Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pacific Partnership 2018 Begins in Micronesia

YAP, Micronesia, March 21, 2018 — Pacific Partnership 2018, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission, began today aboard the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick in Yap, Micronesia.

Military personnel from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia will conduct medical, dental and veterinary services and engineering projects throughout the community while working side-by-side with local professionals on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief readiness.

"We are excited to be working with our friends in Yap and throughout the greater southern region during Brunswick’s first visit," said Navy Capt. Peter Olive, the deputy mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2018. “Our time in Yap is about building relationships and the capability and capacity to work together for the future.”

Humanitarian Aid

Pacific Partnership, in its 13th iteration, began as a humanitarian response to the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia. By building on the region’s shared goal to strengthen national capacities and preparedness for disaster response, 22 partner nations around the globe in 18 host nations in the region have participated since 2006.

The USS Brunswick is one of three expeditionary fast transport ships in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to continue its mission of providing rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment. Specially configured for humanitarian and disaster relief operations, the Brunswick is currently capable of accommodating a robust multi-specialized team of medical, engineering and civic assistance personnel to support the Pacific Partnership mission.

More than 800 military personnel aboard the USS Brunswick and the hospital ship USNS Mercy, along with host nation civilians and nongovernment organization participants will support this year’s Pacific Partnership mission in Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Micronesia.

“We are committed to the U.S. and to the friends of the U.S.,” said Micronesian President Peter M. Christian. “I want to thank the U.S. government for the treaty of 1989, which confirms that small we may be, we are important.”

History of Friendship

The U.S. and Micronesia continue a long history of friendship, having participated in the Pacific Partnership mission as host nation for five years with many Micronesian men and women having served or currently serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“The U.S. is committed to [Micronesia],” said Robert A. Reilly, U.S. ambassador to Micronesia. “There is no sunset to the dedication of the protection of [Micronesia] for a free and open Pacific.”

Pacific Partnership continues to focus on developing sustainable projects on a range of topics including clean water practices, preventative health, maintenance of fisheries, methods of recycling, combined animal/public health campaigns and alternative energy initiatives enabling critical infrastructure development across the region.

Since 2006, the Pacific Partnership mission has provided medical care to more than 300,000 patients and veterinary services to nearly 40,000 animals and competed nearly 200 engineering projects while building meaningful and close partnerships throughout the region.

Continuing Resolutions, Budget Uncertainty Harm Readiness, Service Secretaries Say

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ibarra DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2018 — Service secretaries addressed the challenges of providing taxpayers more defense value for their money, and getting innovation into warfighters’ hands faster during a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday on the Defense Department’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.

According to defense officials, China and Russia are taking a more aggressive role on the world’s stage and the U.S. must maintain its military edge.

Budget Uncertainty Harms Readiness

The Army, Navy and Air Force service secretaries testified in support of DoD’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget of $686 billion, highlighting that, if approved, it would provide the services the monetary means to field a more lethal force as outlined in the National Defense Strategy.

“We must have predictable, adequate, sustained and timely funding. Fiscal uncertainty has done a great deal to erode our readiness and hamper our ability to modernize,” Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said.

Esper also pointed out the restrictions under the continuing resolution, which limits the services’ ability to initiate new projects and increase the quantities of munitions, directly impacting the training and readiness of the force.

Continuing resolutions and budget uncertainty have hurt military readiness and wasted tax dollars, the officials said.

“About $4 billion burned in a trash can,” said Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer when describing what continuing resolutions have cost the Navy. “It is critical, absolutely critical, that we get a continuous form of funding in order to manage the industrial base to put us back on a footing to be out there [protecting the seas].”

And the defense budget sequester “did more damage to the United States Air Force and our ability to defend the nation than anything our advisories have done in the last 10 years -- we did it to ourselves,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.

“We cut 30,000 people out of the Air Force, reduced [the force] by 10 fighter squadrons, and [reduced] weapons systems sustainment,” she added.

Problems with pilot retention can be tied directly back to sequester, Wilson said.

Savings Through Reform

The Army is looking into a number of initiatives to save taxpayers’ money, Esper said. One initiative being discussed, he said, could the Army more than $1 billion annually by consolidating and rationalizing its contracting services.

The Navy secretary said he agreed with Esper’s philosophy on revising contracting rules. Changing the thought process and attitudes on how DoD performs contracting services, Spencer said, can help with cost savings.

One cost-saving area the Air Force has identified is using artificial intelligence tools for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance analysis, Wilson said. [

“Right now, we have a lot intelligence analysis, a lot of people watching full-motion video. That’s not a good use of money, or time. And in that case, time is money,” she said.

Face of Defense: Soldier Excels in Student Chef Competition

By Dani Johnson, Combined Arms Support Command

FORT LEE, Va., March 21, 2018 — With extreme focus, the soldier wiped the plate with a towel, then looked up and said, “I’m done.”

Army Pfc. Olena Konotop, a culinary arts specialist based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, had just finished cooking for the student chef of the year event at the 43rd Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise here.

“My mother believed every girl needed to know how to cook,” said Konotop, who has been in the Army for 18 months. “There is creativity in food and it brings cultures and people together.”

Konotop, who has worked in the Resolute Dining Facility at Fort Eustis for almost a year, emigrated from Kherson, Ukraine, to Arizona when she was 12 years old.

“My mother married my [American] stepdad, and he brought us to America,” she said. “I spoke no English.”

Konotop said she was inspired by American culture.

“The mentality of Americans is such that if you work hard you can be anything you want,” said the 21-year-old Konotop. “In the Ukraine, only those with money get the privileges.”

Strong Work Ethic

Konotop strongly believes that she can achieve anything by working hard and putting her mind to the task, which her supervisors say is reflected in her work for the JCTE and at her home station.

“[Konotop] has really evolved since she started training five weeks ago [for JCTE],” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shanta Martin, JBLE team manager and Resolute DFAC noncommissioned officer in charge. “She has picked up so much, taken critiques and really turned it around.”

Competing for her first time in the JCTE, Konotop said she joined the Army because in the Ukraine women don’t join the military.

“We are viewed as being girly and weak,” she said. “I wanted to show I could be girly and strong, and prove people wrong. My family was worried but they have been very supportive.”

“Pfc. Konotop is a great soldier who takes initiative and is a go-getter,” Martin said. “She takes pride in her work and strives to get it right.”

The JCTE student chef event showcases the talents of military chefs with less than two years in service. The annual exercise, administered by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, is the largest American Culinary Federation-sanctioned competition in North America, showcasing the talent of more than 235 military chefs from around the globe in all branches of the U.S. armed forces and foreign military teams.

The JCTE teams are not competing against each other but against the culinary industry standards. Awards will be given based upon those who meet or exceed those standards.

“It is great [to be competing],” said Konotop, who received a silver medal for her chicken dish. “You have to have a passion for what you are doing; that is what it is all about.”