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U.S. Added Speed, Scale to West Africa Ebola Fight

Fri, 2015-02-27 00:00

Since Sept. 2014, when U.S. Army Africa leadership arrived in Liberia to help contain the historic outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the United States is transitioning its contributions to civilian and nongovernmental organizations there as the World Health Organization reports a drop in confirmed cases.

Last month, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby described how the whole-of-government approach led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the Defense Department had mobilized and adapted its resources in an austere environment while supporting a critical mission.

“Our rapid deployment of personnel, from engineers to logisticians, provided for the international civilian response by NGOs, USAID and the United Nations to grow their capability and capacity on the ground,” Kirby said.

The United States has backed more than 10,000 civilian responders on the ground in Ebola-affected areas, Kirby added, providing direct and indirect health care support and other functions handled by the military Operation United Assistance in Liberia.

DoD Critical Support

The Defense Department has critically supported the U.S. government Ebola response, he added, “bringing our unique capabilities, specifically speed and scale, to support the civilian-led response in West Africa.”

For the first time since the week ending June 29, 2014, fewer than 100 new confirmed cases have been reported in a week in the three most-affected countries, WHO officials wrote in an Ebola Situation Report.

“Together with our international partners, and the people of the three nations themselves, we have bent the curve of the epidemic and placed it on a much improved trajectory,” White House officials said in a Feb. 11 fact sheet.

DoD Accomplishments in West Africa

Accomplishments in West Africa are many –- the work performed by U.S. service members, DoD civilians, scientists from the U.S. Army Military Research Institute on Infectious Diseases, the Navy and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, with partners from USAID, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Public Health Service and many others.

For DoD, according to the White House fact sheet, $112 million will be allocated for Ebola vaccines and diagnostics.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will receive $33 million for phase I clinical trials of experimental vaccines and therapeutics. Diagnostic efforts will receive $12 million.

The Chemical and Biological Defense Program will receive $50 million to continue work on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic systems for mitigating the spread of Ebola. And $17 million will go to procure detection and diagnostic systems, mortuary supplies, and isolation transport units.

Adding Capability and Infrastructure in Liberia

In Liberia, U.S. civilian and military personnel trained more than 1,500 health care workers, helping them provide safe and direct medical care to Ebola patients.

In the region, the United States helped facilitate the building of 15 Ebola treatment units in the region, 10 of them built by DoD personnel. The facilities have made possible the testing and isolation of hundreds of patients.

DoD also provided to the region 1.4 million sets of personal protective equipment.

DoD personnel built the Monrovia Medical Unit to treat Ebola-infected health care workers, with staffing by members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. DoD is now transitioning nonclinical management to USAID.

DoD Medical Contributions

DoD also provided seven mobile laboratories to the region, reducing the time to diagnosis from days to hours. The labs have tested more than 4,000 samples since September.

The Defense Department also has made significant contributions to vaccine and drug development for Ebola virus disease.

USAMRIID and DTRA made medical countermeasure, funding and other major contributions to two vaccine candidates -- ChAd3 and VSV-ZEBOV –- that have completed phase 1 human clinical trials.

The First Ebola Therapeutics

USAMRIID and DTRA also have contributed to developing and funding several candidate drugs -– including ZMapp and TKM Ebola -- to treat patients infected with the disease. Some already have been used in patients under compassionate use in the United States, Western Europe and Africa.

TKM-Ebola was tested in nonhuman primates and has shown evidence of activity against Ebola. This candidate drug is produced by the Canadian company Tekmira Inc. under a contract from the DoD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.

Transitioning Operation United Assistance

On Jan. 25, President Barack Obama approved a plan formulated by USAID, the U.S. government lead in West Africa, and the Defense Department to transition the Liberia-based Operation United Assistance to civilians and international organizations working there.

The plan includes follow-on activities and supporting staffs for a modified headquarters in Liberia and augmentation for Operation Onward Liberty, a State Department-funded U.S. Africa Command program aimed at building partnership capacity with the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The plan also outlines a defense preparedness program and other security-cooperation activities.

“DoD personnel are coming home but the United States is not leaving West Africa,” defense officials said. “The U.S. government civilian-led response will grow in size and number in the weeks ahead, and continue the fight against Ebola.”

