Military News

Thursday, December 13, 2012

U-2 Pilots visit Scott in hopes of recruiting future pilots

by Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


12/11/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Il. -- The Air Force is searching for officers to pilot the U-2 "Dragon Lady," a reconnaissance aircraft that provides critical high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to the nation's decision makers.

Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander at Beale Air Force Base, and Maj. "Eric" a pilot with the 1st RS, gave a recruiting presentation at the base theater Dec. 5 to inform interested pilots on how the U-2 program works, and how to apply for the position.

During the presentation, Rodriguez and Eric talked about the history of the U-2, the expansion of the program to the year 2025, training requirements, and why the U-2 program would be something to pursue.

"The U-2 is unique--it's a single-pilot mission," Rodriguez said. "It's very challenging for an aviator. The mission is never routine."
Pilots interested in flying the U-2 should start the application a year before they are going to PCS.

"We'll interview the pilot at six months out, and we would bring him/her out during their PCS time," Rodriguez said.

Pilots, who meet the requirements, should put together a paper package, which includes all their officer performance reports, a wing commander endorsement letter, and a statement of intent.

"Once the pilot submits the paper package, we look at it," the commander stated. "We'll call him/her if we feel the pilot would make a good candidate, and then the person goes through a two-week interview process."

"We are looking for mature, experienced pilots who show a good degree of Airmanship and who are also good officers," said Rodriguez, who has 19 years of flying experience.
Rodriguez added that the wing has a limited number of U-2 pilot openings.

"We will produce up to 24 pilots a year. Typically we look for captains all the way up to young lieutenant colonels. Some first lieutenants actually qualify."

The presentation provided useful information to the pilots who attended.

"I thought the presentation was outstanding," 1st Lt. Aleksey Tyabus, a C-21 pilot at Scott, stated. "They answered a ton of questions for everyone there. "They were clear about the U-2's mission and how important the U-2 is in the fight. Their presentation gave all the information needed to make an informed decision on choosing whether or not this is the aircraft and lifestyle for me. This was a big motivational boost, and I guarantee that my application will be going to the U-2 program very soon."

For more information on the application requirements, visit www.beale.af.mil or call (530) 634-4447.

Application instructions are located on Beale Air Force Base's website, said Rodriguez.

Slovenian armed forces, Colo. National Guard cultivate innovative range training ideas

By Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares
140th Wing Public Affairs

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FORT CARSON, Colo. (12/13/12) – For more than a week in November, two Slovenian armed forces members visited Colorado National Guard and active duty military ranges to procure styles, ideas and techniques on revamping their ranges in Slovenia.

Colorado Air National Guardsmen guided Slovenian counterparts on a tour around the 140th Wing Airburst Range and discussed ideas on how to establish a similar range in Slovenia.

The goal for Slovenian armed forces is to build ranges like the ones operated in Colorado in order for NATO nations and European countries to conduct combined training on ground and air-to-ground tactics in the European theater.

"Our main goal is to upgrade our current range so that it will accommodate more advanced air-to-ground training," said Slovenian Armed Forces member Sgt. 1st Class Darko R. Roth, training noncommissioned officer.

Roth sees the Slovenian range program and enhanced capabilities, as a long-term project, with a full-time, active range online in the next five years. Colorado Air National Guard Airburst Range members helped them to understand the realizations of this project.

Lt. Col. John Stevenson, 140th Operation Support Squadron Airburst Range commander, briefed them on equipment, supplies, safety and perhaps most important, the imagination required to make a range work.
"We are an Air National Guard range national asset," Stevenson said. "We train everybody and we basically run the whole gamut of air and ground operations."

*quot;Some of the best ranges do come from the U.S., and because of our State Partnership Program, we were able to get a lot of ideas, a lot of knowledge and we have learned about setting up the range for current training and all of the future endeavors that are coming," said Roth.

Roth, along with Capt. Mitja Lipovsek, toured the Colorado Army National Guard's Central Training Site on Fort Carson where they received a comprehensive brief and tour of all Fort Carson facilities provided by Fort Carson's range control director.

The Slovenian military has roughly 7,500 troops who will participate in exercises at the Slovenian Pocek range along with interested militaries from other NATO and European countries.

This engagement was part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program. SPP is an innovative Department of Defense joint security cooperation program, managed by the National Guard Bureau and implemented by the state adjutants gen`eral in support of combatant commanders' security cooperation objectives and ambassador country plans under the authorities provided by the DoD and Congress.

The CONG and the Republic of Slovenia have been partner nations since 1993, when the program began. In addition to many other milestones in the program, Citizen-Soldiers from the CONG and soldiers from Slovenia have deployed together many times as members of the Operational Mentor Liaison Teams, now called Military Assistance Teams, to help train soldiers of the Afghan National Army.

In January 2013, the latest of six CONG-Slovenian teams is scheduled to deploy for this mission; a recognition of the success as Colorado and Slovenia celebrate the 20th anniversary of their partnership.
Nearly 20 National Guard states have deployed with their SPP partners to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mass. celebrates National Guard's birthday with headquarters grand opening

Massachusetts National Guard

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HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (12/12/12) – Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray joined Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, to celebrate the 376th birthday of the National Guard and the grand opening of the Massachusetts National Guard headquarters here.

"The opening of this facility is one example of the critical investments America has made in our National Guard," Grass said. "Today's Guard is the best trained, equipped and led force since its inception – 376 years ago today."

"Hanscom is a valued partner of the Commonwealth. The base boosts the local economy and creates jobs," Patrick said. "The impressive new Joint Force Headquarters creates a permanent headquarters to better support the base's dual military mission."

"As we celebrate the National Guard's 376th birthday, we also celebrate a new beginning in the Commonwealth for the Massachusetts National Guard, Hanscom Air Force Base, and surrounding communities," said Murray, the lieutenant governor. "This partnership will strengthen the Guard's presence, our military security, and resources for our servicemen and women."

The new headquarters has been operational since Nov. 5 and was built to be a state-of-the-art facility – where the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Military Division and Massachusetts National Guard, as a community-based operational force will continue its mission to train as a joint war-fighting force.

The new headquarters maximizes green technologies, ergonomic design and internal and external communication technologies to sustain the highest organizational effectiveness and efficiency. During construction, more than 250 jobs were created to build and design this structure, and it will support the Massachusetts Guard's effort to add 150 new jobs to its state-wide end-strength in 2013.

