Monday, February 26, 2018

Colorado National Guard Troops Take Biathlon Training

By Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Vonnida, Colorado National Guard

CENTENNIAL, Colo., Feb. 26, 2018 — Every state has a National Guard, and it’s not surprising that a state such as Colorado -- known for snowy mountaintops and a thriving ski industry -- would have a biathlon team. When you put the two together, you get a diverse and unique group of individuals who do whatever it takes to compete.

According to National Guard Regulation 350-10, which covers the National Guard Biathlon Training Program, biathlon skills have played an important role in winter warfare and military defense since the Great Scandinavian War in the early 1700s.

The military continues to value the combination of skiing and marksmanship skills.

The first World Biathlon Championships were held in 1958 and included a representative team of military personnel from Camp Hale, Colorado. Two years later, the Winter Olympic Games introduced the modern form of the sport.

From 1958 to 1973, Fort Richardson, Alaska, was home to a biathlon training center for military athletes. In 1973, the military biathlon program transferred to the Vermont National Guard.

National Guard biathlon has a long history of supporting and developing biathlon athletes who, in turn, enter the World Class Athlete Program and compete in World Cup and Olympic biathlon events.


As of March 2017, the Colorado National Guard Biathlon Team had 11 competitors: six officers, two warrant officers and three noncommissioned officers, including one from the Colorado Air National Guard.

“A first for this team in a long while,” Colorado Army National Guard 1st Lt. Bailey Bullock said about having an Air National Guardsman on the team.

Bullock was a newcomer to the team at his race in February 2017 at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado, where the team trains and competes.

“We like to train as a team whenever possible, but this year our schedules have been really demanding,” he said. “This year, our training has occurred just prior to the event either individual or in small groups.”

Bullock said that team training has been done in the past and that it’s a goal for next season.

Team members train on Nordic ski areas around Colorado in Frisco, Snow Mountain Ranch and Eldora. Training opportunities include competitions and other events.

“It’s important to get the knowledge and experience of those who have been doing the sport for a while, and it’s a good motivator having the support,” Bullock said.

Army Capt. Robert Killian placed fourth overall at the 2017 regional competition. The Colorado Army National Guard finished third as a team.

Army Lt. Col. Marc Reyher invited Bullock to join the team.

“Since we work in the same office, he talked about it a lot, and I wanted to try it,” Bullock said. “I get to ski and shoot -- two things that are a lot of fun. How can that possibly be bad?”

Biathlon Builds Army Skills

The National Guard issues the team’s equipment, as well as the rifle and the uniform.The only things team members must provide are gloves and boots.

Biathlon, as history represents, has a lot of similarities with Army training and culture.

“Generally speaking the physical aspect, having to stay in shape, and the shooting are directly related to my Army skills,” Bullock said. “While the style of shooting is different -- prone or standing while wearing skis -- breathing, trigger squeeze, sight picture, and position all apply.”

Bullock has practiced downhill skiing for a number of years but says biathlon is so much different.

“The first day, I took a class and it made me realize that I had to amend my workout plan to include more cardio and more leg work,” Bullock said. “After that first day, I was really sore.”

“Also, when skiing hard, breathing is increased, and shooting is more difficult. As you come into the range you have to slow your breathing while your heart is pounding,” Bullock said. “This is what separates those who are really good from the novices.”

Season Ends, Training Continues

The Colorado National Guard finished the season in January at the National Guard Western Regional Competition in Jericho, Vermont.

The men’s team finished third overall, while newcomer Army Sgt. Lisl Pearson took first in both the women’s 7.5-kilometer novice sprint and 7.5-kilometer novice pursuit events. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Niall MacGregor placed third in the men’s 12.5-kilometer senior pursuit.

“I had no idea I had finished so far ahead of everyone in my class until my coaches told me,” Pearson said. “I had a few hiccups, like dropping a pole and crashing during a penalty lap, but I used those setbacks to push harder and faster.”

“The team comradery definitely gave me a winning edge,” she said. “It’s an amazing sport, and I love it.”

Now that the season is over, and the snow will make way for summer, biathletes will find other ways to maintain their skills.
“In the off-season, we will train with roller skate skis. It’s the same motion we use on the snow, but you must pick your training area carefully because they don’t have a breaking mechanism,” Bullock said. “Time to focus on the future.”

Nuclear Posture Review Looks to Deter War, Policy Chief Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2018 — The goal of the Nuclear Posture Review, unveiled earlier this month, is to deter war, David J. Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said at the Heritage Foundation here today.

“If nuclear weapons are used in war, it is because deterrence failed,” he said. “The goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure deterrence will not fail.”

Trachtenberg stressed that the review is not a break with the past, but rather a continuation of long-held nuclear doctrine.

Situations have changed since the last nuclear posture review in 2010. At that time, U.S. officials thought they could work with Russian and Chinese leaders to bring them into the comity of nations. Engagement would continue progress along the path to ultimate nuclear disarmament, and the officials made recommendations concurrent with that baseline.

Operating Outside International Norms

But Russia and China have since proven they are not following international norms. Russia annexed Crimea and fomented war in eastern Ukraine. They have modernized their nuclear arsenal and almost all aspects of their military. Russia’s support for the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria, its interference with its neighbors, and even its cyber campaign to influence elections, show that it is working against accepted international standards.

