Thursday, February 9, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley made the following comment after a meeting he hosted today for members of the Iowa congressional delegation with the Secretary of the Air Force regarding Air Force budget reduction recommendations to retire the 21 F-16 fighter aircraft assigned to the 124th Fighter Squadron, Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines.  The meeting was held in the U.S. Capitol.

"A lot of mixed signals were sent by the Air Force in today's meeting.  The Iowa congressional delegation is on the same wavelength and committed in a bipartisan, bicameral way to getting the data that the Air Force said it used to make a decision that the Air Force claimed was based on a cost-benefit analysis.  We want this data in order to reconcile an additional comment made by Air Force officials in today's meeting that judgment, beyond the data, was also involved in its decision.  This judgment comment detracts from the Air Force statement that everything was measured for cost and benefit.  Overall, it's a question of safeguarding national security dollars because the Guard has shown to be more cost effective for missions such as a fighter squadron than the Active Duty, and Guard pilots tend to be more experienced since they stay in the service over a long period of time.  The discouraging part is that my feeling was that the Air Force has made its decision, but it will be up to Congress to decide whether to approve the Air Force plan and National Guard advocates in Congress are already signaling that they won't go along quietly with the Air Force's plan to take so many cuts out of the Air Guard.

 

 

Iowa Delegation met with Donley to press case for Iowa Air National Guard F-16 Wing

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after he joined Iowa's Congressional delegation for a meeting to urge Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to abandon plans to remove all F-16 fighter aircraft operated by the Iowa Air National Guard from their base in Des Moines:

"It's clear from today's meeting that the Air Force must provide more answers and better justification for their decision.  The Iowa Delegation made clear our objections to the removal of F-16s from the 132nd Fighter Wing, one of the most cost-efficient units in the Air Force."

 

"If the goal is to reduce costs, downsizing the Iowa Air National Guard while less efficient units and less experienced pilots are preserved just doesn't make any sense.  We urged Secretary Donley to carefully reconsider whether this recommendation is in the best interest of national security  and American taxpayers.

 

"I am hopeful that today's meeting will result in the Air Force reversing their position.  In the meantime, I'll keep working with the Iowa delegation to press our case with the Air Force and the Pentagon."

 

Braley met yesterday with Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr and senior leaders of the Iowa Air National Guard to discuss the Air Force proposal.  Braley also sent a letter yesterday to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing his concerns with the removal of F-16s from Des Moines.

 

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Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today urged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to immediately reconsider an Air Force recommendation that would lead to the loss of all F-16 fighter aircraft operated by the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines.

21 jets at the 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard would be removed within two years under the plan, part of a larger effort to cut $8.7 billion from the Air Force budget.

"The Air Force gets an incredible value from the experienced pilots and maintenance personnel of the 132nd Fighter Wing," Braley said.  "That's why I'm disappointed that the Air Force has chosen to target one of the most cost-efficient units in their force to find savings.

 

"It doesn't make sense that the Iowa Air National Guard is on the chopping block while less efficient units and less experienced pilots are preserved as part of this plan.  How can you justify this decision when it's not in the best interest of our national security and not in the best interest of American taxpayers?"

 

Braley met earlier today with Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr and senior leaders of the Iowa Air National Guard to discuss the Air Force proposal.  Tomorrow, Braley will join the rest of the Iowa Congressional delegation for a meeting with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to discuss the removal of the jets.

Braley made the request in a letter to Secretary Panetta.  Text of the letter follows; a copy of the signed letter is attached.

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February 8, 2012

 

Secretary Leon Panetta

Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

 

Dear Secretary Panetta,

I write with serious concern regarding the Air Force's recently clarified decisions on force restructuring and its impact on the Air National Guard.  The combat aircraft retirements and re-missioning discussed in the Air Force proposal unduly affect the Air National Guard over the Active Component, and do not reflect an effort to maintaining the Guard and Reserve or show a balanced approach to achieving budget efficiencies.

