Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Face of Defense: Husband Takes Place of Redeploying Wife

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazlett
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2013 – The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing finance management office provides financial customer service and plays an important role in the wing’s mission by executing the budget to fund all mission requirements.

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Margaret Prokop hands off her duties to her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ariel Hunsuckle, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazlett

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It’s also the setting for a husband deploying to succeed his wife, who is preparing to return to their home station. Rather than having a reunion at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Air Force Staff Sgts. Ariel Hunsuckle and Margaret Prokop, are working together for a short handoff of wing budget technician duties before separating again.

The couple acknowledged that no one wants to be away from their spouse for a year, but they said it comes with being in the military and that they’re making the best of it.
“It's an incredible experience to be able to see my wife after the long months she's been here, and I feel I am lucky enough to be with her, as others aren't as fortunate,” said Hunsuckle, an eight-year Air Force veteran from Yigo, Guam.

Although they work in the same unit at Nellis, they have different offices, and their jobs are quite different.

“Professionally, it's great to be able to train Ariel on the things I've been doing for the last several months,” said Prokop, a five year Air Force veteran from Bolton, Conn. “He's already made improvements to the program, and all I can say is, ‘Wow! Why didn't I think of that?’” she said. “Even though the allotted turnover for the position was only a few days, we’re lucky with how everything worked out, especially since our flights aligned to give us a few extra days together.”

Hunsuckle said he has some great boots to fill, but he didn't expect anything less.

“The turnover was definitely a learning experience, and working with her professionally was easier than I imagined,” he said. “And the best thing about our working relationship is I can literally call home for help.”

Hagel Commends Latvia’s Participation in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2013 – In a Pentagon meeting with Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel commended Latvia for its steadfast participation in International Security Assistance Force operations in Afghanistan and for the energy and perspective that Latvia and its Baltic counterparts have brought to NATO, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, escorts Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks through an honor cordon into the Pentagon, Oct. 30, 2013. The two defense leaders met to discuss national and regional security issues. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

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In a statement summarizing the meeting, Little said Hagel and Pabriks reiterated their countries' commitment to supporting security and stability in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

"Secretary Hagel also reinforced the United States' commitment to standing together with United States and NATO allies and partners,” he added. “The leaders affirmed their intent to work together to support regional cooperation, interoperability and long-term defense modernization and acknowledged the important relationship between Latvia and the Michigan National Guard, Latvia's partner in the National Guard's State Partnership Program."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Afghan C-130 takes off to a great start

by Capt. Anastasia Wasem
NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan

10/24/2013 - KABUL, Afghanistan  -- Just one day after receiving two C-130H aircraft, the Afghan Air Force, alongside NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan advisors, conducted the first mission in the new planes Oct. 10.

The first operational mission was flown by both AAF and coalition pilots between Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan and Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

"The fact that we already have the C-130s flying and we already have it airborne is a big step," said Maj. Chris Garcia, 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and C-130 advisor from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "It's going to take the weight off both the Cessna 208 and Mi-17 and really open up their mission."

The first mission consisted of several pallets of Mi-17 main landing gear parts, maintenance parts as well as office supplies for the Kandahar Air Wing. The load weighed more than 10,500 pounds according to Staff Sgt. Daniel Garber, 538 AEAS C-130 loadmaster and advisor from Pope Field, N.C.

"Everything has gone super smooth," said Garber upon arrival at KAF during the mission. "A little slower than normal but obviously right now we don't want to rush, we want to train. The slower the better as safety is key right now."

The C-130 will be a vital part of the AAF and its mission, according to Garcia. Prior to the arrival of the C-130 the main transportation aircraft were the fixed-wing C-208 and the Mi-17 helicopter. The C-130 can carry 10 times the amount of weight as the C-208 and 70 passengers versus eight in half the time.

"Our main goal is to support the other forces in Afghanistan," said AAF Col. Almal Pacha, one of two AAF C-130 pilots. "Today's mission went very well. That's a very good sign for Afghanistan and building the Afghan Air Force."

Pacha stated the C-130 will be the main airlift platform for the AAF and that the primary missions will include cargo and passenger movement, especially for the Afghan National Army, as well as emergency support.

