Sunday, February 24, 2013

Commander: Public, Family Support Vital to Deployed Forces

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2013 – As U.S. forces continue to draw down in Afghanistan and the December 2014 deadline for the end of combat operations there draws steadily closer, a senior commander wrapping up his year-long deployment emphasized the importance of continued support from military families and the American public.

“You may not read about it so much anymore in the news or hear it on TV, but we out here believe that America is still strongly behind us,” Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command Southwest, told American Forces Press Service in a telephone interview yesterday.

Gurganus and his fellow 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Marines are scheduled to return to Camp Pendleton, Calif., during the first week of March following a deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand and Nimroz provinces. The region is among the most challenging in Afghanistan.

What sustained his forces, Gurganus said, was the bond they developed as brothers and sisters in arms, and confidence in the support of the people they left behind. That support is evident wherever they serve, he said, from encouraging emails and snail-mail letters to care packages brimming with thoughtful treats and mementos.

“The support of the American people is just huge to these Marines,” Gurganus said. “They really do want to know that people care about them and about what they are doing.”

The most important support of all, he said, comes from military families themselves.

Traveling around his battle space to bid goodbye to the forces serving there, Gurganus said, he asked them to make a point to extend thanks to their families from “the old gray-haired guy out here.”

“I just couldn’t tell the families ‘thank you’ enough,” he said. “I would never be able to express my true gratitude to the support we have gotten from them.”

It’s been a major factor, not just in troops’ sense of well-being, but in their ability to do their mission, Gurganus said.

“You can’t account for how much the support of their loved ones goes to strengthen the guy’s will to do what he is doing,” he said. “If these guys out here know they’ve got support, and the families back there are providing that support, it really does allow them to keep their minds on what they are doing out here.”

This, in turn, helps them to perform their duties better and safer -- a measure that protects them and their fellow Marines, the general explained.

Reflecting on the key role families play in mission success, Gurganus said they’re the ones who pay the biggest toll during a deployment.

“We’re trained for what we do,” he said of military members. “We train for a long time to get ready to come here. We know pretty much what is expected of us when we get here, and we have a team, … so we have somebody to lean on.”

Not so with families -- despite what Gurganus acknowledged has grown to become an extensive support network. “Nobody is standing right next to them every day,” he said. “Their world has a lot of uncertainty in it when we are gone.”

Yet their continued support will remain vital, even as U.S. forces draw down, and until the last U.S. service member returns home from Afghanistan, Gurganus said.

“So I really want to thank and admire the families for continuing to provide that level of support,” he added.

Pentagon to honor Westover Airmen Family Readiness Center March 1

by By MSgt. Andrew Biscoe
439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. -- Air Force Reserve Command officials announced the Westover Airman and Family Readiness Center staff won the 2012 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Award in late January.

We are thrilled to carry on the outstanding legacy of the Westover Airman and Family Readiness Center, with our third win in the last five years," said Cheryl Kirkwood, center director. "We are extremely proud of the dedication and professionalism of our reservists, Key Spouses, and volunteers and all we were able to accomplish as a team in 2012."

The center won the readiness award in 2008 and 2010.

"This is further evidence of the wonderful job the entire center staff and key spouse volunteers are doing in order to take care of our Airmen, sister service members and their families," said Lt. Col. Kelly Hosey, 439th Force Support Squadron operations officer.

Westover is among the Reserve component units listed below that will receive recognition March 1 at the 2012 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards presentation.

The Patriot Wing's family center was selected for their exemplary care of reserve families while maintaining outstanding unit readiness. The presentation will be held in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes, hosted by Richard O. Wightman, Jr., acting principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs).

Winning Units:

· U.S. Air Force Reserve - 439th Airlift Wing, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. 
· Army National Guard - 842nd Engineer Company, Spearfish, S.D.
· U.S. Army Reserve - Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 79th Sustainment Support Command, Los Alamitos, Calif.
· U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve - 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, 4th Marine Division, Pasadena, Calif.
· U.S. Navy Reserve - Navy Operational Support Center Tucson, Ariz..
· Air National Guard - 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Houston, Texas
· U.S. Coast Guard Reserve - Port Security Unit 305, Fort Eustis, Va

The Reserve Family Readiness Award recognizes one National Guard and Reserve unit from each of the seven Reserve components. The winners are those units with the best programs to support their families. Representatives from each of the winning units will receive a commemorative plaque and framed certificate from Mr. Wightman. Each unit will also receive a certificate and cash award from the Military Officers Association of America. The cash award is to be used to further enhance the unit's family support programs.

