Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Firefighter surprises son at school after year-long separation

by Staff Sgt. Jamal Sutter
23d Wing Public Affairs

2/11/2013 - VALDOSTA, Ga. -- It was a typical Friday afternoon for Sallas Mahone Elementary School first graders as they cheered in anticipation of a bright red fire truck, but for one 6-year-old, it would be a surprise a year in the making.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eric Kunzman returned home Feb. 8 and reunited with his son, Christian, following a year-long tour at Osan Air Base, Korea.

Kunzman, who was a 23d Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., before leaving for Korea, joined two of his former co-workers in what was thought to be a normal visit to the school for a fire-safety demonstration.

"This is more nerve-wrecking than a fire," he said as he and the fire truck approached the children. "A fire doesn't have feelings; my son does. I'm pretty anxious ... almost as bad as when I left."

Kunzman showed up fully equipped in firefighter attire, totally unrecognizable to anyone, especially Christian. When Staff Sgt. Jonathon Flacker, 23d CES fire department crew chief, asked the crowd of first graders for a volunteer, they all raised their hands. Flacker chose Christian and asked him to pull back the visor of the unknown firefighter who he, then, saw was his father.

While in Korea, Kunzman communicated with Christian solely through internet video chat and letters, a feat that was difficult to deal with.

"Being gone for a year, I've missed his birthday and every holiday," Kunzman said. "He's young enough to not understand fully why I'm gone, but he's old enough to realize I am gone."

The homecoming came about when Kunzman's wife, Crystal, talked with Christian's teacher about the idea. The working relationship between the school and Moody's fire department made the event easy to plan and execute.

"We have the fire department come out a good bit for demonstrations for our children, so it tied in very well with that," said Charles Glover, Sallas Mahone Elementary School principal. "It feels great, because we have so many military families here, and they are such an asset to our school.

"We appreciate the military so much," Glover added. "The things we're able to do are because of the brave men and women in the military who are fighting for us."

Kunzman said he originally only wanted to surprise Christian in his Airman Battlefield Uniform but thought the firefighter idea would mean more because of his son's interest in one day following his footsteps.

"He loves firefighting," he said. "He tells me all the time he wants to grow up to be a firefighter, and this was something I've wanted to do."

Leading up to the homecoming, Kunzman experienced a lot of anticipation about getting back to his family.

"The last couple weeks, it's been hard to sleep," he said. "Once we got out here and got everything going, it kind of dissipated."

Now that the nerves have settled, the family plans on spending quality time together before leaving in a couple of weeks for their next duty assignment at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

Operation Homecoming for Vietnam POWs Marks 40 Years

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2013 – Forty years ago today, a C-141A Starlifter transport jet with a distinctive red cross on its tail lifted off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, and the first flight of 40 U.S. prisoners of war began their journey home through Operation Homecoming.

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Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. U.S. Air Force photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
By the day’s end, three C-141A aircraft would lift off from Hanoi, as well as a C-9A aircraft from Saigon, South Vietnam. In a steady flow of flights through late March 1973 under terms set through the Paris Peace Accords, 591 POWs returned to American soil. Americans were spellbound as they watched news clips of the POWs being carried in stretchers or walking tentatively toward U.S. officers at the awaiting aircraft for the first flight from Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport.

The POWs ranged from privates first class to colonels, all wearing new gray uniforms issued by the North Vietnamese just before their release.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. James R. Cook, who suffered severe wounds when he bailed out of his stricken aircraft over North Vietnam in December 1972, saluted the U.S. colors from his stretcher as he was carried aboard the aircraft. Also on the first flight was Navy Cmdr. Everett Alvarez Jr., the first American pilot to be shot down in North Vietnam and, by the war’s end, the longest-held POW there. He spent eight-and-a-half years in captivity.

Celebration broke out aboard the first aircraft -- nicknamed the “Hanoi Taxi” -- as it lifted skyward and the POWs experienced their first taste of freedom.

Historian Andrew H. Lipps captured the magnitude of the moment in his account, “Operation Homecoming: The Return of American POWs from Vietnam.”

