DoD’s Innovative Readiness Training Program Helps U.S. Communities

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Katie Lange
Department of Defense

We often see our troops giving humanitarian aid to people in need across the world, but they do it here at home, too.

Through the Defense Department’s Innovative Readiness Training program, communities in need can get help with things like infrastructure, health care, transportation, veterinary care, and even cybersecurity and mosquito reduction.

Capt. Paul Kearney (left), a general dentist assigned to 7404th Medical Support Unit, and Pvt. 1st Class Lauren Schildt (right), prepare to extract an Illinois resident’s tooth during Innovative Readiness Training exercise Southeast Illinois Wellness. Photo by Army Reserve Medical Command Lt. Col. Angela Wallace.

Aside from aiding distressed American communities, the program also gives service members mission-essential training that will help them when they deploy. So really, it’s a win-win for civilians and the military. Our communities can see their service members in action, which lets them show off their expertise to the people who support them.

Volunteers from all branches of the military can get involved, including the National Guard and Reserves. You can apply here.

Who Can Request Help?

If you live in an area that would like to request IRT support and services from the DoD, you have to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Public or private nonprofit entity
  • Federal, regional, state or local authority
  • Some youth and charitable organizations, like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and the Police Athletic League

What You Need to Make It Happen

To get the support, you need to complete an application form here, including a liability release and hold-harmless agreement. Applicants also need to give a sustainable vision to which the military can make a tangible contribution, which includes designs, blueprints and property access plans. You must also verify that National Environmental Policy Act requirements are complete.

U.S. Air Navy Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Kiara Schuster, a general medic with the Navy Reserve Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes, builds rapport with a young boy prior to his dental procedure, in Millen, Ga., July 14, 2018, during the East Central Georgia Innovative Readiness Training. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann

Here are some IRT program frequently asked questions.

Stipulations of Applying

The applications have to be sent in one fiscal year BEFORE the partnership would be expected to take place, since they’re mostly funded by existing military service training budgets, along with some private contributions. However, if the requesting entity happens to find a military unit with adequate training funds willing to volunteer, the projects can begin much faster.

Army Reserve Sgt. Hector Blanco completes in-processing with local residents waiting for medical services at Betty Harwell Middle School in Edinburg, Texas. About 50 Army Reserve soldiers assigned to the 7235th Medical Support Unit out of Orlando, Texas, worked in partnership with the Texas A&M Colonias program June 16-27 to provide medical care to Hidalgo County’s underserved colonia population. Photo by Army Reserve Medical Command Lt. Col. Angela Wallace.

Not every project gets approved. The requests are reviewed first to see if they meet valid military training requirements and comply with all laws and policies. The projects also can’t compete with the private sector or include commercial development, so you’ll need to offer assurances of that when you apply.

The entity applying for the aid will have to provide or organize any facilities, materials and volunteers that would be needed to make the project happen, along with any medical credentialing. The military will provide the expertise.

A Recent Example of Services

An IRT mission in June sent active and reserve Army soldiers to Harrisburg, Illinois, to offer people in need free dental, medical and optical services.

“They don’t have a lot of physicians in the area, specifically services like dental and optometry,” said Army Reserve Col. Susan Mantell, a family physician with the 7215th Medial Support Unit. “So, we’re here to fulfill some of the needs of the community.”

Some of the patients they see even have insurance.

“You may have insurance but still not see the doctor because your deductible is so high. So, having insurance is not having health care,” Mantell said.

The mission, which lasted 10 days, helped more than 1,075 people with medical services. The crew distributed nearly 550 pairs of glasses.

“I think people are really impressed by all that we are able to do … to give them as close to comprehensive care as we can,” said Capt. Mike Bell, a dentist with the 7215th. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to be able to treat the very civilians that we fight for every day.”

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DoD’s Innovative Readiness Training Program Helps U.S. Communities

This Team Keeps the Defense Secretary Connected During Threats, Emergencies

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By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

Have you ever wondered how the secretary of defense sends important messages to other leaders across the world? Does he just pick up the phone himself and say, “Hi, it’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis?”

Well, the answer is no. There’s an entire team set up to do this for him.