The newly constructed MANG Joint Force Headquarters at Hanscom solidifies a strategic partnership with the United States Air Force that provides improved physical and data security, superior bandwidth, and an appropriate military infrastructure that strengthens the MANG's state and federal mission readiness to the benefit of the people of Massachusetts and the nation.

"After the Guard's 376 years protecting us, this top-notch facility at of one of Massachusetts' strategic and celebrated bases is a boost to our emergency response efforts and our security," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "I'm really proud that Massachusetts continues to lead the way, and I'm grateful to Gov. Patrick and our military leaders for helping to make this happen."

"It is only appropriate that the new headquarters of the Massachusetts National Guard be built alongside the Battle Road between Lexington and Concord where the original Minutemen fought to secure the rights and freedoms we enjoy today," said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. "This state-of-the-art facility will ensure that our modern day Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen will be well poised to contend with the threats, man-made and natural, that our Commonwealth and nation can expect to face in the 21st century."

Three hundred and seventy six years ago on December 13, 1636, the Massachusetts National Guard was founded as the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia, when town militia companies were organized into three permanent militia regiments. Ever since, the Massachusetts National Guard has provided a trained and ready operational force, serving the community, the commonwealth and the nation.

Throughout the nation and the world wherever Guard members are on duty, troops honored the anniversary with activities including runs and cake cuttings.

Intelligence Council Poses Four Worlds of the Future

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 – Prediction is an inexact science.

The 1939 New York World’s Fair was billed as a look at tomorrow, and nations built pavilions and presented their latest inventions along with how they believed they would change the world.

One large part of the Fair itself was called “Futurama” -- a scale model of what planners believed would be America in 1960. The model had futuristic homes, urban complexes, bridges, dams and an advanced highway system which envisioned speeds of 100 mph.

The visionaries of 1939 did not anticipate suburbs, satellites, an oil embargo, nuclear energy or apparently where all those 100 mph cars were going to park.

The National Intelligence Council, which supports the Director of National Intelligence by providing long-term strategic analysis, has learned from instances like this and presents a range of options in its publication World Trends 2030.

The council posits four possible worlds in 2030: stalled engines, fusion, gini out-of-the-bottle and nonstate world.

“Gini” refers to the gini coefficient, which is a statistical measurement of income inequality.

The stalled engine world predicts a planet where the risk of interstate conflict rises due to a new great game in Asia. This scenario is a bleak one. “Drivers behind such an outcome would be a U.S. and Europe that turn inward, no longer interested in sustaining their global leadership,” the report says. This scenario envisions the Euro Zone unraveling, causing Europe’s economy to tumble.

The stalled engine world also sees the U.S. energy revolution failing to materialize -- despite current trends that suggest the U.S. will be a future energy exporter.

This scenario is most likely to lead to conflict between nations over scarce resources, but this scenario does not necessarily envision major conflagrations. Economic interdependence and globalization would be mitigating factors.

The fusion scenario represents the other end of the spectrum.

“This is a world in which the specter of a spreading conflict in South Asia triggers efforts by the U.S., Europe and China to intervene and impose a ceasefire,” the report says. “China, the U.S. and Europe find other issues to collaborate on, leading to a major positive change in their bilateral relations, and more broadly leading to worldwide cooperation to deal with global challenges.”

This scenario sees China adopting political reforms and Chinese leaders managing growing nationalism. Fusion sees more multinational organizations.

“In this scenario, all boats rise substantially,” the report says. Developing economies rise, but so do those in developed countries. Under fusion, the American dream remains a reality with the council seeing U.S. incomes rising by $10,000 over a decade.

“Technological innovation -- rooted in expanded exchanges and joint international efforts -- is critical to the world staying ahead of the rising financial and resource constraints that would accompany a rapid boost in prosperity,” the report says.

The genie out-of-the-bottle scenario is a world of extremes, but somewhere between the stalled engine and fusion scenarios. This scenario sees winners and losers in the global commons; a core group of the European Union remaining while others -- those not doing well economically -- fall away.

In the “gini” scenario the United States remains the preeminent power but it doesn’t play global policeman. Energy producing nations see prices fall while they fail to diversify their economies. “Cities in China’s coastal zone continue to thrive, but inequalities increase and split the [Communist] Party,” the report says.
Global growth continues, but it is uneven. More countries fail in part because of the failure of international organizations.

“In sum, the world is reasonably wealthy, but it is less secure as the dark side of globalization poses an increasing challenge in domestic and international politics,” the report says.

The final scenario -- the nonstate world -- sees nonstate actors taking the lead in confronting global challenges. Nonstate actors include nongovernmental organizations, multinational businesses, academic individuals, wealthy individuals and cities.

“The nation state does not disappear, but countries increasingly organize and orchestrate ‘hybrid’ coalitions of state and nonstate actors which shift depending on the issue,” the report says.

This is a complex and diverse world that favors democracies. “Smaller, more agile countries in which the elites are also more integrated are apt to do better than larger countries that lack social or political cohesion,” the report says.

By its nature, the nonstate world would be uneven and would carry its own dangers. Some global problems would be solved because the networks would coalesce to solve them but others would not. Security threats would increase because not all nonstate actors are benign. Access to lethal and disruptive technologies could expand, “enabling individuals and small groups to perpetuate violence and disruption on a large scale,” according to the report.

The four worlds suggested in the report could happen or something altogether different may occur also. The report notes that unplanned, unforeseen events can change all of this.

The example of the New York World’s Fair extends here too. While the Fair opened in 1939, it reopened in 1940. Two nations that sponsored buildings in 1939 -- Czechoslovakia and Poland -- had ceased to exist when the Fair returned in 1940.

Langley AFB hosts special operations 'combine'

by Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


12/13/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- The 317th Recruiting Squadron held a special operations combine for U.S. Air Force recruits at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Dec. 6.

The event was a crucible of what aspiring Airmen experience during special operations training.

"This event was specifically designed to encourage and motivate recruits who are interested in Air Force special operations career fields," said Col. Chris Wheeler, 360th Recruiting Group commander. "It gave these future Airmen a taste of what it takes to successfully become a special forces Airman.

Pararescuemen and special operations weather personnel began the combine by answering questions and sharing experiences about their own careers as battlefield Airmen.

"The speakers added an invaluable experience for the recruits because they brought a wealth of knowledge and experience, allowing the recruiters to convey the challenges of these career fields," said Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary, 317th Recruiting Squadron commander.

