War on Terrorism

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Facilitator in Logar Province

 From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 30, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban facilitator and another insurgent in the Pul-e Alam district of Afghanistan’s Logar province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator is responsible for acquiring weapons and distributing them to insurgents throughout the district. He also is involved in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and conducts reconnaissance operations against coalition military forces.

In Ghazni province’s Muqor district yesterday, an Afghan quick-reaction force killed three insurgents and wounded four others after responding to an attack on a local police checkpoint.

In other news from Afghanistan, Afghan and coalition security forces today confirmed the arrest of a high-profile attack facilitator for the Taj Mir Jawad insurgent network during an April 28 operation in Paktia province’s Gardez district. The facilitator is responsible for providing weapons and funding for insurgent fighters. At the time of his arrest, he was gathering supplies and fighters for a future high-profile attack against Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Face of Defense: Base’s Mayor, Deputy Keep Team Running

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SMART, Afghanistan, April 29, 2013 – From room assignments to fuel levels to food supply to day-worker assignments, two people at the home of the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team here make it their business to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

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Army Staff Sgt. Jose Echeona looks over the paperwork before helping to offload fuel at Forward Operating Base Smart in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, March 17, 2013. Overseeing the fuel supply is one of many jobs he and Army Sgt. Ryan Shifflett perform as mayor and deputy mayor of the forward operating base, home to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
  

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Army Staff Sgt. Jose Echeona and Army Sgt. Ryan Shifflett are the forward operating base’s mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, and they say there is never a dull moment on the job.

“You never know what each day might bring in this job,” said Echeona, a Gaithersburg, Md., native. “One day you could be working with the fuel system and the next figuring out lodging for 20 visitors. The job is constantly changing.”
Making sure the base stays running was not what the two soldiers expected when they deployed more than six months ago. As civil affairs reservists deployed from the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Riverdale, Md., the two were set to interact with provincial government officials.

“I came out here with the purpose of going out on convoys and doing my job [in civil affairs],” Echeona said. “When I was put in this position, I just kept putting one foot forward, because it was a different opportunity.”

Neither does it alone. They didn’t receive any training for their jobs here, so they routinely reach out to other entities for assistance.

“We’ve both never done this before, and it has kind of been a trial-by-fire type of situation,” Echeona said. “We’ve had a lot of assistance from brigade, the folks at Kandahar Airfield and our leadership here. Everyone has been an excellent source of help.”

Shifflett, a Washington, D.C., police officer, joked that while the job here differs greatly from his civilian job, people like him more as the mayor.

“All joking aside,” he added, “the job as FOB mayor does have its similarities -- mainly that I deal with all types of people in both jobs. From the local nationals to the higher-ranking visitors, we interact with everyone.”

Shifflett said he doesn’t mind the job because of the bigger picture.

“The mayor’s cell worries about the little things,” the Annapolis, Md., native said. “If the folks here have a good dining facility, running water, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, offices, living spaces -- all things we as the mayor’s cell handle -- then those same folks can focus on their convoy or dismount outside the wire and on completing that mission.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Kraft, the provincial reconstruction team’s commander, said the mayor’s cell provides peace of mind.

“For all the folks who have to engage outside the wire, it takes a big load off their shoulders knowing they aren’t going to have to worry about the little things,” he said. “They just know that they don’t have to worry about it, because Echeona and Shifflett are on the job. It’s an expectation that they have built for themselves. They take pride in what they do, and it produces superior results.”

Scott AFB pilot killed in Afghanistan

from 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

4/28/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The Department of Defense confirmed today that a pilot stationed here was among four crewmembers on board an MC-12 who were killed April 27 when their aircraft crashed in the Zabul province in southern Afghanistan.

Capt. Brandon Cyr, 28, a KC-135 instructor pilot, was a member of the 906th Air Refueling Squadron within the 375th Air Mobility Wing, its parent unit for administrative purposes. However, he flew alongside members of the Illinois Air National Guard's 126th Air Refueling Wing as part of the Air Force's Total Force Integration efforts, and as a result, the loss is deeply felt by members in both wings here, said Col. David Almand, 375th AMW commander.

Cyr was assigned here in 2009--part of an initial team of pilots who help to stand up the 906th ARS for the TFI effort, and most recently served as an executive officer for the 126th ARW commander, Col. Peter Nezamis. At the time of his death, he had earned more than 1,700 flying hours--900 of those in combat.

Almand added, "He was an outstanding pilot and a dedicated Airman. Our hearts are heavy, and we're doing all that we can to provide support and comfort to members of his family during this difficult time. Our hearts also go out to families of the other Airmen who lost their lives as well."

