Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hard work pays off for 2012 AETC Command Post NCO of the Year

by Dan Hawkins
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

4/18/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A Sheppard NCO got a big surprise during the 82nd Training Wing commander's call April 8 when he was brought on stage by Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini and notified of his selection as the 2012 Air Education and Training Command NCO of the Year in the command post career field.

Staff Sgt. Greg Askew, an 82nd TRW command post controller, was thrilled to hear the news that he was the command's top NCO in his career field.

"I put in a lot of work this past year and had some great opportunities to shine," Askew said. "You don't do the work to win awards, but it's nice to have your hard work recognized."

Askew, who became a command post controller in 2010 after cross-training over from security forces, shined on perhaps one of the biggest stages possible in 2012: AETC's Compliance Inspection in May.

"I had taken over the training program and we had 19 deficiencies that needed to be cleared up before the (inspection)," Askew said. "We burned some midnight oil doing what we needed to do to clear up the issues."

The NCO's hard work paid off as all 19 discrepancies were corrected prior to the CI team's arrival in early May and subsequently helped the command post to its overall "Excellent" rating. Askew was also named as a "Professional Performer" by the AETC Inspector General team.

"Due to our manning in the command post, we all had to work shifts as the controller, plus work on the administrative side making sure everything was ready," Askew said. "It was a total team effort."

Scoring a 94 percent on his 7-level Career Development Course (CDC) final exam didn't hurt his cause either.

While talking about the award, Askew was quick to point out the home front as his source of inspiration and support he needed to be successful. Askew is married to Staff Sgt. Janelle Askew of the 82nd Medical Operations Squadron.

"My wife really enabled me to win this award," Askew noted. "Without her help with our three daughters and my long hours, there is no way I could have accomplished everything."

Askew will be PCS'ing in May to Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., where he will be working in U.S. Strategic Command in a special-duty position.

"I'm looking forward to my next challenge," Askew said.

Reserve EOD Airman shows leadership, courage under fire

by Senior Airman Bobby Pilch
315th Airlift Wing

4/19/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Bullets rained down on a joint group of U.S. Air Force Airmen and British Army forces fighting for their lives in an intense firefight along the bank of the Helmand River in southwestern Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2012.

Tech Sgt. Jarrod V. Mills, of the 315th Airlift Wing's Civil Engineering Flight at Charleston, S.C., and members of the Paladin counterinsurgency task force working with a British Reconnaissance Force, were clearing a known insurgent stronghold where explosives were produced in the Upper Gereshk Valley. A location the team was quite familiar with.

"We had been in this area a month prior," said Mills. "We were pretty prepared that something could happen and knew they were making homemade explosives."

This deployment was one of several Mills had volunteered for. He said he is most comfortable in a deployed environment--A stark contrast from his full-time civilian job as an AT&T facility technician.

"I am happiest when I am deployed," said Mills, the non-commission officer in charge of the 315th AW's Intelligence and Explosive Ordinance Disposal training. "You know what your job is going to be each day. The missions may change somewhat, but overall you know what you have to do."

As the late morning sun lingered in the sky and the cloak of darkness no longer available for protection, Mills and the entire team were now exposed to peering eyes. They attempted to cross the river to a pre-secured, temporary check point. The all too familiar "clack, clack" of 7.62mm automatic assault rifles broke the eerie silence. The enemy began to fire on them from across the river bank.

Bullets ripped through the air and tap danced around their position as if playing a game of connect the dots, each one sounding too close for comfort. But Mills and his comrades were trained to handle this kind of stress and still get the job done.

During the heat of the tense engagement, a grenade thrown by the enemy injured two British soldiers. Without hesitation, Mills quickly organized his EOD team to provide protective cover from the insurgents so the injured could be treated and airlifted to safety via helicopter.

Leadership is something that comes naturally to Mills according to his supervisors at Joint Base Charleston. They trade accolades back and forth about someone they consider a fine specimen of an Airman and someone who never quits.

"I have to confess," said Master Sgt. Mark P. Johnson, 315th EOD program manager, "He's one less stripe than me and I often look to him. He is so universally admired and respected. He sets a standard and expects things out of people. Nobody works harder. He's tough to a point of insanity, unflappable under stress."

