Sunday, March 31, 2013

446th AES trains for casualty movement

by Army Spc. Loren Cook
20th Public Affairs Detachment

3/29/2013 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- When personnel are injured in Afghanistan, help is no farther away than a medic's tactical field care, a nine-line medevac request, and a helicopter flight to a forward operating base. Depending on the severity of an injury, a wounded service member may be sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany or stateside for additional treatment.

But how do these wounded warriors get from a field hospital to a fixed facility halfway around the world? The Army simply doesn't have the capability to move personnel across such vast distances. Instead, that responsibility lies with the Air Force, and the Air Force has aeromedical evacuation squadrons for just that purpose.

The 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, part of the Air Force Reserve's 446th Airlift Wing based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, recently held an initial training exercise for its aeromedical technicians - the first of many training events that will certify these airmen as ready to assume their duty of safely transporting casualties out of the combat zone.

"This is part of basic qualification for our new airmen, and a requalification for some who are just returning to flight status," said Lt. Col. Ken Winslow, director of operations for the 446th AES. "We have to fly every 60 to 90 days to maintain our qualification, and we also have a flight evaluation by a flight examiner every 12 to 16 months. There's training going on all the time."

The training allowed new airmen to practice loading litters into the aircraft and tying everything down and to become familiar with emergency egress procedures. True to the "crawl, walk, run" training philosophy, this training, part of the "crawl" phase, was conducted on the ground.

"We were learning how to set things up in a C-17 and what to do if anything should go wrong," said Airman 1st Class Xochil Avila, an aeromedical technician with the 446th.

Trainers also incorporated one emergency scenario into the training. Avila played the part of a disoriented and traumatized patient, who posed a danger to the medical personnel and flight crew and had to be restrained.

As Avila flailed her limbs and screamed like a woman possessed, aeromedical technicians quickly regained control of the situation and put her in restraints.

"It would have been different if I was a real patient and was a 300-pound, beefy guy, but they took me down pretty fast," Avila said.

It was the first of several training exercises for certification, and future exercises will increase in intensity and stress. Winslow, however, expressed confidence in his new airmen.

"It's great to see them coming in after their schools and seeing how smart they are, how much they remember, and the appropriate questions they ask," Winslow said. "They're doing very well."

47th OG ARMs recognized as AETC's outstanding small unit

by 2nd Lt. Lyle T. Ratcliffe
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

3/28/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 47th Operations Group Aviation Resource Management team was awarded the Sergeant Dee Campbell Outstanding Small Unit award for 2012.

This award is given to the best ARM team in Air Education and Training Command that operates with 29 or less members.

"This is a huge accomplishment," said Tech. Sgt. Sonya Moran, 85th Flying Training Squadron ARM team member. "We support the busiest airfield in the Air Force, and it is very rewarding to receive recognition for the amount of work our team has done."

Aviation resource managers are responsible for in- and out-processing pilots, monitoring flight pay, standardizing processes and training plans, and basically everything that pertains to a pilot's career while they're at Laughlin, said Moran.

"The mission requires a collective effort from all the ARMs," said Chief Master Sgt. Carl Tennyson, 47th OG command chief. "Everyone has to do their part and be willing to fill in for other tasks if needed."

Some of the major accomplishments by the aviation resource managers include receiving an excellent on the consolidated unit inspection with three professional performers and standardizing the wing's Go/No-Go program.

"This is a true testament to the dedication and hard work put in by our ARMs," said Col. Andrew Brabson, 47th OG commander. "The level of performance across the group is so high that it is great to see our team be recognized by AETC."

AETC Top Operations Squadron awarded to 87th FTS

by 2nd Lt. Lyle T. Ratcliffe
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

3/28/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 87th Flying Training Squadron won the Top Operations Squadron Award in Air Education and Training Command for the first time in 12 years.

The 87th FTS stood out from about 45 operational flying training squadrons across AETC this year.

"This has been a challenging year for the Red Bulls, and I'm very proud of the efforts and positive attitudes of each and every member of our team," said Lt. Col. James Keen, 87th FTS commander. "We faced a series of difficult challenges this year, and they stepped up every time."

Specifically, the squadron overcame a 30 percent instructor manning shortfall, a 116 percent student load, and severe maintenance limitations due to budget restrictions.

