding survivors and clearing rubble.

The details of this scenario are fictional, but plausible, and just the sort of thing I Corps' Early Entry Command Post trains for. The EECP's mission is to set up and deploy a command and control node anywhere in the Pacific within 96 hours of receiving the order to go. The command post will coordinate with U.S. forces and communicate with coalition partners and nongovernmental entities.

To accomplish this, I Corps' EECP practiced loading into aircraft with loadmasters and aircrew from the Air Force's 62nd Airlift Wing, Jan. 13.

"The purpose of the training is to continue to build readiness so that we provide the I Corps commander with a rapidly deployable mission command node," said Maj. Andrew Hill, the EECP's commanding officer.

Past training exercises have shown what is essential and what is non-essential to bring. Now, the EECP can fit into three Humvees and their trailers.

The small footprint allows the entire command post to fit into a single C-17, Hill said.

Soldiers backed the trailers and Humvees onto a steep cargo ramp of a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft and tied the equipment down for air transport. Some trailers nearly scraped their undercarriages on the ramp, but quick thinking, a few ramp adjustments and some planks of wood allowed the training to continue.

"[This training] allowed us to actually get on the aircraft, to actually look at our load plan to see what it would actually look like instead of just looking at it on a computer graphic," Hill said. "We're pretty satisfied that we're meeting the Corps commander's intent and that we'll be able to execute at any time."

In March, the EECP will validate their readiness further by once again loading onto a C-17. Next time, instead of staying on the ground, they will fly to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and set up a command post there.

That exercise will be the culminating event of all their training and validate their readiness to deploy.

Licenses from 5 states banned at DOD bases

By Jim Garamone, DOD News, Defense Media Activity / Published January 20, 2016
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Department installations will no longer accept driver’s licenses from Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington as proof of identity, DOD officials said.

Federal policy

The ban, which also includes licenses from American Samoa, is a consequence of the REAL ID Act of 2005.

The REAL ID Act grew out of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- most of the terrorists involved had driver’s licenses from Florida and Virginia. Congress tightened up issuance processes and documentation needed to get a driver’s license. Compliant cards must have specific security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication of the document. The licenses also must present data in a common, machine-readable format.

The REAL ID Act affects only access control policies where individuals are required to present an identification document for accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants or boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. The federal REAL ID Act implementation rules allow for exceptions, officials noted. For example, they explained life or safety issues such as medical emergencies and situations in which physical access is necessary to apply for benefits are two exceptions.

Those attempting to gain physical access to DOD installations must show an alternate form of identification, such as a passport, officials said. Service members, family members, DOD employees, and federal employees with the DOD Common Access Card, DOD uniformed services identification and privileges cards, federal personal identification verification cards or transportation workers’ identification credentials are not affected, officials said, as these cards are authorized in DOD policy to facilitate physical access to installations.

“All federal agencies including DOD must comply with the law regarding the use of REAL IDs for official purposes,” an official said. “For most DOD installations, an identification card or an installation pass is required to facilitate access. Hence, where an ID or an installation pass is used for physical access, DOD installations are prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or state identification cards from states deemed non-REAL ID compliant.

“DOD policy allows commanders to waive the DOD access control requirements for special situations, circumstances, or emergencies,” the official said. “Therefore, installations may authorize other alternatives to facilitate installation access, such as a graduation ceremony guest list, escorts, etc.”

Air Force implements additional security measures

By Secretary of the Air Force Command Information, / Published January 20, 2016

Air Force commanders can use the Unit Marshal and Security Forces Staff Arming programs along with
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- In response to tragic events that have taken place on and off installations over the past few years, Air Force commanders can take additional measures to secure personnel and property on their installations through three programs that allow service members to carry weapons.

The Air Force Security Forces Integrated Defense team established and implemented the Unit Marshal, Security Forces Staff Arming and Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act programs that will enable commanders the ability to increase his or her force protection measures on their installations.

“We looked at active-shooter incidents across the country and there are statistics out there that show where many ended without police intervention because there was somebody there who had a concealed carry permit or somebody interdicted the active shooter,” said Maj. Keith Quick, the Air Force Security Forces Integrated Defense action officer. “These programs allow commanders the ability to arm additional trained Airmen who could interdict before police arrive and are trained to stand down when police arrive.”

The Unit Marshal Program is the newest of these tools designed to enable commanders at every level, when approved by the installation commander, permission to work with security forces to train Airmen and allow them to open carry an M9 pistol in their duty location.

“We are calling it a subset of the security forces augmentee program,” Quick said. “The traditional augmentee program was established for security forces squadrons that didn’t have enough personnel to cover installation security and we would ask for personnel from other work centers across the base.”