The Secretary of Defense Communications Office is tasked with making calls and other services happen for the secretary and deputy secretary, as well as their immediate offices and designated special emissaries.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, June 13, 2017. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber Smith

About 20 service members work in three-member teams in the office’s Cables Branch at the Pentagon. Put simply, they serve as the communications office’s command and control support center.

“We provide comprehensive voice, video and data capabilities to the secretary and his immediate staff, regardless of their location,” said Army Lt. Col. George Randolph, SDC’s senior executive support officer.

Randolph said the mission is demanding – the Cables Branch has to be ready to work 24/7, 365 days a year – but it’s also rewarding, and every day on the job is different.

“It’s really satisfying to provide senior leaders with technical capabilities they cannot live without,” he said.

Take the launch of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile, for example. The cables team is responsible for getting all important parties in touch with each other as quickly as possible.

“SDC, through the Cables Branch, is the primary communications focal point and principle liaison between the Secretary of Defense and all other agencies, including the White House, State Department and Congress,” Randolph said.

The branch has a 24-hour call center that can quickly set up phone connections through classified and unclassified systems. It’s also able to distribute messages among the DoD, Cabinet agencies, the 10 military combatant commands and Congress.

It also collaborates with the National Military Command Center, which generates emergency action messages about things like missile warnings and other emergencies to military launch control centers, nuclear submarines, reconnaissance aircraft and battlefield commanders across the world.

Personnel work in the National Military Command Center, located in the Pentagon, circa 1975. DoD photo by R. D. Ward

The SDC emanated out of the Cable Division established during Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s tenure in the early 1960s. Technology has evolved since then, but the support needed to meet constant situational demands has stayed the same.

“Over 50 years later, the underlying mission to provide dedicated communications support and enabling decision superiority for our department’s leadership has remained constant,” said SDC Deputy Director Simon Mantel.

So, next time you hear about a major emergency or incident and realize our leaders have been tuned into it from the start, know that this dedicated team has worked hard to make that communication happen!

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This Team Keeps the Defense Secretary Connected During Threats, Emergencies

Soldier’s Selfless Act in Korea Saved Others, Earned Him MoH

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By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

Having written these Medal of Honor blogs for more than a year now, I have to say it’s stunning just how many service members have given their lives by throwing themselves onto grenades to save their comrades. It has happened often in war, and Army Cpl. Gordon M. Craig is one of the many men who earned the nation’s highest honor for his selfless sacrifice.

Army Cpl. Gordon M. Craig

While I haven’t been able to find much about his life before war, Craig grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts, and joined the Army sometime after high school. He was sent to Korea not long after the war began.

In the first half of September 1950, battle raged along the Naktong River in southeast Korea. It became known as the Second Battle of Naktong Bulge and was basically several large battles fought at the same time.

The Army’s 1st Cavalry Division was involved in the battle, and Craig’s 16th Reconnaissance Company was attached to that.

On Sept 10, 1950, Craig and his fellow soldiers were advancing on a hill held by the enemy when they were attacked by heavy grenade, mortar and small-arms fire. Craig and four other soldiers worked their way up the hill to destroy an enemy machine gun nest that was keeping their company from advancing.

As they pushed up the hill, one of the enemy threw a hand grenade at the small unit. Without thinking about his own life, Craig threw himself onto the grenade, smothering its explosion with his body.

Craig, who had turned 21 only the month before, died from his wounds. But his selfless actions inspired his fellow soldiers to attack the enemy with renewed vengeance. They were able to take out the machine gun nest’s crew and continue up the hill.

The Second Battle of Naktong Bulge was a victory for U.S. forces, who pushed the North Koreans out of the region. Craig’s contribution to the cause helped make that so.

Craig posthumously earned the Medal of Honor for his actions. It was awarded to his family on April 25, 1951.

Thank you, Corporal Craig, for your sacrifice and devotion!

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Soldier’s Selfless Act in Korea Saved Others, Earned Him MoH

Purple Heart Recipients: You’re Exempt From GI Bill Transfer Policy Changes

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By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

Photo: Purple Heart Medal

Purple Heart Medal

If you’re an active-duty Purple Heart recipient who wants to transfer your post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to your kids, rest easy – you’re being exempt from a policy change made earlier this year.

