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Navy Identifies Missing Hornet Pilot

Sun, 2014-09-14 00:00

The Navy today announced it has identified Lt. Nathan Poloski as the missing F/A-18C Hornet aviator and declared him presumed deceased.

Poloski, 26, hailed from Lake Arrowhead, California.

On Sept. 12, Poloski was involved in an apparent collision between the F/A-18C Hornet he was flying and another Hornet aircraft during routine flight operations in the western Pacific Ocean. The other pilot involved in the incident was rapidly located and received medical attention.

After an extensive search, the Navy yesterday ended search-and-rescue efforts for Poloski.

A 2009 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Poloski reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 94, based in Lemoore, California, in April, 2014.

"Nathan was an outstanding person, naval officer and aviator," said Navy Cmdr. Michael Langbehn, the commanding officer of Poloski’s squadron. "My personal thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends and shipmates as they endure this immeasurable loss."

Following the apparent collision the Navy conducted an extensive search for Poloski, covering more than 3,000 square miles using the USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett, USS Dewey, helicopters assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73, P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Guam, and satellite imagery.

The search was unable to locate or recover any remains of the missing aviator.

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, Carrier Air Wing 17, and USS Carl Vinson will hold a memorial service on board USS Carl Vinson to honor the life and service of Lt. Poloski at a date and time to be determined.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.
 

Onlookers Salute ‘Old Glory’ at Fort McHenry

Sun, 2014-09-14 00:00

Visitors and special guests watched today as members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), with the help of War of 1812 re-enactors, hoisted a 15-star, 15-stripe, full-size replica Star-Spangled Banner flag over Fort McHenry here at the “By Dawn’s Early Light” flag-raising ceremony.

Star-Spangled Banner replica

At precisely 9 a.m., guns blasted and the crowd of onlookers fell silent as service members raised a 30-foot by 42-foot replica of the flag that 200 years ago inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” which would later become America’s national anthem.

“It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this historic site and historic city of Baltimore as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our Star-Spangle Banner,” said former Secretary of State and retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, the event’s guest speaker.

The American flag is “a piece of cloth I have loved all my life and have served under for over 40 years,’ Powell added.

Celebrating history

The special ceremony capped a weeklong series of events at the fort for Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Spectacular, a celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore and the national anthem.

The fort played host to a number of special events and activities including commemorative ceremonies, living history demonstrations and interpretive programs during the Star-Spangled Spectacular.

The city’s celebration, which concludes Sept. 16, also includes visits by more than 30 ships from the U.S. and foreign nations, as well as an airshow performance by U.S. Navy's Blue Angels.
 

President Slates Commanders’ Meeting at Centcom

Sun, 2014-09-14 00:00

President Barack Obama is slated to visit U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Sept. 17.

Centcom’s area of responsibility includes 20 countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia, including Iraq and Syria.

At Centcom, the president will receive a briefing from his top commanders, and thank the men and women who will partner with others in the region to carry out the counterterror strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL.

Following the president’s meetings, he will deliver a statement to the press.
 

Dr. Biden Cheers-on Athletes at Invictus Games

Sat, 2014-09-13 00:00

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, traveled to London to cheer on Team USA athletes as they compete in the 2014 Invictus Games.

More than 400 competitors from 14 nations are participating in the inaugural Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded warriors to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their countries.

Games named after English poet’s work

The games are named after William Earnest Henley’s 1875 poem titled “Invictus,” which he wrote while recovering from an intensive surgery that saved his second leg from being amputated. The games, which are taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, began Sept. 10 and run through tomorrow.

The United States is one of 14 teams participating, and includes 98 military athletes: 22 from the Army, 20 from the Marine Corps, 22 from the Navy, 22 from the Air Force and 12 from U.S. Special Operations Command. Of the service members, 53 are active duty and 45 are veterans.

Praising athletes’ energy, spirit, resilience

Team USA’s athletes “are incredible,” Dr. Biden told NBC “Today” show host Lester Holt this morning.

She praised the athletes’ “energy, and their positive spirit and their resilience.”

“They make Americans so proud,” she added.

Meeting Prince Harry

Dr. Biden watched some basketball at the Invictus Games today with Britain’s Prince Harry.

After attending the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Prince Harry was inspired to host an international adaptive sports event in the United Kingdom. The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who holds the rank of captain and continues to serve in Britain's armed forces, announced the 2014 Invictus Games in March.