The flight was not only the first operational mission for the new C-130s, but also the first upgrade training for Pacha and 1st Lt. Khial Shinwari, the first two AAF C-130 pilots. The training focused on the basics of transporting passengers and cargo from one point to another as well as instrument flying, stated Garcia.

"Both Pacha and Shinwari flew really well today," said Garcia about the flight. "I think they'll upgrade pretty quickly and progress really well. This flight was a great lead-in to their program."

Amos Marks 30th Anniversary of Marine Barracks Attack in Lebanon

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 – The attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983 became a harbinger of what is known today as the war on terror, said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, during a ceremony yesterday in Jacksonville, N.C., to mark the 30th anniversary of the attacks.

The terrorist truck bomb took the lives of 241 service members.

“The world we lived in and the future we knew of a secure environment changed forever that morning of Oct. 23,” Amos said. “The nation was not expecting this. It was a new kind of warfare. The threat of radical extremists being able to target military and civilian personnel with weapons of mass destruction for political, religious and personal gains was a new way to attack the West. It was a cowardly act on freedom.”

The early 1980s was a tumultuous time of conflicting powers, Amos told the audience of Marines, as well as families and friends of those killed in the attack. “[That era] indeed became the harbinger of more challenging times yet to come,” the general said. “Tensions were high across the world, the Cold War raged on, and radicalism surfaced as a new threat to stability in the Middle East.”

And, “when conflict ripped at the peaceful coexistence of Lebanon, the United States, France, Italy and Great Britain answered the call to assist,” Amos said of the multinational peace-keeping force that went into Beirut.

Amos described how Marines attempted to serve as peace keepers at a time when the country was deeply immersed in a civil war.

“They stood watch and patrolled chaotic streets to provide a blanket of safety and security and comfort for the citizens of Lebanon. They stood for freedom,” he said, adding that the Marines knew their protection of the citizens came with a risk.

“On Oct. 23, 1983, terror struck. At 6:22 a.m., extremists drove an explosives-laden truck into the Marine barracks the likes of which had never been witnessed before. The massive explosion shook the ground of the entire Beirut International Airport along with the souls of all the Marines throughout the world,” Amos said.

“Two-hundred and forty-one Marines and American soldiers and sailors [who] volunteered to make a difference” died in the attack, he added.

“They volunteered to serve their country … to put the lives and freedoms of others before their own … 241 of our finest, Amos said. “We honor each of them today.”

Beginning with the attacks in Beirut, extremists have attempted to destroy what makes the United States great by attacking America at home and abroad, Amos pointed out.

He recounted the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in which a truck detonated alongside a building that housed U.S. Air Force personnel, killing 19 and wounding 498. He also recalled the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 220 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded. Amos also spoke of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, berthed in Yemen, which resulted in the deaths of 17 American sailors and injured 39others.

“On 9/11,” Amos said, “terrorists attacked America, in New York, the fields of Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000. We remember each of these well. We will never forgive, nor will we ever forget.”

In September 2012, he added, gunmen attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four people, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

“Not only are these world-changing events, but they are very personal to all of us here today,” Amos said.

U.S. troops responded in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.

“Today, our Marines remain forward-deployed,” Amos said. “Marine expeditionary units are stationed around the globe -- the 26th, the 13th and the 31st Marines continue to train security forces and deny terrorists safe havens throughout all of Afghanistan.”

When Marines respond to crises, they remain strong, and ready to respond and answer the nation’s call, Amos said. Since the fateful day of the Beirut attacks, the Marines have stayed consistent in character and courage, and those traits have “not wavered and never will,” he said.

“Across the globe, extremists have attempted to plot against our freedom and our democracy. They have tested our resolve as a nation. Those men who died 30 years ago would be proud to know that we have never relented,” Amos told the audience members, who responded with cries of “Oorah!”

“We have never backed down, and we never will,” he said.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Face of Defense: Siblings’ Paths Cross During Deployment

By Air Force Senior Airman Jackie Sanders
451st Air Expeditionary Wing

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 22, 2013 – Regardless of what drove them to service, one benefit of having family in the military is the rare opportunity that allows family members to serve with one another.

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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexandra Becerra and her brother, Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Murillo, spend some downtime together on the boardwalk at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jackie Sanders

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For Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexandra Becerra and her brother, Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Murillo, being deployed here together was something they’d planned.