"When you go to work you know that person has your life and your back," said Master Sgt. Carl Makins, Jr., 315th EOD superintendent, describing the small two or three-man teams EOD members typically consist of in the field. "Jay is of that same mentality, he will not quit - period. You never worry about him quitting. That's not even in your mind when you go out to do something. If you get hurt, and you go down and wake up in a know Jay pulled me out, because he was the only one there."

Because of Mills' actions and the actions of his team, the two BRFs were evacuated safely; the enemy defeated and no further ally casualties resulted. Some people may say that Mills could be labeled a hero. However, he does not view himself in this light. People like him rarely do.

"I acknowledge that what happened was an extreme circumstance," said Mills. "But it was a team effort."

The difficult discussion

Commentary by Todd Rose
Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

4/19/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- Death is a subject that all too often no one wants to talk about until there is no option. Usually we only discuss it when confronted with death due to the loss of a family member, friend or co-worker.

We are a unique group of people here. We face death each time we walk through the doors of the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs in order to fulfill this sacred mission. Yet, we are just as guilty of not talking about death with our own families.

During the last 19 years, I have seen too many families anguish or argue over decisions they have to make in remembering and honoring their loved one, because discussing death seems taboo prior to the actual event. Whether it is the type of casket, the best burial location or who to officiate the service, the list goes on and on. These decisions and the anxiety they can cause affects families in the military and in the private sector equally.

To ease this burden, the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act instituted the capability for military members to designate an individual on their virtual Record of Emergency Data, or Department of Defense Form 93, to serve as the person authorized to direct disposition of their remains if necessary. The authority afforded in this designation encompasses all decisions in the care of the deceased, such as what clothing will be worn; where or when the services will be held; what funeral home will hold the services; who will officiate; if the deceased will be cremated; where the burial or inurnment will be effected and if military funeral honors will be rendered.

Today, the person selected can be anyone the member wishes, regardless of their relationship. Because of the significance of this decision and the authority it conveys, great consideration should be taken to ensure you have ultimate faith and confidence in the person you've chosen. Moreover, it is imperative that you advise your family about your decision; preferably in writing.

I have seen many spouses shocked to learn that a parent, brother, sister or even friend was designated as the PADD for their husband or wife. Imagine how difficult it is for a service mortuary representative to have to advise a parent that their son or daughter designated the "other parent" as the PADD, and that they have no decision authority regarding the arrangements and final disposition of their son or daughter.

The missing link today may be the communication between you and your family members in expressing your wishes. Death is a subject that cannot be ignored; it affects all of us. However, we can minimize the impact to our families by getting our affairs in order.

My greatest suggestion to you, whether you wear the uniform or not: update your will or have one created that expresses your specific wishes. In addition to your will, sit down and write out your desires for your funeral services. Decide whether or not you wish to be cremated. Identify where you wish your casket to be buried or urn to be inurned. You can even specify details of what music to play at your memorial service, if you want a special food or drink to be served or have written letters to distribute to loved ones. These choices and more are yours -- unless you ignore them.

If you're currently serving in the military or are a veteran, express your wishes regarding military funeral honors and whether you wish to have your casket draped with a flag. These are things we see every day in this business, but have you spoken with your family to let them know what your wishes are should you die? If not, I encourage you to do so!

After you have accomplished these things, I encourage you to ask your family members about their wishes in the event of their death. I would also urge you to encourage your friends and co-workers to have the same discussions with their family members. I know this is a difficult discussion to have, but the benefit to your family in doing so, should you die unexpectedly, will be the gift of comfort and peace of mind in knowing your express wishes were carried out. This will also serve to mitigate any potential disputes among family members, who may have different opinions about what should be done with your remains and your estate.

However unique we may think we are in dealing with death, or impervious we are to it, you must ask yourself: "Have I prepared enough to minimize the impact of my death on those who mean the most to me?" If not, do so now without delay.

Airmen participate in Exercise Carpathian Spring

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/19/2013 - BUCHAREST, Romania -- More than 30 Airmen left Ramstein April 14 to participate in Exercise Carpathian Spring in Romania.

The exercise runs through April 21 and is designed for aircrews to train as well as help build a partnership capacity with Romanians.

"In Germany we have a lot of restrictions, and waivers are needed to do ... training," said Capt. Bradley Buinicky, 86th Operations Support Squadron and chief of exercise operations. "In Romania we have a blanket over-flight privilege, which allows us to get a lot more training in."