The DoD Reserve Family Readiness Awards Program was established in 2000 to recognize the top unit Family Readiness program in each of the Reserve components. Family readiness programs are particularly important as the United States relies on significant numbers of reservists to serve in critical locations worldwide. Family readiness has proven to be a key component of mission readiness. Robust Family Readiness Programs have enhanced the deployability of Guard and Reserve units and they represent a vital link in the support networks for reserve families.

Reserve pararescueman aims to climb Mt Everest

by By Tech. Sgt. Anna-Marie Wyant
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Staff Sgt. Nicholas Gibson has spent most of his life in Florida, one of the flattest states in the nation with its highest natural point reaching 345 feet -- the lowest high point of any state in the U.S. While he loves the sunshine state and calls it home, Gibson has always had a desire to reach higher ground.

As a teenager, Gibson said he began reading books about mountaineering, an activity he could only imagine doing at the time.

"I think you always want to dream about things that are out of the ordinary for you, so I always wanted to go to the mountains and explore something different," said Gibson, who has spent most of his life living near beaches.

Now a pararescueman with the 308th Rescue Squadron, part of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick, Gibson's former idea of something "different" has become almost ordinary for him. As a pararescueman, or PJ, it is part of Gibson's job to be skilled at mountain climbing, plus SCUBA diving, skydiving, and providing life-saving paramedic aid in any environment.

Aiming high

Gibson has always been someone who sets high standards and goals for himself. His next goal is the highest of them all -- 20,035 feet high to be exact. Gibson will be using his mountaineering and medical skills to climb Mt. Everest with a team of Airmen from various bases across the nation in May. The team, which consists of five active duty Air Force officers and Gibson, will attempt to summit the world's highest peak as part of the U.S. Air Force Seven Summits Challenge.

"The vision of our Challenge is for U.S. Air Force members to carry the American and USAF flags to the highest point on each continent, ending atop the highest point on Earth. In doing so, we will be the first team of active duty American military members to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and the first team of military service members from any nation to reach all of the famed seven summits," according to the USAF Seven Summits Challenge website.

Gibson has not participated in any of the previous climbs on each continent, which included Mt. Elbrus, Europe; Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa; Mt. Aconcagua, South America; Mt. McKinley, North America; Mt. Vinson, Antarctica; and Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia. The sum of summit altitudes is a whopping 104,367 feet. The final peak on Mt. Everest, Asia, is an extremely challenging climb for even the most experienced mountaineers. At this point, the highest summit Gibson has reached is approximately 14,500 feet.

"What I'm bringing to the table is not altitude experience; my background brings other things to the table," said Gibson, who is currently attending a master's program to become a physician assistant. "I feel comfortable in the mountains, and I feel good with my technical rescue work."

Gibson is a bit of an anomaly on the team that will be climbing Everest; he is the team's first and only Reservist and enlisted member, the oldest Airman in the group and only member with formal, high-level mountain medical training. Because of his medical background, he will serve as the team medic for the trip. Maj. Rob Marshall, USAF Seven Summits team lead, said the team is ever changing as due to members' deployments, temporary duty assignments, and other scheduling or funding conflicts. He said he is proud to have Gibson on the team for this final and most arduous challenge.

"As a PJ, (Gibson) knows how to tough through bad weather, rapidly changing conditions, and other obstacles and not give up," Marshall said. "His training makes him an asset."

Marshall said That Others May Live Foundation is working to raise funds to send three wounded warriors -- two PJs and one combat rescue officer -- to trek up to base camp with the Seven Summits team. He said the team plans to depart for the Everest base camp on April 1, and he hopes they will reach the summit by May 15. During that journey, Gibson will be one of the only first responders. There are medical personnel at base camp called "Everest ER", but Gibson will be addressing most of the team's medical issues, especially above the 17,600-foot base camp.

