Monday, July 23, 2018

Dunford Salutes Service Members, Receives Award at VFW Ceremony

By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, lauded the extraordinary contributions of today’s service members, as he accepted a prestigious award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Dunford spoke today in Kansas City, Missouri, at the VFW’s national convention after receiving the organization’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award.

"I have the honor of representing the more than 2 million men and women who serve today,” Dunford told thousands of VFW and Auxiliary members, adding it is his privilege to accept the award on behalf of those who serve.

Today more than 300,000 Americans are deployed or forward stationed in 177 countries, he explained. Those missions include conducting operations to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, standing watch in Korea, and enhancing interoperability with allies in Poland.

Chairman Praises U.S. Military Members

The chairman said he is assured of the nation’s security because of what service members do every day, and due to the high quality of men and women the military is retaining and recruiting.

“I can stand here as your chairman and say with absolute confidence that today's armed forces can defend the United States and our way of life,” he said.

Dunford added, “I can say with absolute confidence that today's force can meet all of our alliance commitments around the world, and I can say with absolute confidence that the United States military has a competitive advantage over any potential adversary.”

He praised the members of today’s all-volunteer force and their family members for their commitment and steadfast service.

"Today they are still focused, they are still committed, and the families are still enduring extraordinary sacrifice,” he said. “Just like their predecessors, just like those of you in this room, when times are hard, today's warriors simply tighten their chain straps and drive on."

Honoring America’s Veterans

Dunford honored VFW and Auxiliary members for their service and commended the organization’s steadfast support to veterans. The chairman shared his family’s military history that includes seven uncles who served in World War II and the service of his father.

"In 1950 my dad fought in Korea with the 1st Marine Division. He remains a proud member of the VFW today,” Dunford said. “I grew up admiring what they did in uniform and what they did in their communities when they came home and they inspired me to serve."

The VFW’s commander in chief, Keith Harman, honored Dunford for his four decades of service to the nation. Each year since 1970, Harman said, the VFW has presented the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, named after the 34th U.S. president, to an individual for his or her exceptional contributions to American security, unity and world peace.

“It recognizes extraordinary contributions and achievements to secure the nation from foreign threats, to advance the interests of the nation abroad, and to inspire the American public to support these efforts,” Harman said.

Face of Defense: New Mexico Native Returns Home to Share Army Experiences

By Alun Thomas, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Phoenix

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- For one soldier, the Army has been a blessing, allowing him to live the type of life many others aren’t fortunate enough to experience.

Now after years away from his home state of New Mexico, Army Spc. Jeremy Garcia has returned to educate others on the benefits of military service, through the Special Recruiting Assistance Program.

The purpose of the SRAP is to allow enlisted soldiers to return to their home towns to assist local recruiters by sharing their Army training experiences with family, friends, high school classmates, future soldiers, veterans and community leaders.

Garcia, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 59th Quartermaster Company at Fort Carson, Colorado, has been in the Army for three years and jumped at the opportunity to return home to push the recruiting mission.

“Parts of New Mexico aren’t the greatest in terms of job opportunities and some people tend to give up after high school,” Garcia said. “I wanted to come home and see if I could help some of these kids out with their lives. Luckily I was selected for the SRAP and given the chance to work with the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion for 30 days to do that.”

Making an Impact

Two weeks into his duties with the SRAP, Garcia said he’s already seen the impact the Army can have on people who decide to join the military to further their lives.

“I went with a recruiter to see a local future soldier in a small town called Cuba. He’s the only Asian in the whole town,” he said. “He and his mother are all each other have. They run the local hotel and barely make ends meet. He’s a good kid, really squared away and decided to join the Army to help himself and his mother out.”

“While we were there he said to his mother, ‘We’ve made it mom.’ It made me realize how fortunate and lucky we are as U.S. citizens,” Garcia said. “To be a part of a positive impact on someone’s life is an irreplaceable act.”

Garcia grew up in a military household and said witnessing the unfettered joy of that future soldier, knowing what he’s about to enter, gave him chills.