The other Airmen killed were all from Beale AFB, Calif., and are Capt. Reid Nishizuka, and Staff Sgts. Richard Dickson and Daniel Fannin. They all had been deployed in support of NATO missions in the area, and initial reporting indicated there was no enemy activity in the area at the time. NATO has confirmed that coalition personnel have secured the site.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Additional details surrounding funeral/memorial arrangements for Cyr will be released later in the week.

Hagel Discusses Afghanistan With Canadian Defense Minister

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay discussed Afghanistan and other topics during a telephone conversation this morning, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

In a written statement summarizing the call, Little said this was the second conversation the leaders have had since Hagel took office.

Hagel and MacKay discussed ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Canada's contribution to the training mission, which has been essential to developing the capacity of Afghan national security forces, Little said. Hagel had the opportunity to see some of this training in person on his first visit to Afghanistan last month, he added.

Hagel said the bilateral defense cooperation between the United States and Canada remains one of the world's strongest, as demonstrated by stellar operations at North American Aerospace Defense Command and the work of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense to explore ways to increase cooperative efforts in NATO, the Western Hemisphere and the Asia-Pacific region, Little said.

Both stated they look forward to seeing each other in person at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore next month, the press secretary said, and Hagel also congratulated MacKay on the birth of his son earlier this month.

Afghan, Coalition Forces Arrest Haqqani Network Leader

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Haqqani network leader in the Nadir Shah Kot district of Afghanistan’s Khost province today, military officials reported.

The leader has operational control over a group of insurgents responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and he has engaged in assassinations against Afghans who work with the local government. He also is in charge of acquiring and planting improvised explosive devices throughout the region.
The security force seized an assault rifle and a pistol in the operation.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- Afghan special forces soldiers and local police detained three insurgents and destroyed an IED in Kunduz province’s Imam Sahib district. After safely disposing of the IED, the Afghan force noticed four suspicious men nearby. One of them fled, but police detained the rest. All three tested positive for homemade explosive residue.

-- Afghan Provincial Response Company Zabul, enabled by coalition forces, killed four insurgents during a search for a Taliban facilitator in Zabul province’s Daychopan district. The security forces seized and destroyed an assault rifle, a pistol and several IED components.

-- A combined force in Nangarhar province’s Bati Kot district arrested several insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader who controls a group of insurgents responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and for acquiring and distributing insurgent weapons. The security force also seized IED-making materials.

-- In Wardak province’s Sayyidabad district, a combined force arrested an insurgent during a search for a Taliban leader who controls a group of insurgents responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also has served as a Taliban intelligence operative, monitoring coalition force movements and reporting on their activities to Taliban leaders, and has facilitated the movement of insurgent weapons.

-- A combined force in Paktia province’s Gardez district arrested two insurgents during a search for a high-profile attack facilitator for the Taj Mir Jawad insurgent network. The facilitator is responsible for providing weapons and funding for insurgents. The security force also seized a rifle and ammunition.

-- Afghan Provincial Response Company Farah, enabled by coalition forces, arrested four men and seized almost 90 pounds of opium at a vehicle checkpoint in Farah province’s Anar Darah district. The security force also seized an assault rifle, four magazines with 100 rounds of ammunition and a combat vest.

-- A combined force in Kandahar province’s Kandahar City, arrested a Taliban leader believed to be responsible for coordinating assassinations, sniper ambushes and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He is known to direct the killing of Afghan soldiers, and he recruits fighters for the insurgency and uses his residence as a safe house for fighters operating in the region. The security force also arrested a Taliban facilitator who is alleged to be responsible for housing and directing suicide bombers throughout the province. He also has a history of acquiring and distributing weapons to insurgent fighters and planning attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- In Baghlan province’s Burkah district, a combined force arrested an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator who is believed to be instrumental in procuring and distributing weapons and military equipment to IMU fighters in northern Afghanistan. He also is involved in assassination operations and attack planning, and has served as a bodyguard for senior IMU leadership.

-- A combined force in Helmand province’s Nahr-e Saraj district arrested a Taliban leader who is believed to be in charge of a cell of fighters responsible for planning and executing attacks against government officials. He also has facilitated the production and distribution of homemade explosives and has worked with IEDs. The security force also seized 10 pounds of opium and arrested two other insurgents.

In April 27 operations:

-- In Kunduz province’s Archi district, a combined force killed an insurgent after being ambushed while patrolling near a local police checkpoint that recently had been attacked. The security force recovered a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and an assault rifle with a mounted 40 mm grenade launcher.

