Airman Dies in Afghanistan
TSgt. Leslie D. Williams, 36, of Juneau, Alaska, died due to a noncombat incident in Afghanistan, Jan. 25, the Defense Department announced.
Williams, assigned to the 4th Maintenance Group at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., was at Bagram Airfield.
Williams was interred with full military honors in Juneau Feb. 2.
NAFs To Merge, Says Donley
The Air Force will consolidate numbered air forces in Hawaii, Texas, and Germany as part of broader efforts to shed roughly $33 billion in overhead costs to become more efficient, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said Jan. 12.
Thirteenth Air Force at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, will be inactivated and combined with the staff of Pacific Air Forces at Hickam, Donley said during an Air Force Association-sponsored event in Arlington, Va.
This new combined staff will have a single integrated headquarters and will operate the air and space operations center at Pearl Harbor-Hickam supporting US Pacific Command.
The Air Force will also inactivate 19th Air Force at Randolph AFB, Tex., consolidating its staff with Air Education and Training Command headquarters, also based at Randolph.
USAF will inactivate 17th Air Force at Ramstein AB, Germany, merging its staff with that of headquarters, US Air Forces in Europe; the unit will support both US European Command and US Africa Command. The timeline for the consolidations remains to be decided, but could begin as soon as Fiscal 2012, Donley said.
Kehler Now at STRATCOM
Gen. C. Robert Kehler took command of US Strategic Command at Offutt AFB, Neb., in January, succeeding Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, who has retired.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates presided over the change-of-command ceremony, which was attended by more than 1,000 people. Chilton had led STRATCOM since October 2007, capping 34 years of USAF service.
Kehler had previously headed Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB, Colo. He had commanded AFSPC since October 2007, and inherited that job from Chilton as well. Kehler previously served as STRATCOM’s deputy commander.
Fiel To Head AFSOC
Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel, vice commander of US Special Operations Command since June 2010, is scheduled to become the next head of Air Force Special Operations Command. He will succeed Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, who is retiring. Dates for Fiel’s assumption of command and Wurster’s retirement were not immediately announced.
Wurster, with 38 years in uniform, has headed AFSOC since November 2007. Fiel is a master navigator with more than 2,000 flight hours in AC-130 gunships, MC-130 special-mission aircraft, and training aircraft.
New START In Effect
The new strategic arms reduction treaty (New START) into force in February, following ratification of the agreement by both the US and Russian legislatures. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification.
"We commit ourselves to a course of action that builds trust, lessens risks, and improves predictability, stability, and security," Clinton said in remarks immediately following the exchange, which took place Feb. 5, in Munich, Germany. She added, "Our countries will immediately begin notifying each other of changes in our strategic forces. Within 45 days, we will exchange full data on our weapons and facilities, and 60 days from now, we can resume the inspections that allow each side to trust, but verify."
With New START now in place, the United States wants to engage Russia in additional arms control issues. Clinton said she and Lavrov intended to discuss "nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons" and modernizing "the regime on conventional forces."
Under New START, the United States and Russia will each reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,550 warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles inside seven years.
Gates: China Open to Talks
China’s military leadership has agreed to consider starting a strategic dialogue with the US military on cyber, missile defense, nuclear, and space issues, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in January.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie, Gates said the talks would help "create an environment in which the chances of a miscalculation or a misunderstanding are significantly reduced." Gates, in China on a three-day visit long postponed by his hosts, said the discussions would be part of the two nations’ broader strategic and economic dialogue.
The US has been trying to strengthen military-to-military contacts with China in hopes of convincing Beijing that greater military transparency on China’s part is in the mutual interest of the two countries. Gates said he’s "optimistic and confident" that Chinese military leadership is committed to improving bilateral ties. An agreement establishing a new working group to develop framework for enhanced cooperation was signed as a result of the trip. The group is to have several meetings this year.
Mullen Issues 2011 Guidance
Defending "vital national interests" in the Middle East and Central Asia, eroding the Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan, working with Pakistan to deny al Qaeda safe havens, and assisting Iraqi security forces to mature and defend Iraq are the top strategic priorities of Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael G. Mullen.
The priorities were set in an annual guidance issued Jan.5 by the Chairman on how to achieve strategic objectives laid out in the National Security Strategy.
Mullen also wants to improve the health of US military forces, and plans to issue instructions for adoption of a "Total Force Fitness" program changing how the Pentagon assesses service members’ well-being and effectiveness. The attention is necessary, given the lingering emotional and physical strains of combat, and an upward trend in the suicide rate among uniformed personnel.