"PJs tend to be fit, outdoorsy, they excel in any environment, and they have that grit and determination," Marshall said. "(Gibson) has all of those traits, plus his (physician assistant) background. He's comfortable with hands-on medical, ropes, mountain rescue ... hopefully we don't need that but it's nice to have. We're glad he's on the team."

Discovering a new path

Gibson's medical background runs deeper than his PJ and physician assistant schooling; he comes from a family of healthcare professionals. Both his parents started out as active duty Air Force medical officers, switched to the Reserve, and practiced medicine as civilians. Also, Gibson's older sister recently completed her doctorate in physical therapy.

"I'm very proud of my parents, proud of what they did and the sacrifices they made," Gibson said. "It's a good feeling to carry on a family tradition like that."

Initially, however, Gibson wasn't particularly interested in medicine or the military.

"Actually I always said I would never go into the military," Gibson said. "At the time I wanted to forge my own path, and I did, and it led to the Air Force."

At one point he thought geology was his true calling, and he thought he might pursue a Ph.D. in it. While he was working on his undergraduate degree at Central Washington University, he had second thoughts about spending his life studying volcanoes. He had been following his dream of mountaineering in Washington and was a talented collegiate swimmer. He said he wanted to use those skills do something to help others, but he couldn't think of a career that would bring it all together. Thankfully, the old adage 'father knows best' rang true.

"My dad asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and I said I wanted to do something that has extreme training ... I wanted to use my abilities for something that helps people, that has an intensity to it, that few people can do. He said, 'sounds like you want to do pararescue.' It was hard for me to imagine my father could know from one conversation what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," Gibson recalled.

Answering the call

At the time his father first mentioned it, Gibson did not know much about what pararescue entailed and what PJs did. After doing some research, he became more interested in becoming a PJ, but it took a world-changing event to help him make his final decision. On Sept. 11, 2001, he made his decision.

"I was still going back and forth on joining (the Air Force), and then I just felt like when 9/11 happened, that was a call to our nation and I wanted to answer it," Gibson said.

After earning his bachelor's degree he answered that call, and he started the long road to becoming a PJ, a road that entailed approximately three years of training. After an initial assignment at Hurlburt Field, Florida, his second assignment brought him to one of the best places to learn new mountain skills -- Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska.

Although he did not realize it at the time, the search-and-rescue and mountain skills training Gibson did with his unit in Alaska -- specifically in the Alaska Range, home to Mt. McKinley, also called Denali -- would help prepare him for one of the most challenging tasks he will face: climbing Everest. Although he did not reach the summit of McKinley, Gibson is confident his training in the mountains of Alaska will serve him well as he makes his way up the highest peak in the world.

Raising awareness

Bring part of the first all-military team to summit Everest is a big deal, but Gibson remains modest and makes an effort to shift the focus away from himself. As a PJ -- and eventually physician assistant when he graduates in December -- Gibson strives to help others. This occasion is no different. Gibson sees his upcoming adventure as a once in a lifetime opportunity, but he is not doing it for fame or accolades; he sees it as a means to raise awareness about medical problems plaguing his brothers and sisters at arms, especially after deployments.

"We lost more veterans and military members to suicide than we lost in Afghanistan last year," Gibson said. "We are fighting battles still back here whether that war is still going on or not."

Gibson said as he started to become aware of veterans healthcare issues -- specifically severe depression, post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and suicide ideation -- he wanted to make a difference and make others aware of the problems that need to be addressed in order to effectively help veterans facing these issues. As a PJ, Gibson is trained to treat life-threatening physical injuries. Oftentimes, many emotional or mental wounds are left undiscovered and untreated.

"We're rescuing people, but we, as a nation, have to follow through," Gibson said. "We still have a lot of work to do helping guys deal with what they've had to see, deal with or experience ... having the civilian practitioners recognize these problems and know where they're coming from, know the kinds of questions to ask and know the kind of help is extremely important."

That others may live

Gibson said his Reserve unit, university, friends and family have been very supportive of his goal. He said he is still raising funds for his journey and has been very appreciative of the donations he has received. He plans to spend some time training in Colorado and New Mexico to prepare him for his voyage up the world's highest peak.

As Gibson climbs Everest, he will not be thinking about seeing his picture in the newspaper. He will not be thinking about getting his name engraved on a plaque. He will be focusing on keeping himself and his teammates safe during the journey, and even as he descends from the highest point on the planet, he will continue to aim high in all he does. In both his military and civilian careers, he lives true to the pararescue motto and continue to do the things he must do, that others may live.

