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Monthly Archives: November 2012

EOD tech earns Silver Star

Honor and courage

Tech. Sgt. Deslauriers, an explosive ordnance disposal technician from the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Hayden K. Hyatt)

 

by Airman 1st Class Hayden K. Hyatt
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

11/16/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — An Air Commando from the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron received a Silver Star during a ceremony at the Pentagon Nov. 14.

by Airman 1st Class Hayden K. Hyatt
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

11/16/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — An Air Commando from the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron received a Silver Star during a ceremony at the Pentagon Nov. 14.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Deslauriers, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, earned the medal for gallantry in action while serving in Afghanistan on Sep. 23, 2011.

“It seems to me that valor is of the moment — character is built over a lifetime,” said Col. Jim Slife, commander of 1st Special Operations Wing. “The events of the 23rd of September last year can be described less as a case of spontaneous valor and more as a predictable outcome of circumstance and character intercepting on the battlefield.”

According to the award’s citation, Deslauriers rendered safe one improvised explosive device and conducted a post-blast analysis of three subsequent detonations all within a four-hour
time frame. After doing so, he then provided medical aid to an injured service member and used his detector to clear a safe path for the medical evacuation helicopter to land.

While clearing the area, Deslauriers stepped on an initiation system for an IED device. Despite sustaining grave injuries, and as his teammates treated him with aid, he continued to pass information about the device that helped his team continue the mission. His actions led to the extraction of two injured Marines, two vehicles and completion of the mission.

“We talked about honor, sacrifice, and courage,” Deslauriers said. “We don’t think about that stuff; we just do what we do, and we love it. I’d do it all over again.”

Explosive ordnance disposal Airmen use their training to dispose of anything from roadside bombs to decommissioned missiles — all to save lives.

“You see this room filled with all these people and my family here,” Deslauriers said. “To hear ‘the most decorated EOD tech in the career field’ —  it’s an honor for me to be here.”

Deslauriers said he felt honored to be standing in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, a place that honors the memory of hundreds of service members including Medal of Honor recipients.

“You belong here,” said retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

“Thank you, sir,” Deslauriers said. “To hear that from you, and from everybody here, is a great honor.”

The Silver Star is the third highest military decoration for valor and is given for gallantry in action against enemies of the United States., an explosive ordnance disposal technician, earned the medal for gallantry in action while serving in Afghanistan on Sep. 23, 2011.

“It seems to me that valor is of the moment — character is built over a lifetime,” said Col. Jim Slife, commander of 1st Special Operations Wing. “The events of the 23rd of September last year can be described less as a case of spontaneous valor and more as a predictable outcome of circumstance and character intercepting on the battlefield.”

According to the award’s citation, Deslauriers rendered safe one improvised explosive device and conducted a post-blast analysis of three subsequent detonations all within a four-hour
time frame. After doing so, he then provided medical aid to an injured service member and used his detector to clear a safe path for the medical evacuation helicopter to land.

While clearing the area, Deslauriers stepped on an initiation system for an IED device. Despite sustaining grave injuries, and as his teammates treated him with aid, he continued to pass information about the device that helped his team continue the mission. His actions led to the extraction of two injured Marines, two vehicles and completion of the mission.

“We talked about honor, sacrifice, and courage,” Deslauriers said. “We don’t think about that stuff; we just do what we do, and we love it. I’d do it all over again.”

Explosive ordnance disposal Airmen use their training to dispose of anything from roadside bombs to decommissioned missiles — all to save lives.

“You see this room filled with all these people and my family here,” Deslauriers said. “To hear ‘the most decorated EOD tech in the career field’ —  it’s an honor for me to be here.”

Deslauriers said he felt honored to be standing in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, a place that honors the memory of hundreds of service members including Medal of Honor recipients.

“You belong here,” said retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

“Thank you, sir,” Deslauriers said. “To hear that from you, and from everybody here, is a great honor.”

The Silver Star is the third highest military decoration for valor and is given for gallantry in action against enemies of the United States.

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USS Gary Boards Two Suspected Drug Smuggling Vessels, Sinks One

USS GARY, At Sea (NNS) — The U.S. 4th Fleet guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) with embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) boarded and searched two suspicious vessels, sinking one, of being involved in illicit cargo trafficking Nov. 7 as part of Operation Martillo.

While on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific in support of Operation Martillo, Gary’s embarked SH-60B Seahawk

USS Gary (FFG-51)

USS Gary (FFG-51) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

, was able to locate a suspicious speedboat which it had been pursuing for more than 24 hours. When the speedboat recognized it was being detected it attempted to evade the helicopter. Warning shots were authorized, which brought the vessel to an immediate halt.

Again, the speedboat attempted to escape and the ship was instructed to pursue it, rather than a fishing vessel operating close by suspected of providing logistical support. Gary deployed its LEDET to conduct a boarding on the vessel.

“The speedboat was like nothing I had ever seen with four 350 horsepower engines and after seven months of operational time in 4th Fleet, it would seem that the vessel was extremely suspicious,” said Lt. j.g. Bryan Holst, gunnery officer.

With the detained vessel secured, Gary was free to return to the fishing vessel to conduct another boarding and search.

Although the fishing vessel was not found to contain any illicit cargo, the frigate’s and its attached Coast Guard LEDET were convinced they prevented the fishing vessel from completing its intended support mission to the unregistered speedboat.

“It was good to see the crew work together to complete the mission,” said Cmdr. James Brown, commanding officer, USS Gary.

