Thursday, January 05, 2012

Changes in AER include family dental assistance, spouse scholarships

By Guy Shields
Army Emergency Relief

 WASHINGTON (1/5/12) - New categories of assistance and new scholarship opportunities are now available through Army Emergency Relief.

 Included among the new categories of assistance to Soldiers are family member dental care, basic furniture needs, rental vehicles and replacement vehicles.

 "We have been seeing increased numbers of these types of requests," said retired Sgt. Maj. Dennis Scott, chief of Army Emergency Relief, AER's assistance division. "Previously, we've processed some cases with mitigating circumstances as an exception to policy. With this change we'll be able to assist additional Soldiers and their families much more efficiently."

 AER provides no-interest loans or grants to Soldiers, depending on the need and individual case.

 Family dental care is not available on post for families located in the United States. This can put a significant financial burden on Soldiers, AER officials said.

Dental care eligible for AER assistance includes diagnosis, fillings, crowns, root canals, extractions, sealants and emergency care to alleviate pain. Assistance will be limited to no more than $4,000 per case.

 Basic furniture needs include beds, cribs, sofas, chairs and tables. The intent is to assist those Soldiers and families establishing a household when the quarters have no furniture. Additionally, this category would be eligible to Soldiers who lost their furniture as a result of a natural disaster.

 Assistance will be limited to no more than $4,000.

 Assistance for a rental vehicle is intended to help those Soldiers on emergency leave, or waiting for the repair of a primary vehicle. The rental period would normally be seven to ten days.

 Assistance for a replacement vehicle is intended to help Soldiers when the cost to repair their current vehicle is greater than the vehicle's value. Assistance will be limited to not more than $4,000.

 "We believe that by adding these additional categories, AER can take a more proactive role in caring for Soldiers and their families during a critical time in their lives," added Scott. In the past two years, AER has implemented a total of nine new categories in an effort to be more responsive to the changing needs of today's Soldiers.

 Also changing within AER is the consolidation of its spouse scholarship programs. Previously, there were separate programs for spouses depending on whether they were located in the United States or overseas.

 "The consolidation of the two spouse scholarship programs will simplify the application process, as well as allow all spouses to qualify for 'part-time' scholarships," said Diann Evans, manager for AER's scholarship programs. "This change will allow us to provide better service for all the applicants."

 Prior to consolidation, only overseas spouses could get scholarships for "part time" attendance. However, overseas spouses had to apply five times per year. This consolidation will allow them to apply once a year to align with the domestic spouses who will now be able to get assistance while only going to school part-time.

 "One of the comments that we regularly received from the spouses located in the States was that it was very difficult to find the time to go to school full-time while maintaining a household with a deployed spouse," said Evans. "We recognized the need and changed the policy to accommodate the current reality."

 There are no changes to the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program, which is AER's scholarship program for dependent children.

 Information about AER, including scholarship specifics and application forms, are available on AER's website at

 Army Emergency Relief is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to Soldiers, active and retired, and their families. Since its incorporation in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.3 billion to more than 3.3 million Soldiers, families and retirees.

Kansas National Guard combat medic covers Africa

By Staff Sgt. Stephen Linch
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (1/5/12) - "I wanted to make my dad proud."   The pen struck the parchment leaving her signature - Michelle C. Lawrence - above her father's, she recalled.  Weeks later on her 17th birthday, she became the third generation of her Family to raise her right hand and recite the Oath of Enlistment, said U.S. Army Spc. Michelle Lawrence, 35th Military Police Company combat medic currently serving as a unit public affairs representative for the 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery, Kansas Army National Guard.

"That was her goal [to join the Army National Guard]. That's what she wanted to do, and I wasn't going to stop her," said John Lawrence, Lawrence's father, a resident of Dighton, Kan., and a U.S. Army veteran.

A little more than three years after joining the Kansas Army National Guard as a combat medic, Lawrence is covering the efforts of Soldiers deployed to Africa thanks to a vacancy within the unit and leadership who realized her potential.

"Specialist Lawrence is one of a select few very influential public affairs representatives in my battalion achieving my communication plan," said Army Lt. Col. Thomas Burke, 1-161 FA BN commander. "I knew coming into this mobilization that communication with our military supporters, the general public in the state of Kansas and employers was vital to maintaining both public support for the mission and employer support for the Soldiers."

Lawrence wrote stories highlighting what U.S. Soldiers did in countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, Burundi and Kenya.   "They tell the story of how relationships with our counterparts are going beyond the skills of building partner nation capacity. Soldiers from both countries are learning that both countries want peace, stability and better futures for ourselves and our children." Burke said. "Specialist Lawrence tells how working together, we can strive to meet that goal." 

"Lawrence does a great job of telling the story from the Soldier's  perspective," he added.

Although she receives praise for her stories and photos, Lawrence never  thought she would be serving her country as a journalist or a photographer.   As a high school junior, Lawrence looked forward to becoming a combat medic and serving her country, she said.  