Of the 2,800 troops deployed, about 1,500 are already back in the United States, and nearly all of those remaining will return home by April 30.

U.S.-Liberia Partnership

After April 30, a transition element of approximately 100 DoD personnel will remain in Liberia to respond to Ebola-related contingences and expand security cooperation efforts.

On March 2, military personnel will make the Operation United Assistance intermediate staging base in Dakar, Senegal, a cooperative security location, where it will be available to support a range of missions.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction, or CTR, Program plans to increase its biosurveillance capacity, including related biosecurity and biosafety capabilities in West Africa. Over time the program will expand its capacity, augmenting partner-country capability to detect and report outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases.

As DoD draws down its presence in Liberia, the United States will continue to support the regional governments alongside the international humanitarian and public health community, defense officials said.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
 

Army Approves Purple Hearts for Fort Hood Shooting Victims

Fri, 2015-02-06 00:00

Army Secretary John M. McHugh announced today that he has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, following a change in the medals' eligibility criteria mandated by Congress.

Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attack by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," McHugh explained. "Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom Medal. It's an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice."

Law Expanded Eligibility

Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart by redefining what should be considered an attack by a "foreign terrorist organization" for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart. The legislation states that an event should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator of the attack "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack" and "the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."

In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack," and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been "inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."

Previous criteria required a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization.

Identifying and Notifying Those Now Eligible

McHugh directed Army officials to identify soldiers and civilians now eligible for the awards as soon as possible, and to contact them about presentation of the awards. Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement. Recipients also are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Following his 2013 conviction, Hasan was sentenced to death by a general court-martial. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes continue.
 

DoD Launches Child Care Website to Ease Moving Transitions

Wed, 2015-01-28 00:00

As military families move frequently and face a host of concerns, finding child care can be one of the greatest challenges, Barbara Thompson, director of military community and policy’s office of family policy/children and youth/special needs, said yesterday.

To streamline and standardize what can be a daunting search, the Defense Department unveiled MilitaryChildCare.com, an online resource to help military, DoD civilian and contractor families find an array of military-operated and military-subsidized child care options for children between the ages of 4 weeks and 12 years, Thompson said.

Child Care Affects the Force

“Child care is a workforce issue that impacts the readiness and retention of the force,” Thompson said. “As families relocate to other areas, it’s really challenging to make sure your child care needs are being met, and this tool gives parents an opportunity in advance to find those child care spots that will work for the family.”

MilitaryChildCare.com is a “single gateway” for families to enter as they request child care, she noted.

Of the 200,000 children DoD serves in child care, more than 50 percent are younger than age 3, Thompson said.

“It’s very difficult to find infant and toddler care in the civilian community,” she said. “[DoD has] young families with young children and we really feel that we’re providing a high-quality environment for those babies and toddlers [with the website].”

Families can customize their search, put their children on waiting lists and monitor requests for placement, Thompson said.

“The idea is that you have choices, and you see the array pictorially of what’s available at those locations,” she noted.

A help desk online and at 1-855-696-2934, toll-free, is also available to help personalize families’ searches, she added.

Pilot Program Expanding

The website initiative used focus groups comprising child care staff and parents, with a goal of making the website functional and intuitive to make sure families can easily navigate the system, Thompson said.

A pilot program was also conducted in the study at numerous installations over the past 18 months at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for the Air Force, Hawaii for the Army, Hawaii and San Diego for the Marine Corps, and Hawaii, San Diego, Key West, Bahrain, Meridian and Singapore for the Navy, she said.

Recently, 13 more installations were added to the website in addition to the pilots.

They are Naval Air Facility El Centro, California; Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada; Naval Air Station Joint Readiness Base Fort Worth, Texas; Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas; Naval Air Station Joint Readiness Base, New Orleans, Louisiana; Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California; Naval Air Station Lemoore, California; Naval Support Activity Monterey, California; Naval Base Ventura County, California; Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas; Naval Station Everett, Washington; Naval Base Kitsap, Washington; and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.

The child care website is expected to be fully functional worldwide in September 2016, Thompson said, adding that it will remain a work in progress as it takes in feedback from parents for improvements.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter:@MoonCronkDoD) 

DoD Officials Announce European Infrastructure Consolidation

Thu, 2015-01-08 00:00

Defense Department officials today announced plans to consolidate some military infrastructure in Europe to save the U.S. government more than $500 million annually while maintaining capability and commitments.