Unlike the security forces augmentee program, the UMP allows a squadron commander who has a perceived threat to request additional security. Now a commander can train and arm Airmen in their unit that would remain at the squadron doing their primary job but also provide security for the location.

Members selected for the program will attend a training course that includes sections on use of force, weapons retention and weapons training.

“The goal of the UMP is to protect them, their immediate work space and the people within it,” Quick stressed. “They are not first responders, they are not to go to the sound of fire, they are not to chase bad guys. If an active shooter happened, these members are not authorized to engage unless confronted directly by the active shooter.”

The second program is the Security Forces Staff Arming program that would enable more security forces members who work in staff billets at the squadron, group, wing or major command to carry a government-issued weapon while on duty with the approval of the installation commander.

Any Air Force security force member who has the appropriate Air Force specialty code and is current on all of their qualifications may qualify with the goal of putting trained defenders in places around the base where they could immediately interdict an active shooter or some type of other threat.

“If we can have a trained defender in the Base Exchange or commissary getting their lunch, or in the dry cleaners or library they can immediately interdict against an individual,” Quick said. “The goal is to have armed and trained service members carrying to respond if a need arises.”

The program that supports the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act also applies to security forces members both past and present. LEOSA is a federal act that provides credentials for law enforcement members to carry a concealed weapon to any state for personal protection against people who may want to harm them, as long as they obey state and local laws pertaining to firearms.

“The theory was that throughout their career they were arresting criminals, putting them in jail and creating enemies, and while they are allowed to carry in their jurisdictions they may not be able to go to another state or city and still have that same right to carry and defend themselves,” Quick said.

However, the Air Force now allows its members to request LEOSA credentialing. There is a list of criteria that a security force member must meet. Active-duty Airmen can apply if they have the security forces AFSC, work a security forces position and maintain current weapons qualifications. If an Airman is in the Reserves, Guard or retired they must fulfill a minimum service requirement and still maintain weapons qualification through their state’s requirements.

“This affects base personnel because we have given the option to the installation commander to allow security forces members to carry under LEOSA on the installation while they are off duty,” Quick said. “With installation commander’s approval, I could go to the commissary on Saturday and stay armed and concealed while conducting my business on the installation and leave … it’s not for work purposes.”

Commanders can use these formalized programs at their discretion; the Air Force Integrated Defense team is also looking at how to authorize a member of the Air Force who is assigned to duty at off-installation, center or facility to carry an appropriate firearm.

“None of these programs gives the installation commander authorizations they didn’t already have the authorization to do,” Quick said. “We are now formalizing it and telling them how they can use these types of programs more effectively.”

673d CEG plans Philippine school renovation

by Airman Valerie Monroy
JBER Public Affairs

1/20/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- As part of exercise Balikatan 2016, personnel with the 673d Civil Engineer Group will renovate a Jaena Norte Elementary school building on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

Balikatan is Filipino for "shoulder-to-shoulder" and is an annual training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement between the Philippines and the U.S. military. During the exercise, Philippine and U.S. service members conduct tactical-level combat training and humanitarian civic assistance projects throughout the Philippines.

"We are one of the teams working what is called 'Engineering Civic Assistance Projects' which falls under the Humanitarian and Civic Assistance portion of the exercise," said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Putt, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight superintendent.

The 673d CEG will bring a 25-man team for the renovation, said Air Force 1st Lt. Joy Johnson, 773d CES operations engineering officer in charge.  A member with the 673d Medical Group is also be assigned to the team.

"The main purpose is to work hand-in-hand with people of the Philippines and teach them our ways and learn from them as well," Johnson said.

Putt explained building relations with the host nation community and armed forces of the Philippines is one of the most important aspects of the mission.

Before the renovations can begin, site visits are needed to make the future plans.

"I have gone on two site visits," said Johnson. "I went in September and again in November; both were two weeks long."

There are two parts to the visits for preparation, continued Johnson. The first week is the site visit and the second week is a conference. Johnson explained the group flew into Manila on the first day then flew into Panay the following day.

During the visit they checked the life support available for the mission, including food, housing and safe water.

"Then we look at the school to see what's feasible and within our budget," said Johnson. "We also get a list of things that are needed."

A great way to find out the concerns or priorities of the school is to talk to the principal and staff members, Johnson explained.

"That way we can get the history of the school and see what is important to them," Johnson said.

In this particular school, the gardens surrounding the building are a significant part of their life, she said. The school maintains both flower and vegetable gardens.

"With that knowledge we [will] be careful with the flowers surrounding the school when it's time for the renovation," Johnson said.

Whether the children are keeping the garden clean or playing outside, dirt is always a factor. That's why Johnson said they have decided to make a handwashing station during their project.