While in Romania, executing efficient C-130J Super Hercules aircrew training was a priority.

"Aircrew will be conducting low-level flying and assault landings, while the 435th Contingency Response Group will operate drop zones and man foreign jumpers," said Buinicky. "For members of the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, it gives them good exposure for doing their job in a different location."

Being gone for an extended period requires several Airmen from the 86th AMXS to ensure the aircraft are properly maintained.

"It's a good opportunity for us to be able to do this," said Staff Sgt. Cole Fry, 86th AMXS guidance and control craftsman. "We'll get to interact with Romanians, see how they run things and maybe exchange a few tips here and there."

The observing Romanian military members will become familiarized with maintenance, drop-zone operations and pallet building, said Buinicky.

"As an ally it's important for our partners to have combat capability for their own sovereign defense," said Buinicky.

Senate confirms Fanning as next Air Force under secretary

4/19/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Eric Fanning will be the next Air Force under secretary, according to a Senate confirmation vote April 18.

Fanning provided testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 28, before the full Senate voted on his confirmation. Now the president must appoint him before he can assume his new position.

"I have been immensely proud to serve these last four years with the men and women of the Navy and the Marine Corps. I very much look forward to becoming part of the Air Force family," he said during his confirmation hearing. "It would be my honor to play a role in making sure that the best men and women our country has to offer get all the support they need in undertaking the mission of defending our country, a mission for which they freely volunteer."

The Air Force has been without an under secretary since June 2012, when then-Under Secretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton was appointed to under secretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness. Dr. Jamie Morin was appointed to serve as the acting under secretary in July 2012.

President Obama nominated Fanning Aug. 1, 2012. At that time, he was serving as the deputy under secretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy.

Pending the president's appointment, Fanning will be sworn into the position later this month.

C-17 crew chief wins big

by Airman 1st Class Jacob Jimenez
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/18/2013 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- An Airman from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron here was recently named Air Mobility Command's Crew Chief of the Year.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Minoda, 62nd MXS crew chief, was named the command's top crew chief in an announcement made by AMC late last month. The announcement means he will now go on to compete for that title at the Air Force level.

Maj. Patrick Maddox, 62nd MXS commander, said Minoda is deserving of this recognition because he consistently demonstrates outstanding technical proficiency in his work.

"Sergeant Minoda's excellence was on display regardless of time or location," said Maddox. "It takes a truly remarkable individual to have success regardless of the situation he or she finds themselves in, but Minoda has epitomized this over the last year."

While assigned here, Minoda has completed more than 177 C-17 Globemaster III home station checks, deployed to New Zealand to generate mission support for the National Science Foundation in operations in Antarctica, and prepped aircraft for a weapons instructor course at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

Since enlisting in the Air Force in 2004, Minoda has been selected as the 58th Maintenance Group 2009 Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Award winner, selected as a dedicated crew chief and is a recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Tech. Sgt. Adam Hargrove, 62nd MXS crew chief and Minoda's supervisor, said he believes that Minoda being named the AMC Crew Chief of the year is well deserved and that he is confident that Minoda will go on to win at the Air Force level.

"He exemplifies everything an Air Force staff sergeant should be," said Hargrove. "He has exceeded my expectations by miles and continues to raise the bar for other NCOs."

Minoda said that it is a great honor to know that the people he works with think he is deserving of such a title.

"There is no way I could have done without my team," said Minoda. "I feel fortunate that I've found a job I can come to everyday, where I work with great people who make every day a good day, even the bad ones."

NATO Secretary General Details Asia Trip, Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 – NATO’s partnerships with Japan and South Korea are key to facing security challenges and ensuring stability in the region, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today in Brussels.

In a news conference at NATO headquarters, Rasmussen discussed his recent trip to Asia and the agenda at the alliance’s upcoming foreign ministers meeting.

“This was the first-ever trip by a NATO secretary general to the Republic of Korea,” he said. “I met with President Park [Geun-hye], ministers and members of parliament. I also visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone, where I was briefed on the current state of affairs by the United Nations Command.”

The secretary general also noted another first during his visit to Japan.

“I signed the first NATO-Japan joint political declaration with Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe, a declaration which will chart the future course of our partnership,” he said. “I also met members of the government and parliament.”