Although she was inspired by her father to become a Soldier, it was her  mother, a nurse, who led her to become a combat medic.   "My mom is a nurse. I have always wanted to help people like she does," Lawrence said.

It was while attending advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to become a combat medic, Pvt. Lawrence called back to her unit and received the unexpected news that she would be deploying.   "I happened to call my unit ... out of nowhere they said 'by the way, we are going to Africa next year and you are going with us,'" Lawrence said.    After the initial shock, Lawrence said she was excited to deploy to Africa.   "I was pretty much pumped," Lawrence said. "I had never been outside the  U.S."  

A year after the phone call, 20-year old Spc. Lawrence arrived at Camp  Lemonnier, Djibouti, and once again received unexpected news.   The mission she was assigned to had one too many people. Although she was a combat medic, she was being reassigned to meet the needs of the battalion and would be working as a unit public affairs representative.  "I didn't know anything about public affairs. I didn't know how to write a story. I didn't know how to take a good photo. I didn't even know how to use one of these cameras," Lawrence said. 

Upon being assigned to the 1-161 FA public affairs office, Lawrence was  placed in the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa public affairs  office as the battalion's public affairs liaison with the task force. 

It was there that a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, skilled in public affairs, helped her tell the story of the Kansas Army National Guard Soldiers serving at Camp Lemonnier and throughout the African continent, she said.

"I don't think I would be where I am now if he had not taken me under his wing like he did. He took time out of his day off of his work schedule to teach me photography and how write," Lawrence said.  

Ever since learning the tricks of the trade, Lawrence has been highlighting what Soldiers deployed to Africa are doing, said Army Staff Sgt. Daryl Davis, 1-161 FA BN public affairs office, non-commissioned officer in charge. 

"Within a short period of time she began to churn out remarkable articles and photos," Davis said. "She is always willing and very capable of handling all assignments. She even volunteered for several others, and continues to impress."

According to her father, it is no surprise Lawrence has proved capable of serving her country outside of her skill set as a combat medic.  

"That is the way Michelle is," John Lawrence said. "She will go after any task with the best of her ability and not complain."  

Her beliefs probably have a lot to do with her diligence and work ethic, he said.  

"President Kennedy made a statement ... 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,'" John Lawrence said, quoting U.S. President John F. Kennedy. "I believe in that whole heartedly. I think Michelle does too." 

"I'm really proud of her - her mother is too," he added.

Photo essay: 'K, see ten?'

by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/5/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- KC-10 Extender tanker aircraft are shown on the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing flightline Dec. 23, 2011, at a non-disclosed base here.

The KC-10s at the 380th AEW and the Airmen who fly and maintain them are deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. They provide refueling for joint and coalition aircraft throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Extender crews in the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron flew more than 4,000 missions, providing roughly 35 percent of all air refueling in 2011.

According to its Air Force fact sheet, the KC-10 is an Air Mobility Command advanced tanker and cargo aircraft designed to provide increased global mobility for U.S. armed forces. Although the KC-l0's primary mission is aerial refueling, it can combine the tasks of a tanker and cargo aircraft by refueling fighters and simultaneously carry the fighter support personnel and equipment on overseas deployments. The KC-10 is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

Air Guard Veterans mark 50th anniversary of Berlin Crisis mobilization

by Bill Phelan
Special to the 131st

12/27/2011 - ST.LOUIS, Mo -- For many young people the Cold War is something they learned about in history class, but Tony Ribaudo lived it as a member of the 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, a St. Louis-based unit of the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Fighter-Bomber Wing, now known as the 131st Bomb Wing.

Ribaudo, 74, of Creve Coeur, recently joined about 75 former squadron members at a St. Louis restaurant for a reunion to mark the 50th anniversary of the unit's mobilization in response to the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

In July of 1961, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev brought the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of war after he demanded that all western armed forces leave West Berlin. It was also at this time that the East Germans began building the Berlin Wall, separating Communist East Berlin from Democratic West Berlin. Tensions between the two nations rose to the point where American and Soviet tanks faced each other at Berlin's famed Brandenburg Gate.

In response, President John F. Kennedy ordered the mobilization of nearly 150,000 National Guardsmen from across the country and sent them to Europe. The mobilization included more than 21,000 members of the Air National Guard. The 131st got its marching orders on Oct. 1, 1961 and remained on active duty until August 1962.

At the time, Ribaudo was 24 and served as a jet engine mechanic for the 131st's squadron of F-84Fs, headquartered at Lambert-St. Louis Airport.

"The entire unit was sent to France for 10 months as a show of force," Ribaudo recalled. "But I don't think any of us fully understood the implications of the crisis at the time. All we wanted to do was have a good time. We were young, footloose and fancy free."