Finally, Mullen seeks to balance global strategic risk, calling for "a ready, forward presence and available forces that can meet the full scope" of US security commitments.
ACC Creates Rescue Division
Air Combat Command at JB Langley, Va., has created a personnel recovery division, designated A3J, which will fulfill its responsibilities to organize, train, and equip dedicated Air Force rescue forces. It will also train USAF personnel at risk of being on their own in a combat or survival situation.
"Part of our job entails producing well-trained rescue forces to execute recovery operations, but there’s another important piece: … to ensure that anyone who is at risk of isolation is properly trained and prepared to handle those challenges" said Lt. Col. Todd Worms, A3J chief.
ACC officials announced the new division in January, though it began forming the unit in December. In August 2009, the Office of the Secretary of Defense approved personnel recovery as a USAF core function. Shortly thereafter, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz approved an operational concept for personnel recovery.
Panel: More Women in Combat
The Congressionally chartered Military Leadership Diversity Commission, in a report slated to be released this month, is expected to recommend lifting the ban on women in direct ground combat.
Military policy prohibits women from serving in combat units below the brigade level. "We are saying, ‘Let’s remove barriers,’ " said retired Army Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr., commission vice chairman.
According to a draft of the panel report circulated in January, President Obama and Congress will be asked to pursue 20 separate initiatives toward developing a "demographically diverse leadership that reflects the forces it leads and the public it serves." Today, women make up 14.6 percent of the military and 19.2 percent of the Air Force. Retired USAF Gen. Lester L. Lyles chairs the 31-member panel.
Canada To Go for F-35
Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. MacKay in January reiterated Canada’s commitment to buy the F-35 strike fighter—and in a timely manner.
"It’s clear that it’s the intention of ... the government of Canada to proceed with the purchase. This is a solid decision," MacKay said during a press conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Ottawa during Gates’ official visit to Canada.
Last July, the Canadian government announced its intent to procure 65 F-35s to replace its aging CF-18s. Responding to calls by Canada’s Liberal Party to cancel those plans, MacKay voiced fears that "in addition to losing a preferential place in the production line," Canada would face an "operational gap" as the CF-18s reach the end of their service lives.
"There is a very ... sweet spot in terms of the delivery time," he noted during the Jan. 27 press briefing.
C-27 Grinds to a Halt
The Air Force’s C-27J Spartan fleet was grounded at the end of December after discovery of metal shavings in the fuel cells of all eight delivered aircraft. Though the cause was not yet clear, officials expect "it’s something left over from the manufacturing process," said Col. Gary Akins, acting deputy director of Air National Guard air and space operations.
The three aircraft assigned to Robins AFB, Ga., have since been cleared to fly, but Spartans assigned to the ANG’s 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Airport in Ohio, and the two aircraft undergoing predelivery modifications at contractor L3’s plant in Waco, Tex., remained grounded at the end of January as workers awaited spare parts.
Desire to deploy the tactical airlifter to Afghanistan is great, and Guard officials said they feel pressure to deploy the aircraft to theater as early as this month, despite the groundings which have delayed aircrew training on the new airframe.
USAF is building a fleet of 38 C-27s for the Air Guard, undertaking in-theater resupply of ground forces.
Former B-2 Engineer Gets Prison
A federal judge in Hawaii sentenced Noshir S. Gowadia, 66, a former Northrop Grumman B-2 engineer, to 32 years in prison for selling military secrets to China.
"This case has set the example for interagency cooperation focused singularly to protect Americans from harm," said Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Jacobson, commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, in a Justice Department news release following the Jan. 24 sentence.
In August 2010, a jury convicted Gowadia on 14 counts, including willfully communicating classified national defense information to the Chinese government and other unauthorized individuals, violating the Arms Export Control Act, conspiracy, and money laundering.
US officials said the information he provided assisted the Chinese in developing a stealthy cruise missile.
Gowadia, a naturalized US citizen living in Hawaii, has been in custody without bail since his arrest in 2005.
Spain Bars Tankers
US military aircraft are barred from refueling in Spain’s airspace, effective Feb. 1, Defense Minister Carme Chacon announced in January.
The prohibition was among many affecting US military aircraft that previously have enjoyed wide latitude in using the airspace of Spain, a NATO ally.
