Saturday, November 30, 2013

NATO Envisions Post-ISAF Train, Advise and Assist Mission

By Denver Beaulieu-Hains
7th U.S. Army Joint Multinational Training Command

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, Nov. 29, 2013 – At the end of 2014, the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to end and a new train, advise and assist mission called Resolute Support will begin.

During Europe's recent combat training conference, the top brass of more than 35 nations outlined a way ahead to prepare for the transition that involves combined and joint training provided by the Joint Multinational Training Command here.

"There was a lot of discussion about the coming ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and NATO operational transition in Afghanistan," said Army Col. Thomas S. Matsel, the G3 or chief of operations at the JMTC.

"NATO is going to transition" from its ISAF operations centered in Afghanistan to a force that is prepared to respond across the full spectrum of conflict, Matsel said.

Since JMTC's training events regularly include multinational participation, the discussion is different at other Army combat training centers, Matsel said.

"They are mainly concerned with Title 10 training [training for U.S. troops]. Their focus is on U.S.-based Army units and their ability to conduct combat or contingency operations," he said. "We have that responsibility with our Title 10 forces also, but JMTC, the training command for the U.S. Army Europe also has the task to make sure U.S. Army units are well integrated with our NATO and multinational partners and the place where that happens, and is tested, is here in Europe during our multinational training and exercises."

Simultaneously, at the Hohenfels Training Area in Germany, the exercise Combined Resolve looks at the post-ISAF relationship and the potential for future coalition operations. The training brought U.S. forces and those of Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and Sweden together to challenge systems and develop cultural understanding and trust.

"The training ... is exactly in harmony with what we want to attain in the whole of NATO. After years of training concentrated on Afghanistan, we again want to pay attention to the training of fundamental military activities," the Czech Republic's chief of staff Petr Pavel said about the training. "For us this means training in an environment that we are by no means capable of replicating in domestic conditions."

Pavel said his Army benefits by training with the modern equipment and training facilities available at Hohenfels, as well as the professional cadre of observers, coaches, and trainers.

"We do not have the technical means to assess the training available here [in the Czech Republic] and we aren't capable of ensuring the multinational participation," he said.

A multinational exercise is planned every month for the next year. The next exercise is slated for Dec. 7-17. The New Jersey National Guard will train at the Hohenfels Training Area with more than seven multinational partners.

"It's important to remember some of the best and most capable security forces in the world are right here in Europe and we must build on the past 10 years of combat operations with our NATO and multinational partners so we are ready for the next emergency or contingency," Matsel said.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Korengal Valley: STO receives Bronze Star with Valor

by Staff Sgt. Erica Horner
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

11/14/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "I was only attached to these guys for just one mission but it was the most important mission of my life," said Maj. F. Damon Friedman, an Air Force Special Operations Command special tactics officer who was briefly assigned to an Army task force while serving in Afghanistan.

For his actions, Friedman was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor during a ceremony Nov. 13, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

It was April 2010 and the Korengal Valley, a 2-kilometer "kill-box" located in northeast Afghanistan, had already claimed the lives of more than 40 American service members since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. The compact valley with extremely high terrain was difficult to maneuver, earning the name "Valley of Death," and it needed to be cleared of enemy forces immediately.

"It was a very high profile mission. There were several Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha teams assigned to one battalion and also an Army task force," said Friedman, then a captain on his third deployment in Afghanistan since becoming a STO. "Our unit was responsible for going in and conducting disruption operations so the current Army unit would be able to start taking out enemy forces in the middle of the night and ultimately close that place down."

Because of his expertise, Friedman was appointed as the lead joint terminal attack controller with a team of three combat controllers. He was also tasked as the "fire's guy," the subject matter expert for all close air support and call for fires during that mission.

"When we came in, there were about 100 enemy forces in the area. I was up for three days without a second of sleep conducting close air support with numerous aircraft overhead," said Friedman.

This was nothing new for Friedman; using his elevated location to his advantage, he provided fire support and cover for the men moving through the valley.

"I had the greatest situational awareness," he said. "I was able to receive the aircraft and push them out, or conduct close air support and call for fire because my position was much safer and I could see the entire valley."

