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  • Ebola Scare at Pentagon was False Alarm

    Arlington County health officials said they are "confident" a woman who became ill in the Pentagon parking lot Friday morning "does not have Ebola," according to a statement issued Oct. 17. Officials closed the south parking lot and second corridor entrance to the Pentagon Friday "out of an abundance of caution" after a woman who said she had recently visited West Africa threw up in the parking lot, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson said. Pentagon police officers found the woman in the parking lot at 9:10 a.m., he said. The Arlington County Fire Department immediately responded and the woman was taken to the Fairfax Inova Hospital around 10 a.m., where she was kept in isolation, according to the statement. Arlington County activated its Emergency Operations Center and a Joint Information Center to manage the incident, according to another statement. A shuttle bus, which the woman briefly boarded, carrying 22 people on their way to the Marine Corps Commandant's change of command ceremony, was quarantined for hours, reported the Washington Post. County health officials told the Post he did not think the woman had ever been out of the country and county health officials agreed they no longer believed she had visited west Africa.

  • Last EOD Airmen Home from Afghanistan

    10/20/2014

    Air Force explosive ordnance disposal specialists ready ammunition for a controlled detonation at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Air Force photo by MSgt. Jim Varhegyi.

    Back at home station with the last of the explosive ordnance disposalairmen who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, MSgt. John McCoy can remember how it started, 13 years and 55,000 missions ago, and how their living conditions and equipment improved. The three-time Bronze Star recipient also remembers the dangers, such as when he discovered he was “about 60 or 70 yards” into “a field of tripwires and live landmines.” Many times the EOD teams would respond to a report of “suspicious item alongside the road, wires protruding. … That could be anything,” said McCoy, an EOD flight chief with the 5th Bomb Wing, in a release. “There’s a lot of inherent hazard, but we try to keep it as safe as possible.” Despite their best efforts, 20 EOD airmen were killed and more than 115 wounded since 9/11. “There is such a thing as doing all the right steps and still getting hurt.” But, the reward is “every time you deal with an IED, you think that could have been someone’s leg, or that was two guys who didn’t get blown up,” he said. “Each one is someone who’s not going to have to get slung out of here in a helicopter, or even die.” (See also Tyndall AFB, Fla., release on last EOD flight.)

  • The “Timorous Use of Air Power” in Syria

    10/20/2014

    ​As a debate rages over the effectiveness of the air campaign against ISIS extremists in Iraq and Syria, an analysis by a prominent national security think tank looked at the sharp difference in the number of strike sorties in the newly named Operation Inherent Resolve and other recent air assaults. The study by two analysts at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment compared the 412 total strikes in the two-month effort against ISIS in Iraq and Syria to the 48,224 strikes in the 43-day Desert Storm campaign in 1991, and the more than 800 offensive sorties in the 31-day assault to depose Saddam Hussein in 2003. With ISIS controlling an area approaching 50,000 square miles "it is easy to see why this level of effort has not had much impact on its operations," according to the CSBA report, which was originally published in the Wall Street Journal. The analysts said the low sortie rate could reflect a lack of suitable ground targets, but noted Pentagon claims that ISIS was more of a conventional army than a highly dispersed typical terrorist organization. They also conceded the possible "moral imperative" to avoid civilian casualties could be constraining target selection. But they said the "timorous use of air power" is unlikely to have real impact.

  • Centcom Boss Says Air Threats Over Syria are Minimal

    ​US Central Command boss Army Gen. Lloyd Austin downplayed reports of ISIS flying fighter aircraft over Syria during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. "We don't have any operational reporting on ISIS flying jets," Austin said. He declined to comment on whether former Iraqi pilots who defected to ISIS were helping train new pilots from the terrorist group. However, he did say the Syrian air force has "not challenged us since we began flying." A Centcom official speaking on background told Air Force Magazine that US officials' assessment of the ground threat to aircraft is fairly minimal in most of the country. The official also noted the initial waves of airstrikes targeted both areas in the east and the more populous western part of the country, where air defenses are more built up. But since the initial waves, most strikes have focused on the eastern and northern portion of Syria, such as the region around Kobani. The official would not confirm or deny the continued use of the F-22, but Air Staff officials have said it has flown in sorties since the first wave of strikes. (Austin transcript.)

