Sec. Chuck Hagel’s Farewell – ‘People Depend on You’

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

Below is the farewell message from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – dated – February 13, 2015.

To the men and women of the Department of Defense:

When I joined the United States Army 48 years ago, I could not have imagined one day serving as secretary of defense. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve with you.

As I leave office, I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together over the past two years.

We have responsibly ended our combat operations in Afghanistan and begun the follow-on mission to preserve our achievements there.

We have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, while successfully responding to crises around the world.

We have launched vital reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges of the future.

We have fought hard – and made real progress – against the scourge of sexual assault in our ranks.

And after 13 years of war, we have worked to restore our military readiness and ease the burdens on our people and their families.

Through it all, many of you, and your families, coped with shutdowns and furloughs; weathered hiring and pay freezes; and endured long hours and longer deployments. You did so because we each took an oath to defend our nation, our fellow citizens, and our way of life. And you have lived up to your word.

But as you know well, the world is still too dangerous, and threats too numerous. I know you will remain vigilant, continuing your important work under the leadership of Ash Carter.

A special note to our men and women in uniform: of all the many opportunities my life has given me, I am most proud of having once been a soldier. The lessons from my time in uniform about trust, responsibility, duty, judgment, and loyalty – I have carried these with me throughout my life. As your secretary of defense, I have seen those same traits in each of you.

Whether you serve in uniform or as a civilian, you are the reason why our military is the finest in the world and the most admired and most trusted institution in America. Nothing has clarified my thinking, nothing has renewed my hope, and nothing has made me prouder than getting to know, work, and serve with so many of you who have put the nation’s interest above your own.

If I had any parting guidance, it would be the same reminder that my drill sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class William Joyce, gave to me after I finished basic training in 1967: “People depend on you. They’ll always depend on you.”

That was true for me then, and it is true for all of you today. People depend on you – America depends on you – to live up to your oath, to conduct yourselves in keeping with our highest standards, and to perform as the greatest military the world has ever known. After two years serving with you, I am confident you will continue to do so.

You and your families have my deepest gratitude and admiration.

Thank you for your unflagging service and your commitment to this country. May God bless America and each and every one of you.

 

CENTCOM Twitter and Facebook Accounts Hacked

(March 22, 2013) Members of the joint U.S. Central Command stand at attention as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and CENTCOM commanders do the ceremonial "Passing of the Colors."

(March 22, 2013) Members of the joint U.S. Central Command stand at attention as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and CENTCOM commanders do the ceremonial “Passing of the Colors.”

Either a group or an individual claiming to be a part of the Islamic State (ISIS), hacked two social media accounts belonging to US Central Command, which oversees Department of Defense operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, according to Politico.

The first tweet following the hack read, “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS,” and linked to a longer statement threatening American soldiers and their families. The hackers also targeted Centcom’s YouTube page, posting ISIS propaganda videos.

The attacks happened earlier in the day as President Barack Obama was emphasizing the importance of cyber security to keep citizens safe from identity theft. As of 1:15 p.m., Politico reports that Twitter has suspended the CENTCOM account. The YouTube account also is suspended.

Breaking News: Defense Secretary Hagel to Leave Post

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

Not even two years into the job and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down according to the Washington Post.

Citing an anonymous defense source, the paper reports that Hagel will stay on until a new secretary is selected and approved by congress.

Rumors had intensified this month that Hagel’s time was short, though the former Republican senator from Nebraska has insisted in recent interviews that he was planning to stay at the Pentagon. The resignation was first reported by The New York Times.

A senior administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama initiated discussions with Hagel about leaving in October — shortly before the mid-term congressional elections that saw the president’s party take a beating.

The report further speculates that Hagel’s resignation could be just the first in a series of shake-ups among President Obama’s national security advisers.

 

More U.S. Troops Headed to Iraq to Advise and Train

An F/A-18 Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the ship conducts flight operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, Oct. 27, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex King

An F/A-18 Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the ship conducts flight operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, Oct. 27, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex King

Based on a request from the Iraqi government and a force assessment from US Central Command, additional American troops are headed to Iraq according to a report in the New York Times.

President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, the Defense Department said on Friday, a move that will double the number of those sent to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the battle against the Islamic State.

The Pentagon also said that American military advisers would establish a number of additional training sites across Iraq, in a significant expansion of the American military campaign against the Sunni militant group in Iraq and Syria. Officials in the office of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that a number of American military personnel would deploy specifically to Anbar province.

The new forces will be sent in two groups, one to advise Iraqi commanders and the second to train Iraqi soldiers.

The Department of Defense News reports there has been “significant” progress three months since the start of U.S. airstrikes against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) forces.