Eventually tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S. eased and troops on both sides were withdrawn, but the Berlin Wall remained as a symbol of the Cold War for another 28 years.

Given the historical significance of the crisis, Ribaudo felt a reunion was in order.

"I couldn't believe no one was going to have a 50th reunion so I decided we had to do it," he explained. "So I and two other people began contacting all the members of the unit we could remember and asked them to do the same. We had people come from Chicago, Kansas City and some from out-state Missouri. It was a great to relive the experience and rekindle some old friendships."

Today, Ribaudo admits the Berlin Crisis is "out of sight and out of mind."

"Until this 50-year milestone came up even I hadn't given it much thought, but for a lot of people this crisis was a real hardship," Ribaudo said. "I recall Airmen struggling to make mortgage payments and car payments while deployed, so for them it was a real strain on their families. A lot of sacrifices were made."

Ribaudo left the Air National Guard in 1965 as a first lieutenant and began a career in manufacturing. He and his wife, Ellen, are the proud parents of four grown children.

The 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, is based primarily at Whiteman Air Force Base, MO, with support elements located at Lambert Air National Guard Base-Saint Louis.

Valentines for Vets

A complimentary, “Valentines for Vets,” concert will be at 7 p.m., February 14 at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa featuring country music artist Lorrie Morgan. This concert is sponsored by the Iowa City VA Health Care System and Help Hospitalized Veterans.

Veterans can reserve their complimentary tickets by sending an email to or calling (319) 339-7155.
The tickets are complimentary because our Veterans have already paid the price.

Again, the tickets are complimentary and can be reserved by calling (319) 339-7155 or emailing to

Alcohol does not have to direct your life

Commentary by Lt. Col. Anthony Carr
14th Airlift Squadron commander

1/5/2012 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- The 437th Airlift Wing recently achieved an impressive goal; 120 days without a driving under the influence arrest. This indicates a growing trend of strong wingman support and responsible drinking. As we begin 2012, it's the perfect moment to build on that success by focusing on all alcohol-related incidents.

Gen. Jimmy Doolittle was famous for saying that "if we must fight, we should do so from the neck up rather than the neck down." He was talking about thinking our way through the fight before it ever begins. There is a useful parallel in how we approach drinking. Rather than fixating on how to cope with consequences, we should devote more energy to thinking our way through alcohol use before it becomes abuse.

The human relationship with alcohol is complicated. In modern times, it has been glorified as the key to a good time and demonized as a symbol for irresponsible partying. These oversimplifications mask the complex truth: while alcohol sometimes contributes to disciplinary issues, human decision-making is the universal root cause in alcohol-related incidents. This is a fact worth investigating more closely, but first we must first confront two common myths.

Myth #1: Drinking is for "idiots." Alcohol is woven into our societal fabric and its use is not limited to those having poor judgment or low intelligence. The first evidence of wine production dates back more than 10,000 years and the rise in alcohol use has paralleled the advance of civilization. The industrial production of alcohol for sale and export accompanied the ascent of the Roman Empire; it played economic and spiritual roles in the world's first superpower society. Leaders, followers and peers alike must internalize that alcohol is a fixture in our way of life. Rather than discount it as a lesser activity or futilely try to engineer it out of our collective behaviors, it is best that we approach it thoughtfully.

Myth #2: Alcohol is for troublemakers. Devout monks are just as likely to have a drink in their spare time as serial felons. As a supervisor and commander at multiple levels, I've dealt with many alcohol-related incidents. Occasionally, they involve Airmen with troubled records on their way out of our service. More often, they involve good people who engage in unexpected and uncharacteristic actions. I've yet to come across an Airman who woke up one morning determined to ruin his or her life. If we pretend alcohol-related incidents are reserved for those who are prone to trouble, we will make a critical mistake in incident prevention.

These myths are mental shortcuts that allow us draw convenient but false conclusions concerning alcohol use. When we get past these shortcuts, we begin to see alcohol-related incidents as stories of good people making bad choices. In my experience, three main drivers explain most disciplinary incidents that include alcohol use. Thinking about these drivers before we drink is the key to keeping ourselves and our wingmen out of trouble.

Driver #1: Low Self-Awareness. Why do we drink? It's a tough question because we're socialized to consider drinking and thinking mutually exclusive. We must move past this mindset. We should all understand why we're engaging in this activity in order to build objectives and avoidance areas that will apply. My theory is that some people who drink do so for the feeling of being a little out of control. Adult human beings are subject to professional, personal and societal limits on behavior and can't help but enjoy the feeling of liberation that accompanies a relaxed behavioral grip. Up to a certain point, there is nothing wrong with this. However, we each have a transition point from an acceptable to an unacceptable loss of control. Beyond that point, behavior is unpredictable, sometimes uncharacteristic and often beneath reproach, which is never OK. This transition point is difficult to define and different for each situation. Only through self-awareness can we learn how much alcohol can lead to a loss of control and learn to recognize and arrest its onset.

