Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Face of Defense: Airman Advises Afghan Helicopter Maintainers

By Air Force Senior Airman Torri Ingalsbe
U.S. Air Forces Central

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 31, 2013 – What do you get when you combine Afghan maintainers, American advisors, contractors and Russian helicopters? Air Force Master Sgt. William Hensley would tell you you’d get one of the most rapidly advancing mission sustainment capabilities in Afghanistan.

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Air Force Master Sgt. William Hensley speaks with Moosa Jan and Baqi Khan, Afghan air force maintenance commanders, during Mi-17 helicopter inspections at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. Hensley is on his second tour as an Mi-17 maintenance advisor. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

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“The overall quality of maintenance, training and Afghan motivation has greatly increased,” said Hensley, 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron intermediate maintenance inspection advisor, who is serving his second year-long rotation working with Afghan Mi-17 helicopter maintainers here in an advisory role.
Three years ago, Hensley was a quality assurance advisor for the Afghan air force. He is deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and hails from Ravenna, Ohio.

“When I was here before, I started the quality control [and] quality assurance process in place now,” he explained. “The idea of quality assurance just wasn’t here before.”

He emphasized the importance of quality-control programs in Afghanistan, as well as stateside.
“The Afghans have accountability of the work they do,” Hensley said. “They know someone will look at it, so they do the best work they can. It’s no different than the QC process at home.”

The process has allowed for more Mi-17s to be available for missions supporting ground forces, casualty evacuation and supply movement, Hensley said. “We’ve established maintenance timelines as we’ve further developed the QC/QA process,” he explained. “We’re able to keep aircraft flowing in and out of the maintenance and QC schedule, so they’re not all down at one time. This allows leadership to plan missions based on available aircraft.”
Hensley said he uses his previous deployment as a building block to train and mentor the Afghan maintainers.

“About 85 percent of the Afghans remember working with me before,” he said. “It allowed me to build on relationships I already had with them. That’s a huge advantage when working in an advisory role.”

Hensley said he has an optimistic outlook for the future of the Afghan air force, and said he hopes to be able to see how much further they will come.

“Progress is always going to be here,” he said. “They are steadily improving all the time. I know they’re going to get better, and maintenance is what they’re doing the best. I would jump at the opportunity to come back.”

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Nicholas B. Burley, 22, of Red Bluff, Calif., died July 30, in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire.

He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

For more information, media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-271-9914.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Report Cites Afghan Security Forces Gains, Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2013 – Afghan national security forces are in the lead throughout the country, and they continue to make progress, according to a report to Congress released today.

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Peter Lavoy, acting assistant defense secretary for Asia Pacific Security Affairs, right, and Jarrett Blanc, deputy to the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, brief reporters at the Pentagon following the release of a biannual report to Congress on progress in Afghanistan, July 30, 2013. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

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Over the past decade, Afghan forces have increased their numbers and capabilities and gradually are taking over security operations from American, NATO and partner nations.

The discussion is part of the biannual “Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” report. Pentagon officials said the time period covered by the report generally lags present day by about three months, and that the report released today covers Oct. 1, 2012, to March 31 of this year.

The Afghans are in the lead, the report says, and they are in a position to build on the success of the International Security Assistance Force. “The progress made by [the] ISAF-led surge over the past three years has put the … [Afghan] government firmly in control of all of Afghanistan’s major cities and 34 provincial capitals and driven the insurgency into the countryside,” the report says.

Afghan forces are at 96 percent of their authorized end strength of 352,000, the report says, and these forces are conducting almost all operations independently.

Afghan forces have maintained the security gains. Before the current fighting season, the Taliban vowed to take back from Afghan forces the ground NATO forces had wrested from them. The report says this has not happened.

“The [Afghan forces have] successfully maintained security gains in areas that have transitioned to Afghan lead responsibility,” the report said.

Still, it would be a mistake to underestimate the mission ahead for Afghan forces and their allies, the report notes. The Taliban and other terrorist groups are resilient, and many continue to use the federally administered tribal areas in Pakistan as a sanctuary. These groups try to regain influence through intimidation and fear, and have been responsible for some high-profile attacks and assassinations.

ISAF officials stress they want to capitalize on the security progress and continue training and advising Afghan forces. “Of all the lines of effort, [the security line] showed the most progress,” the report says.
Force generation is largely complete, according to the report, and now maintenance and sustainment must come to the fore, which is all part of the campaign plan.

U.S., NATO and partner nations are now in an advise-and-assist role and must maintain this role if the campaign is to sustain progress, the report states. Afghan forces “will need continued assistance and combat support through the end of the ISAF mandate in December 2014; beyond then, it will still require substantial training, advising and assistance … to address ongoing shortcomings,” it says.
These shortcomings include logistics, air support, medical evacuation and artillery. Training of all kinds, but especially for officers and noncommissioned officers, remains a priority.

All of this subverts the insurgents’ propaganda, the report says. For years, the Taliban argued that they were fighting against foreign invaders. But now the Afghans are in the lead, and the enemy cannot make those claims. The Afghan people also recognize that the insurgents are responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties in the country, the report says.

Finally, the report states, the United States, NATO and partner nations have committed to Afghanistan for the long haul -- confounding another Taliban claim that America will abandon Afghanistan again.
The NATO ISAF mission continues until the end of 2014, and NATO has a follow-on mission in the wings called Resolute Support. U.S. and Afghan officials are negotiating a bilateral security agreement that will put in place the legal basis for post-2014 U.S. participation.