-- A combined force in Helmand province’s Nad-e Ali district arrested a Taliban leader who is believed to have operational control over insurgents responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also has facilitated the acquisition and distribution of weapons and money for insurgent operations. The security force also arrested another insurgent.

In an April 26 operation in Kandahar province’s Maiwand district, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who is alleged to have operational control over a group of fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also has served as a tactical advisor to senior Taliban leadership in the area and has coordinated insurgent logistics operations among different cells of fighters.

Tinker Airman killed in Afghanistan

by By Darren D. Heusel
Tinker Public Affairs


4/29/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- A staff sergeant assigned to Tinker Air Force Base was one of four Airmen who were killed Saturday supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, the Department of Defense announced earlier this week.

Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, 30, of Morehead, Ky., died near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in the crash of an MC-12 aircraft. The cause of the crash is under investigation; however, initial reports indicate there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.

Sergeant Fannin was a Sensor Operator assigned to the 552nd Operations Support Squadron at Tinker. He joined the Air Force on Aug. 28, 2001 after graduating high school in Morehead, Ky.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Sergeant Fannin, and to the families of the other Airmen who were lost," said Lt. Col. Joshua Conine, 552nd OSS commander.

"We never like to lose a brother or sister, and that's what Sergeant Fannin was to the men and women of the 552nd Operations Group," Colonel Conine added. "However, we have faith knowing he was the best at what he did. He will be sorely missed as a friend and squadron mate."

During Sergeant Fannin's 11 years of service, he has served as an E-3 Air Surveillance Technician as well as a MC-12 Sensor Operator. While in Afghanistan, Sergeant was assigned to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as a member of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Air Base.

He was qualified as an instructor Air Surveillance Technician. Prior to his most recent operations assignment, Sergeant Fannin served with distinction in the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker.

Sergeant Fannin was an experienced instructor in the E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

Among his many awards were the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster.

He is survived by his wife of Oklahoma City.

Sergeant Fannin completed three deployed tours as an E-3 AWACS Air Surveillance Technician and MC-12 Sensor Operator. He was well known and respected throughout the 552nd Air Control Wing.

"From my personal interactions with Sergeant Fannin over the past 11 years, he was extremely proud to serve his country and went about his tasks each day with the utmost regard for excellence," Colonel Conine said.

The mission of the 552nd OSS is to prepare and provide training, resources and support functions to the 552nd Operations Group through integrated combat focus to execute 24/7 airborne battle management/command and control when called upon by combatant commanders.

The 552nd ACW personnel and aircraft provide all-weather surveillance and communications needed by commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces to detect, identify, and track fixed-wing aircraft, maritime surface vessels, and to direct friendly aircraft against the enemy before they release ordnance against friendly forces.

The 552nd ACW has had a continuing presence in the region since 1980.

Others killed in the crash were: Capt. Brandon L. Cyr, 28 of Woodbridge, Va.; Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii; and Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif.

The MC-12 is a medium- to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Its primary mission is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to support ground forces.
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Two Beale Airmen killed in Afghanistan

by Staff Reports

4/29/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Two Beale Airmen were among four Airmen killed in a MC-12 Liberty plane crash near Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, April 27. Captain Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii, was assigned to the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron. Staff Sergeant Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif., was assigned to the 306th Intelligence Squadron. Both were deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

NATO reported there was no apparent enemy activity in the area at the time, and the cause of the crash remains under investigation. The MC-12 was also deployed from Beale AFB.

"All of us are saddened at the loss of Capt. Nishizuka and Staff Sgt. Dickson," said Col. Phil Stewart, installation commander at Beale. "The Air Force is a tight-knit family, and it hurts to lose a wingman in combat. I'd like to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends impacted by this tragedy; our thoughts and prayers are with them. Please respect the families' privacy as they grieve the loss of these loved ones."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Air Force Casualties



The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of four airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died April 27, near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in the crash of an MC-12 aircraft.  The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.
Killed were:

Capt. Brandon L. Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Va.  He was assigned to the 906th Air Refueling Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.  For more information, media may contact the 375th Air Mobility Wing public affairs office at 618-256-4241 or 618-977-2266.

Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii.  He was assigned to the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, Calif.  For more information, media may contact the 9th Reconnaissance Wing public affairs office at 530-634-8887 or 530-634-5700.

Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif.  He was assigned to the 306th Intelligence Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, Calif.  For more information, media may contact the 9th Reconnaissance Wing public affairs office at 530-634-8887 or 530-634-5700.

Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, 30, of Morehead, Ky.  He was assigned to the 552nd Operations Support Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.  For more information, media

Friday, April 26, 2013

Laughlin Airman supports warfighters, submitted for seven Air Medals

by Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs


4/24/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- One Laughlin Airman who recently returned from deployment, has been submitted to receive seven Air Medals and two achievement medals for his service in the skies over Afghanistan.

First Lt. Joseph Tomczak, 86th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, returned to his duties as a first assignment instructor pilot here at Laughlin in January after completing a 212 day deployment to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

"When I saw the opportunity to deploy, I put my name in the hat," said Tomczak. "I knew I wanted to be a part of the fight or at least as close as I could get to it."

Tomczak has served at Laughlin since beginning his flying career in the Air Force more than four years ago. After completing pilot training here, Tomczak's first duty was to train and lead future pilots.

During his recent deployment to Afghanistan, Tomczak flew with the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as a MC-12W mission pilot and assistant flight commander, an experience quite different from his day-to-day duties at Laughlin.

"I was 24 at the time and thrust into the role of assistant flight commander, responsible for 42 officers and enlisted personnel," said Tomczak. "I went from an instructor pilot to leading airmen in combat situations. It was all very different and unique."

Those combat situations involved Tomczak flying the MC-12W to conduct tactical intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance flights in support of forces on the ground. He and his crew flew overhead escorting the ground units as they carried out missions ranging from patrol to medical evacuations and everything in between.

"If we found something suspicious, we called it in to the joint terminal attack controller who was usually by the ground force commander," said Tomczak. "We saw what was around the corner and prided ourselves for helping convoys doing joint patrols move from one point to the next."

Tomczak was also an air warden helping to facilitate close air support.

"As an air warden I had delegated authority from the JTAC to tell planes to fly at different altitudes, have helicopters on station and to bring in aircraft that we needed and didn't have on hand," said Tomczak.

With more than 150 missions and 800 hours of flight time under his belt, Tomczak's support of Coalition forces on numerous combat sorties, day and night, over hazardous terrain and under threat of hostile fire, are the reason why he was submitted for seven Air Medals and two achievement medals.

"I would definitely do it all over again," said Tomczak. "When we talk about Laughlin and our mission of producing world-class pilots, mission-ready airmen and developing professional, disciplined leaders, this deployment was about all three, and I am bringing everything I learned back here."

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Facilitator


From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 26, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban facilitator and one other insurgent during an operation in the Kandahar district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator is believed to be a key link in weapons trafficking operations throughout Kandahar province, officials said. He has a history of acquiring and transporting rocket-propelled grenade launchers, recoilless rifles, assault rifles, ammunition and other military equipment for use in insurgent operations.

Officials said he also participated in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force arrested a number of insurgents and seized 75 pounds of narcotics during a search for a Taliban leader in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. The sought-after insurgent is believed to have control over a group of fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the province. He also served as a tactical advisor to senior Taliban leadership in the area, and has coordinated insurgent logistics operations.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces confirmed yesterday’s arrest of a Taliban leader, Naqibullah, during an operation in the Pul-e-Alam district of Logar province. Nagibullah is believed to control fighters responsible for building and emplacing improvised explosive devices targeting Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitates the movement of supplies, to include weapons and IED-making materials, for the Taliban network in his area.

-- Combined forces confirmed the death of a Taliban leader, Sher Zaman, during an April 23 operation in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province. Sher Zaman was directly responsible for purchasing and distributing IED components to other Taliban members. He also participated in IED and small-arms fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and provided intelligence to senior Taliban leaders.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- In the Tirin Kot district of Uruzgan province, the Afghan 1st Company, 8th Special Operations Kandak, enabled by coalition forces, captured an IED facilitator and detained one other insurgent during the unit’s first cordon-and-search mission. The facilitator is believed to be a sub-commander with ties to several mid-level Taliban insurgents and is linked to attacks on Afghan government officials in the Deh Rawud district.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and one other insurgent in the Kandahar district of Kandahar province. The arrested leader is believed to manage a network of Taliban informants throughout Kandahar province. He has participated in public executions of Afghan officials, assisted in the facilitation of weapons to local fighters, and directly associated with Abdullah Wakil, the Taliban leader for the Panjwa’i district who was killed March 31 during an Afghan and coalition operation.

-- A combined force killed two insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Nawa-i-Barakzai district of Helmand province. The leader is believed to be involved in IED operations and direct-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He’s linked in the kidnapping of an Afghan soldier, and also stands accused of training subordinate insurgent fighters and coordinating the movement of ammunition and weapons to Taliban forces.

