Friday, May 18, 2018

Face of Defense: Airman Draws Inspiration From Vietnam Veteran

By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle, 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard

MARTINSBURG, W. Va -- Forty-three years ago, as the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong took over the South Vietnam capital city of Saigon, thousands of refugees fled their home country and the communist government.

Many found their way to the United States.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Thompson’s mother was one of those refugees.

Thompson, an electronic integrated systems mechanic for the 167th Airlift Wing’s communications, countermeasures and navigation systems section here, said his mother’s journey to the United States started with one member of the Air Force who sponsored her, her two sisters, and their mother.

It was that one airman who inspired Thompson to join the military as a member of the West Virginia Air National Guard.

Making a Difference

“There is a whole family tree over here that wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t done what he did,” Thompson said. “I’ve never forgotten the difference one member of the military made on our family and I always hoped that if I joined I would make a difference in someone else’s life.”

In April 1975, two years after the U.S. had pulled combat troops out of Vietnam, it became clear that the communist party would take over South Vietnam. Americans, as well as Vietnamese who were deemed at-risk if they remained in the country, were evacuated en masse.

Thompson said his mother, not quite a teenager then, recalls the evacuation.

“She remembers them frantically loading people onto a C-130 and then high-tailing it out of there as fast as they could. They [and] the plane, were being actively attacked from the ground when they were leaving,” he said.

Settling in West Virginia

Without the sponsorship of that one member of the military, a man who befriended his grandmother in Vietnam, it’s unlikely his family would have made it out of the country and to the small town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where they settled after leaving their home.

Thompson said his grandmother went to work in a factory to provide for her daughters and eventually bought a house.

“She made sure that her kids got the opportunity to learn the language, get an education and go to college,” he said. “My mom and her sisters all went on to raise their own families and live comfortable lives. They have so much more here than they ever would’ve had if they stayed in Vietnam.”

Thompson said he had always hoped to join the military, but his mother, because of her experiences in Vietnam, tried to dissuade him.

Instead, she pushed him to focus on his studies and to perform well in school.

“I think I had a very strict upbringing but compared to what she went through, my childhood was a vacation. I only had to worry about doing chores and homework. She had to worry about dodging landmines on the way to school. It puts things into perspective,” he said.

School, Joining the Military

When Thompson graduated from high school in 2003, he chose to study engineering.

“In high school, I thought about all of the jobs that really make a difference and as I narrowed down the list it became engineering or the military. I saw both as having end results that make a difference,” Thompson said.

Thomas attended engineering school in Flint, Michigan, and then moved to Chicago during his last two years of college for an internship at a large wealth management firm.

After completing college and the internship, he said he felt unfulfilled and the call to serve his country had not quieted.

Thompson left Chicago, returned home, and told his mother he was joining the military.

His mother’s views on the military had softened by this time. She had taken a job at a bank, which was located on the 167th Airlift Wing’s installation at the time, and got to know many of the members of the wing.

Thompson said a former first sergeant for the 167th Logistics Readiness Squadron and family friend helped him transition into the wing.

“Chip Palmer told me I should go into avionics. He told me what I should do and I trusted him. He was right,” Thompson said.

After nearly ten years in the career field, he said he still enjoys his job.

“We get the ball rolling here so that stuff can happen out there,” Thompson said, in explaining how his job here at the wing ensures deployed airmen and soldiers get the supplies and equipment they need.
“I know that someone out there is making a difference because I’m doing my job here,” Thompson said. “And I can see that clear line between me and them.”

U.S. Marines, British Commandos Train Together at Exercise Red Dagger

By Marine Corps Sgt. Melanie A. Wolf, Marine Forces Reserve

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- Marines with 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, are partnering with British army engineers from the 131 Commando Squadron during Exercise Red Dagger that began here May 12.

The reserve Marines supporting this fifth iteration of training are based out of five locations: Portland, Oregon; Battle Creek, Michigan; Peoria, Illinois; Folsom, Pennsylvania; and Millington, Tennessee.

"Every year we alternate where the integrated training between the Marines and commandos will take place," said Marine Corps Maj. Timothy B. McGovney, company commander of Exercise Red Dagger, 6th ESB. "This year happens to be at Fort Indiantown Gap.”

Ideal Training Environment

Fort Indiantown Gap is an ideal training environment as it provides the Marines and British commandos a perfect area to enhance their skills, officials said. This year’s exercise concludes May 25.

“We are really looking forward to making the most out of the facilities the Marines have here in the United States and particularly the built-up urban environment on Fort Indiantown Gap,” said British army 2nd Lt. David A. Grant, support troop commander, 131 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers.

The U.S. Marines and British commandos have plans to conduct combat pistol training, offensive and defensive military operations on urbanized terrain, or MOUT, and a series of vertical and horizontal engineering and welding projects.