In July, the DoD announced a two-fold policy change on the transfer of educational benefits to family members. Here’s the gist of it:

  • Immediate change: Wounded warriors would be excluded from eligibility if they couldn’t extend their service by four years.
  • Starting in July 2019: Only service members with 6-16 years of total active-duty or selected reserve service under their belts will be eligible. Anyone above or below that won’t be able to transfer benefits.

Prior to the change, the policy didn’t put a cap on service time for transferability, as long as service members could commit to four more years in the service.

The changes made in July were implemented to increase troop retention, but just this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis signed another policy immediately exempting wounded warrior Purple Heart recipients from that change.

In case you’re confused: This means that wounded warriors with Purple Hearts can transfer their benefits, regardless of their years of total service or ability to complete more obligatory service.

“Secretary Mattis has been clear – we must recognize the sacrifices these service members have made,” said Stephanie Miller, director of accessions policy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “This policy reflects our continuing commitment to wounded warriors and their families.”

All other laws and DoD policies concerning the transferability of unused Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits – including the changes from July – remain in effect.

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Purple Heart Recipients: You’re Exempt From GI Bill Transfer Policy Changes

General’s Work Earns Him Multiple Native Alaskan Tribal Names

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It’s considered an honor for anyone who’s NOT a native Alaskan to be given a native name, so when Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach recently was given not one, but THREE native names – well, I’m sure you can figure out what a monumental honor that was.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach accepts one of his new Alaskan native names during a ceremony held by the Alaskan Federation of Natives in Anchorage, Alaska, Aug. 21, 2018.

Wilsbach is the first U.S. military general in history to be given multiple native Alaskan names. The Alaskan Federation of Natives said they did so as a thank-you for his efforts over the past few years to strengthen alliances and partnerships between the state’s native people and the military.

Wilsbach is the commander of Alaskan NORAD region, Alaskan Command and the 11th Air Force. During his time in our most northern state, he’s helped build unity in emergency response and awareness of the critical role Alaska plays in national defense and security. He’s also created trust and helped promote the importance of working with the native people to complete the mission.


Video by Air Force Senior Airman Jared Bunn

During a ceremony that included an exchange of gifts and cultural performances, Wilsbach was given these names:

Name: Kaa Niyaanoowu
Tribe
: Tlingit
Meaning: Protector of the people
Why: “Warriors have a very special place in our society, and we – thinking of you, general – wanted to give you a name befitting of the person that you have become,” said Tlingit representative Dr. Rosita Worl. “We thank you for your service, and we thank you for all that you’ve given and that your family has given to us. It is our deep honor to give you a Tlingit name.”

Name: Nanuk
Tribe
: Inupiat
Meaning: Fierce presence/polar bear
Why: “Your life and career epitomize the great Alaskan nanuk, whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle,” said Inupiat representative Gail Schubert. “You have demonstrated a professional commitment to protect the Arctic for national security purposes. We are safer as a country and state because of that.”

Name: Pinirraq
Tribe
: Yup’ik
Meaning: Someone who was made strong
Why: “When you least expect it … the spirit [of the name] can enter you and give you the strength you need at that time,” said Yup’ik representative Andrew Guy.

A fourth tribe, the Athabascan, also honored Wilsbach with a traditional chief’s necklace. “In order for a person to wear them with honor, they have to be a gift or presented to them,” said Alaskan Federation of Natives board co-chair Will Mayo.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach accepts a traditional chief’s necklace from the Athabascan tribe during a ceremony honoring him held by the Alaskan Federation of Natives in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I’m almost speechless for what a feeling I have here today,” Wilsbach said as he accepted his gifts. “It takes a special kind of people to survive and thrive here. If you’re operating in the Arctic and you’re not in tight with the native community and indigenous people that live here, you’re missing out on a lot.”

He and his wife thanked the tribal leaders and those who turned out to honor him.

“We can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. We love this place and we love you, and we’re just so honored by this ceremony,” Wilsbach said. “What a great partnership we’ve had, and really – more importantly – the friendship.”