Other items from the report indicate:
-- Mixed cooperation with Pakistan on controlling the enemy sanctuaries in that country;
-- The Afghan elections are on track;
-- Afghan security forces are in shape to protect voters;
-- Corruption remains a problem that must be addressed; and
-- The number of insider attacks has dropped.

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Stephen M. New, 29, of Bartlett, Tenn., died July 28, in Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by small arms fire in the Sarobi District of Kabul Province, Afghanistan.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Jackson, Miss.
For more information, media may contact the United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) public affairs office at 910-908-3947 or 910-689-6187.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died July 27, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. They were assigned to the 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

Killed were:
Sgt. Eric T. Lawson, 30, of Stockbridge, Ga., and
Spc. Caryn E. Nouv, 29, of Newport News, Va.

For more information media may contact the Joint Base Langley-Eustis public affairs office at 757-878-4920 or after business hours at 757-878-5050.

Soldier to Receive Medal of Honor for Valor in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2013 – A soldier now serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., will receive the Medal of Honor for valor in combat in Afghanistan.

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Army Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter provides overwatch during a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan. On Aug. 26, Carter will become the fifth living Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan when he is recognized for his actions during a 2009 battle in Afghanistan's Nuristan province. U.S. Army photo

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President Barack Obama will present the nation’s highest award for battlefield gallantry to Army Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter in a White House ceremony Aug. 26.
 Carter, who will become the fifth living Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, will be recognized for his actions in the Kamdesh district of Afghanistan’s Nuristan province on Oct. 3, 2009, while serving as a cavalry scout with the 4th Infantry Division’s Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

Carter earned the Medal of Honor during a six-hour battle that ensued when enemy fighters attempted to overrun Combat Outpost Keating using heavy small-arms fire and indirect fire. Carter resupplied ammunition to fighting positions throughout the battle, provided first aid to a battle buddy, killed enemy troops and risked his life to save a fellow soldier who was injured and pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire.

Eight soldiers were killed and more than 25 were injured in defense of the outpost.

Carter enlisted in the Army in January 2008 as a cavalry scout. He completed a second Afghanistan deployment in October, and now is assigned to the 7th Infantry Division. He grew up in Spokane, Wash., and now calls Antioch, Calif., his home. He and his wife, Sharon, have three children: Jayden Young, Madison Carter and Sehara Carter.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died July 23, in Soltan Kheyl, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Killed were:
1st Lt. Jonam Russell, 25, of Cornville, Ariz.,
Sgt. Stefan M. Smith, 24 of Glennville, Ga., and
Spc. Rob L. Nichols, 24, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

For more information media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-271-9914.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Face of Defense: Doctor, Technician Care for Local Afghans

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, July 23, 2013 – An ophthalmologist assigned to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital here provides humanitarian care for local Afghans in his spare time.

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Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Marcus Neuffer examines and compares the eyes of a 6-year-old Afghan patient July 6, 2013, at the Joint Craig Theater Hospital ophthalmology clinic, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Neuffer recently completed a surgery on her right eye to correct a cataract. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade

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Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Marcus Neuffer's primary job here is to take care of patients with traumatic eye injuries, but when he is not busy in the operation room, he and his technician, Air Force Airman 1st Class Chellbie Gonzales, support the local population.

"At home, we mainly perform refractive surgery and provide specialty eye care," Neuffer said. Gonzales serves as Neuffer's assistant both here and at their home base, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. They both are serving their first deployment and humanitarian effort. Every week, they go to the South Korean hospital to treat patients from off base.

"The eye injuries and conditions here are not common in the Unites States, because the environment, health care system and patient demographics are different," Neuffer said.

Neuffer is the only doctor here who is qualified to operate on eyes. Local patients who come to one of the humanitarian hospitals and need eye surgery are brought to Craig Joint Theater Hospital. Neuffer has operated on a dozen Afghan patients.

"I have performed cataract surgery on three children here so far: a 12-month-old boy, a 6-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy," he said. "A child's eyesight stops developing at about 8. If I can perform surgery before then, with glasses, the children should be able to regain enough vision to perform daily tasks."

Cataracts, typically seen in older adults, can severely limit vision. In the United States, cataracts found in children usually are removed within the first two months of life.

"Unfortunately, the Afghan children don't have as good of health care here, and some are left blind their whole life," Gonzales said. "It's hard to tell exactly how old each patient is, because of the lack of medical care and records."

After the surgery, Gonzales schedules follow-up appointments for one day, one week and one month out to track the patient's progress, she said. On the second appointment, glasses are issued.

"My job is very rewarding here," Gonzales said. "There's something special about seeing the children recognize objects and interact with the world."

Neuffer said so far the outcome of these procedures on children has been good. For one 8-year-old-boy, it's been an awakening. Months ago, he picked up a land mine while playing. It exploded in his hands, resulting in cataracts and other injuries.

"When I first met him, his father led him by the hand, because he could only see light," Neuffer said. "A week after his surgery when the bandages came off, he put on glasses I gave him, and he was able to see our faces. He was so excited he could see again he jumped up, pushed his family out of the way and ran straight into a wall. It was a happy, but comical, moment for us."

Neuffer said he joined the Air Force to help those in need.

"Someday when this place is safer, I hope to establish a program that will help everyone," he said. "For now, my goal is to give children as much vision as possible. Having vision allows people to work and contribute to make their society better."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Anthony R. Maddox, 22, of Port Arthur, Texas, died July 22, in Landstuhl, Germany, of a non-combat related incident that occurred in Andar, Afghanistan.  The incident is under investigation.

He was assigned to the 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

For more information, media may contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at 315-772-8286.