JBER Airman Dies During Deployment to South Korea
A1C Darrick Jones, a JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, airman deployed to train Republic of Korea forces, collapsed and died on Nov. 6, according to a JBER news release. Airmen attempted to resuscitate Jones, but were unable to revive him. “The grief felt as a result of the loss of Airman 1st Class Jones cannot be overstated,” 673d Air Base Wing Commander Col. George Dietrich said in the release. “On behalf of everyone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, I offer our most sincere condolences to the family and friends.” Jones, 23, enlisted in the Air Force in September 2015 and had been stationed at JBER since August 2016. He served as a water and fuels systems apprentice with the 773rd Civil Engineering Squadron. His death is under investigation. —Brian Everstine
SMC Rushing to Produce Next Gen Missile Warning Sats
The Space and Missile Systems Center released a request for information Tuesday for a group of at least seven next-generation strategic missile warning satellites. These space-based sensors would constitute a follow-on for the current SBIRS early missile warning system. Because the requirement comes with “unusual and compelling urgency,” SMC expects to award SBIRS contractor Lockheed Martin with an initial deal for the Next Gen system. Later, SMC will hold an open competition for production of later satellites in the program. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.
TRANSCOM Head: Contested Environments Becoming a Reality
The threat of contested operations is a growing reality in US lift operations, and US Transportation Command has to be ready for the threat. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast event, the command’s top general pointed to recent sealift operations where US ships had their GPS devices spoofed as an example of the possible tactics that can impact operations. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Demand Outpacing US Military’s Lift Capability
The delay in US Transportation Command’s ability to send cargo downrange is down to a matter of days from about 15 days following the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in September. However, TRANSCOM boss Gen. Darren McDew said he still doesn’t have enough capability to meet all lift requirements, and in turn must constantly make adjustments to prioritize need. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Another CR Likely
Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told defense reporters on Wednesday he doesn’t expect Congress to approve a budget before the end of the year. “What I’m hearing is there’s going to be another [continuing resolution] that will take us to Christmas. The issue is whether it will be more than a couple of weeks,” McCarthy said. Another CR “just prolongs the pain,” added McCarthy, who echoed other senior military leaders, including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, in saying budget stability is a top priority and is necessary to maintain and improve readiness across the force. The House on Tuesday approved the $700 billion defense policy bill. The final version of the bill, which already has been agreed to in conference, now goes to the Senate for a vote. However, there’s been little movement on an appropriations bill, which actually funds the government. “Instead of a 12-month year, you really have a nine- or 10-month year,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley during the same breakfast meeting. Continuing resolutions are “inefficient,” added Milley, noting they actually “jack the price up” because industry “really wants long-term contracts” and a CR prohibits the Defense Department from awarding such contracts. —Amy McCullough
Smith Introduces “No First Use” Bill Into House
The ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), introduced a bill into the House on Wednesday that would establish a “no first use” policy on the deployment of US nuclear weapons. The text of the bill states, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” Smith said in a statement that such a “declaratory policy” would “increase strategic stability” and reduce the “risk of miscalculation that could lead to an unintended all-out nuclear war.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on the possibility of a US first strike with nuclear weapons, in part because of concern that President Donald Trump may be considering such a strike as a viable military option for disarming North Korea of its nuclear weapons. Witnesses, including former US Strategic Command boss USAF retired Gen. Robert Kehler, cautioned senators against enacting legislative changes to the nation’s nuclear command and control policies. They also noted that even the Obama administration, which prioritized a goal of nuclear non-proliferation, reviewed and rejected a “no first use” policy in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. —Wilson Brissett
US Strikes Al Shabaab For the Third Time in a Week
US aircraft continued increased operations in Somalia on Tuesday, striking an al-Shabaab target and reportedly killing “several” militants. Undisclosed US aircraft struck a target about 60 miles northwest of the capital of Mogadishu at about 6 p.m. local time, US Africa Command said in a Wednesday statement. The strike—the third in less than a week, and the fifth so far this month—was conducted in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, according to AFRICOM. —Brian Everstine
New Hampshire ANG Airmen Deploy to Puerto Rico
Twelve members of the 260th Air Traffic Control Squadron at Pease ANGB, N.H., deployed to Puerto Rico on Tuesday to assist with ongoing hurricane relief efforts. The airmen are headed to the southern city of Ponce, where they will assist with air traffic control operations currently being managed by members of the North Carolina ANG. “The airfield in Ponce is an uncontrolled airfield, meaning there are no operational air traffic control towers for the field,” said Lt. Col. Charles Smith, commander of the 260th ATCS, in a press release. “Due to all the military flights of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in and out of the field for the hurricane relief effort, they decided to bring in an ATCS.” The team from Pease will operate an MSN-7 mobile tower system, which is comprised of a “Humvee with an air traffic control tower mounted on top of it,” according to Smith. Their deployment will last about 30 days, including through the Thanksgiving holiday.
Esper Confirmed as Army Secretary
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the nomination of Mark Esper to be Secretary of the Army by a vote of 89-6. Esper’s confirmation means that—nearly one year into the new Trump administration—all three branches of the US military finally have top civilian leaders. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, admitted in October that he was delaying some presidential nominees in committee over lack of communication from the Pentagon in matters of war. During Esper’s confirmation hearing on Nov. 2, McCain also complained about “the number of nominees from defense industry filling out the leadership ranks at the Department of Defense.” Esper is a former Raytheon vice president. —Wilson Brissett
Service Member Receives DOD-Approved Gender Reassignment Surgery
An Active Duty soldier received gender reassignment surgery on Tuesday at the Department of Defense’s expense, according to a Pentagon press release. The surgery was “conducted in a private hospital” because “military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery,” the DOD said. In August, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum declaring a ban on transgender people joining the military and directing the Department of Defense to stop using DOD resources to pay for medical care related to gender transition. An exception was made for those members already undergoing transition and whose health would be adversely affected by ending the treatment. Tuesday’s surgery appears to be such a case. “A waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency” for the procedure, the Pentagon said, and “the Supplemental Health Care Program will cover this surgery in accordance with the department’s interim guidance on transgender service members.” The Department said the service member “had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment,” and the “treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary.” —Wilson Brissett
—Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast will take command of Air Education and Training Command during a ceremony at JBSA-Randolph, Texas, on Thursday. Kwast, who is currently commander and president of Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala., will take command from Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, who has led AETC since July of 2015.
—Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave took command of 22nd Air Force during a Tuesday ceremony at Keesler AFB, Miss. The 22nd AF oversees recruiting and training of reservists: AFRC release
—The State Department has approved a possible $170 million foreign military sale of AIM-120 C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The deal includes 60 AMRAAM as well as various other spare parts, equipment, and support: Defense Security Cooperation Agency release.
—The final installment of Marine Corps F-35B strike fighters arrived at Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, on Nov. 9: DVIDS release.