The ship was granted permission by the 11th Coast Guard District to sink the speedboat since it was damaged beyond repair and not safe to operate at sea.

Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is managed by Joint Interagency Task Force, South headquartered in Key West, Fla. U.S. maritime law enforcement and interdiction operations in the Pacific Ocean are under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District in Alameda, Calif.

Gary is homeported in San Diego, and is currently deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean in support of Operation Martillo and U.S. 4th Fleet’s mission, Southern Seas 2012.

Operation Martillo (Spanish for “hammer”) is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.

Operation Martillo is part of the U.S. government’s coordinated regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transitional organized crime and the U.S. Central America Security Initiative.

Fourteen countries are participating: Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Airmen repair, save aircraft amid enemy mortars

8 EAMS Shank

8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron mission recovery team members hit the ground. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

 

by Senior Airman Bryan Swink
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

11/15/2012 – SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) — A seven-man mission recovery team assigned to 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron deployed to forward operating base Shank in the remote Logar province of Eastern Afghanistan to complete repairs and recover a downed C-17 Globemaster III.

They recovered the vital aircraft amid daily enemy mortar attacks.

“We knew we had a lot of tireless work ahead of us but didn’t know the extent of the damage until we actually had eyes on the C-17,” said Master Sgt. Roy Lee, 8th EAMS MRT member. “We knew we had to work quickly and efficiently to get that aircraft out of FOB Shank. The base and flightline take mortar fire on a daily basis.”

The C-17 made a hard landing on the short runway and sustained significant damage. Upon the team’s arrival, they discovered the challenge of repairing 12 flat tires, replacing eight brakes and repairing eight break temperature sensors.

The team worked alongside a Boeing Recovery and Modification Services team to properly jack the aircraft off the ground to begin maintenance. After the first day of work, the team replaced all tires, brakes and fixed all the break temperature sensors while mortar rounds sporadically hit the surrounding area.

“The Airmen never lost focus on the mission at hand,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Bernett, 8th EAMS MRT member deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “They would hit the ground as shrapnel flew across the flightline, but as soon as it was clear, they were back to work without hesitation. They were determined to get this aircraft air ready.”

Two more 8th EAMS MRT members arrived on the second day to repair a fuel leak that was discovered. During the final day of repairs, a mortar landed approximately 150 yards away from the crew. This was the closest impact the team experienced.

“With all the noise on the flightline at the time, we couldn’t hear the ‘incoming’ warnings,” said Lee, deployed from Joint Base Charleston, S.C. “I was stepping off the aircraft when the mortar hit and I instantly felt the concussion of the explosion. The C-130 Hercules parked next to us sustained damage, so we knew we were fortunate.”

The 8th EAMS Airmen completed their mission in two days to ensure the aircraft could be moved out of the FOB.

“We knew we had a dangerous mission ahead of us, but everyone of us were determined to get that aircraft out of there,” said Senior Airman Benny Vickery, 8th EAMS MRT member deployed from JB Charleston, S.C. “It was a great experience that I will remember for years to come.”

The dedicated and tireless work of these maintainers displays the attitude of the Airmen of the 8th EAMS.

“I am extremely proud of my team. As a commander, the one thing that keeps me up at night is when the call comes in to send my people into harm’s way,” said Lt. Col. Louis Hansen, 8th EAMS commander. “When I learned the shrapnel from an attack missed them by mere inches, it really drove this point home. They simply picked themselves up, brushed off the sand and finished repairing the C-17 so we could get it back in the fight. In a word, simply ‘Awesome!'”

News Briefing by General Rice and Major General Woodward on the Investigation of Misconduct at the Air Force’s Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland

English: Edward A. Rice, Jr. as Commander of t...

English: Edward A. Rice, Jr. as Commander of the Air Education and Training Command (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

STAFF:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It’s my privilege today to welcome General Edward A. Rice, Jr., commander of Air Education Training Command, and Major General Margaret Woodward, the Air Force Chief of Safety.

General Rice has been Air Education and Training Command commander since November, 2010. Air Education and Training Command consists of 12 bases, almost 68,000 active duty, reserve, guard civilians and contractors, and more than 1,300 trainer, fighter and mobility aircraft.

General Rice appointed Major General Woodward to lead a commander-directed investigation of the basic and technical training environments in June of this year, following allegations of professional and sexual misconduct. They are here today to discuss the findings of that investigation and recommendations to fix the identified deficiencies.

Following some brief opening remarks by General Rice, they will take your questions, and I’ll call on you and ask that you have a question and follow-up, and I tend to work the room left to right.

At this time, I turn it over to General Rice.

GENERAL EDWARD RICE JR.:  Good afternoon, and thank you for making time to be with us here today.

I am joined by Major General Margaret Woodward, who is currently assigned as the Air Force Chief of Safety here at the Pentagon.

In June of this year, I appointed Major General Woodward to investigate the basic and technical training environments amidst allegations of professional and sexual misconduct. This type of misconduct is unacceptable anywhere in the United States Air Force, but it is especially egregious in the basic training environment where we have a very vulnerable population of our newest airmen.

General Woodward and her team members conducted 215 in- depth interviews, surveyed more than 18,000 personnel, and conducted focus groups with basic military training trainees, military training instructors and spouses.

They visited basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, four technical training bases, the Air Force Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and the U.S. Army’s basic combat training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Additionally, the team conferred with leaders responsible for U.S. Navy and Marine Corps basic training.