“Imagine you’re imprisoned in a cage; imagine the cage surrounded by the smell of feces; imagine the rotted food you eat is so infested with insects that to eat only a few is a blessing; imagine knowing your life could be taken by one of your captors on a whim at any moment; imagine you are subjected to mental and physical torture designed to break not bones but instead spirit on a daily basis. That was being a prisoner of North Vietnam,” Lipps wrote.

“Then imagine one day, after seemingly endless disappointment, you are given a change of clothes and lined up to watch an American plane land to return you home. That was Operation Homecoming.”

Aeromedical teams assigned to each aircraft tended to the former POWs during the two-and-a-half hour flight to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, the first stop on their trip home. Meanwhile, many of the POWs joked and smoked American cigarettes as they caught up on all they’d missed while in captivity: fashion trends and the women’s liberation movement, among them.

“Everything seemed like heaven,” recalled Air Force Capt. Larry Chesley, who, after being shot down over North Vietnam, spent seven years in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” and other POW prisons. “When the doors of that C-141 closed, there were tears in the eyes of every man aboard,” he said.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Ed Mechenbier, the last Vietnam POW to serve in the Air Force, recalled the emotion of his own journey out of North Vietnam on Feb. 18, 1973. "When we got airborne and the frailty of being a POW turned into the reality of freedom, we yelled, cried and cheered,” he said.

The POWs arrived to a hero’s welcome at Clark Air Base, where Navy Adm. Noel Gayler, commander of U.S. Forces Pacific, led their greeting party. Joining him were Air Force Lt. Gen. William G. Moore Jr., who commanded 13th Air Force and the homecoming operation at Clark, and Roger Shields, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/MIA affairs.

Speaking to the crowd that lined the tarmac to welcome the aircraft, returning POW Navy Capt. Jeremiah Denton -- who would go on to earn the rank of rear admiral and later was elected to the U.S. Senate, representing Alabama -- elicited cheers as he thanked all who had worked for their release and proclaimed, “God bless America.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris, who spent almost eight years as a POW after being shot down over North Vietnam, joined the many other POWs who echoed that sentiment. “My only message is, ‘God bless America,’” he said, dismissing assertions in the media that the POWs had been directed to say it.
“With six, seven or eight years to think about the really important things in life, a belief in God and country was strengthened in every POW with whom I had contact,” he said. “Firsthand exposure to a system which made a mockery of religion and where men are unable to know truth made us all appreciate some of the most basic values in ‘God bless America.’”

Air Force Col. Robinson Risner, the senior Air Force officer at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" honored today by a statue in his likeness at the U.S. Air Force Academy, choked back emotion as he arrived on the second C-141 flight from Hanoi.

“Thank you all for bringing us home to freedom again,” he told the crowd.

After receiving medical exams and feasting on steak, ice cream and other American food, the former POWs received new uniforms for their follow-on flights home. Their aircraft made stops in Hawaii and California. The first group of 20 former POWs arrived at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., on Feb. 14, 1973.

News clips of the arrival reveal the deep emotion of the freed POWs as they arrived on the U.S. mainland. Navy Capt. James Stockdale, who went on to become a vice admiral and vice presidential candidate, was the first man to limp off the aircraft.

Stockdale paused to thank his countrymen for the loyalty they had showed him and his fellow POWs. “The men who follow me down that ramp know what loyalty means because they have been living with loyalty, living on loyalty, the past several years -- loyalty to each other, loyalty to the military, loyalty to our commander-in-chief,” he said.

Of the 591 POWs liberated during Operation Homecoming, 325 served in the Air Force, 138 in the Navy; 77 in the Army and 26 in the Marine Corps. Twenty-five of the POWs were civilian employees of U.S. government agencies.

In addition, 69 POWs the Viet Cong had held in South Vietnam left aboard flights from Loc Ninh. Nine other POWs were released from Laos, and three from China.

Forty years after their release, two of the former POWs serve in Congress: Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas.

