Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TOP STORY >> Joint forces gather here for exercise

Leader senior staff writer

In a wide-ranging interview Friday, Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, discussed a pilot program on curbing violence, encouraged the business community to hire veterans, discussed the current joint forces exercise with foreign partners and announced the first-ever Arkansas Military Expo and open house set for Sept. 17.

“We are the most combat-tested force in the world,” said Brown, who is also base commander. The colonel noted the U.S. has been fighting and supplying continuously for 15 years now in the war on terrorism, Operation Iraqi Freedom and other conflicts.

Currently, C-130s, crews and maintainers from Sweden, New Zealand and Australia are based for about 17 days at Little Rock Air Force Base in a joint exercise with planes and crews from the 19th Airlift Wing and 4,000 to 6,000 soldiers at Fort Polk, La. They will share terminology, procedures and tactics that will help them in “no-kidding” situations.

For the second consecutive year, there will be no air show featuring precision jets like the Thunderbirds because construction has left the runway too short for their takeoffs and landings. But, Brown said, “we will have unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) from Fort Smith, which I don’t think anybody in this area has seen and some of the sniper-course folks from Camp Robinson.”

Camp Robinson is the sniper-training center for Army National Guardsmen.

The Arkansas Military Expo and open house will include all facets of the military, the colonel said, including citizen soldiers—reserve and National Guard units--active air force, civilians and contractors, he said.

“We want to ensure the state knows, the central Arkansas community understands the benefit of the only active-duty base in Arkansas, plus what the others bring to the fight,” Brown said.

Operation Green Flag Little Rock, planned by the 34th Combat Training Squadron at Little Rock AFB, will include 100 airmen and four C-130s from Sweden, New Zealand and Australia, along with about 40 Nevada National Guard airmen, 4,200 partners in the Army down at Fort Polk and 200 Team Little Rock members, according to the colonel.

“We run a mini-war here,” said Maj. Jon Feucht, director of operations.

They will collaborate with the 61st Airlift Squadron and three LRAFB aircraft during this exercise in tactical airlift.

In his pitch for hiring veterans, Brown called his airmen a priceless resource, with those living on base accounting for about 20 percent of the Jacksonville population.

“When you look at what our airmen are asked to do at such a young age—with the level of responsibility placed upon them—take a risk on hiring them even if what you see on paper as their job description doesn’t directly correlate with what you need in your company,” Brown said.

“When you read he’s trained in changing engines or doing a rebuild on a Humvee—he didn’t know how to do that before he came into the Air Force. The fact that he’s a specialist now shows he is dedicated, disciplined, loyal and trainable,” Brown said.

The commander called the airmen “The F-98.6” — they are the most valuable component of the Air Force.

He said Operation Green Dot is a prevention program that teaches airmen to recognize precursors to violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, fist fights, alcohol, peer-on-peer violence and to educate them on non-confrontational interventions.

Not only is there a human toll to such violence, but also every time the Air Force loses an airman to some sort of violence, it denigrates readiness, the commander said.

“It’s a retention mechanism,” Brown said. “It causes a breakdown in trust.”

He said he could replace a Humvee almost overnight, but all of the training that goes into making an airman could take years to replicate.