Maintainers earn additional black-letter accolades

by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A designation that rarely happens during the lifetime of an airframe is occurring regularly at the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing. As of February 2013 there have been 15 instances of a black-letter designation since June 2011 for nine different aircraft. A black-letter on the inspection form means the aircraft has zero discrepancies.

"It's exciting," said Master Sgt. Vic Cowan, dedicated crew chief for aircraft 323. "Kudos to the team, because it is a total team effort. If you get one [black-letter] in a lifetime you are doing something."

Along with "323", "322" and "324" were also designated black-letter aircraft Feb. 5.

"It's easy to take this kind of an achievement for granted here within the 302 Airlift Wing, as it has become almost common place," said Col. James Van Housen, 302nd Maintenance Group commander. "But in reality, a perfect, discrepancy-free aircraft is an extreme rarity in the Air Force. It's a major accomplishment and something to celebrate. Before coming here, I'd never heard of a black-letter aircraft. I'm amazed at what we've been able to achieve."

According to Van Housen, before June 2011, it had been 30 years since the 302nd AW had seen a black letter aircraft. And the recent success is even more impressive because many of the airframes are nearly 20 years old.

"There's no one secret to generating aircraft with no discrepancies. It's all attitude and desire. Every maintainer, and every aircrew member, both Reserve and Active Duty, all take pride in our fleet of outstanding aircraft. We want everyone around the world to know that the "CR" on our tails is short for InCRedible," said Van Housen.

27 SOCES named Outstanding Civil Engineer Unit

by Senior Airman Alexxis Pons Abascal
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- The 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron was presented with the Air Force's Outstanding Civil Engineer Unit Award at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Feb. 11.

Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Byers, Air Force Civil Engineer, and Chief Master Sgt. Jerry Lewis, AFCE chief of enlisted matters, ventured to the 27th Special Operations Wing to hand-deliver the award to Cannon's stellar Air Commandos.

The 27th SOCES is credited with executing the largest military contracting program for 2012, estimated at $1.29 billion. Cannon's civil engineers maintain and repair more than 2,000 facilities and roughly 92,000 acres of land -- a whopping $2.9 billion worth of infrastructure.

"Since the beginning of 2012, the 27th SOCES completed 61 construction and renovation projects using in-house military and Department of Defense civilian labor," said Lt. Col. Anthony Figiera, 27th SOCES commander. "The projects, totaling $2.28 million, provided critical skills to our military workforce -- skills they can use when they deploy overseas to support special operations missions. By completing the projects with in-house labor, the base saved approximately $600,000 in taxpayer dollars over the cost of having completing with a contract."

Col. Buck Elton, 27th SOW commander, tasked the 27th SOCES with one of the largest morale projects in 2012 -- the reconstruction of Liberty Pool. The $4.5 million dollar tasking was accomplished 90 days ahead of schedule.

In addition to the pool, engineers worked diligently in 2012 to revamp Cannon's aging fitness center, which included designing and constructing Air Force Special Operations Command's first combat fitness facility. The 27th SOCES was awarded $1.3 million and completed repairs three months ahead of schedule, keeping Air Commandos fit to fight.

"Maj. Gen. Byers and Chief Lewis were impressed with their visit to Cannon," Figiera added. "Chief Lewis explained to the 27th SOCES team that he'd join us at Cannon in a heartbeat. He went on to say we have a great mission, motivated team and great leadership. His final words for the team were to keep up the great work."

AF releases criteria for new combat medal

2/22/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials released nomination criteria for the new Distinguished Warfare Medal Feb. 15, following defense officials' announcement of the new decoration days prior.

The DWM will be awarded to honor individuals for single acts of extraordinary achievement, not involving acts of valor, that directly impact combat or other military operations approved by the secretary of defense.

Unlike other combat-related medals, service members may be awarded the DWM for actions completed from either in or outside an actual combat zone.

The action must include hands-on employment of a weapons system, including remotely controlled assets, or any other activity, in any domain, that had a direct and immediate on-site effect on an engagement or operation against a target.

The domain is expansive in scope and includes air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace, according to Air Force Personnel Center guidance.

