Friday, April 13, 2018

Coast Guard Commandant Talks Icebreakers, Counterdrug Operations

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2018 — The recapitalization of the nation’s polar icebreaker fleet is a matter of vital national interest, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft told reporters here yesterday.

"This is the highest priority for us right now,” Zukunft said at a Defense Writers Group event. “It’s the one area where we don’t have redundancy in our national inventory when it comes to icebreakers.”

The Arctic region has seen many changes since the Coast Guard released its Arctic Strategy in 2013, he said, such as receding sea ice and as increased human activity, which includes a larger Russian footprint in the region.

The Coast Guard recently put out its request for proposal for the advance procurement and detail design for the new heavy polar icebreaker, Zukunft said, noting he believes the program of record will eventually include six icebreakers. 

The 2019 budget authorizes $750 million for an icebreaker, the admiral said. Further, the National Defense Authorization Act stipulates that the Defense Department fund an icebreaker.

The Coast Guard, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, currently has two operational icebreakers, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star and the USCGC Healy. The icebreakers enable the U.S. to maintain defense readiness in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, enforce treaties and other laws, and provide support to facilitate the movement of goods and personnel, as Zukunft outlined.

Record Year for Drug Seizures

Zukunft highlighted the Coast Guard’s at-sea drug interdiction efforts, saying the Coast Guard is already on track for another record-breaking year.

"Our interdiction numbers right now are on pace to exceed that of 2017 -- just in the last two weeks, we’ve seized 12 tons of cocaine,” he said, adding there are currently 50 suspected smugglers in custody, to be handed over to the Justice Department for prosecution in the United States.

The Coast Guard intercepted $7.2 billion worth of cocaine at sea last year, Zukunft has said. According to Coast Guard figures, Coast Guard counterdrug operations resulted in the seizure of a record 223 metric tons of cocaine in fiscal year 2017 and the transfer of over 600 suspected drug smugglers to the U.S. for prosecution.

The admiral explained the Coast Guard wants to use unmanned aircraft systems to augment its aircraft fleets and expand the surveillance range of surface assets like the national security cutters.

Further, he said, the Coast Guard is working with its partners in Colombia to explore creating a riverine interdiction program, to halt the trafficking in the remote areas of Colombia where the cocaine originates.

Saluting the Workforce

Zukunft, who became commandant in May 2014 and retires later this year, commended the men and women who make up the service of about 42,000 active duty and 7,800 reserve members.

He saluted them for their commitment to the many Coast Guard missions, which also include port and waterway security, search and rescue, marine safety and law enforcement, marine environmental protection and migrant interdiction.

He praised members for their response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year, which he has described as one of the nation’s most catastrophic hurricane seasons on record.

Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz has been nominated as the next Coast Guard commandant.

Face of Defense: Special Forces Soldier Mentors At-Risk Youth

By Army Spc. Jonathan Rivera Collazo, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., April 12, 2018 — A Green Beret assigned to 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) here volunteers at Tacoma Community Boat Builders as a mentor for at-risk youth from the local community.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel White, a native of Orange County, California, is no stranger to volunteering. He volunteered to serve his country as an airborne paratrooper and as a Special Forces Green Beret not just once but three times over the course of his 24-year career.

Now, White has volunteered to give back to his community by mentoring at-risk youth a few hours a week. He hopes to share some of the skills, lessons and values he’s developed in his time in the Army and in the Special Forces.

Giving Back to the Community

“What motivated me to volunteer was to continue to do something positive by giving back to the community,” said White. “Being a good life role model, and helping those [youth] out, provides a good meaning of self-worth.”

As a weapons sergeant, White has deployed in support of operations in Bosnia, the Philippines, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Currently, he is the equal opportunity adviser at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st SFG. During his free time White volunteers at Tacoma Community Boat Builders alongside fellow veterans, retirees and others willing to give up time to serve as a life coach, youth mentor and friend.

TCCB is a community-based program that mentors at-risk youth in acquiring life skills through boat building and carpentry. Using hands-on learning and productive environments they hope to deter youth from risky behaviors and provide them with positive opportunities and familial support systems.

