Saturday, August 04, 2012

Wounded Angels find solace at 6,000 feet

by Tech Sgt. Peter Dean
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

8/2/2012 - MOUNT HOOD, Ore. -- Countless people have experienced the peaceful serenity that can be found at the Cloud Cap Inn here, but for most, the road that brought them to this magical place didn't begin after being ejected from a Pave Hawk HH-60G helicopter as it tumbled down a mountainside in Afghanistan .

Staff Sgt. Scott Bilyeu, a medically retired active duty pararescueman, was one of seven wounded Guardian Angel Airmen who participated in a weeklong healing retreat July 22. Guardian Angels are an U.S. Air Force weapons system comprised of combat rescue officers, pararescuemen, and survival, evasion, resistant, and escape specialists know as SERE.

"The goal was to help with the healing process," said Laura Lerdall, That Others May Live Foundation, deputy executive director. "Every detail of this event was designed to help with the healing; the location, the activities, the speakers and the tours."

After hours of sitting on alert in Afghanistan, the nighttime call came in, a life threatening injury requiring immediate medical evacuation from the battlefield. Bilyeu and his fellow Rescue Airmen were airborne within minutes, en route to a location that would put them in a precarious situation. As the Pave Hawk attempted to land on a mountainside ledge, the rotor wash created an arena of dust and debris, eliminating all visibility, a condition know as a brown out. With the loss of all visibility and the inability to detect any reference points, the main rotor clipped the mountainside sending the Pave Hawk and the six Rescue Airmen onboard into a violent roll down the mountainside. Before the dust had a chance to settle, Bilyeu's fellow PJ, Master Sgt. Paul Schultz was evaluating the situation, systematically searching for all crewmembers and assessing all injured. One crewmember perished that night.

Although all survivors sustaining some degree of injury. The most severely injured was Bilyeu, who in preparation for the rescue had removed his lifeline, a harness that tethered him to the Pave Hawk. As the Pave Hawk plummeted down the mountain, Bilyeu was ejected and sustained numerous broken bones and severe head injuries.

Bilyeu recounted the details of that ill-fated day as it was told to him. As a result of the crash, Bilyeu was in a coma for a month-and-a-half and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He does not remember the details of that day.

"There are days that I feel better, but they are days I taste it on my lips; I speak too slow, or too fast, I stutter, said Bilyeu."Pararescue was my life; I knew when I saw that [PJ] pamphlet I knew what I wanted to do. Now I feel like I'm back in high school. I can't figure out what I want, or can do."

Other wounded Guardian Angels at the Cloud Cap Inn could relate. Although their stories differ the end results were the same, changed men.

"When you get injured, you come back and you're removed from your unit, you sort of get isolated," said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Settle, 212th Rescue Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. "You feel not so much it's your fault that you can't play with your boys [rescue team], but you feel that you're not worthy, you go to a dark place. This [retreat] connects you with dudes who get it."

Settle can relate to Bilyeu, as he also struggles to cope with what most would consider simple daily tasks. While on a rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2010, the Pave Hawk Settle was on, came under fire. Rounds from AK-47 assault rifles pelted the chopper from all directions. Rounds penetrated the floorboards of the chopper; upon impact one round fragmented, sending it on a trajectory that went between Settle's helmet and forehead, finally lodging into his scalp. The injury ultimately left Settle with traumatic brain injury and struggling with daily responsibilities, such as remembering to shave, how to wear his uniform, and even recognizing his wife.

"I'm walking around with my cool- man beret, that beret that I worked so many years for, and now, if you run down the checklist, I am not qualified," said Settle. "I feel like I am putting on a costume, a PJ costume. I feel I am not worthy and I don't belong anymore. It's very lonely and leads to dark places in the mind. Coming out here kinda stokes the fire, these guys understand, they have walked the same path I have."

The love that Chief Master Sgt. Richard Konopka, Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., has for the Mount Hood, prompted him to call the That Other May Live Foundation and present his idea to bring wounded Angels together on the mountain.

"I'm very familiar with the beauty of Mount Hood and its tranquility, so this seemed the perfect place for our veterans to recharge themselves after very horrific, life-changing events," said Konopka.

