Thursday, January 28, 2016

Painting beyond the numbers: Alaska Guard civilian paints superheroes

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs

1/28/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sept. 11, 2001 was a grievous day for everyone. It was Richard Cornwell's 25th birthday, and the terrorist attacks proved to be the straw that shattered the camel's back.

The then-Marine Corps lance corporal had recently suffered a major relationship breakup, his close great grandmother died, and 9/11 only deepened his overshadowing depression.

In the comic books Cornwell loves, superheroes use extraordinary powers to save ordinary people from dire circumstances. It would be those same heroes who would save him from his depression, but it would be by his pencils and paintbrushes rather than the supers' otherworldly and quite fictional abilities.

Pursuing a passion
Cornwell, a civilian materials handler at the Alaska Army National Guard Central Issue Facility, said he has been drawing comic book characters since he was in kindergarten.

Though he could only draw stick figures, they were Hulk and Superman stick figures capable of incredible feats within the confines of their two-dimensional realm.

His sketches were the beginning of a single-minded interest in all things fantastic, all things amazing that could be dreamed up and captured on the pages of a comic book. Cornwell said he doesn't dodge being identified as a nerd, geek or similar moniker.

"I've been a dork all my life," he said with a grin. "I've been such a geek about all this stuff. I grew up watching scary movies and sci-fi movies - Star Wars and all that stuff. You grow up with these movies, and you want to draw some of these characters."

Cornwell said his artistic impulse is genetic. His Saturday morning routine of watching Thundarr the Barbarian was interrupted when his mother would set up her easel and tune into The Joy of Painting, hosted by the soft-spoken Bob Ross.

"Every Saturday, when I could be watching cartoons or a movie, she would turn it to [The Joy of Painting]," Cornwell recalled. "It was only half an hour, but it was an excruciating half an hour. Then, when I would watch him paint, and he would make this masterpiece in half an hour. I was amazed."

In the same manner Ross created landscapes from the pastures of his mind, Cornwell would grow up to conjure scenes of superheroism from his fervor for the fantastic. After high school, he sent his portfolio to the Kubert School in Dover, New Jersey - founded by DC Comics artist Joe Kubert - and was accepted.

His curriculum included computer-aided coloring, animation, narrative art, lettering, character design and airbrushing. Cornwell said he was surprised his strong suit was painting.

"I didn't even know I knew how to paint, and I was one of the top three students in the class [of 20]," he explained. "I
was surprised."

Though he found success in painting, he struggled in other areas. Cornwell said it was difficult to keep up with the pace necessary to produce a monthly comic book.

"I wanted to be an artist, and then I found out the pressures it took with the deadlines and stuff," he said. "It was actually really hard for me to actually draw comic book panels - to tell a story. I had to have a lot of help."

Cornwell completed two of the school's three years. He had run out of money and said he suspected making a living with his art may be out of his grasp.
The artist placed his dreams on hold.

Semper fi
Cornwell returned to his home in Exeter, California, where he worked odd jobs. He wasn't using the skills acquired at school, and he wasn't forging ahead in a new career. The artist was aimless.

His father noticed. Soon, the younger Cornwell came under pressure to move out and join the military. He met with recruiters from every military service. The last one he met with, a Marine, hit a nerve.

United States Marine Corps Recruit Training is widely regarded as the toughest boot camp the U.S. military offers, and Cornwell said his friends and family didn't think he could do it. He wanted to prove them wrong, and if he couldn't be a comic book artist, then he was determined to be a Leatherneck.

"Hearing the term 'starving artist' - not knowing where your next paycheck is going to come from as opposed to paying the bills - didn't really appeal to me," Cornwell said. "I wanted something a little more stable, so I joined the military for stability, and I joined the Marine Corps for myself to see if I could do it."
His naysayers were partially correct. Recruit Training was even more difficult than he imagined, but he would prove he had the grit necessary to hack the 13-week-long trial.

"Everyone was surprised I made it," Cornwell said. "I wanted to quit every day, but I wasn't going to."

Cornwell qualified as a motor transport operator and took assignments at Camp Pendleton, California, and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Though he walked away from a potential career in comic books, his passion followed him to the parade field and the motor pool.

