Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Faith in Captivity: Vietnam POW inspires 128th ARW Airmen

by Staff Sgt. Jenna Hildebrand
128th Air Refueling

4/26/2013 - MILWAUKEE -- With his hands bound in manacles, an imprisoned Air Force pilot watched from his bamboo holding cell as North Vietnamese soldiers moved a wounded American prisoner into the cell across from his. The pilot was shocked at the man's appearance; his fingers were raw and his body was emaciated. His whole body was covered in wounds; he had been pushing through the jungle for 45 days without food. The pilot did not recognize the new prisoner.

The next morning, the guards had the pilot and his cell mate pick up the new prisoner to take him to the bathroom. The withered man looked over at his fellow prisoner and said, "Aren't you Guy Gruters?"

"Yea, who are you?" Gruters responded.

"Lance Sijan."

Oh no. Not Lance... not Lance, thought Gruters.

Thursday, April 25, Air Force veteran and Vietnam prisoner of war, retired Capt. Guy Gruters, spoke of his tragic yet inspiring experience in captivity to Airmen and civilians assembled in Sijan Hall at the 128th Air Refueling Wing.

Gruters told the audience, which also included members of the 128th's Community Council and distinguished guests including: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, the Adjutant General of Wisconsin; and Janine Sijan Rozina, Sijan's sister, that he and Sijan were in the same squadron at the Air Force Academy for three years. Sijan, a Milwaukee native, was solid as a rock at 210 pounds and had played football for the academy.

"To see him hurt so bad was really difficult," said Gruters. "They would torture him and we would scream in our cells to get them to lay off him and they'd come beat us."

Gruters continued to specify the harsh treatment they received where they were moved to at Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. Their manacles were on 24 hours a day. They were beat constantly on their wounds. They were only allowed to wash themselves once a week. Parasites, malnutrition and heat rash deteriorated the prisoners' health.

Though Sijan's wounds and health worsened, Gruters said he was always asking what the escape plan was and what he could do to help.

"He was always ready to escape," said Gruters. "We'd always come up with plans just so Lance was satisfied."

Sijan succumbed to the harsh treatment, and died of pneumonia on January 22, 1968.

"Lance's leadership of resistance was perfect," said Gruters. "He fought them until he died. His story was spread throughout the camps over and over again and I think that's what was responsible for a lot of the resistance in the camps."

In the more than five years Gruters spent in captivity, he and his fellow prisoners devised a way to communicate to keep their faith alive. The tap code, which is now taught in military intelligence schools, is based off of the alphabet in a grid system. One person would kneel on the floor to ensure the guards were nowhere nearby while two would tap on the wall to send messages back and forth.

"We did texting, said Gruters. "You know how all the kids do texting now. Every night we tapped GNGBU. Good night, God bless you."

The punishment for communicating was three days and three nights of torture, but the prisoners communicated for hours using the tap code to raise their morale and hold on to their faith.

"The North Vietnamese couldn't conceive of how we did this," said Gruters.

Gruters told his audience that he had the best leadership in that prison camp. The higher ranking officers often took the brunt of the beatings for their men. They encouraged subtle resistance and mandated that they take part in church services within their cells. Their primary order was to return with honor.

After Gruters and 590 POWs were released during Operation Homecoming in 1973, Gruters was instrumental Sijan being awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1976.

Gruters' message to the Milwaukee audience was that leadership and teamwork will prevail. Communication was a key component in the prisoners' survival and in Gruters' presentation.
After much applause, Walker stood up and thanked Gruters for his great contribution and commitment to his country and his faith. Then he addressed the audience.

"Freedom. It's a simple word. It's endowed by our creator. Defined by our constitution more than 225 years ago, but it's defended by men and women like you," said Walker.

Face of Defense: Recruiter Makes Most of Every Day

By Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
1st Marine Corps District

BATAVIA, N.Y., April 30, 2013 – For many Marines, recruiting duty can mean working sunrise to sunset, or in some cases, even later. Many work weekends and sometimes even holidays, sacrificing time that could be spent at home with family.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps recruiter Sgt. Curtis D. Bennion points to the “Pride of Belonging” benefit tag during an appointment with an applicant, April 12, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Sgt. Curtis D. Bennion, a recruiter here at Recruiting Substation Batavia, Recruiting Station Buffalo, 1st Marine Corps District, maximizes the time he has during every day of the week, both as a Marine and as a member of his community.

On Sept. 8, 2004, Bennion, who grew up on a dairy farm in Portageville, N.Y., decided to leave the farm to see what else was out there. That’s when he found himself at a local Marine Corps recruiting office and told the recruiter he wanted to join the military. He said he recalls the recruiter telling him, “Get out, and come back when you want to be a Marine.”

He walked back in 10 minutes later, he said, because he wanted to challenge himself to do something not most people are willing or able to do and to be part of the best.

After joining the Marine Corps, Bennion became a motor transport operator and deployed to Iraq with an explosive ordnance disposal unit in 2004 and 2005. After spending much of the early part of his career away from his home and family due to being called to duty overseas, Bennion now finds himself recruiting in western New York state, where he grew up.

Bennion said he has adapted the same mentality his recruiter had, with a no-nonsense approach.
“I’m not a salesman,” he said. “I offer the Marine Corps as an option, but I don’t get all hyped up and show emotion to sell someone into joining the Corps.”

Bennion’s approach to recruiting has helped him earn one of the top spots among the recruiters at Recruiting Station Buffalo in the last year.

“There is no Marine that works as hard as this guy,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Thomas Colombrito IV, a recruiter from Recruiting Substation Batavia. "He doesn’t go to sleep until 11 p.m., and he’s already at the office working out at 5 o’clock in the morning while I am still sleeping.”

Recruiting Station Buffalo officials also have noted Bennion's significant contributions to recruiting reservists and women. Many of his recruits become squad leaders or guides in their boot camp platoons, and he works hard to prepare his “poolees” -- the young men and women waiting to leave for recruit training.

“He’s the poster-boy Marine,” Colombrito said. “He does everything the Marine Corps way. He’s always up in front of the pool, leading his poolees. They all want to emulate Sergeant Bennion.”

When Bennion isn’t recruiting, he is finding ways to become an influence in his community. He is a volunteer firefighter, training for two hours every Monday and putting in 10 hours a week at the department.

Paul Dougherty, the fire chief of the Pavilion Fire Department, said being a volunteer firefighter isn’t an easy task. It takes a willingness to drop whatever you are doing whenever an incident strikes, whether it is in the evening or on weekends and holidays, he added.

On Christmas Day, Bennion woke up at 3 a.m. to attend to a trailer fire, spending six hours helping to put out the flames.

“Bennion’s experience in the Marine Corps has benefited him in being able to adapt to people he doesn’t know to achieve the mission,” Dougherty said. “It is difficult to acquire and retain members, so it is good to see someone like Curtis come along.”

Bennion’s involvement in his community doesn’t stop there. The Medina High School band had him march them onto the field during the New York State Field Band Championships in Syracuse, N.Y. The theme of the song they marched to was a tribute to him and all service members who fought before him and for the ones who will follow.

“Bennion is a Marine from family life to work,” Colombrito said. “He never stops.”