"Our instructor pilots, maintenance and support personnel were working long hours and sacrificing their personal time to achieve the mission," said Keen. "That's the epitome of dedication, and safe operations were never sacrificed to attain results."

The 87th FTS also has a reputation as committed volunteers and good citizens by their involvement with a variety of events and programs in the Del Rio community. Squadron members volunteer in youth and prison outreach programs, church functions and charity fundraisers. They also helped with the Running with the Bulls 5K, which had more than 500 participants and raised more than $56,000 for Val Verde Loaves and Fishes, a local food bank.

"The folks in our squadron work hard to maintain a positive relationship between the Del Rio and Laughlin communities," said Lt. Col. Randy Oakland, 87th FTS director of operations. "They not only work hard, but they participate and volunteer."

The 87th FTS has been honored with various awards this year at the group, wing, and AETC levels. However, this award was the number one goal set out for the squadron, said Keen.

"We are just so pleased our squadron is receiving recognition for all the hard work and sacrifice they put in this year," said Keen. "It was a total team effort up and down the line and we are thankful for the support and positive relationship with the Del Rio community and Team XL."

Air Force system improves homeland air defense

by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

3/27/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- An Air Force system designed in the wake of Sept. 11 to provide comprehensive air surveillance and defense for North America recently got even better.

The Battle Control System-Fixed program reached a major milestone with the full deployment of Increment 3. The BCS-F, produced by ThalesRaytheonSystems, is a modern real-time battle management command and control system. Fielded at the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Air Defense Sectors, BCS-F provides NORAD commanders with a highly interoperable and reliable platform in support of the nation's homeland defense air mission.

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, NORAD and its force provider, Air Combat Command, realized there was an enormous need to upgrade the legacy equipment in the sectors to provide their commanders with an increased capability to see not only the traditional air defense approaches to North America, but also as much of the internal airspace over the continent as possible.

NORAD Sectors are located in New York, Washington, Alaska, and in Canada. There is also a BCS-F System in Hawaii that reports to the Pacific Command commanders.

"BCS-F is the sole tactical command and control system for North America's air sovereignty and air defense missions," said Lt. Col. Lisa Tucker, BCS-F program manager. "And Release 3.2 brings several mission critical improvements to the system."

Some of the enhancements include: a new hardware suite of equipment improving system capacities and processing, significant data links improvements that expand the quantity and quality of data shared with other DoD systems, and improved interoperability with systems in the National Capital Region.

Additional improvements are increased capacities for a sector to "cover" another sector's area of operations and an ability for the sector operators to automatically receive, process and use the Air Tasking Order and Airspace Coordination Order, significantly reducing the operator workload. Previously, the ATO and ACOs would have been performed manually.

"From my perspective as a sector commander, the deployment of Increment 3 allows the sector to finally normalize operations with our primary C2 system, the BCS-F," said Col. Dawne Deskins, Eastern Air Defense Sector commander.

"Operators and maintainers from the sector have been intimately involved in the testing and development of the latest software every step of the way. The successful deployment is a direct result of the partnership between those of us in the field, ACC and the program office."

To get to Increment 3, the team faced some significant challenges along the way.

"We had schedule constraints, funding cuts ...," said Tucker. "The team met with the stakeholders, creatively thought and strategized opportunities to do parallel testing and took advantage of collaboration to field the capability on time and with reduced funding."

As NORAD is a bi-national organization, the U.S. and Canada strategically partner together on the BCS-F program. In fact, Canadian personnel are integrated into the BCS-F team. One example of the cooperative nature of the work was a development solution to provide multi-day flight plan data. When it was discovered that there may be an issue with the plan the U.S. team was working, they were able to switch to a plan that the Canadians were using.

"We're constantly looking at best practices and where we can synergistically work together to best affect the warfighter," said Tucker. "They have been great to work with."

Since the fielding of BCS-F Spiral 1, which replaced the legacy equipment that was fielded in the 1980s, to the operational acceptance of Increment 3, Release 3.2, the program team here has increased the capabilities, capacities and usability of the BCS-F for sector operators.

"We have a great relationship with our stakeholders," said Tucker. "We are constantly communicating with NORAD, ACC, our test community, our sectors, our contractor and others that have a vested interest in the BCS-F mission and in consistently bringing more capability to our warfighters."