His peers and leadership quickly discovered his artistic skills, and they put his talents to good use. At MCAS Iwakuni, he was commissioned to paint a gigantic mural of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 logo. Though most artists use a projector to assist them in tracing a large logo, Cornwell said that method didn't cut the mustard for him. Instead, he used a drafting technique he didn't learn at art school.

With the assistance of another Marine, Cornwell graphed a picture of the 171 logo into 1-inch squares. He graphed the mural wall into 1-foot squares. He could then free-hand paint the logo with the accuracy of a trace, adding artisan quality to a process of precision.

Grappling with depression
It was during his Marine Corps enlistment when terrorists plowed jetliners into the twin towers and the Pentagon. It was after 9/11 when depression tried to get the best of Cornwell.

He said he self-medicated by drinking too much and by indulging in his painting. Unfortunately, his passion had turned into a drudgery.

"I would not go anywhere, and all I would do is paint," Cornwell elaborated. "It got to the point where I was cranking out all of these paintings, and they didn't mean much to me. It was just something to pass the time."

Cornwell said he recognized he was walking down a dark path. He saw a counselor and was prescribed antidepressants.

Eventually, he vanquished depression with the help of counselors and stopped taking prescription drugs.

"I try not to keep the weight of the world on my shoulders - so much pressure," Cornwell explained.

Avengers in Wonderland
Today, Cornwell said he has regained his passion for bringing superheroes to life. His work area at the Central Issue Facility looks like Doctor Strange transmogrified a ComicCon expo into Cornwell's personal miniature pantheon of the amazing.

Comic book characters from Marvel and DC mingle with stormtroopers and Star Trek starship models. Paintings of Superman, Hulk and other fantastic fictional characters - all with a military aspect like a ballistic helmet added in - embellish the walls.

"Even though I'm paying back loans to the school I went to, and I'm not really making any money at it, it's a passion for me," Cornwell said. "Doing these pieces isn't just to satisfy my art craving. Now, it's to entertain. I've had people bring their kids to see this stuff, and I'm just blown away sometimes. This is my museum."

Roberto Vina, a materials handler who works with Cornwell, said he admires how each painting integrates National Guard elements. He isn't the only one.
"There are customers who, every time they come here, they appreciate the way it shows the Guard," Vina said.

Cornwell is all too eager to show other comic book enthusiasts his portfolio. He flips through the parchments, cradling each piece like it's a tiny Renaissance painting.

He doesn't just talk about how he painted the artwork from a technical perspective. He talks about how he was feeling at the time - what was happening in his life. Each portrayal of hero or villain, zombie or ghoul, is a snapshot of Cornwell's contemporary experience.

The artist's favorite superhero is Spiderman, and perhaps Peter Parker's alter ego represents someone he can relate to - someone who has surmounted deaths of loved ones, regret over fateful decisions, and triumph through following his convictions.

"There's something about a person who has gone to hell and back and still does the right thing," Cornwell said of the webslinger. "That, and his costume's just cool."

Face of Defense: Soldier Crafts Career Menu as Enlisted Aide

By Dave Vergun Army News Service

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2016 — Had it not been for his mom's cooking, Army Staff Sgt. Marc Susa said he might never have joined the Army and he never would have been named the USO-Metro Inter-Service Enlisted Aide of the Year.

As a kid, Susa relished his mom's Filipino cooking, which she prepared at home and at her restaurant. Heavy on seafood and vegetables, he calls it "comfort food."

He planned to follow in her footsteps and open his own restaurant. But first, he'd need to get his feet wet. During high school, he worked part-time at restaurants and became president of the school's home economics club.

After the 9/11 attacks happened, Susa said he wondered how he might best serve his country. When an Army recruiter told Susa that he could enlist as a cook, that sealed the deal, he said.

Susa enlisted in 2003, served in Tikrit, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006 and progressed through the ranks with a military occupational specialty of 92G Culinary Food noncommissioned officer.

In 2009, Susa said he found out about another way he could serve and continue with his culinary passion: become an enlisted aide, or EA.

The part of being an EA that was especially appealing, he said, was the mission of preparing food for a general officer and his family.

