Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Giant Squids Land at Dover Air Force Base

By Air Force Master Sgt. Veronica A. Aceveda and Airman 1st Class Shen-Chia Chu
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 14, 2008 - A 326th Airlift Squadron aircrew landed at Dover
Air Force Base, Del., July 11 with two giant squids in its cargo compartment. The two sea creatures were transported in a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft from Europe and will be delivered to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The female preserved specimen, which will become the largest on display in the United States, measures 24 and a half feet long. The male is 9 feet long.

"My daughter is going to think I am the coolest dad ever," said Air Force Master Sgt. Phillip Vicker, a 326th AS loadmaster whose mission was to load and balance all of the cargo, including the squids, onto the aircraft.

Even though none of the aircrew or passengers could physically see the squids, Vicker said, everyone could still see the long box labeled with 'giant squids' stickers.

"They were really pumped up about it; they kept asking, 'Are those really squids in there?'" he said. "Even we didn't believe it when we first saw it on the cargo manifest."

The shipping container for the pair of squids was not as long as the actual bodies inside. The project manager at the Smithsonian, Elizabeth Musteen, said this was because the specimens' arms and tentacles were folded over the top of their mantles. However, when on display, the female will be fully expanded horizontally, and the male will be encased in a vertical state, she added.

"These specimens, brought up in deep-sea fishing nets off the coast of northern Spain, are expected to be a main attraction," Musteen said.

The giant squids will make their public debut Sept. 27, when the Smithsonian opens its new Sant Ocean Hall, an exhibition area designed to support ocean education.

"I can't wait to take the family to the display," said
Air Force Maj. Mark Chagaris, one of the C-17 pilots who brought the deep ocean dwellers to the United States. "I can say, 'Your daddy helped bring that over here.'"

After unloading the squids from the C-17, four 436th Aerial Port Squadron airmen prepared the squids for transport to the Smithsonian by truck.

"There's nothing we can't handle," said
Air Force Airman 1st Class David Strong, one of the four ramp services specialists who moved the 10-tentacled creatures. "If there's anything that needs to be shipped, we take care of it."

Dover's porters work for the world's largest aerial port, and are trained to load or unload cargo weighing 5 to 2 million pounds, and many have experience moving odd objects.

Air Force Senior Airman Michael Goicoechea, a ramp services specialist who helped to move the giant squids, said he has moved cargo ranging from submarines and Stryker vehicles to helicopters and Humvees.

"I was stationed previously at Kadena Air Base, Japan," he said. "But, I've moved more cargo working at Dover Air Force Base in five months than my two years in Kadena, and this is my first squid!"

While not trained to receive every single package, aerial port airmen here deal with all kinds of unexpected cargo.

"That is why our job is never boring," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Braddick, ramp services specialist shift supervisor, who has seen Air Force jets transport dolphins and parts for the space shuttle. "We're always learning and training throughout our career field, because who knows what else we'll be loading?"

Air Force Master Sgt. Veronica A. Aceveda serves with the 512th Airlift Wing, and Air Force Airman 1st Class Shen-Chia Chu serves with the 436th Airlift Wing.)

America Supports You: Airgas, Operation Homefront Bond to Help Vets

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 14, 2008 - In the next three years, an untold number of veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit from a new partnership between two organizations who share only geographic proximity and a desire to honor servicemembers. Airgas, a distributor of industrial, medical, specialty gases, and welding and safety products, recently launched what its chairman and chief executive officer described as a long-term program.

"We're kicking off a three-year program the way we look at it," Peter McCausland said, "but we're thinking that it's going to be a long-term program for Airgas."

The program began with Airgas' pledge to donate $100,000 a year for three years to Operation Homefront, a troop-support organization. The guidelines for the use of the funding stipulate that 70 percent of the funds must directly benefit wounded veterans or their families, McCausland said.

Another piece of the program is the company's commitment to hire 100 veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in conjunction with Operation Homefront.

"We have over 15,000 employees, and the least we can do is make room for 100 veterans," McCausland said. "We felt like we wanted to do something tangible for individuals, and we have a lot of veterans in Airgas, so we know that they'll be happy."

For veterans who think they might be interested in learning the welding trade, Airgas also is offering its "Welding 101" course. While the company doesn't actually do welding, it also has the facilities, courses and certified welding engineers needed to offer the two days of classroom instruction and hands-on experience that serve as a good way to gauge interest in pursuing the trade further.

"The two days can get them started, and then we can direct them from there to the American Welding Society and other kinds of resources," McCausland said. "A lot of big companies run welding schools."

Operation Homefront is pleased with the opportunities the new partnership offers veterans, said Amy Palmer, the troop-support organization's chief operating officer.

"Airgas' 'Welding 101' is a significant training opportunity for many wounded warriors who need help finding a lucrative and steady job as they enter the civilian world," she said. "We appreciate Airgas' generous support for our job placement efforts for injured veterans who are transitioning to the civilian world."

At the community level, each of Airgas' 22 operating units across the country will develop relationships with local Operation Homefront representatives to work on events to support the organization through fundraising, direct assistance to veterans and other programs, he added.

The idea for the program grew from McCausland's wife's philanthropic activities benefitting veterans. Her work with veterans' causes may be a direct correlation to their son's service in Iraq. The former Marine's four-month deployment began on the fifth day of the war.

"My wife was very concerned about veterans from these two wars and the toll that it's taken them and their families," the Airgas chairman said. "We started to look for organizations around the country that would be [a good] fit for Airgas and that are providing services to veterans of these two conflicts and their families.

"Operation Homefront was one of about four or five of these organizations that we vetted, and we felt that it came out way ahead," McCausland added.

While Airgas is just kicking off the program with Operation Homefront, McCausland said his company is approaching it as a long-term commitment.

"We're very grateful for what these people and their families have done for the country, and this is just a way for Airgas to give back and show our collective support," he said.

Eligible veterans interested in participating in Airgas' welding training course or possible employment with Airgas should contact Operation Homefront, McCausland added.

Operation Homefront is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.