And even though the system currently has an operational availability of 99.98 percent, the team is always looking for improvements.

In fact, program managers already have another set of capabilities in test for delivery later in 2013. As the program moves into sustainment, there are several additional improvements under way, including an improved information assurance and security posture, an increased training capability for the operators with the Auxiliary System Suite and a number of fixes to improve the operator's mission effectiveness.

"As the NORAD mission evolves and technology moves forward, I am working with my stakeholders to position BCS-F to respond to changes for years to come to be a critical part of protecting our nation's sovereign airspace," said Tucker.

Coordination and cooperation have been the keys to ensure a successful program.

"I am totally impressed with the teamwork displayed in providing this operational capability to the warfighter," said Col. Scott Owens, Theater Battle Control Division chief. "In addition to the tremendous effort by Lieutenant Colonel Tucker and her program office team, this accomplishment could not have happened on schedule without the commitment and shared sense of urgency from the developer, user, acquisition and test communities involved in the BCS enterprise."

Luke reaches millionth hour milestone

by Stephen Delgado
Thunderbolt staff writer

3/22/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Translating a million hours into years equals 114 years and one month. Going that far back in time places a person in February of 1899.

Luke Air Force Base reached an F-16 milestone March 13 when a Fighting Falcon took to the skies marking a million flying hours in this venerable aircraft at Luke.

The historic flight was flown by 1st Lt. Matthew Wetherbee, 309th Fighter Squadron student pilot, and Capt. Joseph Walker, 309th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and assistant chief of weapons.

"I was Lieutenant Wetherbee's instructor pilot of record and flew in the rear cockpit," Walker said. "The flight went very well, with Lieutenant Wetherbee performing tactical intercepts to achieve a visual identification of a simulated enemy aircraft and employ weapons. My role was to ensure safe execution and provide airborne instruction to ensure that the desired learning objectives were met."

Col. John Hanna, 56th Operations Group commander, said that Luke is the first base to achieve the 1-million-hour mark.

"This feat was quite an historic event, and I was honored to be part of it," he said. "I started flying the F-16 with the 62nd Fighter Squadron in 1989 when we used to do much of the F-16 training at MacDill AFB, Fla.

"As an instructor in the 309th FS from 2002 to 2003, it was neat to have a young lieutenant be the one to actually hit the mark. He'll be able to carry that his whole career and it was fitting that a student be the one, since the milestone was reached at the premier F-16 training base in the world. It was even more special since this great event occurred in the same squadron where I was previously assigned."

What's more, Walker praised the quality of students who train at Luke, and said he looks forward to continuing this legacy.

"The caliber of students we receive here makes my job much easier and very rewarding," he said. "Their motivation and desire to learn is remarkable. I am very pleased to have a part in the mission of training the fighter pilots of tomorrow. I hope Luke continues to fly fighters and train fighter pilots for another million hours, if not in the F-16, then in other fighters, continuing the tremendous history and legacy of this base."

The F-16 arrived at Luke Dec. 6, 1982, and since then thousands of students have been trained here.

JBSA-Randolph clubs earn Air Force-level award

by Alex Salinas
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

3/28/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- The Parr and Kendrick Clubs at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph were chosen for a top Air Force-wide distinction as the Best Food Operations Program of the Year in 2012.

With $4.9 million in revenue from sales and more than 1,800 events hosted in 2012, the Air Force's No. 1 income-producing clubs "confirm the hard work and dedication of the hospitality operations team," Terrye Heagerty, 902nd Force Support Squadron director, said. The clubs support a variety of events including weddings, conferences, farewells, community bingo nights and poker tournaments.

This is the fourth Air Force-level award for Randolph's clubs, along with the Kendrick Club's title of Best Enlisted Club in 2003 and 2006, and the Best Club Program in 2009 when the clubs consolidated operations.

"This is a tremendous accomplishment because the competition is getting tougher and tougher," Merilyn Gove, 902nd FSS clubs general manager, said. "We owe it to our programs and thinking outside the box."

The competition, which includes business outside of Randolph, is a driving force when it comes to creative club programming.

"It's all about keeping up with the times and trends," Gove said. "We look at what's happening in the civilian world to help modernize the clubs."

