Friday, May 31, 2013

Behind the lens: Marine leaves lasting impact

Commentary by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

5/30/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- I had never met him. I had never seen him. I didn't even know his name before that day.

But then I stood on the flightline, staring at a black coffin draped in the Stars and Stripes. It didn't matter whether or not I knew this Marine, because I could feel his impact.

Members of the base and local community showed up in force for this dignified transfer. A full formation of Marines divided the hearse from the series of cars that lined the aircraft hangar doors, with an honor guard ready to receive their fallen brother after he arrived by plane. More than 20 K-9 handlers and their dogs filled the flightline in respect of one of their own because the plane was not only carrying an American warrior, but also the remains of his military working dog partner.

So there I was, in full service dress, behind the camera's lens, capturing the final journey of this Marine for his family. I had never been in this position before, and it was a little eerie. As a photojournalist, I always try to get excited about putting out the best possible product; but as I stood next to the hearse, still close enough to hear the quiet crying of his family, excitement seemed out of place.

The six-man honor guard raised their white-gloved hands in a silent salute to the K-9 handler before the door to the black hearse closed. The Marine's wife stared at the vehicle through dark sunglasses, the tear streaks still on her cheek. His brother stood stoically beside her in his place.

This Marine, who was unknown to me until then, had spoken to me. Not through words, but through actions. He made the greatest sacrifice for his country any service member can make. He made it even though he had a family. He made it even though he had a future.

All the days throughout my career I complained about it being too hot or there being a lot of work seemed insignificant. Frankly, I was embarrassed. I lost track of the big picture in those moments, and it was sad it took a hero to remind me of that.

The corporal's sacrifice reminded me of the important things. No matter what branch of service we are in, we are all in this fight together. We stand united against America's enemies and together in the aid of our allies.

His sacrifice also showed me how fragile life is for those who take the oath to serve our country. We sometimes see ourselves as invincible, but one day it could be me in that casket and my wife wearing black. Because I will deploy again; it's what I swore to when I joined the military.

As I watched the hearse pull away bathed by the lights of fire trucks and police vehicles, every available service member and civilian on the installation lined the road awaiting the corporal's final pass. I saw hundreds of base members, lined shoulder to shoulder, place their hands over their hearts or raise their arms and render a final salute.

And it hit me. This Marine not only impacted me, he had impacted all of us.

Following the footsteps of a life cut short

by Senior Airman Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/28/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- They shared the same name. They flew and fought the same types of Wild Weasel fighter jet missions. They looked alike and the family says they even displayed the same mannerisms. It's a fascinating tale of a father and son who lived the same life, complete with a sobering twist.

They never met.

Forty years ago, aptly named John Wayne Seuell was living a real life war movie, flying F-4D Phantoms over hostile Vietnamese jungles as an Air Force captain. It was almost noon on June 6, 1972, when his parental duty was severed by fate, only days away from welcoming his only child into the world.

Reports released from the Pentagon tell a mind-bending story of what are believed to be Seuell's final moments.

While on a combat air patrol mission northwest of Hanoi, Seuell was with Lt. Col. James Fowler and their F-4D was the lead aircraft in a flight of four. All aircraft arrived in the target area without incident, so far so good, until the sortie made its way back toward its base destination in Thailand. While approaching surface-to-air missile launching sites near heavily guarded Yen Bai Airfield in North Vietnam, the launch of an enemy missile was detected.

Although evasive maneuvers were initiated, it wasn't enough as the missile exploded below the tail section of Seuell's plane. The aircraft burst into flames, but did not disintegrate. No canopies or parachutes were seen. About 30 minutes later, flights in the area reported hearing two emergency signals, but no contact could be made.

Because the incident occurred deep in enemy territory, no organized search could be made. Both pilots held the status of missing in action for many years. The only things that remained of the crash site were questions.

Two months following the crash, John David Seuell was born, unaware of the irrecoverable tragedy surrounding him. At the time, it was impossible to know the parallels that would arise between he and his father. But being born into such a storied pedigree, the telltale signs were always there.

"I knew about the circumstances [of my father] growing up," said Seuell, now the deputy commander of the 35th Operations Group. "From the youngest age I always wanted to be a pilot. I was surrounded by it; I knew it was what I was going to do."

Seuell's bloodline is United States Air Force; he's never known anything else. To take it a step further, life leading up to his commission was essentially a formality - he was always going to fill his father's footsteps. It was just how closely, however, no one could have foreseen.

While his father's playground was dense, alien jungle, Seuell started in the sandbox. His first missions as an F-16 fighter pilot led him over Southern Iraq during Operation Southern Watch to fight the antagonistic presence of Saddam Hussein.

"It was an eye-opening experience," said Seuell, now an 18-year Air Force veteran. "It was really a gut check when you get up in the morning and plan to spend your day far, far away from anyone friendly."

It was decades later, and the only thing separating the father and son was time. They were always fighting the same fight.

At Misawa, the 35th Fighter Wing is home to the Wild Weasels - U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons that provide lethal suppression of enemy-air-defenses across the globe. A squadron that helps make up the 35 FW is the 13th Fighter Squadron, which was retained when the 432nd FW was reflagged by the 35 FW during a changeover in the fall of 1994. Colonel Seuell flew 13 FS aircraft in his primal flying days as a lieutenant and now still supervises the squadron in his current position.

While attending training in San Antonio in his early twenties, Seuell got his hands on an unclassified report about his father's last flight.

"It described the airplane [my father] was in, and painted on the side of the intake was a red '13' with a black panther, which is an indication that it was a 13 FS airplane," he said with a grin.

As the time passed, more and more details began to emerge. But one looming question remained; what exactly happened to his father?

Villagers from small towns near the crash site were interviewed, along with SAM site operators working that day. People who claimed to have visited the crash site shortly after still could provide no concrete answers.

It wasn't until 1995, in San Angelo, Texas, when Seuell was perusing through a bookstore and discovered a book titled "Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives," authored by Malcolm McConnell. Scrolling through the index, Seuell was taken back after seeing his father's name listed. Looking further, it even had his picture inside and definitively listed his father as killed in action.

It was that moment when Seuell finally received the answers to all the questions racing through his head over the years.

"For me personally, I have no doubt that this is my dad," Seuell said, pointing to the pictures he pulled from a 4-inch thick binder full of his father's heritage. "He was able to exit the aircraft ... but was unable to survive the ejection."

Having never been allowed the luxury of meeting his father, Seuell said the emotions surrounding his death were more prideful than anything else.

"I've always looked up to the sacrifice of my father, what he used it for and what he had given," he said. "He was always a role model and he made being a pilot more serious. I felt like I knew the consequences more clearly.

"There really is a more serious side of sacrifice and knowledge you have to be willing to give if required."

The more Seuell unearthed about his father's life and sacrifice, the more the legacy came bursting through the woodwork. John Wayne Seuell was elite company.

During one memorable flight on April 16 of 1972, Seuell was in a group of four fighter jets that recorded two MiG-21 kills that afternoon. On that flight, he flew alongside decorated Vietnam MiG killers Fred Olmstead and Jeffrey Feinstein.

Seuell doesn't have to go far to find the memories of that day. A few left turns and a couple stoplights away from his flight line office is the Misawa's Officer Club, where two red star plaques posted above the bar recognize the pilots' feats.

That mission, which has been widely documented and published across the world, is remembered as one of the more famous dogfights in Vietnam history. It's known as Basco Flight, now a staple call sign in the Wild Weasel lineage.

As an F-16 fighter pilot with ties to the same squadron his father flew with in his heyday, Seuell flies SEAD missions regularly with the Wild Weasels. And the call sign of the most recent mission he flew?

You guessed it -- Basco.

How could it have been anything else?

"That was pretty cool," Seuell reflected. "I grew up flying fighter jets, became a Wild Weasel pilot and train against the same threats that existed in Vietnam."

In 40 years, so much has changed. Yet, still, so much remains the same.

"In some ways it may be a bit poetic; I am trained to go after the things that killed my dad."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fairchild's fallen aircrew honored

by Senior Airman Earlandez Young
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

5/28/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airman and hero. Husband and wife. Mother and father. Son and daughter. Friend and colleague. Mentor and role model. These were just some of the words used to describe three fallen warriors.

Family, friends, service members, distinguished visitors and people from the Spokane community gathered for a memorial service at the Inland Northwest Bank Performing Arts Center to honor and pay their respects to Capt. Mark Tyler Voss, Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney and Tech. Sgt. Herman "Tre" Mackey III.

