Saturday, March 17, 2018

Face of Defense: Combatives Instructor Began Breaking Barriers in High School

By Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Hecht, New Jersey Air National Guard

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., March 16, 2018 — From playing high school football to being a certified combatives instructor, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Perez hasn’t just been breaking boundaries, she’s been crushing them.
Don't tell her 'no'

"When I was in high school, I started out as a cheerleader my freshman year,” Perez said. "At the end of my junior year they were advertising open positions on the football team, so I tried out and made it.”

Some of her classmates didn’t think she had what it takes to play football.

"I told my drill teammates I wouldn’t be back the next year because I was playing football,” recounted Perez. "They said, ‘You can’t, you’re a girl,’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean? I can do what I want.’”

Perez started out as a kicker, but soon replaced the starting safety on defense.

"I told the coach I wanted to be in a position where I could hit someone, and they let me try out for safety,” Perez said. "It was a great position, I loved every minute of it.”

Training to Fight

As part of the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 108th Security Forces Squadron Training Office here, Perez assists airmen with getting the training they need to be deployable.

"We teach dismounted operations, military operations in urban terrain [and] call for fire,” she said. "We have to be familiar with all aspects of security forces [work], which is cool because we get to see a lot of different things.”

Perez, who is a veteran of operations in Iraq, knows the value of training security forces members firsthand.

"Making sure that our airmen are ready to deploy, that they have the knowledge and the tools that they need, that makes me feel good about being in the training office,” she said.

After a grueling course, Perez was certified as a combatives instructor, and is in charge of the program for the 108th Security Forces Squadron.

"They learn dominant positions, submissive positions -- where you’re in someone’s guard -- choke holds, arm bars, things like that,” she said. "The troops love it.”

When reflecting on security forces, Perez says it's like being part of a family.

"There's a stigma with security forces that it's male-dominant, but it's like being in a squadron with our brothers," she said.

Over the past year, women in the 108th Security Forces Squadron have deployed, won numerous awards, and qualified for the German Armed Forces Test Gold Badge.
"A lot of the women in our unit are headstrong and determined," Perez said. "I'm constantly inspired by them."

NATO Trends Heading Up, Annual Report Shows

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2018 — NATO has stepped up recrafting deterrence and defense, and the alliance’s annual report for 2017 shows that the trend lines for the alliance are up, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels yesterday.

The alliance nations have followed through with some high-profile moves to deter Russian interference, the secretary general noted. In 2017, NATO nations deployed four multinational battle groups to the Baltic republics and to Poland. Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States each lead a battalion-sized group, and troops from many NATO nations are members.

Another action to counter Russia was increased forward presence in the Black Sea region. The alliance also “increased our resilience against hybrid war, and strengthened our cyber defenses,” Stoltenberg said. NATO joined as an entity in the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, he added, and the alliance also raised the level of cooperation with the European Union and welcomed Montenegro as NATO’s 29th member nation.

Sharing the Burden

Burden-sharing has increased in the alliance, the secretary general said. At the 2014 summit in Wales, member nations pledged to stop cuts to defense budgets and increase spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product within a decade. “Since then, we have seen three consecutive years of increased defense spending in Europe and Canada, adding a total of $46 billion,” he said.

This increase means new equipment, Stoltenberg said. Since the decision, he pointed out, alliance nations have spent $18 billion on major equipment and increased investments in operations and exercises.

“For instance, in 2017 we decided to increase contributions to our Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, and allies have contributed thousands of troops to our increased presence in the east of the alliance,” he said. “At the end of 2017, there were over 23,000 troops serving in NATO deployments, up from just under 18,000 in 2014 – before Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the rise of ISIS.”

Focus on Russia

Russia is a focus of all this activity. Stoltenberg discussed the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter and a British police officer. The weapon – a military-grade nerve agent – was traced to Russia. British officials say this attack is an unlawful use of force by Russia against the United Kingdom.

“This is the first offensive use of a nerve agent on alliance territory since NATO’s foundation,” the secretary general said. “All allies agree that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements. This is unacceptable. It has no place in a civilized world.”

NATO regards any use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security, he said. “The attack in Salisbury has taken place against the backdrop of a reckless pattern of Russian behavior over many years,” Stoltenberg said.