A dinner and ceremony being planned for late May at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California will honor the POWs, recreating the dinner the president hosted for them at the White House in 19

McConnell Reserve unit honors World War II Veteran, Air Force heritage

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

2/12/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A routine trip to a grocery store turned into a brush with living Air Force history for the commander of McConnell's Air Force Reserve unit last month.

Col. Mark S. Larson, 931st Air Refueling Group commander, was searching the store aisles for snacks before heading home to watch a football game. But among the pretzels, chips and soda, the colonel ended up discovering a living part of Air Force heritage.

"I was walking through the store and noticed an older gentleman wearing a World War II Veteran hat," said Larson. "Whenever I see one of those guys, I try to talk to them because there are fewer and fewer of them left and they all have a story to tell about their time in the service."

Larson made his way over to the gentleman, introduced himself, and asked the man about his experience in the war.

"Like most of those guys, he didn't talk much at first. That is just how that generation was," said Larson. "Those guys went over, did their job, and then came back home and reintegrated with their communities without thinking much about it. That's exactly how he was. But I kept asking him questions because I really wanted to hear his story."

After a few more questions, Larson said he finally began to get a bit more information from the individual.

"He shared with me that he had been a member of the Army Air Corps," said Larson. "That really piqued my interest, because that meant he was one of my own and a part of Air Force heritage."

As it turned out, the individual to whom Larson was speaking, Mr. Adrian Marlin, had an incredible story of air combat and service to country.

According to newspaper records, Marlin enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and soon thereafter was sent overseas to England where he served as a tail gunner on a B-17 flying fortress. He and his aircrew were part of a massive Allied offensive, flying bombing missions over targets in Germany throughout the war. In all, Marlin completed 35 combat missions.

It was on one of these missions that Marlin survived one of the most harrowing experiences an aircrew member can endure when he and his crew were shot down during a bombing run in Nov. 1944.

According newspaper accounts from the time, Marlin's B-17, the "Dallas Dottie," was on its way to bomb oil targets at Meresburg, Germany, when its number two engine was knocked out by anti-aircraft flak. Despite this, the crew tried to carry on with their mission by flying on only three engines, until the plane's number one engine began sputtering. At that point, the pilot, 2nd Lt. Raymond Reams, made the decision to turn around and fly back to friendly territory.

After flying for more than two hours on only two engines, the plane's number four engine began failing as well. The pilot made the decision to attempt a crash landing in a field in Belgium. As the crippled aircraft descended into the field, the left wing struck a post in the ground. On impact, the plane ripped through a fence and came to rest in a ditch. The left wing caught fire and the plane broke in two.

Quoted in a newspaper account of the incident, a then 20-year-old Marlin said, "The concussion and shock when we hit was almost unbelievable. We were thrown all around the radio room. We immediately took inventory see that we were all alright."
Luckily, the entire crew survived the incident. Within minutes of the crash landing, the crew was assisted by Belgians, who helped them make their way to a first-aid post, from which they were eventually sent back to their home base in England.

After hearing Marlin's story, Larson said he wanted to find a way to say thank you to the Veteran for his service and sacrifice.

"I immediately thought of our military awards banquet," said Larson. "I asked him if he and his wife would be interested in attending the banquet as my guests of honor."
On the night of the banquet, Larson introduced Marlin and his wife of 67 years, Neveline, and shared Marlin's story with the audience.

"Adrian Marlin is a part of the heritage of the Air Force," said Larson. "What we have today grew out of the Army Air Corps. When we think of who the pioneers of aviation were and we look back at the people we look up to, it's him and the men like him."

Larson then presented Marlin with a trophy as a token of appreciation for his service, and Marlin received a long standing ovation from the more than 350 Airmen and guests in attendance.

Marlin said he was truly touched by the gesture and the opportunity to interact with the current generation of Airmen.

"It was real nice," said Marlin. "It was something new for me, and I really, really appreciated it. I think the Air Force is in very good hands. We have a lot of good Airmen out there."

