Thursday, January 10, 2013

USS Hartford, USS San Juan Sailors Receive Dolphins

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs
GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Thirty officers and enlisted Sailors from the Los Angeles class attack submarines USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS San Juan (SSN 751) were recognized under the SUBVETS Submarine Qualification Recognition Program, at the Submarine Veterans Clubhouse in Groton, Jan. 7.

The Sailors, who previously received their coveted gold and silver "dolphins" onboard their respective submarines, were recognized by former submarines, many of them Holland Club veterans in attendance, who warmly welcomed the newest submarine warfare qualifiers into the special community.

"We had never recognized Sailors from two boats at one meeting," said John Carcioppolo, president, Submarine Veterans Groton chapter.

Cmdr. Steve Wilkinson, commanding officer, USS Hartford attended the rite of passage ceremony and reflected on the caliber of the Sailors serving in the submarine force today.

"As you can see, your legacy is in good hands. These men represent all the best of our nation," said Wilkinson.

Groton Base Member Phil Marshall from Narragansett, R.I., who served on 13 submarines, called out his submarine qualification, which was earned in 1955 aboard USS Sterlet (SS 392), reflected on how great it was to see the newly qualified Sailors referring to them as "our future."

Master Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) Eric Mathley, chief of the boat, USS Hartford also reflected on the legacy of the submarine force.

"It's great that these young Sailors, who worked so hard to earn their dolphins, have an opportunity to see the long legacy of the submarine service," said Mathley. "I think it means more to them, having seen that. They can really appreciate the lineage of their service."

Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Gaylord Humphries, chief of the boat, USS San Juan, also sounded off his qualification date, providing his solid support to the next generation of submariners.

"This is the new generation of submariners and the submarine force is in good hands," said Humphries.

. North Dakota Governor Proclaims USS North Dakota Day

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs
BISMARCK, N.D. (NNS) -- The state of North Dakota is recognizing its namesake submarine, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784), in a unique way by proclaiming Jan. 11 "USS North Dakota Day."

Cmdr. Doug Gordon, commanding officer, PCU North Dakota, will visit the state, Jan. 9-11, to participate in the events surrounding this special day and to take advantage of the visit to update state citizens on the construction of the Virginia-class attack submarine. He will educate citizens on the submarine's role in the nation's maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations.

"Namesake visits are important steps taken during the construction phase of a submarine because it increases the level of awareness as well as the investment being made by the taxpayers of North Dakota and our nation," said Gordon. "Additionally, namesake visits, particularly when one day of the year is named after the future USS North Dakota are truly special markers to remember during our boat's construction."

The proclamation recognizing the eleventh day of January as "USS North Dakota Day" was issued by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. The proclamation stated the following, "The USS North Dakota will represent the most advanced Virginia-class nuclear powered attack submarine in the world when commissioned in 2014; and the USS North Dakota is a source of pride and honor for us all; and it is fitting to recognize our boat and her crew and to celebrate this outstanding addition to the U.S. Navy."

During the namesake visit, Gordon will address North Dakota's Senate and House of Representatives to report on the construction of the Navy's newest attack submarine.

Additionally, Gordon will also visit the Bismarck Public Schools Career Academy to observe ongoing project-based science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for students.

Bob Wefald, USS North Dakota committee chairman, who helped to coordinate the namesake visit, looks forward to the state supporting their submarine during her 33 years of service.

"For the sixty months while the sub is under construction she is known as Pre-Commissioning
Unit (PCU) North Dakota," said Wefald. "She will become United States Ship North Dakota when she is commissioned and joins the fleet in 2014."

PCU North Dakota will be delivered by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton and will be the 11th Virginia-class submarine when it is commissioned in 2014. As the first "Block III" Virginia, North Dakota will be the first of its class built with large-diameter tubes in the bow, a new type of bow sonar, and dozens of more discrete changes designed to reduce the ships construction and life cycle costs without sacrificing warfighting capabilities.

The submarine will become only the second ship named in honor of North Dakota, with the other being the Delaware-class battleship USS North Dakota, which was in service from 1910 to 1923.

Surface Combatant Awarded Shore Mineman of the Year

By Kimberly M. Lansdale, Center for Surface Combat Systems
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Mine and Antisubmarine Warfare Center(MWTC) on board Naval Base Point Loma announced Jan. 10 that one of its instructors was selected as Shore Mineman of the Year for 2012-2013 by The Association of Minemen (AOM).