Wounded Soldiers Share Journey to Inspire Boston Victims


By Elaine Sanchez
Brooke Army Medical Center

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, April 26, 2013 – Wounded soldiers recovering here have a message they’d like to pass on to the Boston bombing victims: You’re not alone.


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Army Sgt. Jordan Sisco acclimates to a surfboard during a surfing trip to Santa Cruz, Calif., sponsored by Operation Surf, April 22, 2013. A surfer when he was growing up, Sisco recently rediscovered his passion for the sport. Courtesy photo by Rod Brodman
  

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They can relate to the devastating aftermath of an explosion and the emotional and physical pain of lost limbs. And they know firsthand the courage and strength required to heal after blast injuries like those at the Boston Marathon. Still, they have a message of hope to deliver.

“Keep your head up and don’t quit,” Army Sgt. Christopher Haley said.

Haley lost his right leg and injured his left when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan in September 2011. He remembers the moments after -- the shock and disbelief and the quick ride to Kandahar. The doctors induced a coma, and when he woke up in Bagram, he took one look at his legs and cried.

“I thought it was all a terrible dream,” he said. “When I realized it actually happened … that was rough.”
Haley was flown to San Antonio Military Medical Center to recover. A few weeks later, an amputee walked into his hospital room and delivered something he’d been lacking in recent days -– hope.

“I thought to myself, ‘If he can do it, there’s no reason I can’t,’” he said. “And I realized my life wasn’t over; I still have a lot of potential.”

This is the exact message he’d like to convey to the Boston bombing victims. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” he said. “But plenty of people want to see you succeed. I want to see you succeed.”
Army Sgt. Jordan Sisco said he was shocked and horrified when he saw the Boston bombings on the news. The incident that robbed him of his legs and his left thumb last summer was still fresh in his mind.

“I have an idea of what the Boston victims are going through,” he said. “I don’t know, but I have an idea.”
Like Haley, Sisco vividly recalls the moment the blast hit. He was leading his squad on a surveillance mission near the site where his best friend had been injured just hours earlier. He jumped into a ditch and landed on a bomb. Time stopped at that moment, he said.

The explosion lifted him into the air “like a tornado,” and a dark wall of sand surrounded him. He landed on his face and his first thought was a calm one, “I’m OK. I’m alive.”

Moments later the “unbearable” pain set in, and he began to pray. “God, let me see my Mom one more time.” While on the chopper being rushed to care, he last remembers reaching out to hold the hand of a female medic. When he next woke up he was in the hospital and the first person he saw was his Mom.
While glad to be alive, those early days of recovery were dark ones. “When I woke up in the hospital and discovered I had no legs … I was devastated. I didn’t think there would be a girl out there for me.”
And if there was, Sisco worried about being able to support and protect a wife and family.

“It took a lot to get me out of that,” he said. “That was a very dark period for me.”

Sisco slowly pulled out of his depression by leaning on his family, friends and caregivers at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s outpatient rehabilitation center here. Talking about his situation helped, he said. “It’s good to talk and hang out with people,” he said. When alone, he rediscovered his love of movies and classic rock.

Sisco began setting goals for himself -- new prosthetics, walking again -- and recently decided to again take up surfing, a sport he fell in love with while growing up along the coast of California. He was nervous and scared at first, but when he got on the board and caught the first wave, he popped up and rode inland. “It was absolutely amazing,” he said, “pure bliss.”

While he’s overcome one challenge after another, his biggest accomplishment, Sisco said, is never giving up.
“There were so many times when I felt like life was over,” he said. “But it’s not the end of the road yet.
“Many people have gone on from here to live happy and healthy lives after a horrible injury,” he added. “If I can do it, if the people in front of me can do it, I know the Boston victims can too.”

Haley has found healing in talking about his experiences and taking up sports such as running and wheelchair basketball. He began to run, not because he enjoys it, he said, but because he can.

Today, the soldier’s new goal is finding that one thing he can’t do. “I haven’t found it yet,” he said with a smile.

Haley said he has every confidence that the Boston victims will move forward from this difficult time.
“They didn’t deserve it,” he said. “But the one thing they can do now is come out on top.”

Army Casualties


The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. 
 
They died April 23, in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from enemy indirect fire.  The soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. 

Killed were:
Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, 32, of Selah, Wash., and
1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, 26, of Fairfax, Va. 

For more information please contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at 315-772-8286 or 315-523-4546.

Officials Commit to Protect Women, Girls in Afghanistan

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2013 – In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee here April 25, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia vowed to quash discrimination and violence against women and girls in Afghanistan.