Susa's first assignment was with now-retired Army Gens. James Thurman and Charles Campbell, when they were commanders of U.S. Army Forces Command. Now he is an enlisted aide for Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, Army chief information officer, G-6.

Day In The Life

A typical day starts early, he said, arriving by 6 a.m. at the general's quarters at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., now part of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

At that early hour, Susa makes breakfast and also packs a lunch for the general to take with him to work. He then prepares dinner and leaves it in the refrigerator for reheating.

The important thing about food preparation, Susa said, is knowing the food preferences of who you support. So he gets creative and ensures there are a variety of options available.

On certain days, Ferrell entertains guests at home for official social functions, and that means finding out what each person attending likes and knowing who might have certain food allergies.

For a big social function, preparation can start the day before the event, shopping at the commissary for what will be needed. These events are often too big for Susa alone to handle, so he said he invites other EAs over to help with the preparations. In turn, he will help them when they need his assistance.

While food preparation plays a big part of an EA's duties, that's not all there is.

Throughout the day, Susa said he'll walk around inside the house and outside to see if something might be amiss: a broken window, suspicious activity, that sort of thing. Or, there might be a problem with the plumbing. Susa knows who to contact whatever the case might be.

Another very important duty, he said, is ensuring the general's uniform is squared away and all the awards and decorations are where they're supposed to be. "His appearance is a reflection on us."

Sometimes, EAs travel with the general, but that's up to the general to decide, he said. The important thing to do is to get with the general's deputy or aide-de-camp to know the general's schedule ahead of time for planning purposes.

EA of the Year

This past fall, Susa competed in -- and won -- the 13th Annual Army EA of the Year Competition. He competed against other EAs across the nation in a series of areas, from preparing a three-course meal to uniform assembly, leadership and knowledge.

Then on Nov. 19, he was named the USO-Metro Inter-Service Enlisted Aide of the Year after competing against Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard EAs.

The EAs were evaluated on leadership, household management and community service skills. They also participated in a series of events during the completion that included tours of the White House and Capitol.

The Enlisted Aide of the Year award honors the hard work that all EAs do throughout the year, not just the winners and runners up, said Stephanie Lee Krasner, special events manager of USO-Metro, which sponsors the awards banquet.

As part of the awards banquet, USO-Metro invited select EAs and culinary specialists from across the services to prepare a seven-course meal for the attendees.

Ed Manley, founder of the Military Hospitality Alliance, which sponsors the competition, added that to win, the nominees went through a rigorous process, which included being vetted by a board chaired by retired Navy Adm. James Winnefeld. The board also included the spouses of two retired four-star officers and other former EAs.

Who Can Be an EA

Soldiers from any occupational specialty who are in grades E-5 through E-9 are eligible to be EAs, Susa said. Besides that, EA candidates must have really good NCO evaluation reports, pass an enlisted review board and have letters of recommendations from the command.

Once that's accomplished, EA candidates attend an "intensive" food service training and protocol course at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia, he said.

Personality-wise, to be successful takes someone with high levels of managerial and organizational skills, initiative, honesty, flexibility and good demeanor, he said.

Once an EA completes school, there's one final requirement, he said.

The EA informally meets with a general and his spouse to determine if the EA will be a good fit for them and visa-versa. "There has to be a high level of comfort and trust," he said. "Otherwise, it won't work out."

Not Crossing the Line

There's a fine line between official duties and personal favors, and an EA has to know the difference. The latter, Susa said, are off-limits. For instance, tidying up the dining area and kitchen are official duties since those areas are where official social functions take place, but not cleaning the bedrooms or other personal spaces.

The EA is not a personal servant, he said. The EA's mission is to enable the general to focus on his or her official Army duties and not worry about potential problems at home.

Perceptions are important, and duties need to be on the up and up, he said. "You certainly don't want to get yourself or your boss in trouble."

While duties associated with being an EA are important, there are also important soldiering duties to do, he said. For instance, EAs are expected to do physical fitness training on their own and to keep up with soldiering skills.

Besides that, about 26 Army EAs from around the Military District of Washington get together for one day a month to do mandatory training, NCO leadership development and to compare notes on duties related to EAs.