"It made me feel good to see how much people appreciated that," said Larson. "They don't know him, but they have a sense of where we came from as an Air Force, and hold an appreciation for the history and the sacrifice that is there, and they are proud of that heritage. The whole reason I brought him here was to honor him and his service, and to rekindle in our own minds that sense of honor, duty, and dedication."

Larson said it's that appreciation of history and heritage that first prompted him to speak to Marlin.

"We in the Air Force may not have a 200 year history, but we do have history," said Larson. "One of the most important things we need our Airmen to understand is that we are the Air Force we are today because of the people who had some foresight, took risks, established the Army Air Corps and eventually the Air Force. Today we all benefit from their hard work and sacrifice."

He continued, "Remembering the past gives you pride in your heritage, and I think it helps motivate you to do good things, to take pride in your duty and try to do it even better. It inspires you to take what you were given and leave it even better."

It's a rare occasion that a chance encounter in such an ordinary place, a grocery store, will lead to meeting such an extraordinary individual with such a remarkable story. Larson said it's a lesson that Airmen should always take advantage of the opportunity to speak with and learn from those who have served before.

"Never, ever pass up that opportunity," said Larson. "At the very minimum, anytime we see a Veteran, we at least owe them a thank you for their service. Ten years from now, we won't have our World War II Veterans around anymore. Never let the opportunity go by to talk with someone who can give you that perspective."

Pope Field offers safe haven for Rhode Island aircraft

by Adam Luther
440 AW/PA

2/12/2013 - POPE FIELD, N.C. -- The 143rd Airlift Wing diverted six of its C-130J Hercules aircraft here Feb. 6  as Winter Storm Nemo struck the unit's home base at Quonset Point Air National Guard Station, R.I.

The aircraft are expected to depart from Pope Field Feb. 12, but with more winter storms on the horizon, that date may be pushed backed.

"We are grateful to the Airmen of Pope Field for assisting the 143rd Airlift Wing in this time of need," said Col. Arthur J. Floru, 143rd AW commander. "The long standing total force relationship we have with the 440th Airlift Wing has proven its effectiveness time and time again."

One full crew and four maintenance personnel have remained at Pope Field while Winter Storm Nemo moves through the northeast. While only a few hours flight away from Quonset Point, Pope Field offers a strategic option to bases on the east coast because of the relatively mild winters.

"With any impending weather event that would not be healthy for our aircraft, units will assess the impending threat and look out to see where they can position aircraft and personnel where they will be safer and capable of use should the nation need those assets," said Col. Sharon Johnson, 440th Maintenance Group Commander.

"Between the volume of snow and the expected hurricane strength winds, Rhode Island made the decision to evacuate their aircraft. Severe hurricane-force winds can have a devastating effect on aircraft hydraulics and flight control systems. Once exposed, those systems require extensive inspections before they can be airworthy again," Johnson said. "Between our airfield operations personnel, operations group personnel, transient alert and the 440th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; it was seamless to allow our C-130 brethren respite during the storm. We're glad we had the ramp space and resources to accommodate them!"

Winter Storm Nemo buried areas of the American Northeast in more than three feet of snow and left more than 600,000 people without power.

The C-130 Hercules is known as the work horse of combat airlift operations; often performing tactical portions of the U.S. Air Force airlift mission as it is capable of landing and taking off from rough dirt landing strips, and is apt for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.

Face of Defense: Navy Corpsman Shares Skills With Marines

By Marine Corps Pfc. Daniel Hosack
Marine Barracks Washington, 8th and I

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2013 – A native of South Amboy, N.J., is helping to save the lives of Marines here by sharing his skills as a corpsman.

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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Pappas explains to Marines how to properly apply a bandage on a wound during a Combat Lifesaver Course at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., Jan. 31, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Dan Hosack

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Pappas, one of three Navy corpsmen stationed at Marine Barracks Washington, taught the Combat Lifesaver Course to 30 Marines on Jan. 31. The course teaches critical battlefield first-aid techniques designed to save the lives of Marines injured in combat.

The three-day course gives Marines the hands-on instruction needed to provide lifesaving first aid in combat. They learned how to identify burns, treat bone fractures and wounds, and attend to other common battlefield injuries. The Marines also learned how to apply a tourniquet and open an airway, and they were taught how to evacuate fellow injured Marines off the battlefield.