The three Airmen died tragically May 3, 2013, when their KC-135 Stratotanker crashed in Kyrgyzstan. They were deployed to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing's 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron from Fairchild in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"We will not forget the sacrifice of these patriots answering the call of others so they may prevail," said Col. Brian Newberry, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "They sadly join 2,090 other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who gave their lives overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom, since freedom was attacked on 9-11.

"We all know we have air dominance in Afghanistan providing a blanket of protection to our spirited ground warriors. What is important to note is this air dominance is borne on the backs of air warriors sitting in the audience today as well as across our great air mobility force, we know as well, it was borne tirelessly by the tanker crew of Capt. Voss, Capt. Pinckney and Tech. Sgt. Mackey."

About 1,800 people attended the memorial service for the fallen brothers and sister of America.

While the memorial service was solemn, it was also an opportunity for those affected by the tragedy to begin the healing process.

Voss, a native of Boerne, Texas, was a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, majoring in aeronautical engineering. He received his pilot's wings in March of 2010, becoming an aircraft commander three years later in March 2013. He is survived by his parents, Wayne and Marcy Voss, brother, Forest, and sister, Morgan.

Voss's mother, Marcelle D. Voss described her son as adventurous, helpful and someone who everyone loved.

"Today, I thought of three things we might learn from Tyler," she said. "There are blessings to be gained from this situation. Tyler lived life to the fullest. He followed his passions and lived his dream as a pilot. We don't have to be as adventurous as Tyler with his fast cars and motorcycles, but living life following our passions and dreams gives us a life of no regrets.

"Second, he helped his friends and he helped his neighbors. I remember he was 16 years old and had just recently gotten his license, and he stopped to help pull someone out of a low water crossing after a heavy rain ... Tyler even helped strangers. So, let's pass on this brotherly love and never pass up an opportunity to help those in need. And finally, Tyler was prepared to meet his maker, so children help your parents, husbands and wives ... express your love to one another ... ladies and gentlemen - forgive someone who has wronged you."

Pinckney was a native of Palmdale, Calif. A 2008 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, she earned a Bachelor's Degree in systems engineering space systems, as well as a Master's Degree in psychology. She is survived by her husband, Richard Pinckney, and her seven-month-old son, Gabriel. She also leaves behind her parents, Michelle and Larry Castro, and two sisters, Nichol and Samantha Castro; her grandparents, Terry and Lt. Col. (Ret) Don Castro, and Josephine and Emil Grulkowski; mother-in-law Nina Pinckney and Wally Slate, and father-in-law Richard and his wife, Lorraine Pinckney; her three sisters-in-law, Christine, Stephanie and Jeanna Pinckney; as well as Tyler and Kevin Obrock and grandparents Anna Bull, Donald Bull and Virginia Hunt, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

She is remembered as a teammate and a devoted woman with an infectious smile who cherished and appreciated all life's moments.

"Behind a infectious smile, Tory was a woman who knew what she wanted in life and was willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears to get it," said Capt. Ashley Barnes, a friend. When we were seniors at the academy, a freshman on our rugby team was having trouble learning how to tackle. This particular freshman would attempt to make tackles leading with her head as if she was a bull charging a matador. This freshman had exhausted the rest of our patience and we had doomed her spending the rest of her life in a neck brace.

"Then Tory took over her coaching. She spent countless hours teaching the girl how to tackle which meant Tory spent countless hours being tackled, but her teammate got it right. Tory was able to succeed where the rest of us had failed and her patience and love for the game not only saved the girl's neck but also made our team better players. Her patience carried on into her work and she was a level-headed teammate who the people of the 93rd could call on. Tory tackled life with the same graceful determination and succeeded in what seemed like everything she did."

Mackey, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., enlisted in the Air Force in 2001 as a boom operator. He later became a sensor operator for remotely piloted aircraft as part of career broadening, but returned to the KC-135 as a boom operator in 2012. He is survived by his wife, Megan Mackey, and his daughter, Payton. He also leaves behind his mother, Debbie Mackey; sisters, Beckah, Donna and Phyllicia; as well as brothers, Tristan and Yusef.

"At the time I met Tre in 2004, I was going through some rough times ... Tre made it a point to step up and do the right thing by helping me out ... he knew no stranger," said Staff. Sgt. Ben Davis, a friend. "He always had the knack of finding a way to cheer me up or make me laugh. He'd help anyone find the 'silver lining' no matter the situation. He could bring a room to tears by laughing without even trying. From the time we met in 2004, our friendship would only grow -- because I had never met anyone like Tre."

The Fairchild Honor Guard closed off the ceremony with a 21 Gun Salute followed by the playing of Taps.

"May God bless our fallen patriots, their families and our great, great nation," said Newberry. "We will always remember our happy few and continue to follow their starlight."

In memory of fallen warriors

by Capt. Zach Anderson
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs

5/28/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Master Sgt. Chris Norris, a boom operator assigned to the 18th Air Refueling Squadron stands with Lt. Col. Michael Moeding and Lt. Col. Travis Clark, both pilots assigned to the 18 ARS, during a moment of silence at a memorial service for the crew of SHELL 77 at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., May 28, 2013.

The Fairchild-based aircrew, consisting of Capt. Mark Voss of Boerne, Texas, Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III of Bakersfield, Calif., perished when their McConnell-based KC-135 Stratotanker crashed in northern Kyrgyzstan, May 3, 2013.

Members of Team McConnell gathered today for a short memorial service to honor the fallen Airmen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Air Force OCC chopper retires

by Staff Sgt. Hillary Stonemetz
Air Force Recruiting Service

5/23/2013 - JBSA-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- After more than five years of service, one of the Air Force's mobile marketing assets, the F-22 Raptor-themed chopper, retired and moved to its new home in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Designed by the Orange County Choppers, the chopper is now on display in the museum's gift shop.

"It is one of the first artifacts seen by the 1.2 million visitors who visit the museum annually," said Jeffery Underwood, NMUSAF historian. "Future plans call for its display on a raised platform that will allow visitors to view its unique features more easily."

During its service, the chopper reached millions of people through appearances on the reality television show American Chopper and the Military Channel, and by being displayed over 1,000 Air Force recruiting events nationwide, according to Master Sgt. Lance Griffin, Air Force Recruiting Service Strategic Marketing Division advertising superintendent.

Griffin has been involved with the chopper project from the very beginning.
"With the popularity of the show American Chopper, we partnered with OCC back in 2005 to build this chopper," he said. "The chopper demonstrated how a passion for mechanics can translate into a career in the Air Force."

The chopper toured the nation in a trailer that featured a video documenting the chopper being built. The 150-horse power chopper sports an F-22 Raptor custom theme complete with F-22 shaped mirrors, rims, seat, exhaust and an aircraft themed paint scheme.

It was officially retired in 2010, and has been on display in the AFRS Headquarters' lobby until being donated to the Air Force museum this month.

"The National Museum of the United States Air Force maintains a close relationship with the Air Force Recruiting Service, and obtaining the OCC Chopper will help us to tell the public the Air Force's story and to educate our youth," Underwood said. "Its F-22 Raptor theme will convey the importance of air power while assisting in teaching the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)."

Future enlisted leaders graduate to shape U.S. Air Force

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

5/29/2013 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Graduating students of U.S. Air Force Airman Leadership School and Noncommissioned Officer Academy took hold of diplomas here May 23 as loud applause approved their ability to bring new leadership to the field.

What they learned would certainly steer the service's future, officials said.

"The one thing that you can do for us is to care about your Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. "Andy" Kaiser, command chief of Air Mobility Command. "The missions that we do are done by our enlisted Airmen."

The featured graduation speaker, Kaiser congratulated the students and spoke of the hard path they took to graduate and will take as leaders.

"We as Airmen, we as leaders have got to always, always choose to do the harder right thing over the easier wrong thing," Kaiser advised.

The in-residence students began their hard path to graduation at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center campus.

The students prepared for leadership roles through presentations, inspections, peer discussions and physical fitness training, among many lessons instructed by the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center.

With each passing experience, those with top scores rose as academic achievers, including NCO Academy's Tech. Sgt. Bryan Murphy from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and ALS's Senior Airman Victor Popescu from Ohio. Both earned academic achievement awards.

By the class's remaining days, more than a dozen had also excelled as distinguished graduates, still others as top graduates.