The plans represent the culmination of the European Infrastructure Consolidation process, a two-year effort that was designed to ensure long-term efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. presence in Europe, officials said.

The consolidation incorporates the return of 15 sites to their host nations, part of U.S. European Command’s continued effort to remove nonenduring sites from its real-property inventory and allow more resources to be focused on other Eucom mission requirements.

Not Affecting Capability

“In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. Hagel discussed the decisions yesterday with his counterparts in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Portugal -- the four countries affected most by the actions.

Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs told reporters at the Pentagon today that European and trans-Atlantic security is more important than ever.

“We are not affecting our operational capability,” Chollet said. “The EIC adjustments do not diminish our ability to meet our commitments to allies and partners. In fact, these decisions will produce savings that will enable us to maintain a robust force presence in Europe.”

Throughout the process, Chollet said, the department maintained a close and consistent engagement with Congress, the State Department, the Joint Staff, the individual services, Eucom and European partners.

Personnel Impacts

Divestiture of the Royal Air Force Mildenhall facility represents the largest reduction in U.S. personnel among all the actions. That base’s closure will pave the way for the stationing of two squadrons of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jets at RAF Lakenheath starting in 2020, defense officials said.

The basing decisions will result in a net decrease of roughly 2,000 U.S. service members and civilians in the United Kingdom over the next several years. About 3,200 U.S. personnel will relocate from RAF Mildenhall, and that will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people who will be permanently assigned to the two F-35 squadrons slated to open at RAF Lakenheath.

Pentagon officials anticipate several hundred additional U.S. military personnel being assigned to Germany in the coming years, and about 200 more in Italy. Roughly 500 will be reassigned from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, as part of streamlining efforts approved and announced in 2012.

John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, managed the EIC effort for DoD. He said the bottom line was that the department wanted to preserve its operational capability while reducing the cost of supporting it.

Reduced Need for Support Infrastructure

“As a result, we will not need as many support personnel to maintain a reduced infrastructure, in terms of both U.S. military and civilian personnel and host-nation employees,” Conger said. “Approximately 1,200 U.S. military and civilian support positions will be eliminated, and about 6,000 more U.S. personnel will be relocated within Europe.

“Up to 1,100 host-nation positions could also be eliminated,” he continued, “and approximately 1,500 additional Europeans working for the U.S. could end up being impacted over the next several years, as many of their positions are relocated to areas we need to maintain for the long term.”

(Follow Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond on Twitter: @RichmondDoDNews)
 

U.S., Partner Nations Continue Airstrikes Against ISIL

Thu, 2015-01-08 00:00

U.S. and partner-nation military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials provided details on the following strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports:

Airstrikes in Syria

Fighter and bomber aircraft conducted six airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Kobani, five airstrikes struck two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL staging area and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Hasakah, an airstrike struck four ISIL crude oil pumps and five ISIL crude oil well heads.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Bomber and fighter aircraft conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq:

-- Near Rutbah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL checkpoint.

-- Near Fallujah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Asad, an airstrike struck a large ISIL unit.

-- Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
 

USS Fort Worth Joins Sampson in Search Efforts

Sun, 2015-01-04 00:00

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth has joined the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson in the Java Sea to assist in the Indonesian-led international search-and-recovery effort for downed AirAsia Flight 8501, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued yesterday.

This morning the Sampson’s commander, Navy Cmdr. Steven M. Foley, discussed current search efforts with ABC’s “This Week” weekend news program host Martha Raddatz.

“We've been searching using lookouts, using optical search equipment and scanning the horizon and using our helicopters in tandem to search a wide area,” Foley told Raddatz today.

Rough Weather

“The weather has been a little rough with scattered thunderstorms,” the commander said. “The seas have been about two to four feet, increasing to about four to six feet when the rain swells come in. And we've been operating in three specified areas that the Indonesian authorities have assigned to us.

“And you have to remember,” Foley added, “this is their search effort and we're here to assist.”

Ships are being employed to search for the downed aircraft’s black box and the helicopters are looking for debris, Foley told Raddatz. Rigid-hull inflatable boats are also participating in the search effort, he added.