Mineman 1st Class Marco Antonio Navarro, MWTC's Mineman "A" School course manager and leading petty officer (LPO), was recognized during a ceremony honoring his accomplishments.

"I'm humbled and most of all, thankful not only to my chain of command, but also to my shipmates," Navarro said.

According to Cmdr. Mark Scorgie, MWTC's commanding officer,, Navarro is a remarkable mineman and leader.

"MWTC was ecstatic to hear that Petty Officer Navarro was selected," he said. "He is hard-working in and outside the classroom, and holds several key command responsibilities, including Urinalysis Program coordinator and Technical Training Equipment coordinator. I cannot think of a more deserving mineman."

Navarro joined the Navy from his hometown of San Antonio. He has served in the Navy for more than 13 years, including tours onboard the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Avenger (MCM 1), serving as the combat information center division's LPO, and on multiple platforms while attached to a rotational mine counter measure crew known as Crew Dominant.

Chief Mineman Mike Just, MWTC's Mineman "A" School and Tactics Division leading chief petty officer (LCPO) said the Chief Petty Officers Mess nominated Navarro because of his professionalism.

"The decision was difficult because we have the best of the best minemen here, but in the end, Navarro was the clear choice," he said. "This year, he was our Instructor of the First Quarter and Sailor of the Second Quarter. He carries himself with great confidence and is not only an excellent representative for MWTC, but also minemen everywhere. His dedication to duty, field expertise and professionalism is admirable and his selection as Mineman of the Year is a well-deserved honor.

Navarro said he is proud of the professionalism he brings as an instructor.

"Being an instructor is essential to me because I am the link between the student and fleet," Navarro said. "I have the honor and responsibility of transferring all that I have learned to our junior Sailors. Knowing a Sailor who I taught and mentored is progressing and doing well in the fleet with the knowledge and tools I provided him is truly satisfying."

According to Just, this award links the past with the present.

"The mineman rating is small but we are a hard-working Jack of all trades group," he said. "The AOM is comprised of active duty and retired Sailors that look to preserve our naval heritage and honor those who have served. This award shines a well-deserved spotlight on the minemen that perform above and beyond what is asked of them."

Before joining the Navy, Navarro said he had no direction or goals but now, he is an example for his family and fellow shipmates to emulate.

"I joined the Navy for various reasons but the main reason was that I wanted to do something meaningful with my life," Navarro said. "I now feel like I am and it gives me not only a feeling of accomplishment, but a great appreciation for the values the Navy has instilled in me." ."

AF releases new 'vision' document

by Master Sgt. Jess Harvey
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

1/10/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force released a new Vision document today outlining the force's vision and way forward.

"Focused on 'Airmen, Mission, and Innovation,' I believe this short document captures what today's Air Force is all about and where I think we ought to focus on for tomorrow," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in an email to all Airmen.

"We are the greatest air force in the world because of our Airmen--Active, Reserve, Guard, and Civilian--to remain the greatest, we must make our team even stronger," the Vision states.

The Vision discusses the Air Force's enduring contributions of air and space superiority; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; rapid global mobility; global strike; and command and control and the need to strengthen them.

"We already combine our air, space, and cyber forces to maximize these enduring contributions, but the way we execute these five calling cards must continually evolve as we strive to increase our asymmetric advantage," the Vision says. "Our Airmen's ability to rethink the battle while incorporating new technologies will improve the varied ways our Air Force accomplishes its missions.

"Every Airman should constantly look for smarter ways to do business. The person closest to the problem is often the one with the best solution. Leaders should empower Airmen to think creatively, find new solutions, and make decisions," according to the Vision.

The Vision concludes with a call to action for all Airmen to tell their story, being proud of who they are, what they do, and how well they accomplish the mission.

Northcom Calls Partnerships Central to Mission Success

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 – In one of his first acts after taking command of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command in August 2011, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. revised Northcom’s mission statement to reflect the importance of partnerships to its success.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, center, and his staff receive an update on weather conditions in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy during a commander’s assessment meeting, Oct. 30, 2012. Jacoby said he recognizes strong partnerships as the foundation for the dual command’s missions, whether conducting homeland defense or operating in support of other federal agencies, as in disaster response preparation. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“U.S. Northern Command partners to conduct homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests,” the statement now reads.
The change represented far more than an administrative stroke of a pen, Coast Guard Capt. Dan Kenny, director of the dual commands’ interagency directorate, told American Forces Press Service.