Chief Master Sgt. Donald Felch, Lankford Center's commandant, and retired Chief Master Sgt. Art Hafner, its 9th commandant, presented the Commandant's Award to Tech. Sgt. Kevin Watson from Horsham Air National Guard Station, Pa., and Senior Airman Todd Rodan from Dover AFB, Del.

"I had a wonderful flight, we studied together and participated in numerous community projects including 5K runs and food drives," said Watson, a firefighter and former Marine who now recruits for his Pennsylvania unit.

Having transferred to the Air National Guard in 2006, Watson said the NCO Academy provided him the Air Force knowledge he needed to develop Airmen and help them reach their goals.

"... and the goals of my organization, as well," he said.

The John L. Levitow Award, the highest award bestowed for any Air Force enlisted PME, was earned by Master Sgt. Jason Beard from Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., and Senior Airman Bradley Stoudt from Kansas.

"I'm enjoying it," said Beard, a class leader who works as an active duty maintenance manager back at the 4th Fighter Wing.

"It was really nice to branch out and meet people from the Guard and reserve who do different missions," he said.

Officials noted that the in-residence graduates who arrived six weeks ago added to the Lankford Center's record student-load of satellite NCO Academy distance learners followed by additional distance learners taking satellite ALS on their weekends.

At one point, 597 future enlisted leaders trained together through the Air National Guard's school house, which manages the largest NCO Academy in the Air Force. The sum was a record group of EPME students ever instructed simultaneously.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

U.S. and Vietnam prepare for exercise Pacific Angel 13-3

5/28/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- The United States and Vietnam will conduct humanitarian assistance operations June 10-14 as part of Operation Pacific Angel.

Officially in its sixth year, Operation PACANGEL is a joint and combined humanitarian assistance exercise led by Pacific Air Forces. Operation PACANGEL 2013 includes medical, dental, optometry, and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges.

Approximately 56 U.S. military members, along with local non-governmental organizations and host nation military forces will conduct humanitarian assistance operations in Dong Hoi, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam as part of this operation.

PACANGEL enhances participants' humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.

The exercise supports U.S. Pacific Command's capacity-building efforts by partnering with other governments, non-governmental agencies and multilateral militaries in the respective region to provide medical, dental, optometry, and engineering assistance to their citizens. This training can be used during future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

Since 2007, U.S. military members, together with host nation military personnel throughout the region, have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people through Operation PACANGEL missions

SFS joins Japanese defense forces in training exercise

by Airman 1st Class Kaleb Snay
35th Fighter Wing public affairs

5/23/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Airmen from the 35th Security Forces Squadron and Japan Air Self-Defense Force, along with the soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, 9th Division, 5th Infantry Regiment, Aomori, participated in the Guard and Protect Exercise here, May 19-22.

"The annual exercise is the result of a bilateral training agreement, between the United States and Japanese governments, which states during high threat situations in the country, JGSDF and JASDF will unite efforts with U.S installations," said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Helguero, 35 SFS Exercise Evaluation Team inspector. "It basically helps us unify how we do security."

With allied forces training together, teamwork and efficiency are heightened as the bonds between both the Japanese and U.S. forces are strengthened.

"This is the fifth year of the Guard and Protect Exercise and every year we've become more fluid with security because of how well we work together," said Helguero. "The exercise allows us to communicate together and learn each other's tactics so we can better utilize our forces."

Various scenarios, staged by U.S. Airmen, were set up in several locations across Misawa Air Base. Airmen, posing as enemy forces or ordinary civilians, tried to breach base perimeters to test security members attention to detail. Using realistic threats, the bilateral defenders go through several scenarios.

"Typical scenarios we set up are people trying to bring toxic materials or Improvised Explosive Devices on base," Helguero added. "Sometimes we'd have a simulated special forces group try to infiltrate. We basically try and keep everyone on their toes watching for anything suspicious."

Using these methods, evaluators are able to determine what weaknesses and strengths they have and can alter training to better prepare troops.

"Exercises are meant highlight vulnerabilities and to build on strengths," said Master Sgt. Justin Crockett, 35 SFS EET inspector. "We always try to improve on the areas where we were deficient previous years."

Other side of the lens: Marine leaves lasting impact

by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau
460 Space Wing Public Affairs

5/22/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- I had never met him. I had never seen him. I didn't even know his name before that day.

But then I stood on the flightline staring at a black coffin draped in the Stars and Stripes. It didn't matter whether or not I knew this Marine, because I could feel his impact.

Members of the base and local community showed up for this dignified transfer in force. A full formation of Marines divided the hearse from the series of cars that lined the aircraft hangar doors, with an honor guard ready to receive their fallen brother after he arrived by plane. More than 20 K-9 handlers and their dogs filled the flightline in respect of one of their own because the plane was not only carrying an American warrior, but also the remains of his military working dog partner.

So there I was, in full service dress, behind the camera's lens, capturing the final journey of this Marine for his family. I had never been in this position before, and it was a little eerie. As a photojournalist, I always try to get excited about putting out the best possible product; but as I stood next to the hearse, still close enough to hear the quiet crying of his family, excitement seemed out of place.

The six-man honor guard raised their white-gloved hands in a silent salute to the K-9 handler before the door to the black hearse closed. The Marine's wife stared at the vehicle through dark sunglasses, the tear streaks still on her cheek. His brother stood stoically beside her in his place.

This Marine, who was unknown to me until then, had spoken to me. Not through words, but through actions. He made the greatest sacrifice for his country any service member can make. He made it even though he had a family. He made it even though he had a future.

All the days throughout my career I complained about it being too hot or there being a lot of work seemed insignificant. Frankly, I was embarrassed. I lost track of the big picture in those moments, and it was sad it took a hero to remind me of that.

The corporal's sacrifice reminded me of the important things. No matter what branch of service we are in, we are all in this fight together. We stand united against America's enemies and together in the aid of our allies.

His sacrifice also showed me how fragile life is for those who take the oath to serve our country. We sometimes see ourselves as invincible, but one day it could be me in that casket and my wife wearing black. Because I will deploy again; it's what I swore to when I joined the military.

As I watched the hearse pull away bathed by the lights of fire trucks and police vehicles, every available service member and civilian on the installation lined the road awaiting the corporal's final pass. I saw hundreds of base members, lined shoulder to shoulder, place their hands over their hearts or raise their arms and render a final salute.

And it hit me. This Marine not only impacted me, he had impacted all of us.

JBER security forces ready for high-risk situations

by Airman Ty-Rico Lea
JBER Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Airmen and civilians of 673d Security Forces Squadron performed their annual high-risk response training during Police Week, training that is part of a Pacific Air Forces-wide program.

The U.S. Air Force partnered with Analytical Services Incorporated to conduct a diverse range of high-risk response exercises. Headquartered in Shirlington, Va., ANSER is a public service research institute that worked with the Air Force in 1958 to help with the research and development of more proficient ways of assessing situations that threaten the security of America and its people. A cadre consisting of ANSER senior analysts devised several exercises, which utilized the concepts of responding to high risk situations.

"All throughout Police Week, we exercise training involving an active shooter that could appear anywhere on base," said Air Force 2nd Lt. Amber Evans, a 673d SFS flight commander. "Scenarios included places such as elementary schools at the base exchange."

Security Forces service members were trained on the key pieces of high-risk response principles, including the use of force, the history of active shooters and navigating through a hostage situation.

"The high-risk response training that took place at the [base exchange] was the culmination of all aspects used to train for any active shooter situation," Evans said. "High-risk responses are particularly challenging as you always have to go in with the mind-set that it's going to be a no win situation."

According to a public release written by Air Force Staff Sgt. Rogelio Diaz, 673d SFS training instructor, this type of training is used to avoid any type of loss, ranging from lives to property damage. Situations in the past have proven this type of training is critical as each one is variable and unpredictable. The Office of the Secretary of Defense advised all services to provide "active shooter" response training to all security personnel in response to the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting.

As part of the exercise, Air Force members from different squadrons also played the parts of hostages to gain the feel and experience of being in a hostage

"We all had fun participating in the high-risk response training," said Airman 1st Class Patrick Frick, 673d Communications Squadron cyber system operator. "Ultimately we were really glad to help out."

Evans said whenever responding to an active shooter situation, security forces members always use the implementation of non-lethal approaches unless instructed otherwise or if they deem the shooter hostile.

"When it comes to saving lives, saving one is better than saving none," Evans said.

