Mattis Tells Troops to “Hold the Line” During Government Shutdown

The federal government shut down at midnight on Friday, but the Defense Department will continue to defend the nation, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in a memo to troops. “We will continue to execute daily operations around the world—ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly, and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia,” wrote Mattis. Active Duty personnel, including “reservists on federal status,” will continue to report as usual, according to a memo from Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. Any civilians who aren’t excepted are now furloughed. “Unfortunately, the shutdown requires we furlough all non-excepted civilian personnel until we receive an appropriation. This requirement is no reflection on how important you are to our team. We simply have no choice under the law,” wrote Wilson and Goldfein. Read the full story by Amy McCullough and Steve Hirsch.

Pentagon Strategy Emphasizes Potential Conflict With Russia, China Over Terror Threat

The Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy, released Friday, says that a “great power competition” with revisionist nations such as Russia and China is the biggest threat the US military faces today, more so than international terrorism. The strategy includes three major efforts the Pentagon will focus on, including increasing lethality, building alliances, and reforming the department’s business practices. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Air Commando Awarded Silver Star

The Air Force on Friday awarded SSgt. Christopher Lewis, a combat controller assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., the Silver Star for his actions during a 10-hour firefight near Mosul, Iraq, in 2016. Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, the commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, presided over the ceremony at Hurlburt. On Oct. 20, 2016, Lewis was embedded with a Navy SEAL team working with Kurdish Peshmerga forces to clear ISIS fighters from two villages near Mosul. His citation points to multiple acts of gallantry while his unit was under heavy fire, including exposing himself to “grave danger” to control airstrikes within 400 meters of his team’s position, destroying an oncoming vehicle-borne improvised explosive device within 150 meters of his position while he was manning a .50-caliber machine gun, providing medical care to a mortally wounded teammate within five meters of a live IED, and pulling two others from the vehicle and arranging a quick medical evacuation, as well as facilitating airstrikes resulting in 20 enemy forces’ deaths. During his remarks, Webb told the gathered audience, “This is a big deal,” noting the Silver Star is the country’s third-highest award for valor and gallantry. —Steve Hirsch

Air Force to Establish Washington-Based Vice Commander for Space Command

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has told congressional defense committees the Air Force plans to establish a three-star position, for a vice commander of the Air Force Space Command, in the Washington area to assist the commander of the unit. The move comes after the service was forced to eliminate its recently created deputy chief of staff for space. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.

Air Force Begins Selecting Second Round of Enlisted RPA Pilots

The second selection board for enlisted remotely piloted aircraft candidates met in mid-January to select the next round of trainees. The Air Force in 2016 opened RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot positions to enlisted airmen for the first time, in an effort to alleviate stress on an overworked RPA pilot career field. The first round of pilots began training in 2016, and now the Air Force has 134 candidates to select from for the second class, according to a release. The Air Force Person?nel Center plans to select 40 airmen by the end of February, and the application window for the 2019 board will begin in April.

Vance Warns Against Personal Drone Use After Near Collision

Officials at Vance AFB, Okla., are urging the nearby public to avoid using their drones near the flight line after one came within 50 feet of a T-6 training flight in early January. The Associated Press reported that on Jan. 9, a drone flying at about 1,000 feet was not spotted by the Air Force crew, which nearly collided with it. “There’s somebody out there who has a toy, and it could cause us harm,” Vance spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Schmidt told the Enid News & Eagle. “It could have killed those guys.” The Federal Aviation Administration last summer banned unmanned aerial systems from flying within 400 feet of all Air Education and Training Command bases. This move came after an unauthorized drone flew within the airspace at Vance, temporarily grounding flying training operations. —Brian Everstine


—A Florida resident and the Northwest Florida Daily News staff spent months trying to track down a former MC-130 navigator whose Distinguished Flying Cross was auctioned off after repeated deployments caused him to lose track of payments for a storage unit where it was being stored. Their search was successful and the medal was returned to its rightful owner on Jan. 17: Northwest Florida Daily News.

—The State Department has approved a possible $6.53 billion foreign military sale to Belgium for 34 conventional take off and landing variant F-35 strike fighters and 38 Pratt & Whitney F-135 engines, including four spares: DSCA release.

—A team of engineers from the Air Force Technical Applications Center traveled from Patrick AFB, Fla., to Antarctica to “troubleshoot and replace seismometers that contribute to the International Monitoring System:” 25th Air Force release.

—Actress Brie Larson toured Nellis AFB, Nev., recently in preparation for her role as Captain Marvel: Entertainment Weekly.