Although they all are separated by geography, Rasmussen noted, Japan and South Korea are important partners for NATO.

“We share fundamental values, such as individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” he said. “We share the need to face common security challenges that go well beyond borders. And we share the determination to play an active role in promoting that security and stability.”

With the growing tensions surrounding the statements and actions of North Korea, the NATO secretary general said it is “understandably” a major concern for Japan and South Korea.

“I recalled NATO’s strong condemnation of North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability,” he said. “I urged North Korea to refrain from any further provocations and to fulfill its international obligations to fully implement all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

Rasmussen said he also commended all efforts to seek peaceful solutions through dialogue, and stressed that NATO’s global perspective does not mean “we seek a presence in the Asia-Pacific region.”

What it does mean, he said, is that the alliance seeks to engage with the Asia-Pacific region and already is doing valuable work with its partners in the region, noting efforts by South Korea and Japan alongside the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, hundreds of troops from the Republic of Korea serve alongside their partners in ISAF in the east of the country,” Rasmussen noted. “Japan has given great support to the Afghan forces, and has led the way in key areas such as literacy and education.

“And we are also working together to counter the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden,” he continued. “I thanked the leaders of both countries for all they are doing.”

Rasmussen said all three looked at what more they can do in the future in the areas of counterterrorism, counterpiracy, nonproliferation, disaster relief and cyber defense. “All these are challenges which reach across borders, and we can deal with them much more effectively if we do it together,” he added.

The secretary general also talked about the foreign ministers meeting set to take place April 23 at NATO headquarters, where representatives from 22 non-NATO countries will join the alliance’s top diplomats to discuss contributions to ISAF.

“Later this year, we will reach a significant milestone, as Afghan forces take the lead for security across the country,” he said. “At the same time, ISAF’s main effort will shift from combat to support. The milestone will mark the progress we have made. By the end of 2014, Afghan forces will be fully responsible for security in their country.” But NATO’s commitment to support them will continue to the end of 2014 and beyond, he added.

The NATO secretary general said he expects a full agenda at the foreign ministers meeting.
“At this meeting, I also expect we will reach agreement on the means to ensure transparency and accountability in the way our future financing for the Afghan security forces is managed,” he said. “This will be a significant step in sustaining the strength of the Afghan forces, as well as the public support in donor countries for this vital effort.”

Guard Chief: Historic Assumptions Need Reconsideration

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 – Traditional assumptions about force structure deserve reconsideration in the current fiscal environment, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told a congressional panel April 17.
Along with the services’ top reserve component commanders, Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, who also is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on the fiscal 2014 budget request for National Guard and reserve forces.

"All of our historic assumptions deserve reconsideration as we calculate the optimal force to meet the threats of the future," Grass said in an interview after the hearing.

"This isn't just a budget drill to meet sequestration targets," he added. "As the Defense Department confronts the budget question, the National Guard's cost-effective, proven force provides options to consider."

During the hearing, senators asked Grass about the possible furlough of National Guard military technicians in the nation’s 54 states and territories and the District of Columbia as part of the ongoing sequestration issue. After the hearing, he elaborated.

"Our military technicians represent more than 50 percent of our full-time work force," the general said. "Without them, planes don't fly and trucks don't roll."

Grass added that furloughs will affect the National Guard far more than most people realize, because National Guard military technicians, who wear uniforms while on duty, provide critical training and maintenance and support the readiness of more than 400,000 traditional Guard members who are not currently deployed overseas or mobilized for domestic operations.

"Just as noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the armed forces, our military technicians are in many ways the backbone of the National Guard," Grass said.

In his testimony, Grass reminded the senators that the National Guard is America's dual-use defense asset.
"The National Guard serves with distinction as the [Defense Department's] primary combat reserve component and as the governors' first-choice force in times of crisis," Grass -- who represents the more than 460,000 soldiers and airmen in the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard -- told senators in his testimony.

"A core competency of the National Guard is to rapidly, robustly and competently expand the nation's full-spectrum military capability to defend vital national interests in the most affordable, lowest-risk manner possible," Grass said.