Along with the speakers, a special operations recruiting liaison administered the Physical Ability Stamina Test, or P.A.S.T, which is used to qualify individuals for special operations career fields. The test includes a swimming portion, which varies between career fields, a running portion and a muscular endurance portion, which includes push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups.

"This combine tried to match the intensity battlefield Airmen will experience in an operational setting for the inevitable event in which they will conduct high-priority missions," Chaudhary said. "These young men and women are training for a profession in which we dare not take second place."

Though the spectrum of special operations careers vary, they all begin with the Battlefield Airmen Indoctrination course. The course tests physical and mental stamina of potential special operations Airmen, and pushes them to the limits.

The course is a high-intensity, non-stop setting that requires trainees to run everywhere they go, spend hours swimming laps in a pool and adhere to an intensive calisthenics regimen. The training is demanding but necessary to ensure all battlefield Airmen have the tools needed to survive a hostile environment.

Once graduates complete training and enter the operational Air Force, they conduct unique ground operations that assist, control, enable and execute air dominance. These include surveillance, weather forecasting, airfield surveying, air traffic control, directing air strikes, airdrop marking, trauma care and personnel recovery.

Different specialties are sometimes combined into special tactics teams that work independently or in tandem with other U.S. military forces.

Tyler Mace, an aspiring pararescueman from Prince George, Va., said he looks forward to a career as a battlefield Airman, and that events like the combine are an excellent setting to meet other recruits with a similar drive to serve their country.

Mace was one of three recruits to achieve the level of "ironman", a title reserved for those who scored excellent on their P.A.S.T.

"While training if I start to slow down or give up I imagine I'm letting an Airman down," he said, exemplifying the words 'every day is training day' printed on his shirt. "It's extremely satisfying to have an event like the combine to see where I'm at, and motivate others with the same goals."

While the combine was rigorous, it set the stage for future events to look for America's best and brightest with the capabilities to fill these incredibly intense career fields said Chaudhary.

"Only a select few not only meet the high physical standards, but the mental fortitude required to become a battlefield Airman," Wheeler said. "We are looking for men and women who have the drive and desire to do more with their Air Force career."

SecNav Institutes Community Involvement Committee at Naval Postgraduate School



From Defense Media Activity - Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus directed the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) working group and NPS leadership to reach out to community business leaders, elected officials, and educational partners from the Monterey peninsula to strengthen ties between the school and the community.

Mabus established the working group to help NPS identify best practices to correct administrative inadequacies identified in a recent Naval Inspector General (NAVINSGEN) inspection.

The working group is led by Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Juan M. Garcia, and co-chaired by NPS interim president, Rear Admiral Jan E. Tighe. The working group reports directly to Under Secretary of the Navy, Robert O. Work, and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark Ferguson. Work, Ferguson, and Tighe are alumni of NPS.

Community involvement focus groups, composed of community business leaders, elected officials, and educational partners, will convene at NPS in a series of sessions and consult with the working group. The purpose of the focus groups is to help identify the aspects of NPS mission and functions most important to community leaders as the school implements changes to address the recommendations noted in the NAVINSGEN reports.

"There is no better place for world-class graduate education and research programs than NPS, and one of the fundamental strengths behind the school's long history of success has been its collaborative relationship and transparency with the greater Monterey peninsula," said Mabus. "The NPS working group was chartered to strengthen that relationship and ultimately, NPS."

"By including the broader community as we plan for NPS's future successes, the Navy reinforces its commitment to the institution and its longstanding relationship with the region," continued Mabus.

The Naval Postgraduate School is a prestigious accredited institution, providing high-quality, relevant, and unique advanced education and research programs that increase the combat effectiveness of the naval services, other armed forces of the United States and our partners, and enhances the nation's national security.

Airmen prepare for Transition GPS

by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


12/13/2012 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  -- Airmen preparing to transition out of the military, either through retirement or separation, should prepare for a major change in the assistance program offered through Airman & Family Readiness Centers.

On Dec. 14, the AFRC will begin the process toward switching from the standard Transition Assistance Program to the newly-christened Transition GPS, or Goal, Plans and Success.
Transition GPS is a cooperative venture between the Department of Defense, Office of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Labor designed to completely revamp the transition program in an effort to combat the high unemployment rate among veterans.

"The goal is to help ready service members when they are preparing to separate or retire," said Sarah Corey, 633rd Force Support Squadron AFRC team lead and community readiness consultant. "It's been a huge change and undertaking."

Currently, TAP only requires separating Service members to receive pre-separation counseling. Transition GPS, through the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 and the Veterans Employment Initiative, will expand TAP services to include mandatory attendance of a five-day workshop, with the possibility to attend further "optional" training and extensive one-on-one counseling designed to assist Airmen in making the shift from military to civilian life.

"This isn't a one-size fits all program," said Ann Gregory, 633rd FSS AFRC transition manager. "We want Airmen to set specific goals and make a plan based on them."

While the full program is scheduled to be implemented Jan. 14, Airmen who are one year from separation or two years from retirement are asked to contact their center to set up a pre-separation briefing time.

"We want Airmen to be as prepared as they can be when they enter their new life," Corey said. "Through Transition GPS, once they leave the military they will have better tools at their disposal."

Some of the tools to help Airmen transition into civilian life are a Personal Financial Readiness brief, Individual Transition Plan preparation and review, a three-day Department of Labor employment training workshop and a Military Occupation Code Crosswalk.

In order to get the most from these workshops, Airmen are asked to bring the following items:

· DD Form 2648

· Pre-TAP Assessment

· Verification of Military Experience and Training [VMET] sheet, can be searched online from a DOD computer

· OPRs or EPRs

· College Transcripts

· Credit Report, available from www.annualcreditreport.com, or FICO Score

· Last end-of-month Leave and Earnings Statement

· E-Benefits enrollment

· Copy of Medical Records

"It is really to the Airman's benefit to attend," Corey said. "Although the program is much more extensive, utilizing these workshops will truly benefit someone as they prepare to take that first step into a civilian life."

Tree farmers, transporters team up to provide trees for Airmen

by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


12/13/2012 - ELLSWORTH AIR FOCRE BASE, S.D. -- Christmas spirit at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., was boosted when a semi truck delivered 235 free Christmas trees Outdoor Recreation Office as part of the Fifth Annual Trees for Troops event, Nov. 30.

Sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, tree farmers from across the midwest donate trees that are transported free of charge by freight haulers to various military installations as a way of thanking servicemembers and their families for their many sacrifices.

Col. Thomas Goulter, 28th Mission Support Group commander, said this was the first year he has witnessed the program at the base, and that he was humbled by the gesture of support.

"This is an outstanding event for Airmen, especially for the families of our deployed Airmen," Goulter said.

Farmers from Iowa, Kansas and Missouri donated the trees that were unloaded by 20 volunteers from various squadrons and base organizations.

Rachel Bothwell, FedEx freight driver, guided the "sleigh" carrying the trees delivered to Ellsworth this year. She said she was impressed with how all of the volunteers worked together to empty the trailer.

"This is my first year being involved," Bothwell said. "I cannot believe how fast they get the trees unloaded."

Tara Kuenkel, spouse of an Ellsworth Airman, said she appreciates the opportunity to add some Christmas cheer to her family's home.

"I think it's great that they're able to donate these trees to the families (at Ellsworth)," Kuenkel said. "It's them giving back - especially at this time of year when so many people are deployed."

Many of the trees sported tags with heartfelt messages from the tree farmer to the family who would eventually pick up the tree. Kuenkel said she was fortunate enough to be able to thank the farmer who grew the tree she picked out last year.

"I was able to look them up, and I sent them a picture of our tree all decorated in our home," Kuenkel explained.

Bothwell said she thinks Trees for Troops is a great way to reward America's men and women in uniform.

"It's nice to give something back to the troops who have given so much to us," Bothwell said. "It's amazing."

With the number of deployed Ellsworth Airmen nearing 580, Goulter said it's important to keep in mind how even the smallest things can make a huge difference in someone's holiday season.

"I believe it's a little bit of home," Goulter said. "I believe they know their loved ones are safe while they're deployed, and at least they have that little light - that little ember - of home."

The last days of an Airman's best friend

by Kiley Swopes
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs


12/13/2012 -  MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- Two months ago, I spent a lot of time with the Military Working Dogs at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; learning about their mission, getting to know them and even allowing myself to overcome one of my greatest fears of being attacked by a dog during their training.

I had established a connection, not only with the handlers of the kennel, but with the dogs as well. Talking to the handlers allowed me to hear the stories each dog seemed to have. But one dog's story would soon be coming to an end. That dog's name was Jessey, and being with her during her final days would change me forever.

On Nov. 15, I went to the kennels to cover a "feel good" story about the 5th Contracting Squadron's efforts to collect and donate dog treats to the MWDs. When I arrived I noticed one dog roaming around the office. This seemed odd, so I asked about her story.

The dog was seven-year-old Jessey. To my dismay I learned Jessey had been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in June and she had gone blind in her right eye, making her no longer fit for duty.

As I continued to listen to Tech. Sgt. Randy Akin, 5th Security Forces Squadron kennel master, answer questions from Airmen from the 5th CONS, my heart sank as I learned that Jessey was eventually going to be put to sleep.

When the group split off for a tour, my questions continued. I almost felt sick when I learned Jessey was actually going to be put down in four days. Four days!

At that moment I forgot about why I was there and focused all of my attention on Jessey. Tech Sgt. Aaron Allmon, our public affairs photographer NCO in charge, and I spent all afternoon at the kennels. As I watched everyone interact with Jessey, it was easy to see the amount of joy she brought to them. But their smiles could not hide the feeling of dread they had, knowing these were her last days. Their faces told the story. The final decision to ease her suffering had not come easy.

While each handler had formed their own special bond with Jessey, she was actually assigned to Staff Sgt. Eric Rod, 5th SFS MWD handler. The bond they had was obvious, for as soon as Rod walked into the room, she immediately perked up. Rod arrived with lunch for his K9 partner. Two cheese burgers were on the menu. One for himself and one for his special friend, Jessey. Together the two ate their lunch as buddies, even sharing an order of fries.

Soon after our visit, the MWD crew called to let us know they were going to hold a "last supper" for Jessey on Monday night. The handlers and their families all gathered together for a barbecue in her honor. I watched Jessey go from person to person, almost as if she was saying good bye to everyone in her own way. It was a humbling and gut-wrenching experience.

Jessey received a gourmet meal that night--full of countless hotdogs and hamburgers. She was the only one to receive a steak and although she appeared to be full, she still finished it. Together, the unit gave Jessey a toast and then they all suited up to be "attacked" by her one final time. After all, chomping on a potential bad guy was one of her favorite activities.

That night, Rod, his wife Tiffany and daughter Erica, spent the night at the kennel with Jessey. They did their best to make her as comfortable as possible. One can only imagine the sorrow going through Rod's mind as he tried to sleep that night, knowing his friend and partner would soon sleep forever.

As I drove to work on Tuesday, I replayed the memories I had established with Jessey in such a short amount of time. I met Allmon at our office and as we drove to the kennels, neither of us said a word. As we got closer to the kennels, my stomach began to turn and a lump formed in my throat. I felt like I was about to cry just thinking about what was about to happen. I wondered if Jessey would understand.

When we arrived to the kennels, Allmon and I agreed out of respect for Jessey and Rod's bond, we would capture only one last photo of their final moment together and leave.

As we waited, Jessey continued to play while everyone in the room exchanged light-hearted stories about her and what a great dog she was. However, when Akin appeared, telling everyone to say their final goodbyes, the room turned deadly silent. No one moved. Everyone sat their looking at Jessey.

Through tear-filled eyes, hugs and goodbyes swarmed Jessey as the Airmen all paid their final respects. I hid behind a wall, using a TV to block the flood of emotions that overcame the room.

I felt like I was in a haze as the time continued to pass by. While the Airmen set up the veterinarian's supply table, I refused to look; keeping a close eye on Jessey's every move. I knew the time was near, but I prayed for all of us to have a little more.

Rod led Jessey down a hall which led to the veterinarian's room. As I followed down the hall, I tried to switch into "work mode". However, the lump in my throat returned as I looked up and saw tears streaming from the eyes of U.S. Army Capt. Morgan Mander, Minot AFB veterinarian, as she watched Rod play with Jessey one last time while making their way to the room.

Once inside the room, Rod steeled himself as he put aside his emotions and assisted Mander by prepping and calming Jessey. After all the times Jessey watched her friend's back, it was now Rod's turn to try to reassure her.

