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NATO affirms Russia violated decades-old treaty

Meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels - Doorstep statement by the NATO Secretary General

(Courtesy http://www.nato.int/)

Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen released a statement Wednesday on Russia’s alleged violation of the 1988-enforced Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, stating that Russia must now work “constructively to resolve this critical Treaty issue.”

“The United States has briefed the North Atlantic Council on its determination that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” the statement read.

The U.S. on July 28 said Russia violated the decades-old treaty with cruise missile tests that date back to 2008.

Aside from being slapped with new sanctions from the U.S. and EU over advancing conflict in Ukraine, Russia must now “preserve the viability of the INF Treaty by returning to full compliance in a verifiable manner.”

“The Treaty has a special place in history, as it required the verifiable elimination of an entire class of missiles possessed by the United States and the Soviet Union,” the statement said.

CNN reported that President Obama has also written President Putin a letter on the matter.

The New York Times first reported the suspected violation.

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Reservist’s quick actions in condo fire save lives

Master Sgt. Lonnie McBride helped alert more than a dozen people inside his burning building the morning of May 19. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Katie Spencer)

Master Sgt. Lonnie McBride helped alert more than a dozen people inside his burning building the morning of May 19. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Katie Spencer)

Two months later, the events surrounding the fire in Master Sgt. Lonnie McBride’s Northern Virginia condo building still seem surreal.

The Air Force reservist nearly ignored the faint wisps of white smoke in the breezeway and the far-off sound of an alarm early on the morning of May 19. It was 6:30 a.m., and McBride had a 9 a.m. meeting to get to in Delaware, a two-hour drive away. Someone had probably just burnt their breakfast, he figured as he continued from his third-floor condo to his car at the bottom of the stairwell.

But as McBride tossed his bags in the backseat, he felt the urge to go find the source of the smoke.

“It sounds strange, but it’s the God’s honest truth. I had this incredibly strange feeling that something’s not right,” he said in a July 28 interview with Air Force Times.

By the time the ordeal was over, the fire had ravaged at least one condo and heavy, black smoke had trapped eight people on the third floor. Those and nine others ultimately escaped without serious injury, either roused from their beds by McBride’s incessant banging and shouting or evacuated from balconies by firefighters he’d summoned with a call to 911.

McBride works as a civilian software consultant when he is not serving as a law office superintendent for the 459th Air Refueling Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Most weekdays, he telecommutes or is away from home on travel.

Which makes him wonder what would have happened if there was no meeting that morning. Or if he had brushed the smoke off as somebody’s overdone toast.

“If that fire wasn’t noticed, I think everybody knows what would have happened,” McBride said.

After leaving his bags in the car, the master sergeant went floor by floor searching for another sign of the smoke. It was only on his way back down that McBride saw it again — this time billowing in the second floor breezeway. He followed it to a condo where he knew a young couple was living and banged on the door until he finally got a response.

The woman who lived there had apparently fallen asleep on the couch after bidding her husband goodbye that morning, McBride said. His knocking — not the smoke or the heat — awakened her.

He next called 911, then began knocking on all the other condo doors. By the time he got back to the third floor, the smoke in the breezeway was too black and heavy to go any further.

McBride did the only thing he could do: he moved his car to make way for the fire department and waited.

His actions that morning were instinctual and methodical, which McBride attributes to his years in the Air Force.

“I’ve attended a myriad of different classes, many of those related to emergency readiness, buddy care, what to do when you are TDY, things to make yourself safe in your surroundings. A common theme is to know your surroundings. If there is an issue, stay calm, evaluate the issue as best you can and prioritize very quickly for your safety and those around you, and execute those tasks. That’s essentially what happened,” he said. “I was scared for myself and everybody in the building. But there was a calm that came over me. I was able to focus enough to figure out what was going on and get things done.”

John Oliver goes after the nuclear missile community

Last night, HBO host John Oliver delivered a harsh takedown of issues in the nuclear missile community on “Last Week Tonight.” The segment focused on the cheating scandal, former 20th Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Michael Carey and other problems, including outdated and broken launch control centers.

The 15-minute clip included references to past mistakes and mishaps, including the 2007 incident in which a B-52 mistakenly flew with a nuclear payload. Oliver, however, did not mention changes in the Air Force since the cheating scandal broke, which includes overhauling the testing system for missileers, new money for launch control centers and other initiatives that have come out of the service’s “force improvement program.”

NATO considers another base location closer to eastern Europe

A military base in Poland could soon be repurposed to support NATO in its mission to reassure eastern European allies of its oversight amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove provides a U.S. European Command update during a news conference June 30, 2014, at the Pentagon. (Courtesy photo/Glenn Fawcett).

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove provides a U.S. European Command update during a news conference June 30, 2014, at the Pentagon. (Courtesy photo/Glenn Fawcett).

NATO’s top commander in Europe, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, told a briefing in Naples this week that he plans to recommend “having capability in the forward area — preposition supplies, preposition capabilities, and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow on forces.”

“How we man that in a rotational, or non-permanent, basis is what are we looking at now to propose in NATO, and we will be working on that with the [North Atlantic Council]. It needs to be all of NATO involved in this,” Breedlove said.

U.S. European Command spokesman Col. Martin Downie said in an email to Air Force Times that Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is discussing options to repurpose an existing headquarters “to serve as an Article 5 focused rapid response.” Multinational Corps Northeast, in Szczecin, Poland, is also an option, he said.

Downie said more will be discussed at a September summit in Newport, Wales.

The Times (London) reported that Ukraine “is expected to be top of the agenda, along with the need for members to increase defence spending.”

