Saturday, December 20, 2014

Luxembourg, US leaders commemorate Battle of the Bulge

by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs


12/20/2014 - LUXEMBOURG -- Nearly 200 Luxembourgers and Americans observed the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge during a commemorative ceremony at Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg, Dec. 16, 2014.

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg; Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg; Robert Mandell, U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg; U.S. Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa; and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, participated in the memorial service to honor those who fought and died in the battle from Dec. 16, 1944 through Jan. 25, 1945.

"The importance of the Allied victory cannot be understated," Gorenc said. "The defeat of the enemy in their biggest offensive in the West in World War II was a superb accomplishment."

Allied forces liberated Luxembourg from Axis occupation in September 1944. However, the heavily-wooded Ardennes region of the countryside served as a new battleground when enemy armies launched a surprise attack before dawn Dec. 16, 1944.

The initial advance produced confusion but met strong resistance from reinforced Allied armies in key cities in Belgium like St. Vith and Bastogne. The battle eventually resulted in a German defeat, emboldening Allied movements to the country's eastern and western fronts.

"Air power certainly helped halt the last German advance of World War II," Gorenc said. "Airmen and Soldiers are forever linked here in the Ardennes and battlefields all over the world. The U.S. Air Force evolved from the Army Air Corps, and our service will continue to find innovative ways to protect them and provide them the supplies they need on the battlefield just like the Soldiers needed during the Bulge. As the commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, I am proud of the Army Air Corps Airmen who provided air support during the Battle of the Bulge. I am proud of the men and women who served during World War II and throughout our history in support of freedom. And I am proud of our Airmen."

The battle resulted in more than 19,000 American deaths with many buried in the Luxembourg cemetery, which was established in the middle of the conflict Dec. 29, 1944.

"The 5,076 Americans, including 22 sets of brothers, who died in the service of their country are buried here today," Hodges said. "This ceremony and this beautiful and peaceful cemetery are about commemorating their service and the service of many thousands of men and women who fought in this great battle. But it's also about something much bigger - it's about the concept of service to each other as Soldiers, as people, as nations. These Soldiers and Airmen buried here and in cemeteries all over Europe lived and fought for each other. They risked their lives for each other. They would have rather died in combat than to have failed their comrades or leave a comrade behind."

More than 20 World War II veterans attended the ceremony, many making the trip as part of anniversary tours throughout Belgium and Luxembourg at sites relating to the battle.

"For this achievement, each and every one of you have formed the everlasting gratitude of the Luxembourg people," Bettel said, on behalf of his fellow countrymen to the veterans. "Thank you so much for what you did for us and for what you are doing today."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Airmen busy building gazebos

by Veronica Sandate Craker
Northwest Guardian


12/19/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- For 21 days 15 service members and one civilian have been under controlled monitoring at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the Ebola virus.

They've all returned from missions that took them to West Africa. While under supervision at the old World War II barracks on Lewis North, they have passed the time playing games, reading books and eating. But for three Airman civil engineers sitting around just wasn't going to cut it. Instead they decided to keep their hands busy by building two gazebos.

"We're the first group that came through here so we wanted to leave it a little bit better than when we came," Capt. John Richwine, 819th RED HORSE Squadron, said. "There's not as many outdoor areas with as much rain as this area gets. So we wanted to give a little bit of cover over the head for the other groups coming in later."

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of five installations receiving troops returning from West Africa. Service members and civilians are being monitored for the Ebola virus for 21 days before being released.

Richwine and three other Airman requested the lumber and JBLM officials had it sent in. The men built two 96 square-foot gazebos. And the Airmen are no stranger to construction. All three men are engineers.

"It's great, you don't have to be sitting around all day," Richwine said. "You can actually be doing something that means something."

All 16 people being monitored at JBLM were medically cleared and departed the base Tuesday.

Airman earns top firefighter honors

by Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez
Northwest Guardian


12/19/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- For the second consecutive year, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Force firefighter won the Army Firefighter of the Year award. Senior Airman Kevin Alfonso, a 627th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, was presented the award for 2013 on Dec. 11, 2014 at JBLM.