Wilsbach is set to move on to a new assignment, but these names mean he will always bear the spirit of Alaska.

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Reporter for a Day: Military-Raised Students See What It’s Like

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Last month, the Military Child Education Coalition’s 20th National Training Seminar took place in Washington, D.C., supporting military-connected students who attend public and Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools.

During the event, two high school student journalists, Anika Davis and Leah Lee, both incoming seniors at Quantico Middle/High School in Virginia, had the opportunity to meet and interview leaders in the military education community. They also got to experience firsthand what it’s like to be a reporter for the day, getting mentorship by current Department of Defense communicators from the Defense Media Activity. Below, they describe their experiences:

Anika Davis

A few weeks ago, I was able to go to an event for the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) and work as a cub reporter/interviewer with my friend, Leah Lee. It was a really huge honor to be selected to go, but at first I wasn’t too sure what all the excitement was about, especially because I wasn’t all to sure what I was even going to be doing aside from playing journalist for a day. In my mind it wasn’t super exciting until I actually got to the event, then I got what the big deal was and I was excited (and a little nervous) for the rest of the day.

Anika Davis

The conference was in D.C., and we had to be there early, which meant we had to wake up even earlier; I had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. in order to get on the highway by 5 a.m. and fight rush hour traffic until we got there at 7 a.m. When I got to the hotel where the conference was taking place, I was a little intimidated by how fancy everything was and how well-dressed everyone was; it was definitely not the kind of environment I’m used to, but that just made it even more exciting. Leah and I met with the team of people that would be showing us around, and we finally got started.

Throughout the day, we got to interview a lot of different people. While we didn’t get to talk to everyone we’d hoped for, we did get to talk to a lot of cool people with some pretty interesting jobs. One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to use the camera; while Leah went up to people and did most of the talking, I got to hold the camera and record it. I love photography as well as taking videos, so as far as using the camera went, I was right at home. My arms were completely sore by the end of the day from holding the camera up without moving for so long though; it was completely worth it.

All in all, it was  a really great experience. Interviewing people made me realize it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was, it could actually be really fun! The questions seemed to become less rehearsed and more freeflowing like a conversation should be. After interacting with so many people, including the reporters who got to follow us around all day, I definitely learned a lot and I will keep what I learned in mind for all my future journalistic endeavors.

Leah Lee

Leah Lee

With summer break quickly coming to an end and school steadily approaching, participating as a student reporter for DoDEA in Washington, D.C., made for a great segue back into my educational career. Not only was waking up before the sun reminiscent of the past school year, the fast-paced learning experience as an on-the-go reporter mimicked that of the heavy course load of a senior.

Going into this program, I had been expecting to learn just what it would be like being a reporter – mainly the basics such as how to conduct an interview and how to work with the cameras and behind the scenes of reporting. What I had not been expecting was to be pushed out of my comfort zone, learn to quickly deal with disappointment and move past it, and to think on my feet and just go with the flow. It wasn’t my expectations that made this experience, rather, it was the unexpectedness of the entire program, which had made it a completely memorable and enjoyable learning experience.

Starting off the day with a speech from Karen Pence, the Second Lady of the United States, only proved that this experience was bound to get better. Soon after the speech is when we dove head-first into the experience of a reporter, rushing to hopefully catch an interview with Mrs. Pence as she was exiting the conference and unfortunately learning the first lesson as a reporter, which is that you may not always get that interview. However, the key is to quickly move past it and look for your next scoop, which is exactly what we did.

Throughout the day, we moved from person to person, taking interviews and holding conversations with a few people that were a part of the conference, sitting in multiple sessions ranging from Kids and Media to Programs for DoD and Non-DoD schools, and vlogging during our free time – even holding an impromptu interview with some men from the wait staff of the hotel the conference was held in.

Overall, the day had been exciting, new and easily held my interest the entire time. I hope for the opportunity to be presented again to the next group of rising seniors at Quantico Middle/High School. 10 out of 10, I would recommend.