"In modern warfare, one individual can have a truly 'extraordinary' impact on combat operations, whether they are located on the front lines, elsewhere in the (area of responsibility) or half way around the world," said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "DOD has authorized the DWM, allowing the services to recognize their members, in our case Airmen, whose single act of extraordinary achievement directly and significantly impacts critical combat operations."

Though involvement in a combat operation is required, the medal will not be awarded for acts of valor under any circumstances. Actions involving valor should be considered for other decorations.

Valor is defined as "an act or acts of heroism by an individual above what is normally expected while engaged in direct combat with an enemy with exposure to enemy hostilities and personal risk," said Senior Master Sgt. Diana Gonzalez, the AFPC awards and recognition chief.

The criteria needed to be considered for the medal requires that the extraordinary achievement must result in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from comrades or others in similar situations. The approval chain sets the bar high as to what meets the criteria.

"The approval level (service secretary), in our case the Secretary of the Air Force, testifies to the importance of this award and the importance of the action on combat operations," Jones said.

For Airmen, the final approval authority for the medal is the secretary of the Air Force. One step of the approval chain rests with the commander of air forces in the respective area of responsibility.

For an Airman nominated for action taken from outside the combat zone, the commander of Air Force forces will verify the direct impact of the action on the combat operation.

The DWM will immediately follow the Distinguished Flying Cross in order of precedence. Enlisted Airmen who earn the medal will receive five promotion points.

Eligibility for the medal is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001.

Nominations for currently-serving Airmen will be processed through their respective chain of command.

"Former Airmen who have since retired or separated can contact us for information on how to submit the medal request," Gonzalez said. "The medal can also be presented posthumously, so family members can query us as well."

For more information and full eligibility criteria, go to the myPers website at and enter "DWM" in the search window.

Face of Defense: Sergeant Continues Harmonious Tradition

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Eckhardt
375th Air Mobility Wing

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Feb. 22, 2013 – Nearly a quarter century after he accepted his father’s invitation to join him in his barbershop quartet, Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Martin continues to uphold the family tradition that began with his grandfather.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Martin, far right, sings with the “Sounds of Harmony” barbershop quartet, Feb. 14, 2013, near St. Louis. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Martin was 10 years old when his father asked him to join the group. "It's a family thing," he said. "I wouldn't be singing if it wasn't for my father."

Barbershop music is sung in four-part harmony with no instrumental accompaniment. Martin sang with his father for 10 years, even while he attended community college. After two years of college, he said, he decided to join the Air Force.

After arriving here in 2002, Martin joined a local group called the "Sounds of Harmony." The group has 30 to 35 active members who range in age from 25 to 75, and its musical repertoire includes a variety of songs from the 1920s, 1930s, 1950s and 1960s.

"My dad used to be stationed here, and he sang with a guy in the chorus, so he called the guy and said, 'Hey, my son's going to be stationed there. Could you show him all the choruses around?'" Martin said.

To satisfy his dream of singing competitively, Martin said, he sang with the "Ambassadors of Harmony" from St. Charles, Mo., in 2004.

"I got to compete in an international competition and won a gold medal," he said. "My father was there when I won. It made the moment more special to me."

Even though his group sings older songs, Martin said, he enjoys a variety of music.

"It's interesting, because I have the barbershop stuff, which is an older style, but then I listen to a lot of more current bands, like Motorhead," he said.

Martin said he keeps singing purely for the passion for it.

"It's all about dedication and a love for singing," he said. "If you come into this loving to sing, then you really don't need anything else."

Support Veteran Status for Air America Personnel

The Secretary of the Air Force has accepted an application from the Air America Association for veteran status for those employees working in Laos from 1959 to 1974

Under the provisions of Section 401, 95 and DoD Directive 1000.20, the Department of Defense Civilian/Military Service Review Board has accepted an application on behalf of a group known as: “U.S. and Foreign Employees of Air America, Inc. who operated fixed wing or helicopter aircraft in support of U.S. Army Special Forces in Laos as part of Operation Hot Foot and Operation White Star from 1959-1963; and the U.S. and Foreign Employees of Air America, Inc., who operated fixed wing and helicopter aircraft in direct support of the U.S. Air Force operating in Laos in the Steve Canyon Program (Ravens), SAR and direct support for the Site 85 operation, High Altitude Relay Project (HARP), Photo Reconnaissance collaboration with 7th/13th Air Force and CIA, and with the Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations for U.S. Military flight crews from 1964 through 1974, who were necessary to support those missions and held supervisory positions.”