Bennion said his success and his family's success are what drive him to continue to grow into the best Marine, father, husband and man he can be. After recruiting duty, he added, he hopes to become an instructor at his military occupational specialty's school. He also hopes to achieve the rank of master gunnery sergeant someday to continue to lead the future of the Marine Corps, he said.

Realistic training simulates host of scenarios for battle damage unit

by Jenny Gordon
Robins Air Force Base Public Affairs

4/26/2013 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Handpicked from throughout the Air Force, members of the Expeditionary Depot Maintenance team from Robins train all year to remain ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

The highly-specialized aircraft battle damage repair unit trains five times a year to remain proficient in its skills. Its mission is to repair aircraft as quickly as possible and get them back in the air.

About 63 people now make up the maintenance team, which includes engineers, electricians, sheet metal and fuels systems specialists, and crew chiefs who perform structural maintenance work on damaged planes.

The team's most recent training exercises were conducted at Warrior Air Base -- used as a simulated deployed environment.

The week-long event allowed evaluators an opportunity to identify what types of deficiencies existed, how members reacted to various situations such as simulated insurgent attacks and chemical attacks, and how members adapted and overcame barriers.

"What we want to see is if they can make the hard decisions, and also make the right ones," said Tech Sgt. T.J. Barb, an EDMX team member since 2003.

"There is no other unit that has the capability to do what we do. We like to say we don't get ready -- we stay ready," he added. "We're a small unit with a great responsibility. It's a great feeling to know we may have made a difference somewhere in the world, allowing someone to come home, but also making it impossible for a tyrant to gain advantage on any particular day. That's what we're here for."

Sharing in the unique challenges that exist while deployed, Tech Sgt. Mike Reid has been training with the team for the past six years.

"It's something new every time," he said.

Training also includes a group of engineers who deploy with an EDMX team when aircraft experience heavy damage at a location.

"We really get to put our school work to use right away," said 1st Lt. Eric Baker, an engineer and exercise evaluator who will deploy later this year. "This is extremely practical training where we can see an end result in a matter of hours. Young lieutenants don't get opportunities like this very often."

Aeromedical Evac team saves 3-day-old baby

by Tech. Sgt. Aries D. Early
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HAWAII -- The mission: get a newborn in dire need of heart surgery from Asia to the West Coast of the U.S. in the least amount of time while ensuring the baby remains in stable condition.

This was the situation Airmen from 735th and 613th Aeromedical Evacuation Teams were faced with April 15, 2013, here.

Pacific Air Force's area of responsibility extends from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Africa and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, spanning more than 100 million square miles, but covering this distance can be a challenge when providing proper medical care.

The team responded when informed of the urgent requirement to assist in the transport of the 3-day-old baby and a neonatal intensive care unit from Thailand to San Diego, Calif., for heart surgery.

"Staff Sgt. Jerry Marquez, one of our newest team members, took the initial call asking for support," said Master Sgt. Darius Thomas, 613th Aeromedical Evacuation Team Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. "He had to not only ensure an aircraft was available for the mission, but also process a crew extension waiver through our senior director."

Crew extensions are required when missions exhaust their allotted duty time, which is not hard to do with a mission traveling 11 time zones.

Once the C-17 Globemaster III landed the team had to work with the crew to offload more than 50 passengers and 10 tons of cargo, then refuel the plane with more than 100,000 pounds of fuel, all before realigning the aircraft for the critical care move.

"I was extremely impressed by the 735th Air Mobility Squadron's willingness to do whatever was necessary and they far exceeded any reasonable expectations," said Col. Ken Linsenmayer, 613th Air Mobility division chief.

Linsemayer added that an important component of the success of this mission and any other is attitude.

"Their conduct and determined attitude to execute and support this family is a testament to each member of the 735th AMS' character and integrity and is an outstanding example of military leadership and professionalism," said Linsemayer.

JSTARS: Connecting the dots on battlefield

by Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel
Air Force News Service

4/30/2013 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- After slipping by each other the narrow aisle of an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, more than a dozen Airmen settle into their seats and begin to flip switches and work through checklists. Their olive-green headsets block out the roar of the jet engines and replace it with busy radio chatter as the crew prepares for the mission ahead.

Computer screens in front of them come to life, as their aircraft's radar returns a black and white image of lines, bumps and craters. Additional radar sweeps fill the screen with yellow dots. The clutters they form begin to trace the path of roads and highways.

"The dots are moving target indicators and reflect the information our radar bounces back to us," said Airman 1st Class Cher, an airborne operations technician assigned to the 461st Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Supplying the U.S. military with this elusive type of data is the heart of the Airmen's mission at JSTARS, the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.

The secret of Joint STARS is hidden inside the 27-foot long radome tucked underneath the belly of the aircraft that otherwise looks like a regular airliner. Inside, the AN/APY-7 side-looking radar can sweep from one side to the other, transmitting its signal across hundreds of miles.

As the signal bounces off of even slightly moving objects, the antenna picks up every movement, betraying their exact location, no matter whether night or day -- making it impossible for enemies to hide.

"If it moves, we see it," said Lt. Col. Chris Quimby, the director of plans at the 116th ACW. "But we don't just see something and report it. We can act on it immediately."

The mission sounds simple - detecting movement on the ground and relaying that information to other units. But it takes the trained eyes of the crew members of the active-duty 461st ACW and their Air National Guard counterparts of the 116th ACW, to connect the dots in meaningful ways, make out patterns and keep a human eye on the impartial tools of technology.

Airmen turn the radar signal into information that allows commanders to know their troop's position relative to the enemy and early decision making of whether to engage or navigate around danger.

Joint STARS's powerful radar allows the Airmen to survey a wide area with radar, and provide ground forces with an unparalleled look from above.

But the air battle managers aboard the E-8C are more than just remote observers. When necessary, they can act as an air control tower in the sky, de-conflicting air-travel paths and leading aircraft to ground targets across the battlefield.

"We are the one point of contact for the units on the ground," said Major Jon, a mission crew commander with the 461st ACW. "With us in the air, nobody has to find their communication channels; they can just talk to us directly, as a one-stop shop. We're the air to ground experts and without us, the warfighter doesn't have the information he needs -- information that will save their lives."

The aircraft is filled with radar surveillance and communication tools, including 22 radios, six data links, and a secure telephone that connects the Airmen to ground and air commanders.
The Airmen communicate with each other and units far away in highly encrypted chat rooms. Between the flight deck, navigator, radar technicians and operators, their secret chat is a revolving door of communication throughout the aircraft and beyond.

"Even though we may look like we are all zoned into our own spots, we have a lot of communications over the internal nets on the aircraft," Cher said. "The advantage is that it's a more secure way of communicating. It allows you to see all the available parties and to respond when you have the time."

This constant flow of information allows the airborne crew of 20 or more to detect, locate, classify, track and target hostile ground movement from a safe distance. They have no weapons on board and don't need them, as JSTARS is so far away from their target that they never even see or hear the aircraft.

On missions that can last through the night, the analysts spend long hours scanning the ground and managing requests for information -- all while relaying their discoveries to ground troops.

"By being up in the air for extended periods of time, we can collect historical data, and focus on a certain area for hours at a time," said Tech. Sgt. Mike, an airborne radar technician with the 116th ACW. "It is important for us to stay up in the air for long periods of time in order to collect that type of (long-term) data and produce a pattern of life on the ground."