Driver #2: Lack of planning. When it comes to alcohol, failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning is easier said than done because we've been socialized to consider drinking a carefree activity. This is the wrong mindset; it leads to personal and professional ruin. Plan your night. At a minimum, know where your journey will begin, transit and end; who you will spend your time with; and how much you will drink. Once you have that plan, hold on to it as your playbook for responsible fun.

Driver #3: Impaired Decisions. After even one drink, your decisions are compromised. At a mild level of intoxication, you will readily set aside rules because you're feeling less inhibited. At a medium level of intoxication and beyond, you'll make poor decisions based on shifting criteria. Unacceptable outcomes are a likely result. People who get into trouble while drunk are often mystified at their decisions, feeling as though they were made by someone else. The difficult truth is that we are all poor decision makers when we drink. Therefore, no important decision should be made once drinking has commenced. Anticipate situations and decide on responses while you're still sober. Do your best to ingrain proper decisions into your thought patterns before you chemically disrupt normal brain function.

Alcohol, for better or worse, is a part of our culture and has been for thousands of years. We can't wish it away and we can't engineer it out of our activities. What we must do is reason through the human-alcohol relationship and ingrain patterns of action and decision to keep ourselves and our teammates within the bounds of acceptable conduct. Alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly given a high degree of self-awareness, good planning and sober decision making. If we actively think through our interface with it and learn to master it "from the neck up," we can eliminate its unfavorable consequences.

Please continue to think before you drink and carry these ideas into your safe New Year.

Bulgarian doctors observe aeromedical evacuation at Ramstein AB

by Staff Sgt. Warren Spearman
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/5/2012 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AMCNS) -- Four doctors from the Bulgarian Military Medical Academy visited here for a week-long aeromedical evacuation orientation.

The familiarization event took the doctors on a tour of the 86th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility where the primary function is safe transport and staging of patients between aircraft and the next higher level of care.

"The Bulgarian familiarization event ... spanned the entire aeromedical evacuation process from A to Z," said Maj. Daniel Zablotsky, an international health specialist at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Surgeon General's Office. "The Bulgarians are currently at a crucial point in developing their own organic AE capability, so this event presents an ideal opportunity for both the U.S. and Bulgaria to conduct valuable information cross-flow and build the foundation for future interoperability."

After touring the CASF, the doctors observed the Ramstein AB CASF team load patients onto a C-17 Globemaster III in preparation to take the patients back to the U.S. The Bulgarian doctors also learned about the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron's mission, the process of setting up a plane to transport patients and the equipment used in the process. At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the Bulgarians toured facilities including the Air Evacuation team, the Deployed Warrior Medical Management Center and intensive care unit.

On the last day of the tour, the Bulgarian contingent participated in an AE training flight aboard a C-130J Hercules, conducted by the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

"The mission was absolutely successful," said Lt. Col. Kamen Nenov, a doctor from the Bulgarian Military Medical Academy. "The staff is very well trained. Planes, equipment, everything works well together. These words are very important to me."

HAWC keeps Airmen fit to fight

by Senior Airmen Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/5/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Editor's note: This is the third installment of a three-part series on Airmen's total health.
The Health and Wellness Center provides fitness and wellness education classes to military personnel, dependents and retirees.

Personnel who work at the HAWC are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to adequately educate and meet the physical health and education training needs each individual.

"Our mission is to help people help themselves develop healthier lifestyles through education, training and classes," said Rick Myhre, 366th Medical Group exercise physiologist at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "We also provide circuit training classes, stress management services, a relaxation room and we have the BodPod, which helps us measure lean muscle tissue and individuals body fat percentage."

Two of the classes provided to Airmen are extremely important according to Myhre. One is for personnel who are struggling with the physical training test and the other is the tobacco cessation class.

"Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your individual health," said Airman 1st Class Kristen Steen, 366th MDG physical therapy technician. "We also work with patients who come and see us because of their individual therapy needs. It's important to ensure Airmen are healthy and able to perform their jobs and ultimately deploy."

These assistance programs help Airmen continue their physical readiness and can last from a few weeks to few years.

"We have a new six-week weight management program for Airmen which works in conjunction with medical providers," Myhre said. "We monitor eating and workout habits, and upon completion of the program periodically check in with the individual to make sure they are staying with the program."

Many dependents also benefit from the HAWC's assistance.

"In my opinion, the dependents are just as important as our active duty members," Myhre said. "We make sure we have programs designed for the entire spectrum of base personnel who want to be healthier and lose weight. However, we don't forget our responsibility to help Airmen get back to deployment ready status after they have been injured or recently had a surgical procedure."

By assisting Airmen and dependents the HAWC plays a crucial role in Airmen's total health.