“I think we’re having a significant effect on the ISIL element,” Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, told an audience at the Atlantic Council. “The question is, how soon can we get the Iraqis to develop a capability to do what they need to do to sustain the effects and conditions that we’re going to create.”

Seeking Solutions to Veteran Suicide

crisis_line_veteransVeteran suicide is a real and present problem in the community. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that on average 22 veterans die by suicide every day.

That’s a straightforward statistic for a very complex problem.

Calling it a growing and troublesome trend, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor of Tampa organized a roundtable to discuss what is being done in the Tampa Bay area to prevent veteran suicide.

“The suicide rate among veterans age 18-24 has skyrocketed 70 percent during the past three years,” Castor told a gathering of about 50 mental health experts, researchers and veteran advocates at James A. Haley VA Hospital.

One thing Castor said she learned is that the group needed to be broadened to include active-duty military to help fight the stigma associated with asking for help.

Depression, financial debt, domestic disputes, a traumatic combat experience – any number of problems can contribute to a veteran feeling that suicide is the only way out.

Carmen Genovese, a licensed professional counselor with the Haley Suicide Prevention Team, said studies have shown that only 10 percent of veterans who commit suicide have been in combat and only 40 percent had deployed.

“The biggest problem I would say that keeps veterans from calling the Crisis Line is that they think they have to be suicidal or homicidal to call,” Genovese said. “That’s why they changed the name a few years ago.”

Genovese was among the mental health experts who attended the roundtable. Prior to coming to Haley, he worked at the Veterans Crisis Line in upper New York state.

Another item Castor gathered from the discussion is that the crisis line is for families and friends trying to get help for a troubled veteran.

“Families have got to understand where they can turn and it may not be a suicide. But it might be some economic challenge or a health challenge and there are folks who can assist,” Castor said.

She called on the attendees to share ideas and stay connected so they can maximize efforts to let veterans, active-duty military and their families where to get help.

Listen to a story from November 2013 featuring the HBO documentary that went behind the scenes at the Veterans Crisis Line and talked with the responders who field the calls for help.

Camp Leatherneck Transfered to Afghan National Army

Marines and sailors with Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the day prior and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan.

Marines and sailors with Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the day prior and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan.

Another chapter in the Afghanistan War closed today as U.S. Marines, sailors and British forces left Helmand Province and transferred Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion to the Afghan National Army 215th Corps.

Regional Command Southwest is the first of the International Security Assistance Force commands to transfer authority to the Afghan national security forces as ISAF moves toward the Resolute Support mission that begins in 2015 according to a Department of Defense news release.

During the past year, Bosnia, Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Jordan and Tonga ended their operations in Regional Command Southwest.

Ride Along during an Air Force KC-135 Refueling Mission

Off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission.

Off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission.

When you’re about to run out of gas in your car, you don’t think too much about pulling into the closest station to fill up.  The process is a bit more complicated if you’re a pilot flying an F-16 Thunderbird with the United States Air Force. That requires an airborne filling station.

For our series Off The Base, we went on a refueling mission in a KC-135 Stratotanker out of Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.

 

One of the 16 Eisenhower-era planes left MacDill on an afternoon in early October, and flew almost all the way to Louisiana to meet up with seven F-16 Thunderbirds on their way to an air show in Melbourne.

According to Capt. Robert Jurgensmeier,  these types of refueling mission happen all over the United States, and the world.

“Every day everybody needs training because we always have to stay ready for whenever we get the call, so pretty much every day we’ll go out and do refueling with everybody all over the country, just to stay good at what we do,” Jurgensmeier said.

A reporter lays next to the boom operator to get a photograph.

A reporter lays next to the boom operator to get a photograph.

In the back of the jet, the boom operator lays on his stomach and controls the boom that juts out of the back of the Stratotanker and connects with the Thunderbird.

“They get really close, I couldn’t give you an actual distance,” Jurgensmeier said. “I don’t know what their books are and how close they fly, but I would say somewhere 20 feet, 30 feet maybe.”

When he has a full tank, the Thunderbird pilot gives a wave, and then drops out of view. All of this happened as the Stratotanker flew at around 345 knots, or about 500 miles per hour, according to Jurgensmeier.

The seven F-16 Thunderbirds received about 30,000 pounds of fuel.

“Then they flew in formation back with us and departed somewhere around Seminole, and headed toward Melbourne, and we continued back home to MacDill,” Jergensmeier said.

In 2013, when MacDill lost a bid for new KC-46 tankers, military officials said the older, KC-135s will remain a priority at the base.

Inside the KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission.

Inside the KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission.

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