Dr. Biden commented on Prince Harry's role in founding the Invictus Games. The prince, she said, “saw our Warrior Games in Colorado, and so now he's brought it to a global scale, and we have 14 countries and 400 athletes competing and it's been great.”

Pre-games barbecue for USA athletes

Last week, Dr. Biden and the Vice President hosted a barbecue for Team USA athletes at their Naval Observatory home in Washington, D.C. In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Biden told the athletes that the barbecue “is not just a way to celebrate your achievements in making the U.S. Team; it is also a small way of saying thank you -- to our heroes -- thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

“You inspire me ... you inspire all Americans,” she added.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden launched the “Joining Forces” initiative that supports U.S. service members, military veterans, and their families.
 

Navy Suspends Search for Hornet Jet Pilot

Sat, 2014-09-13 00:00

After an extensive search, the Navy today has ended search-and-rescue efforts for the pilot of one of the F/A-18C Hornet aircraft that crashed Sept. 12 approximately 250 nautical miles off the coast of Wake Island.

The pilot assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 has been presumed deceased.

"This is an exceptionally difficult time for the friends and family of the missing pilot and the Navy community," said Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. "We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy."

The identity of the pilot will not be released until the family notification process is complete.

Navy units involved in the search-and-rescue efforts included USS Carl Vinson, USS Bunker Hill, USS Gridley, USS Sterett, and USS Dewey, along with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73 and P-8s from Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 5 in Guam.

The two F/A-18C aircraft, one assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 and the other assigned to VFA 113, had launched from the flight deck and were in the process of proceeding to their initial stations when they apparently collided approximately seven miles from the ship.

One pilot was recovered by helicopter shortly after the crash and transported to USS Carl Vinson for medical care. The rescued pilot has since been released from medical facilities aboard the ship.

VFA 94 and VFA 113, both based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, are part of Carrier Air Wing 17, assigned to the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.
 

Airstrikes Hit ISIL Near Mosul Dam

Sat, 2014-09-13 00:00

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq, employing attack aircraft to conduct two airstrikes yesterday in support of Iraqi security forces near the Mosul Dam.

In total, the strikes destroyed an ISIL mortar emplacement and an ISIL armed vehicle. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

These strikes were conducted under authority to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts, and support Iraqi forces acting in furtherance of these objectives while defending their country against ISIL terrorists.

U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 160 airstrikes across Iraq.
 

President Discusses ‘Relentless’ Campaign Against ISIL

Sat, 2014-09-13 00:00

In his weekly address issued today, President Barack Obama discussed the strategy of his “targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground.”

The American public, the president said in his address, “can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort.”

Here is the text of the president’s address:

As Commander in Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. And I’ve made it clear that those who threaten the United States will find no safe haven. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, we took out Osama bin Laden, much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaders of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. We’ve prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure.

Today, the terrorist threat is more diffuse, from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists -- like ISIL in Syria and Iraq. As I said this week, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against our homeland. But its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States. And, if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States. So we’re staying vigilant. And we’re moving ahead with our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization.

To meet a threat like this, we have to be smart. We have to use our power wisely. And we have to avoid the mistakes of the past. American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone. And the best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East. That wouldn’t serve our interests. In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more.

What’s needed now is a targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We’re moving ahead with our campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists, and we’re prepared to take action against ISIL in Syria as well. The additional American forces I’ve ordered to Iraq will help Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the training, intelligence and equipment they need to take the fight to these terrorists on the ground. We’re working with Congress to expand our efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition. We’ll continue to strengthen our defenses here at home. And we’ll keep providing the humanitarian relief to help Iraqi civilians who have been driven from their homes and who remain in extreme danger.

Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition. This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against ISIL, including aspects of the military campaign. Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. And retired Marine general John Allen -- who during the Iraq war worked with Sunnis in Iraq as they fought to reclaim their communities from terrorists -- will serve as our special envoy to help build and coordinate our growing coalition.

Today, every American can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort. When our airstrikes helped break the siege of the Iraqi town of Amerli [Ah-MER-lee], one Kurdish fighter on the ground said, “It would have been absolutely impossible without the American planes.” One resident of that city said -- “Thank you, America.”