F-15 aircraft crashes in Pacific, pilot ejects safely

by 18th Wing Public Affairs

5/27/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A Kadena-based F-15 aircraft developed a problem that ultimately resulted in the pilot ejecting from the aircraft over the Pacific Ocean approximately 70 miles east of Okinawa at around 9 a.m. today.

U.S. and Japanese rescue crews are responding to recover the pilot, who reportedly ejected safely and is in contact with rescue crews.

The cause of the incident will be investigated. More details will be released as they become available. The name of the pilot is not releasable at this time.

390th IS TSgt named language pro of the year

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Davis
18th Wing Public Affairs

5/22/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A white-board depicts the characters of a foreign language as Tech. Sgt. David Jang, 390th Intelligence Squadron airborne cryptologic language analyst, briefs other Korean linguists during a training session at the Kadena Language Learning Center.

Jang recently won the 2012 Language Professional of the Year Award at the Air Force level, and was the runner-up for the same award at the Department of Defense level.

"The Language Professional of the Year Award is (awarded to) the most well-rounded linguist we have in the Air Force culturally and language wise," said Lt. Col. Regan McClurkin, 390th IS commander. "He scores 100s on his physical training tests successively, excels at language and everything he does, but he is also extremely humble."

McClurkin explained the normal path of a linguist is for them to take the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, which consists of analyzing a made-up language to see if they understand a given rule set and can apply them.

Scores received on the DLAB are used to screen people who appear to have an ability to quickly sort out rules of a language and give them an opportunity to go to the Defense Language Institute to learn a foreign language.

However, Jang bypassed DLI because his native language is Korean. He moved to Seoul, Korea, when he was 5 years old and spent 14 years learning the language and the culture.

After DLI, the second step for linguists is getting out and applying their skills to their unit and Air Force mission in a professional manner, said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Weinandt, 390th IS superintendent.

After being accepted to cross-train, Jang went straight to intelligence training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, followed by survival and flight training.

Being able to head straight to the operational line put Jang one step above other language professionals.
"I'd rather be on the operational line using my language than sitting in a classroom learning something I already knew," Jang said. "The fact that I serve the country by doing something that I've been doing on a daily basis since I was young and utilize that skill set makes it very worthwhile."

Although he learned English a year before he joined the Air Force, learning a new language has given him the opportunity to help other linguists who struggle with doing the same.

The experience of learning English, which was a foreign language for Jang, has been able to help him understand what his students go through, said Jeff Bagwell, Kadena Language Learning Center command language program manager.

"Since he's got such a deep-rooted knowledge of the Korean Language, he helps out our linguists who struggle with maintaining a required level of proficiency," Bagwell added.

McClurkin, Weinandt and Bagwell all said that Jang's dedication to professionalism and language, excellence in all he does, and his ability to put in extra hours to help other linguists maintain proficiency in their language are what stood out and made him a candidate for this award.

"What I'd like people to know about him is the extra effort that he's put in; he has an ability that we needed and he was exceptional at his own job, but he didn't just rest at being exceptional at his job," Weinandt said. "He makes it a point to help the rest of the unit, which helps the unit mission and the Air Force mission (as a whole)."

Weinandt said Jang feels doing his job is doing everything exceptionally. Bagwell also said Jang works extra hours and finds time in his schedule to work with the other Korean linguists on Kadena.

"When (Jang) won at the (55th Wing) level, he was overwhelmed and didn't expect it," McClurkin said. "When he won at the Air Combat Command level, he was even more overwhelmed and when I announced that he won at the Air Force level, he was speechless."

Jang explained when his leadership brought up the idea of submitting him for the award, he initially turned it down.

"There are a lot of deserving language professionals in the Air Force and I thought I didn't deserve (winning the award) and wouldn't be competitive enough," Jang said. "Like every other professional in the Air Force, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and giving my best in my specialty."

He added when he won at the ACC level, he thought it would be the final win due to other linguists at the major command level being more engaged in real-world missions on a daily basis.

"It was great to feel that my leadership thought so highly of me," Jang said. "I'm humbled to say the least, but at the same time it gave me a sense of further commitment as an appreciation to people who endorsed me. I take this as a cue that I should strive for further excellence, and continue to contribute what I can provide to the Air Force and our country."

EC prepares senior leaders with expeditionary mission support training

by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wilson
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center

5/28/2013 - JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.  -- A class of 17 commanders and superintendents recently completed the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's three-day Expeditionary Mission Support Group Senior Leaders Course here.

The EMSG course is designed for mission support group commanders and superintendents who are tasked to deploy to various geographic combatant commands across the world, said Pat Refsdal, EMSG course director from the Center's 422nd Joint Tactics Squadron.

"The course discusses the issues and challenges these leaders expect to face in the expeditionary environment," she said.

The course is held two times a year but the ultimate numbers of classes and students are based upon the needs and requirements of ongoing operations across the globe. Students attending the course will continue on to assume leadership positions in several combatant commands around the world such as U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Pacific Command.

A main feature of the course is the inclusion of mentors; EMSG leaders who supported the expeditionary combat support mission directly and are available to discuss their lessons learned and offer advice to the incoming leaders. This month's course mentors were Col. Erik Rundquist, who previously served as the 455th EMSG commander at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, and Chief Master Sgt. Larence Kirby, who previously served as the 451st EMSG superintendent at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.

The leaders come to the course with decades of experience within the mission support areas of the Air Force - force support, civil engineering, communications, security forces and logistics -- but face added mission requirements due to the deployed missions they are tasked with, such as leading aerial port operations, Refsdal said.

"We tweak each class based upon what's happening and where the students are headed," she said. "Right now we are focusing on logistics, contracts, airlift and incident management. The drawdown (in Afghanistan) is a significant mission right now."

One of the main benefits the course provides is to allow members of a unit leadership team to meet and bond over the three days prior to taking on the mission. Group commanders, deputy commanders and superintendents attend together to build the relationships that will prove to be vital, said Refsdal, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who served as a senior logistician in the U.S. Central Command area-of-operations prior to arriving at the Center several years ago.

"The course began (in 2006) focused on commanders, but we have now opened it up for the superintendents and deputy commanders as well," she said. "This really allows the teams to come together."

The course features a unique blend of classroom-based instruction on topics ranging from organizational roles and responsibilities, the roles and missions of Joint Expeditionary Tasking and Individual Augmentee Airmen, insider threats, command and control and casualty affairs. Additionally, the course mentors share their specific experiences with the group and lead discussions.

"The class also reviews established Air Force Tactics, Techniques and Procedures publications for their specific missions and work through and discuss real-world case studies," Refsdal said.

Expeditionary missions have changed dramatically over the last several years and more changes are coming, but Center officials stress that expeditionary operations for the Air Force are a continuing requirement and the Center stands ready to continue offering world-class training opportunities as the Service's expeditionary combat support center of excellence.

"Though operations have significantly drawn down in Iraq and we are continuing drawdown operations in Afghanistan, growing uncertainty in the world mandates a continued focus on rapid expeditionary basing. It is imperative we continue to refine and educate future leaders supporting expeditionary combat support operations through programs like the EMSG course," said Brig. Gen. Martha Meeker, Expeditionary Center vice commander. "This is a skillset that is very much a part of the Air Force's core mission in today's operating environment and will continue to be as vital in the future as it has been over the past 20 years."

Travis hosts Gold Star Ruck March

by Airman 1st Class Amelia Leonard
349th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Hundreds of Airmen and their families banded together to participate in the third annual Gold Star Family Ruck March in honor of fallen service members and their families here May 18.

The purpose of the event was to bring awareness to the base and its community about Gold Star Moms and their families. Although fallen service members are the ones who ultimately pay the price with their lives for the nation, their families are left behind with holes in their hearts.

The Gold Star Moms program brings families together to gain strength from one another in a time when they are suffering most.

"This event is for a great cause," said Senior Airman John Krueger, 22nd Airlift Squadron. "I'll definitely be back out here next year."

"I wanted to honor all the families who have lost a loved one," said Staff Sgt. Steven Kreidler, 60th Medical Operations Squadron. "It's a good way to keep them alive. It felt good."

The participants walked or ran the 10K course that winded from Bldg. 924 to 381 . There were three different divisions to participate in: military heavy, which consisted of the Airman Battle Uniform and a 30-pound backpack; military light, which included members in uniform without the backpack; and a civilian division. Participants could walk, run or even crawl during the event. Some participants competed alone, while others joined forces and competed in a four-man team.

