Four Airmen Dead in Pave Hawk Crash
Four airmen assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, UK, were killed when their HH-60G Pave Hawk crashed on the Norfolk coast of eastern England Jan. 7, according to a base release.
Killed in the crash were TSgt. Dale E. Mathews, SSgt. Afton M. Ponce, Capt. Sean M. Ruane, and Capt. Christopher S. Stover.
“The aircraft, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, was performing a low-level training mission along the coast when the crash occurred” at approximately 6 p.m. local time, officials stated. A second HH-60 involved in the exercise landed to render aid, but the first aircraft’s four-man crew was pronounced dead at the scene, according to local law enforcement.
“Police continue to work with various partner agencies to piece together the exact circumstances concerning the crash,” Norfolk Constabulary Chief Superintendent Bob Scully said in a statement. “It remains a challenging, lengthy process due to the difficult terrain and the size of the area.” The recovery was hampered by incoming tides that forced officials to move the wreckage and that scattered live ammunition, according to police.
Airman Killed in Afghanistan
Capt. David I. Lyon, 28, of Sandpoint, Idaho, died from wounds suffered when a vehicle-born improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan, announced the Defense Department. The deadly attack took place on Dec. 27.
Lyon was a member of the 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron at Peterson AFB, Colo. He was on a year-long deployment, working with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan in advising Afghan army commandos, according to a Peterson news release.
Lyon was an Air Force Academy graduate who had been in the Air Force for five years, stated the base release. He was scheduled to return from the deployment in February, reported the Colorado Springs Gazette.
James Sworn In as Secretary
Deborah Lee James became the 23rd Air Force Secretary after her swearing-in at the Pentagon on Dec. 20, 2013.
“I think our Air Force is in great shape given that we’ve been living through some difficult times,” said James in her first comments as Secretary during the ceremony. “I’m enormously optimistic about the future of our Air Force. We have nothing but opportunities to face in the upcoming years.”
James said she was confident the Air Force is “going to remain No. 1,” but would become “smaller,” according to the service’s news release. As the Air Force begins force management programs to cut end strength by some 25,000 over the next five years, she said service officials “are going to be as transparent as possible” and get information to airmen as quickly as possible.
James, nominated by President Obama in August, replaces Acting Secretary Eric Fanning, who had led the service since Michael B. Donley stepped down in June 2013. She is the second woman to hold the position and comes to the Air Force from Science Applications International Corp. where she was president of the company’s technical and engineering sector.
The First Step
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined eight cuts across the department, calling them the “first step” toward meeting 20 percent staff reductions by Fiscal 2019—a goal he announced last summer.
They include: restructuring the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; realigning the Office of the Director of Administration and Management and its components under the Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO); transferring certain information technology systems business from DCMO to the Pentagon’s chief information officer; combining the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight and the defense privacy and civil liberties offices; creating a new reporting structure for the Office of Net Assessment; and rebalancing resources for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness across the three assistant secretaries of defense.
“Most of the reductions in OSD staff that I announced today will occur through a process of natural attrition in order to minimize the impact on our workforce,” said Hagel during a Dec. 4 Pentagon briefing. However, he also said “additional reductions” will become necessary if sequestration continues.
Bronze Star With Valor
Nicolo Solarino, a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor device, recognizing his heroism in helping to save a fellow airman’s life during an enemy rocket attack in Iraq back in 2004.
The Air Force honored Solarino, who is currently assigned to Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., during a late November ceremony there, according to a Dec. 30 base release.
On Sept. 11, 2004, Solarino, then a senior airman, was serving with a security forces unit at Balad AB, Iraq, when an enemy rocket detonated near his post, throwing him approximately 10 feet, stated the news release. Once he recovered, Solarino saw that now-retired SrA. Brian Kolfage Jr. had sustained life-threatening injuries.
Solarino and another airman performed emergency medical care on Kolfage and shielded Kolfage from enemy fire.
Solarino stayed with Kolfage until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported him to a field hospital.
Find out more on www.airforcemag.com. Search “Solarino.”
14th Air Force Chief Confirmed
The Senate confirmed the nomination of Maj. Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond to receive a third star for his new assignment as commander of 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. In this role, he will oversee the Air Force’s space forces.
Senators approved Raymond’s nomination on Dec. 20.
Raymond has been US Strategic Command’s director of plans and policy at Offutt AFB, Neb., since July 2012.
In his new position, Raymond will serve as STRATCOM’s joint functional component commander for space, leading the joint space forces assigned and attached to STRATCOM.