Alfonso has served at McChord Field's Fire Station for more than four years. He is the second Airman from the station to be named the Army's top firefighter; Staff Sgt. Steven Soto earned the award for 2102, which was announced March 25, 2013, when he was also a senior Airman.

Although an Army award, competitors from other branches of service assigned to joint installations are eligible to compete. Competitors are judged by their work performance from the previous year on resourcefulness, leadership, initiative and technical competencies.

Alfonso said he was humbled and honored to receive the award, but wouldn't have received it without the help of his counterparts.

"Our civilian firefighters have been on the job for a long time and provide us with valuable training," Alfonso said. "I wouldn't know what I know today if it wasn't for them."

Senior Master Sergeant Chris Maxwell, 627th CES deputy fire chief, said the award reflects Alfonso's accomplishments in the context of the entire department.

"We have come a long way as a department working as a whole, and I think our Airmen embracing the changes we've undergone as a joint base has put us where we are today," Maxwell said. "I'm proud of everyone here."

According to Staff Sgt. William Carter, 627th CES firefighter and Alfonso's supervisor, the award was well deserved.

"He's a hard worker, learns quickly and is very advanced for his level of experience," Carter said. "Senior Airman Alfonso is a fast burner. He has worked hard since he (arrived) here, is always helping others and is always willing to learn."

Alfonso's accomplishments include acting as a lead firefighter for a wild fire, extinguishing the fire and saving more than 1,000 acres of land. He was first on the scene of an accident where he immobilized a patient with severe neck injuries ensuring rapid transport and preventing paralysis. Alfonso also responded to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft fuel spill, where he contained the fuel leak, protecting the crew, and resulting in zero environmental impact and saving the $237 million aircraft.

"You can always count on him to do his job and to do it right, Carter said. "You are always going to get a good result from him."

A New York City native inspired by the firefighters of 9/11 and family members serving as first responders, Alfonso said he's wanted to be a firefighter since childhood.

"This has been part of my family lineage for a very long time," Alfonso said. "My dad is a police officer and my uncle is a firefighter. I'm from New York, and they were in 9-11. That's what really made me want to do something like this."

Following his passion, Alfonso said he plans to return home to New York in the future to serve as firefighter in the New York City Fire Department.

DUI victim's mother raises awareness at MacDill

by Senior Airman Melanie Bulow-Gonterman
6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs


12/19/2014 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- Renee Napier, motivational speaker and mother of driving under the influence victim, Meagan Napier, spoke to members of Team MacDill about the severe consequences and ripple effects driving while under the influence causes Dec. 18, 2014 at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

On May 11, 2002, Meagan, 22, and her friend Lisa Jo Dickson, 22, were killed by a drunk driver, Eric Smallridge, 24, as they headed home. Shortly after, Renee made it her life's mission to share Meagan's story with as many people as possible in hopes of preventing more unnecessary deaths like that of her daughter.

"I never would have imagined that I would spend my Mother's Day with all four of my children at a funeral home with one in a coffin," expressed Renee.

During her compelling story she talked about the dangers of DUI and the emotional roller coaster her and her family bore through their journey of healing and forgiveness.

"The day of Eric's sentencing there were two good things that happened that day in the courtroom," said Renee. "I was able to look Eric in his eyes and say "I forgive you" and he was able to stand and publicly apologize to our families."

Since April 2010, Renee has been accompanied by Smallridge who tells his story of how his life drastically changed and the impact of his one selfish decision.

"A decision can be so dramatic that you graduate from college in April and in July you go to prison," stated Smallridge. "My decision to drink and drive cost me everything that I have ever hoped and dreamed of."

Smallridge made it clear to the audience that no matter what the circumstances, regardless of the justification you try to convenience yourself of, driving under the influence should never be an option. He said that asking a sober friend or taking a taxi is a much better decision than ending up killing someone and being renamed Inmate P22679.