Today we’re showing the world the best of American leadership. We will protect our people. We will stand with partners who defend their countries and rally other nations to meet a common threat. And here at home -- thirteen years after our country was attacked -- we continue to stand tall and proud. Because we’re Americans. We don’t give in to fear. We carry on. And we will never waver in the defense of the country we love.
 

JCS Chairman Hosts 3rd Facebook Town Hall

Thu, 2014-09-04 00:00

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed many issues during his third Facebook Town Hall today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey logged onto his account from his E-Ring office in the Pentagon and answered questions from a wide spectrum of Americans and discussed several topics, including Russia, Iraq, Syria, the Asia-Pacific region, and why Americans should serve in the military.

Dempsey said he enjoys the opportunity to speak directly to people via Facebook.

Helpful interaction on Facebook

“It’s always helpful to me to gauge what Americans are concerned about and to get a sense of what they feel is important,” the general said during a pause in the action.

Afghanistan led off the Town Hall. The chairman returned from one of his periodic visits to the country last month and said there is progress in Afghanistan, especially with the Afghan national security forces.

“During each visit, I see growing confidence among the ANSF, our coalition, and an incredible willingness to sustain gains and mature institutions,” he said.

Resilient and capable Afghan forces

Afghan forces have proven to be resilient and capable, the chairman said.

Yet, “while Afghanistan is headed in the right direction toward a fully-functioning inclusive government, the path is neither a straight line nor is it short,” Dempsey said.

U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, he said, include disrupting al-Qaida, supporting Afghan forces, and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed on their own.


Radical, brutal ISIL terrorists

Many people asked the chairman about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The terror group’s avowed goal is to recreate the ancient kingdom of Sham, which once ruled the land that now makes up Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait.

“ISIL is radical in its ideology, brutal in its tactics, and closed to all but those who adhere to their narrow and exclusive world view,” Dempsey said. “Freedom is antithetical to ISIL and that’s what makes them dangerous. The U.S. military considers ISIL an immediate threat initially to the region, our partners, and to the United States of America in the longer term.”

The U.S. military has developed a strategy with a series of options on how to initially contain, continue to disrupt, and ultimately defeat ISIL, the chairman said.

“While the military will certainly be part of this fight, there is no military-only solution, and it cannot be accomplished unilaterally,” he said. “ISIL will be defeated when the populations on which they have imposed themselves reject them. Our actions are intended to move in that direction.”

Russian actions in Ukraine

There was much interest about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and many questioners wanted to know if Dempsey regards Russia as a partner or an adversary.

“Russia is competing with the NATO alliance for influence in Europe, and they have chosen to compete with force,” Dempsey said. “They are on a dangerous and provocative path. We have many areas where we should partner with Russia -- for the good of our two countries and the good of the world. The months ahead will reveal the answer to your question.”

Dempsey also fielded questions on concerns about an erroneous report on service members on food stamps.

“I very much understand that some American families, both civilian and military, continue to face financial hardships,” he said. “That said, our service members are not the new face of poverty, and the recently reported estimates of military households served by food assistance programs are inaccurate.”

Troops are most-valued asset

Service members are the department’s most-valued asset, the chairman said.

“I remain committed to caring for them and ensuring they are adequately compensated for their jobs and sacrifices,” Dempsey said. “In addition to our broad pay and compensation package, quality of life programs and services and non-pay benefits, we have numerous programs in place to assist those whose family situation places them in extraordinary need.”

Dempsey placed a website for one of these programs -- the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Program -- into his answer. Military families can find additional information at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/fssa/home.do .

Recommends military service

A questioner asked Dempsey if he believes military service is a good career option for young Americans.

“I’ve actually commissioned all three of my children into the Army, so your question resonates with me,” Dempsey said.

Military service means “a sense of belonging, meaning, and variety,” the chairman said.

Dempsey added, “Military friendships are lifetime friendships, and the experiences are lifetime experiences.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)
 

Secretary General: Wales Summit Will Shape NATO’s Future

Thu, 2014-09-04 00:00

The NATO summit that began today in Wales will be one of the most important summits in the alliance’s history, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today.

The summit is taking place at a crucial time, he said, adding that the alliance is faced with a dramatically changed security environment.

“To the east, Russia is attacking Ukraine,” Rasmussen said. To the southeast, we see the rise of a terrorist organization -- the so-called Islamic State -- that has committed horrific atrocities. To the south, we see violence, insecurity, instability. Here at the summit we will take important steps to counter these threats and to strengthen the defense of our allies.”

