Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pacom Commander Credits Hawaii’s Role in Indo-Asia-Pacific Rebalance

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal Defense Media Activity - Hawaii

HONOLULU, January 16, 2016 — Speaking to local government officials, private sector representatives and military leaders, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command emphasized Hawaii’s importance in the future of the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater during an annual meeting for the local Military Affairs Council, Jan. 15.

Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris recognized the council and state leaders for their support in communicating how joint military forces in Hawaii support the national security strategy and ongoing Pacific rebalance initiative.

Harris said there is no doubt that the United States economic future is firmly tied to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and that everyone must work together to strengthen civil and military relationships and with other nations in the region.

“Due to the outstanding communications conducted by Governor Ige, Mayor Caldwell, Senators Schatz and Hirono, Representatives Gabbard and Takai, and all of our local-state officials, decision makers in Washington and throughout the region are well aware that Hawaii remains the gateway to America’s rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” Harris said.

Harris said the state’s role in supporting the rebalance -- Hawaii is the only place where all U.S. component commanders are geographically co-located -- allows forces to train and operate jointly and benefit from a face-to-face relationship, an advantage made largely possible because of the support from the state.

“This gives us an extraordinary advantage and it wouldn’t be possible without the continued dedication and support from Hawaii’s community, civic, and industry leadership,” Harris said. “In addition to our forces in Hawaii, the presence and capabilities we are bringing forward into this theater are commensurate with the challenges that we face.”

Defense Agreement

Harris sighted an example of strengthening security ties between the Philippines and the United States through an enhanced defense cooperation agreement.

“The agreement will facilitate the enhanced rotational presence of the U.S. military in the region, and support the long-term modernization of the armed forces of the Philippines,” Harris said. “This will enable the United States and the Philippines to continue supporting the international rules-based order that has served the region so well.”

Harris also emphasized that security and stability -- which the region has enjoyed -- can’t be taken for granted. Hawaii’s role to the rebalance will continue to support Pacom's commitment to the security and safety of the nation’s allies as possible threats in the region emerge.

“Security challenges such as North Korea threaten to destabilize the region and reverse the trends of transparency and prosperity that we’ve all enjoyed,” Harris said. “America is rebalancing to the Indo-Asia-Pacific to meet those challenges and reinforce the international rules-based order that has benefited the region for more than 70 years and Hawaii plays a critical role.”

SecAF speaks at CSIS for Smart Women, Smart Power series

By Senior Airman Hailey Haux, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / Published January 15, 2016

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as part of its Smart Women, Smart Power series Jan. 14.

SWSP launched in December 2014 and convenes top-level women leaders to discuss critical and timely issues in their respective fields, reflect on their professional experiences, and share ideas and insights.

With the 25th anniversary of the start of Desert Storm on Jan. 16, James recalled lessons she learned from that particular operation.

“I remember being in awe of the first time the fantastic combination of stealth and precision weaponry (was used), all of which was enabled by space,” James said. “That was the first time that the investments that had been made, in some cases a decade or two decades, actually came together on the battlefield and for the first time the world saw what the United States military could do in this new era.”

Among many things, James was asked about setting up no-fly zones in Iraq and Syria as well as the limits of the air campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“I would first tell you all, it’s very much a whole of government approach,” James said. “There are more than 60 countries involved with the coalition doing different aspects of the work and, of course, it’s a joint situation.

“But make no mistake; it has been very heavily the United States Air Force that has covered this air campaign,” she continued. “This is everything from striking the targets to the very important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the assets in space that enable everything that goes on. The strategy is we are going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

With technology being key in maintaining air superiority, the Air Force is focused on the Defense Department’s third offset strategy which is finding the next key technology that will help ensure the U.S. maintains the advantage over adversaries.

“Think of super computers that can crunch data and make sense out of different databases, I think that will be part of it,” James said. “I think another piece is likely to be, I’ll call it, human machine collaborations. Human interfaces with technology in different, new and creative ways.”

When asked about China and Russia’s hand in space, James said the Air Force is shifting people and resources toward space.

“We are going to start treating space the way we treat everything else in the U.S. military,” James continued. “That is, we need to get our heads around the fact that one day there could be a conflict on Earth that, in some way, bleeds into space. We are going to start experimentations, the various types of practice things that we do in other domains in the military to make sure that we can defend appropriately our constellation in space.”

At the conclusion of the event, James answered questions from the audience that ranged from maternity and paternity leave, women in combat roles, and the use of remotely piloted aircraft.

DESERT STORM: The Strike Eagle's opening act

by 2nd Lt. Ben Kolmer
4th Fighter Wing

1/15/2016 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Twenty five years ago, Saddam Hussein's forces rolled south through Kuwait and began massing on the Saudi Arabian border. While most of the world watched the news, the Airmen of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing sprang into action, employing a brand new weapon system, and ultimately playing a critical role in the events of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.