Be it serving cupcakes or sponsoring community events like "top chef" wars and the upcoming singing competition, Idol Factor, the clubs jump at opportunities to "invest in the future," Aaron Cox, 902nd FSS clubs assistant manager, said.

"The goal is to cater to everybody, but we've especially done a great job of capturing the active-duty audience," Cox said, citing the Kendrick Club's popular Gil's Pub and the recently renovated Air City Bar and Grill at the Parr Club.

The latter establishment, which was formerly two rooms, was completely gutted and remodeled with fresh carpet, furniture, flat-screen TVs and a brighter color palette than before.

"Our lunch business is taking off," Cox said, with Air City Bar and Grill's sales doubling since reopening in July.

Currently, the Kendrick Club is in the process of receiving its own refurbishment of "popular wall colors and new furniture," Gove said.

The menus at both clubs also reflect a more "health-conscious and fit-to-fight Air Force," Gove said.

Customers are responding with 98 percent satisfaction ratings in all club areas through the interactive customer evaluation.

"Sometimes, it's frustrating to deal with so many different customers day in and day out, but it's paid off," Heagerty said.

To contact the Parr Club, Building 500, call 652-4864. To contact the Kendrick Club, Building 1039, call 652-3056.

Art of the Possible: 546th PMXS achieves monumental accomplishment

by Brandice J. O'Brien
Tinker Air Force Base Public Affairs

3/29/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 546th Propulsion Maintenance Squadron embraced change and recently achieved a monumental accomplishment, epitomizing the "Art of the Possible."

The unit completed a task in record time and exceeded a goal that had never before been met. The group gave life to the Air Force Sustainment Center motivational phrase when it produced an F108 engine, which the KC-135 Stratotanker, in 49 total flow days. The squadron achieved the feat by changing one of their processes.

"This is a huge accomplishment compared to history," said Chad Curl, 546th PMXS Production Support Flight chief.

The F108 has a history of being a constrained weapon system, meaning there weren't enough available spares for the mission. Over the past four or five years, the group really struggled to produce enough war-ready engines. The requirement called for 120 available engines, but it was a goal that had never been met.

In July 2012, senior leaders asked the squadron to develop a standard process to increase the production of engines and meet a recurring deadline. In this case, the goal was to send an engine to the test cell every 2.2 days and finish an engine in 55 total flow days.

"When we started this, our tact time to the test cell was all over the place from more than one engine a day to an engine every four to five days," said Tom Leinneweber, 544th Propulsion Maintenance Squadron deputy director. "And, we were averaging 106 flow days per engine."

Leinneweber said in order for the process to be effective, there had to be employee buy-in. Instead of directing orders at the workforce, the F108 engine line employees were told about the standard process development tasking and explained its importance. The squadrons then created a team to brainstorm and enact changes.

Harry Klempan, an F108 mechanic with the 546th PMXS, volunteered to be a member of the team. With fellow mechanics, first- and second-level supervisors, planners, material personnel and engineers, he was one of 14 people.

"I had good ideas and wanted to make a contribution," he said.

The team studied the cradle-to-grave approach that was customary within the shop and realized it had to change. Instead of assigning a single mechanic to care for every task on a whole engine as it came into the shop, it would be more effective to break down the engine into more manageable pieces and assign incremental tasks to particular mechanics, who would become subject matter experts in those fields. The learning time would be reduced and tasks would be completed in a matter of days.

"I have a crew of two people who only pull the quick engine connection off the whole engine; that's all they do, every two days," Leinneweber said. "So, what that's done is shorten the learning curve by giving continuous repetitions of the task. And that makes an employee's assets faster, because I don't have to have someone stand over his shoulder for six or eight months trying to teach him about a variety of tasks. The employee can have the individual task down in three to four weeks."

By dividing up the tasks, the team rearranged the process into four phases, or gates, -- disassembly, materials/kitting, assembly and test/preparation. It took eight weeks to set up initial process and the shop now runs like an assembly line.

Adam "Tiny" Davis, an F108 mechanic with the 546th PMXS on the team, said he was really impressed and surprised at how quickly the shop embraced the changes.
"Change on anyone is hard," he said.

While changing the floor plan is the biggest transformation to come from the team's suggestions, there are others that have been implemented; one of which came from Klempan.