David S. Sedney told the House panel that DOD leaders recognize the challenges and successes in mitigating poverty, illiteracy, weak security and poor health that disproportionately affect Afghan women as the projected 2014 drawdown proceeds and security responsibility transfers to Afghan military members and police forces.

“Progress in Afghanistan has been great and greatest for women,” Sedney asserted. “Since 2001, Afghan women's health, education, political participation have all increased enormously.”

But that progress made over the last 11 years rests heavily on the basis of security, Sedney said.

“If the Afghan security forces fail, then the progress of Afghan women will fail as well,” he warned. “Building that security, building the Afghan security forces remains the core mission of the Department of Defense in Afghanistan and will continue.”

In a 2011 poll, the humanitarian organization ActionAid found that 86 percent of 1,000 Afghan women surveyed were concerned that a Taliban-style government could return after the drawdown.

With troop drawdowns of about 33,000 members over the last 19 months and projected additional reductions of some 34,000 by February 2014, Sedney said the Afghan leadership has taken steps to meet human rights and equality challenges.

As the Afghan government takes a greater role in its security, it has enacted laws prohibiting violence against women, ratified the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, and put in place bureaucratic structures to implement that, he said.

Over the last eight years, Sedney added, the Department of Defense has invested approximately $40 million through the Commander's Emergency Response Program to fund more than 900 projects that specifically target the needs of women and girls in Afghanistan.

“More than a third of these [projects] were directly focused on improving the education of women and girls by repairing and building schools and women's centers, supplying education materials, and providing gender appropriate training programs,” he said.

There are many International Security Assistance Force and Afghan government programs aimed at protecting women's rights and promoting women in the Afghan security forces, Sedney said. However, he acknowledged, implementation of a gender policy within the Afghan armed forces is a long-term project.
“Ensuring that this increased civic and political participation continues and improves is dependent upon effective rule of law,” Sedney said, adding that Afghan women's participation in the justice system raises awareness and improves implementation of Afghanistan’s laws and government Constitution.

Afghan women at the local level are gaining increased presence and visibility through the National Solidarity Program, Sedney said, and they constitute 24 percent of the participants in these local community development councils, which bring “real improvements in the lives of every day average Afghan women.”
DOD efforts, he said, will continue to support women's security initiatives in Afghanistan through ISAF programs to develop Afghan National Security Forces and increased recruitment of women into the country’s security forces.

“Many of the women who have benefitted the most from the progress … are most at risk.” Sedney said. “They feel that they will be killed as a result of participating in the opportunities that we've helped bring them.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Official Describes Interagency Security, Nonproliferation Efforts

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2013 – The Defense Department and other U.S government agencies are actively pursuing methods to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists and hostile actors, a senior defense official told Congress yesterday.

Madelyn R. Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee alongside representatives of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and National Nuclear Security Administration in a hearing on nonproliferation activities.

“As we all are very well aware, we face a number of WMD challenges,” she said. “The three of us, together, are aggressively pursuing the president’s vision to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists and states of concern.”

Creedon cited North Korea, Iran and Syria as states of concern, “just to mention a few.”

“One of the most worrisome scenarios we face is the prospect of a dangerous WMD crisis involving the theft or loss of control of weapons or materials of concern that end up in the hands of hostile actors,” she said. “As the situation in Syria illustrates, instability in states pursuing or possessing WMD could lead to just such a crisis.”

To meet these challenges, she said, the Defense Department is focused on three areas: preventing WMD acquisition, containing and rolling back the threats, and responding to a WMD crisis.

"Preventing a WMD crisis requires cooperation with our international partners, and the Proliferation Security Initiative is a good example of that," Creedon said. More than 100 PSI endorsers participate in exercises and other cooperative efforts, she explained. The United Arab Emirates hosted the most recent exercise, in which 29 partners participated, she added.

“We are now on the verge of celebrating [the Proliferation Security Initiative’s] 10th anniversary,” Creedon added. “And our Polish allies will be hosting that particular celebration of accomplishments, and also looking forward to the next 10 years.”

Creedon said the initiative is an interesting concept with U.S. allies, because it isn’t included in any budget line and it comes out of general exercise funding.

“But in the fiscal environment that we’re now facing, we are looking at the idea of developing a specific line item dedicated for PSI activities,” she noted. “And we’ll probably be presenting these in the construct of the [fiscal year 2015] budget.”