Senior Airman Tyler Saulsgiver, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron, participated in one of the four-man teams.

"It was tough," he said. "We trained every Friday for two months. It was an experience for sure."

Maj. Daniel Craig, 60th CES, ran alongside his wife, a civilian, and their baby in a jogging stroller.

"This was my wife's first 10K and what better way to do it than for the Gold Star Moms," he said.

Each participant was fitted with a laminated sheet of paper that included a picture of a fallen service member, their age, hometown and unit. The paper served as a reminder of all we've lost in battle and to remember them and their families.

U.S., EU Lead Global Nonproliferation, Biosurveillance Efforts

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2013 – As nuclear, biological and chemical threats continue to evolve worldwide, partnership between the United States and European Union countries to counter such threats remains critical, a senior Defense Department official said today in Helsinki.

Andrew C. Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, spoke at a meeting of the Atlantic Council on U.S.-European Union cooperation in countering the use of weapons of mass destruction.

The Atlantic Council is a public policy institution founded in 1961 to promote transatlantic cooperation and international security.

“In the coming years,” Weber said, “our countries must continue to work together to raise safety and security standards, strengthen the Global Partnership and the [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons], detect and report threats in real time, and promote disarmament.”

The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction consists of 25 countries, including 12 members of the European Union, works to reduce the global risk.

Such threats, Weber added, “are evolving in ways that affect all of our countries.”

Increasing globalization, advances in dual-use technologies, and the emergence of new microbes and drug-resistant pathogens are complicating the ability to meet nonproliferation and counterproliferation goals, the assistant secretary observed.

Advances in technology and the work of illicit networks are making it easier for nonstate actors to access materials needed to produce weapons of mass destruction, he added, and the regimes in Syria and North Korea “are proving that we must maintain our focus on state-sponsored programs.”

The European Union and the United States have made firm commitments to addressing the full range of concerns about weapons of mass destruction, Weber said.

“As Finland’s 2012 Security and Defense Policy report points out,” he continued, ‘In the era of global challenges the EU and the United States, being close strategic partners, are expected to cooperate to achieve lasting solutions.’”

Cooperation is especially important in addressing threats of this magnitude and complexity, he said. “As Finland’s defense policy report notes,” he added, “the U.S. administration believes strongly in using partnerships and cooperation to mitigate global threats.”

Weber called this a guiding principle for efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction threats.

In December, he noted, President Barack Obama said the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction, or CTR, program to reduce nuclear, biological and chemical threats is one of the most important U.S. national security programs and a perfect example of the kind of partnerships needed to meet challenges that no nation can address on its own.

“For two decades, our cooperative threat reduction work focused on the former Soviet Union and on reducing nuclear threats. Since then, it has evolved both geographically and by focus area,” Weber said. That evolution, along with other collaborative efforts, is increasing the cooperative threat reduction focus on biological threats, he noted.

“The United States looks forward to working with international partners to launch, enhance and link global networks for real-time biosurveillance, expanding International Health Regulation capabilities across the globe and developing novel diagnostics,” he said, adding that many European Union countries with advanced biological-science sectors are helping to build global reporting networks.

Weber said that uniting the health, security and emergency-response sectors in the United States and European Union countries is critical to preparedness for any kind of threat.

“By applying this principal to our international partnerships, both the EU and the United States are contributing to more resilient communities around the world,” he added.

The European Union and the United States also lead the world on a path toward disarmament, the assistant secretary said, and strengthening the nonproliferation treaty and other nonproliferation initiatives remains a core principle of their defense strategies.

Weber recognized Finland’s leadership on this and its commitment to moving toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. He also commended the efforts of Ambassador Jaakko Laajava, Finnish undersecretary of state for foreign and security policy, to set the conditions for making this vision a reality.

“For the United States,” he said, “President Obama has set a bold vision for disarmament and continues to prioritize the Nuclear Security Summit process … [and] established ambitious goals for a world safe and secure from biological threats.”

The assistant secretary quoted part of Obama’s 2012 address before the U.N. General Assembly: “We must come together to prevent and detect and fight every kind of biological danger -- whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.’”

Under the president’s leadership, Weber said, “the United States now has national strategies for countering biological threats and advancing global biosurveillance capabilities.”

Total Force ops in Libya change air refueling tactics

by Col. Bob Thompson
Air Force Reserve Public Affairs

5/24/2013 - WASHINGTON -- The world's top experts in air to air refueling recognized the Total Force contributions to NATO's Operation Unified Protector during an April meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Flown from March 19, 2011 to Oct. 31, 2011, the no-fly zone over Libya was patrolled by aircraft from 16 countries and fueled by flying tanker aircraft from nine partner nations. The aerial refueling effort was coordinated by a team of 55 Airmen in the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre, in Poggio Renatico, Italy.

According to the "Founders Award," the team successfully scheduled and delivered 4,407 tanker aircraft sorties and offloaded about 250 million pounds of fuel to more than 15,000 patrol aircraft. During the operation, the team obtained clearances never before considered, ensured better interoperability among the allies and created new processes and information sharing procedures.

In front of representatives from 19 nations at the conference in Orlando, the Air Refueling Systems Advisory Group recognized seven Air Force Reservists for their outstanding contributions that will change the way future NATO missions are flown. This included: Brig. Gen. Ken Lewis, Air Force Reserve Plans and Programs, Pentagon; Col. Doug Planner, 4th Air Force Operations, March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; Lt. Col. Josh Owens, 4th AF Operations and Training, March ARB; Maj. Miles Marshall, 349th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Calif; Maj. Ed Schierberl, Air Force Reserve Strategy Division, Pentagon; and Capt. Todd Cramer, 312th Airlift Squadron, Travis AFB.

The no-fly zone was established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 and 1973 to protect Libyan civilians during the overthrow of Dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Air Force Reservists - known as Citizen Airmen - have served in every U.S. combat and humanitarian operation throughout the world including Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Mali and the Horn of Africa.

Approximately 2,000 Citizen Airmen are currently deployed and, 3,000 are on active duty status in support of combatant commander requirements.

Face of Defense: Soldier Taps Experience to Aid Tornado Victims

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Kasey Phipps
137th Air Refueling Wing

MOORE, Okla., May 28, 2013 – Oklahoma is known for its volatile weather and tornadoes, prompting state officials to dedicate countless hours toward educating and preparing its citizens for when disaster strikes.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army 1st Sgt. Michael Treanor poses next to his emergency response vehicle while performing equipment maintenance after the May 20, 2013, tornado response in Moore, Okla. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bruce

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Unpredictable events in Oklahoma are not, however, confined to weather. Its history remains shadowed by the tragedy of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing on April 19, 1995, in which 168 people lost their lives.

However, Oklahoma has gained perhaps a stronger reputation for the resilience of its people and their ability to come together as one to rebuild communities stricken by disaster.

Today, Oklahomans once again are picking up the pieces left scattered by the devastating May 20 tornado that left a 17-mile long path of destruction and resulted in 24 deaths, 10 of which were children.

Army 1st Sgt. Michael Treanor of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team relies on his firsthand experience with tragedy to aid and comfort the tornado’s survivors.

On the morning of the Murrah building bombing, Treanor’s parents, LaRue and Luther Treanor, took his step-daughter, Ashley, into the Social Security Administration office for a routine appointment to settle some paperwork. After the appointment, their plan was to take Ashley to lunch and walk around the city. When the fateful blast happened, only a single glass pane separated them from the detonation.

At the time, Treanor was a member of an Army National Guard unit in Ponca City, Okla., but they had not yet been tasked to assist in recovery efforts.

“It’s hard to sit on the sideline,” he said. “It was one of those things where it was just like, ‘There has got to be something more.’ So, in 2000, when I heard about the civil support teams being created and their mission, I decided at that point it was a job I had to have at some time in my life. So I’ve kind of been working to get to where I am ever since then.”

Now, as a safety officer for the 63rd CST, Treanor is able to get on the ground with his team members, who are trained to respond to a number of emergency scenarios, including search and rescue and the control of hazardous materials. They also have communications on the ground to track National Guardsmen and other emergency responders.

“I’m trained to be a first responder. If something happens, it’s a guarantee that my team will be involved and I really take a lot of satisfaction in that,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

He understands the need to help, especially those who are from his native Oklahoma. But he also understands the emotional toll disasters have on his fellow citizens.