China has also shown it is working against the accepted rules-based international order, which has done so much to advance the economic well-being in Asia. China has also modernized its nuclear arsenal and modernized many aspects of its army. China is building islands in the South China Sea in an attempt to cut off freedom of navigation.

This is a return to great power competition, Trachtenberg said, and the U.S. “must field a more modern, ready and flexible force, which reverses the erosion of our military advantages.”

And the heart of American defense is the nuclear arsenal. The 2018 review lays out the path to ensure America’s nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready and tailored to deter 21st century threats and reassure allies, he said.

Not an Arms Race

The review is not a new arms race, nor is it a return to the Cold War. Rather, it is a hard-eyed view of the world as it is, Trachtenberg said.

Nuclear threats also emanate from rogue states such as North Korea, which has made repeated threats against the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Iran’s nuclear future remains uncertain, Trachtenberg said. The regime is still testing ballistic missiles, still engaging in malign activities throughout the Middle East and still trying to gain hegemony in the Persian Gulf, he said.

All this means the United States must increase deterrence efforts. Modernizing the American nuclear triad -- intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable bombers and submarine-launched missiles -- must happen, he said. So, too, must improvements in the command and control system.

Strengthening Deterrence

The posture review spells out how the United States views nuclear weapons and follows the long-held doctrine on the use of them, Trachtenberg said. The aim is to strengthen deterrence and lessen the chances that adversaries may miscalculate.

The review does call for the United States to develop a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile and modification of a small number of submarine-launched ballistic missiles to include a small-yield option, he said, noting that both can be done within current treaties.

These capabilities will help tailor U.S. deterrence strategy to contemporary requirements, he said. “Effective deterrence must shape potential adversaries calculations to ensure they do not see employment of nuclear weapons as a useful option in any circumstances,” he said. “If an adversary believes he can achieve his objectives through the limited use of nuclear weapons, then we risk deterrence failure.”

USNS Mercy Deploys in Support of Pacific Partnership 2018

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2018 — The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy departed its home port of San Diego Feb. 23 in support of the 13th Pacific Partnership mission.

Pacific Partnership is the Navy's humanitarian and civic assistance mission conducted with and through partner nations, nongovernmental organizations and other U.S. and international government agencies to execute a variety of humanitarian civic action missions in the Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.

The Mercy will visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam from February through June to provide medical, dental, veterinary, public health services, engineering and disaster response to host countries who have invited the ship to visit and provide services to the local population. More than 800 military and civilian personnel from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Peru Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom will join allied and partner nations for the mission.

Building a Foundation of Trust

"Through Pacific Partnership we are deepening integral ties with our allies and partners across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," said Navy Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, the commander of Task Force 73, the executive agent for Pacific Partnership 18. "The challenges we face with natural and manmade disasters do not respect borders or national sovereignty.”

Gabrielson added, “This dynamic mission enables many nations and subject matter experts to come together to pursue solutions to complex problems while enhancing preparations for disaster emergencies that reduce the severity of their impact. The foundation of trust created through Pacific Partnership engagement helps foster a cooperative environment that encourages collaborative approaches to improving the lives and conditions for the people of this region and beyond."

Medical, dental, civil engineering and veterinary teams will partner with each host nation to conduct civic-action projects, community health exchanges, medical symposiums and disaster response training activities. Additional community relations engagements will occur in each mission stop to enhance relationships and camaraderie with citizens of the host nations. The Mercy will also visit Japan during its return transit across the Pacific Ocean.

Mercy is joined on the Pacific Partnership mission by the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River. The Fall River will make separate mission stops in Malaysia, Palau, Thailand and Yap, supporting public diplomacy, community outreach and theater security cooperation initiatives.

Amazing Experience

“Being a part of the Pacific Partnership mission is really an amazing experience,” said civil service mariner Barron Garvey, the Mercy’s cargo officer. “What we do touches so many lives and you can’t walk away from this deployment without having been impacted by the people we help and the experiences of the mission. People always talk about making a difference, but this is where that really happens -- on a Pacific Partnership mission.

“I think about the other PP missions I have been on, and I look forward to the next one,” Garvey continued. “This really is one of the best things I have been a part of since coming to MSC.”

This Year’s Mission

Pacific Partnership began in response to one of the world's most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.

Pacific Partnership 2018 will have several other distinctions:

-- A multinational command-and-control structure will be used to include a deputy mission commander from the United Kingdom and mission chief of staff from Australia.

-- The mission will visit Sri Lanka for a second consecutive year to enhance ties with the Indian Ocean nation.

-- Pacific Partnership will continue to leverage the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, a plan backed by Executive Order 13595 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325. Integration of WPS into Pacific Partnership yields opportunities to engage with partner nations on the topic of gender integration and perspectives, as well as preparedness in dealing with vulnerable populations -- women and children, the elderly and the disabled -- during and in the aftermath of crises.

-- This year's mission will return to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where the United States continues its legacy of strong cooperation and defense ties with these nations.
(Reporting from Combined Joint Task Force 73; Sarah Burford, Military Sealift Command Pacific; and U.S. Third Fleet contributed to this story.)