He will succeed Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who is retiring.
SASC To Review Military Pension Cuts
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the committee would review a proposed cut to military pensions in 2014 following backlash from numerous veterans organizations, reported Stars and Stripes.
The one percent cut in annual cost-of-living allowance increases for nondisabled veterans under the age of 62 was included in the two-year budget deal signed by President Obama in December. However, the pension cut does not fully go into effect until December 2015, giving Congress time to make adjustments.
In mid-December, Levin said the ongoing review by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission also “may further bear on this issue.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of the lead negotiators of the two-year deal, said only about 17 percent of military personnel eventually qualify for the “exceptionally generous benefit, often providing 40 years of pension payments in return for 20 years of service,” according to a statement on the HBC website.
The fact that between Fiscal 2002 and Fiscal 2012, “payments to military retirees from the Military Retirement Fund rose by 49 percent” is one of the reasons Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Budget Committee chairman, argued the system must be reformed, according to the statement.
The Air Force Association “is appalled with the provision cutting the COLA for military retirees,” wrote AFA President Craig R. McKinley in a Jan. 7 letter to members. “Please be assured we will put all our effort behind removing the section of the budget deal affecting military retirees. ... We have already heard from several offices in both the House and the Senate saying they will work to get this done ASAP.”
Reserve RPA Squadron Stands Up
Air Force Reserve Command recently activated the 429th Air Combat Training Squadron at Holloman AFB, N.M., as a new remotely piloted aircraft instructional unit, base officials announced.
The geographically separated Reserve unit now augments the 926th Group at Nellis AFB, Nev., which supplies MQ-1 and MQ-9 flight and crew instructors, in addition to providing test and evaluation to Nellis’ Air Force Warfare Center, according to Holloman’s Dec. 6 news release.
“Gaining the 429th ACTS highlights the Reserve Command in the RPA enterprise and our projected growth into a wing with a dedicated RPA operations group,” said 926th Group Commander Col. John J. Breeden.
The unit began operations at Holloman as a detachment of the 301st Fighter Wing at NAS JRB Fort Worth, Tex., in 2010, before it was redesignated as a squadron on Nov. 19.
One for the Qatars
The US and Qatar have renewed their defense cooperation agreement governing training, exercises, and other “cooperative activities” between the two militaries, said Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog in a statement.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah signed the agreement on Dec. 10, during Hagel’s six-day trip to the Persian Gulf region.
After the signing, Hagel visited airmen and troops serving at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and combined air and space operations center at Al Udeid AB, Qatar.
By publicizing his visit and remarks, Hagel lifted a DOD gag rule on the facility’s location. For years, media organizations have had to sign nondisclosure agreements, due to Qatari sensitivities, regarding the CAOC’s location at Al Udeid, noting only its location in “Southwest Asia.”
A senior official traveling with Hagel said his public acknowledgment of the base’s role in regional security is part of an effort to raise the visibility of US-Qatari cooperation with allies, with both nations wanting to “reassure our allies and our partners.”
CRH and the Sequester
In recent years, the Air Force struggled to recapitalize its fleet of HH-60G rescue helicopters. Now, with the sequester, the service may have to defer yet again the contract award planned for early next year to field new rescue helicopters.
“It’s a program that we must have at some point, but we’re talking about lots of things that we must have,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 13 when discussing the fate of the combat rescue helicopter acquisition program. He added there would be no modernization programs outside of the Air Force’s top three acquisition priorities (KC-46 tanker, F-35 strike fighter, new bomber) until the service knows what its budget topline will be.
“It’s not an option of awarding [CRH] this [fiscal] year or killing it. ... It’s an issue of prioritizing and rephasing,” said then-acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning at the same briefing.
The day before, some 70 House members urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to preserve funding for CRH. “We believe this mission is too important to allow arbitrary budget pressures to thwart providing these lifesaving aircraft,” stated their Dec. 12 missive.
Turkish Aerospace’s F-35 Fuselage
Northrop Grumman F-35 subcontractor Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) delivered the first Lightning II center fuselage built on its line in Ankara, Turkey, in mid-December, announced Northrop Grumman in a news release.
The fuselage—destined to become a US Air Force F-35A—will now be shipped to prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, Tex., for mating with other major assemblies and completion.
“Turkish Aerospace Industries has played an integral part in the development and production of the F-35 for more than a decade,” said Stephen F. O’Bryan, vice president of F-35 program integration and business development for Lockheed Martin. “The delivery of the first center fuselage ... marks a key milestone for the program and TAI.”