After tracking movement day after day, minor variations may tip off troops to an impending attack when those patterns change or a lone vehicle suddenly stops at an unusual place - Put together with other pieces of intelligence the data can be a gold mine, revealing new enemy sites and routes.

"We look at the history that shows the dots in sequence, looking for anything moving in a certain way," Cher said. "There are specific criteria we look for in these tracks -- something moving towards a road, for example. If that happens, we'll be able to see the dots pop up and 'move' to the road."

This rapidly evolving forensics capability continues to enhance the operational value of Joint STARS' target indicators beyond immediate use while on orbit.

"We can do a sweep of the area, collect dots for several days, so the Army knows in advance how people normally travel, what footpaths and roads they take and what times those roads are busy. So we know when some movement is suspicious," Quimby said.

The ability to glean meaning from the dots is, however, limited by technology. Typical information often only includes speed, heading and size of a column of objects.

After years of radar refinement, a burst of radar energy can be turned into Synthetic Aperture RADAR images, delivering almost photo negative images of the ground, able to show larger structures and contours on the ground. Yet the operators still rely heavily on their training and experience to gain insight into what the dots really mean.

Once the analysts find suspicious tracks, more flexible fighter aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems are therefore cross-cued and become the "eyes" of Joint STARS. This allows the crews to "zoom in" and explore a smaller area of responsibility through thermal or optical imaging for a clear visual identification of points of interests.

For now, JSTARS remains irreplaceable and its scan area unmatched, Mike said.

"Drones are basically looking though a narrow straw," Mike said. "They can only see and survey a very small area at a time. With our radar we can see a broader picture and cover a large area. We give a wide-area surveillance, a wide, big picture of the battle area. If there is anything moving on the ground, we can see it."

The capabilities of Joint STARS are far-reaching and make it more than a warfighting tool. Its ability to detect the infiltration of insurgents from neighboring countries, can also be used to prevent drug traffickers from crossing borders under the cover of night, for example.

In battle, the crews can provide vital support when a service member's life is on the line. With its 360 degree awareness of the battlefield, crash and ambush sites are quickly located, directing rescue crews to the scene while protecting troops from attack.

During Operation Anaconda, the first large-scale battle of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the flexibility of the crews could support combat search and rescue forces and manage protection of a downed helicopter crew on the ground -- at the same time.

"We were on station and our mission crew commander was the first to talk to the pilots on the ground, setting up a security perimeter around the crash site," said Mike, who was part of the crew during the mission. "The guys on the ground may not know who is coming towards them. For us it was important to provide the big picture, and to make sure that the rescue crews could take care of what they need to do. It's kind of a security blanket, providing piece of mind, to know that Joint STARS is up there watching, making sure no bad guys are coming."

Soldiers' best friend

When Joint STARS is in the air, the rules on the ground change in favor of the Soldiers, the operators said.

"During a deployment with the Army, I really liked doing over watch," Cher said. "We can exactly pinpoint where the Soldiers are and if something is approaching their location, we can immediately tell them 'Hey there is something coming.' That is really rewarding for me because you could potentially save people on the ground because with us in the air they know when somebody is coming."

From inception, Joint STARS' primary purpose was to support the Army in anticipating battlefield movements. By design, Soldiers regularly join Airmen aboard the E-8C to ensure seamless support to ground forces.

"We act as liaison between the Army personnel on the ground and the Air Force mission commander on the aircraft to ensure we are collecting the needed information," said Sgt. 1st Class Bautiste, an analyst assigned to JSTARS. "We try to provide the intelligence requirements the ground commander has to accomplish his mission to be able to focus his troops. Just with my experience as an infantry man, I have a much better understanding of tactics, techniques and procedures, how people are moving on the ground, what they need and what they are looking for."

This experience is equally appreciated by the mission crew commander, who likewise sees the Soldiers as a valuable resource.

"The Army gives us a sense of continuity and expertise," said Maj. Jon. "Having Soldiers on board helps because it prevents misunderstandings and makes us more effective for the troops on the ground."

Joint STARS continuous to evolve

Although originally designed for Cold-War operations and tactics, such as the Fulda Gap in Germany -- where Allied forces prepared to counter a large-scale, tank-based invasion by forces of the Warsaw Pact -- experienced Joint STARS operators have seen many changes to their missions. From the open plains of Iraq to the remote mountain ranges of Afghanistan, Joint STARS has become a growing center piece of intelligence gathering in ongoing counter-insurgency operations.

"Things change constantly. In the early months of (Operation Iraqi Freedom) it was basically ground war, with big convoys coming down the road," Jon said. "Today, in Afghanistan, I'm not looking for convoys, I'm looking for one or two tracks. It's the tactics and procedures developed by people on this aircraft that make us usable in almost any situation. It's the people on the aircraft that make the mission."

Despite its beginning as a support mission for the Army ground forces, Joint STARS crews now increasingly find themselves over water, taking on new maritime missions.

"This is not your 'daddy's Joint STARS,'" said Col. Dean Worley, the commander of the 461st ACW. "The national strategy has emphasized a Pacific shift and there are certain capabilities we will need to control the surface domain, the maritime as well as the air domain. And because of that we are now relearning how to be effective in the 'Air Sea Battle' using our ability to conduct multi-domain operations in the air and at sea, in support of that national strategy."

Radar enhancements now allow Joint STARS to track dots over water - quickly searching large areas for boats and crafts of all sizes and allowing the Navy to increase its ability to see beyond the ships' radar.

"We can look all around a ship and prevent anything from approaching that they can't see," Jon said. "While they have an on-board radar, it can only see so far. We're in the air and we can see much further."

The added capability may soon allow JSTARS to operate theater-wide without limitations. To those who can read the dots, anything that is moving on the ground or at sea seems an open book.

"Having C2/ISR on the same platform provides an amazing capability and no other jet can do exactly what we do," Cher said. "And now, with maritime capabilities, we can be sent to a job and do almost anything that the warfighter needs us to."

Busier than ever before

According to officials, the demand for Joint STARS and the information they glean from the myriad of dots, is only growing. Global demand for "dots" is five times greater than capability to deliver them -- and JSTARS is the biggest producer of GMTI to date. Often Joint STARS is the first aircraft to explore a new battle area and the last to leave.

"The platform has proven so capable because it can do multiple things at the same time," said Col. Kevin Clotfelter, the commander of the ANG 116th ACW. "And a large player in that is the aircrew personnel. It's hard to replace the person on the aircraft, problem solving, delegating, prioritizing tasks and giving clear tasks."

Due to its usefulness, data from Joint STARS missions is used across all combatant commands and teams have been undergoing continuous steady-state deployments since 2001. While taxing on manpower, "Team JSTARS" is going strong, Clotfelter said, strengthened by the cooperation of experienced Guardsmen who stay with the unit for long periods of time and their more mobile active-duty counterparts.

"The Guard is an equal partner. In fact, it takes both wings to fulfill a tasking," Clotfelter said.  "We are meeting (all taskings) together. And the Guard brings some continuity and predictability because (the Guardsmen) are not as susceptible to permanent change of stations as active-duty personnel.