I want to express my deepest appreciation to Major General Woodward and her team for a job extremely well done.

The 22 findings and 46 recommendations in her report accurately reflect the deficiencies in our basic military training program and provide effective proposals to remedy those deficiencies. I intend to implement 45 of the 46 recommendations.

We have distributed copies of Major General Woodward’s commander- directed investigation, or CDI report, as well as the report that I prepared for the Secretary of the Air Force concerning my review of the CDI the corrective measures I am putting in place. I do not intend to cover either report in detail this afternoon, as our time is limited and I want to be as responsive as possible to your questions.

That said, there are a few points I want to make before opening the floor to you. First, when the senior leadership of Air Education and Training Command became aware of the significant level of misconduct by military training instructors, we made four commitments. First, to thoroughly investigate all allegations of misconduct. Second, to care for victims of misconduct. Third, to hold perpetrators of misconduct accountable while protecting due process for those accused. And fourth, to correct the underlying problems that led to the misconduct.

I believe we have made good on each of these four commitments.

Our investigative process has involved over 280 investigators and support personnel who have spent over 40,000 hours conducting interviews, analyzing data and pursuing leads. We are determined to follow every lead to its full conclusion, and we will not end our investigative work until we have achieved that goal. Every alleged victim, whether the victim of an alleged sexual assault or the victim of an alleged unprofessional relationship, every single victim has been contacted and offered support under the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response program and other services from base agencies such as legal assistance.

We will continue to provide this support to any future victims identified as a result of our investigations.

We’re also making good on our commitment to hold perpetrators accountable. To date, five courts martial have been completed, and each has resulted in a conviction.

Additionally, under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, one instructor received non-judicial punishment for an unprofessional relationship that — that did not involve physical touching.

Additional instructors are pending charges and others are under investigation. This process of accountability will continue in the weeks and the months ahead.

Our final commitment was to fix what went wrong in our basic military training program. The keys to successfully fulfilling our obligations in this area are to not only understand what happened concerning the misconduct, but how and why it happened, as well.

I would like to address the what, how, and why questions in the context of how a properly functioning system of maintaining good order and discipline and basic military training should work.

Because we know the basic military training environment is highly susceptible to the abuse of power, we have established a set of institutional safeguards to prevent misconduct by instructors. These safeguards are designed to dissuade misconduct through a strong instructor selection, screening, and training process, and to determine conduct through an effective system of detection and accountability.

Leaders play a critical role, because they must constantly monitor these safeguards for weaknesses, and make corrections as necessary. Moreover, training instructors have a responsibility to uphold our core values, and hold themselves accountable by helping to detect those who violate our standards.

In a properly functioning system, that minimizes misconduct, most instructors will be dissuaded from inappropriate behavior, and the few who are not dissuaded will be detected and held accountable for their actions. Leadership will have good insight into the effectiveness of the institutional safeguards, and the instructors will police themselves.

Returning now to the three questions of what happened in basic military training, and how, and why did it happen? In simple terms, what happened is that we had a breakdown in good order and discipline among a relatively few, but not insignificant number of our instructors.

How this happened is attributable to weaknesses and gaps in the institutional safeguards that are designed to prevent this type of behavior. Why this happened is related to insufficient leadership oversight, concerning preventing and detecting these gaps and weaknesses, and an inadequate level of self-policing by our instructors.

As you read Major General Woodward’s report, you will see that her findings and recommendations are closely associate with these three areas: Institutional safeguards, leadership, and the instructor culture of self-accountability. More specifically, 20 CDI recommendations are associated with strengthening institutional safeguards, 14 recommendations are associated with strengthening leadership, and 12 recommendations are associated with strengthening the MTI culture.

What went wrong in basic military training is not a mystery to us. As I indicated earlier, we understand the what, the how, and the why of our deficiencies, and because of this understanding, I am confident the solutions we are implementing will effectively address the root causes of the problems that we have identified.

While it is imperative that we address today’s challenges in basic military training, it is equally important that we put in place stronger mechanism to prevent these problems from recurring at some point in the future.

The conditions that lead to the abuse of power in basic military training are ever present, thus, our vigilance and engagement must be persistent as well. To that end, I am directing establishment of the Military Training Oversight Council which will be chaired by a three star general.

The purpose of this council is to insure that we have the appropriate level of leadership oversight over issues associate with trainee safety, and the maintenance of good order and discipline.

Additionally, the underlying issues associate with — with instructor misconduct are not exclusive to the United States Air Force. These issues impact the basic training programs of other military services as well. A greater degree of collaboration will strengthen each of our programs and, to this end, I have directed the commander of Second Air Force to establish a recurring Tri-Service Accession Council with our Army and Navy counterparts.

I will close by quoting from Major General Woodward’s CDI report, quote: “This report necessarily focused on the few who violated a sacred trust and broke faith with their fellow airmen everywhere. It is important to remember that despite the extraordinary scrutiny of basic training, honorable men and women throughout the Air Force enlisted training complex continue to serve every day with distinction. These airmen built our Air Force one person at a time and remain proud of the mission and of themselves. They make a positive contribution and a profound difference every single day. Their efforts continue to produce the world’s greatest fighting force,” unquote.

I couldn’t agree more. And we are committed to doing everything that we can to make our basic military training program the world’s finest example of military professionalism.

I will now open the floor to your questions.

Q:  Sir, ma’am, you’ve identified a lack of leadership on (inaudible) as one of the major problems here. Who were the leaders involved in that lack of oversight? Have they been held accountable? What has happened to them? What specifically were their shortcomings?