"I have personally been working with the Air Force, whether enlisted and as a Department of Defense civilian, since 1986," Myhre said. "Back then we didn't focus as much on the military personnel as we do today. Once the HAWC's were established and Airmen were afforded the opportunity to have better lifestyle education and programs, personnel began taking advantage of these opportunities for better fitness and stress management."

There are even cases where personnel have had their lives saved by a chance visit to a base HAWC.

"I remember an individual came in for a routine blood pressure check and found out they had extremely high blood pressure," Myhre said. "The individual didn't even know there was a problem and felt completely fine. We were able to get that person to a provider who prescribed medication which probably saved the individual's life."

One of the goals of the HAWC is complete physical health in order to help Airmen perform at the peak of their abilities.

"Just remember, we are available for Airmen," Myhre said. "Our job is about protecting and enhancing our resources, which in this case is the Airmen."

For more information contact your local HAWC.

2012 Air Force Marathon setting registration records

88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Report

1/4/2012 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Nearly 4,200 athletes registered for the 2012 Air Force Marathon on Jan. 1, more than doubling the one-day total from last year.

With 30 percent of slots already taken, another early sellout is predicted.

"We added an additional 1,500 spots to bring the total field to 15,000 this year to give more people the opportunity to enjoy this amazing event," said Molly Louden, marathon director. "But at the rate we are going, it looks like the demand will bring us to another quick sellout."

After the one-day special for Jan. 1, prices for the full and half are now $85 and $70, while the 10K and 5K are $40 and $25. Prices will rise again on April 2 and June 2 -- if spots are still available by that time.

174th Fighter Wing Maintenance Personnel "Writing" the Book on U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Maintenance Procedures

by Capt. Anthony L. Bucci
174 FW/PAO

1/3/2012 - Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY -- Since Hancock Field Air National Guard Base converted from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the MQ-9 Reaper, the flight line has become more silent and there has been a noticeable reduction in the level of aircraft maintenance activity on the base.

However, that all began to change recently as the unit commenced MQ-9 flying operations at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field (WSAAF) at Ft. Drum, NY and the 174th FW Maintenance Group resumed a more normal maintenance posture on base.

"Our maintenance personnel have contributed to the creating and/or validation of approximately 80% of all maintenance technical data for the U. S. Air Force in regards to maintenance for the MQ-9", said Maj. Tim Martin, 174th Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander.

Currently, the 174th Fighter Wing flies at its training range located at WSAAF with 174th Fighter Wing maintenance personnel positioned there to assist with necessary maintenance requirements. However, when more in-depth maintenance needs to be done those aircraft are boxed up and transported back to Hancock Field where 174th Fighter Wing maintenance troops begin the more arduous maintenance work. As a result of this maintenance activity, the unit has been generating a significant amount of technical data concerning the proper maintenance of the MQ-9.

"We are importing what the U. S. Air Force is using as it relates to the MQ-9 for technical data, maintenance procedures, etc. as well as providing improvements for the overall care and maintenance of the MQ-9", said Martin.

As the unit continues to fly at WSAAF, the maintenance tempo has picked up dramatically to include pre and post-flight maintenance in addition to maintenance issues that have never been seen before. In fact, the unit has submitted more than 100 engineering requests during the past two years for technical data on how to fix certain issues with the MQ-9. In comparison to the F-16, which the unit only submitted three engineering requests during the unit's some 20 years of flying the aircraft.

"The maintenance personnel here at Hancock Field are becoming the subject matter experts for the MQ-9, while working very closely with the U. S. Air Force and General Atomics. These maintainers have a vested interest in the technical data that is being written for this aircraft and they take that responsibility very seriously knowing they have the potential in helping to decide the proper and safest procedures for maintaining the MQ-9", said Martin.

The MQ-9 is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system. The Reaper's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR. It acts as a Joint Forces Air Component Commander-owned theater asset for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of the Joint Forces Commander

The turboprop-powered, multi-mission Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System was developed with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., funding and provides significantly greater capabilities than Predator.

First flown in 2001, Predator B is a highly sophisticated development built on the experience gained with GA-ASI's battle-proven Predator UAS and a major evolutionary leap in overall performance and reliability.

With an operational ceiling of 50,000 feet, and higher cruising speed, the MQ-9 can cover a larger area, under all weather conditions carrying payloads of more than 1.5 tons. The aircraft is powered by a single Honeywell TP331-10 engine, which provides a maximum airspeed of 260 knots and a cruise speed for maximum endurance of 150-170 knots.

This aircraft has been acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force.

This Day in Naval History - Jan. 05

1855 - USS Plymouth crew has skirmish with Chinese troops.
1875 - Cmdr. Edward Lull begins expedition to locate the best ship canal route across Panama.
1943 - In the Southwest Pacific, USS Helena (CL 50) fired first proximity-fused projectile in combat, shooting down a Japanese divebomber in the process.
1968 - Lt. Clarence W. Cote becomes the first male Nurse Corps officer in the regular Navy.