"But at the same time, active-duty personnel bring experience and perspective from the place they left, whether that was a different airframe or a staff job somewhere," he said. "We have the best of both worlds, because we get long-term experience, some predictability, on one hand, but also get a fresh look, and lots of energy and creativity on the other."

While the war may be drawing down in the Middle East, JSTARS tasking are not slowing down and the crews are busy as ever.

"We've been seeing the widest deployment of JSTARS in history," Clotfelter said. "We've seen more Guardsmen deploy at one time than ever before. That means we are more places than we've ever been. I'm proud to say the Guard supports this with a lot of volunteerism and willingness to go to the fight."

A dynamic and relevant mission has kept Airmen of JSTARS engaged and rising to the challenge, Clotfelter said.

"JSTARS is busy right now and, really, we've been busy since 2001," Mike said. "Our mission is important and that makes us feel good about what we do. That's one reason why I volunteer to deploy. We have a real impact on the mission."

To the active-duty and Air National Guard Airmen who make up JSTARS, it's much more than simply connecting the dots and compiling data. It's all about saving lives on the ground.

Student donates hair to less fortunate

by Staff Sgt. Jamal Sutter
23d Wing Public Affairs

4/29/2013 - VALDOSATA, Ga. -- (Editor's note: The mention of Locks of Love and Relay for Life does not constitute endorsement by Moody Air Force Base or the U.S. Air Force.)

With more than 600 of his peers cheering him on in a packed gymnasium, 14-year-old Ian Lamp sat center-court as he parted ways with something that has been part of his identity since age 6 -- his hair.

Ian, Pine Grove Middle School 8th grader and son of Master Sgt. John Lamp, 23d Component Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, cut 14 inches of his hair April 26 for donation to Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

"My heart was racing," Ian said. "I was a little bit nervous, but I had to go through with it."

His reason for cutting his hair was to do his part in the fight against cancer. Since he had family members diagnosed with cancer and after one of his 6th grade teachers died from cancer last year, he felt it was the right thing to do.

He made a promise that if any of the sports teams he played for won half of their games, he'd cut his hair, and after his soccer team reached that goal this season, he kept his word.

"While he enjoys his hair, and it's kind of his identity, I thought it was a pretty noble cause that he was willing to donate his hair," Lamp said. "Sometimes you don't think your children have that in them, and I'm very proud as a father that [he decided] to do something like that to give to somebody else."

In addition to giving away his hair, Ian also helped raise $625 for Relay for Life, which was nearly half of what the school raised this school term for the cause. He did this by placing donation bottles in each homeroom leading up to cutting his hair.

"A lot of times in middle school, it's all about 'me,' but for him to be able to raise money for cancer research and survivor's awareness is awesome," said Ken Overman, Pine Grove principal. "He's been with us from 6th through 8th [grade], so we've only known Ian with the long hair. That's his trademark. For him to offer that up, I thought that was a selfless act."

Ian, whose hair measured 22 inches before getting it cut and shaven, also played football and was often compared to a National Football League player who is also known for his long hair.

"I play football, and I play outside linebacker," Ian said. "I'm number 52 just like Clay Matthews, so everyone used to call me Clay. They say I play like him."

After cutting his hair, Ian received a shower of praise and admiration from his fellow students as they thanked and congratulated him for what he did. But there was no bigger supporter of him that day than his own father.

"I can't say enough how proud I am of what he did and what he accomplished in the contributions he's made to Locks of Love and the money he helped raise for the school," Lamp said. "As a father, I'm so proud he put himself aside and did so much for so many no matter how minor it is."

Chaplain races to aid troops: NASCAR makes a pit-stop at JBLE

by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  -- A V-8 engine's roar pierced the serenity of a quiet, cool morning. The NASCAR driver behind the wheel confidently revved the engine as his hand gripped the stick-shift.

This was the day he had waited for since coming to Virginia, a chance to showcase the SupportMilitary.org car to Service members at Joint Base Langley-Eustis with the help of U.S. Air Force Col. Steve West, 633rd Air Base Wing chaplain and founder of the Support Military organization.

The NASCAR team stopped by JBLE on their way up to the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota Owners 400 race at Richmond, Va.

West worked with Dell Hamilton, Support Military co-founder and NASCAR team member, showcasing the number 52 former NASCAR competition vehicle to JBLE.

West and Hamilton created the organization together in August 2012, providing a conduit for outside organizations to be recognized as legitimate and military-friendly. This in turn gives Service members and supporters a reliable outlet to find trustworthy organizations to support. Neither of them expected it to progress so quickly.

"We really have been fortunate," said West. "It makes me happy to see there are so many people out there who are willing to do something for our troops if you just give them direction."

When the NASCAR competition vehicle showed up at JBLE, Service members at Langley and Fort Eustis showed their appreciation.

At Fort Eustis, the number 52 car parked in front of the Exchange, giving viewers a chance to ask questions about the car or just take a peek at the heavily-modified stock car.

"I used to race open-wheel dirt cars," said U.S. Army Spc. Jebediah Thomas-Ziemer, a generator mechanic and NASCAR enthusiast. "Seeing the next step up, I have to admit, is pretty cool."

At Langley, Service members also took the opportunity to share this unique experience with their families.

"It is really nice what they did for us," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Cartwright, 83rd Network Operations Squadron cyber systems operations technician. "Not everyone gets a chance to spend their lunch with their family and a race car."

Cartwright also brought along his 4-year-old son, Nathan, an avid race car enthusiast, to look at the car.

"Nathan really likes race cars, so this is a real treat for him," said Cartwright.

Nathan wasn't the only child to experience the car; children and caretakers from the Bethel Youth Center also saw the car and had a chance to sit in the driver's seat.

"This was an excellent surprise for the kids," said Shanda Misse, youth programs chief. "Once the trailer pulled up, the kids started talking and getting antsy; they really were excited to see the car."

In addition to showcasing the car around JBLE, Blake Koch, the driver for SupportMilitary.org, also took the time to answer questions and share his experience with NASCAR to Service members at the Langley Chapel. He also shared his appreciation for what Service members do every day.

"Without you guys, I wouldn't be able to drive," said Koch. "Knowing that, it is truly an honor to represent you guys any way I can out on the track."

DeRubbio named 2012 AETC Support Civilian of Year

by Dan Hawkins
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- An instructional systems designer here has been named the 2012 Air Education and Training Command Support Civilian of the Year.

Albert DeRubbio, 372nd Training Squadron instructional systems designer, found out he won the award from his commander, Maj. Richard Boatman, during a staff meeting.

"I was every bit as surprised as anyone," DeRubbio said. "My package went a lot further than I thought it would after I won the (82nd Training Wing) award."

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native worked on projects that had wide-ranging impact across the 982nd Training Group, including the development of the Royal Saudi Air Force 3-level armament training course and helping lay the groundwork for a computer-based training program for 82nd TRW detachments around the world.

"I worked with the subject matter experts at Seymour-Johnson (Air Force Base) developing the RSAF 3-level armament course," DeRubbio said. "We exchanged a ton of information and formatted it into Air Force documents that could be used for the course and the RSAF students."

The three-level armament course requirements and needs for the RSAF are different than the course currently used for U.S. Air Force students, so designing the course to fit the customer's needs was critical, said DeRubbio.

