Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Air Combat Command Public Affairs

9/3/2013 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va., -- Two Air Combat Command senior non-commissioned officers who made potentially career ending decisions have come forward to share their stories as part of the "Every Airman Counts" program.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Parsons, ACC's command chief, found himself facing a potential court martial. His professional issues spilled over into his home life, affecting his wife and children.

"Much of what we face is normal, but we seem to think we are the only ones it has happened too. It is recoverable, we can turn things around," said Parsons. "Those who love you will forgive you if you truly commit to change."

He recalls dark days when he doubted his ability to recover from self-destructive decisions. In his mid-20s, upon graduating Army Ranger School, the fast-rising staff sergeant had been selected to lead a fire team and had flourished during Operation Desert Storm. After all these successes, he found himself facing a deferred promotion to technical sergeant, possible court-martial, and, potentially a divorce which would have affected his relation with his children.

He was an early adopter of the pillars of resilience, starting first with the spiritual pillar, which he cites as the most important pillar in his life.

"About a year into my assignment at Lackland AFB, my wife and I visited University Baptist Church," said Parsons. "A small group of people from the church would come to visit us and we soon were fully involved and growing in our faith. That is when I committed to reading the Bible daily."

His morning routine now includes working out, eating healthy, communicating with his family and focusing on the day ahead. In sharing his story, Parsons hopes to inspire Airmen to share their experiences, in order to build stronger ties as an Air Force family.

Today, CMSgt Parsons says he has a vibrant marriage and his family recently celebrated the marriage of his middle child. His career is successful according to most people's measure of success. He still guards himself from destructive behavior by relying on the spiritual, physical, social, and mental pillars of resilience.

Senior Master Sergeant Randall Renaud, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight superintendent at Langley Air Force Base, Va., has been sharing his story for some time. Following a DUI, court martial and full rank demotion from technical sergeant to staff sergeant, Renaud dedicated his time to rebuilding his reputation and focusing on how he could prevent fellow airmen from making the same mistake.

"I spoke with a dozen [First Term Airmen Center] classes and commander's calls at various squadrons to try to influence people not to do what I did, and think before you drink," he said.

Fourteen months after receiving the DUI and reconstructing his reputation, Renaud felt it was time to move on and volunteer for a new assignment.

"When you get an Article 15, there are two routes you can take: You can take the route where you give up, or you can take the route where you try to rebuild yourself," he said. "I wanted to take the route to rebuild myself, so I needed a fresh start. I took an assignment to Yokota Air Base, Japan."

Parsons and Renaud are participating in the Air Force initiative known as "Every Airman Counts."

To enable dialogue and spur resilience, the Air Force designed a blog to share ideas, collect suggestions, concerns, stories, and questions for Air Force leaders and SAPR officials. The SAPR blog site asks Airmen to make inputs on how the service can better combat sexual assault.

"We can't fix this issue sitting in the Pentagon," said Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force vice chief of staff. "We need each and every one of you to get engaged in addressing this issue... this crime, and it is a crime. We need to know exactly where you feel the issues are, so we can address them with laser focus. I need every one of you helping us find ways to ensure dignity and respect are prevailing qualities in our daily relationships."

Editor's Note: Benjamin Newell, Staff Sergeant Ashley Hawkins and the Air Force News Service contributed to this report.

CSAF outlines focus areas to Misawa Airmen

by Senior Airman Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/30/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from the 35th Fighter Wing here reveled in the opportunity to welcome Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III to the base Aug. 28.

In his first official visit as chief of staff, Welsh was candid and amicable while speaking with hundreds of Airmen during an Airman's call where he touched on key issues regarding the current state of the Air Force and the role of Misawa Air Base.

In particular, he highlighted the 35 FW Wild Weasels F-16 Fighting Falcons who perform the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses mission as "operationally outstanding."