GEN. RICE:  One of the basic responsibilities of command especially is the maintenance of good order and discipline in the organizations over which you have command. That’s especially true at the squadron commander level where commanders have daily interaction with the members of the command; at the group commander where you still have a considerable level of oversight on that daily basis; and at the wing command level.

So when we confer command authority at these levels especially, that is where we have to depend and demand that our commanders exercise those authorities that we have given them to maintain good order and discipline within their units.

As I have looked at what happened in basic military training and have looked at each individual case, I found areas where commanders did not meet my expectations with respect to creating the type of command climate that’s necessary for good order and discipline to be in a healthy state. To date, we have announced the relief of command of two commanders, one at the squadron commander level, it was a Lieutenant Colonel Paquette; and one at the group commander level, who was in charge of the group.

We have also — I have also conferred disciplinary action with six additional commanders. That process is ongoing commanders. The way the process works is once I confer the disciplinary action, the commander has the opportunity to provide me with information that he or she might feel that I didn’t take into account. And then I will make a final determination.

GEN. RICE:  So, because those actions are still underway, I — I’m not going to publicly talk about names, but — but numbers, we’re talking at this point potentially eight commanders.

Q:  Potentially eight commanders, and what — what are the possibilities for them in the way of (inaudible).

GEN. RICE:  I don’t look at this in terms of punishment. So I — I think it’s to — to clarify what — what we’re doing here. This isn’t punishment in terms of a court martial, and it’s not punishment in terms of non-judicial punishment under Article XV.

I did not uncover a single case where — a commander was involved actively in — in behavior that was against rules or regulations. In fact, every single commander that we are talking about was a fine officer, came to work every day, worked very hard to address the issues associated with training and discipline in this environment.

So, this isn’t about punishing people for wrongdoing. This is about holding them accountable for the responsibilities that we had conferred on them, and it’s about reflecting the times when they didn’t meet our standards with respect to how they discharged those responsibilities in a way that it — it properly is reflected by their performance during this period of time.

So, I — I want to ensure that I underscore that point. This isn’t about bad people, and it isn’t about punishing bad people. It’s about holding people accountable for the high standards that we must have in this very important area of good order and discipline.

Q:  General, you mentioned 44 or 45 of the recommendations you plan to implement.

What was the one recommendation you decided to kind of move away from?

And also, too, going back to your comment about the instructors will police themselves, how do you — can you explain that — how that’s — how that’s going to work and resolve a lot of these leadership issues that you were discussing, because it seems to me that the problem was they weren’t policing — no one was policing these guys, as far as their actions.

So those are the two questions.

GEN. RICE:  You ask a long question that makes me forget the first one. But — but I think the first one was…

MAJOR GENERAL MARGARET WOODWARD:  Forty-sixth recommendation.

GEN. RICE:  Forty-sixth recommendation. Yes.

The 46th recommendation had to do with the length of basic military training. So, when General Woodward and her team came in to do their work, we had already had an initiative underway to look at the length of basic military training. It’s eight and a half weeks, now. We were looking at potentially reducing that.

She looked at that effort, and said, “If you do that, that would be a good idea, because it would make sure you don’t have any,” what we call, “white space in the schedule,” where students are idle and don’t have a lot scheduled because that — everybody knows that sort, you know, of gaps in time get filled with something, and sometimes it’s not good. So, she looked at that and said, “If you do that, that would be a good idea.”

We are continuing to review the proper length of basic military training. I haven’t rejected that recommendation. It’s just that we’re looking at it in a different form.

I think your second question had to do with the MTI’s  themselves and self-policing, and how do we get at that. That’s a tough challenge. I mean, if — if anybody who knows anything about, you know, culture and human behaviors, changing a culture is a difficult thing to do.

I want to underscore, when I talk about culture, I talk about it in a positive way, less — and not so much in a negative way. What — what I want is — and what we must have — is a very strict adherence to Air Force core values, a culture that values professionalism above all else, and that holds themselves accountable for professionalism.

So, it’s not enough for someone to go to work every day and do everything that they need to do in order to be professional. They’ve got to be actively looking at their fellow airmen and instructors looking for the early signs of being impacted by abuse of power, which will happen in this environment and any environment where you have a significant opportunity for that to happen and to take proactive action to own this challenge of ensuring that everyone acts in the most professional way possible.

So, you know, the — the susceptibility of the abuse of power is well-documented not just here but in any situation of its type. And we believe that we can do more to both equip each individual with, you know, sort of the — sort of warning signals that they should be looking out for among their fellow airmen and taking, you know, ownership of their responsibility to not just monitor their own behavior but those around them in a way that when someone doesn’t meet our standards they intervene early and report those that need to be reported through the system.

I would say — you know, I think part of what I heard you say is that it was obvious that this wasn’t going on, and I don’t think that’s true. That is part of the culture now. We would not have known what we know today had it not been for military training instructors coming forward and telling us exactly what I just said. Some people — you know, we have indications aren’t meeting our standards and we took action on it.

So — so this was occurring. It needs to occur more and more frequently and at a higher level.

Q:  Some people say that the Air Force needs to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any sexual relationship between an instructor and a trainee, partly because the idea that these relationships can be consensual given the power imbalance is kind of hard to believe. Why is that — that level of strictness in terms of consequences not appropriate, do you think?

