Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Northcom Protects Nation from Natural, Man-made Threats, Commander Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2017 — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is demonstrating his intent as he pushes his country to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, said Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson at the Women in Defense Conference here today.

Robinson, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said North Korea has made alarming progress in just the short time she has helmed the Colorado Springs-based command.

Kim “has tested 30 percent more than his father and grandfather did combined,” she said. “We look at the speed and rapidity of the testing and he is not afraid to fail in public. We should worry -- and I know we are.”

The command tracks his capabilities and capacities, Robinson said. These demonstrate the North Korean leader’s intent, she explained. “As the commander of U.S. Northern Command, I can tell you today, I am confident in our ability to defend the United States. But that doesn’t mean we stop here.”

The command needs to continue to work on better sensors, more reliable kill vehicles and better ground-based interceptors, Robinson said.

Keeping an Eye on Competitors

Defending the nation is more, of course, than simply worrying about North Korea, she said. Robinson must keep abreast of Russian and Chinese capabilities. She must be cognizant of capabilities in other countries like Iran.

And, she said, the command must be ready on a moment’s notice to provide aid to local and state authorities when called upon.

The last few months have tested Northcom’s resources and adaptability. Hurricanes have hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Louisiana. Forest fires hit Washington, Oregon, California and other western states. In each of these events, the command has been leaning forward, Robinson said, but stressed the command is not the lead agency for the responses. Rather, she said, it supports federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Robinson told the audience that this was a new mission to her, as she seldom worked in a defense support to local authorities capacity before. She said that soon after she took command, she participated in Exercise Ardent Sentry, which was based on the scenario of an an earthquake along the I-5 corridor in the western United States. “It taught me a lot about the Department of Homeland [Security] and FEMA as well as the National Guard and other instruments of national power to help a governor confronting national disasters,” she said. “This was new to me.”

She praised the team handling local support at her headquarters and at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “have been incredibly on point with this, [saying] ‘You just tell us what you need and we will make it happen,’” she said.

The command has been shipping generators, water and food into Puerto Rico and will send whatever is needed as more areas open, Robinson said.

Airmen Keeping Hurricane Relief Supplies Flowing to the Caribbean

By Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Smith, Air National Guard Training and Education Center

SAVANNAH, Ga., Sept. 27, 2017 — Air National Guard airmen with the 165th Air Terminal Operations Center at Savannah Air National Guard Base here were operating around the clock this week to send disaster relief to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Savannah Airmen moving relief supplies around the clock

About 16 airmen began 12-hour shifts for handling air cargo out of Savannah shortly after the islands' devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria became known.

National Guard Bureau officials reported today that more than 3,000 National Guard airmen and soldiers were assisting in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The National Guard airlift into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is focused on the transport of life-sustaining supplies, helicopters, security forces and engineers, officials at the National Guard Bureau said.

"Every one of these guys is a traditional guardsman, and I just called them, and they said, 'Yeah, I'll help out,'" said Georgia Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Weaver, air cargo superintendent. "They weren't tasked, they just volunteered."

The air terminal operations center is coordinating with incoming and outgoing Air National Guard units from across the nation. More help is on the way to handle the massive flow of water, meals ready to eat, equipment, and other material requested. Air-cargo specialists from the 167th Airlift Wing in West Virginia were also activated and will arrive here soon to set up the second cell.

Cargo In, Cargo Out

Forklifts took 38 pallets, totaling 38,000 pounds of meals, ready to eat off of a flatbed trailer on yesterday morning. They carried them into the staging hanger. As soon as that trailer offloaded, another truckload of cargo arrived.

"It's quite the experience," said Georgia Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Austin Duvverly, an air transportation specialist with the 165th Air Terminal Operations Center, who was hustling to direct forklifts to square metal skids. He wrapped cargo with sheets of plastic and then secured it with netted straps.

They explained that the skids get weighed, recorded and positioned near the flight line. Forklifts wheel the skids out to awaiting aircrew on Air National Guard aircraft.

"It's a good feeling know that I can help send some support down there, especially when they have no power," Duvverly said.