Readiness action plan

The secretary general said that during the summit he expects NATO member states will agree to a readiness action plan aimed at speeding NATO’s response in defense of its allies.

“On defense investment, we will turn the corner and reverse the trend of declining defense budgets,” he said.

Also planned are discussions on what individual allies and NATO can do to counter the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

NATO hasn’t yet received a request from the Iraqi government for assistance in battling ISIL, the secretary general said. “In that respect let me remind you that NATO has assisted Iraq in the past,” he added. “We had a training mission in Iraq until 2011, and if the Iraqi government were to request resumption of such training activities I think NATO allies would consider such a request seriously.”

Rasmussen said NATO member states also will take steps to enhance cooperation with Ukraine and other partner nations. NATO welcomes all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis there, he noted.

“Having said that, I also have to say that what counts is what is actually happening on the ground,” he said. “And we are still witnessing, unfortunately, Russian involvement in destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine. So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, stop the support for armed militants in Ukraine and engage in a constructive political process. That would be a genuine effort to facilitate a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine.”

Joint declaration

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will meet with NATO leaders today to adopt a joint declaration that will outline concrete steps to enhance the NATO-Ukraine partnership, Rasmussen said.

NATO members also will discuss what the future relationship with Afghanistan will look like after the International Security Assistance Force mission ends this year, he added.

“This summit will shape future NATO,” Rasmussen said. “It will demonstrate our resolve, our unity, our solidarity.

“Surrounded by an arc of crises,” he continued, “our alliance, our transatlantic community, represents an island of security, stability and prosperity. And here at the summit we will strengthen our transatlantic bond as the bedrock of security in Europe and North America.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
 

U.S., Partner-nations Conduct Humanitarian Airdrop in Iraq

Sat, 2014-08-30 00:00

American military planes along with Australian, French and British aircraft airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli in Iraq, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement issued today.

U.S. aircraft also conducted airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support the humanitarian mission, Kirby said in his statement.

Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli, home to thousands of Shia Turkomen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL. The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom who also dropped much needed supplies.

“In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation.

“These military operations were conducted under authorization from the Commander-in-Chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an ISIL attack on the civilians of Amirli. The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.

“The U.S. military will continue to assess the effectiveness of these operations and work with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as international partners including the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to provide humanitarian assistance in Iraq as needed.”
 

U.S. Conducts Airstrikes Against ISIL near Mosul Dam

Thu, 2014-08-21 00:00

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in support of Iraqi Security Force operations, using fighter and attack aircraft to conduct six airstrikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, according to a U.S. Central Command news release issued today.

The strikes destroyed or damaged three ISIL Humvees, one ISIL vehicle, and multiple IED emplacements. All aircraft exited the strike area safely.

These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts.

Since Aug. 8, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 90 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those 90 strikes, 57 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.
 

Hagel, Ukrainian Minister Discuss Russian Aid Convoy

Wed, 2014-08-20 00:00

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today spoke via telephone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey and discussed Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s recent remarks noting that the Russian aid convoy to Ukraine was not a military intervention, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

“Secretary Hagel spoke today by phone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey.

“Secretary Hagel relayed Minister Shoygu’s recent remarks on the Russian aid convoy, and Minister Shoygu’s “guarantee” that the aid convoy was not a military intervention. Secretary Hagel conveyed that he told Minister Shoygu Russia’s vehicles and forces along the border continued to escalate tensions and stressed that any discussions about potential ceasefire agreements must include Ukraine.

“Minister Heletey reported increased violence in Ukraine’s east as a result of Russia’s ongoing supply of weapons and personnel into Ukraine, and spoke about recent attacks in which innocent civilians were killed and wounded.

“Finally, Secretary Hagel and Minister Heletey discussed the status of ongoing deliveries of United States military assistance to Ukraine. Minister Heletey thanked the secretary for the continued assistance of the United States.”
 

Sailor Shares Successful Mail Center Recovery Experience

Thu, 2014-07-31 00:00

The U.S. Postal Service’s Atlanta-based Mail Recovery Center processes nearly 100 million pieces of lost mail a year.