Airman turns adversity into positive approach to life

by Airman 1st Class Derek VanHorn
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/5/2012 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- Senior Airman Alex Cox started a life-changing family tradition when he joined the Air Force in 2008, but it wasn't the trend he started that changed his life.

His youngest brother, 21-year-old Aaron, joined the Air Force as a cybertransport technician. While Cox keeps in touch with Aaron as much as possible, there will always be a piece missing from their brotherhood - late brother Anton - a best friend to both.

Anton served as an Air Force airborne linguist and was fluent in three languages before his unexpected passing last year. As difficult of a time it has been for Cox, he represents a walking, talking version of adversity, always finding light in darkness.

"I don't let circumstances determine the outcome of my life," he said. "Bad things happen to everyone. It's about taking the opportunity to take charge of your life and make the best of all situations."

"Losing my best friend and my brother changed the way I view life. You only live once, and there is no reason to be afraid of trying new things."

His outlook on life transitions well to the job, where a positive and optimistic approach to his position as a 319th Air Base Wing emergency actions controller can mean the difference between life and death.

"What I enjoy most about work are the opportunities to make notifications that have the potential to save lives," said Cox, who is one of 10 controllers stationed here. "A quick and effective reaction to a situation can be the factor in completing a mission.

"As controllers we process emergency alert messages, coordinate between base agencies and act as a liaison between wing and MAJCOM to relay information; we are basically the hub for information for the entire base."

During base exercises or real-life emergencies, the tasks of the job can become very demanding and high paced, not to mention the 12-hour rotating shifts that keep the command post open on a 24-hour cycle.

"We have a great team working together here and we all get along great," he said.

For Cox, it is a lifestyle and career that he hopes has only just begun as he sets his sights high and said he hopes to someday work as a controller for the president of the United States.

"I want to go out and get the hardest and most coveted job in this career field," said Cox. "If you don't take chances in life, you'll always wonder what you missed out on. I don't want to grow old and look back at what I didn't do."

Strategy Calls for Military to Handle Full Range of Contingencies

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2012 – The American military will be leaner in the years ahead, but it will remain lethal and without a match in the world, President Barack Obama said at the Pentagon today.

Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed the new defense strategic guidance during a news conference.

“The world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats,” the president said.

He pledged to keep faith with service members and their families as officials use the strategy guidance to shape the Defense Department’s budget for the years ahead. The department will pare $487 billion from its budget over the next 10 years.

“We’re also going to keep faith with those who serve by making sure our troops have the equipment and capabilities they need to succeed and by prioritizing efforts that focus on wounded warriors, mental health and the well-being of military families,” the president said.

The government also will keep the interests of America’s newest veterans in mind, Obama said, and he vowed to “keep working to give our veterans the care, benefits and job opportunities they deserve and earned.”

After 10 years of war, now is the time to build a new military to confront the challenges of the 21st century, Obama said. The Iraq mission is over, and 91,000 American troops are in Afghanistan working to turn over security responsibility there to Afghan forces.

Still, Panetta said, the world will continue to be dangerous.

“The United States still faces complex and growing array of security challenges across the globe,” he said. “Unlike past drawdowns, when oftentimes the threats that the country was facing went away, the fact is that there remain a number of challenges that we have to confront -- challenges that call for reshaping of America's defense priorities.”

Panetta said the threats include violent extremism, proliferation of lethal weapons and materials and the destabilizing behavior of nations such as Iran and North Korea. The strategic calculus has shifted with the rise of new powers in Asia and the dramatic changes in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa, he noted.

All this is occurring against the backdrop of budget pressures. The secretary reiterated his belief that Americans do not need to choose between national security and fiscal responsibility. Still, DOD will “play its part in helping the nation put our fiscal house in order,” he said.

The strategy honors four over-arching principles, Panetta said: America’s military must remain pre-eminent. The strategy must avoid hollowing out the force, must achieve balanced savings, must preserve the quality of the all-volunteer force and must not break faith with men and women in uniform or their families.

Given those principles, Panetta said, the U.S. military will remain capable across the spectrum.

From a geographic perspective, he said, while the Asia-Pacific region will be a new focus for the U.S. military, America will continue to work in the Middle East and Central Asia to ensure stability and economic prosperity.

“In Latin America, Africa, elsewhere in the world, we will use innovative methods to sustain U.S. presence, maintaining key military-to-military relations and pursuing new security partnerships as needed,” the secretary said.

The military will look to develop low-cost and small-footprint approaches to achieving security objectives, he explained. For service members, he added, this means rotational deployments and military exercises to maintain U.S. presence.

But, Panetta added, a military must be able to confront and defeat any aggressor and respond to the changing nature of warfare.

“Our strategy review concluded that the United States must have the capability to fight several conflicts at the same time,” Panetta said. “We are not confronting, obviously, the threats of the past. We are confronting the threats of the 21st century. And that demands greater flexibility to shift and deploy forces to be able to fight and defeat any enemy anywhere.