"Everything I have seen here at Misawa has been fantastic," Welsh said. "The mission you do here is very important; it's the only unit in this theater that does this full time and the people here are really good at their job. The Air Force is about being a great team, and Misawa is a great microcosm of that."

As part of his two-week tour in the Pacific, Welsh has met with Airmen and families to discuss opportunities and challenges in the region, while also taking time to discuss issues with partner Airmen in Korea and Japan.

"The partnership with Japan and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force is very important to regional security," Welsh continued. "There are all kinds of people who trust each other, and that's what partnerships are all about. You live that every day, so thank you for that."

With a year under his belt as chief of staff, Welsh shared what he considers vial focus areas to ensure Air Force success moving forward -- common sense, communication and caring.

"Common sense has to be the first standard we apply every time," said Welsh. "If you find a standard that doesn't agree with common sense, it's wrong."

Earlier this year, the Air Force launched a campaign called "Every Dollar Counts" where Airmen and civilians were encouraged to submit money-saving ideas to a website over a 30-day period. At the end of the month, more than 11,000 ideas were submitted. The feedback was overwhelming and there were many great ideas, but one looming question left Welsh a bit rattled: Why do 11,000 Airmen feel like they have to go to a website to bring up a good idea?

"They don't feel like someone is going to listen and no one wants to rock the boat," he said. "Those are horrible reasons and we have to change them. We have to listen to our Airmen."

Welsh said one change he would like to see in the Air Force is the way we care for people. He said 22 years of consistent deployments has been taxing on Airmen, and more importantly, it has also worn out their families. With all the questions about funding and the future of the service, Welsh said it's a priority of his to put a focus on the people.

"The better we take care of them, the prouder they are to be in this business and wear this uniform," he said. "The more challenge they feel, the more likely they are to stay in. I don't want to lose Airmen, they're fantastic."

Welsh talked about how he would also like to see improvements made to enhance the effectiveness of communication, using the recent challenges with tuition assistance as an example.

Last year alone, around 104,000 Airmen were paid TA that totaled approximately $200 million. When TA was cut earlier in the year, thousands of service members were quick to express their displeasure, causing legislative action for the Air Force to transfer funds to reinstate the program. Welsh said what many people didn't understand was where this money was forced to come from. The Air Force was left with no option but to cease operations for two flying squadrons critical to air superiority for the remainder of the year.

"Our job is to fight and win the country's wars. There's only one option there, and that is to win," Welsh said. "If we lose the next war, nobody will care how well we treat our people. This information was out there, but we need to do a better job of communicating it to everyone."

But he foot stomped that communication also includes just listening to them.

"Every Airman has a story and each one is unique. But if you don't know the story, you can't lead the Airman," Welsh said.

He also hit on the status of sequestration and civilian furloughs, apologizing and defining the unfortunate developments as a breach of faith.

"Our civilians are critical to every mission area we have," he said. "We're doing everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again next year."

Airmen were provided the opportunity to ask the chief of staff questions in an open-floor format. Recurring questions were rightly centered on budget constraints and impacts of sequestration.

Welsh said both civilians and uniformed service members have felt the effects of budget cuts, and thanked everyone for their patience as Congress works through these big-picture issues.

"This is an unusual time; everyone is going to be affected financially, and we have to understand that," Welsh said. "We are going to get smaller as an Air Force. We have to focus on our core missions; they haven't changed since 1947 and that's who we are. Anything around the perimeter of that is going to go away."

Welsh finished by saying the Air Staff is working tirelessly to review and implement long-term programs across the board to provide stability to all those serving, and he expects to tangibly see the effects of many of these efforts in the coming months.