As service members learn more about the center’s efforts to return belongings to their owners, success stories such as that of one veteran sailor’s experience in retrieving his mail will, perhaps, become more widespread.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Stilipec, a mass communications specialist who serves as an American Forces Radio and Television Service radio liaison at the Defense Media Activity here, shared his story of discovering the Mail Recovery Center and how the committed professionals there assisted him in finding a box he had mailed while he was serving in Afghanistan.

“It was a fantastic experience for me after what I went through,” he said. “I had literally just given up on it. I made one more stab at contacting Kabul, and they said they hadn’t seen it. Nobody from my unit had seen it, and they had moved on to Qatar.”

Stilipec, initially deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, before transferring to Kabul and eventually redeploying home, said he had virtually given up hope of seeing his belongings after a frustrating and fruitless search.

“I mailed it from Kandahar to Kabul in late October [or] early November [2013],” he said. “Then I went to Kabul, and my other boxes all showed up in four or five days -- maybe a week. So I called back to Kandahar, and they said, ‘Oh it came back.’ I think I had the wrong ZIP code on it or something like that, because the ZIP codes are really close together and [I have] bad handwriting.”

After providing his address again, Stilipec said, he waited and it was getting close to Christmas with no sign of his box. Then it was time to redeploy.

“I got back to the [United States] around Jan. 3 or 4,” he said. “So I’m home and I tried reaching back in late January, and I think I tried again in February.

“It was late March that I tried to reach back to Kandahar for the last time,” he continued. “I actually talked to the guy again who had spoken to me the first time.”

After making those calls, the veteran sailor said, he was just ready to give up when he received an email from the Mail Recovery Center. The sender wrote that she had a package that might belong to him and asked him to contact her.

“It was almost like it was going to be an April Fool’s joke or something,” Stilipec said. Because the email had no distinctive markings or information on it, he added, he was a little suspicious at first.

Stilipec said he found the Mail Recovery Center online and confirmed it did exist, although he noticed the email had provided a different phone number. “Neither number worked,” he said. “I tried calling both of these numbers and it wouldn’t connect, so now I’m really suspicious. I went, ‘OK, this is kind of weird.’ The next day, I did a little more research online. My wife and I are like, ‘It has to be it. What else could it possibly be?’”

Replying to the center’s email, Stilipec said, he asked for a description of the box’s contents, and he got an answer saying the box contained a Rubik’s Cube and a digital camera.

“I said, ‘That’s my stuff,’” he added. “I was just so thrilled.”

It was then that the North Pole, Alaska, native learned tips from the Mail Recovery Center staff member for preventing mail and packages from being lost from the MRC staff.

“She told me about … the little things that the military could to do to try and ensure that their stuff doesn’t get lost in the mail, like putting a better tag on it [and] putting contact or location information inside,” he said. “What they’ve got to do is crack these things open and try to figure out some information or where the information is from.”

Fortunately, Stilipec noted, he included his personal email address on his customs form, which the Mail Recovery Center used to get in touch with him.

“It was just thrilling to get the stuff back,” he said. “They repackaged it, so there’s this really nice box sitting on my porch when I got home. I brought it inside and cracked it open. There’s this box that has been to heck and back. I mean, it was so torn up.”

Nothing was missing, and nothing was broken, Stilipec said, and everything was in great condition.

Following his experience, Stilipec offered his own advice to assist other service members in avoiding the same situation.

“Make sure you write clearly on the exterior of the box,” he said. “Use a ballpoint pen so it gets through all those multiple copies. But have another address inside the box. My wife used to do that. I would get boxes in Afghanistan, and I’d be like, ‘Why did she put the address in here again?’ Now I know why.”

In addition, he said, make sure to include a good return address and have an awareness of where the box is being sent in case it does get sent back.

“Realize the military postal system is an extension of the U.S. postal system,” Stilipec said. People should be sure to include some identifying information with the package, he added, and should do the same if putting items in storage.

Stilipec expressed his gratitude to the Mail Recovery Center staff for their efforts to find him and return his personal belongings.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “This was my first digital SLR camera, which I purchased in Iceland. And my Rubik’s Cube -- it was my sister’s, She gave it to me. I’ve carted that thing all over the world throughout my career. I re-did the stickers on it one year. I’ve put some heart and soul into that Rubik’s Cube. I was so happy to get it back. They were some nice people.”

Stilipec said the center’s staff was “thrilled” to find him and get his items back to him.