We Need Your Support

Persons with information or documentation pertinent to the determination of whether the service of this group should be considered active military service to the Armed Forces of the United States are encouraged to submit such information or documentation within 60 days to the DoD Civilian/Military Service Review Board, 1500 West Perimeter Road, Suite 3700 Joint Base Andrews NAF, MD 20762-7002. Direct contact can be accomplished through Mr. Bruce T. Brown, Executive Secretary, DoD C/MSRB, at 240-612-5364, Copies of documents or other materials submitted cannot be returned.

Information about Air America can be found on our web site The Association encourages members and the public in general to support this endeavor to the fullest extent possible. Air America was a government owned corporation that performed military duties in Laos that included search and rescue of downed military aviators. Many employees were wounded and killed in action performing services for the U.S. government. For the most part recognition would provide an intangible benefit at very little cost to the public and with minor expense to the VA since most employees were former military personnel. Recognition would correct the record of accomplishment to a unique group that deserve more than what they have been characterized by movie spoofs and erroneous information.

Further information about Air America can be obtained by contacting the current Air
America Association president Bob Noble at

Air Force 'grease monkey' is also jumpmaster

by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton
JBER Public Affairs

2/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- On any given day, more than 100 Army airborne paratrooperss may be lined up in the back of a C-17 Globemaster III awaiting a final safety inspection before being cleared to exit the aircraft toward a drop zone thousands of feet below.

The important job of ensuring the safety, proficiency and qualifications of all military parachutists exiting belongs to jumpmasters.

The jumpmaster is a position which usually brings to mind Army paratroopers or
Air Force tactical air control party members, but rarely the image of an Air Force mechanic.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Windle, a vehicle and vehicular equipment specialist with the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, has the unique experience of being both an Air Force vehicle mechanic and a jumpmaster.

"I had always wanted to do the pararescue, combat controller, TACP thing, but I had bad hearing," Windle said. "So it was kind of luck as well that I got this job. I had to get a waiver, and it took a while to get that."

Windle, a veteran parachutist since 2008 who has performed more 50 jumps, is still able to recall his first jump.

"It was easy, it was with my supervisor and he was doing his jumpmaster upgrade, so it was pretty much he and I," Windle said.

For Windle, one aspect of jumping never changes.

"Even now, I mean I have 50 jumps, but I always have that little bit of nervousness and ask what I forgot," Windle said. "Especially now as a jumpmaster, because [I'm] responsible for those five, six, or ten Airmen."

Usually on Army posts, the vehicle maintenance jump position Windle fills is intended to help maintain the mechanical needs for the respective brigades by providing on ground support.

"As a vehicle mechanic, we are supposed to deploy in the contingency environment as a whole package," Windle said. "Like when [we] went to Iraq or Afghanistan, they usually took every body, so they would have a base for what to do."

With encouragement and support of his leadership and the perseverance to continue after failing the jumpmaster school the first time, Windle began the process to turn standard parachutist position into something more.

"I failed it the first time, because I just couldn't get the Jumpmaster Parachutist Inspection portion," Windle said. "But the second time I went, I tested out the first day."
The JMPI is the process in which the jumpmaster ensures the parachutist is rigged up properly and there are deficiencies in the chute itself before the jump.

As jumpmaster, Windle's job begins when the jump is scheduled.

"I'm coordinating with the air crew and going to briefings making sure that  they understand what our training objectives are and making sure we can work with them on theirs," Windle said. "Then I'm scheduling all the support we need, medical and all the additional support we need on the DZ."

The jumpmaster also helps coordinate the prejump, which is hosted up to a day before the actual jump.

During the pre-jump, the jumpers are briefed on everything from reviewing a mockup to discussing the safety and emergency procedures.

On the day of the jump, the jumpmaster inspects the aircraft checking to make sure the cable and seating are set up correctly.

They also inspect the floor of the aircraft, checking to make sure no obstructions exist and the aircrew has all of their gear strapped down.