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Reporter for a Day: Military-Raised Students See What It’s Like

Soldier Orders Unit to Fire Artillery at Him, Approaching Enemy

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By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

Having massive amounts of artillery land all around you must be terrifying, but for Army 2nd Lt. Lee Hartell, it didn’t keep him from doing his job in Korea. He lost his life, but his actions saved a lot of others, and they earned him the Medal of Honor.

Army 2nd Lt. Lee Hartell. Army photo

Hartell was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 23, 1923, and raised in Danbury, Connecticut. He joined the Connecticut Army National Guard in 1940 and went active-duty during World War II, serving in the South Pacific. He was discharged after the war but rejoined the Guard as a second lieutenant pretty quickly, returning to active duty in 1948. A few years later, he found himself deployed to Korea.

Early on the morning of Aug. 27, 1951, Hartell was serving as the forward observer of Battery A of the Army’s 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was attacked by enemy soldiers near Kobangsan-ni in South Korea.

The unit was on a rugged, mountainous ridge, so when the attack began, Hartell quickly moved the radio he used to call for artillery fire to an exposed vantage point on the ridgeline so he could get his soldiers to return fire in the appropriate direction.

Hartell decided they would do better if the area was lit up to see the enemy approaching, so he called for his soldiers to use flares. He then directed artillery fire into the enemy soldiers running toward them.

Army 2nd Lt. Lee Hartell in Korea during the war.

The enemy continued forward, however; a huge force of them charged up the slope, getting within 10 yards of Hartell’s position on the ridgeline. He was seriously injured during the fight but still managed to get back to his radio to direct fire, which helped protect parts of his company.

The enemy troops dispersed and fell back, but not for long. They outnumbered U.S. troops and eventually overran a nearby outpost, closing in on Hartell’s position. Instead of running, Hartell stayed where he was and called for artillery fire on his radio one last time, urging his soldiers to fire both batteries continuously until the enemy backed down.

Hartell died during the ensuing firefight, but by giving his life, his unit was able to maintain its strategic strongpoint.

For giving his life, Hartell was awarded the Medal of Honor the following February.

The memory of Hartell’s heroic actions hasn’t faded, either. A ceremonial 75 mm M1Ai Pack Howitzer gun belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division was named in his honor in 2013. The Connecticut National Guard also named its installation in Windsor Locks after him.

Thank you, Lieutenant Hartell, for your devotion and sacrifice.

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Soldier Orders Unit to Fire Artillery at Him, Approaching Enemy

‘No Room for Error’: That’s How These PJs Remember the Thai Cave Rescue

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Service Members Recall Helping in Worldwide Effort to Rescue Trapped Soccer Team

By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

U.S. Air Force Special Operations pararescuemen – called PJs for short – are some of the most highly trained emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military. They can do it all, including jumping out of planes and SCUBA diving to get to people who need help in humanitarian and combat-related crises.

So when several PJs stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, were called in late June to help rescue 12 young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, they didn’t hesitate.


Pararescuemen Detail Thai Rescue Mission

“It was a situation that had never been attempted, let alone successfully,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ken O’Brien, a PJ from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron who took part in the endeavor.

But it’s one that O’Brien and Staff Sgt. Michael Galindo will never forget. Here are their stories.

First Things First: It Was Complicated

OK, so before I actually get to their stories, let me sum up the intricacies of this intense rescue. The cave system is about 6 miles long, and the boys got in through the main entrance. But they did so during monsoon season, so many of the chambers inside flooded, trapping them.

After nine days of searching, rescuers found the team on a ledge about 2 miles from where they entered.  Rescuers from all over the world were called in to help, and they often had to use hand-arm signals and white boards to communicate.

“We were working with teams from Australia, England and different European divers. There was a Chinese team and then multiple Thai teams, both military and civilian,” O’Brien said.

Rescuers were able to drain some of the floodwaters out of the cave system, but narrow, flooded passageways still blocked the boys from getting out on their own. After a LOT of planning, two divers were assigned to each child to help them navigate the passageways and dive through the flooded ones to get to safety. A rope system was set up where each boy was tethered to the diver in front of him, with a second diver bringing up the rear.

Graphic courtesy of The Guardian

More divers were set up throughout the caves to help carry the children from chamber to chamber when the water was low enough.