"Mr. (Scott) Bakos and I put a lot of work into this project," he said.

After identifying a training deficiency with instructional systems design monitors at the group's field training detachment, DeRubbio began working with the 982nd TRGs Instructional Technology Unit (ITU) to create a CBT for use in the field.

"I am responsible for the F-15 and fighter engine training curriculums at our detachments," he said. "Due to permanent change of station moves and other factors, our ISD monitors were experiencing a good deal of turnover and caused a training gap."

With the development of the CBT, the ISD monitors at the detachments are now assured of getting the required training needed for the position.

This is the first major command level award for DeRubbio, who has been in his current position since 2007. He won group and wing-level awards back in 2006 as an instructor with the 361st Training Squadron.

"I give all the credit to everyone I work with," DeRubbio said. "I also want to thank Major Boatman and Master Sgt. Lance Hendricks for putting me in for the award."

Eielson youth show Purple Up pride

by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/29/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Robert M. Crawford Elementary School students celebrated Purple Up Day April 19, 2013, honoring military children who make unique sacrifices in support of their active duty mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.

Alaska recently adopted Purple Up Day last year to show support for an estimated 13,000 children in the state who have active duty and deployed parents.

"It is important for these military-connected youth to know that their Nation and community stand by them in support, and that we recognize their strength and the sacrifices they have made," said Senator Mark Begich in a Congressional Record observing Purple Up Day. "I ask Alaskans to join me in wearing something purple on Purple Up Day."

During an assembly in the school gymnasium, Candi Dierenfield, Alaska's military liaison for the 4-H Youth Development Organization, spoke to the Crawford Elementary students about their importance as a military family member. She thanked them for their part in supporting their parents.

Dierenfield asked for those with active duty parents to stand with pride. Almost every child rose and shouted in unison. Candi reminded those still sitting that they have their own duty to support their friends who have deployed family members.

"Some of the children have heartbreakingly not had their parents come back or come back very different," said Dierenfiled. "It's a great way to show our support for them and just to thank them."

The children demonstrated their pride during the assembly by singing the national anthem, God Bless the USA, America the Beautiful and the Air Force Song.

Guest speaker 2nd Lt. Shaina Thompson, 354th Force Support Squadron executive officer, emphasized the importance of the children to service members and how FSS dedicates so many resources just for them.

"You guys are the ones there when we get home," said Thompson. "We get to hang out with you and you're very important to your family. They love you very much."

April is the Month of the Military Child and Purple Up Day is a dedicated time for military families to commemorate their children. The New Hampshire 4-H chapter started the event in 1986 as a way to celebrate and thank military children nation-wide.

The color purple represents all military service branches and is also the resulting color when combining the colors of each service: Army green, Air Force blue, Navy blue, Coast Guard blue, and Marine red.

Different events for the children of military families were spread throughout April, including luncheons with parents, arts and crafts, assemblies with speakers and singers and themed gatherings. A Scooby Doo mystery party is scheduled for April 27 from 2-4 p.m. at the youth center.

JBER fire station, Airman win top Air Force honors

by Airman Ty-Rico Lea
JBER Public Affairs

4/25/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Service members from all walks of life receive awards recognizing their outstanding accomplishments every day. One Airman, however, embodies what those awards are meant to recognize.

Senior Master Sgt. Tobias Adam, deputy fire officer with the 673d Civil Engineer Squadron, has demonstrated skills that have garnered one of the highest public servant decorations - the Air Force fire officer of year.

Adam was one of the first responders during JBER's Arctic Thunder Air Show and Open House when a C-17 Globemaster III crashed July 8, 2010. He was tasked with extinguishing the fires at the incident, as well as helping firefighters under his command maintain steadfast focus.

Adam spoke about the lengthy recovery process of the aircraft and how he would have to alternate between keeping a stone face during the mission and smiling with family and friends when he went home.

"That incident was something that I hope very few people have the opportunity to experience," Adam said.

Throughout his Air Force career as a firefighter and officer, Adam has received missions requiring him to deliver babies, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and even pull victims of incidents from rubble and wrecked machinery.

"Every call we receive is different, and it is very difficult to pinpoint which one stands out to me the most," Adam said. "I would have calls that I can eventually be proud to take and save a life, or I could receive a call concerning a suicide. So as a strong-minded individual, you have to learn how to find that balance."

David Donan, 673d CES fire chief, had words of praise to extend for Adam in regards to his work on JBER and outside his job with the many recreational activities he takes part in.

"The award that Adam received in commendation for his work is managed by a system with the Department of Defense Fire Emergency services awards," Donan, a retired chief master sergeant, said. "The awards are divided up into several categories known as military fire officer of the year, civilian fire officer of the year, military firefighter of the year and civilian firefighter of the year just to name a few."

JBER Fire Emergency Services was also honored with the Air Force Fire Department of the Year Award (Large Category).

Adam's role as fire officer is to exercise command and control during a call. He also has administrative responsibilities within his organization.

"What makes this department so unique from other fire departments is that we have the widest ground to cover given we are one of the largest bases," Donan said. "This provides Airmen like Adam the opportunity to really invest themselves in expanding their on-hand knowledge. As a fire chief, it makes me feel incredibly proud to have Adam be nominated for such a prestigious award.".

Adam attributes much of his success to being active as a child.

"I would play a lot of baseball and football growing up, and I became involved in various extracurricular activities," Adam said.

Donan said the JBER fire department has very high expectations for its workers and holds those individuals accountable for those expectations to be met, so Adam's leadership has been invaluable.

"What I have noticed throughout my years as a military service member is that those Airmen involved in team-building activities, either before enlisting or after, tend to be more successful in this career field," Donan said. "The reason I say this is because everything we do is as a team, everyone has their role to play."

Since his tour at JBER began, Adam has acted as the captain for the fire department's intramural sports team and has led them to championships competing against both Air Force and Army teams.

Adam said he always knew he wanted to be in the military and has served his entire 17-year career in the Air Force as a firefighter.

"Growing up, I came to the decision that I wanted to be a military service member," Adam said. "The most rewarding part of being a military firefighter is that we are physical public servants and we rely on strength, ability and endurance to save lives and get the job done."

Adam enlisted in the Air Force at the age 17. Upon graduating Basic Military Training and eventually coming up on his fourth year of enlistment, Adam entertained thoughts of finishing his enlistment and venturing out into other career opportunities. However, he realized his decision to join the Air Force was a wise one, and he decided to continue his service in the military.

Adam's father, Robert Adam, is a retired chief petty officer and served 21 years in the Navy.

"My dad was a pretty strict guy thanks to all those years he spent in the Navy," Adam said. "He helped better prepare me for what I'd have to expect in military life."

Adam said the importance of his family also motivated him to reach his goals.

"Another defining force that compelled me to remain in the Air Force was the fact that I had a family that I had to maintain and support," Adam said. "So ever since then, I've just been 100 percent dedicated to my job and work ethic."

961st AACS keeps 'eyes in the sky'

by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- In the quiet darkness surrounding the Kadena flightline, the awaiting aircraft roars to life with an escalated screech, and cool air rushes to fill the newly lit cabin.