“It’s just great to know that there’s these people dedicated to trying to get the mail where it needs to be,” he said. “They’re still trying to do their job, and they still care. They’ll do what they can to get the mail where it needs to be.”

(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)
 

DIA Chief: Transparency Builds Public Trust

Sun, 2014-07-27 00:00

Transparency has to be a watchword for the intelligence community if it is to retain the public’s trust, Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said here yesterday.

“What transparency does is, transparency breeds trust,” Flynn told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum. And the intelligence community cannot afford to lose the trust of the American people, he added.

“When it happened in the past, this community got gutted and we failed the country again,” Flynn said.

The damage done by Edward Snowden was terrible, the director said. "This country can sustain big body blows, we will sustain this one, but … there will be risk,” Flynn said.

Since the leaks by Snowden, he said, the intelligence community has worked to correct itself.

“This is about transparency, security, civil liberties, our ability to protect this nation and trust. And I think the most [important] of all those is trust,” Flynn said.

The American public will regain its trust in the intelligence community if they know the community is abiding by laws approved by Congress, the executive branch and the judiciary, he said. There needs to be a national conversation about the role of intelligence, the general added.

Many of the threats and issues the intelligence community deals with every day are likely to be around for a long time, the director said. The nation is not safer for having been at war for the past 13 years, Flynn added.

“We have a whole gang of new actors out there that are far more extreme than al-Qaida,” he said, and they are involved in increasingly complex regional conflicts in places like Syria and Iraq.

And it is a mistake to underestimate these groups, Flynn noted.

"We look at some of these people as if they were in shower shoes and bathrobes, but twice they were defeating the most sophisticated military in the world -- in 2006 in Iraq and 2009 in Afghanistan,” he said. “And they're watching everything that's going on in Iraq as we transition out of Afghanistan."

These individuals have every intention to come to the United States and do damage, the general said.

One of the most dangerous threats that the U.S. faces, Flynn said, is the possibility of a group like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant getting their hands on chemical weapons in Syria.

“So, we're worried about foreign fighters coming out of there, doing attacks here in this country or maybe against our partners, but actually, there's still chemical capabilities in that part of the world and in the hands of people who I know have the intent to use them and we need to be concerned about that,” he said.

Nation-states around the world are being challenged, Flynn said. The world is in a period of prolonged societal conflict, the general continued, and the United States needs to recognize that it cannot win alone.

And while the U.S. will always play an important international role in addressing these failures, he said, it may not always be a deciding one.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
 

Intelligence Must be Applied to be Useful, Official Says

Thu, 2014-07-24 00:00

Intelligence collection alone isn’t sufficient to secure the nation, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers said here today.

“What do you do with the intelligence?” he asked the audience at the Aspen Security Forum. It has to be applied to actions, Vickers said, and that falls into two categories: direct and indirect action.

Indirect action is when the United States works with international partners to build their capacity and to capture terrorists, the undersecretary explained. Examples run “from the French in Mali to individual host countries who help us critically,” Vickers said. “The Pakistanis and Yemenis, in particular, have done very important things in this regard.”

The Defense Department prefers to use indirect action because threats are distributed globally, he said, but it isn’t always possible.

“It depends on whether they're capable and then willing,” the undersecretary said. If a potential partner nation is willing, but not capable, capacity-building programs can come into play, he said.

Direct action involves special operations forces, such as those used in the bin Laden raid and capture operations in Libya, he said, as well as unmanned Predator strikes.

Since 2008, when the war against al-Qaida expanded into areas outside of armed hostilities, the single most important instrument in degrading al-Qaida has been Predator strikes, he said.

“Hands down,” the undersecretary said. “It doesn't mean it'll be the most important going forward in the future -- it's still essential today -- but it has been our most important.”

The Predator was instrumental in DoD’s single most important accomplishment over the past year, Vickers said.

“We had very, very serious threats emanating out of Yemen last summer, … and some very rapid action not only disrupted that threat, but set it back,” he said. “And again, that was largely Predator strikes that did that.”

The most significant threats to the United States emanate from Syria, Yemen and from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, Vickers said.

“And then ISIS or ISIL also has aspirations,” he said, using acronyms for an organization known alternatively as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “It's focused on its area right now, but it is in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al-Qaida, … and so they're a threat not to be discounted as well.”