Mr. Secretary, you've stated yourself that the Guard and Reserve forces have proved their combat readiness and combat effectiveness over the past 10 years.  As decisions are made to reorient our force and drawdown our current combat commitments, we must work to maintain that readiness and effectiveness while also capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge and experience within our Guard and Reserve units to maintain the total force.  The Air Force proposal highlights the value of our Guard forces in associations with the active component while also removing a significant number of combat aircraft from them

Furthermore, I have serious concerns over the lack of budgetary consideration in the decision. While I applaud the Air Force's efforts to find budget efficiencies through the early retirement and delayed procurement of some aircraft, I have great concern that the bulk of retirements appear to come at the expense of Guard and Reserve units.  The Guard and Reserve are highly efficient forces, maintaining experienced pilots and performing many of the same missions of active component forces when activated at a much lower costs to the Active Component over the long-term. The shifts of combat aircraft to Active Component and elimination of missions in the Guard Component achieves significantly less savings than if the situation were reversed. Furthermore, the decisions to replace combat air force missions in the guard with unmanned aircraft Remote Split Operations missions also make little budgetary sense as there is a continued need for unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These missions will require a significant investment of time beyond the standard drill periods of many of our Guard that will have a higher cost and a greater impact on our Guardsmen's civilian careers.

I recognize that the funding constraints we currently face require difficult decisions to be made in prioritizing the roles and resources of all aspects of the Air Force. I am disappointed that faced with these challenges, the Air Force chose to target one of the most efficient aspects of their force in finding reductions.  This proposal is deeply flawed and deserves a full explanation of the budgetary analysis that went into making it.  I urge you to reconsider this decision to better protect the National Guard and support its long-term viability as part of the force.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Braley

Member of Congress

 

Cc: Mr. Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force

 

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GALESBURG, IL (02/07/2012)(readMedia)-- A deployment ceremony is scheduled for approximately 120 Soldiers who are scheduled to deploy to Kuwait this winter. The ceremony for the 444th Chemical Company will be Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. at the Galesburg National Guard Armory, 362 N. Linwood Road in Galesburg.

The Soldiers will train for a brief time at Camp Shelby, Miss. before deploying for approximately nine months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Soldiers with the 444th Chemical Company will provide base security and command cell operations. The unit will provide support for other units stationed in the area and provide sustainment and command for a Michigan-based military police task force in northern Kuwait.

The unit will be mobilized for approximately one year, returning home in early 2013.

For more information, contact the Public Affairs office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil or call 217-761-3569.

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SPARTA, IL (02/07/2012)(readMedia)-- What may look like normal semi-truck trailers are actually a portal into modern warfare giving Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers a chance to experience overseas before leaving the Midwest.

"Come to Sparta in the morning and we can take you to Iraq for lunch, Afghanistan for dinner, and have you home by bedtime," said Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer at Sparta Training Area.

Singletary guided Soldiers from Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) in Mt. Vernon, through a new state-of-the-art training system Feb. 4. The Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT) is a combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. Soldiers break into teams of three and man their "vehicles," - nearly identical mock-ups of a humvee interior, complete with gunner's turret - and don headsets or look into high-resolution screens to see past the trailer and into the digital world beyond.

Spc. Leo Stofferahn of Pekin with Company F, 634th BSB, a veteran of three deployments, said the simulator's terrain and movement were accurate and effective.

"The training was a good refresher for veterans and good for setting up accurate deployment expectations for new Soldiers," said Stofferahn.

Singletary controls the $3.2 million VVT, which is the most-advanced system of its kind available, from a multi-screen command station. With the push of a button, he can change the weather, the terrain (which is based on actual satellite mapping), or zoom into any part of the 3D environment. No longer are Soldiers represented by blinking dots; every image interacts in real time. The digital representation of the gunner even swivels along with the Soldier in the turret.

The software is also very flexible. While it can run preset scenarios, Singletary has the somewhat God-like ability to drop in many kinds of enemies, obstacles, helicopters or other interactive set pieces at any time.

The VVT also has a huge catalog of vehicles that it can run; almost every model of humvee, most models of the

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, unmanned drones, and even a remote-controlled reconnaissance robot, the Talon, are available.

Singletary said he believes this ability to customize is one of the biggest strengths of the VVT.

"This is the latest, greatest, most up-to-date system that we can train in," said Singletary. "We can put you into a theater-specific environment.

The control trailer also has benches and a projector, allowing units to conduct an immediate after-action review. Soldiers can watch the playback of the scenario on-screen and even hear their recorded radio traffic, allowing them to see what they did well and what needs improvement.