Beyond preventing acquisition, Creedon said, officials are focused on containing and rolling back WMD threats. “And one of the most important tools that we use to accomplish this is the [Cooperative Threat Reduction] program,” she said.

The flexibility of the program’s legislation has allowed it to expand its work, both geographically -- most recently in the Middle East -- and functionally, as well, Creedon said.

One of Cooperative Threat Reduction’s major focuses, she added, is addressing the threat posed by serious chemical weapons. “To address the proliferation threat from these weapons, CTR is funding the second portion of Jordan’s border security project, which will increase Jordan’s ability to mitigate proliferation along the 256-kilometer border with Syria,” she told the Senate panel.

Creedon also said Cooperative Threat Reduction is working in Africa to improve safety and security, and is part of a partnership developing with Germany that seeks to destroy Libya’s chemical weapon stockpile.
“CTR is also working to improve biological security and increasing partner capacity in Kenya and Uganda, and to enhance maritime surveillance capabilities and capacity in Southeast Asia,” she added.

Creedon said the functional expansions initially were developed to assist with the close collaboration that DOD enjoys with the Energy Department. “DOE negotiates high-priority transfers of material -- mostly nuclear material -- to more secure locations for storage and re-processing,” she explained.

The Defense Department has specific capabilities and training to transport this material, Creedon said, and as a result, is developing a transportation determination that will allow “more nimble” collaboration with DOE.
“These examples also demonstrated that the CTR program remains responsive to the current and emerging security environment,” she said. “We have pushed the environment, and we will continue to do so when we believe it will reduce WMD threats.”

Creedon said if efforts to contain and roll back WMD threats fail, the United States must be prepared to respond, and the recently activated Standing Joint Force Headquarters Elimination has this responsibility.
“In addition to the unique support it provides to the combatant commands, this year the standing headquarters [will] participate in major exercises with South Korea, France and the United Kingdom,” she said.

Despite a shrinking budget, Creedon said, the Defense Department is committed to meeting the nation’s counter-WMD requirements.

“None of the efforts I have described would be possible without the continuing support of Congress,” she added, “and I thank you for your support of our fiscal year 2014 budget.”

MHAFB Airmen deploy in support of OEF

by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


4/23/2013 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- Several hundred Airmen from the 366th Fighter Wing deployed April 23 to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Mountain Home Airmen will support F-15E overseas contingency missions designed to deliver combat air power for joint operations and to meet ground commander requirements.

"We are a part of a bigger team here as Gunfighters," said Lt. Col. Joel Myers, 389th Fighter Squadron commander. "Our mission is to send multi-role F-15E Strike Eagle fighter aircraft air and ground crew to southwest Asia for combat operations, and to bolster cooperative training with our allies. This will enable the combatant commander to utilize the full range of our capabilities in any contingency that may arise as well as to continue to develop the important strategic relationships we have in the region."

Several months of training has been conducted in preparation for this specific mission and Airmen are ready to take on the challenge.

"I'm excited to go and serve my country," said 1st Lt. Henry Fortinberry, 389th FS weapon systems officer. "I've wanted to fly fighters for as long as I can remember and I've been training inside this jet for years. It's almost like I've been preparing for this deployment my whole life."

Myers agreed.

"We are prepared for a wide variety of missions," he said. "Throughout the last year, along with our maintenance team, our aviators have demonstrated repeated successes at exercises like Red Flag, Green Flag and other training events. I am confident our team has had a world-class spin-up and is ready to successfully execute our mission."

The deploying Gunfighters are not the only ones who have been preparing as spouses and children have been preparing to live without a family member during this deployment.

"I have a wonderful wife who will take up the mantle of running our household and raising our two children as a single parent while I am away," said Maj. Brian Robbins, 389th FS assistant director of operations. "She has had a ton of practice doing it as this is my seventh deployment. I think my youngest will probably have the hardest time with it as she does not yet understand why I leave for so long and what I am doing while I am gone. My oldest is a seasoned pro as this will be my fifth deployment in his short nine years."

According to Myers, his basic priorities deal with two areas: accomplishing the mission and taking care of people.

"We are focused on taking care of our entire team, to include our families that stay behind," he said. "It's a privilege to deploy and deliver combat airpower wherever and whenever called upon."

Utah reservist honors Boston bombing victims at SLC Marathon

419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/24/2013 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Gill, 419th Operations Group, honored victims of the Boston Marathon bombing at the Salt Lake City Marathon April 20 by carrying a large American flag for the duration of the race.

The Air Force Reservist said the marathon was a tough race, both physically and emotionally.