The Mission, In Their Own Words

O’Brien’s team was tasked with placing hundreds of air tanks in various chambers throughout the caves for the boys and their accompanying divers. That meant diving through dark caves – something only one of them had ever done – to get to the various passages.

“We had to follow a [tethered rope] line through this section … and it was just complete blackness,” O’Brien recalled, noting it was dark even with his headlamp on. “We would be by ourselves for almost 20 minutes trying to find the next guys [in the cave], dragging tanks along.”

At the request of the Royal Thai government, the U.S. sent a search and rescue team to assist Thai rescue authorities in finding 12 young soccer players and their coach. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait

O’Brien was in Chamber 3 and got to see the children come out of the water, one by one. Galindo was waiting with another team just outside of that area. He remembered the moment the first boy started coming his way.

“We all turned on our lights,” Galindo said. “They said he was alive on the walkie-talkie, which was a huge relief for everybody because no one knew what the outcome was going to be.”

Suddenly, about 100 feet away, lights and a rescue sled came into view, slowing inching toward them on the tethered static rope.

“When they hooked them up to my section, we had two safety lines. [Another sergeant] and his team were controlling his descent, and my team was controlling the rate he was coming to us because there were some sections where he was going quick, and then he would sag, so we would have to pull him across,” Galindo explained. “Not to mention that there were rocks in the way. We had a staged guy actually lift the [rescue sled] up because we didn’t want the child to hit his head on the rocks.”

“I knew this was who we’d been waiting for for two weeks now. Now, here he is, and his life is in my hands now – the rest of our team’s hands. There’s no room for error for a real-life mission.” -Staff Sgt. Michael Galindo

It was a surreal experience, he said.

“I knew this was who we’d been waiting for for two weeks now. Now, here he is, and his life is in my hands now – the rest of our team’s hands. There’s no room for error for a real-life mission,” Galindo said.

Once they disconnected the boy from the rope system, Galindo quickly assessed his condition and made sure he had enough air in his tank for the rest of the journey. He and three other men then very carefully walked the boy up a 30-foot-long slippery rocky slope.

“There was a handrail that the guys on the left side could actually hold onto so they could balance themselves so they weren’t slipping all over the place,” Galindo said. “There were about 20 Thai SEALs grabbing him and passing him off, one after the other, nice and slowly until we got him on flat ground.”

Airmen visit Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand to meet with Royal Thai military officials and authorities to assess conditions June 28, 2018. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait

Then they reset the operation to wait for the next child.

Three days later, the last boy came out of the cave.

“As soon as we saw the last child leave my area, it was a great relief,” O’Brien said. But the mission wasn’t over.

“We still had multiple European divers still deep in the cave, and we had the four Thai divers. So, we went back up. We did our congratulations, but we understood that the mission wasn’t technically over. We got prepped for those other divers to come out,” O’Brien said. “Once we got everyone out of the cave, then it was time to finally relax. There were hugs, high-fives, and people were cheering. That was a very awesome moment.”

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ken O’Brien (left) and Staff Sgt. Michael Galindo, both pararescuemen, prepare to help in the effort to rescue 12 trapped boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand.

The operation was a massive success.

“We were very happy that all our training paid off,” Galindo said. “It was a very defining moment in my career.”

“It was way more successful that we actually thought it would be,” O’Brien said. “If it was our children or families, we would want people to step up and help us in that same situation.”

We know the whole world – which was watching – was thanking them and all the others who helped!

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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Acquisition Career Management in the 4th Estate

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Did you know there are more than 30 defense agencies and field activities outside the military branches? From civilians inspecting items off the assembly line at a manufacturing plant to those performing cutting-edge research needed to maintain the Defense Department’s technological edge, these support agencies perform functions critical to military services. They’re commonly referred to as the “4th Estate.”

Who Makes Up the 4th Estate?

Official seals and logos of defense agencies and field activities with acquisition workforce members.

The 4th Estate’s agencies include all organizational entities in the DoD that are not a military branch or a combatant command. From defense health care to logistical support, agencies within the 4th Estate provide acquisition functions for the entire DoD.