According to Konopka there are approximately 500 PJs in the Air Force, with that few, many of the wounded Angels knew each other, either from indoctrination school, training together or combat. To rekindle the relationships and rehash old times, the retreat kicked-off with the wounded Angels coming together with Angels from the 304th Rescue Squadron, Portland Ore., who co-sponsored the retreat. All climb aboard a Timberline Lodge snow cat track vehicle that took them thousands of feet up the north side of Mount Hood where they bonded over lunch.

The rest of the week the wounded Angels were hosted by the Crag Rats, an all-volunteer mountain rescue group that maintains the U.S. Forest Service-owned Cloud Cap Inn.

"It's a real pleasure to host this event, it's a natural fit," said Bill Pattison, Crag Rats spokesperson. "The Crag Rats and the 304th have a long history of working together.".

All details throughout the week were taken care of, transportation, shelter, daily menu and all activities. Angels spent their days, hiking Mount Hood, swimming at a local swim hole, fly fishing, and visiting local attractions, but most of all enjoying the serenity that Mount Hood has to offer.

"A dude who is messed up in the brain, you guys made this so awesome for me," said Settle. "You created an environment that I didn't have to worry about the little stuff. I could focus on the social stuff and working on me. Thank you guys, thank you."

By all accounts the inaugural That Others May Live Wounded Angel Retreat was a success, and plans are in the works to make this an annual event.

"We are very pleased on how the retreat turned out," said Maj. Christopher Bernard, 304th RQS, combat rescue officer and retreat organizer. "We gained an understanding of what it is to be a wounded Angel, we are all touched,"

"This week really exceeded my expectations," said Lerdall. The retreats, which are open to all rescue personnel not just Angels and is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization (Combined Federal Campaign number 61226). (No federal endorsement implied or intended.)

Tuskegee Airmen unit emblem officially recognized

by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

8/3/2012 - LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- During the 41st Annual Tuskegee Airmen Convention Col. Bryan Radliff, 477th Fighter Group commander announced that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force had officially recognized the insignia used by the 477th Bombardment Group, a Tuskegee Airmen unit, during World War II.

In a letter to the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. dated July 17, 2012, Gen. Norton Schwartz not only recognized the emblem but simultaneously retired the emblem to the Air Force Historical Research Agency for inclusion in the organizations official heraldry records.

"The presentation of this patch is a long overdue recognition of the service and sacrifice of these great men," said Radliff. "My thanks go out to General Schwartz and his staff for recognizing the importance of this unit and finding their rightful place in Air Power history."

The pilots assigned to the 477th BG flew the B-25. The unit relocated several times and were never declared mission ready before the end of World War II. As a result the patch was never recognized as a part Army Air Corps and later Air Force history until now.

During the presentation of the letter Radliff asked members of the 477th BG who attended the Tuskegee Airmen Convention Military Luncheon to stand to be recognized. Those members were later joined by current members of the 477th FG on stage for a photo.

"This was an amazing opportunity," said Senior Airmen Marren Clay, 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "I am so proud to be a part of a unit that can trace it roots back to real American heroes."

The 477th FG was reactivated at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska in October 2007 when the group became the Air Force Reserve Command's first F-22 Raptor unit and the only Air Force Reserve unit in Alaska. The Group's 302nd Fighter Squadron historically was part of the 332nd Fighter Group, also known as "The Redtails" the famous all-black unit that fought both American prejudice and Nazi militarism.

AF Reservist finishes 4th in 2012 Summer Olympics

8/3/2012 - LONDON (AFNS) -- An Air Force Reserve captain from Colorado finished fourth during the fencing competition at the 2012 London Olympics August 1.

Air Force Reserve Capt. Seth Kelsey earned the best finish since 1956 for a U.S. men's individual epee fencer at the Olympic Games. Kelsey is a logistics officer with the 310th Force Support Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.

"I've always been disappointed in my previous Olympic performances," said Kelsey, about his fourth place result. "But today I beat three great guys. I had one of the best performances for U.S. men's epee in as long as I can remember. I felt like I put in a ton of hard work and won some tough bouts. I would have loved to have brought home a medal, but I felt like I gave myself the best possible shot I was going to have."

Kelsey added about his two overtime bouts in the medals rounds, "You've gotta take your chances. You win some, you lose some."