Other testimony highlights include:
-- The National Guard Bureau has evolved with the permanent appointment of its chief to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and has identified its enduring priorities, including ensuring that the National Guard provides the best possible capabilities to the Defense Department.
-- The State Partnership Program remains one of the National Guard Bureau's most important programs and has resulted in joint deployments with National Guard members and partner countries.
-- Operational force: The Army and Air National Guard remains an operational force. "Today's citizen-soldier is likely to have deployed at least once since 9/11, with an expectation that he or she will deploy again," Grass said. "With recruitment and retention at record levels, it is clear they are willing and able to carry the load."
-- Accessible force: "Throughout history," Grass said, "the National Guard has answered every call, participated in every contingency and supported the full spectrum of international responses. As a part-time force that has met or exceeded established readiness and proficiency standards, the National Guard is a crucial operational asset."
-- Military first-responder: The National Guard responded to more than 100 natural disaster missions in 2012 and supported events such as the national political conventions and international summits.

18th Air Force: A Legacy of Excellence

by Maj Michael Meridith
18th Air Force

4/18/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Although a divide of more than six decades separates them from the founders of their command, today's 18th Air Force Airmen continue to embody the same motto: "expedite!"

Signifying a commitment to excellence in the successful and rapid completion of the command's worldwide air mobility mission, the motto of the Air Force's largest, and AMC's only Numbered Air Force stands as an expression of a distinguished history.

The Early Days
Organized March 28, 1951, at Donaldson AFB in Greenville, S.C., as Tactical Air Command's (TAC) airlift arm, the mission of the newly-formed 18th Air Force was to provide the Air Force with troop carrier crews. Initially composed of nine Air Force Reserve C-119 "Flying Boxcar" troop carrier wings (and later two C-124 "Globemaster II" wings), the newly-formed command immediately began providing crews for the Korean War.

During its first six years, 18th Air Force attained a global combat airlift capability unprecedented in the history of military aviation. In 1954, the command airdropped supplies to French troops during the siege of Dien Bien Phu, Indochina. Later, they airlifted French soldiers to medical care in Japan.

The following year, 18th Air Force began supporting the Distant Early Warning line and bases of the Alaskan and Northeast Air Commands. In 1956, the command extended its support to the other side of the globe, supporting the first South Pole parachute jump and air dropping a complete international science base, a precursor to the Operation Deep Freeze missions that have been accomplished every year since.

A Reputation for Excellence
In addition to earning a reputation for carrying out challenging missions across the globe, the command's Airmen were also recognized for their innovation and were instrumental in developing techniques and equipment supporting more efficient airdrop operations, the Air Force "Pathfinder" combat controller capability (which established drop zone experts), and assault landing procedures for C-123 and C-130 aircraft.

"We've seen a lot of changes in Air Mobility," said Col. Earl B. Young, the 18th Air Force's first commander, during a 2011 meeting of 18th Air Force leaders. "But I can tell you having lived through all of those changes that the one thing that has never changed has been our leaders and our Airmen. We've always had the best."

Those Airmen not only contributed substantially to TAC's mission of providing the Air Force with a balance of strategic, air defense, and tactical forces, they also enhanced
the striking power of the Army, particularly as the jet age turned TAC's attention to the rapid deployment of fighter/bomber units and airborne and light infantry units to distant
"hot spots". In fact, in support of this new focus, TAC added C-123 "Provider" and C-130 "Hercules" aircraft to rapidly deploy and resupply forces around the world.

Reorganization and Inactivation
Despite these changes, the command became part of a major reorganization of the Air Force during the second half of 1957. That reorganization resulted in a move of the 18th Air Force headquarters, a change in its mission, and finally its inactivation.

On July 1, 18th Air Force transferred two troop wings and two bases, Donaldson AFB, S.C. and Larson AFB, Wash., to the Military Air Transport Service. Barely two months later, in the wake of a TAC regional reorganization, the command transferred its remaining troop carrier wings to 9th Air Force and moved its headquarters to James Connaly AFB, Texas. The following month the scope of the 18th Air Force's mission increased dramatically as it assumed command responsibilities for TAC's day-to-day fighter, fighter-bomber, and aerial tanker operations in the western United States.

18th Air Force had hardly settled into its new home and mission when it was inactivated Jan. 1, 1958, with its personnel and equipment transferred in place to the newly-activated 12th Air Force.

The Legacy Lives On
Nearly 60 years later and almost ten years after its 2003 reactivation, the command continues to earn praise for excellence in global air mobility operations. From humanitarian response in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the Haiti and Japan earthquakes, to support for Coalition and Allied efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, the command's Airmen have often been the first to respond on behalf of the Nation.