GEN. RICE:  I think it is appropriate. In fact, that is my policy. So…

Q:  I mean, if you engage in this relationship you’re out of the military.

GEN. RICE:  When we make blanket statements, my view is, having done this for a long time, that say if something happens something else automatically happens, it — it tends to tie the hands of commanders and the judicial system in a way that’s usually not healthy.

And so each one of these cases is an individual and unique case with individual facts and circumstances. And I believe we have to let people with responsibility and authority and maturity look at each case on its own merits, make a judgment about what the appropriate action to take is, and give them the tools and the flexibility to, you know, take action that may be less severe in certain cases that call for it or very severe in other cases. And we will probably end up with a system that results in less justice if we say every case, regardless of the facts involved, has to fit into a certain box.

So I think we’re about in the right place now where I have a very strict policy that prohibits any kind of personal relationships between a trainer and a student or trainee. And it’s not just someone that you are responsible for in a classroom; it’s anyone who is a trainer and anyone who is a student anywhere in the system. Because I think it’s important that we do everything possible to maintain the most professional training and education environment that we can and eliminate any suspicion that there’s favoritism that might result from personal relationships that might happen.

So, thank you.

Q:  Yes, sir. Thank you.

The investigation revealed cases where supervisors and commanders, as your report said, were insulated from rather than engaged with their squadrons. And I wonder how you can explain how a commander becomes insulated from the airmen in their squadron? It seems like one of their first duties is to be sure that they’re interacting with people at every level; that they know everyone, even if it is 1,000 people.

GEN. RICE:  I think I’ll let General Woodward respond to that.

MAJ. GEN. WOODWARD:  Okay. Thank you, sir.

I would say that — that we didn’t necessarily help them, in that there was a single squadron commander as the single officer, the single non-military training instructor within that — within that squadron. So, very difficult for those squadron commanders to come into a squadron and break into that culture, if you will. And — and being the sole officer also tied their hands as far as the time they had available to spend in the squadron and — and with their airmen.

So, I think the recommendations that General Rice has accepted and putting into place where we add additional officers into the squadron, and additional NCOs — senior NCOs who are not necessarily military training instructors will help that and create a more normal environment in that squadron and create a better environment for that leadership oversight to take place in the — in the proper way.

Q:  I guess what I’m driving at, is this a manning issue where people just didn’t have time, because you’ve put a lot of new people into this process under your proposed solutions?

MAJ. GEN. WOODWARD:  Yes. As I said, I think it was difficult for a single squadron commander. So having the additional leadership oversight will — I think is beneficial. And — but I also think it’s a focus. I think a culture had developed over time that said from the MTI perspective, “Hey, we’ve got this.” You know, and the squadron commander didn’t necessarily want to or need to, in some cases, not in all, but in some cases break into that at a deeper level. And I think that — that hurt the oversight in some cases.

GEN. RICE:  Yeah, let me just follow up on that because I think it’s an important point. Whenever you put, you know, more than one person together in any sort of an association, they develop a culture; sort of a norm of behavior and of expectations. That’s usually good. Lots of positive things come from developing different types of cultures.

But you also always have to be aware of the negative elements of a culture developing that can manifest negative behavior. And what we’ve done is taken action to ensure that we maintain the healthy elements of — of the culture, while not allowing it to be so insular, so closed to outside influences that those negative elements develop and go undetected.

And so we put people in place in leadership positions with authority, who are not necessarily part of the day-to-day, you know, function of the military training instructors, in an effort to have the appropriate level of positive elements of a culture that need to exist, but not allow it to be so insular that it can’t self-police itself over time.

Q:  General Woodward, (inaudible) I haven’t had a chance to read the report’s findings yet. And you mentioned increasing the number of officers in each squadron. Was one of the considerations increasing the number of female officers or female leaders who have been in squad?

MAJ. GEN. WOODWARD:  Not specifically female officers, though having good female role models throughout the military training — the basic military training environment we think, and we talk about being a very positive and importance piece of developing the right culture, not just at basic, but for our Air Force.

One recommendation we specifically made, though, was to have for each two basic military training flights, to have four military training instructors responsible for those two flights. And of those four MTIs, one, should always be a female. That way, we maximize the exposure for both male and female trainees to female role models.

GEN. RICE:  And vice-versa. So, I mean, I think this was one of the really strong recommendations that the team made. It’s a — you know, people — and it’s a great thing about our Air Force — people come from all different experiences, walks of life.

Some people have never been around an authority figure of the opposite sex, and that’s the way our Air Force is going to work when they hit their first unit. They may be under the authority of a female or a male and we want to make sure they have the full range of that experience in basic military training and this will make that happen on — on both sides of the gender line here. And I think it’s a terrific suggestion and recommendation.

Q:  Okay. Just one follow-up. Do you — are there enough female MTIs at this point to have the one out of four?

GEN. RICE:  No, so what you’ll see in the report is we have to build to that level. And that, of all of the 45 recommendations, that will be the last one that we complete fully. So we’ve already embarked upon that path, but our ability to train them and put them through our training program, and moreover, I don’t want to ramp it all up at once because then I changed them all out at the same time. It’s better if I do this on a gradual basis, but very aggressive basis. So, look, we’ll do that over time over the next year.

Q:  It seems like you’re adding a lot of sort of extra layers. You’ve got an additional oversight council now. Why — why would the existing — why the existing infrastructure that you have, the existing oversight structure not sufficient? And had they not prioritized this enough in the past?