According to the medal citation, for seven days, often under direct and indirect hostile fire, Friedman maneuvered to exposed positions to improve the coordination and deconfliction of more than 200 attack aircraft.

He also controlled and directed the delivery of 4,000 pounds of bombs, AC-130 rounds, and repeated rocket and strafe attacks. On two accounts, he controlled bombs and rockets within 100 meters of pinned-down friendly forces, thereby saving the lives of his teammates.

"I wanted to be as accurate as possible," he said. "I wanted to make the right calls and I didn't want to be overzealous, especially when it came to danger close. You want everyone to be safe on your side. You want everyone to come home and everyone did come home."

No friendly forces were killed and Friedman was credited with 40 enemies killed and wounded.

"The "V" is something very special," said Brig. Gen. Albert "Buck" Elton, AFSOC director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments, referring to the valor device on the Bronze Star. "It's difficult to earn and they protect that device. To have three Bronze Stars is a big deal, especially one with valor."

Friedman credits his team for this achievement.

"Honestly, when I look at this medal with the "V" device, it's for the guys; it was a team effort," said Friedman. "These men they go out and do extraordinary things; the operators and the controllers, they're amazing and this is as much of theirs as it is mine. I'm just honored to be a part of it."

The BSM is the fourth highest individual military award. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. When awarded for acts of heroism, the medal is awarded with a Valor, or "V," device.

Editor's Note: A "kill box," a common term used by special operations forces, is a three-dimensional area used to facilitate the integration of joint fires.

March, Travis Airmen open best little repair shop in Afghanistan

by Capt. Jason Smith
451st Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs

11/23/2013 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan  -- There are no web ads, gorilla-suit wearers flipping arrows or even a simple "Open for Business" sign; there is just a makeshift, plywood plaque that describes exactly what it is - "Tan Box Bike Repair."

For service members at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, with bicycle issues, Tan Box Bike Repair is probably the only, and definitely most-affordable, way to get necessary repairs for bikes that face some extreme riding conditions. The parts and repairs are absolutely free.

Two California natives, Tech. Sgt. Juan Sanchezduarte and Senior Airman Mark Zorich, both assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, started the free bicycle repair shop when they saw their fellow airmen had needs, and they had the means to help.

"I have a lot of personal experience working on bikes at home," said Sanchezduarte, who is deployed from the 50th Aerial Port Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, Calif. "I asked my wife to send me my tools. I was only fixing bikes at the terminal where I work, and I ran out of bikes to fix. That's when I contacted the first sergeant for more work."

And that's when Tan Box Bike Repair was born.

Sanchezduarte and Zorich formed a business venture that isn't really a business at all. Both airmen work long hours with little down time. Still, they wanted to volunteer to use their bicycle expertise to help others. The distances between quarters, work locations and dining facilities at KAF can be fairly far, and not necessarily walkable in a reasonable timeframe. Many service members ride bikes to make the commutes a little less cumbersome.

"The conditions here aren't conducive for grease and mechanical parts," said Zorich, who is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "There is also neglect, and the mechanical parts must be maintained properly in this environment."

Zorich, who said he is a rider, not a mechanic, has been able to gather donated parts from stateside. Prior to his military career, Zorich raced on the downhill mountain bike circuit. He still has connections with the mountain bike community and even friends who race professionally.

"Ray's Cycle in Fairfield, Calif., and the [Mountain Bike Review community] have donated $1,200 to $1,300 worth of parts," said Zorich. "We have $600 to $700 worth of tires alone."

Tires wear out faster here than most places, according to Sanchezduarte. He said the rubber dry rots and cracks based on the hard conditions of the desert. Tires are the most-common repair needed, but he has seen much worse.

"There's a bicycle here with missing spokes," said Sanchezduarte. "I'm not sure how the spokes went missing or how [he] is still riding it. It had loose brackets and a lot of other issues too."

Based on his mission requirements, Sanchezduarte tries to open Tan Box Bike Repair Sundays from 1-4 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-9 a.m. Service members at KAF can contact Sanchezduarte or Zorich to work out a time outside of those hours.

It's an unlikely venture, in an unlikely place, but at a minimum, Tan Box Bike Repair will be saving a lot of service members' boot soles at KAF.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Building a Fire Service in Afghanistan

The November 30, 2013, episode of American Heroes Radio features a conversation with Fire Chief Victor H. Esch on building a fire service in Afghanistan.