Renee and Smallridge concluded by asking everyone to make the DUI promise "I promise not to drive under the influence!" as well as, to share this story with their own family, friends and co-workers and encourage them to make the promise.

USAF EC holds Wingman Day Event

by Capt. Matthew Chism
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs


12/19/2014 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center paused Dec. 16, for a Wingman Day Event to allow staff members time to focus on building relationships and increasing awareness regarding issues facing Airmen.

"Every day is Wingman Day for us here at the EC," said Master Sgt. Osvaldo Freyre, USAF EC Director of Staff non-commissioned officer in charge. "So we are calling this our Wingman Day Event because, this is just a planned opportunity for us to support and learn about one another."

The purpose of Wingman Day is to examine unit issues and create stronger bonds among the total force. Military and civilian team members attended the USAF EC's event, which included an introduction briefing, small group discussions, and ended with a military subject quiz game.

"Today was about building an overall sense of taking care of each other," said Errol Senior, USAF EC telecommunications mechanic. "You're a wingman to a lot of people: your peers, the people you ask for help, those you meet throughout your day. This concept that the military has is built to uplift each other, to say 'I'm by your side.'"

Subject matter experts from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst were brought to the USAF EC to lead the small group sessions between EC staff members. Topics included: Diversity, Terrorism, Effective Communication, and Stress.

"When the planning team met, we looked for topics to focus on as an opportunity to candidly discuss things facing our organization," said Freyre. "Our goal was to make sure we were connecting with young NCO's and Airmen. We continuously asked ourselves, how do we make this event connect with the next generation of leaders? How do we build an environment that lends itself to continuing the conversation into the future?"

SSgt Robert Steinbacher, USAF EC Evaluations and Adverse Actions non-commissioned officer in charge, said that the format increased his awareness and allowed him to gain different approaches for addressing issues facing Airmen.

Hagel Welcomes Defense Authorization Act, Calls for ‘More Predictable Budgets’



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act in a statement issued today, but he called on Congress to work with the department on several fronts.

“I remain concerned that Congress continues to prevent the Defense Department from pursuing many cost-savings measures that are essential to fielding a ready and capable force to meet today's challenges and prepare for tomorrow's threats,” Hagel said.

The secretary noted that sequestration remains law. The budget mechanism that enacts across-the-board government spending cuts threatens the defense budget as well. Hagel warned that “if Congress allows sequestration to return in 2016, it will damage our military's readiness and threaten our ability to execute our nation's defense strategy.”

The full text of the secretary’s statement follows:

I want to thank members of Congress -- and particularly the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services committees, Carl Levin and Buck McKeon -- for their bipartisan work to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for the 53rd consecutive year. The fiscal year 2015 NDAA extends critical pay and benefits for our troops; strengthens our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military; and authorizes critical funding for operations to reinforce our NATO allies and European partners in the face of Russia's aggression, and to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the Middle East -- including the training and equipping of moderate Syrian opposition forces to combat ISIL on the ground. However, I remain concerned that Congress continues to prevent the Defense Department from pursuing many cost-savings measures that are essential to fielding a ready and capable force to meet today's challenges and prepare for tomorrow's threats. We also need more predictable budgets. Sequestration remains the law of the land, and if Congress allows sequestration to return in 2016, it will damage our military's readiness and threaten our ability to execute our nation's defense strategy.

The longer we defer tough choices, the more difficult they will become down the road. Congress must partner with DoD leaders in the new year to provide our military with the budget flexibility and predictability it needs, and the resources that our men and women in uniform deserve.

The traditions of Christmas

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs


12/19/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- During World War I, at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve of 1914, all the firing from guns from the German trenches suddenly stopped.

The German and British soldiers shouted greetings to each other and climbed out of their trenches to shake hands and stop the fighting over Christmas. The truce lasted a few days; men shared photographs of loved ones, shared rations, sang carols and even played soccer in what became known as "The Christmas Truce of 1914."

