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Air & Space Conference Daily Wrap-up (Day 3)

This is the daily blog from the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2009. Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff is blogging from the site.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

The third and final day of the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exhibition started big. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech. Word was the secretary was going to make a big announcement. He received applause after he commented on KC-X, the next generation aerial refueling tanker.

“Finally, I am pleased to announce that source selection authority is returning  to the Air Force for the KC-X refueling tanker,” Secretary Gates said. “I don’t need to belabor the importance of getting this done and done right, and my office will continue to have a robust oversight role. We are committed to the integrity of the selection process, and cannot afford the kind of letdowns, parochial squabbles, and corporate food-fights that have bedeviled this effort in the past.

“I have confidence that the KC-X selection authority is in good hands with the service’s leadership team of Secretary [Michael] Donley and General [Norton] Schwartz,” Secretary Gates added.

The secretary complimented the efforts of all Airmen during his address for their “achievements we cherish.”
“Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Airmen have gone about their duties – usually unheralded, and unrecognized by the usual metric of medals and media coverage,” the secretary said. “Often they are on the ground, in the dirt, and sometimes under fire – doing their jobs without fail and without complaint. More than 100 have made the supreme sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The secretary highlighted how Airmen who are supporting ground troops “have made a life or death difference.” To illustrate, Secretary Gates told the story of Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Horton, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“Sergeant Horton destroyed more than seven tons of enemy explosives while deployed to Iraq in the hair-raising vocation of [explosive ordnance disposal] technician,” Secretary Gates said. “His expertise with the tactics of enemy bombers led to the capture of six bomb makers in the Kirkuk region. In one instance, he pulled our injured soldiers from a vehicle after an [improvised explosive device] attack, and then cleared the extraction zone to medevac the wounded, earning a Bronze Star for his efforts.”

Briefings galore
Today featured a lot of briefings by Air Force leaders. Thirteen Air Force generals sat down and held a four-star forum. Later in the day, Chief Master Sgt. James Roy gave a briefing. The story about Chief Roy’s briefing is still being written. Check back at www.af.mil to see what he had to say.

Useful give-away
Picking up give-aways in the exhibition hall is one way to help pass the time between briefings. The other day I wrote about the “sticky brain.” The vendor today gave out mini lava lamps. An Air Force laboratory offered up pens in the shape of a giant chili pepper. One vendor had a big hit. They gave away protective rubber skins for a popular brand of smart phone that seems to be tethered to every officer. One lieutenant colonel said it was the best give away as she clicked away on another message. Now, that company really knows its audience.

New Department of Defense website hosts social media and Q&A features

Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, was on the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable yesterday discussing the recent launch of the Department of Defense’s new home page, http://www.Defense.gov. Visitors to the new site will quickly notice icons linking to the DoD’s official presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, amongst others. Additionally, at the top of the page there is a box that says, “We Want to Hear From You.” This box links to a page that allows participation from the public. Specifically, it allows users the opportunity to ask questions of Defense Department leaders, vote on policy issues they want explained, and explore frequently asked questions and answers.  (Note that the new site, http://www.Defense.gov, replaces http://www.DefenseLink.mil as DoD’s main Internet presence.)

The inclusion of social media links and an open Q&A may seem at odds with recent news reports about some service branches banning access to social media sites while others are allowing access. Yet, Mr. Floyd stated that the idea for these initiatives on the new Website came directly from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. Sec. Gates wanted to hear from people and engage with them. Opening up Q&A and participating in social media allows the public to share their ideas and will give the Secretary, and other DoD leadership, the chance to hear what people are thinking.

Additionally, DoD realized that service members in the combat arena have been ahead of the game and using these tools for a long time and now DoD had to play catch up to communicate on the same playing field. Mr. Floyd stated that DoD has “three audiences–internal, the American public and overseas. Our target audience is 18 to 25. We want them to take part and ask questions. We want to keep the audience we have, but build up and capture younger audiences.” Including social media links shows that the DoD recognizes the importance of the potential audience, and realizes where they are participating. Mr. Floyd emphasized that operations security is still paramount and DoD needs to push that message, especially in the social media realms.

Overall, the new Website holds promise for the DoD, as well as for the service branches that fall under its purview. Transparency and conversation continue to be important for all types of organizations, and opening up dialogue is a great step to share ideas. As always, in an effort to continue open dialogue, we welcome your comments, suggestions and questions about the Air Force.

You can visit and interact with us at the following Websites:

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/AFPAA
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YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/afbluetube
Blog:  http://airforcelive.dodlive.mil/

Posted by Paul F. Bove, Digital Media Strategist

Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Emerging Technology Division

U.S. Southern Command change of command ceremony

Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino, from U.S. Southern Command, provided us with the story and photos from today’s historic change of command ceremony.

U.S. Southern Command gets new commander

by Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino

Tropical, very tropical.

Despite the high heat and humidity, U.S. Southern Command installed its 21st commander, and its first U.S. Air Force commander in its 63-year-history.

Gen. Douglas Fraser took command from Admiral Jim Stavridis, who is heading to Europe to command NATO and U.S. European Command.

About 300 people, including a who’s who of senior Air Force leadership (including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright, who officiated, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz) were in attendance.

Secretary Gates elicited several belly laughs while describing the length of the meetings Adm. Stavridis can look forward to in his new post, yet, kept his speech upbeat and forward-looking.

While the ceremony took place under a tent, a Miami-style thunderstorm plowed through; making a lot of noise and dropping a lot of water. While the tent held up fine, a lot of water made it through the sides. Despite that, many remained behind to welcome the new commander and bid farewell to Adm. Stavridis.

Captions (in order of appearance)
Photos by Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino

1) Incoming commander of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Douglas Fraser, left, shares the stage with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during U.S. Southern Command’s change of command ceremony, Thurs., June 25 in Miami.

2) SOUTHCOM commander, Gen. Douglas Fraser delivers a statement to Miami media representatives shortly after assuming command.

3) U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz awaits the arrival of the SOUTHCOM honor guard prior to U.S. Southern Command’s change of command ceremony, Thurs., June 25 in Miami.

4) A thunderstorm provided a wet and windy finish to U.S. Southern Command’s change of command ceremony, Thurs., June 25 in Miami.