The process for Windle is a very meticulous and exciting process.

"The excitement's there because I'm a vehicle mechanic doing this and the responsibility of being about to put a couple of people out of a plane," he said.
"If they exit and they get away from the aircraft fine, OK, good, but there is always that doubt of 'what if the chute wasn't rigged right.'

"There is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders and that's what's awesome about it," Windle continued. "I like the 'here's your responsibility, you get these ten guys out.'"

Airmen demonstrate evacuation capabilities

by Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 374th Airlift Wing continued training during a readiness week Feb. 22, 2013, with a simulated U.S. Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in the Taiyo Community Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The exercise scenario required Yokota to provide a temporary in-transit staging area for simulated evacuees until flights were made available to safely deliver them from the Pacific theater to the U.S.

"This facility (Taiyo Community Center) is designed to be our reception center should the Department of State to issue an order for people to evacuate," said Steven Mayfield, NEO reception center director. "People come in and our job is to receive them, safe guard them and make them as comfortable as possible while they are awaiting follow-on transportation to a destination (typically the States)"

Upon arriving at Yokota, simulated evacuees were transported to the Taiyo where they were welcomed and briefed by Mayfield. He told them about the exercise situation, informed them of the accommodations provided and answered any questions or concerns.

Airman & Family Readiness center staff, along with members throughout the 374th Force Support Squadron and base augmentees, ensured people were comfortable during their stay.

"We have a NEO augmentation team of 24 dedicated individuals from squadrons throughout the wing. Some of them who are new to the process were trained last week and this exercise gave them a great opportunity to put that training to the test while familiarizing themselves with the process," Mayfield added.

All simulated evacuees filed through a registration line that offered hands-on assistance from base organizations such as finance, personnel and the Red Cross. Food, water and shelter were also provided.

Staff Sgt. Alicia Davis, an evacuee role player, was part of the simulated NEO and processed through the registration line.

"Everyone was friendly and effective," Davis said. "It was fast and they got us from point A to point B in a timely manner. If a real-world situation ever required the same response, I feel like Yokota would handle the situation well."

Command Post tests Yokota's recall ability during Readiness Week

by 1st Lt. Christopher Love
374th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The sun was still hours away from rising when Senior Airmen Jesus Calderon, 374th Airlift Wing Command Post emergency action controller and Tucson, Arizona native, picked up the phone and began to dial.

A minute later, he was talking with Yokota's wing commander, a man responsible for maintaining the 12,000-person installation which serves as the sole U.S. airlift hub in the Western Pacific. The command post had received an urgent message, Calderon said; the boss would need to come review it--and soon.

So began day two of Yokota's readiness week, a nine-day stretch from Feb. 21 - March 1, 2013, designed to test the wing's ability to respond to the unexpected in its ongoing task of providing professional airlift while defending and maintaining "the best wing in the Pacific."

This particular event simulated a classified message coming down from a higher headquarters off base, prompting wing leadership to initiate an early-morning recall, confer and determine the base's defensive posture.

"We will be the first to know," said Senior Master Sgt. Donald Hoobler, 374 AW/CP superintendent, regarding urgent messages coming from off base.

"From that point, we take the commander's direction and funnel it up--all the way to the president, if needed," he said. During Hoobler's 21-year career, this has happened more than once.

As the information node not only for the 374 AW but also for 5th Air Force, Yokota's CP is responsible for relaying urgent messages across Japan.

"We have a big responsibility," said Maj. Ricardo Lopez, 374 AW/CP chief, "but our Airmen handle it with professionalism."

For Calderon, who had the task of notifying the wing's senior leader of the incoming message, this wasn't his first significant challenge. While recently deployed to Kyrgyztan, he helped run the command post during a drawdown of 33 thousand U.S. forces from the region, he said.

The job entailed "flight following" every inbound and outbound aircraft and responding to alerts, all on top of his normal duties as an emergency action controller. "We kept busy," Calderon said.

Tech. Sgt. Kinnard Woods, 374 AW/CP non-commissioned officer in charge of console operations and manager for the morning's recall, spoke highly of the Airman under his watch.

"Calderon has good experience and can anticipate," he said.

"Such experience and anticipation are a boon to any command post," said Hoobler, "where timeliness and smart decision making are key."