The Indonesian government requested U.S. assistance to help in the search for Air Asia Flight 8501, which disappeared Dec. 28 during its route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore with 162 passengers and crew aboard.

The San Diego-based USS Sampson, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was deployed Dec. 29 to assist in the search efforts for the Airbus A320-216 aircraft, according to a U.S. Navy news release. Since then, searchers have found debris and passenger remains from the aircraft, which apparently crashed during its flight during bad weather.

Remains, Debris Found

The Sampson arrived in the Java Sea search area on Dec. 30, according to a U.S. Navy release. Later that day, the Sampson’s helicopters and Indonesian navy assets discovered aircraft debris.

The Sampson’s crew also removed six remains from the sea Jan. 1 and six others Jan. 2, according to a U.S. Navy release.

“We find great gratification in being able to assist the Indonesian government in this ongoing effort and to bring closure to the family and friends of the passengers of AirAsia Flight 8501,” Foley told Raddatz.
 

Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria and Iraq

Sun, 2015-01-04 00:00

U.S. and partner-nation fighter and bomber aircraft conducted six airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.

Separately, U.S. and partner-nation fighter aircraft conducted one airstrike against ISIL terrorists in Iraq yesterday, officials said.

Airstrikes in Syria

-- Near Kobani, six airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL fighting position and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, four ISIL buildings, three ISIL fighting positions, and two ISIL staging areas.

Airstrike in Iraq

-- Near Mosul, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.

Coalition-nation Participation

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
 

Thousands Gather to Honor Fallen Veterans for Wreaths Across America Day

Sat, 2014-12-13 00:00

Amid crisp air and the aroma of pine needles, thousands gathered to lay remembrance wreaths on veterans’ headstones here to mark National Wreaths Across America Day, and in doing so drew one of the annual event’s largest turnouts in its 23 year history.

“We’re grateful for the sacrifice, bravery, courage and tenacity of members of our armed forces who currently serve in harms way; we’re grateful for the freedoms that we have as Americans,” Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told those gathered on a sun drenched but cold day in the shadow of the Pentagon.

How wreaths began

He said he’s particularly grateful to one couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester, who he said seek no fanfare as they continue to make a difference in society through Wreaths Across America, the non-profit organization they founded in 2007.

“Because of the great efforts of Morrill and Karen Worcester, we’re able to cover every eligible gravesite with a holiday wreath, symbolic because it’s a circle that never ends – so their service still continues as well.”

A Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths in 1992 and arranged for trucks to carry them during their pilgrimage from his home state to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2005, Air Force photographer Jim Varhegyi snapped the iconic photo of wreaths in snow, bringing WAA unprecedented attention and acclaim.

Later, Congress proclaimed Dec. 13th as “Wreaths Across America Day” and at this year’s event, Morill Worcester placed the two-millionth wreath laid nationwide to honor U.S. Army Pvt. William Christman, the first soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The organization has since expanded to include more than 1,000 fundraising groups in all 50 states representing more than 900 cemeteries, military memorials and other sites.  More than 80 volunteer trucking companies have stepped up to help deliver the wreaths.

Thanks from the Chairman

“Throughout our country’s history, the men and women of the U.S. forces have served with the utmost patriotism and allegiance,” Battaglia read to the Worcesters in a personal letter from Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The hundreds of thousands of wreaths that volunteers across America place at the gravesites of our veterans were shining testimonies that freedom is not free.”

Battaglia explained what the diverse and robust turnout means to the military and the nation.

“It means the world; we are so fortunate to have not just a great community – but a great society that would come out here in droves to honor our veterans,” Battaglia said. “
As for the new generation, Battaglia said the event’s 2014 theme “Remember, Honor, Teach” personifies that message.

“Our youth are learning some valuable lessons about how great our country really is and how we as an armed forces respect and honor both our wounded and our killed in action. When these kids are grown up, they too will be bringing their children and grandchildren our here as well – it’s a tradition the Worcesters started, and it’s long-lasting.”