Partnership Mission Promotes Security, Capacity in West Africa

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2013 – More than 90 U.S. Marines set sail this weekend for a three-month mission along the West African coast – but for the first time in the Africa Partnership Station program, it was aboard a Dutch navy ship, alongside their counterparts from Holland, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Marine Corps Africa Partnership Station Security Cooperation Task Force personnel embark from the Royal Netherlands Navy landing platform dock HNLMS Rotterdam in Rota, Spain, Aug. 30, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis S. Alston

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The international task force departed Rota, Spain, early Aug. 31, aboard HNLMS Rotterdam, a Royal Netherlands Navy landing platform, reported U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Charles Watkins, security cooperation task force officer in charge for African Partnership Station 13.

Through the next three months, the crew will visit Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Benin, exercising security techniques and tactics with host-nation militaries, Watkins told American Forces Press Service during a telephone interview as the crew prepared to leave Rota.

The combined military engagements stem from Africa Partnership Station, one of U.S. Africa Command’s most successful programs. The international security cooperation initiative, established in 2007, aims to strengthen global maritime partnerships through training and shared activities.

The goal is to improve maritime safety and security along the Gulf of Guinea, Watkins explained. By building capacity among African partner nations, the mission increases their ability to strengthen their borders, control their territorial waters and crack down on illicit trafficking and other destabilizing activity.

Africa Partnership Station 13 includes a new dimension. Rotterdam, home ported in Den Helder, Netherlands, is supporting the mission under a companion capacity-building program called “African Winds.” The ship’s sailors will work with African partners to build capabilities in maritime activities such as visit, board, search and seizure; maritime operations center planning and execution; and small boat operations.

Meanwhile, the security cooperation task force will work with African ground forces to conduct amphibious landings and exchange best practices in jungle warfare, hand-to-hand combat, humanitarian assistance and noncombatant evacuations.

The 2nd Marine Division’s 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion from Camp Lejeune, N.C., is contributing the ground forces. The Marine Corps Reserve’s Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, headquartered at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is providing two UH-1N Huey helicopters and crews for the mission.

Watkins called the opportunity to help build capacity among African partners while working hand-in-hand with other NATO forces “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the participants.
Some have never deployed before, and Watkins said he personally was looking forward to his first deployment in a noncombat role.

“The main, driving force is relationship building,” he said. “We want to build relationships, not only among the NATO forces, but also among the African forces. So getting to work hand in hand with the Dutch, the Spanish and the Royal Marines is a huge thing.”

Africa Partnership Station 13 provides a forum to increase interoperability as participants work through the challenges of different languages, equipment and standard operating procedures, he said.
For example, as a pilot, Watkins described the challenges of landing a U.S. helicopter aboard a Dutch ship. The crews practiced the procedures they and their Dutch hosts had worked through during a planning conference in Amsterdam before departing Rota, he reported.

For participants aboard Rotterdam as well as in Africa, the mission “is an opportunity for all the Marines to work side by side, working on [standard operating procedures], sharing with our partners and learning from each other and learning how we can work better together,” Watkins said.

 That understanding, he said, strengthens their ability to mutually respond to a future crisis, if required.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa welcomed the Rotterdam’s contributions as an extension of Africa Partnership Station’s international collaboration.

“We are thankful for the U.S.-Dutch partnership, as well as the involvement of the U.K. and Spanish Marines, and our African partners as we collaboratively seek to enhance the security environment in Africa,” said Navy Capt. John B. Nowell Jr., deputy chief of staff for strategy, resources and plans. “African navies have made great strides to increase their maritime capabilities, and this iteration of APS sets the stage to further sharpen those skills.”

Other participants shared Nowell’s enthusiasm about the mission.

“The Royal Netherlands Navy recognizes the U.S. Africa Command APS program as the most effective way of gradually improving the West African maritime security environment,” said Dutch Marine Corps Col. Frederik R. Swart, commander of Netherland Landing Forces participating in the mission. “Also, working with an international marine task force enhances interoperability among all coalition forces involved.”

This year is the second time the Dutch Navy has contributed a major naval asset to Africa Partnership Station. HNLM Johan De Witt, a landing platform dock ship, participated in 2009.