"It was about 50 degrees, with constant rain and hail. I ran the whole 26.2 miles carrying a five-foot American flag, which got very heavy in the rain. It seemed much lighter, however, when the police doing traffic control stopped the cars for me to pass, then turned around, and saluted my flag as I passed. I also ran four miles later in the race with an amputee. The pain in my legs and shoulders was of no concern, as no matter how much pain I experienced, it is nothing compared to what the people in Boston who are recovering in the hospital are enduring. Bystanders yelled, 'USA, USA, USA' as I passed. There was also a very elderly veteran from World War II, who gingerly rose from his chair, came to the position of attention, and rendered a proud salute. I am glad that it was raining, as I wept many times. It is a race that I will never forget."

Combined Security Force Kills Insurgents in Helmand Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 24, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed two insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Nad-e Ali district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province yesterday, military officials reported.

The leader is believed to be responsible for purchasing and distributing improvised explosive device components to other Taliban members. He also has participated in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and provides intelligence to senior Taliban leaders in the province, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force in Helmand’s Nahr-e Saraj district killed an insurgent during a search for a Taliban leader who is believed to oversee IED operations in the district. He also has participated in assassinations against Afghan national security force members and provided intelligence to senior Taliban leaders.

-- Afghan Provincial Response Company Zabul, enabled by coalition forces, detained several insurgents and seized and destroyed 132 pounds of ammonium nitrate aluminum powder in Zabul province’s Shinkay and Qalat districts. Insurgents use the powder in making IEDs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Commander: Coalition to Posture Afghan Air Force to Succeed

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 – Air power has provided a critical advantage throughout the Afghanistan campaign, and it will do the same for Afghan national security forces building their own air capability, the senior U.S. and NATO airman in Afghanistan told Pentagon reporters today.

“We know that air is a critical enabler,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. H.D. “Jake” Polumbo Jr., director of the International Security Assistance Force Air Component Coordination Element and commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force Afghanistan.

“It is our asymmetric advantage. The insurgents, the Taliban, have no match for it,” Polumbo said via video teleconference from his headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul. “And therefore, we always have that ability to … pack that punch that really keeps them on their heels, if not just in retreat.”

While continuing to support coalition and Afghan operations, ISAF aircrews are preparing to shift more of their focus to ensuring the Afghan air force is postured to provide that same punch, Polumbo said.

Only about 6,000 Afghan national security forces are assigned to the air force, and recruits often are turned away because they fall short in literacy and English language skills. But Polumbo said a recruiting and training pipeline is in place to increase those numbers within the next two years.

Meanwhile, the Afghans are expected to receive the first of 20 U.S.-funded A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft next year. As the A-29s get introduced into the inventory, ISAF trainers will ensure the Afghan air force has the training, maintenance and logistical systems in place to sustain them, Polumbo said.

“Building an air force from the ground up is no easy task,” he said, citing Afghanistan’s vast, rugged terrain, harsh climate and ongoing combat operations. “But the Afghans, and particularly the Afghan airmen, are hearty people who have eagerly embraced these challenges.”

“The results are showing,” Polumbo said, not just in the training environment, but increasingly on the battlefield. Afghan air force airmen conducted winter resupply missions to remote Afghan army locations in the east, and provide direct support to Afghan border police in Paktika and Kandahar provinces, he reported. During recent combat operations, Afghan air force helicopter crews flew lifesaving casualty evacuation flights and conducted independent air assaults into contested areas.

“Admittedly, Afghan air force capacity is still very limited, and will need continued assistance from NATO” to be able to conduct independent air surveillance, air support and mobility operations, he said.

“But the early signs are, indeed, encouraging,” the general added.

As U.S. and coalition forces draw down in Afghanistan, Polumbo said, air power assets will draw down at a slightly slower rate to ensure the Afghan air force is set up for success.

“There is no doubt that … we will assist them to make sure there are no significant setbacks in this campaign,” he said, emphasizing the need for a “graduated approach” in both drawing down coalition assets and building up Afghan capability.

Even as the drawdown takes place, coalition air power will be available to help the Afghans, he said.
Some air assets are expected to remain in Afghanistan, and others will provide an “over-the-horizon capability” as they fly in from bases and Navy aircraft carriers in the region. In addition, Polumbo said, unmanned aerial vehicles are expected to continue providing support to the Afghans.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Pfc. Barrett L. Austin, 20, of Easley, S.C., died April 21 in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained when his vehicle was attacked by an enemy improvised explosive device in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, April 17.  He was assigned to the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

For more information media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9874 during duty hours.  After duty hours call 912-767-8666 and ask for the on-call public affairs officer.