Program Date:  November 30, 2013
Program Time: 1500 hours, PACIFIC
Topic: Building a Fire Service in Afghanistan

About the Guest
Victor H. Esch is a seasoned, senior emergency management executive and chief fire officer with extensive and comprehensive leadership expertise in organizational development, planning and execution. His creative, flexible, and analytical problem solving skills have positioned him, uniquely, as one of the foremost leaders in the fire service and disaster response/emergency management industries. Thriving in intense, high-stakes environments, Chief Esch is an internationally-recognized and highly-sought authority on Needs-Based Capacity Building, Program Development, Needs Assessments, and Fire and Emergency Services Master Planning.

Chief Esch’s career has included response and command of scores of national and international disasters including: September 11, 2001 Pentagon Incident and World Trade Center Collapse, Hurricanes, Train Derailments, Airline Crashes, Subway Derailments, Tornadoes, Sand Storms, Earthquakes, Wildfires, Subterranean Rescues, and Flash Floods.

Specializing in Program Development and Program Enhancement, Chief Esch has lead the dramatic turn-around of numerous fire-rescues departments, the creation of numerous highly-specialized and technical response teams (Search and Rescue, Rapid Water Rescue, High Angle Rescue, Flood Rescue, Arial Assisted Rapid Water Rescue Task Force, and Inland Water Rescue).

Chief Esch has assisted with assessment and development of numerous Emergency Medical Services and Pre-Hospital Care Programs and Systems throughout the United States, the Republic of Afghanistan, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Recently he has lead the development of the National Fire and Emergency Services paradigm in Afghanistan, as well as the inception of the Disaster Response Directorate and associated programs and procedures in the Republic of Afghanistan.

As a trusted Advisor to numerous Officials at the highest levels of the Afghan Government,  Directorates, Ministries, Parliament, and within the President and Vice President’s Offices, Chief Esch’s counsel and   perspective in constant demand.  His unique perspective and keen understanding of the problems, issues, obstacles, and related solutions, has been developed greatly as a result of his years of embedded service with various specialized segments within the Afghanistan National Army, the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, and the Afghanistan Ministry of Interior.

Recently, Chief Esch had the honor of being nominated and subsequently elected to serve as the President and Chief Executive Officer of an Afghanistan based, international humanitarian relief  NGO, the Organization for Development & Welfare - Afghanistan;  at which he is responsible for daily Administrative and Operational management and oversight of all of the Organizations activities.  Currently Chief Esch is leading ODWA ‘s interests and operations throughout Afghanistan, as they relate to: Capacity Building; Community/Village Development; Gender Equality; Education; Health Care; Tele-Medicine; Disaster Preparedness and Response; Fire/Rescue & Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Ambulance Services; Pre-Natal Care, Burn Units, Emergency Health Clinics, and Emergency Medical Training.

Other related actives include advisory positions with numerous other humanitarian related organizations, including: the Grossman Burn Foundation and the Marshal Plan Charities. 
About the Watering Hole

The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life.  Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.
About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years.  He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant.  He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University.  He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, law enforcement technology and leadership.  Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One.  He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.

Listen from the Archive:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hagel Urges Signing of U.S.-Afghan Agreement by Year’s End

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Nov. 21, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today that any U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan past 2014 can only be discussed after the proposed bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan is signed and put into effect.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him en route to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he will attend the Halifax International Security Forum tomorrow, Hagel said “That’s all going to be defined … [after] the final approval” of the agreement.

Hagel noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke this morning to the loya jirga, or council of elders, that he called together to consider the document. If the loya jirga approves the draft agreement, it will then go to Afghanistan’s parliament for ratification.

The document spells out each side’s roles, rights and responsibilities in Afghanistan’s post-2014 security; one point of contention has been the stipulation, which the United States puts into all such agreements, that it retains legal jurisdiction over its service members. Hagel and other officials have repeatedly stated that provision is not negotiable.

“We believe by the end of this year, we should have that agreement signed,” he said. “We need to have that agreement signed by the end of the year -- I think President [Barack] Obama has been clear on that.”

Hagel said NATO allies and other nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan are also waiting for the U.S.-Afghan agreement, which is expected to serve as a model for a similar, NATO-Afghanistan security agreement.

