Thursday, February 01, 2018

Face of Defense: Airman Enjoys Rescue Squadron’s Fast Pace

By Air Force Senior Airman Quay Drawdy 18th Wing

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan, Feb. 1, 2018 — The airmen of the 31st Rescue Squadron here provide invaluable rescue services and conduct training, ranging from fast-rope rescue drills over land and sea to practice insertions by parachuting from aircraft.

Those that do the job perform their duties quickly and effectively, but they could never pull it off without the work that goes on behind the beating of the helicopters’ blades.

Air Force Senior Airman Andres Cervantes, 31st RQS command support staff, helps to keep the well-oiled machine of the 31st rolling without a hitch.

Best Assignment

“This is the best assignment I’ve ever had,” Cervantes said. “I wake up ready to come to work, making sure all of the tasks and requests from commanders or major commands can be worked by the squadron.”

According to Cervantes, working with such a fast-paced squadron like the 31st requires dedication and a willingness to find the harder solutions.

“Airman Cervantes is an incredibly motivated troop,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Cox, 31st RQS superintendent. “He’s always ready to step in to fill any gaps and is always eager to learn, taking opportunities to lead because he wants to do it. He has a fire in him that can’t be taught.”
Cervantes said he looks “for ways to reduce stress and make things easier for the guys. Making sure they get paid correctly for their flights, deployments or a temporary duty assignment is a big part, but little things count, too. Making sure there is a hot plate of food ready for someone coming in from a long flight or just arriving to us is one small thing I can do to make things easier on them.”

Morale-Building Activities

Aside from the small comforts of providing something to eat after a rough trip, Cervantes works on larger projects to help keep morale up for not only the airmen, but their families, too.

“I work closely with the booster club, a nonprofit organization that helps pay for morale events,” Cervantes said. “Parties for inbound or outbound members are pretty common, but Rescue Fest is our biggest event. We invite out the families and anyone else from around base that wants to attend. This year, the task fell to me a bit more due to some of the other members being TDY.”

Working to keep morale high and training up-to-date are motivators in their own right, but Cervantes has a bit more pushing him forward.

Family Life

“Family is a big driver for me,” he said. “I’m the first in my family to enlist and it helps me set an example for my brothers and my kids. I’m working toward taking advantage of the Palace Front program to take part in ROTC to ultimately commission. I want to set my family up as much as possible, so they keep me motivated.”

With all of his work and positive attitude, it’s no surprise Cervantes will be missed when he moves on to his next duty station.

“We’ll continue down the current path and keep Cervantes as long as he’ll stay around,” Cox said. “He’s got a cheerful personality, very professional, and makes the room a bit brighter. It gives me hope for his future.”

Navy to Commission Littoral Combat Ship Omaha

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2018 —  The Navy will commission its newest Independence variant of the littoral combat ship, the future USS Omaha, during a ceremony Feb. 3, at 10 a.m. PST at the Broadway Pier in San Diego, according to a Defense Department news release.

The future USS Omaha, designated LCS 12, is the eleventh littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the sixth of the Independence-variant design, the release said. It is the fourth warship named for the Nebraska state capital. The first ship was a propeller-driven sloop-of-war. The second ship was a light cruiser, and the third Omaha was an attack submarine.

Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey will deliver the ceremony’s principal address, according to the release. Susie Buffett, an Omaha philanthropist and daughter of Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will serve as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will give the order to, “Man our ship and bring her to life!”

Navy-Industry Partnership

“Omaha and her sister ships represent an investment in our nation, the result of the partnership between the Department of the Navy and our shipbuilding industry. American craftsmen in Mississippi, Alabama [and] around the country have made USS Omaha possible,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer stated in the news release.

“The LCS fills a unique mission for the United States Navy and as these remarkable ships continue to be produced out of our shipyards, they represent an increase in our readiness and lethality,” Spencer added.

The LCS design is modular and reconfigurable, designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems, and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain, and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical areas in multiple theaters.

The LCS class consists of the Freedom-variant and Independence-variant, designed and built by two industry teams, the release said. The Freedom-variant team is led by Lockheed Martin for the odd-numbered ships, e.g. LCS 1. The Independence-variant team is led by Austal USA for LCS 6 and follow-on even-numbered ships. Twenty-nine LCS ships have been awarded to date: 11 have been delivered to the Navy, 15 are in various stages of construction and three are in pre-production states.

African-American Troops Fought to Fight in World War I

By Army Col. Richard Goldenberg New York National Guard

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., Feb. 1, 2018 — During World War I, when African-American National Guard soldiers of New York’s 15th Infantry Regiment arrived in France in December 1917, they expected to conduct combat training and enter the trenches of the western front right away to fight the enemy.