“I think it’s a great course, because it teaches the Marines to take care of each other if something happens to one of them,” Pappas said.

Pappas, who served in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, said he believes the three-day course was time well spent, and that the skills taught in the course increase the probability of Marines returning home if injured in combat.

“A course like this one is vital, because it increases the amount of Marines we can get back alive to their families,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Barbarick, a corpsman who taught the course with Pappas. “Our role is to ensure the well-being of mind, body and spirit of all our Marines.”

In his regular duties, Pappas is responsible for the medical care and the overall health and wellness of the Marines he serves with, as well as the management of the unit’s “sick call,” the military’s equivalent of an urgent care center.

Pappas said he plans on staying in the Navy and entering the Navy Nurse Corps.

AETC best in Air Force for ground safety in 2012

by Tech. Sgt. Beth Anschutz
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

2/12/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- Air Education and Training Command Safety was awarded the Colonel Will L. Tubbs Memorial Award for ground safety for fiscal year 2012.

The award recognizes the most effective major command, direct reporting unit or forward operating agency ground safety program.

"We're very excited about this award because it captures a command-wide success story," said Colonel Tal Metzgar, AETC Director of Safety. "The Tubbs award recognizes the leadership of the headquarters safety staff, wing safety professionals, line-level supervisors and individual Airmen and civilians who own mishap prevention."

Reduction of military and civilian injuries and fatalities is the primary selection criteria for the award and AETC led the way with zero on-duty fatalities in fiscal year 2012 and a 33 percent drop in fatalities from the ten-year average.

"While it is impossible to contribute this reduction to any one cause, we've been working for several years to create a great safety culture in AETC," said Edward Talbott, AETC Ground Safety manager. "Our commanders, supervisors, military training leaders, and technical training instructors do a great job of conveying great safety messages to all our Airmen. This improved safety culture means Airmen are keeping risk management in their thoughts, and we have less injuries and fatalities occurring across the command."

The team also reported a 30 percent decrease in military on-duty mishaps and a 14 percent decrease in civilian mishaps for fiscal year 2012. Talbott says these statistics are important, but the culture change among the Airmen and civilian workforce is what will really benefit the force in the future.

"Supervisors and workers are working safer and smarter," Talbott said. "Working safer and smarter has paid dividends in the reduction of on-duty mishaps. People are making good choices, working as a team, and calling 'knock-it-off' when potentially dangerous situations arise."

The AETC Safety team's focus on private motor vehicle mishap prevention also paid off with a 28 percent mitigation for fiscal year 2012. AETC has lost 70 Airmen to motor vehicle accidents in the last 10 years, and Talbott says his team is very happy to see the numbers decline.

"Private motor vehicle mishaps are the biggest threat to our Airman, and one of the greatest concerns to safety personnel across the command," Talbott said. "Not only are safer cars contributing to this, but supervisors are making a difference by highlighting risk management with their young Airmen."

Although the headquarters safety team is honored to win the Tubbs award, Metzgar says in the end the entire command is on the same team moving toward a common goal.

"Our purpose is to protect lives and preserve our limited resources," Metzgar said. "Now, more than ever, protecting our highly trained Airmen and preserving resources is vital to national security. Simply put, you cannot do the mission without people and resources."

Rising temperatures create challenges for Deep Freeze missions

by Airman 1st Class Madelyn McCullough
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/7/2013 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. --  A team of 35 McChord Airmen supporting operations in Antarctica face new challenges during the final rotation of the 2012-2013 Operation Deep Freeze season.

Airmen from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings form the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron and fly the C-17 Globemaster III on resupply missions from Christchurch, New Zealand, to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

ODF is a joint service operation in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program and provides logistical support for the National Science Foundation's scientific research in Antarctica.

To accomplish these missions, they use two ice runways, a seasonal runway and the more permanent Pegasus runway.