Besides the aerial refueling ban, US officials must also request permits in advance and provide more details on military flights transiting Spanish airspace, and any flights approved must be flown on instrument, not visual flight, rules.
Chacon said these new rules are meant to improve Spanish control of its airspace. They are part of the revision to the bilateral US-Spain agreement governing military cooperation that Spain requested.
The two nations last revised this document in 2003. Spanish bases at Moron and Rota have long hosted US military aircraft.
Brits Train at Offutt
British personnel are training at Offutt AFB, Neb., to operate RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft to be acquired and flown by the Royal Air Force. Offutt is home to the 55th Wing, USAF’s sole operational Rivet Joint unit.
The first of nearly 100 RAF personnel arrived in January, with training slated to continue throughout this year.
Most of the RAF airmen have firsthand experience operating their service’s Nimrod R1 reconnaissance aircraft, which is being phased out before acquisition of RC-135s.
Crews will participate in USAF’s standard RC-135 course work, requiring three to five months, depending on crew member roles. Once qualified, crews will fill positions on USAF Rivet Joints until Britain’s RC-135s are delivered around late 2013 and reach full operational capability.
Phantoms in a Renaissance
Members of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Fla., have begun flying F-4 Phantoms on target-towing missions on Tyndall’s aerial gunnery practice range over the Gulf of Mexico.
"This is just another way the venerable Phantom continues to serve the Air Force nearly 50 years after it began service," said Lt. Col. Gregory Blount, 82nd ATRS director of operations.
The F-4 Phantom IIs are replacing Lear jets contracted as target tugs by the Navy.
"Due to costs, the Navy contract for use of the Lear jets was being cut, and we had no other way to accomplish this training. The F-4 was the perfect platform to tow the banner and ensure we kept [pilots’] aerial gunnery proficiency," said Lt. Col. Ryan Luchsinger, 82nd ATRS boss.
Squadron officials said the F-4 is a cost-effective training support solution, saving the Air Force an estimated $750,000 annually.
Nuclear Center Fully Operational
The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., responsible for the cradle-to-grave sustainment of USAF’s nuclear weapons, has reached full operational status.
To reach this milestone, AFNWC staff increased and stabilized weapon storage and production areas, completed several nuclear surety inspections, strengthened partnerships with nuclear stakeholders, and formed an integrated team dedicated to pursuit of continuous improvement.
Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, head of Air Force Materiel Command, declared full operational capability on Jan. 20, during an AFNWC change-of-command ceremony.
Mobility Units Under New Roof
The Air Force Expeditionary Center at JB McGuire, N.J., gained responsibility for five Air Mobility Command organizations that formerly reported to 18th Air Force at Scott AFB, Ill., Jan. 6.
The center now oversees the 87th Air Base Wing at McGuire, 628th ABW at JB Charleston, S.C., 627th Air Base Group at JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope AFB, N.C., and the 319th Air Refueling Wing at Grand Forks AFB, N.D.
It relieves 18th Air Force to focus almost exclusively on worldwide mobility operations, tasking the center with the added responsibility of evolving AMC mission sets, while continuing to specialize in expeditionary combat support training.
"This realignment intends to better position AMC to successfully carry out its current mission and meet future challenges," said Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, 18th Air Force commander.
KC-10 Hits Two Decades Abroad
Two KC-10s recently surpassed an unbroken 20 years of deployment to the Middle East. The Air Force dispatched the tankers to the Persian Gulf area in January 1991 during the opening salvos of the first Gulf War, and they have supported US and coalition combat operations in Southwest Asia ever since.
The milestone came Jan. 17, just two months shy of the KC-10’s 30th anniversary in USAF service.
The pace for KC-10 aircrews and maintainers has slackened only slightly since the first Gulf War, the largest aerial refueling operation in history.
"Last year, [our unit] had 1,400 incidents where KC-10s and their aircrews supported US and coalition troops in contact with the enemy," said Lt. Col. Johnny L. Barnes II, commander of the 9th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis AFB, Calif.
The Air Force’s 59 KC-10s have a projected structural service life extending beyond 2043.
Better Angels in Flight Testing
Flight testing of a new parachute known as the Guardian Angel is under way at Edwards AFB, Calif. The new system allows people to descend at a slower and safer rate in the thin air of high mountain operations, such as Afghanistan.
"With the current systems, the descent rate is too fast at high altitudes," explained 2nd Lt. Jonathan Sepp, airdrop engineer with Edwards’ 418th Flight Test Squadron.