The time came when everyone stepped out, leaving Allmon and I with Jessey and Rod. As I stood there, watching Rod holding Jessey on the table, I caught a glimpse of tears coming down his wife's face in the background. I knew at that moment we were capturing a bond no words could really explain.

With that thought in mind, Allmon shot his final photo and gave me the nod to grab the equipment. We both whispered our goodbyes to Jessey and closed the door as we left the room.

As tears streamed down my face, Allmon looked down at me and said, "Man, that was hard." I looked up only to see that Jessey touched him just as much as she did me as he began to cry too.

Face of Defense: Marine Shares Love of Fishing With Injured Vets

By Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Peterson
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Dec. 13, 2012 – They called his name, and the rest was just a blur.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua T. Shakeshaft, a combat engineer and head instructor for improvised explosive device awareness at the Battle Skills Training School on Camp Lejeune, N.C., accepts the 2012 Veteran of the Year award from Mayor Sammy Phillips of Jacksonville, N.C., during a ceremony held Nov. 20, 2012. Shakeshaft received the award for his ongoing efforts to help wounded veterans. Photo by Lisa Miller
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua T. Shakeshaft, a combat engineer and head instructor for improvised explosive device awareness at the Battle Skills Training School here, walked to the head of the council chambers at City Hall in Jacksonville, N.C., Nov. 20 to accept the 2012 Veteran of the Year award.

Jacksonville is proud of its unique bond with local veterans, said Mayor Sammy Phillips, who personally handed the award to Shakeshaft. Every year since 1988, the city takes a moment to recognize veterans from each of the city’s veteran organizations for demonstrating outstanding volunteerism, support and leadership.

More than 100 people filled the council chambers as Phillips thanked each of the 30 recipients for their continued service to the local community and the nation.

“I was perfectly happy with a pat on the back,” said Shakeshaft, who accepted the award as the nominee for Heroes on the Water, an organization that provides wounded and disabled veterans with an outlet for stress though kayak fishing. “The last thing I ever expected was to get an award from the mayor.”

Shakeshaft, a Castle Rock, Colo., native and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, first became active with the organization after returning to the states to be with his mother, who was dying of cancer.

He instantly found an outlet for his own combat stress and personal loss through an activity he loved from his time back home: fishing.

“He was hooked the very first time he went out with us, and he has gone out ever since,” said Patrick Curley, one of Shakeshaft’s personal mentors and the Chrystal Coast Chapter coordinator for Heroes on the Water. “He has found something he enjoys doing, and now he is sharing it with other people.”

Shakeshaft saw his participation as a personal means of healing and a way to help his fellow veterans struggling with visible and unseen wounds. It increasingly consumed his free time.

“No one here knew I was taking veterans out fishing every weekend,” Shakeshaft said. “I don’t expect recognition for it. I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it for my gratification -- helping people helps me. I got that from my mom.”

Shakeshaft continues to share his expertise with IEDs as an instructor during his working hours here, but his weekends belonged to the waterways of North Carolina.

“It has changed my life,” he said. “It is like the brotherhood you see when you are in combat … [whether] it is a double amputee or someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder, everybody can relate with each other.”

Shakeshaft said his wife, Traci, is his biggest supporter. Fishing and volunteering cut into the couple’s small amount of free time, but she understands its importance and even tells him to go out.

He takes particular joy in seeing what he calls a “hero’s moment,” when a wounded warrior finds a few minutes of peaceful sleep in a kayak while his feet dangle in the water.

Shakeshaft’s contributions to the community quickly grew after his first volunteering experience with the group. He regularly brought new participants to events and became increasingly involved in other volunteer opportunities.

Whether it is mentoring local youth, participating in veterans meetings and parades or simply providing an open ear to a fellow service member, he said the gratification of doing something good helps him heal.
Shakeshaft is planning additional outreach programs. He hopes someday to return to Colorado, where he can help veteran communities find some of the peace he experiences nearly every weekend in North Carolina.

Five Years of Combat and Counting

by Lt. Col. Michael Kem
174th Attack Wing


12/2/2012 - Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York -- Perhaps no other unit demonstrates our citizen soldiers' dedication to the war effort and highlights the Air National Guard's incredible experience level more than the 45th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron (ESOS).

For 64 straight months the 45th ESOS, which includes Airmen from the 174th Attack Wing, Syracuse, New York, has continuously flown 24/7 operations as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom, amassing an incredible 42,000 combat hours and 9,400 sorties.

Beginning with a core group of 66 Guardsmen from 11 states, the 45th took what was a niche counter-drug platform and turned it into an inexpensive and effective success story for manned Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in theatre. Using basic tactics they had first perfected in their stateside counter-drug mission, Guard pilots and mission sensor operators have expanded what began as a one year Request For Forces by USCENTCOM into a constant fixture in combat airspace overseas. The quiet professionalism of a handful of aircrew at a single location helped spawn the exponential growth of ISR largely responsible for the kill and capture of thousands of enemy combatants and the safe return of untold numbers of Soldiers, Marines, and Special Operations Forces.

The RC-26 aircraft was so successful that its model became the prototype for the next generation Project Liberty's MC-12. As a matter of fact, instructor pilots and mission sensor operators with experience in the 45th ESOS stood up the MC-12 schoolhouse at Key Field, Mississippi, developed its Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), and trained more than 1200 active duty aircrew in just over two years. MC-12s now account for half of all ISR flown over Afghanistan, but in the words of one MC-12 squadron commander, "Project Liberty succeeded because it was standing on the shoulders of the RC-26."

Five years after the RC-26 first joined the fight down range, manned ISR has become an absolutely integral part of the ground and air scheme of maneuver for both conventional and special forces. As one MC-12 pilot said with conviction, "nothing demonstrates the Air Force's commitment to troops in harm' s way more effectively than having highly trained and committed Airmen in the skies overhead."

This all-volunteer force of core RC-26 aircrew augmented with additional Guardsmen and Naval aviators have repeatedly deployed to austere locations in a critical, classified mission they will never be able to discuss with their families or friends back home. Even more impressive is the fact that they've accomplished all of this in the face of looming budget cuts that threaten their program. Why do they do it?

In the words of the 45th ESOS Commander, Lt. Col. Scott Ritchie, "we press forward day in and out with one purpose; to bring our guys home and ensure the bad guys don't go home. We love this aircraft and this mission and are willing to pass up other opportunities and promotions to shake the hand of a fellow aviator completing his 300th combat sortie. And we smile at the thought of flying with that brother in all of the hellish corners of the world."