"Getting to know what they need and their ways actually helps us to tailor our project to the community," Johnson said.

One big request from the students was to have a basketball court. They were willing to give up other things around the site for it, Johnson said.

"Fortunately we were able to move things around, get the basketball court and still keep everything else," Johnson said.

Johnson said she enjoys many different aspects of the trip.

"It's exciting," Johnson said. "For me it's the experience, especially the engineering experience."

Apart from learning new things, being in a different country provides many opportunities for trying unfamiliar things.

"It opens your eyes, honestly, and it's an amazing experience," Johnson said. "You completely immerse yourself in their culture and get to try their food."

Johnson explained that the principal of the school would set out a full meal for them on several occasions during the visit.

"You get to see what you like and what you don't like," Johnson said.

Two years ago, a typhoon destroyed many buildings in the area and ruined the school's roof. Because most of the school is still stable, the building will only be renovated and not rebuilt from the ground up, Johnson said.

The renovation project will begin on March 28 and be finished by April 16.

"We're just hitting the ground running," Johnson said. "And the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] will be right by our side the whole time."

Many of the students at the school are children of the armed forces of the Philippines and therefore the parents are big contributors when it comes to getting things done throughout the building.

"Everything in the school so far, the parents have done," Johnson said.

The AFP will also share all their construction equipment with the CEG personnel for the project which will cut costs.

Renovations for the school will include replacing the roof completely, painting interior and exterior walls, renovating two bathrooms, replacing the floors, and re-doing the surrounding sidewalks, Johnson explained.

The water for the school comes from a well and is pumped electronically. In an effort to reduce the electric bill for the future, gutters will be built around the entire building that will feed into the handwashing station.

One facility was destroyed beyond repair by the typhoon and will be brought down.

"We're hoping in the future, another Balikatan project can rebuild it from the ground up, but we'll just be doing the pre-work for that," Johnson said.

At the end of the project the gardens will be replanted for the children.

All the supplies for the rebuild will be bought locally which helps the local economy, Johnson said.

Johnson said she will remember this project for its experience and the new culture but also for the many friendly people she has interacted with.

"I'm even friends on Facebook with the principal," Johnson said.

673d CEG personnel are accepting donations in support of the mission up until March 4.

"We are serving a seven member facility, with 136 students and they are in need of school supplies, backpacks, sports balls [and] monetary donations for new chalkboards to enhance their education," Johnson said.

Commander travels 'Down Under' to observe seismic work

by Susan A. Romano
AFTAC Public Affairs

1/20/2016 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The commander of the Air Force Technical Applications Center and her command chief master sergeant visited the center's most far-reaching detachment located in Australia's Northern Territory Dec. 14-18.

Col. Jennifer P. Sovada and Chief Master Sgt. Neil Jones made the 10,200-mile journey to get an up-close view of the seismic work being conducted by AFTAC personnel at Detachment 421 in Alice Springs, a small outpost in the center of the Australian outback.  The duo also wanted to see the steps the detachment has taken to improve the living conditions for the assigned Airmen.

AFTAC, the Department of Defense's sole nuclear treaty monitoring center, has nine detachments, six operating locations and more than 60 unmanned equipment locations worldwide and on every continent that monitor and record natural and man-made seismic disturbances in support of AFTAC's long range nuclear detection mission.

Det 421 is an integral part of the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System and has a seismic array that includes 22 detectors buried 30 meters deep, covering an area of approximately 80 kilometers.  The assigned Airmen operate and maintain the seismic equipment to ensure it delivers accurate geologic data to analysts here at the center.

Prior to the visit, AFTAC leadership encouraged the detachment commander, Maj. Jesse Foster, to figure out ways to improve the quality of life for his 5-person unit, using innovation as his driving force, while also seeking out better methods to do business.

Foster knew one of the biggest challenges his Airmen consistently faced was the accessibility to decent housing.  So when he arrived at the det in 2014, he began working with Air Force forces to secure contracted housing for assigned detachment members.

"Over the course of various assignments, AFTAC Airmen have had to live in housing areas that weren't always consistent with security standards recommended by the U.S. Embassy in Canberra for federal employees living overseas, especially in a remote area like Alice Springs," said Foster. "So we engaged Col. Sovada and AFTAC's chief of International Affairs, Robert McLaughlin, to hammer out an agreement with Air Force Materiel Command to alleviate the burden newly-assigned Airmen and their families face when they are searching for clean, safe and affordable housing areas in the Alice Springs community.  Through this agreement, AFMC will now provide government-managed, fully-furnished housing for all eligible detachment personnel. It's a huge victory for Det 421."

During their stay in Alice Springs, the visitors toured AFMC's contracted living quarters and neighborhoods, and were impressed with what they saw.