Specifically designed for USAF pararescue, the new system could replace designs now in use with the Air Force "and the rest of the military once it’s approved," stated Sepp.
Guardian Angel is trifunctional, meaning it can be used for freefall, static-line, or tandem jumps. "It’s going to allow people to land in a safer manner, carry more gear, and accomplish the mission more effectively than they could’ve with the parachute systems we currently have," said Sepp.
Testing was slated for conclusion in February.
Stormchasers: Alaska Edition
Hurricane-chasing aircraft, their crews, and ground support teams are operating from Alaska, switching from their warm-weather missions mostly in the southeast US.
Airmen and WC-130Js from Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler AFB, Miss., are now operating from JB Elmendorf, Alaska, collecting data from winter storms in the Pacific Ocean bound for the continental United States.
Known as the "Hurricane Hunters," the squadron monitors tropical storms over the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico during warmer months, employing specially modified C-130s. It then heads for Alaska each January.
Reservists, are currently aiding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to generate more accurate winter forecasting models over the Pacific region. "That [information] can be crucial for residents living in harm’s way," said Lt. Col. Roy Deatherage, aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the squadron. "These forecasts provide people in the path of the storms with warnings that can save lives," he added.
The Hurricane Hunters will remain on Pacific winter watch through April 30, returning to warmer skies this spring.
C-130 Ops Merge at Elmendorf
Airmen of the newly formed 537th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at JB Elmendorf, Alaska, began working alongside Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing in January, maintaining the C-130s that will operate from the Alaskan base.
As part of BRAC 2005, the 176th Wing is relocating from Kulis ANG Base to nearby Elmendorf, both of which are in the Anchorage area.
The Guard wing brings with it the C-130s of the 144th Airlift Squadron. Active duty airmen of Elmendorf’s 537th Airlift Squadron will participate in operating the aircraft, and 537th AMU airmen will help maintain them.
The Guard is going to own all the airplanes. "The idea is that with the 537th AS utilizing the Guard resources, we are going to augment the Guard’s maintenance capability," said CMSgt. William Holm, 537th AMU chief.
Vandenberg Plans 11 in ’11
The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., will likely boost its space launches from 10 in 2010 to 11 this year.
Col. Richard Boltz, 30th SW commander, told the local chambers of commerce, "2011 is shaping up to be just as busy a time for us," reported the Vandenberg area’s Lompoc Record.
The first launch of the year, on Jan. 20, was the West Coast’s first ever Delta IV Heavy launch. The 235-foot-tall vehicle carried a classified intelligence satellite. A successful Minotaur shot followed Feb. 6. An Atlas V, with a payload of classified intelligence satellites, is slated for liftoff March 12. Also, a Minotaur mission is on the departure board for Aug. 10, to place a military payload in space.
NASA plans to loft at least three rockets carrying government and commercial payloads. Vandenberg officials aim to increase Minuteman operational test shots from three last year to four, and the base is slated to serve as the landing site for an Air Force X-37B reusable unmanned orbital vehicle.
WWII Airman Receives DFC
A former B-17 navigator from World War II has received a long-overdue Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of valor on a mission 67 years ago.
In the skies over Germany, 2nd Lt. Robert L. Giles saved a crewmate’s life on April 18, 1944. After a German fighter critically mauled his bomber, Giles helped the B-17’s severely wounded bombardier to safely escape the aircraft before it went down. Giles himself had suffered an arm wound. Both men were captured upon reaching the ground. They remained POWs until May 1945.
Giles was awarded the DFC in a ceremony at Kirtland AFB, N.M., Dec. 29. In April 2010, Giles received the Air Medal for actions during the same mission.
"I never thought that I did anything that any person wouldn’t have done under the same circumstances," said Giles.
Vietnam War Airmen Identified
The remains of two airmen missing in action from the Vietnam War have been identified as Col. James E. Dennany, 34, of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Maj. Robert L. Tucci, 27, of Detroit, the Defense Department announced Jan. 12.
Flying an F-4D Phantom, the two men were shot down on Nov. 12, 1969, while escorting an AC-130 gunship over Laos during a night strike mission. The intensity of anti-aircraft fire prevented a formal search for the downed crew at the time.
Based on human remains and artifacts received from villagers near Ban Soppeng, Laos, joint US-Laotian teams conducted three excavations, beginning in 1999, ending their work in 2009. They recovered wreckage and human remains that eventually led to the identification of both airmen.