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)
 

Hagel Expresses Gratitude to U.S. Troops in Kuwait

Tue, 2014-12-09 00:00

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thanked U.S. troops and their families yesterday on behalf of all Americans for their sacrifice during the holiday season, and for carrying out an essential mission at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

The defense secretary held a troop talk with U.S. service members during his stop in Kuwait as part of an unannounced trip to the Middle East.

Thanks to Troops and Families

“I wanted to come out here for a few minutes today to thank you and to tell you how much we appreciate everything you do for this country,” he said. “This is a tough business -- [a] tough job. You’ve got about as tough a job as anybody does in our business. We know that. The country knows it -- and we thank you for that.”

The defense secretary said he also wanted to note the sacrifice of troops’ families as they move into the holiday season away from their loved ones.

“Please give your families my thanks on behalf of all Americans,” he said. “Tell your families we appreciate what they do; the sacrifices they make along with you.”

Essential Mission in Kuwait

Hagel said he particularly wanted to visit Kuwait to thank the troops for their mission as a combined joint task force which serves as the centerpiece for everything that happens in the region.

“It is the pivot point,” he said. “It is absolutely critical to everything that happens as it moves out, and you know that.”
Though their efforts may sometimes seem undervalued or under-recognized, Hagel noted, what service members do in Kuwait is “absolutely essential to make it all work.”

Some 60 coalition partners have assembled to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the barbaric threats they, and other extremist groups, represent, Hagel said.

“That is really pretty impressive to be able to marshal that many countries, all participating, all contributing in their own way,” he added. “But it can’t happen without the United States’ leadership; it won’t happen without our leadership.

“It won’t happen without you,” he continued, “and it won’t happen without these kinds of efforts that are being made right here. So I wanted to make sure you knew that we know, in Washington, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”

Making History in Dangerous Times

A second point, Hagel said, is that the nation faces a dangerous and uncertain time unlike any other.

“It’s a time in history we’ve really never seen before,” he said. “That’s the result of many dynamics -- technology, a decentralization of power and capacity that we’ve never seen before -- ungoverned spaces in ways that we’ve really never seen before. And I think, sometimes, any of us, because we’re human beings, can tend to think that it’s a hopeless effort. Well, nothing’s ever hopeless.”

Hagel told the service members that they’re making history. “You are defining much of the history that’s being made now,” he added, “but more importantly, it’s for a purpose. You are defining a future. You are defining a new world order in everything you do every day. And every job’s important -- every component of every job is important, or we’ll fail.”

Reaffirming Leadership Support

It takes leadership, capability and capacity for success, Hagel said, reaffirming that Defense Department leaders are committed to understanding troops’ problems and concerns, and assuring they have everything needed to do their jobs.

“You can’t do your jobs that we expect you to do -- that you want to do -- if you’re bothered and worried about other things,” he said. “We’re here to make sure that, that doesn’t happen.”

The defense secretary again thanked the troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and expressed his admiration for their holiday spirit.

“I, once upon a time, was away from home over a holiday period in a different kind of war,” he said, referring to his service in Vietnam, “so I have some understanding of what you and your families deal with when you have these important holidays. It means so much to families, so thank you very much.”

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

Vice Chairman Joins USO in Salute to Military Chefs

Thu, 2014-11-20 00:00

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore in recognizing the talents of military chefs and enlisted aides during a Salute to Military Chefs event here yesterday.

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. was joined by various Defense Department leaders, military spouses and USO officials, as eight military chefs and five enlisted aides were honored during the event.

Each of the military chefs, alongside Chef Robert Irvine of the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” series, showcased their skills preparing elaborate dishes for the audience. Each chef was introduced by a senior military leader before being honored.

Winnefeld said he was “thrilled” to be a part of the evening as he introduced Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Wilson and his own nominee, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Frida Karani.

Recognizing Extraordinary Talents

“It’s really my very great privilege and honor to introduce our first chef tonight,” he said. “There’s really nothing better than recognizing [these] extraordinary talents.”

Wilson, the admiral noted, works for the secretary of defense’s mess. “So you know the level of dignitary that he has to serve each and every day,” he added. Winnefeld said Wilson, a Logansport, Indiana, native, was led by his “competitive nature” to join the military as a way to expand his culinary talents.

“That’s why we call these guys chefs instead of cooks,” he said. “The military inculcates in these people ‘Got to get better; got to be the best.’ And so they become chefs not long after they get in the military.”