And then the other thing is, what are you sensing — and General Woodward maybe will speak to this as well — what are you sensing in terms of the understanding of the MTIs and the trainees, the trainers, everybody involved about how serious this issue is? And do you feel like there has been a change? Or is there just resentment at the allegations and resentment at the investigation and so forth? What — what’s the…

GEN. RICE:  Let me — I’ll ask General Woodward to respond to the second question first, and then I’ll respond to the oversight issue.

MAJ. GEN. WOODWARD:  As you heard General Rice say in his remarks, quoting from our report, we have some incredible — a great number of incredible Americans serving at Lackland as military training instructors. And they’re all extraordinarily proud, as they should be, of what they do and how important their mission is. And that’s any time you go there…

Q:  (inaudible)

MAJ. GEN. WOODWARD:  No — if I can finish. Thank you.

Is they are very proud of what they do and they are — they believe in our Air Force culture so — and our Air Force core values. So they are as horrified by what’s taken place by fellow — a few of their fellow MTIs, as General Rice and I and — and anyone else is.

And the sense I got was that as — disappointed is probably the best word — in their fellow MTIs, it does not detract from how important their mission is and how they believe in it.

So when you talked about resentment, I would say that that’s not there. They just want to fix the problem and move on. And they take their jobs very seriously, and we’re actually very lucky to have airmen like that in our Air Force.

GEN. RICE:  Referenced the oversight. Why? For the existing mechanism’s not sufficient. The nature of this problem, especially in this environment, is such that it requires an extraordinary leadership, focus and attention.

You know, I’m a — I’m a pilot. I fly airplanes. When you fly an airplane you have to pay attention to many things around the cockpit. So you develop a cross-check to look at this instrument, then that instrument and you don’t want any instrument to go very long without looking at it or the plane will, you know, get out of parameters of control.

My analogy is that the — this problem is like your attitude direction indicator. It’s your principal instrument that you always go back to after you’ve looked at another instrument. And so you have to spend more time focusing on this instrument if you want to keep this problem, this airplane under control.

It takes an extraordinary level of leadership, attention. And over time, because we demand so many things of our leaders, and when we bring leaders in who have been successful in other environments but not this environment and the level of focus that needs to be placed on this challenge and this environment is much different than — than they’ve experienced in other environments.

I — I need to make sure that the level of leadership, focus and attention that we are putting on this problem now is institutionalized. One of the features of military service is — you know, next summer I’m gonna have changed over half my commanders. People will come in from all sorts of different places who aren’t part of this challenge right now, and I need to have them focused on this. And I don’t want to depend on they’ve just heard about it, because it won’t work. I’ve got enough experience to know that.

So I need to institutionalize the leadership focus on this, and that’s why I’m gonna have a charter, a regular meeting schedule for this oversight council so that, among other things, when I change over half my leadership team next — next year, I’ve got an institutional way to keep them focused on a problem that if you lose — you take it out of your cross-check, you know, for very long it — it will — it will get out of control.

STAFF:  Question in the back here.

Q:  Yeah, you said in the statement I read, the underlying issues associated with instructor misconduct are not exclusive to the Air Force. There seemed to be an disproportionate number of problems of (inaudible) behavior coming from the Air Force training (inaudible). Maybe that’s unfair, but is there something specific in Air Force culture that is problematic?

And how — you were talking about the negatives — dealing with the negative aspects of the culture, how do you do this? Specifically, what are the issues, and what are — how do you deal with those?

GEN. RICE:  No. I don’t think that there’s anything specific to Air Force culture and — and in my view military culture in general. This is a challenge and a problem throughout our society. We hold ourselves to a very high standard in the military and — and the Air Force, as we should. And so because this is a challenge everywhere, you know, is no excuse at all for — for not to get our arms around this and do better than — than we have in the past.

So, I — I think that with respect to the — the cultural issue, what do we do, and how do we, you know, get our arms around that. It has to do with both how we select and screen military training instructors in the first instance. And we put in additional rigor in that process to try to get the most professional people possible to — to do this duty.

It — it’s a part of how we then prepare them for this environment. And we put additional rigor into helping them understand the difference between being a military training instructor, where for the first time many of them are going to have a significant level of power, and how that can be insidiously impactful to them over time.

It — it comes with not only having that training at the beginning of their training instructor tour, but repeating that training over time. So one of the important recommendations that we’re putting in place is what we would call a continuation training program such that we reinforce this over time because of the — the way that this — this — this can work and impact individuals.

It comes quite frankly from, you know, a realization that something as simple as a first sergeant, whose really role is to help the commander with personnel issues, good order and discipline issues, raising the level of — of that from a master sergeant to a senior master sergeant, putting a more experienced senior individual in that position to help develop this culture in positive ways over time.

So, there’s not any one single piece that’s in play. And I think it’s a good time for me to underscore the fact that this isn’t the end. I mean, I don’t take these 45 recommendations and think that work is done, we can move on to the next challenge. This is an ongoing process.

One of the reasons I put in place the Oversight Council is — is because it’s important for us to make this living, to — to continue to improve our understanding of the challenge, and the actions, and activities, and initiatives we need to get after that challenge.

And the cultural piece of this is one that we have to continue to try to understand better, and work to — to work, because it’s — it’s complex, because we’re — we’re talking about human behavior and human feelings. So — so we’ve taken some I think good initial steps, but we have more work to do in that area.

Q:  General, some defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill, you know, kind of tracking this issue, they believe that the only way to really solve this problem in the Air Force and the military is through legislation.