The remains were returned to the families, and both men were buried with full military honors in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Jan. 14.
Korean War Remains Identified
Defense Department forensic experts have identified the remains of 1st Lt. Robert F. Dees, an F-84 pilot from Moultrie, Ga., missing in action during the Korean War.
On Oct. 9, 1952, Dees’ F-84 crashed while attacking enemy boxcars on a railroad near Sinyang, North Korea.
Airborne searches over the battlefield at the time failed to locate Dees or his aircraft. DOD forensic scientists used dental records to identify Dees’ remains from among thousands of US service personnel repatriated and buried in Hawaii in 1956, marked simply as "unknown."
Dees’ remains were returned to his family. He was buried with full military honors Jan. 22 in Ozark, Ala.
Baltic Fighter Squeeze
European budget cuts are making it tougher to provide air sovereignty assets to NATO members without their own air arms, according to Maj. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, US Air Forces in Europe’s director of plans, programs, and analyses.
NATO fighters have provided air sovereignty to Baltic member states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since their accession to the Alliance in 2004. However, defense cuts are making it harder to sustain that help, Schissler said in a January interview.
"Having good security" in the form of air sovereignty is one way NATO prevents conflicts, Schissler said. However, with limited defense resources, Baltic states often feel "threatened by both the proximity and the size of the Russian force," he noted. Having a NATO force "capable of providing defensive security" both reassures them and stabilizes NATO’s relationship with Russia.
"It’s working now," he said, but "some of the key nations [with] some of the best defensive capability are looking at significant reductions" of more than a third of their forces. Those cuts will eat into "the numeric supply of fighters and fighter squadrons here on the continent," Schissler said. "What exists now, and what will exist in two years, five to 10 years, will probably be significantly different," he added. Such reductions will make the air policing mission more difficult.
USAF F-15s from RAF Lakenheath, Britain, ended a four-month rotation to Siauliai AB, Lithuania, in January, having flown 66 training sorties and intercepted three unauthorized aircraft. The Lakenheath Eagles handed the mission off to German F-4s on Jan. 5.
All Eyes on Gorgon Stare
The Air Force won’t deploy Gorgon Stare intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance pods to Afghanistan until the bugs have been shaken out of the system, despite a desire to field the units as quickly as possible.
The Air Force intended to introduce the new, podded system for the MQ-9 Reaper in Afghanistan late last year. However, extensive operational testing at Eglin AFB, Fla., found the system to be "not operationally effective and operationally suitable," according to a Jan. 25 press release.
Now, Gorgon Stare will not be fielded "until the theater commander accepts it," said USAF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Johnson.
In its first increment, the pod features nine video cameras, each capable of streaming live overhead imagery of a separate area, a vast improvement over the Reaper’s current single-camera arrangement.
"This is a very advanced technology the Air Force is developing rapidly" to meet combat requirements, said Johnson, commenting in the wake of reports by the Los Angeles Times that the electro-optical and infrared cameras had trouble tracking humans during the day and larger objects, such as vehicles, at night. The Times was quoting a draft memo leaked from Eglin’s 53rd Wing, dated Dec. 30.
Until these issues are resolved, testers advised against fielding Gorgon Stare until USAF and industry officials resolved the problems. Johnson explained the tester’s evaluation was later revised to reflect several fixes that have already been implemented.
Fitted to a single MQ-9, one Gorgon Stare pod set will eventually be able to provide persistent surveillance over a city-size area.
Schwalier Files Lawsuit
Retired Brig. Gen. Terryl J. Schwalier filed suit in US District Court on Jan 20, 2011, in a bid to reverse punishment handed down to him after the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. Named as defendants in their official capacities are Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley.
Schwalier was commander of the 4404th Provisional Wing at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when terrorists attacked base housing at Khobar Towers on June 25, 1996. Nineteen airmen died and 240 more were injured in a massive truck bomb blast.
Three Air Force investigations found Schwalier had significantly improved base security during his tenure as wing commander and absolved him of any blame. However, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen took punitive action and rescinded Schwalier’s previously approved promotion to major general on July 31, 1997.
Schwalier’s petition for his rank to be restored to major general on the retired rolls was twice approved by the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, in 2004 and 2007, and was twice stopped by OSD. In 2007, the AFBCMR voted unanimously to "correct an injustice" and restore Schwalier’s rank.