“We continue to plan for a post-2014, train, assist and advise [and] counterterrorism role,” the secretary said. “But until we get that BSA, we can‘t do any more than train. It really needs to be done by the end of this year.”

Hagel responded to a reporter’s question on whether an extended delay in signing the document would be a “deal-breaker.”

“I don’t make deal-breaker decision,” he said. “But I think it would put the United States in a very, very difficult position -- because until we have a signed bilateral security agreement, … [we don’t have] the assurance that we need to go forward.”

U.S. forces must be assured of protection, Hagel said, calling that security a “critical element.”

“We have to have assurances that our forces would be protected in every way,” he said. “Without a bilateral security agreement, I don’t think we could go forward.”

Six Illinois babies wait for dads’ return from Afghanistan

Click photo for screen-resolution imageIllinois National Guard

PEORIA, Ill. (11/19/13) - Five little girls and one boy were recently born while their dads were away serving their country. In December, those six babies will finally get their dads back from Afghanistan.

"We are all just ready for them to be home," said Sarah Willey of Decatur, Ill., the Family Readiness Group leader and wife of Illinois National Guard 1st Lt. Brian Willey. "A lot of kids are ready to have their dads back."

Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Ariea, while Brian has been deployed. Ariea is one of six babies born during the 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Battalion's deployment to Afghanistan.
Anticipating the Soldiers' return, spouses and family members of the Peoria-based Soldiers gathered for a family reunion event at the Hult Center in Peoria, Ill., Nov. 16.

"The event focused on working through any issues the family members might foresee when their Soldier returns," said Mari Richardson of Athens, Ill., the 65th Troop Command Brigade Family Readiness Support Assistant.

Spouses and family members had a question and answer session with the 238th Commander Maj. Clarence Pulcher of Morton, Ill., via the Internet.

"He told them how excited they were to return home and how well they have done while deployed," said Richardson.

Approximately 60 Soldiers with the 238th mobilized in January 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and are expected to return in December when Brian will meet his daughter for the first time.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Army Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. Alex A. Viola, 29, of Keller, Texas, died Nov. 17, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

For more information, media may contact the U.S. Army Special Forces Command public affairs office during duty hours at 910-908-3947 or after duty hours at

Socom Planning Ahead for Future Missions, McRaven Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2013 – U.S. special operations forces are postured to take on the global counterterrorism challenges the nation faces in the years ahead, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said Nov. 16.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven took part in a panel discussion at the first Reagan National Security Forum at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., examining what will be required to effectively fight terrorism in 2025.

Numerous senior Defense Department officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the forum. McRaven’s panel included Michael G. Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, along with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry. Washington Post national security reporter Craig Whitlock moderated the panel.

McRaven said the role of U.S. special operations forces in the coming decade-plus is “a very timely topic.” Through the 1990s, he said, “the international special operations community had a lot of great [special operations] forces. And frankly, there were many that were as good, if not better, than we were.”

Since 9/11 and continuing today, however, “I can tell you, there is nobody in the world who can compare to U.S. special operations forces and U.S. counterterrorism forces,” the admiral said.

Thanks to the support of Congress, he reported, Socom has since 2001 doubled its people, tripled its budgets and quadrupled its capability -- not just in the areas of hardware and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, but also in noncommissioned officer training, officer education, and language and cultural studies.

The question now, McRaven said, is whether the special operations force that has evolved to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is also adaptable to today’s threats. He said it absolutely is.

The admiral noted that the U.S. special operations forces now postured in Afghanistan will, as the drawdown of troops in 2014 proceeds, be available for new missions.

“A lot of what we will do as we go forward in this force is build partner capacity. … We will always be the best in the world at rescuing Americans and taking care of threats to the nation, but a large part of what we will do [in future] is build partner capacity,” he said.

U.S. forces have worked over the past decade with partners in Colombia, the Philippines, Chad and a dozen other countries around the world to strengthen their special operations programs, he said. U.S. allies and partners including NATO, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Asian and Latin American nations “are absolutely essential to how we’re doing business,” he added.

Interagency collaboration across the U.S. government is also crucial, McRaven said. “I have special operations support teams, liaison officers, in 38 agencies and departments within Washington, D.C.,” he noted.