The Times also reported that while the British have aided in air policing missions, Italy, Germany and France, remain cautious about “agreeing to tougher action.” More will be discussed in September, it said.

The move for a fully functioning headquarters due east would be intended to assure Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia of NATO commitment in light of recent events occurring in eastern Ukraine.

The border along Russia and Ukraine, along with the eastern region of Ukraine, have been plagued with fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents for months, with the most recent crisis resulting in two downed Su-25 Ukrainian military aircraft on July 23. Six days earlier, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board.

The U.S. has pledged billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine since April, and has participated in various exercises in eastern European regions to assure NATO allies of its commitment.

Four joint combat training exercises – BALTOPS2014, Eagle Talon, Av-Det Rotation 14-3, and Saber Strike 2014 – all took place in Poland and the Baltic states in June, involving members from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.

The U.S. also in June sent two B-2 stealth bombers for military exercises and three B-52 Stratofortresses to RAF Fairford, England.

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Air Force Times is off to the Academy

Cadet 1st Class Carter Post of Cadet Squadron 7 addresses the Class of 2018 after they arrive at the cadet area. (Sarah Chambers / Air Force Academy)

Cadet 1st Class Carter Post of Cadet Squadron 7 addresses the Class of 2018 after they arrive at the cadet area. (Sarah Chambers / Air Force Academy)

On Monday morning, 1,160 basic cadets making up the US Air Force Academy’s Class of 2018 will assemble in the cadet area on-campus, and begin marching several miles to the most challenging part of their basic training: Jacks Valley. They’ll spend the next 11 days living in a tent city, running assault and obstacle courses, learning first aid, drilling with weapons, and learning leadership skills.

And Air Force Times is going to be there.

This weekend, photographer Mike Morones and I will fly out to Colorado Springs. We’ll be there for the march and the first few days of their Jacks Valley training, as well as other training activities on base. Like I said earlier this month when the Class of 2018 began their training, we’re looking forward to meeting the next generation of Air Force officers and learning more about why they’ve decided to serve, and seeing how they meet the challenges that come with basic training.

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Summer: The time of awkward Air Force safety PSAs

Public affairs crews at multiple bases and major commands are doing what they can to keep airmen safe, notably uploading a series of awkward public safety announcements to YouTube.

PA folks at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., have produced a series of great safety videos, with very high production and puppet value, called “Awkward Puppet Moments.” The one above reminds airmen to drink enough water while exercising in the Nevada heat. I recommend watching all of their videos.

The videos focus on the typical summer safety issues: hydration, bicycle safety, water safety, etc. Air Combat Command’s entry, posted today, is a timely play on the “most interesting man in the world.”

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Airman killed in 1952 crash in Alaska returns home

Paul Martin, oldest brother of Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin, wipes a tear from his eye during his brother's funeral July 12, 2014 in Elwood, Indiana. Howard Martin died November 22, 1952 during a C-124 crash in Alaska. His remains were not recovered or identified until earlier in 2014 and were returned home July 10, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner)

Paul Martin,  brother of Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin, during his brother’s funeral July 12 in Elwood, Indiana.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner)

The remains of an airman recovered in 2012 from a six-decade-old crash site in the Alaska mountains are now home.

Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin, of Elwood, Indiana, was one of 52 service members who perished in the Nov. 22, 1952 crash — and one of only 17 whose remains have been identified since an Army National Guard crew discovered the unearthed wreckage during a training mission two years ago.

The C-124 Globemaster came to rest on a glacier and disappeared under an avalanche of rock and snow after flying into a mountain during a winter storm. The melting glacier had traveled 12 miles from the place of impact when the wreckage was spotted.

An eight-person team from  Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command flew to the glacier to collect human remains in 2012. It took many more months of testing to identify the 17.

Martin’s family and friends gathered on the tarmac of Indianapolis International Airport July 10 to receive his remains in a dignified transfer ceremony, according to a news release from Air Mobility Command. Also returned to the Martin family: the airman’s driver’s license and Social Security card.

“I can hardly describe the anticipation,” the airman’s brother, Paul Martin, said in the release. “Mom and dad both kept thinking that one of these days they’ll find him and bring him home so they bought three cemetery plots rather than two.”

Martin’s parents died before that happened.

Members of the Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Honor Guard transport the remains of Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin during a dignified arrival at the Indianapolis International Airport July 10, 2014. Martin died during a C-124 crash in 1952 and his remains were recovered earlier in 2014.

Members of the Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Honor Guard transport the remains of Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin.

The airman was buried July 12. The Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Honor Guard served as pallbearers at the airman’s funeral.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Elwood waving American flags to celebrate Martin’s return, the news release said, and the mayor of Elwood declared July 12 Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin Remembrance Day.

Storm flips F-16 in Davis-Monthan boneyard

Courtesy photo, via Davis-Monthan public affairs.

Severe winds Sunday caused a retired F-16 to briefly take to the air again at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, boneyard this week.

Winds recorded at about 65 mph miles per hour hit the boneyard, where retired aircraft sit in storage, and flipped lightweight F-16 flipped onto another Falcon. The steel cable tie-downs that were used to secure the aircraft snapped due to the high winds. The jet had recently had its engine removed, which made it light enough to go airborne, according to a base news release.

The base lost power at about 7 p.m. Sunday night. Civil engineers at the base were able to restore power to all but three facilities by Monday afternoon. Some buildings were damaged during the storm, according to the base.

There has been no cost assessment of the damage, according to base public affairs. No injuries were reported, and flying operations returned to normal Monday afternoon, the release states.

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