The case charges DOD overstepped its authority by interfering with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. Under the Administrative Procedures Act passed by Congress, AFBCMR decisions are final. Air Force lawyers made a similar argument rebutting the OSD general counsel’s interference when OSD overturned the AFBCMR’s 2004 decision.
Schwalier is suing now because he has "exhausted all other alternatives" and because a group of private individuals have come forward to help with expenses, he told Air Force Magazine. "It was a hard decision to make."
"A number of supporters said, ‘You need to keep fighting this battle,’ " Schwalier said. According to his attorney Edward R. Rodriguez Jr., a group of about 25 private individuals contributed to attorneys’ fees for the case. Schwalier and Rodriguez declined to name the individuals, but Schwalier said he was "humbled" by the response.
"I’m suing the SECDEF because his office illegally interfered with the BCMR process and compelled the SECAF to overturn what is supposed to be a final and conclusive decision," Schwalier said. "I’m suing the SECAF because his office let that happen—because he yielded his congressionally given authority to an OSD lawyer."
"It is a novel and unusual case," lead plaintiff’s attorney David P. Sheldon told Air Force Magazine. "Congress said their decisions on this statute are final," so DOD cannot "be arbitrary and capricious" by attempting to overturn decisions under the statute. "I have never seen this in 20 years of practice," said Sheldon, an expert in military appeals.
In fact, Schwalier’s legal team contends that his case is "the first and only time" DOD has interfered with an Air Force records correction and "the first time DOD has interfered with a Secretarial records corrections decision based on a board for correction of military records recommendation by any department."
The case has been assigned to Judge Rosemary Collier. The defendants have until March 20 to respond. An OSD spokeswoman said she would not comment on active litigation.
Regarding the Air Force’s two previous decisions to promote Schwalier to major general on the retired rolls, Sheldon said USAF "has acted in a thoughtful way, and but for OSD’s unlawful influence, they reached the right decision." —Rebecca Grant
Vital Signs of Critical Care
Like many other Air Force specialties, Critical Care Air Transport Teams are too few in number, have too much to do, and are indispensable.
CCATTs comprise three trauma specialists that accompany injured service members on their journey from front-line combat posts to a hospital or other care facility that will ultimately treat their wounds. The team frees forward hospitals to perform simple "damage control surgery"; to quickly "stop bleeding, prevent contamination, and get airway control of a patient"; and hand a patient off "to where there’s more capability and resources," said Lt. Col. Raymond Fang, director of trauma at the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
Before CCATTs were created, field medical staff was forced to accompany patients en route, straining front-line hospitals.
However, CCATT is a low-density, high-demand capability, and with the war in Afghanistan, the teams are "heavily stressed continually manning all these positions," said Fang. To meet requirements, USAF called on the Air National Guard for help, unearthing an unexpected goldmine of talent. Trauma physicians and specialists in the Guard—some in nonmedical specialties—quickly expanded the specialized CCATT pool, bringing a high level of experience at little to no additional cost, and with only a short certification program.
With a shrinking number of intensive care units in military hospitals, the experience is invaluable.
"There’s not a wealth of critical care experience in the active duty," explained Fang, but "Guard people, that’s what they do in their everyday job." He added, "The Air Guard brings a lot of enthusiasm, and they bring a huge amount of personal expertise."
In addition to willingness and talent, the Guard is highly efficient. "The day before I left, the military wasn’t paying me to be doing anything," quipped Brig. Gen. John D. Owen, Air Guard physician and organizer of ANG’s CCATT mission. Leveraging a force of civilian trauma doctors, critical care nurses, and respiratory therapists who bring their "day-to-day experience" to the job allows the Guard to bring a level of care "as high or higher" than active duty, Owen said.
"We’re able to bring an incredibly qualified group of people forward to answer the nation’s call to take care of our wounded soldiers," said Owen. Those contributions, he summed up, are "truly a national treasure."
Military leaders around the world who are preoccupied with the Asia-Pacific Theater—at the expense of Europe—are taking "a dangerous view," warned Maj. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, US Air Forces in Europe’s director of plans, programs, and analyses.
In a January interview at Ramstein AB, Germany, Schissler said, "It concerns me when people are ready to discount Europe and NATO. I think it’s a vital relationship and we need to remain balanced across the globe."