Socom’s relationships with other agencies such as the CIA and FBI are “phenomenal,” he reported.

“Lives are important, and the security of the nation is important, and it has brought us together,” the admiral said. “My concern is that as we draw down in Afghanistan, and we don’t have the opportunity that, unfortunately, war brings you to continue to work together, we’ve got to be careful about moving apart.”

The whole-of-government approach is “absolutely crucial to getting after these threats,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t make any difference to me whether it’s a Department of Defense guy, or a law enforcement individual or an intelligence individual that takes care of the threat,” McRaven said. “We’ve got to work together to make sure that those threats don’t end up on our shores.”

McRaven said his special operators also rely on regular U.S. forces.

“I am the biggest supporter of the conventional forces, because frankly, we can’t do our special operations job without support from the big Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps,” the admiral said. He added, “If we are going to have a viable force in 2025, it’s all about the people.”

He pointed out that 12 years of war have exacted a high price from his troops. “We have had more suicides this year than [at] any point … in the history of special operations forces,” McRaven said. While that “single data point” can’t capture the overall health of his force, the admiral said, it is important.

“The stress on the force is pretty significant,” he said. “We are going out of our way to work with the services to make sure that the individual soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines are healthy physically, mentally and spiritually.”

Resilience within families is equally important, he said, and Socom’s “preservation of the force and families” initiative is one approach the command is taking to help families learn adapting and coping skills.

“If you want a strong [special operations] force for 2025, or frankly for 2014 and 2015, we have got to take care of our force,” he emphasized.

But McRaven said that overall, he is confident the nation’s special operators are ready to take on current and future missions. “I think we’re going to be ready to go now and in the future,” he said. He noted that Socom is channeling more troops into language and cultural training that will make them effective in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“Up to 2025, this building partner capacity is going to be important,” he explained. “You can’t build that partner capacity well unless you speak their language, unless you understand their culture, and unless you have gained their trust.”

Such engagement is not effective if it’s episodic, the admiral said. Special operations forces bring sustained engagement, backed by language and cultural knowledge, to the task of improving partner forces, he noted. “Episodic engagement with our partners will not get us to the point where they have a competent and capable force that can deal with the threat,” he said. “We’ve got to have persistent engagement.”

Vickers addressed a question from Whitlock on how the Pentagon determines who the enemy is as terrorist groups shift membership and affiliation.

“It is a governmentwide issue,” he replied. While al-Qaida has many branches and all of them are considered enemies, he said, other groups claim ideological similarities with terrorist organizations while not, themselves, posing a threat to America or its allies.

Vickers said fusion of intelligence and operations, and sustained pressure on terrorist groups, are both vital to addressing counterterrorism missions effectively. During the years when America was fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, al-Qaida wasn’t pressured and was able to reconstitute, resulting in significantly increased threats to the United States.

“Our government then responded quite effectively, and we’ve beaten those threats back,” Vickers said. “But even when there have been smaller pauses in the pressure on these groups, whether it’s in Yemen or Pakistan or elsewhere for, say, just months, you see them reconstituting. It emphasizes the real importance of sustained pressure, but also precision application of power.”

McRaven said the best solution the United States can work toward with partners and allies in many parts of the world is to “train them to deal with their own problems.” The admiral said U.S. special operations forces are currently in 81 countries. In some cases, that may mean one or two people working in an embassy, he said, while other times it may mean a couple hundred trainers on the ground.

In each case, he said, “we do a very, very thorough review, and we understand those risks ahead of time.”

The State Department plays a big role in deciding what forces the U.S. military will train with, he noted. Special operations forces don’t train with other nations unless the regional combatant commander, the ambassador and the country team all give the go-ahead, McRaven said.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there are forces out there that … have questionable reputations,” the admiral pointed out. “I think we need to assume some risk in helping them. Libya would be a prime example. So right now, as we go forward to try and find a good way to build up the Libyan security forces so they are not run by militias, we are going to have to assume some risks.”

McRaven said the Libyan training mission, which Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today will take place in Bulgaria, will involve both conventional and special Libyan forces.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 Libyan conventional forces will take part, he said, while a U.S. special operations component will train “a certain number of their forces to do counterterrorism.”