Monday, September 17, 2018

Mattis Praises Macedonia as ‘Stabilizing Force’

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis praised Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev today, saying the country is a “stabilizing force” in the Balkans.

Mattis made a lightning visit to Skopje and met with Zaev, President Gjorge Ivanov and Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska. It was the secretary’s first visit to the country.

Mattis arrived as the nation prepares for a vote on whether to change its formal name from the Republic of Macedonia to the Republic of North Macedonia. The name change is a result of negotiations with neighboring Greece that both prime ministers signed in June in Prespa, Macedonia. Greece has blocked Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union under its current name, which is also the name of a northern Greek province.

The vote will clear the way for the country to join NATO, a move Russia strongly opposes.

“The Prespa Agreement, alongside key reforms you are implementing under your strategic defense review, unlocks your NATO accession process and allows you, our Macedonian friends, to determine your own future in institutions made up of like-minded countries,” Mattis told the prime minister.

The secretary said that in joining NATO, the country would “gain an equal seat at the table of the most successful military alliance in history, alongside 29 other countries committed to protect you and your security, spurring economic prosperity and increased foreign investment, as well as strengthened security.”

The secretary thanked Zaev for Macedonia’s contributions to stability and security. “Your country has proven a reliable security partner and a valued contributor to global peace and security, serving as a leader in regional security initiatives, like the U.S.-Adriatic Charter and the Balkan Medical Task Force, and participating in European Union peacekeeping, United Nations and NATO operations around the world,” Mattis said at a meeting with the prime minister.

The secretary specifically thanked Zaev for Macedonia’s troop contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. The Macedonian military has about 50 service members in Afghanistan.

“We also appreciate your offer to host U.S. forces at the Krivolak training area in your country,” the secretary said. “The close cooperation between our countries is also growing to reflect modern challenges, as we plan to expand our cybersecurity cooperation to thwart malicious cyber activity that threatens both our democracies.”

Mattis praised Zaev for his negotiations with the Greeks. “The United States recognizes this agreement took hard work and patient diplomacy on both sides, compromises on both sides,” Mattis said. “Compromise is always hard.”

Face of Defense: Air Force Captain, Veterinarian Wife Support Foster Animals

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Frankie Moore, 355th Fighter Wing

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Whether they are kept for a few weeks or a lifetime, animals in shelters and foster homes around the nation rely on dedicated and caring individuals that can help them find a forever home.

To ensure these animals receive the support they need, Air Force Capt. Daniel Hale, the officer in charge of plans and scheduling for the 563rd Operations Support Squadron here, and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Kristen Hale, decided to take on the responsibilities that comes with fostering rescue animals.

The Hales began their animal rescue efforts with their dog Squish.

“When I worked emergency, Squish came in at four weeks old after sustaining injuries from being trapped under a couch,” Dr. Hale said. “We decided to take him in as a foster and he’s been with us ever since.”

After adopting Squish into their family, the Hales continued to foster companion animals. In the past three years, the couple has fostered more than 20 sheltered pets.

Medical Care

Unfortunately, not all fostered pets in the care of the Hales are immediately adopted by families due to the medical condition of the animals.

“A lot of the pets we take in [have] specific medical needs,” Dr. Hale said. “Without a foster family to give them the individual attention they need, many of the animals would have never found homes because they would have been put down.”

Thanks to the help of local rescue shelters, foster families don’t have to worry about paying for the medical expenses of the animals while the rescue pet is in the family’s care.
A puppy with a cast on his left front leg rests on a couch.
Benny, a dog being fostered by the Hale family, rests on a couch in Vail, Ariz., May 6, 2017. Benny was fostered by the Hale family for three months before he was fully healed and adopted. Courtesy photo

Because of the nature of some of these medical conditions, the time it takes to nurse the animals to full health can vary.

“We’ve had animals anywhere from three days to six weeks,” Capt. Hale said. “After we’ve made sure they are ready to be adopted, we get them as much exposure as we can through local rescue shelters to increase their chances of finding a family.”

Homeward Bound

Because of the efforts of families like the Hales, shelter adoption rates have steadily climbed over the years, leading to fewer overcrowded facilities.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption rates have risen roughly 18 percent from 2011 to 2017, and shelter animal euthanasia rates have decreased approximately 42 percent.

“If you can’t keep an animal around for long or are not ready to make the commitment to permanently care for a pet, you can still make a difference by providing them with a foster home,” Dr. Hale said.

To find out more information on fostering and adopting companion animals, visit your local animal shelters.

National Guard Answers the Call for Hurricane Florence

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- National Guard members have flowed in from at least 28 states to help North and South Carolina units support civil authorities following Hurricane Florence.
Soldiers use heavy equipment to fill large sandbags.

More than 6,600 Army and Air National Guardsmen are responding today to Florence, according to National Guard Bureau officials.

Meanwhile, the National Guard continues to respond to storms affecting Hawaii and Guam and to wildfires affecting Western states, in addition to support on the Southwest border and overseas deployments.

In the aftermath of Florence, the National Guard is providing aircraft and crews, including UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, and KC-135 Stratotanker refuelers. The guard also is providing swift-water boats and high-water vehicles for rescue; generators; security, communications, road clearing and debris removal assistance; food, water and cot deliveries; and support to shelters and distribution points

The North and South Carolina National Guards are focused on life-saving, search and rescue and relief missions, and each state's guard had already conducted hundreds of such missions by yesterday afternoon.

Nationwide Support

Supporting states include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia National Guard also is supporting the response.

Florence has brought more than 40 inches of rain, leaving communities in both states bracing for the prospect of flooding potentially affecting thousands of miles of roads.

In North Carolina, the guard’s first priority is safeguarding lives and property. Hundreds of missions have been completed, mostly east of Interstate 95, including search and rescue, swift-water rescue support, sandbag operations, commodities distribution, evacuations and support to local law enforcement and first responders.

“We'll be standing in a very long line of National Guardsmen that goes back nearly 400 years; it's uniquely a National Guard mission,” Army Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, the adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, told guardsmen responding in his state.

“This is our National Guard at its best,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, Pennsylvania's adjutant general, in response to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf sending troops and equipment to help with the response and recovery efforts in South Carolina.

Bringing Hope

Kentucky sent 60 members of the Kentucky Army National Guard's 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade. The unit's command and control center will synchronize aviation efforts of communication, rescue operations and overall assistance to those affected by the storm.

“This is one of the best parts of being a guardsman, answering the call for help from citizens of our neighboring states,” said Army Col Dwayne Lewis, commander of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade. “As an aviation unit, we know the expertise we bring is sometimes the only hope that those in need may have, and we take the mission of supporting our neighbors and rendering life-sustaining aid very seriously.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan authorized deployment of the Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team to North Carolina to help in rescue efforts from flooding due to Hurricane Florence.

The MD-HART team consists of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with eight crew members and three maintainers from the Maryland Army National Guard, and helicopter search and rescue technicians from Baltimore, Harford, Howard, and Montgomery counties.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency continues to coordinate Maryland's response and support to affected states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.