Guardsmen like New York's Lt. Col. Michael Lawyea, who has flown 353 combat missions and 1,421 combat hours, are rightfully proud of what the RC-26 community has accomplished. But don't bother asking them exactly what they do, because they'll just shake their heads and smile.

U.S. Reduces Staffing, Operations at Lajes Field

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 – The United States is reducing staff and operations at Lajes Field, Portugal, officials said today.

The field is on the Portuguese island of Terceira, part of the nine-island Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic, 900 miles west of Lisbon and 2,200 miles east of Washington, D.C.

The decision reflects U.S. operational requirements and is part of a DOD effort to find efficiencies and cost-cutting measures worldwide

There are now roughly 1,100 U.S. and Portuguese personnel at the base and U.S. officials say the workforce will likely shrink by at least half. Aircraft operations support will also drop, and the United States will return roughly 300 of the 400 buildings on base to the Portuguese government, officials said.

Washington will pay to maintain tower operations and emergency firefighting services, officials said.

By the summer of 2014, airmen will begin to serve unaccompanied 12-month tours and the last families will depart the island. The DOD schools there will then close, officials said.

While a significant change, the reduction does not reflect any diminution of the strategic relationship between the United States and Portugal. “The United States is grateful for Portuguese contributions to the national and allied defense, and for its support and partnership on a variety of security issues,” James J. Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO Policy, said in a statement.

Townsend recognized Portuguese contributions to NATO operations including deploying troops to Afghanistan.

“While we must reduce our presence in the Azores,” he said, “we are not leaving and our strategic relationship with Portugal will continue.”

Townsend stressed that the decision to cut forces at Lajes is driven purely by budgetary demands.
“Other avenues for security cooperation exist, and Portugal continues to be an important and valued partner to the United States,” he said. DOD will work closely with U.S. and Portuguese counterparts to find ways to increase cooperation with Portugal, including in the Azores.

U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Allan J. Katz said, “The U.S. will continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation across a wide range of sectors including defense, justice, home affairs, and science and we will continue to promote commercial and investment opportunities benefitting both our countries.”

Lajes remains an important location for support to aircraft transiting to and from the United States, but flight operations have dropped over the years.

The United States has had a presence in Lajes since World War II, when Portugal allowed the U.S. and Great Britain to combat the Nazi submarine menace. The field was also a stopover for European-bound aircraft at a time when aircraft range was considerably smaller.

McConnell Reservists team with Veterans center to spread holiday cheer

by 1st Lt. Zach Anderson
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs


12/13/2012 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Staff members from the Robert J. Dole Veterans Medical Center, Wichita, Kan., donated hundreds of dollars in cash and gift cards to assist Team McConnell families in need during the holidays.

For the second straight year, the medical center held an "Open House for the Holidays" celebration, during which staff members gave donations. Members of the Air Force Reserve 931st Air Refueling Group were invited to attend the Open House as well. During the afternoon, 931st members toured the facility and spent time visiting with Veterans at the medical center.

"Many of our staff here are former military members, and we also have Reservists and members of the National Guard on staff," said Tiffany Martin, Assistant Nurse Manager of Specialty Care. "We understand the hardships military service can cause for families, especially when a member is deployed and away from home. We want to decrease any worry that a member may have about his or her family and help take care of those families while they are away. If we can relieve just one person's mind, or help just one family, that makes it all worth it."

Chief Master Sgt. Kathy Lowman, 931st Air Refueling Group Superintendent, said the donations are a testament to the extraordinary support the local community provides for the Airmen of McConnell Air Force Base.

"This really shows how much the people here care about the Airmen at the base," said Lowman. "They truly have an awareness of the challenges that face military members and they want to provide as much assistance and support as possible. These donations will go a long way to help out Airmen who are in need at this time of year."

Following the Open House event, the medical center staff presented the donations to the 931st members who were in attendance. The donations will be used to assist families who were identified to receive gifts through the 931st Air Refueling Group Angel Tree program. Through the Angel Tree program, unit members have the opportunity to furnish anonymous gifts for the children and parents of fellow Reservists.

"Donations like these tremendously increase our capability to provide assistance to our families in need," said Col. Mark S. Larson, 931st Air Refueling Group commander. "I am truly grateful to the staff of the Robert J. Dole Veterans Medical Center for their incredible support to our Airmen."

Deployed McConnell Reservist honored as Red Cross Hero

by 1st Lt. Zach Anderson
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs


12/12/2012 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A member of the Air Force Reserve 931st Air Refueling Group was honored at the annual American Red Cross Midway-Kansas Chapter Heroes Breakfast in Wichita Dec.12.

1st Lt. Craig Van Praag, a traditional Reservists who serves as an aircraft maintenance officer assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was named this year's Red Cross Military Hero.  On Oct. 3, Van Praag utilized self-aid buddy care training to save another Airman who was choking at the BX food court.

In his civilian role, Van Praag works as the manpower chief for the 22nd Force Support Squadron.

Van Praag is currently deployed, so his wife, Tech. Sgt. Carrie Van Praag, 931st Logistics Supply Manager, accepted the award on his behalf.

"It's a great honor to accept this award on behalf of Craig while he is deployed," said Tech. Sgt. Van Praag.

"It's truly a tremendous honor," said Lt. Van Praag in an e-mail statement.  "I don't feel like a hero or like I did anything special.  There are many more military members from the Wichita area that are much more deserving of being called a hero.  At the same time, I appreciate the recognition."

This marks the second year in a row a member of the 931st Air Refueling Group has been recognized as a Red Cross hero.  Last year, Tech. Sgt. Joel Janssen was awarded the Red Cross Good Samaritan Hero award.

Marines Aid Philippine Typhoon Relief Efforts


By Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jean Scott-Dodd
III Marine Expeditionary Force

MANILA, Philippines, Dec. 13, 2012 – Personnel and aircraft with III Marine Expeditionary Force are providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support at the request of the Philippine government in the wake of Typhoon Pablo which struck Dec. 4.


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U.S. and Philippine service members load food packs destined for disaster-impacted areas in the southern Philippines, Dec. 9, 2012. Courtesy photo by U.S. Embassy Manila
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marines with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, who were in Manila conducting planning for future bilateral training exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, stood up the III MEF forward command element Dec. 8 to support Philippine relief efforts.
 
