New Yokota commander juggling troop readiness, airport project
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — From runways to relationships, the base’s new 374th Airlift Wing commander has a lot on his mind.
Col. Mark Stearns took over last week as commander of a base undergoing a $66 million runway reconstruction project and of troops who are prepared to go to war.
“I need to ensure the wing as a whole is ready to accomplish its wartime mission,” Stearns, 44, said during an interview with Stars and Stripes.
“We’re there now, and we need to keep it there,” he said. “Especially with the changes and the war against terrorism, we need to ensure we can integrate and still accomplish our wartime mission effectively and efficiently.”
One of the biggest changes so far is increased force protection, Stearns said. Standing vigil at Yokota are security forces personnel and augmentees, gathered from various squadrons to enhance force protection. Yokota will continue to use the augmentees, “as long as we need to,” Stearns said. Stearns has visited with many augmentees since taking command Oct. 25.
“They’re motivated, they understand the need for it, and they accomplish that mission,” he said. “It also gives our folks that comfortable feeling that they’re out there watching and ever vigilant.”
Stearns called himself a “people-oriented” leader. The mission must come first, he said, but taking care of people is integral to that mission.
“If you’re watching out for your people … they take care of the mission, and they take care of it better.”
The largest project on Stearns’ agenda is the runway reconstruction.
“It’s going very, very well,” he commented. “Our hosts are doing a fantastic job on it.”
Closing down half of the runway during construction has diverted some of the larger aircraft normally based at Yokota. The C-9s, for instance, are at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, while C-21s are operating out of Atsugi Naval Air Facility. Some airmen who work with these aircraft have also been temporarily deployed.
Stearns said those men and women, and their families, have been handling the separation well.
“There’s always going to be a little hardship when you have to move your operation, but they have a very good positive attitude about it,” he said. “From all aspects they’re taking it very well, and they’re accomplishing the mission in very good form.”
Stearns said he also is counting on his people to continue the “outstanding” relationship they have with their Japanese hosts.
“We want to continue that,” he said. “I can tell you my family and I feel very privileged we can experience this firsthand. All indications so far is that it’s going to be a wonderful experience.”
The kindness of the Japanese people is one reason Stearns thinks morale is high among the troops and their families.
“I was very surprised how many people are here in Japan for their second, third tour,” he said. “It’s because of the Japanese people. This is a fun place to live, and it’s just a great assignment. It’s good work and it’s good play.”
Stearns replaced Col. Mark Zamzow, who was assigned to command the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
A command pilot with more than 4,100 flight hours, Stearns and his wife and daughter come to Yokota from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he was deputy director of operations for U.S. Transportation Command.
He was born in Radford, Va., but claims Severna Park, Md., where he went to high school as his hometown.Go To Post
Refugee Power: How To Fuel A Refugee Camp
It would be hard to paint a positive picture of the world refugee situation right about now. A little over a decade ago, we had only 19.5 million displaced people in the world. ONLY is the keyword here because while this figure may have looked astronomical in 2004,we are now looking at the colossal number somewhere north of 60 million.
Let that sink in for a moment. 60 million souls wasting away in camps, estranged from loved ones and families.
And it just gets worse…
According to research, only 11 million of these individuals have access to basics such as water and some semblance of electricity. Now, it is bad to be uprooted from the place you call home, but it is infinitely worse to miss out on what any human requires day in day out.
Here is another ugly figure; the average time people spend as refugees is 17 years.
So, how does one last the course of close to two decades in a place like this? They find a good source of power, of course. Now, electricity is a luxury, so the idea here is to go for more natural alternatives. And the good news is that there is always the sun. In 2013 alone, the world’s solar capacity catapulted by 35%.
So why not extend this potentiality to those who need it most?
In a report conducted by a popular think tank, Chatham House, most refugee camps around the world are concentrated in regions that are pretty well exposed to the natural resource that is the sun. The organization suggests that innovative firms be looped in to provide solar energy systems that fuel individual units in camps. The suggestion is that these panels can be monitored remotely, eliminating the challenge of time and distance.
A collaboration between community and the private sector
Chatham House explains that this is in fact not the first time this idea has been floated. There have been pioneer project that have frankly not picked up or gained traction enough to keep camps going consistently for years. The problem has been the lack of a collaborative effort between local communities, sectors and responders. A good idea would be to have companies become involved in the long-term. Such an approach ensures accountability and guarantees the local communities that something positive will remain in the local economy even when the refugees are long gone.