“The loss, the pain, the confusion as to what to do -- we went through all of that,” Treanor said. “You never completely forget or get over that loss; you just learn to deal with it. In doing that with our family, it’s helped us to help other people. It’s been a really educational experience for me.”

He again witnessed the unification of Oklahomans and their overwhelming generosity in the aftermath of the May 20 tornado, even as those affected sift through the rubble to recover whatever belongings that might help return them to normalcy.

“There was a lot of professionalism and courtesy to the victims,” he said. “I think every time a sad event like this happens, we learn something from it and improve on it.”

As disaster and tragedy continue to befall Oklahomans, each instance provides a little more experience and strength to use the next time disaster strikes.

Oklahoma has used the recent tornado and past disasters to build a unified and unfaltering resilience to support both the physical efforts and the emotional needs left by the damage.

“When it happens again, because Oklahoma means tornadoes, we will be even better prepared to respond,” Treanor said.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dempsey: Service Members’ Courage Renews Nation’s Strength

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2013 – The sacrifices of the men and women who have served the United States in uniform are the source of the nation’s strength, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here last night.
In remarks at the National Memorial Day Concert held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and televised nationally on PBS, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey highlighted the bravery and dedication of military members and their loved ones.

“On Memorial Day, we pause to reflect on their courage,” the nation’s top military officer said. “We renew our strength -- the strength of our nation -- from their devotion.”

Dempsey noted that since the dawn of the republic, Americans have placed great trust in the men and women who are willing to fight or die in any region of world in defense of the nation’s ideals.

“We rededicate ourselves to our national purpose to secure the blessings of liberty,” the general said. “We decorate our homes and our hearts in the colors of America, and we honor those who have so honored us: men and women from every corner of our country in every branch of service who gave their lives so that we can live free.”

And while it is the American people’s responsibility look back, the chairman said, it also is incumbent on them to look forward and note the sacrifices of those now serving in Afghanistan and around the world.
“So they are out there today -- America’s sons and daughters … lacing up their boots for another day on the front lines for our common defense,” Dempsey said. “In the footsteps of the generation before, they’ll marshal the day with courage and with commitment to make a difference for each other and for people they’ve never even met.”

Dempsey also recognized the communities and family members who provide critical foundations to those who wear the uniform.

“Behind every one of them are the pillars of strength at home: a parent, a spouse, a son, daughter, a community -- all doing their part to take care of America,” he said.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Notes Sacrifices of Service Members, Families

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2013 – As Americans kick off a long weekend for the May 27 observance of Memorial Day, President Barack Obama today recognized the ultimate sacrifices of U.S. service members, lauding them as heroes who helped to build a free and prosperous nation.
In his weekly address, Obama noted the courage of those willing to fight and even die for America’s success.

“At a time when only about 1 percent of the American people bear the burden of our defense, the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform isn’t always readily apparent,” the president said. “They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us: the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world.”

The president emphasized that Americans must do more than remember the sacrifices of U.S. service members over the nation’s history, from a “tiny band of revolutionaries [who] stood up to an empire” to the 9/11 Generation that continues to serve and sacrifice today.

“We must care for the loved ones that our fallen service members have left behind,” he said. “We must make sure all our veterans have the care and benefits they’ve earned, and the jobs and opportunity they deserve.”

Obama also lauded families whose loved ones are in harm’s way, saying that they, too, serve.
“We must make sure that the men and women of our armed forces have the support they need to achieve their missions safely at home and abroad,” the president said.

Obama called on Americans to help in preserving what service member sacrifices have achieved in pursuit of a fair and free nation.

“It is our obligation,” he said, “and it is our privilege, as the heirs of those who came before us, and as citizens of the United States of America.”

Dempsey Kicks off Memorial Day Weekend with TAPS Families

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2013 – The nation’s highest-ranking military officer told his audience today at the Crystal City Marriott here that as “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays across the United States this Memorial Day weekend, it will be uniquely their song.

“You’re the ones that sacrificed so we can play that national anthem,” he said.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deanie Dempsey, spent time today with the estimated 2,200 participants gathered here this weekend for the annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. TAPS is an organization for families of service members who died in combat, by suicide, in training or from sudden illness.

“It must be something extraordinary for you to listen to the national anthem, because no one has had the experience of being handed a folded flag,” the chairman said. “You have. And those of us who haven’t experienced that don’t know, really, what that -- I can’t even conceive of what it must be like.”

Dempsey told the adult audience he addressed today -- he also spoke separately to the children -- that he and his wife build their Memorial Day weekend calendar around the seminar “because I find you to be an incredibly inspirational group.”

Hundreds of red-T-shirted men and women gathered in the hotel’s ballroom to listen to the general. The red T-shirts are for TAPS members, but some also had “peer mentor” or “volunteer” written on the back. White T-shirts, for staff members, dotted the room. Outside, the TAPS children assembled for their own time with the chairman.

Each child was accompanied by a blue-T-shirted mentor. Mentors, according to TAPS guidelines, must be current service members or recent veterans and must have lost someone close to them.

The chairman said that while the sense of community in TAPS makes the seminar an event he and his wife look forward to, it’s also a sad occasion.

“You’re here because you’ve suffered some incredible sadness and loss in your life,” the chairman said. He added that unfortunately, the organization is likely to continue growing “for a while.”

“Just before I came over here I signed nine letters of condolence to nine families who are recent members of your community,” he said. “And I hope that at some point, when they’re ready, they’ll join you.”

People who have lost a loved one need to be able to talk to others who understand some of what they’ve been through, Dempsey said.

“And that’s you,” he said. “I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to come here, not just to get something, but to give something. That’s really what makes this such a powerful gathering of men and women -- and children, actually.”

The five-day event began May 22 with training and preparation, and culminates this weekend with activities including camps for younger and older children and workshops on topics from art therapy to “turning hurt into hope,” for adults. The seminar also includes a run/walk, balloon release, sunset parade, Pentagon tour, baseball game and other activities. TAPS staffers pair children one-on-one with a mentor -– 500 for this seminar -- who will stay with them throughout the events.

Amy Neiberger-Miller, who handles the organization’s publicity, explained the organization often seeks to pair children with a service member or veteran who has completed the organization’s mentor training and has a similar occupation to the child’s lost parent.

“If a child’s father was a helicopter pilot, then we can match them with a mentor who is also [one], who can tell them what it’s like to fly,” she said. “Many come back here year after year, from very far away, to be here and support these children.”

Dempsey left the ballroom full of adults, and soon after he went next door to another ballroom, where children of all ages and their mentors sat on the carpeted floor waiting for him. Among those still entering the room before the general arrived, much piggybacking and tickling could be observed.

Army Sgt. James Cunningham, now in the individual ready reserve and about to leave service, sat next to a 7- or 8-year-old boy he introduced as “Ro-ro.” The two whispered and laughed and looked at a smartphone screen together while waiting for the chairman.

When Ro-ro wasn’t paying attention, Cunningham quietly confided that while in the active Army, he had lost a friend to suicide, and later another to a suicide bomber.

“It goes on and on, unfortunately,” he said.

The chairman sang “The Unicorn Song” at the top of the program for the younger children, and a version of Train’s “[Not a] Drive By” for the older ones. Dempsey’s version of the chorus to “Drive By” included:

“Oh I swear to you
We’ll be there for you
This is not a drive-by
Just between us, nothing comes between us …”

Several of the children took part in a question-and-answer period. Many chose to tell the chairman about the parent they had lost, mostly in Afghanistan.

One boy said, “He was at war once in Afghanistan. He really liked to play games with me and my brother … then he had to go back to Afghanistan, and he died. I don’t know how he died.”

Dempsey left the children laughing, ready to keep singing. Minutes earlier, before he left the adult session, he had a final message for everyone in a red T-shirt.

The chairman said, “I promise you that despite all the complexities of life in Washington these days, and all the uncertainty about the future of our budget, and all the things that make headlines and make for good 24/7 news, that we will remember what’s most important about our nation. And that is the care for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, our veterans, and those who have lost their life in the service of our country and their families.”

129th Airmen Achieve Milestone 1,000th Save

By Air Force Senior Airman Jessica Green
129th Rescue Wing
MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif., May 24, 2013 – The 129th Rescue Wing has saved its 1,000th life.

The milestone was reached on May 18, 2013, when aircrews and pararescuemen from the 129th Rescue Wing deployed to Afghanistan rescued an Afghan national policeman who had suffered a gunshot wound, raising the number of lives saved by the unit to 1,000.