He said that when the bronze medal bout went into sudden death overtime, "I asked the guy if he wanted to go one touch and he said yes. He had got that touch earlier and I thought I was far enough away, but I wasn't."

Kelsey said about the next summer Olympics in Rio, "My plans right now are to stay, go for Rio, try and qualify for the team and then go for a medal in individual and take a team medal as well."

As for the Kelsey family, he said, "They were cheering their heads off. I couldn't have asked for a more exuberant excited family to be here. They were super loud and super excited for me and I'm proud to do so well for them."

437th OSS Weather Flight provides critical forecasts for JB Charleston

by Senior Airman Anthony Hyatt
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

8/3/2012 - Joint Base Charleston, S.C -- In a location where weather can turn severe at a moment's notice, one team remains prepared to keep Team Charleston alert and ready for the always changing conditions around the base.

The 437th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight provides critical, timely and accurate weather intelligence in support of both the Joint Base Charleston - Air Base and Weapons Station. They also provide mission-execution briefings, seasonal climatology briefings and local weather familiarization briefings upon request.

The four-man shop consists of three staff sergeants, who are weather forecasters or Air Force Specialty Code 1W0X1s, and the flight chief.

Duties and Responsibilities

These 1W0X1s observe, record and disseminate weather data and information.

"Essentially, resource protection is what we do on a day-to-day basis," said Staff Sgt. Marlyn Daust, 437th OSS Weather Flight weather forecaster. "The 'lightning within five' or any kind of weather warning you receive is what we provide the base and aircraft. We're able to brief pilots, both on the ground and in the sky, from Georgia through North Carolina. We have a radio-communication system or Pilot-to-Metro Service we use to talk with pilots as they are flying their aircraft. This way we can give them up-to-the-minute weather, if they request it."

By using satellite and radar imagery, computer-generated graphics and weather-communication equipment and instruments, these weather forecasters can analyze atmospheric and space data and information.

"For the most part, we work cooperatively with the National Weather Service, the Federal Aviation Administration observer, and tower personnel," said Daust. "We use their real-time radar imagery nearly every day."

Also, the Weather Flight issues warnings and advisories to alert users to mission critical weather.

The Weather Flight works cooperatively with the regional forecasting office at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. They interact with at least one forecaster to form a better forecast, said Daust.

McPherson added, the back-up system allows for coverage 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

"Someone at Barksdale is always keeping an eye on JB Charleston and stands ready to issue any warning or make calls," said McPherson.

"We get plenty of calls about the flag condition reminders on your computers ... Weather Flight does not handle that," Daust said. "We send out the warnings for tornadoes, severe winds, severe hail, freezing precipitation, measurable snowfall and, of course, lightning and thunderstorms. If you're looking for more information regarding flag conditions, you can contact the 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight."

"The interaction between the pilots and me is what I like most about my job," said Daust. "Providing that one-on-one time to ensure the safety of the pilots and their crews give me a big sense of self-fulfillment and pride."

The Weather Flight has a typical 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. work day, but this can change as quickly as lightning.

"If at any time we receive any severe criteria weather, we can transition to 24-hour support," Daust added. "Severe thunderstorms can mean 50 knot winds, large hail greater than one-half inch or tornadoes."

"JB Charleston's weather is so unpredictable," said Daust. "It's really humid and hot here, so anything can trigger a thunderstorm. There's so much energy around this place that it can turn severe at any moment."

Technical Training

All Air Force weather forecasters must complete the eight-month technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

But, unlike most jobs in the Air Force, assignments for new weather troops are handled a little differently than other careers.

"After graduation from technical school, weather troops are assigned to one of the eight major Air Force Weather 'hubs' to undergo intensive on-the-job training for a period of 15 to 24 months," said Daust. "These hubs are major regional weather forecasting stations."

The Air Force Weather hub bases are: Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Shaw AFB, S.C., Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., Scott AFB, Ill., Sembach Air Base, Germany and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

"It takes a lot of experience to deal with the weather," said Daust. "These hubs offer Airmen the way to learn so many different types of weather patterns. So, when you get to a weather flight, you have that depth of experience."

So, the next time you see or hear, "lightning within five," you'll know where the phrase comes from and how important it is for not only personnel, but also for JB Charleston's aircraft.