However, at first, the African-American troops were ordered to unload supply ships at the docks for their first months in France, joining the mass of supply troops known as stevedores, working long hours in the port at St. Nazaire.

More than 380,000 African-Americans served in the Army during World War I, according to the National Archives. About 200,000 were sent to Europe. But more than half of those who deployed were assigned to labor and stevedore battalions. These troops performed essential duties for the American Expeditionary Force, building roads, bridges and trenches in support of the front-line battles.

Preparing Docks, Railway Lines

In St. Nazaire, the New York National Guard soldiers learned they would work to prepare the docks and railway lines to be a major port of entry for the hundreds of thousands of forces yet to arrive in France. The African-American regiment was a quick and easy source of labor, according to author Stephen Harris in his 2003 book "Harlem’s Hell Fighters."

“First, [Army Gen. John J.] Pershing would have a source of cheap labor,” Harris wrote. “Second, he wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with black soldiers, particularly when he might have to mix them in with white troops.”

But the 15th Regiment’s soldiers had not signed up for labor. They were committed to fighting the Germans and winning the war.

“They had no place to put the regiment,” said infantry Capt. Hamilton Fish, according to the Harris book. “They weren’t going to put us in a white division, not in 1917, anyway; so our troops were sent in to the supply and services as laborers to lay railroad tracks. This naturally upset our men tremendously.”

Regimental Commander Fights for Troops

The regiment’s best advocate to get into the fight was their commander, Col. William Hayward.

“It was time for us to try to do something towards extricating ourselves from the dirty mess of pick-swinging and wheel barrel trundling that we were in,” Hayward had said to Capt. Arthur Little, commander of the regimental band, according to Jeffrey Sammons in his 2014 book "Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War."

“We had come to France as combat troops, and, apparently, we were in danger of becoming labor troops,” Hayward said.

Hayward argued his case in a letter to Pershing, outlining the regiment’s mobilization and training, and followed up immediately with a personal visit to Pershing’s headquarters.

Band Helps Sway Opinion

He would bring with him the regiment’s most formidable weapon in swaying opinion: the regimental band, lauded as one of the finest in the entire Expeditionary Force.

While the regiment literally laid the tracks for the arrival of the 2 million troops deploying to France, the regimental band toured the region, performing for French and American audiences at rest centers and hospitals. The 369th Band was unlike any other performance audiences had seen or heard before, Harris noted. The regimental band is credited with introducing jazz music to France during the war.

The military band would frequently perform a French march, followed by traditional band scores such as John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“And then came the fireworks,” said Sgt. Noble Sissle, band vocalist and organizer, in the Harris account, as the 369th Band would play as if they were in a jazz club back in Harlem.

After some three months of labor constructing nearby railways to move supplies forward, the regiment’s soldiers learned that they had orders to join the French 16th Division for three weeks of combat training.

Heading for the Front

They also learned they had a new regimental number as the now-renamed 369th Infantry Regiment. Not that it mattered much to the soldiers; they still carried their nickname from New York, the Black Rattlers, and carried their regimental flag of the 15th New York Infantry everywhere they went in France.

While the 369th Infantry would become part of the U.S. Army’s 92nd Infantry Division, it would be assigned to fight with French forces. This solved the dilemma for Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces of what to do with the African-American troops.

The black troops would see combat, but alongside French forces, who were already accustomed to the many races and ethnicities already serving in the ranks of their colonial troops.

“The French army instructors literally welcomed their African-American trainees as comrades in arms,” Sammons wrote. “To the pragmatic French army instructors, the soldiers were Americans, black Americans, to be trained for combat within their ranks. The trainees clearly excelled at their tasks.”

After learning valuable lessons in trench warfare from their French partners, the soldiers of the 369th finally had their chance to prove their worth as combat troops when they entered the front lines, holding their line against the last German spring offensive near Chateau-Thierry.

Acclaimed Fighters

Their value was not lost on the French, and the regiment continued to fight alongside French forces, participating in the Aisne-Marne counteroffensive in the summer of 1918 alongside the French 162st Infantry Division.

The Hell Fighters from Harlem had come into their own, in spite of their difficult start.

The regiment would go on to prove itself in combat operations throughout the rest of the war, receiving France’s highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre, for its unit actions alongside some 171 individual decorations for heroism.

During the World War I centennial observance, the New York National Guard and New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs will issue press releases noting key dates that affected New Yorkers, based on information and artifacts provided by the New York State Military Museum here.
More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.