Once full rate F-35 production begins, the company will eventually produce a fuselage every 10 days bound for US, Turkish, and Italian strike fighters, according to the release.
Scorpion’s Maiden Flight
Scorpion—Textron AirLand’s new light attack intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft—lifted off on its maiden flight from McConnell AFB, Kan., in December, company officials announced. Test pilots flew a series of handling checks, landing safely back at McConnell after 1.4-hours aloft, stated the Dec. 12 news release. “It showed impressive stability and responsiveness closely matching all of the predicted parameters for today’s maneuvers—it’s going to be a highly capable aircraft for the ISR and homeland security mission set,” company test pilot Dan Hinson said after landing. Scorpion’s design team developed, built, and flew the experimental jet in less than two years, borrowing heavily on existing technologies and techniques, the company said. The straight-wing subsonic jet is designed for a variety of light surveillance or attack roles in permissive threat environments, including counterinsurgency, narcotics interdiction, and anti-piracy. The aircraft’s twin engines allow it to carry a 3,000-pound sensor payload internally in addition to precision guided weapons on the wing stations. Scorpion cruises at 517 miles per hour, with a 2,400 nautical mile ferry range. “When the design phase began, ... we were confident that we would deliver a uniquely affordable, versatile tactical aircraft,” said Textron CEO Scott C. Donnelly. “Today’s flight met all expectations and keeps us on track towards certification and production.”—Aaron M. U. Church
The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
CasualtiesBy Jan. 17, a total of 2,307 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total inclues 2,304 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,802 were killed in action, while 495 died in noncombat incidents. There have been 19,573 wounded in action during OEF.Helicopter Crash in AfghanistanSix US soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan in December 2013; one American onboard survived, reported an International Security Assistance Force statement. The cause of the incident is under investigation; however, according to initial reports there was no enemy activity in the area of the crash. Killed in the crash were CWO2 Randy L. Billings, CWO2 Joshua B. Silverman, Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, Sgt. 1st Class Omar W. Forde, SSgt. Jesse L. Williams, and Spc. Terry K. D. Gordon.The Defense Department’s Dec. 19 announcement identifying the soldiers confirmed they were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when their aircraft crashed in Now Bahar, Afghanistan. The incident was still pending investigation, stated the DOD news release. The crash is the single deadliest incident for ISAF troops operating in Afghanistan since seven Georgian soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in Helmand province last June. More than 150 ISAF members were killed in Afghanistan in 2013, according to the report.Pakistani Supply RoutesDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Pakistan to keep NATO supply routes to Afghanistan flowing or it may risk losing some financial aid, reported Bloomberg’s Business Week. Pentagon Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog confirmed that Hagel “raised the importance of keeping the ground supply routes out of Afghanistan open” during Dec. 9 meetings. Hagel met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Minister of Defense Khawaja Asif, Minister of Finance Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz, and other Pakistan officials in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan, according to a December statement by the Pentagon. The Pentagon was forced to halt shipments on one of the main routes in and out of Afghanistan in December as hundreds of Pakistanis blocked parts of the route in Peshawar and other northwestern towns in protest of US drone strikes in the region. The Tehreek-e-Insaf party began the blockade Nov. 23. The group governs the northwestern area and said Hagel’s visit is proof the blockade is successfully pressuring the US, reported Bloomberg.