It recognized, as Jacoby puts it, that relationships are Northcom’s “center of gravity.” They’re paramount to its homeland defense mission, for which the command takes the Defense Department lead. But they’re also vital to Northcom’s civil support and theater security cooperation missions, for which it plays a supporting role to other federal agencies, Kenny said.

“General Jacoby fully understands and appreciates that a lot of agencies are bringing tremendous capability to the fight, and that in many of our missions, we will be in a supporting role, with someone else in the lead,” he said. “And as a result, he is slowly but surely changing the culture within the command to foster these trusted partnerships and build enduring relationships with these agencies.”
At a time when every U.S. combatant command is embracing partnerships – international, interagency, private sector and nongovernmental – Northcom stands as a model, Kenny said.

Northcom had a bit of a head start when it was stood up 10 years ago, he noted. For more than a half century, its binational sister command, NORAD, has operated hand-in-hand with the Federal Aviation Administration, its Canadian counterpart and both countries’ intelligence organizations.
Today, more than 60 representatives of 50-plus agencies work full-time here in the Northcom/NORAD headquarters. They work closely with the staff, providing a direct, consistent liaison between their organizations and command operators and planners.

In addition, Northcom has its own liaisons embedded with the Homeland Security Department and other key agencies. U.S. Army North, Northcom’s Army component, stations a colonel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters and all 10 FEMA regions.

The goal, Kenny said, is to promote closer communication, to stay on top of developing events and to ensure that when it’s time to act, every entity is ready to do so in a well-planned, coordinated way. “To be a good mission partner, you have to be able to have the right people with the right capability in the right place at the right time to support whatever federal agency is in the lead,” he said.

For the homeland defense mission, Northcom and NORAD work particularly closely with the FAA, Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The agencies share information and capabilities to monitor a fast-moving and ever-changing security environment, identify potential threats to the homeland, and, when necessary, to stop them before they inflict harm.

Jacoby calls this Northcom’s “no-fail mission,” one that exemplifies more than any other the need for trusted partnerships.

“It’s not just about having a partnership,” Kenny said. “It’s about trusting each other” to quickly identify and be willing to pass critical information, confident that it will be handled and acted on appropriately, all at a time when every minute counts.

But Northcom’s relationships are equally critical when it’s in a supporting role, Kenny said. This, he said, provides the foundation for an efficient, effective and coordinated federal effort.

To ensure the command is prepared to respond if called on in the event of an earthquake, hurricane or other disaster, officials here remain in lockstep with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which typically would be the lead federal agency. During disaster responses, Northcom typically operates hand in glove with the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Health and Human Services and other agencies supporting FEMA, Kenny said.

Similarly, Northcom’s theater security cooperation mission supports the State Department. This typically involves close coordination with HHS, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, among others, Kenny said.

One notable exception is Northcom’s humanitarian assistance program, operated by its J9 interagency directorate. This effort, coordinated through the U.S. Embassies in Mexico and the Bahamas, involves building partner nation capacity in disaster response for Bahamian and Mexican first responders.

In this program, Northcom partners with U.S. agencies -- typically, FEMA and HHS -- to help the Bahamas and Mexico build its search-and-rescue and other disaster-response capabilities. Northcom recently tapped the U.S. Geological Survey, as well, which helped install a flood warning system in Northern Mexico.

Regardless of the mission, Kenny said, there’s a growing understanding at Northcom that partnerships provide the foundation for better, faster and more effective national responses. That recognition is being integrated into everything the command does, beginning with its initial planning efforts.

“We have really matured the process by which we build our plans with our partners,” Kenny said. “The effort has become much more collaborative in recent years. We invite our partners into the planning process very early to ensure the plan is shaped to fit into the overall federal response and our partners understand how we intend to support should the contingency happen. This effort has been very well received by our partners.”

This, Kenny said, strengthens the partnerships that underpin Northcom’s success. It also postures the command, he added, to live up to Jacoby’s vision: “With our trusted partners, we will defend North America by outpacing all threats, maintaining faith with our people and supporting them in their times of greatest need.”