  • Centcom Boss Calls for “Strategic Patience” in Middle East

    The commander of US Central Command said air strikes are already taking a toll on the operations and communications of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but efforts in Iraq will require patience. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday,  Army Gen. Lloyd Austin said battle damage assessments and ISR indicates strikes have diminished specific capabilities and restricted movements of ISIS forces. Columns of military vehicles are a rare sight now, due to threat of strikes. ISIS fighters now use many civilian vehicles, in smaller numbers and are shifting their communications practices as their command and control infrastructure has been “fragmented” due to air strikes. This is hindering their ability to mass forces and project combat power, Austin said. Though the strikes have attracted some criticism, Austin said Centcom believes the manner in which they have been conducted thus far has allowed the coalition to secure critical support from regional states, particularly Arab partners. It is important to stress that the command's “main effort” is focused in Iraq, to secure key areas, and build Iraqi capability to put pressure on ISIS, and efforts in Syria are in many ways an effort to shape outcomes in Iraq, said Austin. “We must maintain strategic patience,” Austin added.

  • Austin: ISIS Does Not Pose Threat to Baghdad Airport

    Despite terrorist attacks in the Baghdad suburbs and clashes in cities such as Ramadi, US Central Command boss Army Gen. Lloyd Austin told Pentagon reporters on Friday that military assessments have not detected an “appreciable increase” in ISIS' presence in Anbar Province since August. The province remains “contested,” he said, and Centcom is working with the Iraqi government to build better ties with officials from the region’s tribes, much like the efforts during the Iraqi “surge” in 2007-2008. Austin added he did not see an imminent threat to Baghdad’s international airport, located some 10 miles west of downtown, where a sizeable presence of US troops are deployed to maintain logistics operations. He noted both AH-64 Apache helicopters patrol the areas around the airport and other aircraft routinely conduct ISR. There is a possibility ISIS elements could launch mortar or rocket fire at the airport, he noted, but there are no threats to the airfield’s continued operations. “I feel fairly confident the airfield will be secure for the foreseeable future,” Austin said. (Austin transcript.)

  • Former ISAF Commander Becomes Marine Corps Commandant

    Gen. James Amos, the first aviator ever to serve as Marine Corps Commandant, was relieved Friday by Gen. Joseph Dunford, a career infantry officer who recently ended an 18-month tour as commander of the International Security Assistance Force and US Force Afghanistan. In a ceremony at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, D.C., Dunford took over a service that is still troubled by what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said were the many “difficult challenges” that Amos struggled with in his four-year tour. The two Secretaries praised Amos for guiding the drawdown in Afghanistan, reducing the size and reorganizing the Corps after 13 years of war, managing the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” restrictions on homosexuals, and beginning an integration of women marines. Hagel also welcomed the new commandant, saying, “We can be very confident that Gen. Joe Dunford will build on his (Amos’) leadership to make the US Marine Corps even stronger than before.” Dunford said his “focus in the coming years will be to take care of our marines and families and to ensure that our Corps remains the expeditionary force in readiness that our nation expects it to be.”

  • First Total Force Class Graduates OTS

    10/20/2014

    The guidon bearer on the left represents Officer Training School graduates and the one to the right represents the Air National Guard’s Academy of Military Science graduates during the first Total Force graduation ceremony on Oct. 10, 2014. Air Force Photo by Melanie Rodgers-Cox.

    In a major step toward the goal of engraining the Total Force concept into its leaders, the Air Force Officer Training School conducted its first graduation ceremony incorporating Active Duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard trainees. The Oct. 10 ceremony at Maxwell AFB, Ala., commissioned 193 new second lieutenants, including 73 Active Duty and 12 Reserve candidates who completed the Basic Officer Training course, and 108 ANG trainees who finished the Academy of Military Science, according to a release. For the first time, all the officer candidates went through parallel eight-week training courses, rather than the 9.5 week program for Active Duty and Reserve and six weeks for ANG. “The simultaneous training provided the same great training to two great officer candidate groups,” said Col. Scott Lockwood, OTS commandant. The Total Force integration also is shown in the staffing and command at OTS, where the commandant’s office rotates between an Active Duty and an ANG officer. OTS is working to merge the BOT and AMS programs and training into a single culture.

  • Scientific Advisory Board 2015 Studies Released

    10/20/2014

    Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh have tasked the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board to study three topics in 2015. They include, “cyber vulnerabilities of embedded systems in air and space systems; enhanced utility of unmanned air vehicles in contested and denied environments; and utility of quantum systems for the Air Force,” according to an Oct. 17 release. Fifty-four of “the nation’s top civilian scientists and engineers” make up the task force, which is slated to brief its findings to Air Force leadership by the end of June 2015, states the release. “The information and recommendations of the SAB will then be used to shape and guide Air Force policy,” according to the release. (Terms of Reference for 2015 studies.) (See also Put Your Thinking Caps On for reference to 2014 studies.)