Before becoming a military chef, the vice chairman said, Wilson deployed to Iraq as a truck driver from December 2007 to March 2009.

“His competitive nature goes way beyond the kitchen,” Winnefeld said, pointing out that Wilson has earned the German proficiency badge.

The vice chairman’s second introduction was for Karani who serves on his own staff.

“At the Pentagon, we’re able to put our best foot forward welcoming our visiting dignitaries and counterparts from all over the world,” Winnefeld said. “And I know that I have frequent occasions in my home to entertain some pretty serious dignitaries, and you always want to show them the very best that you can as far as the culinary piece of it.”

That’s possible, Winnefeld said, only because of the extraordinary culinary talent represented at the event.

Karani, was born in Mombasa, Kenya, Winnefeld said, adding that he and his wife, Mary, are “very privileged” to have her on the staff.

Winnefeld said Karani developed her talents in diverse places, serving as saucier in Dubai from 2004 until 2006 before moving on to that position in Orlando, Florida.

In addition to being employed by several four- and five-star hotels, the vice chairman noted, Karani is a certified chef de cuisine by the American Culinary Federation and a winner of several gold and silver medals.

She enlisted in the Navy as a culinary specialist in January 2010 and graduated at the top of her class at the Navy’s advanced culinary school. She also received the accelerated advancement program award.

The vice chairman said as important as her culinary skills are, Karani is also known for her “infectious” personality, and is an “absolute delight” to have around.

Chefs and Aides Honored

Military chefs honored at the event, and the officials they serve, are:

-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shemeka Anderson, chief of naval operations;

-- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Justin Fedin, Marine Corps commandant;

-- Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Derek Johnson, Coast Guard commandant;

-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Frida Karani, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff;

-- Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Leo, Air Force chief of staff;

-- Army Sgt. Sarah Proctor, Army chief of staff;

-- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Settle, president of the United States; and

-- Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Wilson, secretary of defense.

Enlisted aides honored at the event are Army Master Sgt. Sophia Bulham, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alan Hess, Air Force Tech Sgt. Sarah Morgan, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cesar Balmaceda and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Sammy Paone.

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

Medal of Honor Recipient Says He’s ‘No Hero’

Sun, 2014-11-16 00:00

Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, who in 2010 became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War, says he is not a hero.

"It makes me feel awkward. I struggled with it for a long time," Giunta said about being called a hero.

Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan, participated in a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library here yesterday.

"It's almost been four years since I've been out of the military and the fact that someone would call me personally a hero seems inappropriate," he said.

Discussion on Heroism, Valor

All the soldiers worked together and fought together, Giunta said during the panel discussion about military heroism and valor.

"Nothing I ever did, did I do alone. I followed what someone told me to do and someone followed me," he said.

"I've served with heroes. We can be heroes. I am no hero," he said.

Giunta’s received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a fierce battle following an enemy ambush in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in October 2007. Two U.S. soldiers, Sgt. Joshua Brennan and Spc. Hugo Mendoza, were killed in the attack.

"Oct. 25, 2007, was my date of action that I would receive this award. My life didn’t change other than I lost two good friends," Giunta said.

He said his life did "change drastically" in 2010, when the recognition of what he did became public.

Medal of Honor is ‘Awesome Responsibility’

He said it is not a burden to have the Medal of Honor but rather an "awesome responsibility."

Giunta, then a specialist with Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to aid a fellow soldier he believed was injured during the ambush.

He engaged the enemy and advanced up a hill alone and under fire. Giunta saw two insurgents carrying away a gravely injured Brennan. Giunta killed one of the insurgents and prevented the enemy from taking Brennan.

"When I was told I was going to receive the Medal of Honor it hurt my feelings. I was so angry. I was so upset," he said.

"The fact that I did this with everyone and you want to put an award around my neck and slap me on the back and tell me 'congratulations' when I didn't do it alone," Giunta explained.

"Two of my buddies gave every single-one of their tomorrows so I could have a today, and you're going to put a medal around my neck? I struggled with that," he said.

Term 'Hero' Not Taken Lightly

The Army wants to know what makes a hero, according to Army Gen. David G. Perkins, the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

"This term 'hero' we don't take lightly," Perkins said during the panel discussion. "We actually think about it quite a bit and try to figure out what is it that makes one."