New Resource Helps Troops, Families Plan Deployments

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 – The Defense Department has launched a new resource to help troops and their families plan for the “before, during and after” of deploying.

Barbara Thompson, director of DOD’s office for family policy, explained “Plan My Deployment” during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

“This is a new, interactive, online tool that supports service members and their families as they prepare for the different stages of deployment,” she said.

The new resource guides users through the “ins and outs” of deployment, Thompson said: from power of attorney and legal assistance considerations to financial and emotional issues. Other tips and tools address education and training benefits, she added.

“We modeled this after the very, very popular ‘Plan My Move,’ which helps with [permanent change of station] moves,” she said. “It’s the same kind of approach: we look at providing the tools and information, and you tailor it to your individual family’s needs.”

Plan My Deployment saves the user’s information, she said, so people can exit from the site and return at their convenience, picking up where they left off.

Though other deployment planning guides and resources already exist, Thompson said, DOD leaders wanted to offer family readiness assistance to the entire active duty, National Guard and Reserve force and their families.

While the pace of deployment across the services has dropped since U.S. forces left Iraq and will continue to decline as the combat mission in Afghanistan draws to an end, Thompson said, service members always will face the possibility of deploying for duty.

“Let’s face it: military members deploy all the time. … We’ve learned a lot of lessons during this long-term conflict, and we want to make sure that our service members and their families are prepared for what’s in the future,” she said.

Plan My Deployment is available at DOD’s Military OneSource website, which also offers a range of other services for military families, she said. Thompson pointed out the site is “outside the gates” in the public domain, so it is available to extended family members who don’t have access to military facilities.

Total Force tanker team completes 50,000 flying hours in 2012

by Senior Airman Joel Mease
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/10/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA  -- Averaging more than 136 hours a day, the largest refueling squadron in the world flew more than 50,000 combat hours within 2012's 366 calendar days using the Total Force Integration model.

"Surpassing 50,000 hours is a significant milestone," said Lt. Col. Brian Gilpatrick, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron director of operations. "It was like having six aircraft airborne 24/7 since the beginning of the year."

Impressive as that is, how they got there with an integrated staff mixed with active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen is even more so.

"The 340th EARS is not only the largest tanker squadron in the world, but it is also one of the greatest examples of Total Force Integration," Gilpatrick said. "Each and every year, we have approximately 1,200 personnel rotate through the 340th from more than 50 units spread across 29 active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases."

The squadron commander believes this total force structure was critical to maintaining a high performance level while working under grueling conditions.

"This squadron and the 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit could not function without the constant deployment of motivated individuals from the total force," said Lt. Col. Max Bremer, 340th EARS commander. "Additionally, the teamwork between maintenance and operations is the only way to keep this kind of operations tempo going year round. From the blazing heat in the summer to the winter fog and rain, our maintainers keep these Eisenhower-era jets flying, allowing us to have an amazing 97 percent mission effectiveness rate."

Considering the age of the aircraft, those Airmen who maintained the planes played a critical part in the milestone.

"With almost a third of our aircraft swapping out on a monthly basis, our Airmen are constantly facing new challenges as they work the unique issues associated with each of these aging aircraft," said Capt. Justin Taylor, 340th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. "Whether it is day or night, rain or shine, our highly motivated maintainers proudly work more than 12-hours a day, every day, to keep these 50-year-old aircraft in the air. Our maintainers operate with the understanding the safety of the aircrew and the success of the mission rests on their shoulders, and ensure no maintenance challenge goes unresolved."

The teamwork and integrated force of other players is something the refueling squadron doesn't take lightly for their unit's successes.

"The 379th (Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) and 379th (Expeditionary Maintenance Operations Squadron) have similar total force compositions and their ability to merge all of the units together into a fully functioning maintenance operation is remarkable," Gilpatrick said. "They work tremendously hard to ensure our crews have the most capable aircraft each and every time they step out the door. Just like our crews, the aircraft are constantly rotating in and out of theater, so this becomes a very challenging task; one that they always seem to master."

For the aircrew who flew on the milestone flight, they hope this shows how capable a total integrated Air Force can be.

"As aviators, milestones like this highlight just how much the KC-135 has contributed during the last year, and also how much it continues to contribute to operations," said Capt. Matt Mills, 340th EARS pilot. "It also highlights how all three components of the Air Force come together seamlessly to get the mission accomplished. With wings now becoming more blended this milestone actually is a testament to all the crews of the Guard, Reserve and Active Duty."