Reservist gives new meaning to term 'hockey mom'

by Staff Sgt. Andria J. Allmond
512th Airlift Wing

8/2/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Wisps of blonde hair are swept aside to reveal a small, white scar positioned above her left eye - an indication of toughness gracing the freckled face, blue-eyed technical sergeant.

"I got hit hard--it bled a lot and hurt pretty badly," said Tech Sgt. Kate Blanchfield, smiling broadly as she looks up from the stacks of paperwork spread out before her.

Despite her harmless appearance, the 512th Airlift Wing commander support staff member boasts a 14-year field hockey habit complete with injuries to the face and knees - both given and received. The rough and tumble nature of the sport, with shots on goal that can exceed 100 miles per hour, contradicts her petite frame.

"I was always into sports," she said. "And where I went to junior high school, there were two main sports for girls: softball and field hockey. I liked softball, so I figured that I'd try hockey, too."

A lifelong competitor with a family lineage of competitive sports - her parents and siblings being avid athletes - the reservist of 10 years ignited her passion for the game at 12 years old. First whacking the ball at Delmar Junior/Senior High School, Delmar, Del., she honed her skills to participate on a more competitive level at Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, Del. According to Blanchfield, high school-level field hockey in the Dover, Del., area commonly awards its players a spot on the collegiate circuit.

"A lot of the girls I played alongside in high school ended up playing for Division I programs," she said, reminding her of her foremost regret. "I really wish I would've gone right to college and played field hockey."

Instead, her path in life took her on a road of military service.

"I decided that after high school I would go into the military," she said. "I grew up watching Army commercials with people jumping out of planes and scaling walls. I wanted the physicality that the military looked like it would provide. Joining the Air Force Reserve really wasn't a bad decision, as it turns out."

In fact, although she didn't play hockey, it was the Air Force Reserve that made it possible for her to attend college and subsequently earn her licensed practical nursing degree.

"I used the Air Force's education benefits," she said, adding that a career in nursing could afford her the flexibility to continue participating in her favorite sport.

The mid-fielder, who is currently studying to become a registered nurse, competes for the City of Dover Parks and Recreation adult field hockey league.

"When I first started out, I liked playing because I was pretty good at it," she said. "Now, I play because it's my outlet; it's something I just need to do."

A summer league goes from June until the first week of August, while and an indoor, winter league extends from early January until March.

"So, I can play a lot throughout the year," she said.

She had an assist in her team's 2-1 win Wednesday night, setting up a championship match for Sunday. She'll head to the field after completing her monthly military drill weekend. Blanchfield is looking forward to it since she prefers playing to pampering.

"Honestly, I would rather play (field hockey) than get a pedicure," she said.

While Blanchfield plans on continuing to play until she is no longer physically competitive, the hockey tradition won't stop with her when that day finally comes. Jayda, her 7-year old daughter, has caught the hockey bug and is also an enthusiastic participant in the game.

"I like taking the ball to the goal and playing with my friends," said Jayda. "It's fun."

Blanchfield's daughter, who aspires to become an Air Force pilot, often attends her mother's games.

"I like to watch my mommy play and it makes me want to learn more about field hockey," she said. "I want to play for a long time like her."

Blanchfield hopes that her daughter gains as such enjoyment from the sport as she has over the years.

"Yes, I would love if Jayda decided that she wanted to play in college," she said. "But more than anything, I just want her to have fun. Because really that's what it's all about, bruises and all."

B-52s provide RIMPAC 2012 air capability

by 2nd Lt. Sarah Bergstein
36th Wing Public Affairs

8/3/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Members from the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., participated in nine sorties in support of this year's Rim of the Pacific exercise July 11 to 31 in and around training areas surrounding the Hawaiian islands.

Six B-52s from the 69th EBS, accompanied by more than 200 Airmen, are currently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, in support of U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence to maintain security and stability in the Western Pacific.

"RIMPAC reminds us how vital it is to train with our fellow U.S. forces as well as our international partners around the globe, enabling us to work together and respond effectively if needed," said Col. Randy Kaufman, 36th Operations Group commander. "The 69th EBS' participation in RIMPAC not only shows their ability to support PACOM's CBP, but also the global readiness they bring to the fight."