According to Shannon A. Shea, TCBB executive director, “Many of our young men are ‘child soldiers.’ We are looking to short circuit the fast track towards jail by restoration and prevention.”

Making a Difference

White has had first-hand experience with the transformative power and influence this program has on young minds.

“Watching the kids graduate the program and then come back on their own is one of the most rewarding feelings,” White said. “Knowing that we made a difference and that they understand there is more to life than mischief is great.”

One of the most difficult challenges White, other staff and co-workers encounter is connecting with a group of young men from a different generation, White said.

Relating to these young men is not the only obstacle. According to White, motivation or lack thereof is another barrier for these youths.

“A lot of these kids are here because they have to be here, so their motivation isn’t quite the same,” said White. “That sometimes can be a little trying because their focus is elsewhere. But when they see the things they are able to do and accomplish they get a greater appreciation for what we do.”

‘The Kids Like Him’

Despite these challenges, Karlie Johnson, who works as an administrative assistant at TCBB, says White, who is younger than most of the staff working in the center, has an easier time relating to the youth in the program.

“He is a lot of fun and the kids like him because he is funny,” said Johnson. “I like having his energy around because it bridges the gap between our regular volunteers and our youth.”

Johnson believes White’s understanding of where these kids are coming from and where they are has improved since his volunteering at the program. White’s military presence and empathy towards the children in the program make him a relatable role model. At the same time, White’s ability to share stories and experiences helps eliminate barriers and builds strength, according to Johnson.
“The benefits and rewards of volunteering and giving back to the community go beyond the feeling of self-worth and accomplishing personal goals. Programs like this give young people an opportunity to  explore opportunities and careers that not many people have access to,” said White.

Face of Defense: Father, Son Reflect on Air Force Maintenance Officer Careers

By Air Force Senior Airman Cristina J. Allen, 177th Fighter Wing

SAVANNAH, Ga., April 13, 2018 — Like father, like son.

Almost 40 years after Air Force Capt. Thomas J. Cooper was commissioned, his son, Air Force Maj. Brian T. Cooper, followed in his footsteps.

Brian, commander of the 177th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, was commissioned in the Air Force in 2003, and his father, Thomas, an aircraft maintenance officer, was commissioned in the Air Force in 1965.

Their reunion was made possible by Brian’s temporary duty assignment at the Air Dominance Center here, close to Bluffton, South Carolina, where his parents have lived since 2004.

‘We’re Just Two Jersey Guys’

“We’re just two Jersey guys, and this just happens to be close to where they retired to,” Brian said. “I haven’t lived with my parents in over 20 years, and I happen to be deployed here.”

As the two discussed their military careers, some similar views emerged.

“Everything is different, but nothing has changed,” said Thomas, an ROTC graduate out of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Brian agreed.

“It is interesting on how different it is, yet how similar,” said Brian, distinguished Air Force ROTC graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “The very unique thing for us is the maintenance bible.”

Maintenance ‘Bible’

Brian described the 500-plus page “maintenance bible,” the main Air Force instruction on maintenance, as an all-encompassing manuscript on everything one needs to know about maintenance. Thomas commented that the maintenance bible he followed early in his career was only 63 pages long.

One thing the pair agreed on completely: maintenance camaraderie is one of a kind. “It’s the camaraderie you won’t get anywhere else,” Brian said. “Maintainers are the silent sentinels.”

Thomas agreed.

‘The Camaraderie Will Never Change’

“The military is a club, especially maintenance,” said Thomas, who received his master’s degree in program management from the University of Southern California. “The camaraderie will never change.”

Brian described himself and his father as being very similar.

“It is very ironic that we’re both kind of ‘gear heads,’” he said. “We butted heads a lot, and the Air Force definitely brought us together.”

When asked if his father was his inspiration for commissioning, Brian simply laughed.

“It’s the running joke in the family,” Brian said. “My dad’s first advice when I came in was, one, don’t be a maintenance officer and, two, don’t do fighter jets. So here I am, as a maintenance officer on fighters.”

The room filled with laughter.
“All of the stories he told were really what got me interested; the stories are just unbelievable,” Brian said. “That’s ultimately what brought me to the military.”