Sweeping up the savings with brass

by Airman 1st Class Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

1/10/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- With a resounding crack, the M4 carbine fires, kicking into the airman's shoulder as the bolt is sent to the rear, launching the small brass casing through the ejection port.

Clattering to the ground, the casings are ignored by all, save for one Airman who saw the potential to save big.

Staff Sgt. Justin Wood, 47th Security Forces Squadron assistant NCO in charge of combat arms, along with several of his fellow instructors, decided to change how Laughlin recycled its spent ammunition shells, helping to save the base money.

"The changes were pretty easy, and really spur of the moment," said Wood. "It was something that worked for us and is great for other small bases and possibly larger ones too."

After noticing 60 crates filled with brass casings stacked outside the firing range waiting to be recycled, Wood decided they looked tacky and something had to be done.

The six-year veteran of security forces decided to cut out the middle man and do a little leg work.

"Normally we take the used casings to our munitions guys to handle recycling and they, in turn, have the casings picked up by the recycling center," Wood said. "We chose to save them time by contacting our recycling guys and seeing how we could turn in the stuff ourselves."

Wood discovered that Laughlin's recycling center cannot recycle the brass casings but has a contract with an outside recycler who can.

The base center gets a fraction of the recycling profits, which they use to cover their overhead, and anything above their profit cap goes back to the base.

By transporting the brass themselves to this outside recycler Wood earned an average of 50 cents more per pound which turned the 60 crates of brass, weighing in at 2,000 pounds, into $3,100 for the base recycling program. The feat is relatively considerable due to the fact that Laughlin only sees 850 students per year at the firing range.

"We coordinated the truck and turned it all in," Wood said. "We do the leg work, and we get a better price on recycling,"

In comparison, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, puts more than 37,000 people and more than a million rounds of ammunition through CATM each year but has the ability to recycle its casings at their base's recycling center, explained Staff Sgt. Christopher Manrique, 37th Training Support Squadron Combat Weapons Flight range controller.

"It's a great idea for smaller bases in a similar situation," Manrique said. "It saves money as tougher budget issues loom."

Wood never thought the simple notion of cutting out the middleman to get rid of a pile of spent casings would garner so much attention, but according to the Air Education and Training Command's Cost Conscious Culture initiative, if each AETC Airman saves just $3 per day, the command can save $37 million in a year.

"After figuring out the 'how', it was all pretty easy," Wood said. "I didn't see this idea going anywhere."

Wood's idea was passed up to AETC as a way to reduce costs throughout the command.

Wood's fellow instructors, who helped make the changes, can't help but praise him.

"Wood thought this was something that needed to be done, and he was right," said Senior Airman Richard Bates, 47th SFS combat arms instructor.

Staff Sgt. Shawn Jackson, 47th SFS NCO in charge of combat arms, believes that Wood's idea has the potential to make a big impact.

"Some don't know the steps on how to do this, and Sergeant Wood found those steps. That's most of the legwork needed to get started right there," said Jackson.

Wood's initial intent might have simply been to clean up, but his idea has plenty of potential.

"We try to save money where we can. We don't even have our lights on most of the time at CATM," said Wood. "I'm glad, in the end, my idea saves money."

Army helicopters aid stranded oil rig

by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

1/10/2013 - KODIAK, Alaska -- The Royal Dutch Shell Arctic drilling rig Kulluk Salvage was hit with a storm New Years Eve that ran it onto an Alaska island and caused a power outage. The Kulluk is a circular drill barge that does not have propulsion, and needed heavy equipment to restore operational power. The U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, was able to support the civilian operations as well as military.

"We came out to assist however possible," said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tommi Webber, maintenance test pilot for the "Sugar Bears," 1-52nd Avn Regiment. "That turned out to be moving some pretty heavy loads onto the Kulluk Salvage so they could get power restored."

Fort Wainwright gained 12 new CH-47F model Chinook helicopters in Oct. 2012 after training with them for several months. The Chinooks have a sling load capacity of 26,000 pounds center hook, 17,000 pounds forward and aft hook, and 25,000 pound tandem; more than most civilian helicopters and any other Army helicopter. Even with that capacity, enough power is needed to sustain the flight. It was during the pre-flight checks when a weight problem was discovered.