As the chill meets the humid Okinawan atmosphere within the aircraft, a smoke-like fog diffuses into the nooks and crevices around the computer stations and throughout the cockpit.

While it sounds like a mysterious and menacing science fiction movie, this is a commonplace occurrence for the E-3 Sentry crew from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron.

Once the airborne warning and control system takes off into the softly glowing horizon and the dense fog begins to disperse, the cabin isn't the only thing that becomes more visible to the crew, but rather the entire encompassing airspace.

With its command and control capabilities and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft assigned to the unit opens the crew's and Kadena's eyes to virtually everything in the air. It's this capability that allows Kadena and other Air Force assets to project superior force for any contingency.

"If a contingency kicks off in the area, we're the eyes in the sky," said Maj. Cliff King, 961st AACS electronic combat officer. "It's important to have AWACS in the sky for protection of our assets and allies in the region."

Operating as the largest overseas combat wing, Kadena hosts multiple airframes ranging from F-15 Eagle fighter jets to HH-60G Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters.

However, without the ability AWACS provide to perform air battle management, or comprehensive visibility and direction of practically all aircraft in the surveyed region, other airborne assets would be virtually blind to other aircraft in a skyward battle.

Lt. Col. Trey Coleman, 961st AACS director of operations, said that capability is something that sets the U.S. Air Force apart from other nations.

"I think that air battle management is a direct correlate to the rise of American air power since the Vietnam War," Coleman said. "It's one of those integral things that makes American air power unique and makes it the best in the world."

Since its establishment here more than a decade ago, the 961st AACS has provided unwavering and unmatched air battle management in the Pacific area of responsibility.

There are 32 Sentries currently in the U.S. Air Force inventory. Air Combat Command hosts 27 E-3s at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., while Pacific Air Forces features four of the aircraft between Kadena and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

However, Coleman, who's been on Kadena since September last year, said Kadena's expansive mission and strategic location make it one of the most important bases for deterring conflict in the region.

"I believe Kadena is the best and most important place in the world to conduct air battle management," Coleman said. "In today's geo-strategic context in the Pacific coupled with the downsizing of our fleet, nowhere else is it more important to have effective and efficient ABM."

Though the 961st AACS has only claimed the iconic "ZZ" tail codes of the 18th Wing since 1991, the squadron hosts a lineage as the 61st Bombardment Squadron commissioned in 1940, which predates those of its fellow Sentry-laden sister units.

Despite altering its mission and equipment since it began in World War II to the advanced systems it boasts now, Coleman said the equipment isn't what makes American air power the best in the world.

Rather, he said it's the legacy stemming from before the formation of the U.S. Air Force exemplified by Medal of Honor recipients and our predecessors in training and command.

"Our technology is fantastic, but it'll be out-aced in time," he said. "What we bring to the table as American Airmen is a corporate wealth of knowledge that spans all the way back to (retired Brig. Gen.) Billy Mitchell and the Air Corps Tactical School."

PACAF names 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year

by Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The Commander of Pacific Air Forces recently announced the command's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

The 12 honorees were selected from over 30,000 enlisted men and women throughout the command. Their selection as the outstanding Airmen of the year distinguishes the member from his or her peers by exceptional performance in the following areas: leadership and job performance in primary duty, significant self-improvement and base or community involvement.

"Recognizing our Airmen is one of my greatest pleasures," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Commander of Pacific Air Forces. "We are the greatest fighting force in the world and our asymmetric advantage is our Airmen; it always has been our Airmen and certainly our enlisted force; the kind of professionalism that they have is an indication that we are going nowhere but up."

Carlisle had the opportunity to present a plaque to Master Sgt. Tim Stewart, one of 12 selectees, April 22 at the PACAF Headquarters building. Though currently stationed on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Stewart earned this award during his time assigned to the 374th Communications Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The 2012 Pacific Air Forces Outstanding Airmen of the Year are:

Senior Airman Ivan R. Chatham, a Helicopter/Tilt-rotor Technician journeyman from the 176th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Airman Chatham achieved a 100 percent pass rate on all quality assurance evaluations and inspections. He assisted in identifying a defective relay panel problem resulting in the correction of all aircraft defects fleet wide. He successfully performed at the non-commissioned officer level as a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter dedicated crew chief.

Senior Airman David A. Hernandez, a Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration technician from the 477th Civil Engineering Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Airman Hernandez, recognized as the Armed Services YMCA Reservist of the Year for 2012, filled in as the work center's superintendent, in place of the master sergeant who deployed. He managed three Airmen, performing above his grade to include the role of shop trainer and upgrade training monitor for unit personnel.

Senior Airman Joshua L. Hanna, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal journeyman from the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Airman Hanna executed 151 joint combat missions, and provided suppressive fire while engaging the enemy during improvised explosive device operations, earning him the Combat Action Badge while in Afghanistan. He trained 347 coalition forces on IED search techniques, improving squadron member survivability. For his actions he was awarded the U.S. Army Commendation and the U.S. Air Force Achievement Medals.

Technical Sergeant Brandon L. Grisham, an Aviation Resource Management non-commissioned officer in charge from the 168th Operations Support Flight, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Sergeant Grisham maintained 100 percent accountability of 11,115 flying hours, resulting in the reimbursement of $1.3 million in operating costs. He prepared 2,795 aircraft flight authorizations leading to $598 million in aircraft fuel being delivered to U.S. and coalition forces worldwide.

Technical Sergeant Andrew P. Adrian, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal craftsman from the 673rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska. Sergeant Adrian deployed for 214 days in support of the U.S. Marine Corps, performing as the team leader on 30 improvised explosive device missions, where he assisted in the protection of more than 40,000 military forces and 1.4 million Afghan personnel. He risked his life by tackling two Afghan soldiers, preventing them from triggering an IED and saving the lives of two people. For his quick actions, he was awarded the U.S. Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

Technical Sergeant John M. Harris, a Cyber System Operations craftsman from the 477th Force Support Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska. Sergeant Harris, recognized as the 477th Fighter Group's 2012 NCO of the Year, reduced the overall number of trouble calls from customers requesting onsite technical support by 25 percent. He also resolved more than 20 assigned trouble tickets per Unit Training Assembly, placing him 52 percent above his peers.

Master Sergeant Jason D. Anderson, the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, Kadena Air Base, Japan. Sergeant Anderson led the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron with the highest operations tempo: 54 aircraft performing 6,500 sorties culminating in 9,600 flying hours. He averted four potential suicides by responding within minutes, and helped to establish treatment and after care. He built the Key Spouse program and led monthly meetings, tracking and accounting for 59 spouses during seven typhoons in Japan.

Master Sgt. Anthony Colon, the 154th Wing first sergeant, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Sergeant Colon was responsible for 343 Airmen representing 15 different job classifications from five squadrons and the National Guard Headquarters. He resolved over 45 potential mission degrading issues without any negative impacts. His leadership role included a one-month deployment over two integrated flying squadrons with 120 Airmen, which resulted in meeting all flying missions with zero mishaps.

Master Sergeant Jerry M. Damian, a 254th Force Support Squadron unit training manager, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Sergeant Damian, during a deployment to Afghanistan, prevented the degradation of the Joint Special Operations Force warfighters mission tasking, resulting in the award of the Bronze Star. He orchestrated 15 emergency resupplies with ammunition and water for U.S. forces with zero casualties. He volunteered monthly at a historical village site to help clean up and preserve the area for the local community, future residents and visitors.