Though in the middle of transitioning from the F-4 Phantom II to the F-15E Strike Eagle, the 4th TFW was one of the first units called to the Middle East following Iraq's invasion. At this time, the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron Rocketeers were the only fully converted squadron flying the Strike Eagle. They, with select crews from the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron Chiefs, deployed on short notice to Seeb Air Base, Oman in August 1990. Here they trained and prepared to defend against what was, at that time, thought to be an inevitable push into Saudi Arabia by Saddam's forces.

As the world held its breath, the momentum the Iraqi forces enjoyed as they swept across Kuwait dissipated, and in December 1990, the squadrons moved to Al Kharj Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to be closer to the Iraqi border.

The Iraq of 1990-1991 was not the Iraq of today. In 1990, Iraq possessed one of the premier air defense networks in the world, and its' Republican Guard and armored divisions were widely respected, even feared. Defeating this military power would be no easy task, but the men and machines of the 4th TFW soon showed why they were the tip of the spear.

DESERT STORM began the evening of January 17, 1991. In the initial assault, or strike package, was 24 F-15Es, followed by another force of 21 Strike Eagles. Their targets were heavily defended Scud missile sites.

Before even reaching their targets, or having to evade and defeat enemy anti-aircraft artillery, or triple A, surface-to-air missiles, and aircraft, the crews accomplished what was described as equally dangerous as the mission itself - refueling at night and in bad weather with no lights.

Operating in radio silence, with no external lights and a minimum of electronic emissions, the strike package had the task of first finding the tankers and then successfully taking on the fuel needed to complete their mission. The tanker crews, afraid of being engaged by Iraqi warplanes, were operating without the indicator lights on the bottom of the aircraft that help receiving aircraft line up properly.

Capt. Jay Kreighbaum, a WSO with the 336th TFS said, "It took all of our concentration - it was totally black, no lights of any kind on the [darned] tanker. . . It was totally idiotic. They were surrounded by all these jets armed to the teeth and they were worried about being attacked by enemy fighters."

The strike package refueled without incident and pressed on to their objectives. As the first Strike Eagle reduced its target to small pieces, the sky went from night to day instantly.

Maj. Bill Polowitzer explained, "It's triple-A, and it's unbelievable! It looks like a waterfall, or like a wave of surf over our head. We're like inside a black tunnel with the stuff arcing over us. I can't believe the amount of fireworks. . . It looks like everything coming up is coming at you, and it's so lit up by the triple-A I'm visual on [my wingman] at seven o'clock, coming off the target."

In addition to destroying the Scud launchers and defending against AAA, Strike Eagle crews were also engaged by a total of three MiG 29s. One MiG 29 escaped, one was destroyed by a missile of unknown origin, and one flew into the ground during a low-level engagement. No Strike Eagles were lost. This hugely successful first night kicked off the campaign in a stunning fashion, but the crews' luck would not hold.

The next day, the 4th TFW's crew chiefs marshalled jets off for what the aviators described as the most difficult and dangerous mission of the war.

The target was a petrol, oil, and lubricant plant near Basrah, Iraq- a mission bearing uncanny resemblance to the ill-fated Ploesti raid in World War II. Heavily defended by a barrage of artillery, the Iraqi forces at Basrah claimed their first F-15E, killing Majs. Donnie Holland and Tom Koritz.

Shaken, angry, and determined, the war now felt personal for the crews.

Two nights later, another F-15E was downed, this time by an Iraqi SA-2 anti-aircraft missile. The crew, Col. Dave Eberly and Maj. Tom Griffith ejected and evaded capture for several days as they made their way across the desert toward the Syrian border. Desperate for water, they approached what they thought to be an abandoned house, but what turned out to be an Iraqi guard shack. The crew were taken and held as POWs until the war's end. This was the last Strike Eagle shot down in DESERT STORM.

Despite these losses, the 4th TFW, spearheaded by the Rocketeers and an increasing number of Chiefs, following full conversion from the F-4, continued to excel and conduct feats that exemplified the Fourth But First motto.

The Chiefs, despite their initial small numbers, flew 1,097 combat sorties, employing over 4.8 million pounds of ordnance. The Rocketeers flew 1,088 combat sorties, dropping more than 6 million pounds of bombs, and like the Chiefs, flew mostly at night.

The Chiefs hold the DESERT STORM distinctions of not only employing the first laser-guided bomb used in combat by the F-15E, but also claiming the first air-to-air victory in the Strike Eagle. For the first time ever, people back home could watch as a precision-guided weapon screamed down an airshaft, hit a precise window on a building, or flew through the front door of a hardened shelter. This level of accuracy and consistency harkened a new age of air to ground warfare, and proved that advanced technologies have a place on the modern battlefield. What once took an entire squadron of WWII bombers could now be accomplished by a single flight of F-15Es.

On Valentine's Day 1991, Capt. Tim Bennett and Maj. Dan Bakke, aviators from the (squadron) were tasked to aid a special forces team in trouble. Under AAA fire, the pair managed to put a GBU-10 laser-guided bomb onto a moving Iraqi Mi-24 Hind helicopter. The special forces team egressed successfully, and later estimated the Hind to be an elevation of 800 feet when the bomb impacted. To date, this is the only F-15E to score any air-to-air kills.