"One of my ideas was organizing the kitting carts to make sure the hardware -- bolts and nuts -- are accounted for by being placed in their corresponding cutout holes," he said. "That way we can tell if anything is missing."

The results have paid off.

At the end of the fiscal 2012 fourth quarter the average flow days were 106, the first engine to go through the new process was completed in 92 flow days. In the first quarter of fiscal 2013, the average flow days were 84. Additionally, the squadron produced 28 of the requirement of 30 engines, a first-ever achievement. In the previous year, the squadron produced three fewer engines in the same amount of time.

In the second quarter of fiscal 2013, the unit averaged an engine every 59 days. Yet, in February, the unit produced four engines in 55 flow days or less, a 50 percent reduction since fiscal 2012. One engine was finished in 49 flow days.

Additionally, the shop reduced from three shifts to one and the amount of overtime has been reduced from upwards of 25 percent to 7 percent.

"The results are outstanding. We lowered our flow days and have more production and more focus on the constraints," said Michelle Greene, team member and a former 546th PMXS supervisor on the F108 line. "I'm very happy with the outcome."

Curl said the F108 has shown the center the possibilities that the process can do.
"The process is proven and it makes sense for everyone to do it," he said. "And it's a generic process; it's not customized for a single purpose. It can be implemented in any situation."

AF to implement force structure changes

by Jennifer Cassidy
Air Force Public Affairs

3/29/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force released its plan Mar. 28 to implement force structure changes mandated by the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

The bill authorized the service to complete actions approved in previous years, such as aircraft retirements, and directed execution of Congressionally-approved force structure actions.

Some of these changes were outlined in the Air Force's Total Force Proposal, developed in coordination with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Others were congressionally-directed.

"Our Air Force continues efforts to maximize the strength of our Total Force, and we are pleased with the progress that is being made on this front," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley. "This implementation plan illustrates the Air Force's continued commitment to transparency as it completes the force structure requirements directed and authorized by the NDAA."

The NDAA directs a reduction of 65 aircraft and approximately 1,400 military billets from the Air National Guard, 57 aircraft from the Air Force Reserve, and 122 aircraft and approximately 6,100 military billets from the active-duty Air Force.

"Working together we can combine the personnel, equipment and readiness necessary to build a total Air Force equal to all the challenges our nation faces," said Lt. Gen. Stanley (Sid) E. Clarke III, director of the Air National Guard.

The Air Force's implementation plan includes a state-by-state description of changes for each base and the associated timeline. Each major command developed activation, reassignment, re-missioning or divesture options.

"We've developed guiding principles to ensure that as we make decisions, we continue to have a strong foundation for what is best for our Air Force," said Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief, Air Force Reserve and commander, Air Force Reserve Command. "We must leverage regular and reserve component strengths and align our decisions with a commitment as one total force team."

Key principles include: ensure personnel readiness, training and retention for transitioning units to remain at the highest level practicable and minimize mission gaps for units transitioning to new or different missions. Each of the components embraces these principles.

The Air Force will apply this collaborative approach to facilitate open communication with key stakeholders on future total force efforts. Recently, the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force created a Total Force Task Force.

TF2 will create an enduring strategic process to determine how to correctly balance the strengths of each component to sustain capabilities required to defend our nation now and into the future.

"Our active, Reserve and Guard components are increasingly integrated --training, deploying and conducting a full range of missions together as one Air Force," said Donley, "and we're committed to ensuring that our active and reserve component mix correctly balances the strengths of each component, meeting our strategic requirements and our fiscal demands as well. The FY13 implementation plan gets us on a path toward that end."

Hawaii State Legislators Honor Fallen Service Members

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Clark
AFN-Pacific Hawaii News Bureau

HONOLULU, March 29, 2013 – Hawaii state legislators gathered at the capitol here March 27 to present the Hawaii Medal of Honor to 19 families of Hawaii-born or -based service members who were killed in combat over the past year.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Left to right: Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Justin Neal, House Speaker Joseph M. Souki and Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, adjutant general of the Hawaii National Guard, pose for a photo during the Hawaii State Medal of Honor ceremony held at the capitol in Honolulu, March 27, 2013. Neal accepted the medal on behalf of his friend and colleague Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nicholas S. Johnson. This year 19 fallen service members posthumously received the HMOH from the Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“We do this, a public ceremony, because we wish to express in more than just a symbolic way what it is we regard as most fundamental to recognition of what it takes to enable us to be a free people,” Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said at the ceremony. “Why are we in such a solemn regard? It’s because we understand that in ceremonies such as this we are engaged in a public expression in what constitutes our fundamental values.”