The season of Christmas is full of traditions, with endless stories and cultures. Not every story is popular, and many have interesting origins and fun facts. Many of the traditions are centuries old and still popular.

Mistletoe is one of these.

The evergreen plant was associated with Frigga, the Scandinavian goddess of love, which evolved into the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originated. Traditionally, if a couple stands underneath the symbol of love, they can kiss. A few centuries back, it was noticed that mistletoe tended to grow where birds had left their droppings. "Mistal" is an Anglo-Saxon word that means "dung," and "tan" means "twig," so mistletoe actually means "dung on a twig."

The modern Santa Claus is based on original probable stories and evolved into the mythical fantastic.

Santa's legend began hundreds of years ago with a monk named Nicholas. Various accounts stated his good deeds to include donating free toys to an orphanage, giving away his inheritance and traveling to help those in need. Canonized as Saint Nicholas, he is known as the "bringer of gifts".

The name "Santa Claus" comes from Saint Nicholas' Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened version of Sint Nikolaas. In 1809, Washington Irving helped popularized Sinter Klaas by referring to Saint Nicholas in his published work "The History of New York." As the character's popularity grew, visual descriptions varied.
In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, a pastor, wrote a poem for his children called "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," later named "T'was the Night Before Christmas." His poem became the basis for the modern visual of Santa Claus, originally illustrated by Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, in 1881.

"Most of our modern Christmas traditions, decorating the tree, having turkey and a big feast, a lot of that comes after Charles Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol' in Victorian England." said Biff Gordon, 673d Air Base Wing chapel Protestant director of religious education.

Christmas stockings, candy canes, Christmas trees, poinsettias and Christmas cards are examples of Christmas traditions that have interesting origins and fun facts.

The tradition of hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve for decoration or presents on Christmas morning comes from southern Europe. It was said that Saint Nicholas threw gifts down chimneys as he passed by. Those items would fall into stockings that were hung at the bottom of the chimney to dry.

Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorate Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany decided to have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook and he would pass them out to children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn't until the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes. The red and white stripes traditionally represent sacrificial blood and purity, respectively.

The modern Christmas tree originates in Germany.

"The earliest Christmas tree was a fir tree brought in by a missionary from Devonshire to the Germans around the 600s," Gordon said. "He brought it into the meeting house and hung it upside down from the rafters as an illustration of the Holy Trinity because it was triangle-shaped."

Early Christmas trees were decorated with fruits, flowers and candles, which were heavy on the tree branches. In the 1800s, German glass blowers began producing glass balls for decorations.

A new world record for the tallest living Christmas tree was set in December 2009 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The tree, a grand fir, was decorated with 40,000 lights along with a 10-foot star at the top. Two miles of electrical wiring connected the LED lights.

The biggest Christmas tree in the world is a decoration on the slopes of Monte Ingino, Gubbio, Italy. It is 1,624 feet high, 1,312 feet wide and shaped like a tree. It is made up of 500 lamps connected by 39,370 feet of electric cables.

According to Guinness World Records, a 278-foot tall tree decorated with 2.8 million colored bulbs, the biggest floating Christmas tree in the world, is used during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the end of November.

The U.S.' tallest Christmas tree is a white fir that stands 109 feet tall in Las Vegas, Nev. It is taller than both the Rockefeller Center tree which is 75 to 90 feet tall, and the White House 20-foot trees.

Another plant associated with Christmas is the poinsettia, often used as a gift for home visits. They are winter blooms native to Mexico, named after the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett brought the plant to the U.S. in December of 1828 and sent some home. In the wild, the plant can reach 12 feet in height with leaves measuring six to eight inches across; it blooms in December, and its milky white sap was used to help treat fevers.

The first Christmas card was created and sent in 1843. Sir Henry Cold, a wealthy British businessman, wanted a card he could send to friends and business contacts to wish them a "Merry Christmas". A thousand copies of the card were printed by John Horsley and sold for one shilling, or 24 cents, each. One of these original cards was sold at an auction in Wiltshire, United Kingdom, in 2001 for more than 20,000 pounds, or $30,734.