Since its inception nearly four decades ago, the 129th RQW has launched countless missions from its home station here and various deployed locations resulting in 1,000 lives saved. The wing is credited with over 400 combat saves and nearly 600 civilian saves. In addition, the wing has assisted in over 600 other saves.

Embracing the motto of the Air Force Rescue community, "That Others May Live," the 129th's federal mission is to "rapidly deploy worldwide to conduct combat search-and-rescue operations, over land or water, in both hostile and permmissive environments." In addition to its combat mission, as a California National Guard asset, the wing provides civilian search-and-rescue support to the governor during times of state emergencies, including earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and floods.

For members of the wing, saving lives is the most honorable and important mission they will undertake. A "save" is defined as a recovered individual in danger of losing his or her life, a limb, or eyesight. Save missions are conducted by highly trained personnel. A pararescueman, also known as a "PJ," makes the final determination of patient's status, and documents that status in the final mission report. Patient status is determined independently of the patient category reported in the initial rescue request, such as urgent, urgent surgical, priority, routine, and convenience. If a 129th RQW member participated in a recovery mission, whether as pickup aircraft, formation partner, or ground team, then a "save" is credited to the wing.

Operating in California since 1955, the 129th was established at Hayward Airport as an Air Resupply Group tasked to airlift personnel and material using Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft. Not long after its launch, the group underwent a variety of name changes, several aircraft conversions and multiple Air Force major command assignments.

The wing's rescue presence dates back to 1975 when it was designated as the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group operating HC-130 Hercules cargo aircraft and HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters.

The 129th ARRG conducted its first rescue mission in 1977 during a Red Flag combat exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. One of the group's Jolly Green Giant helicopters saved a severely injured pilot that ejected from an A-7 attack aircraft before it crashed into a nearby range.

To provide better rescue capability to the state and the nation, the 129th ARRG moved to Naval Air Station Moffett Field. The move was completed in 1984.

The first long-range, over-water rescue mission was completed Oct. 13, 1986 to rescue a crewman with appendicitis from the ship MS Reunion. The 129th ARRG coordinated with local U.S. Coast Guard assets to successfully rescue the patient and transport him to a hospital in Acapulco, Mexico. The rescue mission, resulting in the group's 145th save, covered a total of 4,200 miles, including 1,200 miles flown over water. To date, it is still the furthest distance the wing has traveled to execute a mission.

The 129th ARRG continued its service to the state throughout the late 1980s. During the 1986 flooding in Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California, 33 lives were saved in five days. In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 129th established command post operations and was chosen to coordinate all military aircraft activities within the Bay Area. By decade's end, the group had saved 190 people.

The first operational night mission was flown Dec. 27, 1991, to rescue a crewman with major facial and bodily injuries onboard the MV Martha Majesty more than 400 miles southwest of San Francisco, resulting in save 207.

Having successfully transitioned from Jolly Green Giant helicopters to more modern Pave Hawk rescue helicopters in 1991, the group was expanded into the 129th Rescue Wing in 1992 and extended its rescue detachments into squadrons, resulting in the current assignments of the 129th, 130th and 131st Rescue Squadrons at the renamed Moffett Federal Airfield. Today, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft, and Guardian Angel pararescuemen and are assigned to these squadrons, respectively.

Through its transformation years the group remained mission ready and established an impressive pattern that would be followed for years to come.

An impromptu rescue, resulting in the wing's 250th save, was conducted on April 4, 1996 when Combat Shadow aircrews diverted from a routine training mission near Moffett to save a Navy pilot had ejected from his F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft 30 miles off the coast of Big Sur, Calif. The Combat Shadow aircrew dropped a survival kit, including a life raft, medical supplies, food, water and a radio, while Pave Hawk aircrews and Pararescuemen dispatched to the scene, hoisted the pilot to safety and transported him to Stanford Hospital.

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Rescue Wing and 58th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen hoist a passenger off the bow of the Holland America cruise ship, MS Westerdam on May 5, 2013, one of many saves the units have performed. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Miguel Toro

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After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, citizen-airmen from the 129th RQW deployed to support rescue missions for Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, setting an unprecedented standard in combat search and rescue efforts, supporting rescue operations in five countries, all while still supporting their stateside mission.

While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 129th RQW executed the first combat save for any Air National Guard or Reserve unit on April 15, 2003. Pave Hawk aircrews picked up a severely injured Special Forces soldier from an isolated location and transported him across hostile Iraqi territory to a field hospital during inclement nighttime weather, resulting in the wing's 299th save. During the 2003 deployment to Iraq, the wing sustained zero aircraft or personnel losses, injuries or mishaps and executed 15 saves, bringing the wing's total to 310 lives saved. In 2005, more than 230 lives were saved in Afghanistan in support of OEF and in the Gulf of Mexico in response to Hurricane Katrina. While deployed to Kandahar in September, 20 lives were saved during multiple high-altitude combat rescue missions, typically in hostile territory under severe darkness.
On the home front, airmen provided lifesaving rescue operations and disaster relief following the hurricane that devastated the New Orleans and Mississippi Gulf Coast area. As first responders, PJs saved 212 lives while searching for survivors in rescue boats down flooded suburban streets. Similarly, airmen from the wing saved 34 lives in the Texas Gulf Coast area in response to Hurricane Ike in 2008, totaling in 598 lives saved for the wing.

During their four-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, 129th RQW aircrews and Pararescuemen saved 307 lives, the largest number of lives saved by the wing during a single deployment. The intense combat deployment saves included rescues of coalition forces, local nationals and sister service members, totaling in 907 lives saved for the wing. The following year, PJs again deployed to Afghanistan, saving an additional 37 lives, increasing the wing's total to 946.

More recently, the 129th RQW has successfully launched an impressive series of complex civilian rescue missions, saving distressed crewmen on international vessels off the golden coast.
129th RQW aircrews and PJs saved the life of an injured crewman onboard a Marshall Islands flagged merchant vessel approximately 300 miles off the coast of Mexico on Nov. 29, 2012. PJs treated the patient during the two-hour flight back to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where the patient was subsequently transported to San Diego for further treatment. This multiday rescue brought the total number of lives saved by the wing to 957.

On May 4, 2013, 129th RQW Airmen, stationed at Moffett and deployed to Afghanistan, collectively saved five lives during two separate missions, despite being more than 7,500 miles apart. While Pave Hawk rescue helicopters here are painted with large hot-pink tails numbers for wildfire season, aircrews were called to rescue a critically ill passenger from a Holland American cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, 300 miles off the coast of Southern California. Meanwhile, deployed helicopter aircrews were called to rescue four distressed individuals in Afghanistan.
Since 1975, the 129th RQW has a long and distinguished record of saving lives for both California and the nation. They continue to dedicate themselves to the personnel recovery mission at home and abroad, resulting in more than 400 combat and nearly 600 civilian rescues, bringing the total number of lives saved to 1,000 and counting.

Face of Defense: Airman Aids Victim of Oklahoma Tornado Strike

By Army Spc. Daniel Nelson
145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

MOORE, Okla., May 24, 2013 – As a community shatters in the wake of a deadly EF-5 tornado, ordinary citizens become heroes as they give selflessly to those directly affected. Many who answer the call to help are volunteers or first responders, but others are reacting to the Moore tornado as citizen soldiers and airmen serving their communities.

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Sandra Adams and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Drew Stanley after meeting for the first time since Stanley gave his Air Force blouse to her when she was rescued following the May 20 tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Nelson Jr.

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The lives of two individuals came together May 20 in the midst of the destruction when an Oklahoma Air National Guardsman provided aid to a Moore resident pulled from the rubble and literally gave her the shirt off his back.

Sandra Adams, 65, was in bed when her 88-year-old mother came to get her to take cover in a bathtub along with the family dog, Duke. With wind speeds of more than 200 mph, Adams remembers the sound of the tornado as it passed overhead, tearing up everything it came into contact with.

“It got really loud as the tornado came closer, the lights went out and everything around us began falling inward on top of us,” Adams said. “I could see through some of the debris that there was even more debris flying around overhead. Once all of the chaos was over, I could see some light through the stuff now on top of us. That’s when I knew my house was gone.”

With the tornado now passed, Adams and her mother found themselves buried in their bathtub unable to dig their way out. They had no choice but to wait until someone could make their way through the rubble that once was her neighborhood.