Powering a refugee camp by means of solar energy is by far one of the easiest and cheapest approaches toward making the lives of the occupants bearable. Some experts have also floated the concept of the wind turbine, and, from the face of it, it looks like a pretty solid idea, (check link below for more information). A number of countries have perfected the use of the wind and others have actually gone on to implement its potential, even if this has not been picked up in refugee camps. A 3 MW wind turbine, which is an average capacity, can churn out 6 million Kilowatts per hour in a year. That is enough to provide energy to 1500 refugee housing units.
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Big Moment For Small on ‘Orange Beast’ at Rockingham
Army Reservist and motorbike racing star Lara Small clocked a personal best for a single lap when she made a guest appearance at the Thundersport GB 500 leg of the annual series at Rokingham in Corby, UK. The 31 year-old Army’s Royal Engineers captain, appearing for the Ducati 1198s Knight Road Racing Team, clocked a personal best time of 1:34:11 to finish second in the second race, with two other races happening in the day. The Ducati 1198s Knight Road Racing Team is sponsored by Magic Bike, (see link at the bottom of the page).
The semi-professional Lara usually races on her Via Moto Honda CB 500, which is sponsored by a dealer going by the same name. It was thus a new battle for her to take the handles of the more powerful 1098S, which she described as a big, orange beast’ the moment she gave it the first rev.
Lara finished 14th out of 26 riders overall. She also competed in the televised military race, where she finished 11th. In the two GP1 races that she took part in, she came in at 24 and 22 in each.
Lara described the experience once she got the beast in full thrust on the straight as akin to being teleported, a perfect description for the zone every rider has to experience at some point in their riding career.
The 31 year-old is a combination of beauty and brains, juggling her reservist role with a career as team leader in manufacturing at Rolls Royce. She said dabbling in various fields serves to make her the perfect all-rounder.
Craig Neve finished top at the event, with two podium finishes despite seeing his bike consumed by flames in practice.
The Rockingham race has become an annual event, taking place on a 1.94-mile long International Motorcycle Circuit Circuit. It has grown over time to become the most popular series in British racing, with the greatest variety of races.
The series is famous for producing some top names in bike racing, among them Casey stone, a double MotoGP winner, and former Superbike Champion Alex Lowes.
Lara has been in the Army Reserves since 2005. She describes her recruitment as one of merit, adding that she did not have a family background with army links. Rather, she was driven by her own interest in the work of Reserves to apply.
In a 2014 interview with British paper Mirrror, she described military training as ideal for discipline. She appreciates that the training was the same for men and women, hailing the growing number of advancing women in both her civilian and army spheres of life.
The charming rider says her military experience was an added advantage when she tried out at Rolls Royce in 2012, where she now puts in an eight hour shift on a normal working day.
She dedicates 27 days of her time to Reserve activity, and says given a second chance, she would make the same choices again. She says her army life is a challenge that has enriched her life. She mentions her wide travel with the reserves across Europe and America as an extra benefit that comes with her job.
Still, she says, it is important for women not to lose their femininity.
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Pentagon Turns To MIT For R&D Engagement
The Department of Defense has chosen a senior expert from the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT to head a new military laboratory set to operate out of Cambridge. Its focus is mainly research and development. Many observers see this as an attempt by the military to max out on the technological potential of the region in the long-term.
The official, Bernadette Johnson, is poised to head the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, which is known across the board as DIUx. This revelation was made by Secretary for Defense Ash Carter earlier this week.
Ms Johnson has a long and glittering resume, with a background in biological and chemical defense background that stretches way back. Her most recent posting was as the leading technology officer at the Lincoln Laboratory.
The DUIx initiative kicked off last year in one of the most popular technology centers of the world, Silicon valley. Cambridge is a show of intent from the department, seeing as it is the second office opened up over the course of 12 months. Secretary Carter handpicked a new set of leaders for the program in May, and this pointed to a shift in direction as well as a new sense of commitment going forward. It was also a way of bringing together industry professionals for a common purpose, from private sector specialists to independent technology professionals in the field.
The initiative was able to win a contract extension just a month after the shift in leadership, which again served as an indicator that there was a long term edge to the plan. There is the expectation that DUIx will provide more contracts in the days ahead, and there is a particular focus on initiatives that push forward research into water-based drones. Network Security is also considered a key area of interest, according to reports from the Pentagon.
Choice of Cambridge Was Highly Strategic
It seems that the decision to zero in on Cambridge was not a fluke. In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Carter pitched for the area, praising it for a long, colorful history of collaboration and involvement in projects involving military Research and Development. MIT for one, with their world leading leading scientist, high-technological laboratories and laboratory equipment and cutting edge research, has been working with the military from as long as anyone can remember, with their breakout project being the ambitious rolling out of radar units in the thick of the Second World War.