Rising temperatures in Antarctica have left the Pegasus in a dwindling condition. Reduced from its usual size of 10,000 feet long and 150 feet wide, the runway is now 9,000 feet long and 90 feet wide. The minimum width for a safe C-17 landing is 90 feet.

"We've never had issues with Pegasus runway (melting) before," said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, 446th Operations Group standard evaluation loadmaster. "To have it breaking apart, melting and unavailable is very odd."

Pegasus runway is 22 miles away from McMurdo and is used as a backup once the seasonal ice runway melts into the sea. The seasonal runway, just a mile away from McMurdo, is built out of frozen ocean water. When it melts every year, the 304th EAS turns to Pegasus to carry out the rest of the missions. Since Pegasus began breaking apart, C-17s have not been able to land. It even prevented the last rotation in Christchurch from flying any missions to Antarctica, keeping the people at McMurdo from getting all the supplies they need.

"I think it's really going to affect our ability to help the people down there," Masura said. "They're getting by, but they're not getting everything they need for the winter."

If the C-17 is unable to land, the LC-130s from the New York Air National Guard will be very busy until the end of the season, said Lt. Col. Scott Amerman, 304th EAS director of operations. The LC-130s take longer to fly to Antarctica and only carry a quarter of the cargo a C-17 would, but they have landing skis so runways are not an issue.

Since the weather in Antarctica is subject to rapid change, the scientists believe they can revive the runway in time for the last rotation to fly its missions.

"The National Science Foundation is leaning forward," Amerman said. "They're hopeful that they're going to be able to build us a runway for what we need to do. Since the C-17s provide so much lift, about the same as four LC-130 missions, they aren't ready to give that up."

Just like the NSF, Airmen on the crew are up for the challenge.

"Not everyone gets to visit Antarctica so getting to go there is my motivation," said Tech Sgt. Ron Capalungan, 446th Maintenance Squadron air reserve technician and 304th EAS aircraft hydraulic mechanic. "I've never been on a mission this high profile in such an extreme environment. I expect it to be challenging."

ODF is possibly the military's most difficult peacetime mission due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The Air Force is specially equipped with trained and experienced personnel to operate in these austere conditions and have provided support to the NSF since 1955.

McChord has participated in ODF since 1983 using the C-141B Starlifter. The 446th AW got involved in 1995. The first C-17 trial for use to support ODF was Oct. 15, 1999.

Air Force tuition assistance implements change

by Airman 1st Class Victoria Taylor
633 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

2/12/2013 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -  -- The U.S. Air Force Tuition Assistance program altered its guidelines Jan. 3 to emphasize the new requirement of maintaining a grade point average of at least 2.0, on a 4-point scale.

"By adopting these changes, the Air Force is falling in line with the federal government and the schools sharing GPA guidelines," said Bertram Hardnett, the education and training services chief at Langley Air Force Base, Va. "This causes the member to act and think more responsibly when signing up for courses."

The changes affect policy concerning waivers, missing grades and maintaining a cumulative GPA of 2.0 for undergraduates and 3.0 for graduate-level students.

To help students with the new TA process, colleges in the area are getting involved with Air Force programs, making course and degree information simple to access.

"Colleges are on-board with the Air Force Academic Institution Portal, which is the institutional side of our Air Force Automated Education Management System," Hardnett said. "Schools are loading college degree plans, course schedules and degree completions, as well as providing grades and invoicing in the system."

This partnership helps to eliminate mistakes on TA applications, payments and reimbursements. The student can load a degree plan into their record without emailing or bringing one to the education office.

If students are not signed up for this, a hard copy of grades must be taken to the education office within 60 days after the class ends to avoid paying out-of-pocket for the course.

"The new changes will be more beneficial to the Department of Defense, Department of Education and all of the higher educational institutions that are streamlining the process for students," Hardnett said.

The Air Force provides $4,500 a year in tuition assistance to active-duty personnel and activated members of the National Guard and Reserve. Members are eligible to use TA for Community College of the Air Force courses, an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree and a one-time certification in any academic area they want to pursue.

For more information, contact your local Education Office.