“The U.K. sees this engagement as an excellent opportunity to contribute to the security of the West African maritime environment and to conduct some valuable cross training with African partners and members of the combined security cooperation task force,” agreed Royal Marines Maj. Anthony Liva, officer in charge of the Royal Marines’ Whisky Company of the 45 Commando aboard Rotterdam.
“Training will be progressive and focused,” Liva said. “I have no doubt that every nation involved in this initiative will benefit immensely.”

Hagel Urges Congress to Support Military Action Against Syria

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2013 – Emphasizing the need to protect U.S. national security interests, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today he supports President Barack Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization for the use of force in Syria.

Hagel joined Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in making the administration's case for the use of force in response to a large-scale sarin gas assault which the administration says was carried out by the Syrian government against its own people.

Explaining the rationale behind what he acknowledged was a difficult decision for the national security team, Hagel urged Congress to consider not only “the risks and consequences of action,” but also the consequences of inaction.

Hagel reiterated the president’s assertion that Syria’s use of chemical weapons represents “a serious threat to America's national security interests and those of our closest allies.” It poses a grave risk to partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, he said.

Even more concerning, he said, is the possibility that terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, which has forces in Syria supporting President Bashar Assad’s regime, could acquire and use them.

“This risk of chemical weapons proliferation poses a direct threat to our friends and partners and to U.S. personnel in the region,” Hagel said. “We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist group determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use chemical weapons.”

Syria’s actions risk eroding the nearly century-old international norm against the use of chemical weapons that has helped to protect the U.S. homeland and U.S. forces operating across the globe, the secretary said. Weakening that norm, he said, could embolden other regimes, such as North Korea, to acquire or use chemical weapons.

“Given these threats to our national security, the United States must demonstrate through our actions that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable,” Hagel said.

The military objectives in Syria would be “to hold the Assad regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks and deter the regime from further use of chemical weapons,” he said.

The Defense Department has developed military options to achieve these objectives and positioned U.S. assets throughout the region to successfully execute this mission, he reported. “We believe we can achieve them with a military action that would be limited in duration and scope,” he told the Senate panel.

Hagel said he and Dempsey have assured Obama that U.S. forces will be ready to act whenever the president gives the order.

Meanwhile, officials are working with U.S. allies and partners, he said. “Key partners, including France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and [other] friends in the region have assured us of their strong support for U.S. action,” he reported.

Hagel underscored that the military force would not be used to resolve the underlying conflict in Syria – an issue he said must be settled through a political solution by the Syrian people themselves. He noted that Kerry is leading international efforts to help the parties move toward a negotiated transition, and expressed a commitment to “doing more to assist the Syrian opposition.”

Military actions being contemplated would be tailored specifically to the use of chemical weapons, he assured the panel. “Assad must be held accountable for using these weapons in defiance of the international community,” he said.

In presenting the case for military action, Hagel urged the committee to recognize the consequences of not doing so.

“There are always risks in taking action, but there are also risks with inaction,” he warned. “The Assad regime, under increasing pressure by the Syrian opposition, could feel empowered to carry out even more devastating chemical weapons attacks” that he recognized make no distinction between combatants and innocent civilians.”

Refusing to act also would undermine the credibility of other U.S. security commitments, Hagel said, including Obama’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“The word of the United States must mean something,” the secretary said. “It is vital currency in foreign relations and international and allied commitments.”

Noting that he, Kerry and Dempsey all have served in uniform, Hagel said they have witnessed the “ugly realities” of conflict up close. “But we also understand that America must protect its people and its national interests,” he said. “That is our highest responsibility.”

Hagel called the decision to use military force “the most difficult decision America’s leaders can make,” and urged vigorous congressional debate on the issue.

“All of those who are privileged to serve our nation have a responsibility to ask tough questions before that commitment is made,” he said. “The American people must be assured that their leaders are acting according to U.S. national interests, with well-defined military objectives, and with an understanding of the risks and consequences involved.”