Boston has also entrenched itself in the map, with tech-minded firms from the area having recently worked closely with the military to push robotics to the edge with robotic units whose inclination is to imitate human posture in a bid to accomplish more with minimal hassle.
Carter’s feel was that the Boston area has a rich background when it comes to technology. He touted the place as a meeting point of ideas and technology, two aspects that always work together for the sake of progress, according to his outlook.
In the Tuesday event, Secretary Carter also revealed a new-look Defense Innovation Advisory Board for Pentagon. The team is headed by Eric Schmidt from Aphabet Inc. It also includes new faces from the general Boston area.Go To Post
Nootropics used by the US Army
With numerous stressors almost everywhere we turn, many Americans at times feel that they’re in a never-ending war. However, as civilians, our day to day stress factors can hardly compare to what military personnel go through in the actual battlefield.
Running errands such as taking care of kids, delivering timely project results at work and comprehending complex concepts in class can understandably feel nerve-wracking and overwhelming, but there is a lot to learn from how the armed forces boost their performance.
Nootropics use by ancient armies
Traditionally, combatants in war have always used one nootropic or the other to enhance their performance.For instance, the nootropic Rhodiola rosea herb was consumed by Scandinavia’s Vikings to avert fatigue as well as boost their energy levels. Prior to heading to war, this herb was taken in order to help them fight for longer hours and with greater efficiency.
Chinese emperors are also known to have used the potency of a number of herbs in a bid to accomplish their missions across Asia. Rulers in ancient times clearly understood that consuming certain herbs and roots was vital in improving the performance of their army men.
In modern times, the use of nootropics has become wide spread and soldiers all over the world try to have as much advantage as they can using supplements.
Indeed, modern science has far outdone what our ancestors ever imagined. There are complete departments of pharmacologists, biologists as well as chemists undertaking research regarding supplementation on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense.
Indeed, the Department of Defense has found great success in nootropics such as Pramiracetam and Modafinil that have proved to be highly effective in keeping soldiers focused on their mission even after going for more than three days without sleep.
The U.S. military pilots are known to take the nootropicPramiracetam to avoid dizziness during prolonged flights. Pramiracetam has been studied widely with results proving that it is a highly effective brain booster, and hence its use by military personnel.
Apart from enhancing memory and concentration, perhaps the greatest benefit that Pramiracetam gives its users is ability to focus on their tasks for longer and better. Now anyone can buy pramiracetam online without prescription.
The use of Modafinil is compulsory for military personnel. The U.S. military has used this supplement to keep soldiers awake and alert in missions lasting up to 85 hours. Unsurprisingly, Modafinil has grown in popularity among professionals and students due to its effectiveness in optimizing the functioning of the brain.
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Pentagon post office undergoes third round of tests for anthrax
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon post office underwent its third set of tests for anthrax Wednesday, as a second independent team of military biohazard specialists worked to test the facility for spores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared the area “decontaminated” Sunday, after anthrax spores were detected Friday in two rented post office boxes.
Stars and Stripes was unable to learn from the CDC what kinds of tests were originally performed, and how many areas were checked before the positive results were found. Repeated telephone inquiries to the CDC’s Atlanta offices and temporary field offices in Washington, D.C., were unanswered by press time.
Nor would Pentagon officials say for the record why they believed it was necessary to test the post office not just a second time, but a third, even after the CDC declared the area safe.
The Defense Protective Service (DPS), which is responsible for all Pentagon security issues, ordered the post office shut down Oct. 15, after spores were found at Washington’s Brentwood mail-sorting facility.
All of the regular mail that comes into the Pentagon is handled by Brentwood, although official Defense Department mail is handled by other facilities.
Richard McGraw, principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, told Pentagon reporters Monday that the CDC had detected traces of anthrax in two of the post office’s 1,106 rental mailboxes the previous Friday, during “routine, random testing.”
The CDC detected anthrax in one of the 200 boxes not currently assigned. The other box the agency said spores turned up in belonged to an Air Force civilian who subsequently was sent to Bethesda Naval Hospital for outpatient treatment.
Meanwhile, McGraw said Monday that the post office had been “decontaminated” Sunday, and “retests came up negative after the decontamination.”
Despite the “all-clear,” the post office remained closed Monday because the DPS decided to send in a three-person biohazard team to perform tests of the facility.
“Just to double-check,” Flood said. “The military would always do its own tests . Better to be safe than sorry; I think everyone would agree with that.”