But for now at least, most of the attacks attributed to groups holding Salafi jihadist ideology are focused on the “near enemy,” or the country they’re involved in, Vickers said.

Foreign fighters who hold Western passports -- including Americans -- pose a near-term threat, and they number in the thousands, the undersecretary noted. Many of them go overseas to fight a local war, but are “skimmed off” for external operations, he said.

Foreign fighters, both Western and non-Western, are going into Syria in much higher numbers than similar fighters were going to Iraq at the height of the Iraq war, Vickers said. It’s critical to take away these sanctuaries from groups who may be interested in attacking the United States, he added.

But military options generally are the last resort in counterterrorism, the undersecretary said.

“We prefer ‘capture and detain’ for intelligence purposes to lethal direct action,” he said. “We prefer indirect action -- working with partners -- to direct action. But when we have to do direct action, we do.”

Every situation requires its own response, Vickers said.

“When you look at our counterterrorism strategies as applied to specific groups or countries or a region, they're very tailored approaches,” he explained.

For example, in Mali, after al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took over the northern half of the country, the French intervened, and the United States provided an important enabling role.

“That was the right solution for that,” Vickers said. “In other cases, it's a different set of instruments.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
 

Air Guardsmen, Reservists Help Battle Western Wildfires

Thu, 2014-07-24 00:00

Air reserve components are providing crews and planes to support civilian firefighting efforts in the West, the commander of the effort said in a DoD News interview.

When civilian authorities are strained, they can call on eight C-130 aircraft equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system, said Air Force Col. Charles D. Davis III, commander of Air Expeditionary Wing Wildland Firefighting. Davis is with the North Carolina Air National Guard, is based at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, for the effort.

When civilian firefighters “need a surge capability, they call on us,” Davis said.

The aircraft come from four different wings -- three from the Air Guard and one from the Air Force Reserve.

For the last few days, crews have battled forest fires in Northern Utah. The aircraft launched from Boise and flew six sorties. The aircraft carry a 3,000-gallon tank filled with fire retardant. “We fall right in line and drop the liquid,” Davis said.

The aircraft use prearranged tanker bases to reload. So while the aircraft launch from Boise, by using the tanker bases they are able to “fight the fire all day long,” he said.

The aircraft don’t put the fires out, Davis said, noting that rain is the only thing that will end the danger. “We’re more containment,” he said. “We do not put [the retardant] on the flames. We put it around the fire to stop it from expanding.”

The aircraft and crews come from the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard, the 146th Airlift Wing from the California Air Guard, the 153rd Airlift Wing from Wyoming and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)
 

DoD Officials Discuss Housing More Unaccompanied Children

Tue, 2014-07-08 00:00

Defense Department officials are in discussions with Department of Health and Human Services officials to house more children who have entered the United States unaccompanied, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

During a Pentagon news conference, Kirby said the department is processing requests right now from HHS to house more children.

“I wouldn’t put an exact number on it, because that's still in discussion,” the admiral said.

Three bases already are housing these unaccompanied children – Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and Naval Base Ventura, California. Currently, DoD facilities can accommodate 2,375 of these children.

The facilities being used are excess to DoD needs, Kirby said. “We’re providing access to certain facilities that were already vacant and not being used and are, therefore, available, and in the first three cases are relatively close to the border itself,” he said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel supports the mission, the admiral said, and is assured that housing these young people will not impinge on troops. “He understands the importance of making sure that these children get the care that they need once they get inside the country,” Kirby said.

HHS owns this mission, and while DoD is providing the facilities, “we are not responsible for the children themselves,” the press secretary said.

The original agreement between DoD and HHS places a 120-day cap on the time the children can be housed on the bases. Lackland has housed the children for about two months, and Kirby would not speculate on whether that cap will be extended. “It’s certainly something that could be discussed,” he said.

HHS will reimburse DoD for the facilities, Kirby said.

Some 60,000 unaccompanied children could enter the United States this year, officials said. For many, transnational criminal networks play a role in getting them to the United States.

In addition, officials said, these transnational criminal networks create much of the instability that causes many of these children to flee from Central and South America. The networks smuggle humans, drugs and weapons for a price.

The threat these groups pose cannot be countered solely by the military, officials noted, adding that Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are working together on the threat.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Hagel to Visit Submarine, Aviation Bases in South

Tue, 2014-07-08 00:00

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will depart tomorrow for a two-day trip to military bases in Georgia, Florida and Alabama, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

The trip is intended to ensure that the Defense Department stays focused on the long-term concerns affecting U.S. interests and allies in Asia, Europe and around the world, he said.