Echoing Col. Young's words, Lt. Gen. Darren W. McDew, the 18th Air Force's newest commander, noted the secret to the command's success starts and end with its Airmen: "The great pioneers of our Air Force were exceptional men and women dedicated to making things better. The Airmen of today's 18th Air Force are bold, innovative leaders who continue to give life to a legacy of excellence and to our motto. Expedite!"

Officials Brief Senators on Personnel Budget Issues

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 – Senior Defense Department officials outlined for a congressional panel this week what President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2014 defense budget request means for personnel programs for the active force, National Guard, reserves and civilian personnel.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee were:
-- Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness;
-- Frederick E. Vollrath, acting assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management;
-- Richard O. Wightman Jr., acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs; and
-- Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs and director of TRICARE Management Activity.

“The president’s plan implements and deepens the commitment to the new strategy, which meets [the Defense Department’s] needs in a complex security environment,” Wright said. The … budget request includes $137.1 billion for military personnel and $49.4 billion for military medical care, which add up to about a third of the base budget request, she added.

Wright also noted that the budget proposal was assembled in the face of “extraordinary” fiscal and budget uncertainty.

The March 1 sequestration order called for a nearly $41 billion reduction in DOD’s [fiscal] 2013 budget in the middle of the fiscal year, and the department faces substantial additional cuts of about $52 billion per year in fiscal 2014 and beyond, Wright said. Fiscal 2013’s sequestration cuts would also have major effects in fiscal 2014, she added.

But despite those challenges, Wright said, it’s possible to sustain “for generations to come” the all-volunteer force that has a proven record of unprecedented success in operations around the world.

“Our people are the department’s greatest assets, and we will continue to be the most powerful military force in the world by building and sustaining this extraordinary total force,” she said. “We must build the most appropriate total force by actively recruiting and retaining the best people for the mission with the appropriate level of compensation and benefits. Building and sustaining the right balance also requires [ensuring] constant vigilance of readiness.”

Wright outlined a “reflection of efforts” to better build, support and transition service members, and noted recent military policy changes and accomplishments, such as women in combat units and same-sex partner benefits. She also presented an overview of programs in sexual assault prevention and response, suicide prevention, tuition assistance, transition assistance and military overseas voting.

Vollrath told the senators that as DOD transitions from more than a decade of war, it is challenged to manage a total force with significantly reduced funding while maintaining operational readiness and capability.

“Potential furloughs, a current hiring freeze and reduced end-strength will create additional challenges and reinforce the need take a hard look at our programs and priorities and implement reforms and initiatives that achieve … maintaining operational readiness during this period of fiscal uncertainty,” he said.

U.S. forces are globally postured to conduct counterterrorism, stability and deterrence operations, maintain a stabilizing presence, conduct training to enhance national security relationships, and provide crisis response to protect U.S. interests, Vollrath said.

“Regrettably, the impact of sequestration will likely reduce readiness,” he added, “through reductions in maintenance, operations and training, and indirectly through effects on the accessions and training for personnel and the production pipeline for equipment. This is especially worrisome, as it may take years to recognize the shortfall, and even longer to mitigate or correct.”

Vollrath said DOD’s specific concerns include managing stress on the force, the return to full-spectrum training, ongoing operations preparation, resetting equipment, and budget austerity and uncertainty.
“A high operational tempo over the past decade, coupled with the recent budget cuts, magnified the risk of an imposed mismatch between the size of our military force and the funding required to maintain readiness,” he said. In the next year, DOD will identify elements such as critical readiness deficiencies and risks, and identify and put in place mitigation options, he added.

Vollrath said the budgetary challenges that face DOD include active-duty recruiting and retention to sustaining the ROTC, military pay and benefits, basic housing and family programs.

As part of total force management, DOD is dedicated to a mix of active-duty service members and reservists, civilians and contracted services to give commanders the capabilities and readiness they require, he said.

“We will ensure that our total force is sized and shaped to perform the functions and activities necessary to enable our capabilities and achieve our missions,” Vollrath said.

DOD’s use of the reserve component over the last decade has created a “new normal,” and while a volatile international security environment persists, a constrained DOD budget for the foreseeable future will put more burdens on training, equipping, recruiting and retaining the total force in fiscal 2014 and beyond, Wightman told the subcommittee.