"Caring for our Air Force families is an extremely high priority for me," said Jones. "Providing dependents adequate places to live allows our Airmen to focus on the mission, and this partnership with AFMC does just that.  It's definitely a win-win in every aspect."

Sovada and Jones also sat down with two members of the Alice Springs Police Force - Superintendent Peter Gordon (chief of police) and Sgt. Terry Simpson, Operation and Field Intelligence officer, to learn more about their operations.

The law enforcement officers had nothing but praise for the American Airmen living in their territory.

"Your troops and their families are an integral part of our community," said Gordon, "and they are very law-abiding citizens.  Alice Springs is like any small town - we have our share of petty issues, but it's a safe community and a great little village to grow your family.  Quite frankly, with our population of about 26,000, it's one of the safest places in all of Australia."

In addition to visiting detachment personnel and facilities, Sovada met with the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, the Honorable John Berry, who's served at the embassy in Canberra since September 2013.  The meeting gave the commander the opportunity to thank the ambassador for his continued support of the work being accomplished at the detachment and discuss the ongoing networking between the diplomat and the detachment.

"The work your Airmen are conducting is so important to our government," Berry told Sovada, "and it's literally being conducted in the middle of nowhere, oftentimes in 100-degree conditions.  Many people don't realize that being assigned to the Northern Territory is extremely austere and quite a hardship, and your folks are doing great work for both the U.S. and our allies here in Australia.  You should be quite proud of them."

The Northern Territory is the country's least populated state, with an estimated population of about 230,000, covering 549,000 miles.  And while the continent is geographically the same size as the continental United States, Australia has about the same number of people as the entire state of Texas.

The colonel also carved out time to visit the Australian War Memorial, similar to Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns.  The site combines a shrine, a world-class museum and an extensive archive that is open to the public and commemorates the sacrifices of the nation's fallen military members.  Sovada and Foster were given the honor of laying a wreath at the memorial's Pool of Reflection for the museum's Last Post Ceremony to honor the 102,000 Australians who gave their lives in service to their country over the past century.

"I am extremely impressed with the level of professionalism and scope of work being undertaken at Det 421," said Sovada.  "These skilled Airmen are performing a vital international mission and have built solid, long-lasting relationships with all our partners across Australia.  As Ambassador Berry aptly said, I am very proud of their accomplishments."

A small team looks forward with big goals

by Airman 1st Class Cary Smith
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2016 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy  -- BALL OUT!

A ball spirals into play and rugby players thunder down the field.

Cold breaths linger in the air and hands feel numb as the new rugby team practices in the early sunset.

"I wanted to start a rugby team here at Aviano after falling in love with the sport in Korea," said Staff Sgt. Lee Cundiff, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal journeyman. "Rugby is a fun, physically demanding sport."

The team meets every Tuesday and Thursday, warms up and runs through several practice drills to challenge the team's critical thinking skills and build physical endurance.

While on the field, players constantly evaluate both offensive and defensive positions and possible plays to execute. The sport is a continuous flow of action with lines of players shifting back and forth. The game's fluid motion requires players to know where they should be at all times and where the other team plans to move the ball.

Despite the physically demanding nature of the game, everyone is encouraged to join regardless of fitness level. The camaraderie of the sport allows everyone to fit in with the rugby family.

"I knew nothing about the sport, so I decided to come to a practice" said Airman 1st Class Christopher Linn, 31st CES fire fighter. "Now that I've seen the drills and met the players, I see myself sticking with it."

So why does this new team work through bruises and bitter cold? They push themselves to prepare for mental and physical challenges they may face during scrimmages and matches.

"I'm coordinating with local Italian rugby teams, and if we can get into a league, we can try to compete in tournaments." said Cundiff.

The new team will experience European cultures first hand when they play against teams in local communities and surrounding countries. Cundiff and his teammates hope to build a solid group of participants to take advantage of these travel opportunities.

"We are in the process of becoming an official team, and with each practice we see more and more people joining." said Cundiff.

As the team grows, the players can look forward to building a social bond reinforced by the hard work they put in each week.

"There is no other sport like rugby, with the full contact and the brotherhood," said Tech. Sgt. Samuel Howard, 31st Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection assistant NCO in charge. "What you bring to the field is what you leave on it."

Team members challenge themselves to achieve top physical performance while building teamwork skills. According to Cundiff, rugby touches on many of the pillars of the RUfit framework because it requires the Airmen to develop mental, physical and social skills.

"We hope to see this team snowball enough to play seven on seven matches in the spring and have large matches in the fall," said Howard. "There is a chance to start something great here, to compete and maybe even travel to other countries."

The players continue with jaw-jarring tackles as they strengthen their brotherhood and look to a bright future of representing Aviano Air Base, Italy.