RIMPAC is a biennial multinational maritime exercise held by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Beginning in 1971 and now in its 23rd year, RIMPAC boasts 22 participating nations, 42 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel.

Scheduled from June 27 to Aug. 9, the theme of RIMPAC 2012 is, "Capable, Adaptive, Partners."

"Our participation in a multi-national exercise like RIMPAC affords us the opportunity to improve interoperability and strengthen relationship with our regional partners," said Lt. Col. Doug Gosney, 69th EBS commander. "Additionally, our aircrews get first-rate training and gain invaluable experience by operating in this dynamic, joint coalition environment. RIMPAC provided an unmatched training opportunity for my aviators."

The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The primary objective of bomber participation in this year's RIMPAC exercise was to enhance crew proficiency and promote international military cooperation.

"These long-duration sorties helped simulate our real-world taskings," said Colonel Gosney. "Employing with other Air Force assets, our sister services and the nations of the Pacific theater afforded us a unique training opportunity."

Averaging 20 to 22-hour sorties, each with two air refuelings, the 69th EBS flew over 180 hours from Guam to the Hawaiian airspace and back.

"We started with a crawl, walk, run mentality," said Maj. Christopher Morris, 69th EBS Mission Planning Cell team chief. "At first, our participation focused at the unit level and then moved into force-integration training where we worked with other players. In the final phase of RIMPAC, we integrated B-52s into a robust regional combat scenario."
In the first phase of unit level training, targets are generally pre-planned and aircrews know exactly what to look for. In the force-integration phase and the final combat scenario, targets are unknown, meaning aircrews not only have to locate their targets, but also determine how to strike and with what weapons to strike.

"This demonstrates the flexibility of the B-52 and our aircrews," said Major Morris. "Our joint-Service commanders know they can count on the B-52 to deliver bombs on target 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year--worldwide--and in this case, from more than 3000 miles away."

The 69th EBS' first two sorties for this year's RIMPAC, July 11 and 13, supported a high-priority MINEX, a low-level mine-laying exercise designed to train the Navy's counter-mine specialists.

"We're working with Navy fleet to train in aerial interdiction of maritime targets," said Major Morris. "This includes gathering intelligence, honing our skills in low-level flying, providing close air support and simulating strikes when targets are found."

Exercises in the region are ideal forums to showcase U.S. defense aircraft and equipment, work hand-in-hand with regional partners and contribute toward interoperability with other countries.

Movement of U.S. Air Force bombers into the Western Pacific has been ongoing since March 2004, as the U.S. Pacific Command adjusts its force posture to maintain a prudent deterrent capability.

Rotational bomber deployments to Guam help maintain stability and security in the Western Pacific, while allowing units to become familiar with operating in the Pacific Theater.

"As a Navy-centric exercise, we're thrilled about the air capabilities that our B-52s were able to provide in support of RIMPAC," said Colonel Kaufman. "There's something to be said about U.S. Air Force B-52s flying with Marine Corps F-18s alongside Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s and P-3s as well as Japanese F-2s and F-15Js."

As the world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC is a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.

Other U.S. Air Force aircraft participating in RIMPAC 2012 include: KC-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, KC-135 Stratofortresses, E-3 Sentries, A-10 Thunderbolt IIIs, F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and HH-60G Pave Hawks.

"RIMPAC is a testament to the mutual understanding and respect we gain from exercising with regional partners, all working together on a number of different and potential operations and missions," said Colonel Kaufman. "We look forward to participating again in 2014 and bringing an enhanced portfolio of new capabilities."

Red Devils keep Kunsan cool

by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/3/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- "It's too hot, it's too cold."

This is what the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron heating, ventilation and air conditioning shop hears on a daily basis.

To keep up with customers' demands, these "HVAC guys" work in extreme weather around the clock to make the Wolf Pack as comfortable as possible.

Often, they pool resources with other CE shops to get the job done. Their recent project replacing the chiller unit in a 100-man dormitory required them to work with heavy equipment operators and electricians.

"In our squadron, it's not an attitude of 'You go do this, I'll go do that,'" said Senior Airman Timothy Atwater, 8th CES HVAC technician. "It's always a team effort -- everyone has their part. In a project like this where we are replacing a key piece of equipment, that mentality is even more important."