The DPS also sent mailbox patrons an e-mail, “encouraging” renters “purely as a precautionary measure” to report to the Pentagon’s internal DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, “for medical evaluation and treatment if appropriate.”
As of Wednesday, 158 people had reported to the clinic, Flood said.
Flood said did not know if everyone who rents a box at the facility had been notified, however. Stars and Stripes, which maintains a post office box in the Pentagon, had not received the advisory.
DPS testers performed “exhaustive” tests on Monday, McGraw said Tuesday morning.
The testers “hand-swabbed approximately 150 locations” inside the post office, each of which was evaluated on the spot using a hand-held assay device, McGraw told reporters on Tuesday morning.
The team also used wet and dry aerosol particle detection samplers to test the air inside the post office, as well as checking the heat and air conditioning ducts for contamination, McGraw said.
All of the tests were 100 percent negative for anthrax, McGraw said. But the tests were still not over.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, located at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., was in the post office at the invitation of the DPS, performing a new set of tests.
Flood said the DPS had requested the Army backup, “to ensure the absolute safety of all Pentagon employees.”
The Army team continued its work Wednesday, although the team’s tests Tuesday “found nothing,” Flood said.
The results of those tests, as well as Monday’s DPS tests, are being sent to an independent laboratory for further evaluation, Flood said. The two sets of data will then be cross-checked and correlated.
Until the DPS gets the results of its own tests and the Army’s version back from the lab, the post office will remain closed, Flood said.Go To Post
President's envoy has 'heart-to-heart' talks with Ehime Maru families
UWAJIMA, Japan — A U.S. Navy admiral held “heart-to-heart” talks Thursday with relatives of nine Japanese presumed dead after a submarine sank their ship, bringing a degree of closure to the saga of recrimination between the two nations and turning attention to raising the wreckage.
Adm. William Fallon’s emotional apology in the hometown of the Ehime Maru’s missing, who include four high-school students, appeared to assuage pain and left families with one chief wish: To retrieve the boat they fear has become the deep-sea tomb of their loved ones.
“He said he didn’t want to read any prepared texts but just have a heart-to-heart talk,” said Ietaka Horita, the principal of the Fisheries Training School that sent its students on the voyage that ended in disaster off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
The presidential envoy’s visit with the bereaved went beyond a mere courtesy call and created a connection that, along with other expressions of contrition by U.S. officials, has done much to allay suspicion of the United States, according to those he met.
“We weren’t just reiterating our demands. We were sharing our feelings,” said Shoko Takagi, a relative of missing teacher Jun Nakata.
Fallon, the Navy’s No. 2 officer, told students at the fisheries school that they shared a “special bond” and said: “Don’t let this leave you afraid of the sea.”
“That was a wonderful thing to say,” Horita said.
Fallon met with 14 relatives of the missing, two teachers, and three crew members. The scheduled one-hour meeting was extended by 45 minutes to give him more time with the families.
Relatives said the meeting gave them hope of finding the bodies believed to be inside the ship, and giving them a proper burial.
“I came away feeling certain that the raising of the Ehima Maru will happen,” said Ryosuke Terata, father of one of the missing students.
The USS Greeneville rammed the Ehima Maru while practicing an emergency surfacing maneuver on Feb. 9. The ship sank within minutes.
Fallon’s visit comes at an emotional moment.
Thursday was graduation day for about 50 of the school’s 200 students. Wearing dark blue jackets and huddling under umbrellas, they arrived at school in twos and threes. Some of the girls carried flowers.
After their meeting, school principal Horita said he thanked Fallon for his “sincere efforts.” Horita added he believes the United States is a nation that “cherishes justice, values, human rights and human lives.”
Over the past two days in Tokyo, Fallon apologized on behalf of President Bush to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and other political leaders and met with two fathers of the missing. He called on the local governor Thursday morning before coming to this village about 430 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Washington’s concern reflects the crucial importance it attaches to its security alliance with Tokyo.
About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed here, including the largest contingent of Marines outside the United States. The United States maintains several major Air Force bases in Japan, and the home port of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet is just south of Tokyo.
Though strongly supported by both Washington and Tokyo, the troops’ presence is often a source of friction, particularly on the small southern island of Okinawa, where roughly half the troops are based.
The families got the apology they wanted most on Wednesday, when Cmdr. Scott Waddle visited Japan’s consulate in Honolulu and hand-delivered his written apologies to them.
Waddle, who according to reports here was born on a military base in Japan, cried as he handed over the letters.
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