"One of our biggest setbacks was the weight of the loads that we were taking out," the maintenance test pilot said. "The mighty CH-47F can carry quite a bit, but when that load is 16,000 pounds we just have to do some mitigation to make sure we have enough power to get it on. I know that the aviation portion to help the Kulluk is contracted out, they just didn't have a helicopter with enough lift capacity to take that equipment out and that's where we came in. We were glad we could help."

The decision was made after they tested it; they had to lose some weight. The external fuel tank was one of the items they had to leave behind.

"We actually had to plan fuel down to the last 10 pounds that we had just enough to pick up that load, get out there and drop it off, and have enough to get back," said Webber, who is from Dansville, New York. "When you pick up loads like that, you want to power-margin...we didn't have anything extra to spare."

By dropping off the extra weight and stripping down the aircraft of unnecessary equipment, they found a comfortable power margin that would get it done.

The weight wasn't the only metaphorical speed bump they encountered.

"As most people in Kodiak know, the weather is totally unpredictable here," said Army Capt. Matt Mraz, platoon leader with 1-52nd Avn., and native of Clarion, Iowa. "It is constantly snowing, and then raining.

"The weather played the biggest part, and then distance was also a huge contributing factor to the complications that we saw. Due to the size of the loads and the distance we were carrying them, we just didn't have enough fuel to get the loads to the Kulluk, so we had to come up with some pretty interesting ways to fix that problem. We were definitely thinking outside of the box on this one.

"It worked out very well," he continued. "I'd just like to thank the Coast Guard and especially the guys out at the Kodiak Rocket Test facility that loaned their help when we asked if we could use their facility. Everyone that we asked for support throughout this entire operation was more than happy to bend over backwards for us, especially the Coast Guard in providing our birds a hangar for four days; that was crucial."

Performing the real-world mission gave the team a feeling that training falls short on.

"This is one of our first real-world missions with these new aircraft," said Sgt. Michael Cummings, C-47 flight engineer with 1-52 Avn.

Webber said the Army unit was proud to help.

"In the end, we got both the generator and the compressor onto the Kulluk, with no one hurt, and both aircraft back here, so I'm very happy with that," She said. "I'm really glad our Sugar Bears were given the chance to help out our home state of Alaska."

Altus AFB selected as candidate KC-46A FTU, MOB

by 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

1/9/2013 - ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Altus Air Force Base is officially in the running to become the Formal Training Unit for the KC-46A tanker aircraft.

Today, the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff approved Altus AFB and McConnell AFB, Kan. as candidate bases for the FTU. Altus AFB was also selected one of four candidates for the first active-duty led Main Operating Base.

The Air Force took a deliberate, enterprise-wide look across the service to identify the best fit for the KC-46A for training and operational needs.

With the release of the candidate bases, the Air Force will accomplish site surveys to begin evaluating Altus' operational and infrastructure requirements. The results of the site survey will be briefed to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff, who will then select preferred and reasonable alternatives for the FTU and MOB locations in the spring of 2013. The final basing decisions will be made in the spring of 2014.

The KC-46A is the first of a three-phase effort to replace more than 400 KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft Air Force wide.

"The KC-46A will have enhanced refueling capacity and capabilities, improved efficiency, and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation as compared to the KC-135R, making it a vital component to maintaining our global reach for years to come," said General Mark Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff.

Bringing the KC-46A online is an important step in recapitalizing our tanker fleet, but the importance of continuing KC-135 upgrade efforts and its role as the backbone of the air refueling fleet has been emphasized.

"I want to stress that the KC-135 units not replaced with the KC-46A will continue to fly the KC-135R for the foreseeable future," said Welsh.

Together, the KC-10 Extender, KC-135 and KC-46 represent an air refueling capability that will ensure unrivaled global reach and support to joint warfighters and humanitarian relief.

"Leadership at Altus Air Force Base has full confidence and trust in the Air Force's deliberate enterprise-wide look for KC-46A basing," said Col. Anthony Krawietz, the 97th Air Mobility Wing commander. "Whatever the decision, the 'Mighty 97th' will continue to forge combat mobility forces and deploy Airman warriors. My responsibility is to execute the assigned mission by leading dedicated Airmen and by marshaling the resources of this base and community to that effect."

The FTU and MOB 1 will begin receiving aircraft in fiscal year 2016.