Replacing a chiller starts with disconnecting and removing the old one. This includes a timely process of disassembling pipes, removing screws and planning for the new unit.
"The hardest part is removing the old water lines," said Atwater. "Then we disconnect all power and get the crane operators out here to lift the entire unit out."

The "Dirt Boys," who are called when cranes, front loaders or steamrollers are needed, helped lift the nearly 2.5-ton unit from its resting place. Once the old unit was removed, they used the crane again to lower in the new unit.

"We've worked with HVAC so many times, it happens like clockwork," said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Wallace, 8th CES pavements and equipment NCO in charge. "They just tell us what they need, and we'll get it done. No matter how hard the job is or how difficult the conditions are, we get it done."

The HVAC guys on the ground helped navigate the new unit into position, making sure all power and water supplies lined up with the new configuration. They scraped paint from the pipes to make sure the new seals would fit.

However, while hooking everything back up, they ran into a problem: The new unit didn't have a place for the electrical wires to run through. They called out electricians from the shop and after an eight-hour day in the sun, the project was finally wrapped up.

"It took three shops to complete this job, which has a big impact on the comfort of the dorm residents," said Atwater. "When the job is done and the equipment is running, it feels good to know I did something for the Wolf Pack."

Air Force 'POLcats' fuel RIMPAC

by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs

8/3/2012 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The Air Force fuels flight "POLcats" have a saying: "Without POL, pilots are pedestrians."

During the 2012 Rim of the Pacific exercise, the world's largest international maritime exercise, the men and women from the petroleum, oil and lubricant, or fuels flight, are responsible for getting fuel to the aircraft have pumped more than 10 million gallons of fuel into airplanes, making sure to keep pilots flying.

"Each RIMPAC gets bigger and bigger," said Alphonso Parks, Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor fuels department division chief and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant. "At Hickam, it's our primary mission to put gas on airplanes."

Twenty-two nations gathered in the Hawaiian Islands beginning June 29, bringing more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel. Of the more than 200 aircraft participating in RIMPAC, the fuels flight has hooked up to them more than 1,500 times during the month to refuel.

Master Sgt. Tony Karpenko, 647th Logistics Readiness Squadron and Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor fuels department quality control inspector, is the lone active duty Airman of 42 total people in the section. Their section has more than three centuries of flight fuel operations among the members.

"I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning," Karpenko said. "Essentially, our role in RIMPAC is the same as it would be any other day. Right now, we are busier because we have ramped up operations because Rim of the Pacific operations is happening in and around Hawaii."

The month-long exercise provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971.

"RIMPAC brings us a chance to work with other services, other organizations, other countries, and allows us the chance to train and better equip the warfighter for when they have to actually do it for real," Karpenko said. "If they don't get their gas, they can't hone their skills to take the fight to the enemy and POL plays a big part of that."

With nearly 70 years of Air Force fuels experience between Parks and Karpenko, the Airmen said they understand they are going to work harder while RIMPAC is going on. According to their calculations, they pump an average of 246,688 gallons per day, with their busiest day to date of 386,545 gallons. That is a more than double their typical 120,000 gallons a day.

"Along with servicing three times the number of aircraft, we have been supporting tank truck filling operations for the Pearl Harbor Fuel Department," Karpenko said. "These tank trucks deliver JP-8 to several locations throughout Oahu who are also fulfilling RIMPAC taskings. To date during RIMPAC, we have filled 385 tank trucks with 3,080,000 gallons of fuel."
Through management, operations, administration and accounting, compliance and environmental, the fuels service center, training, distribution, preventative maintenance, bulk storage and their laboratory, the unit has been able to keep up with the demand of fuel working seven days a week on 24-hour operations.

"We love it," Karpenko said. "RIMPAC gives us a chance to shine."

In recognition of their efforts, the fuels flight was recently awarded the U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor 2011 American Petroleum Institute Award for the "Best Navy Retail Fuel Activity for Airfield Operations." The API awards recognize the most significant contributions to Department of the Navy bulk fuel operations and fleet fuel support. The institute sets standards and provides technical direction for all aspects of petroleum production, refining, measurement, and fuel handling.

As RIMPAC operations come to a close Aug. 3, the fuels flight will continue making sure pilots don't become pedestrians.