“Throughout this trip, the secretary will highlight and see firsthand some of the core capabilities that he prioritized in our budget submission earlier this year to ensure that our force is ready, agile, modern and effective to confront the full range of challenges that we'll face in the future,” Kirby said.

Hagel’s first stop will be at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southeastern Georgia. The base is home to some of the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic and guided-missile submarines.

“The secretary has made a longstanding personal commitment to the health of our nuclear force and has made it one of his highest priorities to ensure that the United States maintains a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrence force,” the admiral said.

The visit is part of Hagel’s ongoing review of the nuclear enterprise, which included visits to several intercontinental ballistic missile sites earlier this year, Kirby said. At Kings Bay, Hagel will tour the ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee and visit a Trident submarine refit facility, and he’ll also speak with submariners, the admiral added.

July 10, the secretary will travel to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which is home to the Air Force’s first full squadron of F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft and is where the next generation of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps F-35 pilots and maintainers are being trained.

“The secretary's visit, particularly at this time, sends a strong message to our international partners that the United States remains fully committed to the F-35 program,” the admiral said. The F-35 fleet was grounded July 3 following a fire that occurred in an aircraft still on the runway at Eglin. The incident remains under investigation.

Hagel is confident that the investigation will help the F-35 return to flight, Kirby said, adding that the secretary is looking forward to hearing more firsthand from the personnel at Eglin.

Hagel’s final stop is at Fort Rucker, Alabama, the home of Army aviation. The visit is a chance to highlight the Army’s aviation restructure initiative, the admiral said, and to thank Army aviators for their hard work over 13 years of demanding operations that include airlift, close air support and casualty evacuation.

July 11, the secretary will welcome Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to the Pentagon, Kirby said.

The secretary met most recently with Onodera at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Among the issues the two defense leaders are expected to discuss are Japan's recent announcement on collective self-defense, the current process of reviewing and revising Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, and ongoing efforts to strengthen the joint alliance -- including trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Australia -- as the region confronts an evolving range of security challenges, including threats from North Korea, Kirby said.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)

American Service Members Secure Bases on Okinawa

Mon, 2014-07-07 00:00

American personnel on the Japanese island of Okinawa are battening down the hatches and securing airfields and facilities ahead of Super Typhoon Neoguri.

Japanese forecasters say the storm already has winds over 150 mph, and it is bearing down on the Ryukyu Islands, home to about 30,000 American service members and their families.

Forecasters say the storm will hit Okinawa tomorrow with heavy rain and powerful winds.

Air Force Brig. Gen. James Hecker, the commander of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, declared Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3, and the base began evacuating aircraft yesterday.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa,” Hecker said in a message to the community. “This is not just another typhoon.” Neoguri is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years.

Officials are evacuating 61 U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft from Okinawa to Guam, mainland Japan, the Philippines and South Korea, said Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Pool. Aircraft moving include C-130 Hercules aircraft, P-3 Orions, P-8 Poseidons and KC-135 Stratotankers.

“The remaining helicopters and jets on Okinawa are being sheltered in protected hangars,” Pool said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
 

Cape Ray Begins Neutralizing Syrian Chemical Materials

Mon, 2014-07-07 00:00

Teams aboard the MV Cape Ray have begun neutralizing Syrian chemical materials, a Pentagon spokesman said here today.

U.S. military and civilian specialists aboard the ship are neutralizing the chemical materials in international waters, Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

The ship left Gioia Tauro, Italy, with 600 tons of chemicals.

“The Cape Ray is tasked with neutralization of specific chemical material from Syria,” Warren said, noting that the teams are following United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons guidelines.

If all goes well, he said, neutralization will take about 60 days. Weather could affect the process, he added.

The U.S. ship has two field-deployable hydrolysis systems in its holds. The systems mix the chemicals in a titanium reactor to render them inert.

“When neutralization is complete, Cape Ray will deliver the result effluent by-products to Finland and Germany for destruction ashore,” Warren said.

Italian officials loaded 78 containers of Syrian chemical materials aboard the Cape Ray on July 2. The Cape Ray teams will neutralize HD sulfur mustard gas and DF, a sarin gas precursor.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
 

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