Master Sergeant Richard A. Keele, a 477th Force Support Squadron, Support Flight superintendent, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Sergeant Keele identified 40 personnel manpower process improvements, increasing squadron efficiency. He revitalized the Military Personnel Flight training program by holding 40 in-house training sessions and increased the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations deployment pool by five personnel. On his off-duty time, he provided emergency care to a civilian who fainted, ensuring continuous care for the patient until Emergency Medical Services arrived.

Master Sergeant Timothy M. Stewart, the 374th Communications Squadron Network Control Center section lead, Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Sergeant Stewart was recognized as the 374th Air Wing's senior non-commissioned officer of the year, leading operations for the command's largest network control center. Sergeant Stewart and his team fixed 2,000 issues, executed $ 2 million in upgrades and earned two "Outstanding" ratings during inspections. As the joint cyber inspection leader, he eliminated 90 network vulnerabilities. On his off-duty time, he taught three, four-hour evaluation report writing seminars and two feedback and mentoring courses, sharpening 75 NCO's supervisory skills.

Senior Master Sergeant James Kenwolf, the 48th Aerial Port Squadron first sergeant, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Sergeant Kenwolf facilitated monthly squadron physical training, enabling him to refine the remedial training process for his members. He oversaw more than 75 personnel PT evaluations with a 96 percent pass rate, resulting in the best PT statistics in the 624th Regional Support Group. His resourcefulness ensured the squadron was deployable ready with critical assets on hand to include more than $330,000 in resources. Sergeant Kenwolf also supported the military force protection cell during Senator Inouye's memorial ceremony with the president in attendance.

Asia Trip Meant to Deliver Assurances, Dempsey Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2013 – One of the purposes of his visit to Asia and China last week was to deliver assurances, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters gathered for a Christian Science Monitor lunch event that his fourth visit to Asia and first to China was to assure allies of U.S. commitment to the region.

Dempsey traveled to Seoul, South Korea, as well as to Beijing and Tokyo. In Seoul and Tokyo, he assured South Korean and Japanese leaders that America will work with them to deter current threats and shape the security environment of the future.

“At the stop in Beijing, we assured them as well that we will continue to work with them … on forming a new relationship,” Dempsey said.

Military-to-military contacts between China and the United States have started and stopped any number of times since President Richard M. Nixon went to China in 1972. Chinese and American leaders are trying to cement these links.

Dempsey said the United States wants a more positive relationship with China.

“But it has to be in the context of our existing relationships,” he added. “Right now, it’s a blank sheet of paper.”

The Chinese seemed to welcome the exchange, the chairman told the reporters.
“I think the message resonated,” he said, adding that he believes the trip was useful.

16.6 miles of memories

by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.  -- "Since I didn't bow, he took the bottle and busted my teeth out," he said.

A Japanese sergeant dropped a bottle of Coke where John was supposed to walk, so he picked it up and gave it to him. Afterwards, he was punished for his lack of "respect."

John Mims, a Bataan Death March survivor, and approximately 70,000 other Filipino and American prisoners of war endured the torturous march in April, 1942. During the march, POWs were forced to walk 80 miles through the Philippines to the captured Camp O'Donnell. The prisoners were stabbed if they could not keep up, and those who were not bayoneted would most likely die from disease or decapitation before the end of the war.

"After they broke my legs with a bulldozer when I tried to escape, I didn't think I would make it," said Mims. "If a naval officer didn't save me before the march to Camp O'Donnell, I would have been right."

Stories like Mims' were not uncommon during the Bataan Death March memorial walk April 27, at Dismal Swamp, Chesapeake, Va. Before the memorial ceremony for Mims and his fellow POWs, participants walked 16.6 miles in order to feel a fraction of the pain endured by Service members in the Philippines.

With more than 400 total participants, Langley Air Force Base, Va., was represented in full during the event. Approximately 150 Airmen participated in the walk, with the majority wearing uniforms and boots, and a few also carrying up to 45 pounds of weight.

Airman 1st Class Robert Hart, 633rd Medical Group cardiopulmonary technician, was one of the Airmen to embark on the walk. He believed himself fit enough for the journey, but he was surprised once he neared the half-way point.

"When we first started, I didn't think it would be so bad," said Hart after walking the first six miles. "Now, I have to admit it feels like more."

Towards the end of the walk, groups broke apart due to fatigue, and a few participants threw in the towel early, climbing into golf carts on their way to the finish.

Hart and the majority of the Airmen did not give up. Although the physical pain became more prominent, the purpose for the walk became clearer.

"My feet are feeling progressively worse; they've practically gone numb," said Hart, shortly before he finished. "I can't believe anyone could have walked 80 miles like this; it's incredible."

Hart also said he could really appreciate what veterans endured; he could connect with them on another level outside of simply reading about the march or watching a documentary.

For Hart and other walkers who were able to make it 14 miles into the journey, they were greeted by Mims' smiling face and grateful words.

"Thanks for coming out," said Mims, saluting every walker. "We love you, and there is nothing you can do about it!"

Many participants stopped their walk and embraced Mims, full of respect and sorrow for the pain he endured. Chief Master Sgt. Tony Levine, 718th Intelligence Squadron superintendent, was one of the participants who expressed gratitude for Mims.

"It is truly an honor to meet you," said Levine. "Thank you for your service, sir, and God bless you."

The scene at the finish line contained a mixture of expressions. Airmen sat down wherever there was an open space, bandaging bloody heels or rubbing out stiff toes. After a respite, participants gathered a top a shaded knoll to show their appreciation for their fellow walkers, event organizers and especially the veterans.

Attendees had the opportunity to take photos with Mims and other veterans, ask questions about their experience and learn more about the purpose behind their 16.6-mile trek through the Virginian countryside.

Before he took shelter from the bright, mid-day sun, Mims shared the true reason he takes time to attend different events for Bataan Death March survivors and other veterans.

Had Mims not been saved before the end of the war, he would have certainly lost his life due to starvation, exhaustion or at the tip of a bayonet. For his brothers in arms who would not see home again, he shared a few words.

"I lost a lot of buddies in the Philippines. I do this in honor of all the people who died and for those who made it back and have since passed," said Mims. He then took a pause, swallowed hard and turned a misty gaze to the sky. "I love 'em."

Dempsey: Military Provides Options to President on Syria

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2013 – The U.S. military stands ready to do whatever it is ordered to in Syria by civilian leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor news roundtable that nothing he has heard out of Syria in the past week changes the mission for U.S. military leaders.

“We’ve been planning, we’re talking about the options, and we’re looking to determine if these options are still valid or if anything has changed,” Dempsey said. “That doesn’t mean that anything we’ve heard over the past week wouldn’t change the policy calculus.”

Militarily, the U.S. task is to continue to engage partners in the region and “to continue to define options so that if we are asked to implement any, we will be ready,” the nation’s top military officer said.

Evidence indicates that the Syrian regime has used sarin, a deadly nerve agent, White House officials said last week. President Barack Obama said that use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer.”