“How we defeat the enemy may very well vary across conflicts,” he continued. “But make no mistake, we will have the capability to confront and defeat more than one adversary at a time.”

Dempsey said all defense leaders worked on the new guidance, which he called “a sound strategy” that ensures the United States remains the pre-eminent military in the world while preserving the talent of the all-volunteer force.

The strategy takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war, Dempsey said. “It acknowledges the imperative of a global, networked and full-spectrum joint force,” he added.

The general emphasized that the military would be adopting much of the strategy even in the absence of fiscal constraints.

“Even if we didn't have fewer resources, we would expect to change,” he said. “As a consequence, it calls for innovation, for new ways of operating and partnering. It rebalances our focus by region and mission.”

Specifics Still to Come as DOD Unveils New Strategy

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2012 – Specifics on how the new defense strategic guidance will affect the Pentagon’s budget will take shape in the weeks to come as White House and Defense Department officials prepare President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request.

Obama, joined by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters at the Pentagon today on the guidance’s aims.

Obama said the guidance reflects a national turning point following a decade of war, with operations in Iraq now ended, forces gradually drawing down in Afghanistan, and budget pressures a foremost concern at home.

“We’ll continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in the capabilities that we need for the future, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; counterterrorism; countering weapons of mass destruction; and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try to deny us access,” the president said.

The defense budget “grew at an extraordinary pace” after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the president noted. That growth will slow over the next 10 years, he said, but will continue because of the nation’s global responsibilities.

“I firmly believe, and I think the American people understand, that we can keep our military strong -- and our nation secure -- with a defense budget that continues to be larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined,” he said.

In a letter released today along with the strategic guidance, Panetta wrote the future force will be smaller and leaner, but “agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced … [with] cutting-edge capabilities exploiting our technological, joint and networked advantage.”

In today’s briefing, Panetta said “politically sensitive” budget areas must be part of the $487 billion-plus spending reduction DOD faces over the next decade. He emphasized final budget decisions still are in progress, and details will be released in coming weeks.

“We’ve got to look at the whole area of procurement … [and] the tremendous costs associated,” the secretary said. “We want to make sure that the weapons we select meet the needs of the force that we’re building.”

The department will reduce capabilities that are no longer a top priority -- including protracted, large-scale stability operations -- and will invest in new capabilities to maintain a decisive military edge against a growing array of threats, Panetta added.

“There is no question that we have to make some tradeoffs, and that we will be taking … some level of additional, but acceptable, risk in the budget plan we release next month. These are not easy choices,” the secretary said.

Dempsey told reporters that strategy is “a waypoint in a continuous and deliberate process to develop the joint force we will need in 2020.”

There are four budget cycles between now and then, he noted. “Each of these cycles presents an opportunity to adjust how and what we do to achieve this strategy in the face of new threats … and in the context of a changing security environment,” he added.

The strategy, which informs the budget request to be unveiled in coming weeks, “emerges from a deeply collaborative process,” Dempsey said.

“We weighed facts and assessments. We challenged every assumption. We considered a wide range of recommendations and counter-arguments,” the chairman said. “I can assure you that the steps we have taken to arrive at this strategy involved all of this and much more.”

During a second briefing for reporters on the strategy, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter responded to a question on the F-35 joint strike fighter, possibly the largest military acquisition program in history and subject of intense controversy for issues in cost, development schedule and testing.

He did not elaborate on the Pentagon’s plans for the F-35 program, but indicated it’s still in the mix. “We want it -- we want it to succeed,” he said.

Major changes in every category of the budget and reduced modernization are necessary as a result of slowed defense spending growth, Carter said.

“Where we invest, and how intensively we invest, will be shaped by [the strategy],” he added.

Armed Forces Reserve Center dedication ceremony set for Saturday

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will join senior state and military officials for the dedication of the $24 million Armed Forces Reserve Center (AFRC), beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) at 3001 Manufacturers Drive, Madison.

The state-owned facility, which opened in late August 2011, is the home station for more than 740 service members in the Wisconsin National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve. The AFRC meets or exceeds LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver criteria, meaning the building meets up to 60 percent of potential efficiencies in sustainability, energy and water conservation, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) of 2005  called for closing the Truman Olson and G.F. O'Connell U.S. Army Reserve Centers in Madison, Wis., the Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center in Madison and the Navy Reserve Center in La Crosse, Wis. — as well as the Navy Reserve Center in Dubuque, Iowa — and relocating the units from those facilities in a new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Madison. This decision reduced costs for maintaining older and overcrowded reserve component facilities and avoided an estimated $12.7 million in renovation costs.

The Army recommended that Wisconsin Army National Guard units from four facilities in Madison also relocate to the new AFRC.

Construction on the AFRC began in October 2009 and was substantially completed in June 2011. Units began moving into the new facility between mid-July and mid-September.