Culinary Competitions

Susa has participated in not only military culinary competitions, but also civilian ones. He was recently selected as one out of four finalists to compete for the title of American Culinary Federation North East Region Pastry Chef of the Year in February.

In November, he will travel to Erfurt, Germany, to join the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team for the Culinary Olympics at the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung, or International Culinary Art Exhibition, where he will compete against international civilian and military chefs. This will be his second time attending the culinary Olympics. The last time -- in 2012 -- the team won six gold and six silver medals.

Kudos From the General

"Staff Sergeant Susa's enlisted aide skills are absolutely unmatched. In fact, he's been repeatedly recognized," Ferrell said. At Fort Hood, Texas, he was captain of the III Corps culinary team and led the team to a militarywide culinary victory.

In addition, in 2010, he was selected to the U.S Army Culinary Arts Team and in 2012, he served with the USA military team and helped them win 12 gold and silver medals in the International Culinary Olympics, the general said.

"Enlisted aides perform an invaluable, official role for our Army," Ferrell added. "In Staff Sergeant Susa's case, he has also planned and executed major social events for over 3,200 total dignitaries.

"I'm especially proud that Staff Sergeant Susa takes time to mentor enlisted aides -- not only from the Army, but our fellow services as well," he said. "He is a superb example to all. On top of that, he continually volunteers in the community, and he's been involved in supporting events for our wounded warriors as well.

"What is most important to remember about Staff Sergeant Susa is that he is first and foremost an exemplary soldier. He is a consummate, professional NCO, a leader and an expert in his craft. He has also deployed, having served in Iraq, where he trained the Iraqi military on food service operations," Ferrell added.
Susa said he eventually would like to open a restaurant. He said he also wants to write a cookbook for college students that features simple ingredients and fast preparations.

NATO Secretary General Describes State of the Alliance

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2016 — The NATO alliance has been challenged in the past year, but the alliance’s 28 member nations are responding, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels today.

The secretary general briefed the press as part of his annual report on the alliance.

No one can ignore the challenges, he said. “We saw this in the brutal terrorist attacks in our cities and in the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” he said. “We also saw it in Russia’s continued actions in Ukraine and its recent military build-up in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean.”

But, he noted, NATO countries rose to face these challenges together.

“We implemented the greatest strengthening of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War,” Stoltenberg said. “And cuts in defense spending among European allies have now practically stopped.”

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO allies aimed at 2 percent of gross domestic product being spent on security. Few countries managed that -- the United States being one.

Now the defense cuts have stopped and seem to be reversing, Stoltenberg said. “In 2015, defense cuts were close to zero,” the secretary general said. “Five allies now meet our guideline on spending 2 percent of GDP or more on defense. Sixteen allies spent more on defense in real terms in 2015, and 23 allies increased the amount they are spending on new equipment.”

More to Do

But more needs to be done, Stoltenberg said, “because, to the east and to the south, we face the biggest security challenges in a generation.”

NATO has responded. The NATO Response Force has more than 40,000 troops, and its core -- the very high readiness Spearhead Force -- is now operational. “I was really impressed when I saw it in action at its first deployment exercise in Poland,” the secretary general said.

The alliance is also establishing eight force integration units or small headquarters in the eastern countries, Stoltenberg said. “They support planning, training and reinforcements, if needed,” he said. “To combat hybrid warfare, we are improving our intelligence and early warning.”

NATO is also streamlining the decision-making apparatus, and enhancing its cyber defenses, the secretary general said.

“Last year, we conducted around 300 allied exercises, including the largest and most complex one in over a decade, with over 36,000 troops, 140 aircraft, and 60 ships from over 30 different nations,” he said.

In 2016, the alliance will increase the number and scope of exercises, Stoltenberg said.

Russian aggression in Ukraine continues and the Eastern allies are particularly worried. “We have visibly increased NATO’s presence in the eastern part of our alliance,” he said. “Over the last two years, Russian air activity close to NATO’s European airspace has increased by around 70 percent. In response, allied aircraft scrambled over 400 times to intercept Russian aircraft.”

In the south, the alliance increased the presence of airborne warning and control system aircraft over Turkey, and the alliance has made substantial progress with our new alliance ground surveillance system, “including the first test flight of one of our new Global Hawk drones,” the secretary general said. “This system will provide real-time intelligence to our commanders in theater.”