Christmas cards, decorations and other commercial products related to Christmas and other special days in the season continue to be big sales.

In the early 1890s, men began dressing up as the character Santa to entertain families in stores, a tradition continued to this day at locations such as the Exchange on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Santa will appear at the exchange on Dec. 20 from noon to 2 p.m., and from 2 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 23.

Face of Defense: Guam Toys for Tots Delivers Cheer



By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Chelsy Alamina
AFN Pacific, Media Region Bureau-Guam

BARRIGADA, Guam, Dec. 19, 2014 – American Marines from Marine Corps Activity Guam delivered approximately 4,700 toys to the Salvation Army and Catholic Social Service here yesterday.

“The Toys for Tots campaign is more than just a regular community service event, it is an official activity of the United States Marine Corps and is incorporated in the actual mission,” said Marine Corps Capt. Rafiel Warfield, MCAG Toys for Tots coordinator.

“For us, it’s more than just collecting toys. It’s making a difference in a young child’s life -- having impact and positively affecting our communities.”

“We have more and more people that want to get involved, and it serves a more meaningful purpose in our community outreach program with the Marines,” said David Leddy, a member of the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

“We do our best to make sure Toys for Tots is successful every year,” Leddy said.

General promotes 4 Airmen on the spot

by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Wilson
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs


12/19/2014 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany  -- Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, rewarded four Airmen with on-the-spot promotions to the rank of technical sergeant, effective Dec. 17, through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program.

Tech. Sgt. Adam Culver, Tech. Sgt. Mauhamed Gadiaga, Tech. Sgt. Jessica Johnson and Tech. Sgt. Eric Sonnenberg were recognized as outstanding performers among their peers and meeting all eligibility criteria for the program.

Culver, a 65th Civil Engineer Squadron heating and ventilation technician, filled a critical master sergeant billet in his unit; managed a $2.2 million budget for the operations flight; and led the air conditioning upgrade for an F-15 flight simulator, cooling $4 million of command and control assets.  He was also a key player in earning the Chief of Staff team Excellence Award in 2011 and was a distinguished graduate in several professional military education courses.

Gadiaga, a USAFE-AFAFRICA Surgeon General's Office international health NCO, has served as a translator for command engagements in Europe and Africa; served as the liaison for the Center for Disease Control and U.S. Agency for International Development during Kenya's Polio outbreak; and developed a five-year strategy for military medicine, strengthening the military defense of nine African partner nations. He has also been recognized as the USAFE-AFAFRICA/SG NCO of the year, USAFE Outstanding Bioenvironmental Engineer NCO of the Year and several group- and squadron-level awards.

Johnson, a 422nd Medical Squadron aerospace medical technician, was the sole medic for 20 outside-the-wire missions during her deployment; orchestrated 300 distinguished visitor events, earning Air Mobility Command's George Washington protocol of Excellence Award; and organized joint military ball for 600 guests. Additionally, she has nearly completed her master's degree in healthcare administration, and has won several squadron-level awards.

Sonnernberg, a 351st Air Refueling Squadron instructor boom operator, directed a new boom operator simulation requirement, securing 700 training events for 37 Airmen; led a 10-member team during a South Dakota flood, saving 61 homes; and validated an operational plan delivering eight F-15s to an Operation Altantic Resolve deployment in 18 hours. He has also been recognized with numerous squadron-level awards and was an integral team leader to receiving the Evans Award and Spaatz Trophy.

USAFE-AFAFRICA received eight stripes to award Airmen through the STEP program. Wings which had more than 575 eligible Airmen were given one stripe each to award through their own process and included: 31st Fight Wing, 48th Fighter Wing, 52nd Fighter Wing and 86th Airlift Wing. The remaining eligible Airmen in the command competed for the remaining four stripes and the recipients were determined by the USAFE-AFAFRICA commander.