USAF To Deploy New AEF Model The Air Force will begin deploying airmen in most Air Force specialty codes under a new deployment model, known as AEF Next, beginning Oct. 1, Col. Stephen Hart, chief of the war planning and policy division, told Air Force Magazine. Under the new air and space expeditionary force construct, airmen will deploy with their units instead of the piecemeal approach adopted after more than a decade of fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The goal is to create more predictability and stability for airmen by creating a unified battle rhythm that includes a one-to-two deployment-to-dwell ratio for Active Duty airmen and a one-to-five deployment-to-dwell ratio for the reserve component, said Hart. “The concepts of AEF Next, which were approved by the [Chief of Staff of the Air Force] and incorporated into the existing AEF processes are focused on stabilizing the force,” said Hart. “However, the Air Force’s ability to prevent any airmen from deploying at less than one-to-two [deployment-to-dwell ratio] is situation dependent and not absolute.” The Fiscal 2015 Global Force Management Allocation Plan—expected to be signed in early 2014—will determine which career fields will remain at the higher operational tempo, said Hart. “It’s important to note that it is individual airmen who deploy at less than one-to-two, not the AFSC,” he added. Read more background on AEF Next at www.airforcemag.com. Search “What’s Next for the AEF?” —Amy McCullough
Attacking Sexual Assault As the long process of finalizing the Fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill concluded Dec. 26, the initiatives to address the issue of sexual assault in the US military were ready to take form. But while the bipartisan agreement includes a package of 36 provisions that boost prevention efforts, enhance response tactics, and reform standing policies, it does not include some of the highly publicized amendments introduced in recent months. Missing from the bill is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y) controversial proposal to take military sexual assault cases outside the chain of command. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) competing, and less severe, amendment also is absent. McCaskill’s bill would have removed the commander’s ability to change or dismiss court-martial convictions in cases of sexual assault.What the approved authorization bill does include are changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, insertion of new amendments, and introduction of new studies and reviews to be conducted as well as new policies to be implemented. “We ... really worked hard on this issue and came up with some very good changes,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) during the Dec. 9 initial introduction of the agreement, which took place between House and Senate Armed Services Committee members. “I am very pleased with the things that they were able to work out to [address] sexual assault for prosecution and prevention. That’s a cornerstone of our bill.”One “major change,” as SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) described it, was modifying the military court-martial proceeding, similar to that of a preliminary hearing in a civilian trial process, to more resemble a grand jury procedure, with the purpose of determining “probable cause rather than a discovery proceeding.” This would not require victims to be present, so they would not be subjected to cross-examination during the initial proceeding, Levin said.Other provisions include:
—Merri M. Shaffer
Shenanigans in Russia A recent report from the Air Force inspector general found that Maj. Gen. Michael J. Carey, former commander of 20th Air Force, violated Article 133—conduct unbecoming an officer—during a trip to Russia in July. According to the report, Carey, who was leading a US delegation of military and civilian nuclear security experts in Moscow for a joint nuclear security exercise, was repeatedly drunk and often rude during the trip. While having drinks with his team on July 15, Carey boasted about “the importance of his position” and complained that “his group had the worst morale and that the leadership wasn’t supporting him,” according to the report. During a lunch banquet on July 16, Carey made inappropriate comments about Syria and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden that “were not well-received.” He then went on to announce he had met “two hot women the night before,” stated the report. The same day, during a tour of a local monastery, Carey slurred his words, interrupted the tour guide, and attempted to give the guide a “fist bump.” One witness described Carey as “pouting” and “sulking” over the day’s activities while another said “he was not totally coherent” and didn’t have “all his faculties,” stated the report.Air Force Global Strike Command chief Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski relieved Carey of his duties as 20th Air Force commander in October, citing “loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment.” He was later reassigned to Air Force Space Command headquarters.In December, Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein was named the new commander of 20th Air Force. Weinstein had previously served as the 20th’s vice commander. —Amy McCullough
Senior Staff ChangesNOMINATIONS: To be Major General: Bart O. Iddins. To be Brigadier General: Roy-Alan C. Agustin, Robert G. Armfield, Mark A. Baird, Dieter E. Bareihs, Mitchel H. Butikofer, Mark D. Camerer, Douglas A. Cox, Stephen L. Davis, Eric T. Fick, Keith M. Givens, Paul H. Guemmer, Gregory M. Guillot, Gregory M. Gutterman, Darren E. Hartford, David W. Hicks, Brian T. Kelly, David A. Krumm, Peter J. Lambert, Evan M. Miller, Thomas E. Murphy, David S. Nahom, Mary F. O’Brien, Stephen W. Oliver Jr., Scott L. Pleus, John T. Rauch Jr., Christopher M. Short, Kirk W. Smith, Robert W. Stanley II, Mark E. Weatherington, Stephen C. Williams.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. Kory G. Cornum, from Cmdr., 81st Medical Gp., AETC, Keesler AFB, Miss., to Command Surgeon, AMC, Scott AFB, Ill. ... Brig. Gen. Jerry D. Harris Jr., from Vice Cmdr., 5th AF, PACAF, Yokota AB, Japan, to Dir., Prgms., DCS, Strat. Plans & Prgms., USAF, Pentagon ... Maj. Gen. (sel.) Bart O. Iddins, from Command Surgeon, AMC, Scott AFB, Ill., to Cmdr., 59th Medical Wg., AETC, JBSA-Lackland, Tex. ... Brig. Gen. Scott F. Smith, from Dep. Cmdr., Combined Jt. Task Force, Horn of Africa, AFRICOM, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to IG, AMC, Scott AFB, Ill.
Daily Report: 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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