Stoltenberg praised the arrival in Spain of two more U.S. ships carrying the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, and touted progress on the Aegis Ashore facility in Romania. “This spring, we will break ground for a new site in Poland,” he said.

Counterterrorism Efforts

NATO is supporting the Resolute Support mission and the alliance effort is to deny safe haven to international terrorists. “We continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan army and police,” Stoltenberg said.

The Afghans face significant challenges, he said, but they are holding their ground. “We decided in 2015 to maintain our current level of troops this year,” the secretary general said. “We are looking at how we can contribute to the funding of the Afghan security forces until 2020.”

Stoltenberg also addressed the global coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “The coalition’s high degree of interoperability is a key asset,” he said. “To address the root causes of instability, NATO is working even closer with our partners in the region. We are building the defense capacity of Jordan. We will soon start training Iraqi officers, and we are working with Tunisia on special operations forces and intelligence to help them be stronger in defending themselves.”

NATO continues its mission in Kosovo, which continues to bring much needed security and stability to a region that has been highly volatile, the secretary general said.

Last year, Stoltenberg noted, “we [made] another important decision, which will advance stability in the Western Balkans: We formally invited Montenegro to begin talks to become the 29th member of NATO." Accession negotiations will begin in mid-February, he said.

“In less than six months from now, allied leaders will meet at our summit in Warsaw,” the secretary general said. “We will take the next steps to strengthen our defense and deterrence. We will decide on the right balance between a forward presence in the east and our ability to reinforce.”

In the years ahead, Stoltenberg said, NATO will remain an anchor of stability; staying strong, open for dialogue, and working with partners around the world.

Scott Airmen participate in initial Green Dot training

by Airman Daniel Garcia
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

1/28/2016 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- To combat negative behaviors and create an environment that prevents violent acts from occurring, several personnel at Scott AFB received Green Dot violence training in January, which will continue throughout the year.

Green Dot is a new program aimed at preventing power-based violence among Air Force personnel. The program focuses on "Red Dots," a decision someone makes to assault or abuse someone else, and "Green Dots," a decision someone makes to react or prevent that from happening. The emphasis of the program is less about reporting crimes when they happen and more about creating a climate where the situations wouldn't happen in the first place.

Senior Master Sgt. Casy Boomershine, a Green Dot coordinator within Air Mobility Command, said everybody has the ability to intervene in a comfortable way. This program creates a climate where a "Red Dot" can't happen because everyone is looking out for each other.

"The actions a person can take can be something very small," she said. "It is a way for everyone to find out how to intervene while still in their personal comfort zone to keep our Wingmen safe."

According to 2nd Lt. Allison Rayome, a Green Dot coordinator within the 375th Air Mobility Wing, this training is similar to bystander intervention training, however the difference with Green Dot is it provides strategies to create a safer environment.

The Green Dot program is an Air Force-wide program, and everyone from officers to civilian personnel will receive Green Dot training which will also serve as the violence prevention training for the year. There are three levels of training: Leadership, Influencer, and General Overview.

The leadership training is targeted to those in key leadership positions such as group commanders and above, directors, and command chiefs.

The influencer training is a more in-depth training about understanding the concept and methodology behind it. Boomershine said people selected for this training will leverage their social standing within their units to inspire others to internalize the message behind the program.

"When people, who have social capital, adopt a new way of thinking, it helps to spread it within the entire population," Boomershine said.

The rest of the base will receive a 60-minute overview brief, which touches on all key points, so they can go back to their units and promote discussion.

Rayome said it's important to realize there may be people who have been affected in some way by violence, and that this training is a great way to help.

"One of the biggest things we all learned is that there wasn't a single person in the room during the training who wasn't personally affected, or knew someone who has been affected by interpersonal violence," said Rayome.

"So it's easy to look at the stats, it's easy to see when we get our [sexual assault prevention] training how many reports there are, but that's just a number. To some people, that number is a person they know and is their whole world. If we don't fix this in our Air Force culture, it's not going to change. It gave me hope, going through the training, that we actually can make a difference and those numbers are going to go down, if we allow them to internalize the message."