Acquisition involves the purchase of weapons and other systems, supplies or services to satisfy DoD needs and support military missions. The acquisition lifecycle ranges from an initial idea to design, production and even the disposal of an item or service that’s no longer needed.

Personnel within the 4th Estate are vital enablers of mission success. For their part, the 4th Estate office called Director, Acquisition Career Management (DACM) invests in the career development of more than 28,000 civilian acquisition workforce members.

What Does the 4th Estate DACM Do?

The 4th Estate DACM is responsible for the oversight and execution of statutory training, professional credentialing, continuous learning and career development for acquisition workforce members across 14 career fields. This includes all DoD auditors and a large number of personnel working in production, quality and manufacturing, as well as contracting.

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act: What Is It?

Do you remember the acquisition scuttlebutt of the 1980s? The $600 hammer? What about the $1,000 toilet seat?

Well, in 1990, Congress enacted the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) to address the negative press with the goal of improving acquisition outcomes. DAWIA required the DoD to establish education, training and experience requirements for each acquisition position to professionalize the workforce and ensure judicious use of taxpayer dollars.

What Is the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund?

Faced with increasingly complex weapons system procurements and a reduction in government personnel, the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund was created to increase the size and improve the quality of the acquisition workforce.

The fund has been a critical enabler, helping to create a highly qualified and agile acquisition workforce. It provides funds for the recruitment, training and retention of DoD acquisition personnel. In fiscal year 2017, the 4th Estate used the fund to provide advanced education, Defense Acquisition University training, career-broadening assignments, leadership opportunities and student loan repayments.

How the 4th Estate DACM Supports Personnel

The Director, Acquisition Career Management office provides civilian acquisition professionals with development opportunities through its Leadership and Talent Management Portfolio.These courses aim to develop the individual’s functional, technical and soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Participants often provide feedback that these programs prepare them to become leaders and help them tacklefuture challenges.

Wordle depicts core functions within the DACM office

Being in uniform is not the only way to serve in the DoD – thousands of civilians directly support the warfighter. The DoD has made significant progress toward strengthening workforce capabilities and promoting acquisition workforce professionalism in alignment with the National Defense Strategy. The 4th Estate DACM office is building on this progress.

Let’s take a look at how the 4th Estate DACM office uses its strategic assets to support a motivated, diverse and highly skilled civilian workforce:

  • In fiscal year 2017, it provided Defense Acquisition University training quotas and travel funding to the 4th Estate’s acquisition workforce, resulting in

    • 9,784 DAU classroom graduates
    • 82 onsite courses that did not cost the taxpayer any student travel funding
    • Ensured travelers attended training at the most cost-effective location
  • Developing leaders who are competent in national-level decision-making requires talent management. The Leadership and Talent Management Portfolio offered by the 4th Estate DACM office embodies the DoD mandate to ensure its acquisition workforce is well-trained in a cost-effective manner. More than 1,250 individuals have taken at least one of the courses centrally offered, as extensive survey results have demonstrated positive impacts on individual behaviors and the application of the training within their work environment.

    Some Keynote speakers will be live-streamed on Facebook.

  • The 4th Estate DACM office constantly seeks to leverage best practices but sometimes leads the way by coming up with a joint solution. As the Contracting Officer’s Representative on the new Acquisition Leadership Challenge Program contract, the 4th Estate Team pooled resources and shared responsibility by partnering with the Army and Air Force. When compared to the previous contract, the new contract vehicle provides significant savings to the government.
  • In transitioning to a culture of performance, leadership is critical to a well-trained and agile workforce. In response to the demand signal to create more leadership opportunities for its mid-career workforce, the 4th Estate DACM office is sponsoring its inaugural Leaders Building Leaders event, a leadership and talent management week scheduled for August 27-31. There will be leadership courses, specialized breakout sessions and distinguished speakers who will address leadership and motivational topics. Some of these speakers will be livestreamed on the DACM’s Facebook page. Feel free to share these free leadership sessions on your timeline. 
  • Modernization of key capabilities is not defined solely by hardware; it requires changes to the way we organize our workforce. The Defense Acquisition Talent Management System reflects just that – an innovative system to manage workforce talent. Based on user feedback derived during stakeholder meetings, several modules have been created to ensure a streamlined process for acquisition career management.