A ceasefire was signed March 1, 1991, and all Iraqi forces withdrew from Kuwait. The 42 days of intense and unrelenting combat fought by the 4th TFW during DESERT STORM was just another example of a tradition of excellence. Today, the Airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing continue the "Fourth But First" motto and take pride in a heritage that began with the Royal Air Force Eagle Squadrons of WWII and extends today through involvement in conflicts around the globe.

111th ATKW Honor Guard begins a new chapter

by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
111th Attack Wing Public Affairs

1/13/2016 - HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Penn. -- The 111th Attack Wing's rejuvenated honor guard conducted its initial run-through Jan. 9, at the base basketball court here.

During the opening exercise, the 17-member team assembled to learn basic movements under the watchful eye of Senior Master Sgt. John Heidrick, 111th ATKW Honor Guard NCO in charge.

The Pennsylvania ANG installation has been undergoing sweeping changes in recent years, from airframe withdrawal to mission restructuring, and the honor guard has followed suit. While still steeped in tradition, these modernizations serve to ensure the Wing remains relevant in today's military and distinguishes its members as critical players in many realms of military involvement: combat, humanitarian and symbolic.

"We're standing up new missions, like the [remotely-piloted aircraft] mission, and reinventing the honor guard, but we also have a very rich heritage that I think we have a responsibility to honor," said 1st Lt. Gordon Beecroft, the 111th Operations Support Squadron chief of intelligence operations and the honor guard's officer in charge. "From the honor guard's perspective, the men and women who have served over the last 90-plus years here still deserve respect, whether it's veterans who retired in the past 10 years or veterans who retired 30 years ago."

Beecroft continues by saying that the honor guard here wants to uphold that legacy, while at the same time, have the opportunity to shape their own future. That future lay upon the shoulders of less-experienced Guardsmen being trained by veteran members.

"The younger members bring enthusiasm and passion right out of the gate," said Beecroft. "We see that they have a desire to execute those maneuvers and it brings youthfulness and energy to the group."

For the new honor guard members, being green might be a key to exemplifying the blue of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

"I think [younger members] bring a fresh role to honor guard," said Airman 1st Class Phillip Justus, a 111th ATKW Communications Flight network administrator and new base honor guard member. "We can inspire younger people when we're in the public spotlight...we're representing military youth at events."

Heidrick has been an honor guard member for 17 years, serving as NCOIC for 11 years. Like Beecroft, he sees the future of the 111th ATKW Honor Guard in the new faces that appeared at that first training.

Heidrick said that the idea of being part of something bigger then oneself, as well as the gratification obtained from being part of the prestigious honor guard, is what attracts younger members. He also pointed out that the new members help to refine the skills of more seasoned members.

"They're brand new," he said. "Everyone who's been on the honor guard before has had to reach back to the basics to start from ground zero again and build up. Now that we have a lot of new members in, we're all training the same. And when you train the same, you perform the same - the flow is there. These younger members are our fresh start."

Southcom Responsible for Wide Range of Missions

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

MIAMI, January 15, 2016 — From interdicting illicit drugs, conducting counterterrorism missions, fighting human trafficking, responding to humanitarian crises, to training with regional partners, a typical mission at U.S. Southern Command is anything but typical.

The command is vitally important to the United States and in promoting peace and stability in its area of responsibility, Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd said yesterday after taking command of Southcom.

"U.S. Southern Command has been safeguarding the interests of our nation for well over five decades," the admiral said, following the ceremony at Southcom's headquarters here.

The command is responsible for U.S. military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, an area of that covers more than 16 million square miles.

One of the five geographic combatant commands, its priorities are building partner capacity and security cooperation, contingency response, detainee operations in Guantanamo, countering transnational organize crime, and promoting democracy.

Partnerships Key to Success

Southcom works extensively with interagency and regional partners to successfully execute its many missions, noted Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The command conducts multi-national exercises, and is ready to respond to crises and contingencies, including natural disasters, mass migration or an attack on critical infrastructure, the chairman said.

Dunford described a scenario to illustrate the many areas of cooperation:

Joint Interagency Task Force - South might learn of a suspicious vessel in international waters off the coast of Panama. From there, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft might be tasked with locating the vessel in international waters.

Then, the vessel might sprint into Panama's territorial waters, dumping its bales of cocaine along the way. A Coast Guard cutter with Drug Enforcement Administration agents on board might seize the drugs while Panamanian officials intercept the vessel and make arrests.

"In another area of responsibly, that kind of coordination and cooperation might be remarkable," the chairman said. "In the United States Southern Command, it's just another day."

Unique Mission, Unique Personnel

Southcom, through its personnel and wide-ranging missions, is unique among combatant commands, according to Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, who relinquished command of Southcom yesterday.

"It takes a ... unique set of talents to operate here in this part of the world," he said, noting that amongst its personnel, Southcom counts diplomats, human rights advocates and social and economic developers.

The command is comprised of five components and three joint task forces and employs about 1,200 permanently assigned military and civilian personnel.

The dedicated personnel should receive the credit for all the successes of the command, Kelly said. "They have made a difference, not only for our country, but for our partner nations," he noted.