He spoke about the Russian attack into Georgia in 2008, the illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2012 and Russia’s continued military support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine. He also pointed to Russia’s attempts to subvert democratic elections and institutions, and its military buildup from the north of Europe to the Middle East.

The secretary general pointed to Russia’s military modernization program, especially its investment in modernizing nuclear weaponry. “Russia has integrated conventional and nuclear warfare in its military doctrine and exercises,” he said. “This blurring of the line between nuclear and conventional lowers the threshold for Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, and the blurring of the line between peace, crisis and war is destabilizing and dangerous.”

The alliance does not want a new Cold War or a new arms race, Stoltenberg said. “But let there be no doubt: NATO will defend all allies against any threat,” he added. “We will maintain strong conventional forces, as well as a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”

Stepping Up in Afghanistan and Against ISIS

Russia is just one challenge to peace, and NATO has also stepped up in Afghanistan. NATO forces are helping to train Afghan forces to police their own country. “We have decided to increase the size of our Resolute Support training mission from 13,000 to around 16,000,” the secretary general said. “With our assistance, Afghan forces have increased military pressure on the Taliban, ensuring they did not achieve their strategic objective of capturing a provincial capital in 2017.”

The alliance strongly supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. “I commend [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani for his courageous leadership. His offer to the Taliban is the clearest invitation to peace yet. So I call on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.”

NATO also joined the coalition confronting ISIS. “We are working to strengthen the Iraqi armed forces to fight terrorism, training almost 500 Iraqi trainers so they can share their new skills with thousands of others,” Stoltenberg said. “This year, we will further boost our contribution by launching a new training mission in Iraq to build on our efforts and by providing more support to our partners in the region such as Jordan and Tunisia.

“The world does not stand still,” he said, “and neither does NATO.”

Mattis Describes Middle East Trip as Successful In Building Unity

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2018 — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said his recently concluded Middle East trip was successful, adding that collaboration, the spirit of shared understanding and unity were what he took away from his official meetings with heads of state and military and diplomatic leaders.

The secretary made his remarks yesterday to reporters traveling with him on his return trip to Washington after visiting Oman, Afghanistan and Bahrain the past week.

On Afghanistan, the secretary said its government “has been through some tough times and I think … internally, they have overcome some of those challenges and are continuing to move forward.”

Mattis also said he sees “more of an alignment now [between] military [and] non-military aspects of the campaign [to achieve reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban] than I've seen in the past going the right direction,” Mattis said.

“Right now, it's clear the wind has gone out of the Taliban's sails some months ago,” the secretary said in response to a reporter’s question. “That … I can show you objectively.”

And for the first time in more than a decade of war, he said, “we saw, here, several months ago, all six [Afghan] Army corps on the offensive. That's never happened before. We've used one corps, maybe a second corps, not often a third. Now, all six are on the offensive, and I believe you'll see more of that, due to the realigned NATO forces -- the train, advise, assist [forces].”

Productive Bahrain Visit

The secretary’s meetings in Manama, Bahrain, were very productive, he said, noting the United States is working with Bahrain “to interdict any kind of terrorism support coming into their island kingdom there.”

Mattis added that he and Bahraini officials also “discussed in detail our already-strong defense relationship and everything they're doing themselves and with other allies in order to make this relationship work. We talked about [Gulf Cooperation Council] unity and the need for it right now in very open terms back and forth. What are the obstacles? What has to be overcome? [I got] a lot of good advice from them -- particulars, not generalities.”

Also while in Bahrain, the secretary met with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Marine Corps Forces Central Command leaders, and he addressed more than 1,000 service members assigned to the Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters.

National Defense Strategy

“They referenced in the briefings how they're taking our National Defense Strategy and putting it in action,” Mattis said of his meetings in Bahrain. “ … I was amazed at how some of the youngest sailors and Marines in the room know the defense strategy, were reciting parts of it, and asking for more clarity in how we're going to execute it. So it was very heartening, actually.”

Mattis said he heard accounts of Iranian destabilizing efforts in the region during his trip, noting Iran now seems to be meddling in Iraq's elections.

“[We] have worrisome evidence that Iran is trying to influence, using money, [for] the Iraqi elections. That money is being used to sway candidates, to sway votes,” the secretary said. “It's not an insignificant amount of money, we believe. And we think it's highly unhelpful. Iran should leave the Iraqis to determine their own future.”