In Summary

The 4th Estate defense agencies and field activities continuously evaluate their workforce as part of readiness to strengthen cohesion and meet challenges. Enabling a world-class acquisition workforce underpins all of the 4th Estate DACM office’s efforts to achieve and maintain acquisition excellence.

For more information about acquisition within the 4th Estate, check out the many resources found in the links above.

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Acquisition Career Management in the 4th Estate

Chaplain’s Special Assignment Offered Change of Pace, Perspective

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Many service members choose to be military “lifers.”

Why? Well, for many reasons. But one could be this: Just like private-sector workers, service members can completely switch up their careers, sometimes transitioning into a role they never expected.

That was the case for Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Tressler. He wanted a change after 10 years as a chaplain assistant in the Chaplain Corps, and he was chosen for a special-duty assignment as a political defense attache for the Defense Intelligence Agency. The position, which pretty much made him part of an ambassador’s staff, eventually took him to Budapest, Hungary.

Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Tressler. Air Force photo by Cameron Hunt

Tressler believes his capacity for empathy and ability to connect with people was why he was chosen for the deployment.

An Important Mission

While in Hungary, Tressler visited a World War II prisoner-of-war camp, where he witnessed remains of a soldier being repatriated back to the U.S. He was also part of the team that oversaw the return, which included accompanying the remains back to the airport tarmac.

On another assignment in Austria, Tressler said he was called by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division to assist with a Liberation of Salzburg commemoration ceremony. The Mauthausen Concentration Camp, located in Salzburg, Austria, was liberated in 1945.

In Mauthausen, prisoners were designated for extermination through intense labor as opposed to prisoners being executed by firing squads or gassing. The Mauthausen Concentration Camp was the last to be freed by the Allies.

Survivors in Mauthausen rest outside a barrack after the liberation of the camp. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo, courtesy of Carl Coombs

“This was a big weekend for us. We laid wreaths at the crematorium, and last year, we actually got to walk arm in arm with survivors from the camp though the Mauthausen gates,” Tressler said. “Certain areas of the camp, from the quarry’s Stairs of Death to the Bergkristall Tunnels, still carry a distinct lingering smell of death.”

Why Me?

Walking out with the survivors filled him with pride, Tressler said, but it also made him question, “Why me? Why do I get to be here at this time [and] given this honor?”

Again, he believes it came down to empathy and his ability to connect with people. The Mauthausen survivors were from Poland, and he doesn’t speak Polish. But listening to them tell their stories and seeing the tears and emotions on their faces let him know exactly how they felt.

“Those are moments you don’t forget,” he said.

Tressler explained it from a spiritual aspect.

“There are a lot of negative things that happen in the world,” he said. “You can call it evil or the devil being responsible for it, or you can look at it as an opportunity for the love of God to come out. If you can help one person, you can make a difference.”

All Good Things Come To an End

Tressler’s defense attache special assignment ended, and he has since returned to the Chaplain Corps as the 21st Space Wing chapel superintendent. He said his experience with the WWII survivors was one of the most fulfilling experiences that encourages him daily.

Air Force Lt. Col. William Spencer (left) and Master Sgt. Lance Tressler (right) brief area religious leaders on Clergy Day at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, June 26, 2018. Religious leaders visited Peterson AFB on Clergy Day to acquire a greater understanding of Air Force chapel operations so they can provide greater community support. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Justin Beebe

“I learned a lot and recommend the experience to anyone,” Tressler said.

Since joining the Air Force, he’s earned two degrees and served 13 years in Europe. He has a lot of plans for his future, but for now, his duties as a chaplain assistant demand a large part of his time.

Tressler left these parting words of encouragement for young airmen: “Stay encouraged. The military is but one voice of the government in which to serve your country. There are a lot of cool things you can do to serve and broaden your career. Don’t get frustrated. This is but one part of your journey, so stay planted where you are. You’re there for a reason.”

This blog was adapted from an article written by Robert Lingley, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs.

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Chaplain’s Special Assignment Offered Change of Pace, Perspective