“The reserve component as part of the operational total force makes business sense” as a force multiplier to the active-duty force, he added.

Wightman told the panel that reserve recruitment continues to grow, and retention remains a high priority. “Success in recruiting is essential to maintain the strength necessary for the Reserve Components to achieve their assigned missions,” he said.

Wightman pointed out that DOD’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve office has a mission that is “particularly relevant in an era of increased reliance on the reserve component to conduct worldwide combat operations and provide humanitarian response.” But because of sequestration, he added, the awareness of vital ESGR programs for Guardsmen and reservists might decrease, in addition to ESGR’s efforts to ensure employers and their reserve component employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Wightman also emphasized the need for continued medical collaboration between DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department to fulfill “sacred responsibility of caring for those who have fought for our country,” he said.

“We need to reach an even deeper level of cooperation to better meet the needs of those who have served our nation in uniform, especially our wounded warriors,” he said. “It is a great priority for [personnel and readiness] to continue to strive to achieve our joint vision of a seamless ‘single system experience of lifetime services.’”

DOD and VA, he added, have made many important changes to the system of care for wounded warriors, service members, veterans and their families. “But clearly, there is considerably more work to be done, particularly to meet the needs of the post-9/11 generation of warriors,” he said.

Woodson told the senators that the health and medical readiness for service members’ deployment is a top priority, and he emphasized the importance of wounded warrior care. “We have a special obligation to our wounded warriors,” he added, “and their care will continue uninterrupted regardless of any fiscal challenges.”
But Woodson acknowledged that rising costs of the TRICARE health care plan, which began in 1996, are a serious challenge for DOD.

“Health care costs have grown substantially since 1996, while retirees’ families’ out-of-pocket expenses -- including enrollment fees, deductibles and cost shares -- [have] only grown by 30 to 40 percent,” he said.
DOD officials want to rebalance the cost share for working-age military retirees and make other cost-saving changes in the fiscal 2014 budget, he added. And even with those cost-saving adjustments, he added, TRICARE will remain one of the best medical benefits in the United States.

Woodson added that a series of strategic price reduction initiatives is underway that will save DOD about $60 million a year, and the department also is cutting administrative overhead costs in the Military Health System by streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary reports, studies and commissions, and initiating other actions that will result in more than $200 million in reduced personnel and contract costs each year.
As the hearing neared its end, Wightman summarized the Pentagon’s position.

“We must be vigilant in our efforts and resources to ensure that we provide all the necessary recruiting, training, support and transition tools for success,” he said. “The department is committed to our service members’ success. Whether it is on the battlefield, at home with their families, or after they have faithfully concluded their military service, we are committed to preparing service members for whatever challenges they may face from warrior to veteran. They deserve no less.”

The last F-4 departs Davis-Monthan

by Teresa Pittman
309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group Business Affairs

4/19/2013 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- The final F-4 regenerated from storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group performed its last flight over Tucson, Ariz., April 17, before heading to Mojave, Calif.

Aircraft 68-0599, an RF-4C Phantom, arrived at AMARG for storage on January 18, 1989 and had not flown since.

Eddie Caro, the crew chief assigned to the aircraft since December 2012, watched while the "Last One," the jet's call sign, taxied and launched from the Davis-Monthan AFB flightline.

Caro said he and the other maintenance professionals, who rebuilt the jet over the last year, were thrilled to watch the aircraft launch.

"It's a great feeling to see such a magnificent aircraft fly again to serve the warfighter," said Caro. "I have no doubt this jet will perform well as a full-scale aerial target. AMARG's maintainers dedicated thousands of hours, not to mention some blood, sweat and tears to this aircraft."

The "Boneyard" technicians re-installed hundreds of parts and performed thousands of hours of maintenance to return this jet back to flyable status. This aircraft represents the 316th F-4 withdrawn from storage in support of Air Combat Command's full-scale aerial target program.

BAE Systems will convert the aircraft into a QRF-4C drone and eventually deliver the jet to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

The successful delivery of "Last One" represents a significant milestone in AMARG's history and is a testament to AMARG's maintenance and flight test teams.

AMARG will continue to support the FSAT program's fourth generation of drones when they begin regeneration of the first F-16 Fighting Falcons for the drone program in June.