Sgt. 1st Class Greg Anselment of Wayne City, a platoon sergeant with Company F, 634th BSB said the real-time cooperation required by the VVT scenarios was great for exposing shortfalls in teamwork for future training. He also said it would be difficult to get this training without the VVT.

"(Individual units) don't have to have the resources," said Anselment. "We don't have up-armored vehicles, but we can still come down (to Sparta) and train."

In addition to the Virtual Vehicle Trainer, Sparta has virtual marksmanship training for rifles, machine guns and mortars, paintball gear for live maneuvers, and roughly 2,300 acres of open land available for field training exercises.

Photo 1: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Spc. Marty Melton of Sandoval (front), Spc. Justin Russell of Cypress (middle) and Sgt. Jeffrey Blevins of Fairfield (rear) - all truck drivers from Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mt. Vernon "ride" in a convoy inside Sparta Training Area's new combat simulator, the Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT). Inside the VVT, over 25 Soldiers don headsets or look into high-resolution screens to see through the building into the digital battleground beyond.

Photo 2: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. James Stanfield with Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mt. Vernon, mans the turret in Sparta Training Area's new Virtual Vehicle Simulator (VVT), a state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. The VVT allows Stanfield to see into a custom-made scenario (his view is shown on the screen behind him) while still operating realistic equipment like vehicle controls and mock machine guns.

Photo 3: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer (top-right) and Sgt. John Morgan of Pinckneyville, range control support (bottom-left) watch a virtual convoy on-screen at their command station inside the Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT) in Sparta Training Area. The VVT is a new state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment.

Photo 4: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Inside these customized semi-trailers in Sparta Training Area sits the Virtual Vehicle Trainer- a new state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. "Come to Sparta in the morning and we can take you to Iraq for lunch, Afghanistan for dinner, and have you home by bedtime." said Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer at Sparta Training Area.

For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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Braley is the highest-ranking Democrat on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 

Washington, DC - This morning, at the request of Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01), two Iowans testified before the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity about lowering the rate of unemployment for the National Guard.  Braley is the highest-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.

Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr joined Dick Rue, the state chair of the Iowa Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR), to testify about their experience helping veterans return to work when they come home from a deployment.

Last October, Braley brought the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to Waterloo for a field hearing on veterans' job creation.

High-resolution photos of the hearing can be downloaded here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/repbraley/sets/72157629146584591/

High-resolution video of highlights from the hearing can be downloaded here: http://www.mydigitalmanager.com/index.php?a=ViewItem&i=3228

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Photos of Vietnam Heroes Needed for Inclusion in The Education Center at The Wall in Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC - The people of the state of Iowa suffered greatly in the Vietnam War, sacrificing 853 service-men and women in combat. The Vietnam Memorial Fund's (VVMF) mission to honor these heroes continues with the National Call for Photos, a movement to collect photos of the more than 58,000 service-members inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) in Washington, DC. When collected, all photos will be displayed for generations to come at The Education Center at The Wall, a place on our National Mall where our military heroes' stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

With the support of schools, volunteers, friends, and family from around the country, VVMF has collected more than 25,000 pictures to date, but only 283 from the state of Iowa.

The task is far from complete. Generous support from volunteers, fellow service-members, family, and friends is still needed in order to gather the remaining 570 photos necessary to honor our heroes from Iowa for display at The Education Center.

With a groundbreaking planned for November 2012, The Education Center at The Wall is a multi-million dollar, state-of- the-art visitor's center and learning facility to be built on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans and the Lincoln Memorials. Visitors will better understand the profound impact the Vietnam War had their friends and family members, their home towns, and the Nation. The Education Center will feature the faces and stories of the 58,272 men and women on "The Wall," honoring those who fell in Vietnam, those who fought and returned, as well as the friends and families of all who served. For more information, visit www.buildthecenter.org.

"Iowa suffered greatly in the Vietnam War," said Jan C. Scruggs, Founder and President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF).  "The Education Center at The Wall will allow Americans to put faces with the names of brave men and women who lost their lives, fostering their appreciation and respect for generations to come."