The families of ten soldiers and nine Marines were presented the medal, which has been given at the Hawaii state capitol since House Bill 8, designated as Act 21, Session Laws of Hawaii of 2005 was passed. According to the bill’s language, “The purpose of this Act is to provide for a Hawaii Medal of Honor that would help express the deep appreciation and gratitude of the People of Hawaii to the loved ones of members of the military who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation and its freedoms.”

Prior to presenting the medal to the family members, Hawaii National Guard Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong expressed his gratitude to the family members and fellow service members in attendance.

“There is no honor higher that our state can bestow upon a member of our armed forces than the Hawaii Medal of Honor,” Wong said. “This is not an honor we bestow with joy, but rather we do so with heavy hearts and solemn resolve.

“Collectively, as a state, we have made it our mission to express our deepest appreciation to these brave men and women,” he continued. “We resolve to ensure the families of our service members shall always be a part of our Hawaiian Ohana, and that the ultimate sacrifice made by their loved ones will always be remembered.”

In Hawaiian culture Ohana means family, and Wong’s usage of the word connotes extended family.

Among those honored at the ceremony were six Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, who were killed in action in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. As each of the fallen were mentioned, a family member or friend received the medal and a certificate in addition to the appreciation of the state of Hawaii, whether they grew up here or were stationed here.

Hawaii state legislature Rep. K. Mark Takai, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Military and International Affairs, stressed the significance of this program.

“In 2005, when we first passed this legislation, I just don’t think we understood how important this was going to be, not only to the families, but more importantly to the people of Hawaii,” said Takai, who also serves as a commissioned officer in the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Takai also highlighted the significant role the U.S. military plays in Hawaii.

“The military has been such an important part of our history,” he said. “Even pre-dating the start of World War II, the military has played a pivotal role in our state’s history. We are a unique state because of everybody coming together, including the military families, so we pay particular attention to our military.”
This is the eighth year that the Hawaii state legislature has honored people with Hawaii ties that died in wars overseas.

Little: North Koreans ‘Need to Dial the Temperature Down’

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 – The world cannot afford a miscalculation when dealing with North Korea, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told CNN last night.

North Korea’s flouting of international agreements has made that nation a pariah. Recent rhetoric emanating from Pyongyang has increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and this needs to stop, Little said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ratcheted up the rhetoric since taking power after his father died. North Korea has tested long-range rockets, launched a satellite into orbit and tested nuclear weapons -- all in defiance of its pledged word to the United Nations.

And, North Korea continues to escalate the war of words by saying the 1953 armistice between North Korea and the United Nations is null and void. Kim has threatened to attack local, regional and international targets.

Little emphasized that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its South Korean ally.

“I’m not going to speculate on what we may or may not do,” Little said. “Our desire is peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. The North Koreans have two choices. They can choose the path of peace or they can choose the path of provocation. One is better than the other for everyone involved, including the North Korean military and the North Korean people.”

South Korea is hosting a joint military exercise now. Following North Korea’s saber rattling, nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit bombers have participated in the maneuvers.

Kim has said North Korea is targeting U.S. bases in South Korea and said its tube- and rocket-launched artillery can range Seoul -- a city of 20 million.

Meanwhile, the United States is maintaining a sober, calm, cool, collected demeanor.

“That’s what we’re doing right now,” Little said. “And we are assuring our South Korean allies day-to-day that we stand with them in the face of these provocations.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is concerned about the risk of miscalculation in view of current events on the Korean Peninsula, Little said.

“We have guarded against miscalculation on the Korean Peninsula for over 60 years,” the press secretary said. “And the secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it's their job to ensure that our military is prepared to respond to any threat or contingency. We are.

“We hope to avoid miscalculation,” Little added. “We think we can. The North Koreans simply need to dial the temperature down.”

The men I left behind

Commentary by Capt. Belena S. Marquez
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

3/27/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- I'm one of the thousands of women who have gone to war.