“The III MEF forward command element has established the bilateral coordination center, which is providing command and control for U.S. Marine relief efforts and coordinating requests for support with the government and Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Embassy and Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development,” said Marine Corps Col. Mark J. Menotti, the officer in charge of the III MEF FCE.

“We have personnel with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Pacific Air Forces, OFDA, Joint-U.S. Military Assistance Group-Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines in the bilateral coordination center in order to prioritize and synchronize humanitarian assistance and relief efforts, which ultimately makes that coordination more efficient,” Menotti added.

Two KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 arrived in Manila from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, Dec. 8 to transport relief supplies to affected areas, according to Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jason W. Julian, the commanding officer of VMGR-152, part of Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF.

“As of Dec. 12, VMGR-152 has flown a total of 11 flights and transported approximately 330,000 lbs. of relief supplies, including 14,500 family ration packs, 500 relief aid boxes and 40 generators,” Julian said. “We also transported four water purification specialists and three personnel from USAID and the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development were transported to Davao. It’s critical we work with everyone involved in the relief efforts to expediently get these supplies to those affected by the typhoon and in need.”

The squadron also has transported 49,000 pounds of rice, 147 bundles of mosquito nets, one water purification unit, approximately 29,000 pounds of blankets, 833 sleeping mats and a United Nation’s World Food Program relief module and three of their tents.

Marines transported relief supplies from Villamor Air Base located in Manila to Davao International Airport in Mindanao, the region most affected by the typhoon. From Davao, the supplies were principally distributed by government and nongovernmental organizations to displaced families affected by the typhoon as directed by the Philippine government..

“We’re seeing a collective response from the international community to support the Philippines,” Menotti said. “We are happy to help our close allies, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in order to provide necessary aid. The U.S. government -- including U.S. Marine forces -- is providing robust logistical and aviation support to quickly deliver life-saving supplies in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.”

The U.S. military has partnered and trained with the Armed Forces of the Philippines for many years in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, Menotti said.

“We frequently prepare for situations like this with our Philippine allies, so we are ready to work together to support the Philippine government and its citizens during this difficult time,” he said. “Our goal is to help our ally recover from this natural disaster in whatever way we can.”

Jessey's Story: The last days of an Airman's best friend

by Kiley Swopes
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs


12/13/2012 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Two months ago, I spent a lot of time with the Military Working Dogs at Minot AFB; learning about their mission, getting to know them and even allowing myself to overcome one of my greatest fears of being attacked by a dog during their training.

I had established a connection, not only with the handlers of the kennel, but with the dogs as well. Talking to the handlers allowed me to hear the stories each dog seemed to have. But one dog's story would soon be coming to an end. That dog's name was Jessey, and being with her during her final days would change me forever.

On Nov. 15, I went to the kennels to cover a "feel good" story about the 5th Contracting Squadron's efforts to collect and donate dog treats to the MWDs. When I arrived I noticed one dog roaming around the office. This seemed odd, so I asked about her story.

The dog was seven-year-old Jessey. To my dismay I learned Jessey had been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in June and she had gone blind in her right eye, making her no longer fit for duty.

As I continued to listen to Tech. Sgt. Randy Akin, 5th Security Forces Squadron kennel master, answer questions from the 5th CONS, my heart sank as I learned that Jessey was eventually going to be put to sleep.

When the group split off for a tour, my questions continued. I almost felt sick when I learned Jessey was actually going to be put down in four days. Four days!

At that moment I forgot about why I was there and focused all of my attention on Jessey. Tech Sgt. Aaron Allmon, our Public Affairs photographer NCO in charge, and I spent all afternoon at the kennels. As I watched everyone interact with Jessey, it was easy to see the amount of joy she brought to them. But their smiles could not hide the feeling of dread they had, knowing these were her last days. Their faces told the story. The final decision to ease her suffering had not come easy.

While each handler had formed their own special bond with Jessey, she was actually assigned to Staff Sgt. Eric Rod, 5th SFS MWD handler. The bond they had was obvious, for as soon as Rod walked into the room, she immediately perked up. Rod arrived with lunch for his K9 partner. Two cheese burgers were on the menu. One for himself and one for his special friend, Jessey. Together the two ate their lunch as buddies, even sharing an order of fries.

Soon after our visit, the MWD crew called to let us know they were going to hold a "last supper" for Jessey on Monday night. The handlers and their families all gathered together for a barbecue in her honor. I watched Jessey go from person to person, almost as if she was saying good bye to everyone in her own way. It was a humbling and gut-wrenching experience.

Jessey received a gourmet meal that night--full of countless hotdogs and hamburgers. She was the only one to receive a steak and although she appeared to be full, she still finished it. Together, the unit gave Jessey a toast and then they all suited up to be "attacked" by her one final time. After all, chomping on a potential bad guy was one of her favorite activities.

That night, Rod, his wife Tiffany and daughter Erica, spent the night at the kennel with Jessey. They did their best to make her as comfortable as possible. One can only imagine the sorrow going through Rod's mind as he tried to sleep that night, knowing his friend and partner would soon sleep forever.

As I drove to work on Tuesday, I replayed the memories I had established with Jessey in such a short amount of time. I met Allmon at our office and as we drove to the kennels, neither of us said a word. As we got closer to the kennels, my stomach began to turn and a lump formed in my throat. I felt like I was about to cry just thinking about what was about to happen. I wondered if Jessey would understand.

When we arrived to the kennels, Allmon and I agreed out of respect for Jessey and Rod's bond, we would capture only one last photo of their final moment together and leave.

As we waited, Jessey continued to play while everyone in the room exchanged light-hearted stories about her and what a great dog she was. However, when Akin appeared, telling everyone to say their final goodbyes, the room turned deadly silent. No one moved. Everyone sat their looking at Jessey.

Through tear-filled eyes, hugs and goodbyes swarmed Jessey as the Airmen all paid their final respects. I hid behind a wall, using a TV to block the flood of emotions that overcame the room.

I felt like I was in a haze as the time continued to pass by. While the Airmen set up the veterinarian's supply table, I refused to look; keeping a close eye on Jessey's every move. I knew the time was near, but I prayed for all of us to have a little more.

Rod led Jessey down a hall which led to the veterinarian's room. As I followed down the hall, I tried to switch into "work mode". However, the lump in my throat returned as I looked up and saw tears streaming from the eyes of U.S. Army Capt. Morgan Mander, Minot AFB veterinarian, as she watched Rod play with Jessey one last time while making their way to the room.

Once inside the room, Rod steeled himself as he put aside his emotions and assisted Mander by prepping and calming Jessey. After all the times Jessey watched her friend's back, it was now Rod's turn to try to reassure her.

The time came when everyone stepped out, leaving Allmon and I with Jessey and Rod. As I stood there, watching Rod holding Jessey on the table, I caught a glimpse of tears coming down his wife's face in the background. I knew at that moment we were capturing a bond no words could really explain.

With that thought in mind, Allmon shot his final photo and gave me the nod to grab the equipment. We both whispered our goodbyes to Jessey and closed the door as we left the room.

As tears streamed down my face, Allmon looked down at me and said, "Man that was hard." I looked up only to see that Jessey touched him just as much as she did me as he began to cry too.

Jessey, your selfless service and friendship will be forever missed. You will always be remembered.

F-16s fly at Holloman

by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss
49th Wing Public Affairs


12/13/2012 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is known for its unique airspace which offers many advantages to testing new capabilities and training for future missions. That same uniqueness is one of the reasons that 18 F-16s from the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., are deployed there for training.

The 18 F-16s, along with 190 personnel deployed to Holloman for training from Dec. 7 to14.

"The F-16 makes up the largest fighter fleet in the Air Force, and our training will help sustain fighter pilot production for the foreseeable future," said Col. Rodney Petithomme, 56th FW Operation Location-Alpha commander.

While at Holloman AFB, the F-16s will fly 24 sorties per day. The deployed aircraft and the personnel attached will be using Holloman AFB airspace resources and facilities to test Holloman's ability to meet the needs of a formal training unit which is scheduled to move to Holloman AFB.

"The F-16 formal training unit transfer to Holloman is a very complicated but also critical project," said Maj. Brian Macfarlane, 56th FW Operation Location-Alpha. "This deployment will test airspace, training ranges, Holloman infrastructure and the ability to support robust F-16 operations."

Along with testing base infrastructure, the pilots will be testing the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., airspace and Holloman AFB operations and completing instructor pilot upgrade and transition course sorties. While here they will also be testing employing precision and non-precision inert and live heavyweight munitions on the training ranges. They will validate the new Oscura Bombing Range scored strafe targets and range operatin procedures.

"Having the Luke F-16s here for a week gives us a great opportunity to train on the White Sands Missile Range well ahead of the actual aircraft movement," Petithomme said. "The F-16s will eventually be based here, training both pilots and maintainers. This training gives us the opportunity to find problems now and gives us time to fix them before they arrive permanently."

U.S. Warning Systems Detect, Track North Korean Missile Launch

From a North American Aerospace Defense Command News Release

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Dec. 11, 2012 – North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. EST.

The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth, officials said. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea.

Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit, officials said.
The missile or the resultant debris, officials added, never posed a threat to North America

Commentary: Holidays -- a time to be thankful

by Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger
Commander, Air Force Materiel Command


12/12/2012 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- For many, gathering with friends and family for the holidays often leads to discussions of the things we are thankful for. As you think about the blessings you've enjoyed in the past year, I ask that you also remember the men and women who defend our freedom, one of the greatest gifts of all.

Today the Air Force has more than 32,000 Airmen -- military and civilian -- deployed to preserve the gifts of independence, freedom and democracy. Within Air Force Materiel Command, more than 1,000 members are deployed this holiday season. I am, as always, humbled by their service and sacrifice.

I am also grateful to the rest of our AFMC team carrying out the mission at home. Thanks to your hard work and dedication this year, across our five centers, we have successfully accomplished all of our critical missions -- Science and Technology, Life Cycle Management, Developmental Test and Evaluation, and Sustainment. You should all be proud of what we've accomplished this year, and I know we will see even more success in 2013.

As a final note, I encourage you to keep safety in mind this winter. This time of year brings increased risks and hazards, especially on the roads. By applying risk management as you make your holiday plans, you help ensure a safe season for yourself and your family.

Wolf and I wish you all a joyous holiday and a happy new year. We are proud to serve with you in the world's most respected Air Force.

First Lady Assists Marines at Toys for Tots Event


By Paul Bello
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2012 – First Lady Michelle Obama arrived here yesterday carrying a big red bag filled with presents -- courtesy of White House staff members.


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Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Vazquez escorts First Lady Michelle Obama as she arrives with a sack full of toys at the Toys for Tots Distribution Center at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., Dec. 11, 2012. White House photo by Lawrence Jackson
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The gesture comes as the Marine Corps ramps up efforts nationwide in support of its Toys for Tots campaign. 

As she has for the past four years, Obama joined several Marines inside JBAB’s Naval Marine Corps Reserve Center where they listened to Christmas music, shared some laughs and volunteered to sort toys and clothes into boxes for those less fortunate. The gifts will be handed out to underprivileged children living in the Washington, D.C., area.

“Toys for Tots started with a military family. A Marine reservist and his wife decided to make the holiday a little better for children in need,” Obama told those gathered for the occasion. “Since then, Americans and military families like all of you have spent countless hours bringing gifts and holiday cheer to children all across this country. This is just one example of how military families go that extra mile to serve our communities. I’m proud to be here with all of you today.”

Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched the “Joining Forces” program when they arrived in Washington as a way to honor, recognize and support veterans and military families everywhere. Obama said the program’s goal from the start has been to serve the military as well as they’ve served the nation.

Recently, Obama invited military families to be the first to view the official White House Christmas tree, which is trimmed with ornaments decorated by children living on U.S. military bases around the world. Additionally, guests to the White House are participating in Operation Honor Cards where people send notes of thanks to service members representing all branches of the military.

Pete Osman, president and CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, thanked everyone in the community for their generosity, particularly in a difficult economy and those who are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

He also thanked Obama, who he said has been the campaign’s biggest supporter over the years. According to Osman, she has always kept her word on coming back to volunteer.

“The first lady literally rolls up her sleeves and helps us sort toys. I’m convinced the success of the Toys for Tots program is a result of the help we’ve gotten from her,” Osman said. “When Michelle Obama leads, the American people follow. And they’ve certainly followed her on this one.”

Osman said there are more than 700 local Toys for Tots campaigns nationwide this year. Toys will continue to be collected right up to the holidays and anyone can volunteer to help out, he said.