With the steps you’ve taken today, through the investigation and so forth, do you think that this now sends the message to those lawmakers that the problem has been resolved?

I mean, understood that this is a continuing process, but as of now, the issue at Lackland and other areas, that — that’s been addressed completely by the Air Force and there’s no need to pursue whatever measures they’re looking at?

GEN. RICE:  You know, and I want to be very — I mean, very clear that I would in no way try to, you know, suggest what Congress should or shouldn’t do in their oversight role, which is very important and they have a very important part to play and I’m sure they will discharge those responsibilities in the way that they see fit.

I — I do have a view about whether or not commanders and the authorities that I have as a commander, are adequate for me to address this issue. And I do feel that I do have the authorities in the current legislation to properly deal with these issues. And my focus as we move forward would be to ensure that we are holding leaders — commanders — accountable for the decisions that they make or don’t make, given the authorities that they have. And it’s why you see me holding commanders responsible for that very thing.

I don’t need additional authorities or changed authorities. You know, I need to make sure that I’m holding people accountable for properly using the tools that are available to them. In — in my judgment, that would be the more effective way to move forward.

STAFF:  Last question over here (inaudible).

Q:  (inaudible) if each circumstance is dealt with individually and the consequences aren’t uniform across the board, how will trainers know when they’ve truly crossed the line or when they’ve just — they’re just going to get a slap on the wrist or something else?

            GEN. RICE:  That’s what we pay commanders for. I mean, at the end of the day, and that’s why — that’s why this idea of, you know, commanders’ responsibility for good order and discipline is so important. At the end of the day, we just judge results. Every commander — you might have five commanders and they might approach this in a very different way.

            But at the end of the day, there needs to be a clear signal sent to the men and women under their command what their limits are, what their expectations are, what their standards are. And they need to take aggressive action in whatever way they think meets — the individual situation calls for to ensure that those expectations are met, and when they aren’t, that people are help appropriately accountable for them.

So, again, it just becomes problematic when you try to legislate too much because you actually tie a commander’s hands more than you free them to deal with each situation in the way that it needs to be approached.

MAJ. GEN. WOODWARD:  And I would add that I would say it’s very clear — every single — of the 215 witnesses we interviewed, there was not a single individual that did not know exactly what the AETC policy and what their responsibilities as individuals were. So the ones that chose to violate that, knew that they were violating a regulation or a policy and that was very clear to them.

GEN. RICE:  Thank you very much.

Veteran’s Day Sermon Notes

English: Dieppe Veteran's Memorial Park, Beach...

English: Dieppe Veteran’s Memorial Park, Beach Boulevard, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cloud County Veteran's Memorial

Cloud County Veteran’s Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the day we set aside to recognize and express our gratitude to the men and women who have served our country in the military. There was no U.S. Or U.S. Military when the bible was written. Yet scripture has much to tell us about the people today was established to honor.

 

Probably the most often quoted verse on such occasions is John 15:13,

 

No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.”

 

Christ himself was the model of this kind of sacrificial love, and we a re called to follow his example. Consider the previous verse along with the words of 1 John 3:16,

 

This is how we know Love:Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

 

So even though Christ was never a soldier in uniform, those who give their life for our country are following in his footsteps, and example. But Veteran’s Day is about more than paying tribute to the heroes who died in our defense. Memorial Day in the spring is set aside to specifically honor them.

 

Today, Veteran’s Day is about honoring and being thankful to every man and woman who has worn a uniform and stood between us, and those who would do our nation harm. I myself served in the Military Police Corps of the Texas State Guard through much of the eighties.

 

Sometimes we don’t need them to fight so much as to constantly stand watch, so that they might warn us of trouble approaching. We see what an important duty this is in Ezekiel 33:6.

 

If the lookout sees the sword coming but doesn’t blow the trumpet to warn the people, when the sword comes and takes away any of them, they are taken away in their sin, But I’ll hold the lookout responsible for their blood.”

 

Here scripture tells us no only the importance of a sentry doing his job well, it also shows us the importance of having a military to watch over us. Like with people in leadership we could argue that our military is performing a God ordained function. All the more reason we should pray for them on a regular basis. We should pray for their safety so that they can remain on watch, and on guard to protect us. However their power can be misused, and their function perverted so we must also pray for wisdom for them and their leaders lest we not have the protection God intended.

 

Much the same idea we see in Ezekiel 33:6 can also be found in 1 Corinthians 16:13

 

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

 

This verse underscores the idea that not only should we be on watch against enemy attack, but that both we and those who defend us should always be strong and alerts spiritually.

 

In 1 Samuel 14:52 God’s word even speaks of the kind of people that should be sought to defend us,

 

There was fierce warfare against the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul saw any strong or heroic man, he would add him to his troops.”

 

Veteran’s Day is not thought of as a religious holiday. However as we have seen scripture has much to say about this day, and the people we honor on it.

Through Airmen’s Eyes: Chief discusses how family, pet help PTSD issues

Wounded Warrior Wingman

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen hugs his service dog, Yoko, while on a walk. (U.S. Air Force photo/SrA Christina Brownlow)

by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

11/8/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Coming back from deployment, Airmen face the home-station work environment, reintegrating with family and settling back into day-to-day life.

What happens when an Airman is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mild Traumatic Brain Injury upon return?

For one Airman, his path to recovery has been slow, but he’s overcome the challenges he’s faced.