“I had just one oxygen bottle with less than 30 minutes of use left on it when a 13-year old boy found us,” Adams said. “He yelled to me that he was going to have to get some bigger guys to help get me out.”
It took four men to dig Adams and her mother out of their debris-covered bathtub and carry them to a place where they could receive medical treatment and wait for transportation to the nearest hospital. Little did Adams know that she would soon meet a member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, who would leave a lasting impression.

Fellow Moore resident, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Drew Stanley, was at work at the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base when the reports of the tornado began being televised. Stanley, an air cargo specialist for the logistical readiness squadron, 137th Air Refueling Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, watched as local meteorologists projected the tornado would pass over his house.

“I drove home to make sure my roommates and dogs were going to be pulled out of the storm cellar,” Stanley said. “I had been through a tornado a year earlier and knew that police officers would block off the area to people who weren’t first responders.”

Fortunately, his home was not in the direct path of the tornado. So Stanley turned his focus on making sure his family members, who also live in the area, were safe. He then responded to radio broadcasts that the nearby Briarwood Elementary had been hit with children inside.

“I headed that direction to help, but the traffic was so bad I had to pull over and began running to help,” Stanley said. “With power lines down and the neighborhood being completely cut off from vehicle access, getting in to check for people was difficult.”

A police officer on the scene saw Stanley in his Air Force uniform and waved him down to have him help administer aid to victims that were emerging from the rubble and storm cellars. Stanley suddenly found himself in the middle of the chaos, standing on rubble piles that were once occupied houses, and providing first aid.

“I never made it to the school because victims began coming out before I made it there, so I began immediate first aid with the first responders in the area,” Stanley said.

Stanley was about to meet Adams for the first time.

“When I found Sandra, she was shaking so hard,” Stanley recalled. “I gave her my [Air Force] blouse after asking her if she was cold. I then began treating her for shock; everyone was in shock.”

The deadly tornado that ripped through the quiet communities of Newcastle, Moore and southeast Oklahoma City is responsible for more than 20 deaths, including 10 children, just a day after another tornado took the lives of two people in Shawnee 30 miles to the east of Oklahoma City. Damages are estimated to be more than $2 billion.

The lives of many people changed in the aftermath of the deadly tornado, but the two strangers, who would have otherwise never met, were able to leave a positive light on a tragic incident. Adams was determined to find the owner of the Air Force blouse once she was safe and stable in a local hospital. So, she used local media to set up a meeting with her Air Force rescuer.

With a smile on his face and a handful of flowers, Stanley walked into Adams’ hospital room for what would be their second meeting. This time, it was on more pleasant terms, with Adams giving Stanley a big hug in appreciation, his military blouse returned with many thanks.

“It’s great seeing that she is fine,” Stanley said. “I’m glad I could bring a little light on such a devastating situation.”

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arlington Wreath-Laying Ceremony Honors Fallen Servicewomen

By Marine Corps Cpl. Christofer P. Baines
Defense Media Activity – Marine Corps

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 24, 2013 – The Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues and senior women enlisted military members gathered at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial here May 22 for the 16th annual recognition ceremony.

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Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught speaks to the honorees and members of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues during the Women in the Military Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on May 22, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christofer P. Baines

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An acknowledgement and wreath laying ceremony is held every year near Memorial Day to honor fallen servicewomen.

The wreath, provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, was placed in front of the pool at the memorial. After the wreath was placed, members of the caucus and the honorees placed a long-stemmed rose in honor of the fallen around the memorial’s pool.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, the first Air Force female service member to attain the rank of brigadier general in the comptroller career field, spoke to all in attendance, highlighting the changes that have occurred throughout the years, such as Veterans Affairs benefits and having access to a broader array of career fields.

“Just recently we’ve had that major change that women are no longer prevented from serving in combat by virtue of being women,” Vaught said.

Among the servicewomen honored during the ceremony was Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Angela M. Maness, who is slated to be the first female sergeant major of Marine Barracks Washington.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected … to take a post, any post, but to be identified as a sergeant major to go to our oldest post, it is a privilege,” Maness said.

To Maness, it’s not about being a female Marine, she said, but being a Marine through and through, no matter the gender.

“Words of wisdom, not just for female Marines, for every Marine; do your job, stay in the fight and do the best job you can do for your boss, for the Corps, for America,” Maness said.

Reserve team wins JBER F-22 Load Crew of the Year

by Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Three reservists from the 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were awarded the 2012 Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson F-22 Load Crew of the Year during a ceremony here May 17.

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Tuttle, the team's lead weapons loader along with Staff Sgt. Brandon Vice and Senior Airman Joshua Baker were selected as the top F-22 load crew out of the 28 certified load crews assigned here.

This is the first time that a crew comprised of three Air Force Reserve members has won the award. Tuttle, and Vice are both full time Air Reserve
Technicians working each day alongside the 3rd Wing load crews. Baker is a traditional reservist who fulfills his reserve commitment one weekend a month and two weeks a year. When not performing military duties Baker works as an office manager at Full Spectrum Pediatrics in Anchorage.

While weapons loaders perform numerous aircraft loads throughout the year on several different types of aircraft munitions to stay proficient the quarterly and annual load competitions provide an opportunity to show off their loading skills.

"Each crew is evaluated on an open ranks Air Force Instruction 36-2903 inspection," said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Dorsey, 477th AMXS weapons standardization superintendent. "A consolidated tool kit inspection, a written test covering maintenance and explosive safety as well as the evaluated munitions load which is selected by the wing weapons manager."

The overall score is based on the crews efficiency, safety and reliability of the load as well as the other evaluated components.

"I am proud to be the team lead of this three man crew," said Tuttle. "We have been able to work together and build a strong team I am very happy with what we have accomplished."

Rescue Group Airmen pull hiker from Southern Arizona mountain range

by Master Sgt. Luke Johnson
943rd Rescue Group public affairs

5/23/2013 - DAVIS MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- Late Wednesday night Airmen from the 943rd Rescue Group set out in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter for a training mission when they were notified that a hiker was unconscious from a fall, and needed help.

The Aircrew flew back to Davis-Monthan AFB download their weapons, fueled up and picked up a Guardian Angel team--special operators trained in trauma medicine and high-angle rescue, then went to the hiker's aid.

With their night vision goggles, the 943rd Airmen hoisted 17-year-old out around 11 p.m. Wednesday.

"We do so much training together as a rescue team that even with some of the limited communications we were experiencing with the PJ's on the ground; we knew exactly what their objectives were and what they were doing; it made this rescue mission seamless," said Capt. Brough McDonald, HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot with the 305th Rescue Squadron.

Earlier in the evening, the Arizona Department of Safety attempted to do a long-line rescue with their helicopter, however they could not make it up the canyon due to darkness setting in.

The hiker that needed help was in the Dragon Mountains, part of the Chiricahua National Monument, about 50 miles east of Tucson, Ariz.

"The initial report on the patient was a very severe head injury," said Senior Master Sgt. Maurice Bedard, pararescueman with the 306th Rescue Squadron. "When we got on scene, he was already on a back board so we hoisted him up to the helicopter. He was not as bad as the initial report had indicated."

Once the patient was hoisted out of the mountain, he was transported to a life flight helicopter in a landing zone about two miles away from where he had initially fallen. The 943rd Airmen also hoisted up the civilian search and rescue personnel, and returned to base.

"Because of the location of where the hiker fell, it was a difficult hoist and the aircrew from the 305th Rescue Squadron did an excellent job with the hoist operations," said Bedard.

According to the rescue summary report, Airmen from the 943rd Maintenance Squadron got the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter prepared in record time, and the report also lauded everyone involved in the rescue for their excellent  team work.

"We train as we fight, and the great part about rescue is that does not have always have to be combat rescue as Citizen Airmen we are always ready to help out our local community," said Col. Harold Maxwell, 943rd RQG commander. "The rescue mission is one of the noblest missions in the Air Force, and I'm extremely proud of the team work and effort by all involved with this mission."

943rd RQG Crew involved with rescue

305th Rescue Squadron
Maj. Nathan Horner, HH-60G pilot
Capt. Brough McDonald, HH-60G pilot
Master Sgt. Daniel Juen, HH-60G flight engineer
Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Homan, HH-60G flight engineer

306th Rescue Squadron
Capt. Koaalii Bailey, combat recue officer
Senior Master Sgt. Maurice Bedard, pararescueman
Tech. Sgt. Ryan Gilbert, pararescueman