A hero is someone, in the face of adversity or danger and from a position of weakness, displays a will for self-sacrifice for the betterment of others, he said.

Perkins said Giunta did all of that during the battle.

"Valor is really the strength of mind and will to face danger and stand firm in the face of it," he said. "You have to possess valor to act in a heroic manner."

Giunta is an example of that, Perkins said.

"The medal that Sergeant Giunta wears is not the 'Medal of Heroism,' it's called the Medal of Honor," Perkins said.

Saluting Valor

It is a great honor to be an officer who salutes a Medal of Honor recipient, retired Air Force Gen. Paul Hester said.

"A sergeant wearing the Medal of Honor no longer offers his salute to an officer; the officer offers his salute to the Medal of Honor recipient," Hester said.

"A prouder moment for me as a one-star was when I stood at the bottom of the ramp of an airplane and [Army] Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez came to my base, Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam, for me to stand there and offer him the salute as he came down the stairs," he said.

"It is a true honor," Hester said.
 

Hagel Announces New Defense Innovation, Reform Efforts

Sat, 2014-11-15 00:00

In a keynote speech tonight at the 2014 Reagan National Defense Forum, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan to harness the brightest minds and cutting-edge technology to change the way the Department of Defense innovates and operates.

On the second day of a five-day trip nationwide to see some of the critical training the force receives to maintain readiness, Hagel addressed members of Congress, DoD officials, military leaders, and members of the defense industry during the annual forum held in Simi Valley, California.

Along with the new innovation initiative, the secretary also announced a project to reform the defense enterprise, preparing it to deal with dwindling budgets in an uncertain future.

DoD Experiencing a Time of Transition

“The Department of Defense is undergoing a defining time of transition,” Hagel said. “We [face] a reshaping of our enterprise by a fiscal environment plagued by … budget uncertainty and a large decline in resources, and by an historic realignment of interests and influences around the world.”

As these dynamics unfold, he added, the U.S. military is engaged in crises and security challenges around the world -– degrading the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, helping to stop the spread of Ebola virus disease, and reinforcing NATO allies.

“Few would have predicted these missions a year ago,” the secretary said, adding that DoD is responsible for addressing a range of contingencies and crises.

New, Old Threats, Challenges

“We face the rise of new technologies, national powers and non-state actors,” as well as “sophisticated, deadly and often asymmetric emerging threats ranging from cyberattacks to transnational criminal networks, [and] persistent, volatile threats we have faced for years,” Hagel said.

The nation’s long-term security, he added, depends on whether the department can address today’s crises while preparing for tomorrow’s threats.

Hagel described the department’s two most-important investments as bolstering the United States’ unrivaled capacity for innovation and reforming the defense enterprise to ensure that the military foundation is reliable, agile, accountable and worthy of the men and women who serve.

While the United States and its allies spent more than a decade at war, he said, countries like Russia and China have heavily invested in military modernization programs to blunt the U.S. military’s technological edge, fielding advanced aircraft, submarines and longer-range and more accurate missiles, and developing new anti-ship and air-to-air missiles, and counter-space, cyber, electronic warfare, undersea and air-attack capabilities.

New Defense Innovation Initiative

“Today I am announcing a new Defense Innovation Initiative,” Hagel told the audience, describing the effort as an ambitious, departmentwide effort to identify and invest in innovative ways to sustain and advance America’s military dominance for the 21st century.

“Continued fiscal pressure will likely limit our military’s ability to respond to long-term challenges … so to overcome challenges to our military superiority we must change the way we innovate, operate and do business,” the secretary explained.

The innovation initiative, he said, will ensure that U.S. power-projection capabilities continue to sustain a competitive advantage over the coming decades.

Identifying, Developing Cutting-edge Technologies

As part of the initiative, Hagel said, a new Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program will help identify, develop and field breakthroughs from the most cutting-edge technologies and systems, especially in robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and advanced manufacturing, including 3-D printing.

“The program will look toward the next decade and beyond,” he said, “[but] in the near-term it will invite some of the brightest minds from inside and outside government to … assess the technologies and systems DoD [should] develop over the next three to five years and beyond.”