The United States should maintain the strong, stabilizing posture that has enabled peace in Europe, while equally cultivating relationships in the Pacific to confront emerging threats, Schissler asserted. Europe is home to bases critical to US mobility and force projection worldwide, as well as allies that have stood beside the US through the Cold War and stand beside it today in Afghanistan. US leaders must not overlook European countries, with which the United States shares many common interests, responsibilities, and values, he noted.
At the same time, yielding to budgetary pressure, many European allies have cut deeply into defense spending, and there are worrying signs the US may not be far behind.
"I don’t think our Defense Department will be much different from the defense departments in European nations in terms of sizing and reductions," meaning European allies may not be able to indefinitely rely on the US to backfill capacity, he said.
The US and NATO continue to confront the same challenges to European security, but "dollars and Euros will be tighter," he said. The Alliance faces "difficult decisions" in the next five to 10 years.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Feb. 15, a total of 1,468 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,466 troops and two Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,141 were killed in action with the enemy, while 327 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 10,351 troops wounded in action during OEF.
JTACs in High Demand
The Air Force more than doubled the number of joint terminal attack controllers in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010. It attributed the spike from 53 JTACS to 134 to the increase in use of bombs, missiles, and strafing attacks, collectively reaching the "highest level since the war began," reported USA Today.
Col. Richard Gannon, air operations commander in Kabul, told the newspaper that the high demand for airpower is tied to supporting NATO ground troops in the face of a resilient enemy.
In October, Afghanistan-based JTACs broke a new record, coordinating 1,000 close air support missions in which aircraft fired or dropped live ordnance, surpassing the previous mark of 984 CAS missions with weapons release. The old record was set in June 2008.
The high demand for JTACs comes at a cost, however: The airmen currently spend nearly as much time deployed as they do at home station.
To Afghanistan via Lithuania
US Transportation Command has struck a deal with Lithuania to expand the northern distribution network into Afghanistan. The agreement allows an alternative route for shipment of nonlethal cargo such as construction materials, said Brig. Gen. Christopher J. Bence, deputy director of TRANSCOM’s operations and plans directorate.
The pact adds the Lithuanian seaport of Klaipeda to the network, allowing TRANSCOM-contracted companies to move cargo through Belarus, Russia, and Uzbekistan into Afghanistan.
About 100 shipping containers reached the port in December, transiting through Lithuania on Jan. 15, according to a TRANSCOM spokeswoman.
"Competition is good. ... As we have expanded different routes, we get better rates, ... and the command also helps the economies of those countries that sign agreements," Bence said.
New Heights in Airdrop
Airdrop poundage in Afghanistan has nearly doubled each year since 2006, according to Air Forces Central.
In 2010, USAF aircraft dropped a record-shattering 60.4 million pounds of material to forward areas in Afghanistan, compared to 32.2 million pounds in 2009. The remote deployment of forces and lack of extensive infrastructure in Afghanistan have driven high demand for aerial provisioning and resupply from the war’s opening days. Last year’s surge of an additional 30,000 US troops has pushed that demand higher still.
"These airdrops are critical to sustaining ground forces at austere locations where other means of resupply aren’t feasible," stated Col. David Almand, who served as air mobility director in the combined air and space operations center in Southwest Asia in 2010. See chart, p. 14.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. (sel.) Casey D. Blake, from Cmdr., Defense Contract Mgmt. Agency, Lockheed Martin Marietta, Marietta, Ga., to Dep. Cmdr., CENTCOM-Jt. Theater Spt. Contracting Command, Afghanistan ... Maj. Gen. (sel.) Norman J. Brozenick Jr., from Dir., Plans, Programs, Rqmts., & Assessments, AFSOC, Hurlburt Field, Fla., to Cmdr., Special Ops. Command, PACOM, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii ... Brig. Gen. (sel.) Stephen A. Clark, from Cmdr., 27th Spec. Ops. Wg., AFSOC, Cannon AFB, N.M., to Dir., Plans, Programs, Rqmts., & Assessments, AFSOC, Hurlburt Field, Fla. ... Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel, from Vice Cmdr., SOCOM, Pentagon, to Cmdr., AFSOC, Hurlburt Field, Fla. ... Brig. Gen. Samuel A. R. Greaves, from Vice Cmdr., SMC, AFSPC, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., to Dir., Plans, Prgms., & Analyses, AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo. ... Brig. Gen. Scott M. Hanson, from Cmdr., 321st Air Expeditionary Wg., Air Forces Central, ACC, Baghdad, Iraq, to Spec. Asst. to the Vice C/S, USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Scott W. Jansson, from Dir., Iraq Security Assistance Mission, US Forces-Iraq, CENTCOM, Baghdad, Iraq, to Cmdr., Defense Log. Agency Aviation, Defense Log. Agency, Richmond, Va. ... Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, from Commandant Air War College, AETC, Maxwell AFB, Ala., to Dir., Global Reach Programs, Office of the Asst. SECAF, Acq., Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Lee K. Levy II, Cmdr., 402nd Maintenance Wg., Warner Robins ALC, AFMC, Robins AFB, Ga., to Dir., Log., AMC, Scott AFB, Ill. ... Maj. Gen. Bruce A. Litchfield, from Cmdr., 76th Maintenance Wg., AFMC, Tinker AFB, Okla., to Spec. Asst. to the Cmdr., AFMC, Tinker AFB, Okla. ... Brig. Gen. Robert D. McMurry Jr., from Cmdr., Airborne Laser Sys. Prgm. Office, ASC, AFMC, Kirtland AFB, N.M., to Dir., Iraq Security Assistance Mission, US Forces-Iraq, CENTCOM, Baghdad, Iraq ... Maj. Gen. David J. Scott, from Dir., Operational Capability Requirements, DCS, Ops., P&R, USAF, Pentagon to Dir., Air & Space Ops., USAFE, Ramstein AB, Germany ... Brig. Gen. (sel.) Howard D. Stendahl, from Command Chaplain, ACC, JB Langley, Va., to AF Dep. Chief of Chaplains, USAF, JB Bolling, D.C. ... Brig. Gen. (sel.) Roger W. Teague, from Cmdr., Space Based Infrared Systems Wg., SMC, AFSPC, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., to Vice Cmdr., SMC, AFSPC, Los Angeles AFB, Calif.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Jeffrey C. Allen, to Dir., Instl. & Log., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo. ... Gregory J. Weaver, to Dep. Dir., Plans & Policy, STRATCOM, Offutt AFB, Neb.
President Obama has approved Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ plan to disestablish US Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., as a cost saving measure. Obama said the disestablishment would take effect at the discretion of the Defense Secretary.
The first two of 15 former South Korean T-38 trainer aircraft have arrived at Holloman AFB, N.M., for regeneration. The rebuilt aircraft will be assigned to JB Langley, Va., to provide a dissimilar air combat training aircraft for F-22 pilots.
Beginning in March, airmen deployed in combat roles to Afghanistan will wear the new Operation Enduring Freedom camouflage pattern, or OCP uniform. Initially the uniform only will be worn by airmen in roles outside the wire; it will later be standard in theater.
The 36th Wing’s second of three RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft touched down at Andersen AFB, Guam, Jan. 7. The Global Hawks are being based on Guam to enhance US airborne intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance coverage of the Western Pacific.
AeroVironment’s Global Observer remotely piloted aircraft successfully completed its first hydrogen-fueled flight at Edwards AFB, Calif., Jan. 6. Flying four hours and achieving an altitude of up to 5,000 feet, the RPA aims to provide a cheap alternative to satellite surveillance.
Members of Air Force Reserve Command’s 445th Airlift Wing began C-17 training at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, Jan. 20. USAF intends to replace the wing’s 10 C-5As at Wright-Patterson with eight C-17s by the end of Fiscal 2012.
KC-135 operations have temporarily moved from Fairchild AFB, Wash., to Spokane and Grant County Airports, as Fairchild’s 50-year-old runway undergoes replacement. Formerly Larson Air Force Base, Grant County Airport in Moses Lake, Wash., will absorb the bulk of Fairchild’s flight operations.
The Air Force plans to establish 10 new MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft squadrons this year, spread between both active and reserve components. USAF aims to procure equipment and train crews to sustain 65 combat air patrols by 2013.
Nellis AFB, Nev., has been chosen to host the new joint military working dog training program. The 99th Security Forces Group teaches the course. It will replace one held in Yuma, Ariz. Plans are for nine classes annually with 20 teams each.
The 76th Airlift Squadron’s Gulfstream C-20H distinguished visitor transport marked the type’s first combat-zone deployment, returning to Ramstein AB, Germany, Feb. 1, after 10 months in Afghanistan. Aircrews clocked 700 hours, transporting 95 distinguished visitors and 1,100 total passengers.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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