“The reason for that is that we have established international law and international norms that say when you use these kinds of weapons, you have the potential of killing massive numbers of people in the most inhumane way possible,” the president said during a White House news conference this morning. “The proliferation risks are so significant that we don't want that genie out of the box.”

But while physiological evidence indicates that chemical weapons were used in the country, that evidence is not concrete, the president said. “We don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them,” Obama said. “We don’t have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened.

“And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I have got to make sure I've got the facts,” he continued.

One option advanced by advocates of action in Syria is establishing a no-fly zone over at least part of the country. The persistent argument is that NATO flights over Libya were decisive in overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

But Syria is far different from Libya, Dempsey said. It has five times the air defense capability Libya had, with most of it concentrated in the western third of the country. Dempsey called the Syrian air defense “high-end.”

“I’m not saying we couldn’t beat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, take longer and require greater resources,” he said.

Without going into specifics, Dempsey spoke about setting up a no-fly zone. “Any military operation tends to be a little more complicated,” he said. “They tend to be more risky.”

To an extent, the chairman said, the American military may be a victim of its own success. U.S. air power set up and maintained a no-fly zone over northern and southern Iraq for a decade. NATO maintained a no-fly zone over parts of Serbia and Kosovo in the 1990s, and NATO and coalition nations enforced a no-fly zone over Libya. “They made the very difficult look very manageable for a long time,” Dempsey said.

A no-fly zone has to have several elements to succeed, the chairman said. “Although stealth technology exists, to have a no-fly zone, you can’t just simply penetrate,” he said. “You have to control, which means at some level you have to degrade the integrated air defense system.”

Secondly, he said, any time the United States puts an aircraft over a dangerous area, there has to be a way to retrieve the pilot or crew in case they are shot down or forced down in hostile territory. “There has to be a search-and-rescue or a personnel recovery plan,” the chairman said.

Another factor, Dempsey told the reporters, is what might happen outside a no-fly zone.

“I have to assume that the potential adversary is not going to just sit back and let us impose our will,” he said. “They could in fact, take exception to the fact that we are imposing a no-fly zone, and outside their borders launch long-range rockets and missiles and asymmetric threats. So regionally in the area that bounds the no-fly zone, you’d better have your readiness condition up.”

Air Force bids farewell to Combat Talon I

by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.
919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- "Blackbird fly... into the light of a dark, black night."

The Beatles' somber, fitting refrain closed the MC-130E Combat Talon I's retirement ceremony here April 25th, completing the "Blackbird's" almost 50-year career with the U.S. Air Force.

The 919th Special Operations Wing hosted the ceremony because the last five Air Force Talon Is sit on the Duke Field flightline. They were aligned for viewing and adorned with American flags for the ceremony. The birds will take flight only once more when they leave for the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., by mid-May 2013.

"Today we say goodbye to a trusted friend, more than a machine to those who flew her, but a faithful and reliable partner. You have served well, my friend, and we are grateful for your nearly 50 years of service," said Maj. T.J. Kollar, a 711th Special Operations Squadron Electronic Warfare Officer, during the invocation.

A massive crowd turned out to the little base to pay respect and remember the Talon I on the 33rd anniversary of the Operation Eagle Claw mission to the Desert One landing site, an attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran. The lead aircraft on that mission, Aircraft 64-0565, was parked at the hangar doors and served as a backdrop for the ceremony.

Retired Col. Ray Turczynski, a former 1st Special Operations Squadron commander and a pilot on the second Talon to land at Desert One, recounted the story of the mission that revitalized special operations after Vietnam.

When the Combat Talons returned to Masirah, Oman, after the Desert One landing, a group of British military personnel brought the dejected Combat Talon aircrew members a case of beer with the following inscription hand-written on the package: "To you all, from us all, for having the guts to try." That motto became the impetus for the rebuilding of special operations forces in the U.S. military, and is the true legacy of all Combat Talon members past and present, according to Turczynski.

Surrounded by pictures, mementos and displays, including a Fulton Recovery System, Lt. Col. Tom Miller, the master of ceremonies for the retirement, explained the various nicknames the Talon had earned through five decades. They were the Praetorian Starship, Chariot of Armageddon, Blackbird, Stray Goose and the Pterodactyl.

Retired Col. Lee Hess, former commander of the 1st SOS as well as other SO positions and a Talon pilot, read statements from former pilots and active commanders, who wanted to honor the warbird.

"Though it is time for engine shutdown, our Talon I mission is not done, for in us lives a legacy of fights yet to be won," said Maj. Gen. Brozenick, the commander of Special Operations Command Pacific, in a statement read by Hess.

After reading the statements, Hess saluted "the guys who made it happen" - the maintainers and all of the support people; that comment brought the crowd to its feet with applause.

The keynote speaker, retired Maj. Gen. James Hobson, a Talon pilot and former commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, reminisced about the "good old days" and the early career of the Combat Talon. He also told his story of airdropping troops into Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury.

Lt. Col. Daniel Flynn, Commander of the 711th SOS, spoke about the 919th SOW's role with the historic aircraft from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom to humanitarian missions after Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. The 919th SOW will leave its 40-year C-130 mission behind and transition to an Aviation Foreign Internal Defense mission flying C-145A Skytrucks.

"Thank you for always bringing us home safely," said Kollar. "Take your leave. You've earned your rest."

The Combat Talon I flew its first combat missions in 1966 and since has participated in all major U.S. conflicts. The newer MC-130H Combat Talon II, and the MC-130J Commando II, will carry on its legacy and mission of infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment.

"All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free. Blackbird fly."

Missing Sailors from Vietnam War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a Navy pilot, missing from the Vietnam War, has been accounted for and will be buried with full military honors along with his crew.

Navy Lt. Dennis W. Peterson of Huntington Park, Calif., was the pilot of a SH-3A helicopter that crashed in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam.  Peterson was accounted for on March 30, 2012.  Also, aboard the aircraft was Ensign Donald P. Frye of Los Angeles, Calif.; Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William B. Jackson of Stockdale, Texas; and Donald P. McGrane of Waverly, Iowa.  The crew will be buried, as a group, on May 2 at Arlington National Cemetery. 

On July 19, 1967, the four servicemen took off from the USS Hornet aboard an SH-3A Sea King helicopter, on a search and rescue mission looking for a downed pilot in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam.  During the mission, an enemy concealed 37mm gun position targeted the helicopter as it flew in.  The helicopter was hit by the anti-aircraft gunfire, causing the aircraft to lose control, catch fire and crash, killing all four servicemen.

In October 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated five boxes of remains to U.S. officials.  In 2009, the remains within the boxes were identified as Frye, Jackson, and McGrane.            

In 1993, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team, investigated a loss in Ha Nam Province.  The team interviewed local villagers who identified possible burial sites linked to the loss.  One local claimed to have buried two of the crewmen near the wreckage, but indicated that both graves had subsequently been exhumed. 

Between 1994 and 2000, three joint U.S./S.R.V. teams excavated the previous site and recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew's SH-3A helicopter.  In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site recovering additional remains.  Analysis from the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory subsequently designated these additional remains as the co-mingled remains of all four crewmen, including Peterson.

DoD scientists used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence in the identification of the remains. 

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1420.