I'm neither unique nor exceptional. If you ask around, you'll hear stories similar to mine.

In the past, expectations for girls didn't include the possibility of growing up to be veterans. We aren't born warriors. We've been brought up in a way that makes it possible.

To me, Women's History Month isn't only about recognizing the trailblazers of my gender; it's also about celebrating the change in our culture that makes the men in my life, who support me as an Airman, the norm instead of the exception.

Father, brother, husband and friends; these are the men I left behind that early morning when I headed to Afghanistan.

It was cold outside, but I made a quick phone call.

"Daddy, I'm headed over now," I said, when the line connected. We talked for a couple of minutes, and before we hung up my dad whispered, "Be safe, sweetie."

Then I left.

My dad stood behind me from the beginning. Growing up, he always told me that I could do and be whatever I wanted, as long as I worked hard for it. He made me believe in myself.

I ended up needing that belief on the days when I felt like I wasn't making a difference, when the mission seemed too tough to handle. When things were hard for me, my thoughts invariably went to the encouragement my dad always seemed to have just for me.

On the days when I needed to keep my chin up and stay positive, I thought of my brother.

My little brother was always trailing along behind me. When we were younger, he was always copying me and following my lead. He taught me that someone is always watching and learning from you.

That lesson came in handy when I interacted with a culture so very different from my own. For some of the Afghans I worked with, I was an oddity. As a member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, I was a woman decked out in multi-cam when they were used to seeing the sun-bleached burkas that made the Afghan women in our area look like ghosts floating down the streets.

But, thanks to my little brother, I was used to being observed. I knew that they were learning about my culture through my actions, just as I was learning about theirs.

I discovered that the women I'd initially thought of as apparitions in the town were actually vibrant, opinionated and courageous as we worked together to build up the female journalist program.

For those in the service, it isn't a shock to discover someone who is both a woman and a service member. Though sometimes it's hard for people who don't understand the military to fathom that my husband stayed and I left.

Throughout my deployment, my husband had my back. While I was doing convoys and key leader engagements, he was taking care of our household. He was the one responsible for staying positive when I called. During those conversations, I relied on him to remind me of the world outside of my deployment. He sent care packages and waited for me to return. He brought me flowers when my plane touched down and I was finally home.

The trip to Afghanistan and back reminded both of us that service is more significant than gender, but not everyone understands that.

When I was enjoying my post-deployment vacation, I remembered someone else I left behind. I thought about a conversation I had with an ex-boyfriend when I was in high school. We were talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up and I mentioned that I wanted to join the Air Force.

"Sweetie," he said. "I don't think that'll be good for you. I don't think you're really tough enough for that."

Well, he can kiss my Combat Action Badge.

Defense Women’s Advisory Committee Adds New Members

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 – Six new appointees have joined the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, according to a Defense Department news release issued today.

DACOWITS members include prominent civilian women and men representing a distribution of demography, academia, industry, public service and other professions, according to the release. Selection is on the basis of experience in the military or with women's-related workforce issues.

"The committee's work continues to be vital to the Department of Defense, especially as we move forward integrating women into previously closed occupational specialties and units within the U.S. military," Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Wright stated in the release. "I am thankful for the service of these new committee members as they join the ranks of those who have been catalysts for change in our Armed Forces."

The committee, established during the Korean War in 1951 by Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall, is an independent advisory committee that provides the department with advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the recruitment and retention, treatment, employment, integration, and well-being of highly qualified professional women in the Armed Forces.

Previously comprised of 11 members, the 2013 charter authorizes a total of 20 committee members.
The incoming members include:
-- Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bernise Belcer, Columbia, S.C.;
-- Teresa Christenson, Newport, R.I.;
-- Retired Coast Guard Capt. Beverly Kelley, Chester, Md.;
-- Rev. Dr. Cynthia Lindenmeyer, La Vista, Neb.;
-- Donna McAleer, Park City, Utah; and
-- Retired Army Lt. Col. Hae-Sue Park, Springfield, Va.

DACOWITS members are selected for a four-year term, without compensation, to perform a variety of duties including visiting military installations each year, conducting a review and evaluation of current research on military women, and developing an annual report with recommendations on these issues for service leadership and the secretary of defense.