“I gave myself permission to let my traumatic brain injury and PTSD be there,” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling senior enlisted leader. “Then, I gave myself permission to reset everything and not be embarrassed by it.”

Simonsen’s last deployment was as a Public Affairs officer with a provincial reconstructive team in both Nuristan and Kandahar Provinces in Afghanistan. He completed 66 outside-the-wire missions with five attacks on their team. Due to the attacks, he was hospitalized for back and hip injuries and again for head injuries.

Upon return, he said he felt depressed and anxious, and he had difficulty being in crowds.

“The toughest thing is feeling you cannot be as productive as you used to be,” Simonsen said. “Concentration was more difficult; writing e-mails was more difficult; composing my thoughts and expressing myself was more difficult.”

A big piece of the recovery process for Simonsen has been his service dog.

“Yoko is a wonderful addition to my life,” said the wounded warrior. “I say she’s a resiliency tool of the first order. My recovery was really, really slow – it still is. Physically, I’m broken. And, the emotional, mental part was recovering slowly as well.”

While at the TBI clinic one day, he interacted so positively with the facility dog that it was suggested he look into getting a service dog for himself.

“Once they placed her with me, the change was almost immediate,” Simonsen said. “I’m not the old Rich Simonsen – I never will be. But, I’m a lot closer, because of her. She’s an unobtrusive companion; she provides a calming influence. She’s a good wingman for me.”

Yoko also enables him to be in crowds and speak in public, like when he speaks to Airmen at Right Start briefings or Airmen Professional Enhancement Courses. And, although Yoko is noticeable, she doesn’t detract from the chief’s message.

“A lot of his focus I felt was on ways to deal with people,” said U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Ceremonial Guardsman Airman 1st Class Nicholas Priest at an APE Course. “I thought he had a lot of valuable information on how to deal with what we may have issues with. If you have a positive work environment, it helps people work a lot harder. Look out for people, especially where sexual assault prevention and suicide awareness are concerned. We’re one force, so we need to work as a team.”

Though Simonsen said he has a tendency to isolate himself and has a hard time dealing with the physical pain from his injuries, he tries not to focus solely on the negative.

“The biggest difference on a positive side is I take a little more time to think about things before I respond,” the senior enlisted leader said. “That gives me a little more contemplative way of being.”

Aside from the resources of mental health and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Simonsen said his family and church have been a huge source of support for him.

“My wife has followed me around the world for going on 25 years,” he said. “She loves me no matter what. But, she knew I was suffering when I came home. She pushed me to get help. Everyone has a support system they can tap into. We need to use them in our recovery, but we also have to remember they’re there working hard and taking a lot of the stress.”

For those who may be suffering silently with PTSD, Simonsen offers this piece of advice.

“Coming forward shows courage and strength and is in line with our core values. You can go get help and still succeed in your career.”

Though there are many programs out there for wounded warriors, November helps shed light on issues facing wounded veterans as it is Wounded Warrior Month.

Military leave carryover extension expires Oct. 1

Emblem of the Air Force Personnel Center of th...

Emblem of the Air Force Personnel Center of the United States Air Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Debbie Gildea
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

11/8/2012 – JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Unless approved for special leave accrual, active-duty and Active Guard Reserve members who have more than 60 days of leave must use it or lose it by Oct. 1, 2013, when the temporary leave carryover extension provision expires, Air Force Personnel Center officials said today.

The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision that allowed members to carry up to 75 days of leave forward to the new fiscal year in response to limited leave opportunities tied to deployments and other mission requirements, said Senior Master Sgt. Kreig Cressione, AFPC Special Programs Branch Chief.

“It’s possible that the provision could be extended, but Airmen shouldn’t count on that. Members must plan ahead to ensure they’re able to use their excess leave,” Cressione said. “Supervisors need to be aware, as well, so they can work to deconflict leave in their work centers.

“Airmen who do not have more than 60 days also need to be cognizant of the change,” Cressione said.

Between now and the end of fiscal year 2013, active-duty members will earn 2.5 leave days per month, so an Airman with more than 30 days of accrued leave today could be over the limit by Sept. 30, 2013.

Some reserve members will be affected as well, said Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, Air Reserve Personnel Center public affairs.

“Although traditional Air Reserve Component and active-duty personnel programs differ slightly, AGR members accrue leave the same way active-duty members do, so the extension expiration will affect them,” Petersen said. “Some people may not be aware of the difference between traditional Reserve and AGR, so if you’re affected, it’s a good idea to make sure your supervisor and coworkers are aware.”

Excepted from the use-or-lose rule are those with approved special leave accrual.

“SLA approval is for members who couldn’t use their leave because of national emergency, crisis, catastrophe, or national security situations,” said Cressione. “SLA isn’t granted when Airmen choose not to take leave under those conditions, but when they are unable to do so.”

Airmen who have been approved for SLA, depending on their location and situation, could be authorized to carry as much as 120 days for as long as four years.

“Most Airmen won’t be able to carry that much excess leave for that long,” he said. “Airmen on active duty who are entitled to hostile fire and imminent danger pay are generally authorized to carry excess leave, but it isn’t automatic, they have to request it.”

For SLA approval, Airmen must submit a request to the unit commander. Deployed members must identify themselves to the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team, and the PERSCO team will notify their home station military personnel section for action.

“If you don’t have approved SLA, you can only carry 60 days into the next fiscal year, though,” Cressione said. “So don’t wait until the last minute to plan your leave.”

For information about the military leave program and other personnel issues, visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.