Esper Formally Nominated for Defense Secretary

The White House on July 15 formally nominated Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the Trump administration’s second Senate-confirmed defense secretary. The nomination came about 18 hours before Esper’s confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, and sparks a series of leadership changes. Esper must now step down from his position of acting defense secretary and return to being Army secretary, while Navy Secretary Richard Spencer becomes the acting Pentagon leader. Spencer is the Pentagon’s third man to serve as acting defense secretary this year. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Air Guard Psychological Health Program Identifies 15 High-Risk Wings

The Air National Guard’s Psychological Health Program is driving personnel changes aimed at helping 15 wings found to have the highest risk for suicides, family issues, and other harm, according to a July 11 briefing at JB Andrews, Md. Nine new psychological health director positions were added in fiscal 2018 to better support airmen who serve in high-risk wings, and the ANG program plans on adding another six in fiscal 2021. Psychological health directors are stationed within all 90 ANG wings, and 90 of the 104 total positions are now filled, according to the presentation. More could be added in 2021 if demand warrants more support. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

Pentagon Announces New Digital Modernization Strategy

The Defense Department this week released a multi-pronged digital modernization strategy targeting four areas that can benefit most from a new approach to the digital age: a Pentagon-wide data storage cloud; artificial intelligence; command, control, and communications; and cybersecurity. DOD pledges more effective oversight of its nearly $50 billion IT portfolio in a shift that recognizes the importance of data management and secure networks in 21st-century combat. According to a July 15 policy paper, the strategy aims to smooth the department’s move to a globally accessible “cloud” that holds military data, as well as other IT services that DOD would buy as a whole, rather than asking each service to opt into them. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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US Aircraft Conduct Largest Sustainment Airdrop in CENTCOM History

US airmen and aircraft deployed to the Middle East conducted the largest sustainment airdrop in the history of US Central Command last week. The 746th and 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadrons on July 10 and 11 airdropped more than 166,000 pounds of fuel, supplies, and food to US and coalition forces in the region as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the continued fight against ISIS. “[The crew] was so excited to be a part of history,” Maj. Cathryn Yerage, 816th EAS operations officer, said in an Air Forces Central Command release. “Our team executed a flawless and successful airdrop.” Despite slowing combat operations against ISIS, the airdrop shows the fight continues in the region. The aircraft are deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, and deliver about 4,000 tons of supplies per month to forces in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, according to AFCENT. —Brian Everstine

F-22s Deploy to Australia for Exercise

F-22s from JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, have deployed down under for a month-long exercise with other US and Australian forces. The Raptors and airmen from the 90th Fighter Squadron touched down at Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley for Talisman Sabre 19, according to Pacific Air Forces. This year’s event is the eighth iteration of the exercise, which takes place every two years and includes air, ground, and sea forces. Training includes “amphibious landings, land force maneuver, urban operations, air operations, maritime operations and Special Forces activities,” according to the Australian Department of Defense. As the exercise begins, local Australian boats have spotted a likely Chinese vessel lurking off shore to watch the exercise, according to—Brian Everstine

USAF Presence at RIAT 2019 to Include F-16s, F-15E, B-52

The Air Force is sending several aircraft, including its F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, to the 2019 Royal International Air Tattoo, being held July 19-21 at RAF Fairford, UK. USAF aircraft slated for display include the B-52, F-15E, KC-135, C-17, CV-22, and an MC-130J, according to a US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa release. A KC-10 is also expected to attend the show, according to the RIAT 2019 website. "US participation in RIAT highlights the strength of the U.S. commitment to NATO, our ironclad alliance with the UK and demonstrates our interoperability with allies and partners from around the world,” the USAFE release said, noting that the USAF aircraft’s presence at the event is also meant to commemorate NATO’s 70th anniversary. ––Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

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Air Force Airmen to Test Flight Skills at NESA as Part of New CAP Pilot Prep Program

Fifty-two Air Force airmen will participate in the Pilot Prep Program (PPP) being held with NESA. The program is a new initiative for the Civil Air Patrol, forged from the partnership between the Air Force and its longtime auxiliary. CAP release

MG Crider to Roll Out New AFSPC Data Strategy

‘Enterprise Data Strategies’––that mimic a company’s technology roadmap and business strategy and treat data as a separate entity of operations in its own right––are all the rage in the corporate sector. Breaking Defense
School of Mines Partnering with Air Force on Environmental Work

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City will work with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center on environmental stewardship goals at Ellsworth Air Force Base and other facilities around the nation, the School of Mines announced. Rapid City Journal

OTS Prepares for the Arrival of “Godzilla” Class

What is being dubbed the “Godzilla” class, Air University’s Officer Training School class 19-07 will push the school to its maximum capacity with the expected arrival of 810 officer trainees in mid-July. USAF release

Army IDs Decorated Sergeant Major Killed in Afghanistan

A decorated Special Forces company sergeant major has died during combat in Afghanistan, US military officials said July 14. James G. "Ryan" Sartor, 40, was killed July 13 during combat operations in Faryab Province, according to Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, spokesman for Army Special Operations Command. Associated Press via

Lab Life – Episode 9: Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL Commander

This episode of the Lab Life podcast features Maj. Gen. William "Bill" Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, who speaks about his career as a technologist and several areas of interest to AFRL, including biology, human genetics, materials science, high energy laser systems, GPS, space vehicles and more. Cooley also speaks about his vision of AFRL as a central hub for the "science and technology ecosystem," and what got him interested in physics when he was a young lieutenant. AFRL podcast

Fun in the Sun: Flightline Shorts on the Way for Overheated Nellis Maintainers

The mercury on its flightline can top 120 degrees during the dog days of summer, base officials said in a Thursday email, and airmen who work long hours there can be at high risk for heat stress. To help airmen deal with that punishing heat, Nellis has a secret weapon: Dad shorts. Air Force Times

One More Thing

A 363-Foot Rocket Will Be Projected on the Washington Monument to Commemorate the First Moon Landing

On the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s small step on the moon, there’s going to be one giant projection on the Washington Monument. For two nights later this month, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will beam a full-scale, 363-foot Saturn V rocket directly onto the monument, while airing a 17-minute show on nearby screens that tell the tale of Apollo 11’s mission and the first moon landing. DCist