VVMF urges the citizens of Iowa to assist the National Call for Photos by submitting photographs of fallen service-members and generously supporting the Education Center, ensuring that the sacrifices of our military heroes are never forgotten.

About the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (www.vvmf.org) is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War.

Authorized by Congress, its most recent initiative is building the Education Center at The Wall, an underground facility near the Memorial that will help visitors discover the stories of those named on The Wall and celebrate the values embodied by all service members who served in all of America's wars.

Other Memorial Fund initiatives include educational programs for students and teachers, as well as a traveling Wall replica that honors our nation's veterans.

Support the Education Center at The Wall by visiting www.buildthecenter.org, calling 866-990-WALL, or by texting "WALL" to 2022.

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. (02/01/2012)(readMedia)-- The 126th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) at Scott Air Force Base was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service from Aug. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2011.

During this period, the 126 SFS provided global coverage to continue the war fighting effort. Through numerous deployments and home-station efforts, the squadron embodied the Total Force concept.

"Our Security Forces Squadron continues to perform in an outstanding fashion," said Col. Rick Nyalka, of Marine, 126th Mission Support Group Commander. "Whether it is at Scott Air Force Base or while deployed, they always perform at the highest levels. I am very proud of our Security Forces members. They have demonstrated that they are truly deserving of this prestigious award!"

Members also served as true citizen-Airmen by volunteering countless hours in both local and deployed communities. In addition, squadron members were recognized with awards for home-station and deployment excellence.

"I could not be more proud of the men and women of the 126th Security Forces Squadron," said Lt. Col. John Bryk, of Mokena, 126th Security Forces Squadron Commander. "This is the finest group of non-commissioned officers and Airmen that I have had the opportunity to serve with during my 28-year career in the Air National Guard. The dedication and commitment they display on a daily basis is amazing."

In addition to deployments and community support, the squadron was recognized during each of its most recent compliance and readiness inspections. The squadron received an excellent rating with zero findings during the Aug. 2009 Air Mobility Command Unit Compliance Inspection. Additionally, the squadron was most recently rated outstanding for providing flawless security during a June 2011 Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection.

The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award was authorized by Department of the Air Force General Order 1, Jan. 6, 1954. It is awarded by the Secretary of the Air Force to units which are distinguished by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units.

The services include : performance of exceptionally meritorious service, accomplishment of a specific outstanding achievement of national or international significance, combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or military operations involving conflict with or exposure to hostile actions by an opposing foreign force.

Braley is the highest-ranking Democrat on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 

Washington, DC - On Thursday February 2nd, 2012, at the request of Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01), two Iowans testified before the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity about lowering the rate of unemployment for the National Guard.  Braley is the highest-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.

Iowa National Guard Adjunct General Timothy Orr tesitified alongside Dick Rue, the state chair of the Iowa Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR), about their experience helping veterans return to work when they come home from a deployment.

Last October, Braley brought the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to Waterloo for a field hearing on veterans job creation.

Feb. 4 Ceremony Planned at Camp Lincoln in Springfield for Unit Recently Returned from Afghanistan

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/01/2012)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Feb. 4 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony will be at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield at 10 a.m.

Soldiers of BEST (Bilateral Embedded Staff Team) A7 returned in October after being mobilized in January 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They joined the Polish Land Forces before arriving in Afghanistan and worked as a joint unit during the course of the mobilization. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

The team provided operational, intelligence, logistical, communications, engineering and planning support to the ninth rotation of Polish Forces to Afghanistan. The task force it supported was composed of almost 4,000 Polish and U.S. forces assisting more than 9,000 Afghan security forces in one of the largest provinces in eastern Afghanistan.

The team completed several ongoing construction projects designed to improve the safety and expand the reach of all security forces in the Ghazni Province.

The Soldiers also established development and transition programs for several of the less violent districts.

Most of the team participated in convoy and combat operations supporting Polish and Afghan Forces.

The Freedom Salute Campaign program is a small way to show these patriotic citizen-Soldiers, their families and employers how much their sacrifice is appreciated. On behalf of the National Guard Bureau, the Illinois Army National Guard will present each eligible Soldier with an encased American Flag, as well as a sequentially-numbered

commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice. The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are required to notify the Public Affairs Office by 3 p.m. Feb. 3 or they will not be granted access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.

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