One of the aircraft that departed Sept. 25 from Savannah was a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and aircrew from the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s 143rd Airlift Wing to support several hurricane relief airlift missions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The mission included transporting pallets of water and MREs to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the transport of NBC Nightly News reporter Lester Holt and his news team to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and several shuttle missions between the islands.

"The continued response and commitment from the airmen of the 143d Airlift Wing has been remarkable," said Rhode Island Air National Guard Col. Michael Comstock, 143rd Airlift Wing vice commander, "The ‘Rhode Warriors’ continue to support back-to-back relief operations and remain at the ready for whatever is required of them. We are extremely proud of our team and the Air National Guard's outstanding effort."

Also, a team of six airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing that deployed to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is the latest in the Wisconsin National Guard's ongoing response to the hurricanes that have affected the United States over the past month.

Joint Incident Site Communications Capability

The 115th Fighter Wing's Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, or JISCC, deployed to Puerto Rico Sept. 23, marking the first time the specialized unit has deployed for a real-world emergency.

"The airmen who volunteer to be part of the JISCC team are highly trained experts of cyber systems and cyber transport operators who are always ready to rapidly deploy," said Wisconsin Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jaime Denner, a member of the 115th Fighter Wing’s JISCC. "It provides incident site communications support for areas with no network, telephone or radio interoperability to the responding military and non-military emergency responders for both natural and man-made disasters."

According to Denner, the overall mission of the JISCC is to provide satellite communications, radio interoperability of multiple commercial and tactical radio systems delivering high-bandwidth connectivity even where the infrastructure is severely damaged.

The National Guard developed the JISCC concept after learning valuable lessons from the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which exposed the need for a more robust communications capability in the wake of major disasters. The 115th Fighter Wing implemented its JISCC five years ago and members of the team have been training for a real-world opportunity to respond ever since.

Wisconsin Air National Guard Maj. Keith Hofkens, commander of the 115th Fighter Wing Communications Squadron, said the airmen were excited to have the opportunity to serve fellow Americans in their time of need.

"The exciting thing about domestic operations support, like what we are currently doing with the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and even locally in Wisconsin after a tornado or flood, is that it puts our airmen at the tip of the sword from an operational standpoint," Hofkens said. "To see the smile and excitement on their faces when getting called up for DOMOPS, and what it's providing in a role of support for our neighbors, families and fellow Americans is something special. It's why we joined and continue to put the uniform on."

The teams could be gone as long as 45 days with the possibility of extending, but they are prepared to stay as long as needed fulfilling their role as the nation's first military responder in times of emergency.
(The Rhode Island National Guard and Wisconsin National Guard contributed to this article.)

Marine Corps Base Wins Recreation Management Award

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 27, 2017 — One of four nominated Defense Department installations was recognized today as the winner of the 2017 National Gold Medal Grand Plaque Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management for the armed forces during a ceremony in New Orleans, Louisiana, yesterday, defense officials said.

The morale, welfare and recreation program at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, was recognized for its excellence during the general session of the annual conference of the National Recreation and Park Association, a national not-for-profit organization committed to the advancement of public parks, recreation and conservation.

“By receiving this prestigious award, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point has demonstrated a commitment to excellence,” said Chris Nunes, president of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration.

“It is an honor to be the 2017 NRPA Armed Forces Gold Medal winner. The hard work and dedication the entire team puts in daily is paramount in supporting the mission of the installation to include offering wonderful recreational facilities and ensuring conservation efforts are maintained, just to name a few,” said Kimberly Johnston of Semper Fit. “Marine Corps Community Services, Cherry Point is thrilled to be recognized at the NRPA conference.”

Armed Forces Recreation Gold Medal Award

The Armed Forces Recreation Gold Medal Award, founded in 2012 and given by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association, recognizes the contributions of military recreation providers and the work they do among service members, their families, other patrons and local communities.

The Gold Medal Awards program honors communities throughout the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition.

Three other installations were nominated alongside Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for the gold medal this year:

-- Fort Carson, Colorado;

-- Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California; and

-- Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine