Monday, December 17, 2012

Air Force Cross recipients honored at Pope Field

by Maj. Lisa Ray
440th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

12/14/2012 - POPE FIELD, N.C. -- Four bronze busts in the likeness of Air Force Cross recipients were unveiled during a ceremony honoring the Airmen  at the Combat Control School at Pope Field, N.C., Dec. 6 The busts honor Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, Senior Airman Zach Rhyner, Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez, and Capt. Barry Crawford.

Crawford and Gutierrez were in attendance, as well as the widow and the mother of Chapman. He was awarded the Air Force Cross posthumously.

"Nowhere else in the Air Force will you find a memorial like this," said Col. Robert Armfield, 24th Special Operations Wing commander and guest speaker for the event.

The ceremony was as unique as the exhibit. When it was time to learn about the heroic actions that warranted the award of the Air Force Cross, Combat Conrol instructors appeared out of the shadows in full combat gear and recited from memory accounts of those fateful days.

"This display will serve as a permanent reminder to all the Airmen, families and public which pass through these halls of the sacrifices and heroism of those that have come before them," said Armfield.

The Air Force Cross was established by Congress in July 1960. It recognizes individuals for extraordinary heroism and is second only to the Medal of Honor.

"This is a great day for the Air Force the Airmen at Pope Field. It is important for people to remember that not only are there still Airmen at Fort Bragg, but that heroes are trained here and this school is something to be proud of," said Brig. Gen. Norman Ham, 440th Airlift Wing commander.

The busts were donated by the Combat Control School Heritage Foundation and were funded by the Combat Control Association, private donors and the CCS Heritage Foundation.

The Air Force Cross display is now a part of the school's museum maintained by the CCS Heritage Foundation and the Combat Control Association. The museum is an extension of the Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Historian Ron Brown is the volunteer curator.

More information about the Combat Control School Heritage Foundation can be found at:

N.C. governor and governor-elect visit 4th FW

by 2nd Lt. Keavy Rake
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/17/2012 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue and Governor-elect Pat McCrory visited the 4th Fighter Wing Dec. 14 on a tour of military installations across the state in a continuing effort to build and maintain strong community relations.

Purdue and McCrory met with base and community leaders to discuss the significant impact Seymour Johnson AFB has in North Carolina.

"The men and women here are part and parcel of Goldsboro, Wayne County and the state," Purdue said. " You are invaluable. There are no words and no dollar amounts that can reflect how important you are to our state."

U.S. Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, 4th FW commander, briefed the 4th FW mission highlighting Total Force Integration as vital to mission success, and the constant support of the 4th FW in overseas contingency operations since 1990.

"Seymour Johnson AFB is absolutely critical to the economy and to the Nation's defense," Purdue agreed. "For the last 30 years I have seen this base be part of every major deployment around the world, when planes are put into action there is somebody from Seymour Johnson involved."

Military Affairs Committee president, Ben Seegars, recapped a recent visit to 9th Air Force headquarters for a Civic Leaders' Forum where North Carolina was recognized as "the most military friendly state in the nation" and how the local Goldsboro and Wayne County community are dedicated to continuous support of Team Seymour and their families.

"The fact is that we have tried to make this state continue to be known as the most military friendly state in America," Purdue said. "The relationship has really grown because of the community advisory committees that we've worked so hard with, and the work of the Military Affairs Committee."

Purdue spoke of partnership with schools, Pre-K programs and touched on the importance of healthcare programs; particularly the social services needs of families and service members who have been deployed off-and-on for the past 15 years.

"We have tried to be a good neighbor and a good partner and to make people understand that Seymour Johnson is not just behind the walls of the base," Purdue said. "These are the men and women we call 'neighbor' and 'friend'."

Purdue has strived to make North Carolina a great place to work and live for Airmen and families already stationed here and for those that may be stationed here in the future.

"We will do anything that's legal to change some laws to make sure the educational and economic workforce opportunities for spouses and retiring military personnel are fully engaged in our state," Purdue said. "We want you to live here and work here as you serve; and then we want you to stay here, to live here, and be a North Carolina citizen as well."

McCrory revealed three main goals for his upcoming tenure as governor to build and maintain the strong community ties between the state and military installations.

"I want their (military personnel) incredible leadership and technical experience to bring new businesses and industry to North Carolina," McCrory said. "My major emphasize is maintaining and growing the existing investments in the military, in North Carolina."

McCrory stated his second objective is to help the cities around military installations with their infrastructure needs to continue the presence, and increase growth of, existing bases. He stressed military-family support and educational needs as his final and most important objective.

"I want to support the families, especially as people come home from overseas, and help them integrate into the community." McCrory said. "We support the military families as a unit, and I want to help with their educational needs."

NORAD elves ready to track Santa’s flight

NORAD Public Affairs

Click photo for screen-resolution imagePETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (12/17/12) – At the North American Aerospace Defense Command, they're gearing up to track Santa's yuletide journey.
The NORAD Tracks Santa website features a holiday countdown, games and daily activities, video messages from students around the world and more. The website is available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are also available in the Windows Store, Apple Store, and Google Play, so parents and children can count down the days until Santa's launch on their smart phones and tablets! Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Santa followers just need to type @noradsanta into each search engine to get started.

Starting at 12 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa's whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to NORAD's “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations.

NORAD Tracks Santa is truly a global experience, delighting generations of families everywhere. This is due, in large part, to the efforts and services of numerous program contributors. New to this year's program are Bing, HP, iLink-Systems,, Microsoft's Windows Azure, BeMerry! Santa, and SiriusXM. Returning collaborators include the 21st Space Wing, Acuity Scheduling, Air Canada, American Forces Network, Analytical Graphics Inc., Avaya, Citadel Mall, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council, CradlePoint, Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS), Federal Aviation Administration, First Choice Awards & Gifts, Globelink Foreign Language Center, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Meshbox, National Tree Lighting Ceremony, Naturally Santa's Inc., Newseum, OnStar, PCI Broadband, Pentagon Channel, RadiantBlue, Space Foundation, TurboSquid, twtelecom, UGroup Media, Verizon, and VisionBox. Santa's Countdown Calendar and the Santa Cam videos will feature music by military bands, including the Naden Band of the Maritime Forces Pacific, Air Force Academy Band, Air Force Band of Liberty, Air Force Band of the Golden West, Air Force Band of the West, Air Force Band, Air Force Heartland of America Band, U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Band, Air Force Band of Mid-America, and the West Point Band. Santa trackers can also purchase official NORAD Tracks Santa licensed goods by visiting the “Official Licensed Products” link on the site.

It all started in 1955 when a local media advertisement directed children to call Santa direct – but the number was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Thus began the tradition which NORAD carried on since it was created in 1958.

Annual Toys for Tots kicks off holiday season around Yokota AB

by Osakabe Yasuo
374th Airlift Wing public affairs

12/17/2012 - AKIRUNO CITY, Japan  -- The holidays are a time of enjoying time with family and friends and most importantly spreading kindness and goodwill to all.

At Yokota Air Base, Japan, a group of Marines extended their goodwill by delivering toys to children at the Ajiro orphanage in Akiruno city, Tokyo on Dec. 14 for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

Every year, October through December, Marines collect new, unwrapped toys to be given as gifts to underprivileged children through the Toys for Tots program. This year at Yokota, approximately 1500 toys have been collected to give to communities throughout Japan.

"It was a great feeling to see how excited the kids got when they received new toys. Giving back to the community makes me proud to be a Marine," said Sgt. Jeremiah Crane, U.S. Forces, Japan.

Toys for Tots began in 1947 when retired U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks, and a group of Marine reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children.

For more than six decades, Toys for Tots has delivered a message of hope to less fortunate children through the gift of new toys, games, and sports equipment during the holiday season. Gifts offer children hope, recognition and a positive memory they can cherish for a lifetime.

"It was really great to see how happy the kids were when they got new toys," said Corp. Crystal Greene, American Forces Network. "Events like this remind me why I joined the Marines... I joined to help people."

AFSOC builds partnerships with sister services, foreign militaries

by Senior Airman Melanie Holochwost
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

12/14/2012 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- More than 30 servicemembers and civil servants from 10 different countries gathered here to attend the Building Partner Aviation Capacity Course Dec. 3 to 14.

BPACC was designed as an avenue for Air Force Special Operations Command to create, nurture or deepen partnerships with foreign militaries, sister services, and other Air Force major commands.

During the course, international students from Afghanistan, Angola, Cote D'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Germany, Mauritius, Paraguay, Rwanda and Zambia are embedded with American students from across the joint aviation community, including Special Operations Forces and conventional Air Force, Army and Navy organizations.

One of the students, Lt. Col. Gabriel Medina, Dominican Republic Air Force Academy vice commander and fighter pilot, said the course opened his eyes to the strategic side of aviation.

"I learned that sometimes leaders use aviation to develop things that don't have anything to do with the military or even aviation," he said. "For example, aviation can be used as a tool to build tourism, which is the largest source of revenue in my country."

Prior to this course, Medina said he never understood why there were so many airports in the Dominican Republic.

"I thought it was happening by accident because we have a lot of airports for such a small country," he said. "But, now I understand there was probably a clear purpose and objective behind it - tourism.

"Basically, when you build an international airport, tourists will come," Medina added.

Maj. Frank Weise, German Air Forces Command plans and requirements officer, said he attended BPACC to prepare for future missions.

"Germany is geographically close to Africa so it makes sense that we will increase our involvement with them in the future," he said. "If there is an opportunity to go to Africa, I will apply for it. This way I can bring the information I learned in this course down to the tactical level on the field."

Weise said the course also gave him one thing that wasn't listed in the syllabus.

"I have seven new friends from Africa," he said. "That alone is a great tool to take with me."

Hardship withdrawal rules relaxed to help victims of Hurricane Sandy

12/17/2012 - WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board announced it has made temporary changes to the Thrift Savings Plan hardship withdrawal rules to help victims of Hurricane Sandy pursuant to the guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service on November 16.

The TSP will treat any Financial Hardship In-Service Withdrawal Request (Form TSP-76) received until January 25, 2013 as qualifying for a hardship withdrawal if the participant writes "Hurricane Sandy" at the top of the form and checks the block on the form for personal casualty.

The distributions must occur before February 1, 2013 to qualify for this treatment.

The participant should write Hurricane Sandy at the top of the form and check the "personal casualty" box on the TSP-76. The TSP will then waive the rule that prohibits a participant from making employee contributions for 6 months after taking a hardship withdrawal.

Air Force leaders issue holiday message

12/17/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy send the following holiday message to the Airmen of the U.S. Air Force:

The holiday season is a perfect time to celebrate the many blessings that we enjoy in our country and spend time with the people who are most important in our lives. As we gather around those we love, we encourage you to strengthen the relationships that enrich your life and sincerely thank those who steadfastly support your service to our Nation's Air Force.

To those who will spend this special time of year far from family and loved ones, our thoughts are with you. The sacrifices you make earn the deep and abiding respect of your fellow Airmen and Americans. For those Airmen and members of our sister Services engaged in combat operations around the globe, we look forward to your safe return.

To those of us with the opportunity to celebrate the holidays at home, remember our deployed Airmen and extend heartfelt thanks to the family members and loved ones who miss them. We ask that you reach out to the families and friends of our deployed Airmen, and in the spirit of giving and support that defines our Air Force family, welcome them into your holiday celebrations.

In the many joyous ways we celebrate this holiday season, we wish you and yours the very best during this special time and throughout the New Year.

Band reaches young musicians at North Cobb High School

by Chandra Lloyd
Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs Office

12/17/2012 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- The Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve hosted a music clinic for young musicians at North Cobb High School during their holiday tour throughout Georgia, Dec. 12.

North Cobb High School was the fourth stop during the band's holiday concert tour throughout Georgia. The tour began in Warner Robins, went through Norcross, Waleska, and ended in Newnan.

The clinic taught the students different performance and delivery techniques, ways to listen while rehearsing a piece in a small group, and the requirements for being an Air Force musician.

"The best thing we offer is inspiration. We want the students to know that hard work pays off if they continue pursuing music, said Tech. Sgt. Amy Moran, Reserve Brass Quintet NCOIC. "Music is about working hard, but also about enjoying it and provides the opportunity to speak to people in a different language."

The musicians were divided into three groups - woodwind, brass and percussion, so the Reserve band members could focus on the students specific questions pertaining to their instrument.

Valacia Gaynor, a senior and flutist in the North Cobb school band said the clinic was eye opening and helped to improve her technique. She praised Senior Airman Gant for her example.

"I have to work on my tonguing and articulation, and hers is (Gant) defined, and very strong. She had a more wholesome tone, and so hearing her makes me want to improve my sound.

Zach Wender, a junior and trumpeter said the clinic reiterated techniques and information that their band director, Greg Williams, taught the class.

"I think today's message was, play music for the enjoyment of music and help your listener enjoy your performance," said Williams. "This clinic was inspirational even for me as the director. I've been doing this for 27 years and it was still motivating for me to hear."

Band members involved in the music clinic include Tech. Sgt. Amy Moran, Tech. Sgt. Ryan Miles, Tech. Sgt. Heather Kirschner, Tech. Sgt. David Vittetoe, Senior Airman Will McCrary, Senior Airman Kelly Fussell, and Senior Airman Mary Gant.

AETC declares Eglin ready for F-35 training

by Maj. Karen Roganov
Team Eglin Public Affairs

12/17/2012 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- 12/17/2012 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- Following an independent evaluation of Eglin's capability to conduct F-35A Lightning II pilot training, Air Education and Training Command announced today the 33rd Fighter Wing can do so, starting in January.

"The preliminary results provided by the Joint Operational Test Team show the F-35A aircraft and its pilot training and sustainment systems, are robust enough to conduct the planned pilot transition and instructor upgrade courses," said Air Education and Training Command commander, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr.

AETC will initiate syllabus training in order to meet Air Force-defined requirements. A deliberate process will be used that continues to validate the training system's effectiveness through advancing training blocks as they are made available by the military's F-35 Program Office and Lockheed Martin.

The Operational Utility Evaluation, which started Sept. 10 and was slated to last 65 days, encompassed intensive classroom and simulator training along with six flights, for four primary and two backup upgrading student pilots.

With favorable conditions to include "good weather, an accomplished maintenance team and talented instructors to train the pilots, the OUE process lasted only 46 training days," said Col. Andrew Toth, 33rd Fighter Wing commander, an F-35A instructor pilot who spearheads the joint and international F-35 efforts at Eglin.

"You are here making a lasting impression on how the team will execute F-35 both flying and maintenance training over the next 50 years," he said during conversations to wing members following the successful OUE.

During the OUE, experienced pilots transitioned from the F-16 and A-10 aircraft, to the world's first multi-role stealth fighter. Two pilots, Maj. John Wilson and Maj. Matthew Johnston were from Eglin's 58th Fighter Squadron and two, Lt. Col. Brian O'Neill and Maj. Joseph Scholtz and were from operational test units at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

"Their performances were superb... that smile each student had after landing his first flight showed they were well prepared and the jet was easy to fly just as I had experienced with my first flight," said Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, who is charged with overseeing the squadron's daily flying operations. He is also the first non-developmental test pilot to fly the F-35.

The OUE was initiated by the Joint Strike Fighter Program Executive Officer based in Wash. D.C. and was intended to best arm the AETC commander with comprehensive data from an independent source so Rice could decide how to proceed with future F-35A pilot training at Eglin.

"The OUE showed the men and women at Eglin are ready," said Rice. "I'm very proud of both those in uniform and the contracted support who put in years of hard work. The culmination of those labors was successfully demonstrating the Integrated Training Center can conduct safe and effective flying operations in addition to academic training."

Training is slated to begin Jan. 7 with four 58th Fighter Squadron pilots and two operational test pilots.

The focus of the OUE evaluation team was on the ability to conduct pilot training but leadership agree they couldn't do it without their maintainers.

"The maintainers are the backbone of the flight operations. Had they not performed the way they did, we could not have finished the OUE about two weeks ahead of schedule," said Toth pointing to his skilled team in the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and Lockheed Martin contracted logistics support.

With RFT declared, the wing's integrated training center gets closer to running at full capacity of 100 military pilot students a year along with the 2,100 maintenance students.

"We look forward to 2013 as we integrate the Navy's 'Grim Reapers' and F-35C into our flying operations along with our international partners, the Dutch and UK. The pace of operations will not slow as we continue to grow and we are ready for the new challenges next year will bring to wing personnel and it's F-35 Integrated Training Center."

Approximately 36 Air Force pilots are expected to go through the training program next year.

"The team at Eglin went through a rigorous process to lead the way for F-35A training. We look forward to starting off the new year with more history in the making as they put the JSF Integrated Training Center to task to provide a world class training program," said Rice.

Air Force NCO training takes on international flavor

by Mike Joseph
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Public Affairs

12/17/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO -- LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Eight Latin American students from Chile, Paraguay and Panama, and two U.S. Air Force students graduated from the Inter-American Air Forces Academy NCO course here Nov. 12, 2012.

The INCOA NCO course supports the Inter-American Air Forces Academy's mission to foster enduring Inter-American partnerships through education and training.

"In the future, if we have the opportunity of working together, it's going to be easier," said Tech. Sgt. Janeth Cubeddu, who is assigned to the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks City-Base, Texas.

Chilean army SG2 Claudio Lopez-Ramirez, an NCO school instructor in his homeland, said having U.S. Air Force NCOs in the course reassures the Latin American students of their equal status with the U.S. students.

"We've been talking about this in and out of class," said Cubeddu, originally from Venezuela. "We're building relationships with students from more than one country."

"By having U.S. and Latin Americans NCOs in the same room, I can see there are no hidden agendas," Lopez-Ramirez said through Cubeddu, who served as his translator. "We're both getting the same type of professional development.

"The course has given me the tools to become a better leader," he added. "By having this experience, I'm able to go back to my country and share the concepts and implement the tools I've used here."

The course prepares NCOs for advanced leadership and management responsibilities through instruction on improved leadership skills. It is the next level of professional military education designed for those who will assume senior NCO leadership positions.

The Barnes Center for Enlisted PME at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., developed the curriculum under Air University guidelines. U.S. Air Force students, who must be fluent in speaking, reading, and writing Spanish, receive full NCO Academy credit upon completion.

Current course students said the mixture of U.S. Air Force and Latin American NCOs in the classroom creates an atmosphere conducive to forming professional relationships.

"Our mission at IAAFA is to build partnerships within the Americas, and we use training and education as a means to that end," said Col. Marc Stratton, IAAFA commandant.

"There is no better experience for a U.S. Air Force NCO than to attend class with their counterparts from Latin American countries, said Stratton, explaining that integrating U.S. Air Force students into the class is beneficial now and pays dividends in the future.

"These relationships become personal and clearly outlast graduation day," Stratton said. "With the Internet, email and social media, these military members can maintain communication with each other - we see it happen every day. When these leaders of tomorrow come out of this classroom, they have a bond."

Master Sgt. Christian Castillo, IAAFA International Professional Military Education flight chief, agreed with the IAAFA commander about the bonds that are built.

"The course brings together complete strangers, from both Latin American countries and the U.S., in one room," said Castillo. "They come in as strangers and equals, and when they finish the course, they leave almost as family members.

"Through their daily interaction in the course, they realize that although we may represent different countries and have different ways of doing and thinking about things, we as NCOs have the same concerns, stressors and challenges," he said. "We're able to identify with each other even more and realize that maybe perceptions or ideas we had about each other were not accurate. It breaks down barriers."

Stratton said it was largely through the efforts of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy that the INCOA course is available to U.S. Air Force NCOs.

"Chief Roy was instrumental in getting our NCOs into the course here," Stratton said. "Our partner nations see U.S. personnel attending this course and there's no question about its credibility."

The IAAFA course is one of several initiatives Air Force officials are pursuing to increase NCO interaction and training on an international scale.

At the Pentagon, Senior Master Sgt. Manny Pineiro is charged with facilitating enlisted relationships between U.S. and partner nation airmen. He is assigned to the Air Force International Affairs Directorate's International Airmen Division. The division monitors the selection, training and support of the international enlisted PME program.

"International relations is one of the most exciting components of our Air Force," said Pineiro. "Establishing a familiar dialogue, especially through regional and global efforts that concentrate on cultures and ethnicities, is relevant to everyone involved."

Joint and international enlisted PME opportunities are set up to develop leaders from a cultural and regional perspective.

International enlisted PME opportunities for U.S. Airmen currently exist with Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, and added most recently, South Africa. Officials are also seeking other nations to partner with, in this capacity, in the future.

"These professional opportunities are increasing for our enlisted corps," said Pineiro. "If we have a better understanding of our cultural differences, then it will assist the common goal of working together to be effective leaders."

Selection rules for these opportunities are similar to those for sister-service schools. Selections will be competitive and confirmed by the chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

Iraqi Air Force receives three C130J aircraft

12/17/2012 - MARIETTA, Ga. (AFNS) -- The Iraqi Air Force celebrated an important milestone when they received a third C-130J aircraft at a rollout ceremony held at Lockheed Martin's factory here Dec. 12, 2012.

The ceremony is a culmination of many activities to reinforce a long-term partnership between the United States and Iraq and highlights Iraq's commitment to enhance its military transportation capabilities.

The ceremony was attended by Ms. Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs and representatives from Lockheed-Martin, the U.S. Air Force and the IqAF commander, Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed.

Sixteen recently graduated U.S. trained C-130J Iraqi maintainers, seven pilots, and one loadmaster will support the three planes, explained Grant in a speech.

"These crewmembers will form the backbone of this new capability, serve as leaders in training new personnel and will positively shape the future of the Iraqi Air Force," said Grant.

The program's goal is for Iraq to train 18 pilots, 18 loadmasters, and a minimum of 50 maintainers over a period of three years, according to Grant. She anticipates these numbers will grow as the U.S. - Iraqi partnership matures.

The C-130J uses state-of-the-art technology, allowing it to fly farther, climb faster, and take off and land in a shorter distances than earlier versions of the aircraft. It also includes an improved fuel system, making it environmentally friendly as well.

Acquisition of new transport aircraft will provide Iraq with the ability to operate seamlessly with U.S., NATO and coalition forces engaged in a range of operations and missions.

The C-130J purchase agreement with the IqAF provides a total of six C-130J aircraft, support equipment and training. Three were delivered by Dec. 12 and three more will be delivered in 2013.

PACAF Commanders and Command Chiefs Warfighter Conference honors modern day heroes

12/17/2012 - Left to right, Chief Master Sgt. Jerry Moore, 354th Fighter Wing command chief; Chief Master Sgt. James. E. Slisik, 36th Wing command chief; and Chief Master Sgt. Scott Delveau, 7th Air Force command chief, discuss Pacific Air Force’s strategy during the 2012 PACAF Commanders and Command Chiefs Warfighter Conference at the Aloha Conference Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 11, 2012. The event is an annual conference focused on addressing issues and challenges facing the command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn/Released)

‘Wreaths Across America’ Honors Fallen Service Members

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Dec. 17, 2012 – As thousands of volunteers fanned out here this weekend, placing holiday wreaths at the white headstones as part of the “Wreaths Across America” tribute, Sheila Patton kept vigil at one particular gravesite.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Sheila Patton, mother of Army Staff Sgt. James R. Patton, who was killed in Iraq in 2010, traveled with her daughter from Fort Campbell, Ky., to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to participate in the “Wreaths Across America” tribute to fallen U.S. service members, Dec. 15, 2012. DOD photo by William Miles

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Patton and her daughter stationed themselves at the grave of their son and brother, Army Staff Sgt. James R. Patton. Twenty-three-year-old “Jimmy” was serving his seventh overseas deployment since 9/11 with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, when he was killed in a helicopter crash in Tikrit, Iraq, on April 18, 2010.

Patton said she travels here from Fort Campbell, Ky., as often as possible. Patton felt a special calling, she said, to participate in the largest single venue of the nationwide “Wreaths Across America” tribute.

“This was something very important to me,” she said. “I really wanted to be here, to be a part of all this, and to be able to honor Jimmy and all the others who are buried here.”

Arriving at the cemetery early Saturday, Dec. 15, Patton and her daughter were in good company. They were among more than 25,000 volunteers who converged here in the early hours to lay an estimated 110,000 balsam fir wreaths, each adorned with a festive red bow.

“It’s amazing to see all this,” Patton said. “It’s really inspiring to see all these volunteers come out and [to] realize how much they care.”

This year’s turnout was the largest since the annual “Wreaths Across America” tradition started in 1992. Morrill Worcester, president of the Worcester Wreath Company from Harrington, Maine, began donating holiday wreaths to decorate veterans’ graves. The gesture caught on like wildfire, expanding every year to more military cemeteries nationwide.

This year, thousands of volunteers laid an estimated 400,000 evergreen wreaths at almost 800 cemeteries in all 50 states and 24 overseas sites.

At Arlington, the largest venue, a convoy of 34 trucks traveled from Maine to transport the donated wreaths.
Worcester and his wife, Karen, recognized a milestone in the “Wreaths Across America” effort as he presented the 1 millionth wreath since the program’s inception to a Gold Star family and wounded warrior.
Mary Byers and her husband, Lloyd, who lost their son, Army Capt. Joshua Byers, in Iraq in 2003, and Army Sgt. Justin Lansford, wounded in Afghanistan this past spring, placed the wreath at the grave of Wilbur Trevant, a Vietnam veteran who died in April.

Looking out over the sea of volunteers as they gathered for opening ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery’s Amphitheater, Karen Worcester challenged them to live up to the spirit reflected in Byers’ last words as he told his fellow soldiers to “keep moving forward.”

Worcester spoke about the deadly shooting in Connecticut the previous day and called on the group to take inspiration from Byers and the others buried at Arlington as they deal with life’s challenges.

“We need to take some advice from Josh and ‘keep moving forward’ with what they’ve taught us,” she said. “And we need to teach our kids about the character of America, which is to take care of each other. By taking care of each other we take care of our country and share the lesson that our heroes have taught us.”
Among the hundreds of school, church, community and veterans groups participating in this year’s “Wreaths Across America” were men and women in uniform, many of whom placed wreaths at the graves of friends killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Evans, assigned to the Combat Service Support Company at The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., said he felt moved to see so many people take time out of their busy holiday schedules to honor the fallen.

“This is a chance to recognize and show others we remember those that went before,” he said. “And it really does show that the majority of the public still remembers and appreciates what we do.”

“You know the public appreciates what you do and when you see all this, it proves that they really do care,” echoed Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Boehmer from the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Dominique Purvis, among about 50 members of the 579th Medical Group based at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., who journeyed to Arlington to participate in the tribute, struggled for words to describe her emotions.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing,” she said. “You just can’t really understand this kind of outpouring until you see it for yourself. It’s overwhelming.”

Deployed McConnell Reservists coined by SecDef Panetta

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

12/17/2012 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Several deployed members of the 931st Air Refueling Group had the unique opportunity to experience a visit from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during his visit to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Dec. 14.

Panetta addressed approximately 300 Airmen, five of whom were members of the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.  The 90 EARS is a total-force team consisting of active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen.  Several members of the 931st are currently assigned to the 90 EARS.

The Secretary shared information with the audience about current events and thanked the Airmen of Incirlik Air Base for their efforts in continuously meeting U.S. Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa and NATO Objectives.

Panetta also spoke about recent events affecting the U.S. military and shared his vision for the future.  The Secretary then took questions from the audience, which ranged from the defense budget to the conflict in Syria.

Following his presentation, Panetta administered the Oath of Enlistment to four Incirlik Airmen.  He then individually presented a coin all Airmen in attendance.  Four members of the 931st Air Refueling Group were coined by the Secretary. 

Northcom Strives to Promote Safe, Secure Arctic

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Dec. 17, 2012 – The Arctic, the northernmost part of the Earth, is one of the last frontiers -- a region so isolated and impenetrable that few humans have ever experienced its unforgiving conditions and austere beauty.

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The melting Arctic icecap is expected to bring new opportunities but also safety and security challenges. Here, U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Leon Chingcuangco, foreground, removes tiedowns as part of landing operations in the Bering Sea with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter air crew as part of Operation Arctic Shield 2012, Aug. 24, 2012. The Coast Guard conducted the exercise in conjunction with federal, state and tribal officials to test their capabilities to respond to an oil spill or conduct search-and-rescue missions in the Arctic regions of Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Tamargo

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But with increased melting of the Arctic ice cap, officials at U.S. Northern Command recognize new opportunities opening up for the international community, but also the related safety and security challenges.
The Arctic ice shelf shrank to its lowest size in recorded history on Sept. 19, 2012,  when it measured about 1.5 million square kilometers below the previous all-time low reported in the summer of 2007, Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. A.D. “Al” Meinzinger told American Forces Press Service. Meinzinger is deputy director of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s and Northcom’s strategy, policy and plans directorate.

Although analysts’ time estimates range from about five to 25 years, almost all envision a day when the Arctic has no discernible ice mass for at least part of the summer season.
“We recognize some fundamental changes occurring,” Meinzinger said. “And from a security perspective, we recognize that with that change coming, human activity in the Arctic will be increasing.”

Much of that activity will be a quest for the region’s vast resources, from fish populations to oil and natural gas reserves to rare minerals within the Arctic seabed, Meinzinger said. He cited estimates that as much as one-quarter of the world’s oil and gas reserves lie beneath Arctic waters, and commercial ventures are already under way to tap them.

And, just as Antarctica, the earth’s southernmost continent, has become an eco-tourist destination, Meinzinger anticipates a similar development in the Arctic.

But the opening of the Arctic will have an economic impact that extends well beyond the region, Meinzinger said. For the first time in history, shipping companies will have new, shorter and commercially viable sea routes between Europe and Asia, at least for one or two months each summer. Some shippers already have begun transiting through the Bering Strait using two main Arctic routes: the northern sea route along the Russian coast and the northwest passage that runs along the Canadian coast.

Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., who commands Northcom and NORAD, noted in congressional testimony earlier this year that sea traffic in the Arctic has increased more than 60 percent since 2008, and drilling started in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this past spring.

As these activities unfold, they raise safety and security concerns for the United States, Canada and other Arctic nations, Jacoby said. “Security interests follow closely behind economic interests, and we will be participating in a number of venues to help lead that for the Department of Defense,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Jacoby recognized that Northcom could be called on to support civil authorities in an environmental-disaster response in the Arctic or to support search-and-rescue operations there.
DOD’s unified defense plan identified Northcom as the department’s advocate for Arctic capabilities in April 2011, reflecting the command’s dual roles in defending the homeland and providing military support to civilian first responders, when requested. In Northcom’s Arctic role, it is responsible for working with stakeholders across the U.S. military, the interagency, and the international community to promote safety and security in the region.

Jacoby and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. signed a report in March that identifies gaps in communication, domain awareness, infrastructure and presence. This analysis will help guide investments to prepare for the eventual opening of the Arctic, including infrastructure that Meinzinger said often takes four times longer and costs four times as much as similar projects in less isolated and demanding environments.

Northcom also is collaborating with the Navy, other DOD entities, the Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian government to enhance collective capabilities in the Arctic.

Last week, Jacoby joined Canadian Army Lt. Gen. Stuart Beare, commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command, to sign the Tri-Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation that promotes enhanced military cooperation to support safety, security and defense operations in the region.
“We have an opportunity, while we watch the Arctic begin to open up, to get ahead of potential security requirements,” Jacoby told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The foundations of this effort already are taking shape. Before Shell Oil Company launched its well-drilling operation this past summer, company officials traveled here to discuss potential issues that could arise in the Arctic with Northcom, Coast Guard and other interagency officials.

They war-gamed scenarios and procedures Shell would take in the event of an oil spill or vessel collision, and ensured a common understanding of how the company would interact with government agencies should a contingency occur, Meinzinger said. He ran through the line diagram, beginning with local and state authorities, who, if overwhelmed, would ask for federal support. Northcom would have a role only if the lead federal agency requested specific help.

During this year’s drilling season, the Coast Guard conducted an exercise in the region to ensure it was ready to respond, if needed. “This was great because we were able to monitor the activities and be in place in case an issue arose that needed to be managed,” Meinzinger said. “That’s important to us, because we expect this level of activity to continue,” with other U.S. and Canadian oil companies planning similar operations.

Despite press coverage about the “militarization” of the Arctic and the rush for resources there, Meinzinger said he’s encouraged by the cooperative spirit among the eight countries that ring the North Pole.

Most of the region’s resources fall within specific countries’ economic exclusion zones, reducing the likelihood of conflict, he noted. Meinzinger pointed to the peaceful settlement between Russia and Norway over a border dispute and nations’ efforts to ensure the Arctic opens in a stable, secure manner.

“We have common interests,” Meinzinger said. “The eight [Arctic] nations understand that this is a fragile environment, and we have a mutual interest in ensuring the Arctic opens in a peaceful manner and that conflict is not on anybody’s priority list.”

The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic states, established treaty agreements that lay a framework for collaborative search-and-rescue support and oil-spill prevention.

That cooperation has extended to the security sector as well. This past May, Jacoby traveled to Canada to represent the Defense Department at the first-ever Northern Chiefs of Defense conference in Goose Bay in Labrador. Senior representatives of all eight Arctic nations came together to discuss the safety and security challenges associated with the region, and ways they can work together to address them.

“As we look to the opening of the Arctic, General Jacoby’s prime focus is on ensuring a peaceful opening of the region,” and ensuring that Northcom is prepared to respond, if necessary, to a crisis or contingency, Meinzinger said.

“We need to anticipate the Arctic operations today so we are prepared for the Arctic operations of tomorrow,” he said.

'Tis the season to give

by 2nd Lt. Alicia Wallace
45th Space Wing Public Affairs

12/12/2012 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- The Patrick Air Force Base First Sergeant's Council supported the Brevard Family Partnership holiday toy drive by collecting toys from all the units at the 45th Space Wing and its mission partners for 250 children in the local community that are in foster care or abuse prevention programs Monday, Dec. 10.

The Brevard Family Partnership collects toys every year for approximately 5,000 children, and the First Sergeants sponsor 250 of these children. Over 2,000 toys were collected this year valued at over $12,000.

"The folks here at Patrick Air Force Base are dedicated and compassionate in all they do, but this time of the year really makes me proud as I witness the tremendous support they provide to the community and our Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Herman Moyer, wing command chief, 45th Space Wing.

"In the holiday season where we accept so many gifts, we should really focus on how much more we can give to better our community!" he said.

Face of Defense: Sailor Goes From Beat Cop to ‘Doc’

By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

USS NEW YORK, Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 17, 2012 – From a police officer in Kingston, Jamaica, to a barber in New York City, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve A. Barnes, 35, has held many jobs throughout his life.

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Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve A. Barnes, a corpsman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, stands in the hospital bay of the USS New York, Dec. 10, 2012. Barnes has served the last nine months deployed with the 24th MEU, which is currently returning home after completing a successful deployment as an expeditionary crisis response force in the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

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But his time as a corpsman with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he said, has tested him much differently than any of his previous experiences.

Barnes is a corpsman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, and has been deployed since March. Since completing field medicine school and jumping into the Fleet Marine Corps, Barnes said he has had rare opportunities to practice. That changed quickly April 11, 2012, when an MV-22B Osprey crashed in Morocco, killing two Marines and seriously injuring two others.

“My guys were 200 yards away from the crash,” Barnes recalled. “We have two bags for field medicine; I remember I grabbed my big bag and just started running. After I got there, it was chaos. We set up a receiving area and they pulled the first guy out, he was in pain. That’s when this deployment became real for me.”

Barnes said he went straight to work cordoning the area so the other corpsman could aid the Marines being pulled out of the downed aircraft. He then kept the unit’s leadership informed, relaying the injured Marines’ information and medical condition.

“After the adrenaline wore off, it was surreal, like a dream,” he said. “I’ve never lost a Marine, but I felt like I lost mine that day.”

The experience, Barnes said, led him to reflect on much of his life and the events that have led him to where he is today. Before Morocco and the 24th MEU, Barnes said he spent much of life bouncing between occupations.

He began his multiple-career journey as a police officer in Jamaica. Barnes worked the beat for a year, he said, then moved to a quick-response team, working gun-related crimes until he became part of a crime investigation division, where he learned crime scene photography.

“As a police officer, you’re dealing with people from every walk of life,” he said. “Fighting crime, you help a lot of people so there’s a lot of mentoring and you learn about other people’s problems and how you can help them.”

Barnes said he moved to the U.S. in 2005 and settled in New York City. He worked an assortment of jobs there -- including a stint as a barber -- over the next few years, he said, until he enlisted in the Navy in 2010.
“It’s said Jamaicans have a lot of jobs. This is true, you learn a lot of skills so you can make money here and there. Versatility comes with travel. You’ll find Jamaicans all over the world. In order to survive, you learn to do a lot of stuff,” he said.

Barnes said his decision to join the Navy came during a lull in his life.

“I was bored. I wanted to do something but I didn’t want to be a cop again,” he said. “The Navy offered going all over the world, so why not?”

Going “green” was the next step in his future travels as a corpsman, Barnes explained. Green-side corpsmen are those who work directly with Marines and undergo rigorous field training, which differentiates them from blue-side corpsmen that practice primarily in hospitals and clinics. The green-side corpsmen, known among Marines as “docs,” attend field medical training where they conduct several long-distance hikes while also learning urban warfare and land navigation.

“When I was going to join, I was going to be a green-side corpsman,” Barnes said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie and all the guys at my course were like, ‘Let’s go to field medicine.’ I felt like it was the right thing to do … I get be called doc, a title of endearment.”

Barnes said joining the Navy offered fresh challenges.

“After being a police officer, I wondered if I could handle the physical training again because I’m in my 30s but I roughed it out and here I am,” he said.

The 24th MEU will return home in the coming weeks to its home bases in and around Camp Lejeune, N.C. The 24th has been deployed for nine months as an expeditionary crisis response force in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.