“I think in January 2012, I was up for orders to go to a new command, and my detailer said that I could volunteer to come out here, and I figured it would be pretty cool to come here at least once before we pull out,” Becerra said. “I just wanted to get this under my belt, so I volunteered to come here.”

Murillo said he was able to switch from a deployment to a different Southwest Asia location to be here.

The two siblings met up here toward the end of Becerra’s tour and the beginning of Murillo’s time, and they made the effort during their overlap to catch up. Becerra works in medical logistics, and Murillo is an aerial porter with the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing.

“Today is both of our days off, so we’re going to hang out,” Becerra said.

Murillo and Becerra agreed that sharing a deployment and being part of the military is a unique experience that they both enjoy.

“It’s definitely cool, and it’s a privilege, because when we’re older we can look back and say, ‘Hey, we served together.’ It’ll be a nice story to tell the kids someday,” Becerra said.

“Especially our younger sisters,” Murillo added. “They look up to us, and now I have a couple of buddies asking me questions because they want to join now, too.”

While they said they worry about each other’s safety at times, the military siblings said, the company of family makes their deployments more palatable.

“You’ve got to make it fun out here,” Murillo said. “But, it’s weird, because with her here it almost feels like we’re at home sometimes.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marine Corps Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Christopher O. Grant, 20, of Richwood, La., died Oct. 20, while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For more information, media may contact the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office during duty hours at 910-449-9923 and after duty hours at 910-372-2736.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Lyle D. Turnbull, 31, of Norfolk, Va., died Oct. 18, in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, from a medical emergency. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Turnbull was assigned to the 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information related to this release, the media should contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-9993 or (254) 287-0106.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Army Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. Patrick H. Quinn, 26, of Quarryville, Pa., died Oct. 13, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the enemy attacked his base with small arms fire.

He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colo.

For more information, media may contact the U.S. Army Special Forces command public affairs office at during duty hours at 910-908-3947. After duty hours contact 910-689-6187.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kerry, Karzai Make Progress on Security Agreement Negotiations

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2013 – After weekend meetings in Kabul, Afghanistan, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he and Karzai had resolved all but one of the major issues critical to a bilateral security agreement between the two countries.

And en route to London this morning, Kerry consulted several times via phone with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about the meetings, according to senior State Department officials who spoke with reporters in a background briefing.

Last night, Kerry and Karzai spoke during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, positive about the progress they’d made.

“I believe that in the last 24 hours, as we have worked hard at these issues that really have been negotiated over now for more than 11 months, that we have resolved … the major issues that [President Karzai] went through,” Kerry said.

Kerry said he and Karzai “have put ourselves in a position for an enduring [U.S.-Afghanistan] partnership going forward in the years ahead.”

In his remarks, Karzai had described his main issues as national sovereignty, prevention of civilian casualties, and a clear definition of invasion by foreign forces.

But both leaders acknowledged that, on the outstanding issue of claiming U.S. jurisdiction for U.S. troops who are accused of committing crimes while deployed in Afghanistan, the decision about whether to allow this agreement in the bilateral agreement will be left to the Loya Jirga, or council of Afghan elders, which Karzai has called to meet in November.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said in July after meeting with Karzai in Kabul that getting the security agreement signed by October fit in with his best military advice for putting in place the framework for the continuing U.S. and NATO effort in the country after Dec. 31, 2014, when the current NATO mandate expires.

Last night Kerry said his delegation was pleased that the agreement reached could be submitted to a Loya Jirga, where it will go through the appropriate political process, including the issue of jurisdiction for U.S. troops who act outside the law while in Afghanistan post-2014.

“The question of jurisdiction is an appropriate one for the president to submit to the Loya Jirga, and we have high confidence that the people of Afghanistan will see the benefits that exist in this agreement,” the secretary said.

“But we need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, then unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement,” Kerry added. “So we hope that that will be resolved. And it’s up to the Afghan people, as it should be.”

The secretary explained that if an American who is part of any expeditionary force under agreement from the Afghan government were to violate any law, the United States would prosecute to the full measure of that law and any perpetrator of any incident or crime would be punished.

“There is no immunity,” he said, referring to what some call immunity for U.S. troops posted overseas.
“Let me make that clear: No immunity,” Kerry added. “And we have proven in many cases, unfortunately too many instances, that when somebody has violated the law, they have paid the price. There are people in prison today in the United States of America who have paid that price.”