“It set me back to reality … made me remember just how fortunate I am to be part of the Army and live this great life,” he continued.

Garcia hopes to experience further stories like this over the remainder of his time in the SRAP.

“I’m trying to accomplish as many enlistments as I can … my goal is to get kids out of these small towns and present to them everything the Army offers, whether it’s educational or medical benefits,” he said. “I want them to experience the same things I have, things that will change their lives for the better.”

Commandos Contend in Panama's Jungles for Coveted Cup

By Army Staff Sgt. Brian Ragin, Special Operations Command South

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- At zero-dark thirty an alarm goes off. Breakfast will be served momentarily, and participants in this year’s Fuerzas Comando competition will head to their respective areas for another day of events to determine whose country has the best commando team.

Now in its 14th year, commandos from 17 countries -- the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago -- are competing to claim the title of “Fuerzas Comando Champion.”

The competition began on July 15 with an opening ceremony hosted by Panama’s Ministry of Public Security. Panamanian National Security Minister Alexis Bethancourt Yau and Army Col. Brian Greata, the deputy commander of Special Operations Command South, spoke during the opening ceremony.

Greata highlighted the importance of facing international threats as partners.

“Increasing our skills through competitions such as this, we improve our ability to face these challenges,” he said. “Therefore, I urge all of you to talk to each other, share ideas, cultivate camaraderie and establish trust and knowledge.”

Exchanging Knowledge

Following the ceremony, the commandos changed and went to Calzada de Amador, Panama, to start the physical fitness event, which consisted of muscular and cardiovascular endurance. Events included one minute each of pushups, situps and pullups, as well as a four-mile run.

U.S. service members and civilians were excited to be part of this exercise.

“Being in Panama for the first time has been exciting,” said Army Spc. Jose Vargas, who is attached to Special Operations Command South. “It’s been a learning experience; the Panamanians have done a great job accommodating us here and making [us] feel like [we’re] home.”

These existing partnerships allow participants to exchange experiences and gain new knowledge about their counterparts, their nations, and their cultures. “The competition in Panama this year is an excellent opportunity for us to open doors to the other countries to show them the level we are on,” said Teniente Romuel Ruiz, a Panamanian police officer.

Nations competing in Fuerzas Commando 2018 learn from each other and refine their unit tactics. By increasing their special operations capabilities, countries become more capable of confronting common threats.

After a short break, Day Two kicked off at midnight with a 20-kilometer ruck march and stress shoot. Commandos rucked through the dark and humid night carrying their assigned weapon and a 55-pound rucksack. When the commandos completed the ruck march, they were given a chance to cut down their times by shooting ten rounds into paper targets.

The commandos from Haiti were the first team back, but placed 10th overall at the end of the day.

Lessons Learned

Day Three and Four of the competition consisted of sniper ranges and assault courses. The 17 countries each split their representatives into two teams, a sniper and assault team, which competed simultaneously at several locations to determine who could shoot more accurately in the shortest amount of time.

“This is my third time in Fuerzas Commando,” said Eduardo Hernandez-Pineda, a Honduran commando. “These events are similar to the training we do back in Honduras. At the beginning of the competition we started off slow, but we are getting better day by day.”

After two long days at the range, the commando team from Colombia had taken first place and were looking to win their 9th competition after holding the trophy between 2005-2008 and 2012-2016. They were ahead of their closest opponent, Ecuador, by 165 points.

“In the middle of the competition any mistake that the head team makes will give us the lead,” said Ecuadorian army 2nd Lt. Darwin Asimbaya, commander of the assault team. “We just have to stay focused and keep doing what we have been doing.”

Asimbaya added that the competition was significant to his team. They train on a daily basis back in Ecuador, he said, and look forward to sharing knowledge with the other 16 teams to become better, not only for the competition, but to help fight the war on terrorism.
Two more critical events are scheduled in the competition. The obstacle course is slated for today, and the water event for July 24. Each event could significantly impact the outcome of the competition.