The first half of the two-week exercise will consist of a series of ranges and tactical instruction.

Rifle Marksmanship Training

“We will be teaching rifle marksmanship with the M16’s, M4’s and M9’s,” McGovney said. “Tables five and six, which are short range engagements, will be conducted both during the day and then again at night with the night operations and night vision goggles.”

While integrating the Marines and British commandos into four platoons, they will give all junior-ranking officers a chance to be involved and lead the platoons.

“Two of the platoon commanders are Marine lieutenants,” McGovney said. “The other two platoons will have British commando equivalents as their platoon commanders.”

Even though the troops do not share the same procedures, equipment and tactics, they are able to learn from each other’s knowledge.

"We are learning exactly how they would employ their own weapons, under what conditions they may use their weapons, and how they maintain dispersion in a tactical environment with the gear and equipment they have,” McGovney said of his British counterparts.

Half of the training will provide opportunities for the engineers and metal workers to practice their field craft.

Engineering Projects

“The second half of this exercise is the engineering projects, where we will be putting up vertical siding construction pieces and installing new flooring in an old World War II barracks,” McGovney explained. “We also have plans for our heavy equipment operators to dig trenches at a local range, to practice survivability positions within a tactical environment.

The British commandos said they appreciate the opportunity to train with the Marines and they look forward to learning how to use the Marines’ weapons, equipment, and tactics.

“This exercise will be a big skill exchange,” Grant said. “It will create a wider appreciation of what each individual unit does and enhance our skills.”

“These are our allies across the Atlantic and we want to be able to go into theater with them and be able to operate, whether adjacently, joint, or bilaterally,” McGovney said of his British partners. It’s important to continue this integrated training in order to shoot, move and communicate together. Both nations have different capabilities and equipment that we can bring to the table to accomplish the same mission.”

Air Force Budget Request Builds on Momentum, Addresses Great Power Competition

By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON --  The Air Force’s fiscal year 2019 budget request builds on momentum to restore the force after years of funding uncertainty and addresses the challenges from a great power competition, Air Force leaders said today.

The budget request is well-aligned with the National Defense Strategy and recognizes the international security environment is more competitive and dangerous than it has been in decades, Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.

“We’ve returned to an era of great power competition, and that great power competition is the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity,” she said.

Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein testified on the Air Force’s fiscal year 2019 funding request and budget justification at a Senate Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee hearing.

Air Force Focuses on ‘Bold Moves’

Key areas addressed in the budget request include readiness, people, nuclear deterrence, modernization, space superiority, multidomain command and control, air superiority, light attack, and science and technology, Wilson and Goldfein pointed out.

In addition, it prioritizes long-term competition with China and Russia, they noted.

The request focuses on continuing the efforts to restore the readiness of the force to allow the U.S. to “win any fight, any time,” and includes “bold moves” to address evolving global security challenges, Wilson said.

The first of the bold moves is accelerating defendable space to “deter and defend and prevail against anyone who seeks to deny our free use of space in crisis conflict,” the Air Force secretary said. The second bold move focuses on multidomain operations, she told the panel.

“Future wars will be won by those who observe, orient, decide, and act faster than adversaries in an integrated way across domains -- land, sea, air, space and cyberspace,” Wilson and Goldfein explained in their joint written statement.

Importance of Predictable Funding

Goldfein highlighted the need for predictable funding and warned against returning to sequestration and its arbitrary cuts. The Air Force, he explained, is still recovering from the damage from the 2013 sequestration.

The budget request of $156.3 billion for fiscal year 2019 – a 6.6 percent overall increase from the fiscal year 2018 request -- builds on the progress made in 2018 to restore the readiness of the force, increase lethality and cost-effectively modernize, Wilson and Goldfein explained.

They thanked lawmakers for their support and for providing predictable funding. President Donald J. Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill in March that includes a $160 billion boost in defense spending over two years, reversing years of decline and uncertain funding.

Defending the Homeland

The Air Force, with its 670,000 military and civilian members, understands it must defend the homeland and allies with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, Goldfein noted.

“We also understand that we are expected to own the high ground with air and space superiority, freedom to maneuver and freedom from attack,” he said. “We’re expected to project America’s military power forward with our allies and partners as we bring global vigilance, global reach and global power for the joint team.”

In their joint statement, Wilson and Goldfein said in light of global trends and intensifying pressure from major challengers, the Air Force’s relative advantage in air and space is eroding in a number of critical areas.

“The projected mismatch between demand and available resources has widened,” they said, underscoring the importance of funding for Air Force priorities.

“Any American weakness emboldens competitors to subvert the rules-based international order and challenge the alliance and partnership network that underpins it,” they said.