In terms of jurisdiction, Kerry said, where the United States has forces serving in other parts of the world, including Japan, South Korea, Europe, Africa and elsewhere, they operate under the same standard.

“We completely respect that the [Afghan] president should decide appropriately that this issue ought to be decided in his Loya Jirga,” Kerry said.

But, he added, “if [the jurisdiction issue] isn’t resolved, we can’t send our forces in places because we don’t subject United States citizens to that kind of uncertainty with respect to their rights and lives.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Face of Defense: Marine Gunner Shares Convoy Experience

By Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Peterson
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2013 – As he nestled his cheek against the stock of his machine gun, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kevin Dunseith hoped the man on the motorcycle would heed his warning.

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Marine Corps reservist Lance Cpl. Kevin Dunseith crews his machine gun during a combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Oct. 1, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo

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Dunseith, a Blue Point, N.Y., native and turret gunner with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command - Southwest, called out a possible threat shortly after his convoy halted along an isolated desert road in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
A motorcyclist made a sudden turn toward his vehicle and failed to halt its approach on the convoy’s flank when Dunseith waved for him to stop. Now the two met eye to eye as the man dismounted his bike and took a package off the back.

“It’s a huge burden,” Dunseith said. “You have to make sure you make the right choices and follow the rules of engagement. It’s a big responsibility, but I like it.”

Dunseith was the rear gunner and last line of defense for a large convoy in Afghanistan conducting a recent four-day patrol between Camp Leatherneck and Camp Dwyer. The dusty, jarring ride passed through empty landscapes pockmarked with dried out riverbeds capable of trapping even the Marines’ large trucks.

“It gets tiring,” said Dunseith, a Marine reservist. “It’s uncomfortable. You’re legs are tired. It’s really hot, and you get tossed around easily. The dust kills you. You can’t really breathe.”
He wrapped his face in a scarf for protection from the worst dust clouds and shielded his eyes with a pair of protective sun glasses. Like a modern cowboy, Dunseith rode the bucking vehicle by flowing with the motion.

The metal turret walls provided protection for the price of a few good bumps.

“You force yourself to do it,” he said. “You want to take a break as much as possible, but you have to do what you have to do. It’s a very important job. That keeps me going.”

Dunseith managed to halt the motorist and convinced him to place the package on the ground. The relief in his voice was palpable as the convoy finally pushed on with the mission.

The space below Dunseith’s turret represented more than a crew compartment, and his position as gunner meant more than a job. His Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle was his shelter and home on convoys.

And the MRAP’s crew was his family.

“It’s necessary to protect everybody,” he said. “It’s cool to be part of the crew. We try to keep the same guys and the same truck. You get to know everybody even better because you’re stuck in there for days at a time.”

Dunseith volunteered to deploy with other Marine reservists from New York. The rigorous work schedule forged a bond amongst his teammates over the past three months.

The work pace with CLR-2 resulted in a mission nearly every week for the rear-guard trio. They passed the time sharing stories about home and teasing each other.

“They’re loopy,” Dunseith said of his comrades. “I’m probably the wackiest one out of them.”
Dunseith joined the Marines after visiting a recruiter with some of his friends back in New York. He felt the lifestyle seemed a good fit with his personality.

“I grew up in a pretty quiet town,” said Dunseith, who brashly referred to his deployment as a vacation. “I was never inside. I was always outdoors getting lost in the woods. There was just something I liked about it. It’s about going on an adventure. I never liked sitting still.”

His love for adventure hasn’t made the deployment easy -- far from it.

It took a while for Dunseith to adapt to the climate in Afghanistan and his role in the turret. A single shift behind the gun often lasts longer than an average American’s work day. There are no breaks.

A bottle of water and a smooth patch of road are about as good as it gets until the convoy stops.

At night, the crew alternates guard duties while the others sleep inside the truck.

“It’s cramped, but you get so tired you eventually fall asleep,” Dunseith said. “Even though it’s not the best sleep, all you need is a little rest so your body can recover for the next day. It’s not bad.”

Dunseith said he prefers to be on missions. In spite of the stress and exhaustion, it gives him a chance to see Afghanistan and makes the time go faster.