The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. in the lower-level assembly hall. The ceremony will conclude with the formal ribbon cutting at the upper-level atrium.

New Campaign Asks "Who Will Stand Your Watch?"

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention (NADAP) office has launched a new substance abuse prevention campaign designed to educate Sailors of the negative impact substance abuse can have on a Sailor's family, shipmates, and career, officials said Jan. 4.

"Substance abuse puts lives and missions at risk, undercuts unit readiness and morale, it is inconsistent with Navy ethos and its core values of honor, courage, and commitment," said Dorice Favorite, Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention director.

The campaign titled "Who Will Stand Your Watch?" focuses on Sailors' personal responsibility and the impact of their absence, as a result of a substance abuse incident. The campaign uses various communication tactics to include print media and public service announcements.

"Preventing substance abuse from occurring rather than dealing with the consequences benefits everyone. Prevention requires responsibility and accountability at all levels. Good leadership and teamwork are the best defense against substance abuse," said Favorite.

The campaign features "real" Sailors in the public service announcements, which were filmed in their workplace to portray the importance of their job and their presence. The PSAs are currently being aired on Direct to Sailor TV and can be found on the Navy Personnel Command web site at

Posters and trifolds are available at no cost to all Navy commands for ordering through the Navy Logistics Library. Supply personnel may order them via (for NMCI computers) or (if NMCI is not available).

NADAP supports the Fleet, Family and Personal Readiness Division through aggressive alcohol abuse and drug use prevention programs.

First Sergeant Battles Youth Homelessness

By Air Force Master Sgt. Luke Johnson
943rd Rescue Group

DAVIS MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz., Jan. 5, 2012 – Southern Arizona draws visitors this time of year who want a brief respite from winter weather. Unfortunately, many of those visitors are homeless teens who migrate here to escape the cold.

Air Force Master Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny, first sergeant with the 306th Rescue Squadron here, decided to get involved with the national organization "Stand Up for Kids" to help get children the resources they need to get off the streets.

"I'm going to school for social work, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get some street experience working with homeless kids," Zarzyczny said.

Stand Up for Kids is the nation's largest all-volunteer organization working with homeless teens and streets kids.

"We are 100 percent volunteer operated and managed," said Ben Buehler-Garcia, executive director of Tucson’s Stand Up For Kids chapter. "We also depend significantly on contributions of both materials and cash to fund our efforts."

Buehler-Garcia said the United States has 1.3 million to 1.5 million homeless youth under 18.

"Homeless youth are different from homeless adults, in that they work really hard to stay under the radar," said Buehler-Garcia, a six year veteran of the program. "As sad as it may seem, for many of our kids, living under a bridge in Tucson is better than what they ran away from."

Having spent some time homeless as a teenager and relying on the kindness of strangers, Zarzyczny said, she knows what it feels like to be a kid without a home. Volunteering for Stand Up for Kids is her way of giving back to those who helped her through difficult times as a teenager.

"If it was not for a family taking me in, I would not have graduated from high school,” she added. “Who knows what I would be today?”

Her experiences as a homeless teenager not only inspired her to join the Air Force Reserve, Zarzyczny said, but also motivated her to become a first sergeant and give back to the airmen who have supported her over the years.

"In my final years of serving in the Air Force Reserve, I want to give back by helping others," she said. "As a first sergeant, people are our business. I believe in that motto."

The program trains volunteers to be outreach counselors and befriend the children. The volunteers also provide hygiene items and snacks to distribute.

"Handing out these items shows the kids that we care about them," Zarzyczny said. "Most of these kids don't trust adults, because adults are the ones that are hurting them."

The first sergeant emphasized that most of the kids come from troubled homes and decided living on the streets would be better. Most have tried foster care, she added, but many find themselves back on the street.

"I think it's because they are suffering from abuse, neglect, detachment [or] substance abuse and are acting out in ways that most foster caregivers or agencies do not have the resources or patience to handle," she explained.

Living on the streets of Tucson is a daunting experience for a homeless kid, Zarzyczny said, and providing snacks and a caring ear to the troubled teens makes the experiences worthwhile for her.

"The sad part was watching them walk away knowing they had no home to go to, no warm bed to sleep in, but would be sleeping on the ground somewhere in the streets of Tucson," she said.

The Stand Up For Kids Tucson Chapter is a virtual operation with no physical office or outreach center. "We don't have offices or paid staff," Buehler-Garcia said. "All we have is a cell phone, website and a donated storage shed."

The organization is looking for volunteers in a variety of skill sets. Buehler-Garica said the organization's largest need is for street outreach. Volunteers must undergo a background check prior to working with the children.

"I think it's important for people to be involved in their community and its issues, whether its homelessness, solar energy or whatever they care about," Zarzyczny said. "Instead of talking about it, reading about it or complaining, whether that is writing a check or volunteering. … take the first step."