The innovation initiative will explore and develop new operational concepts, including new approaches to warfighting, and balancing DoD’s investments between platforms and payloads, Hagel said.

People Are DoD’s Premier Asset

New approaches to war-gaming and professional military education already are in development, the secretary added, “and [the initiative] will focus on the department’s most-important asset -- people -- by pursuing time-honored leadership development practices and emerging opportunities to reimagine how we develop managers and leaders.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work will guide the innovation initiative’s development and lead a new Advanced Capability and Deterrence Panel to drive it forward, Hagel said.

“The panel will integrate DoD’s senior leadership across the entire enterprise -- its policy and intelligence communities, the armed services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and research, development and acquisition authorities,” he said.

Hagel said he expects the panel to propose changes to the way DoD diagnoses and plans for challenges to the military’s competitive edge, and to face a new challenge head-on -- the fact that many breakthrough technologies are no longer in the domain of DoD development pipelines or traditional defense contractors.

Seeking Private-sector Proposals

“We all know that DoD no longer has exclusive access to the most cutting-edge technology or the ability to spur or control the development of new technologies the way we once did,” the defense secretary said. “So we will actively seek proposals from the private sector, including firms and academic institutions outside DoD’s traditional orbit.”

The Defense Innovation Initiative will shape the department’s programs, plans and budgets, Hagel said, adding that as the initiative matures over time he expects its impact on the defense budget to scale up as well.

“As the world in which we operate changes, we must change too,” the defense secretary said, adding that he has ordered full reviews of the department’s business and management systems.

“The first reviews are underway now, starting with the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” Hagel said. “DoD must embrace better business practices that are core to any modern enterprise, private or public.”

Upgrade Business, Information Technology Systems

The department will upgrade business and information technology systems and processes, striking the right balance between civil service and contractor support and avoiding duplication of support functions in OSD and the services, he said, adding that after years of postponement and delay the department is making progress in moving toward greater financial accountability.

Hagel said the department has been making hard choices and mustering the flexibility required by new geopolitical and fiscal realities.

“But to succeed,” he said, “we need the support and partnership of Congress, especially at a time when demands on our military are surging and our resources are shrinking and our ability to manage our institution is being more and more limited.”

The continuation of sequestration could impose nearly $1 trillion in cuts to the defense budget over 10 years, the defense secretary said, in a department that has already begun taking deep cuts over the last few years.

Sequestration ‘Would Devastate’ Military Readiness

Sequestration, he said, “would devastate our military readiness and threaten our ability to execute our nation’s defense strategy. Congress has an opportunity this year to help the Defense Department, and I and all the leaders of DoD look forward to working with Congress on this challenge.”

Hagel added, “If we make the right investments in our partnerships around the world in innovation and in our defense enterprise we will continue to keep our nation’s military and our nation’s global leadership on a strong and sustainable path for the 21st century.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
 

Dempsey Arrives in Baghdad for Anti-ISIL Campaign Talks

Sat, 2014-11-15 00:00

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city, today in an unannounced visit for talks with U.S. and Iraqi officials on the way ahead in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to the Voice of America and other news reports.

Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the House Armed Service Committee Nov. 13 on the progress of the campaign. Dempsey told the House panel that the effort against ISIL is “Iraq first,” not “Iraq only.”

“Broadly, our strategy is to reinforce a credible partner in the Iraqi government and assist regional stakeholders to address the 20 million disenfranchised Sunnis who live between Damascus and Baghdad,” Dempsey told committee. “They have to reject ISIL’s radical ideology from within.”

Dempsey also urged Congress and the American people to develop the strategic patience needed to see the effort through.

The campaign calls on Iraqis and the anti-ISIL coalition to squeeze the extremists from multiple directions, Dempsey told the House committee. The coalition must take on ISIL inside Iraq. It must deny the group safe haven inside Syria.

“We need to take a long view,” the chairman told the House panel.

Many lines of effort must proceed apace including “counter-financing, counter-foreign fighter flow, counter-messaging, humanitarian aid, economic progress, the air campaign, restoring an offensive capability within the Iraqi Security Forces, and a ground campaign managed by the Iraqi Security Forces from the south and the Peshmerga from the north, with contribution from the tribes in particular in al-Anbar and Nineveh,” Dempsey said.