Friday, March 01, 2013

Air Force Reservist selected for Tops in Blue

920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

3/1/2013 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- Air Force Reservist Tech. Sgt. Altrameise Myers, 920th Rescue Wing, information management craftsman, has been selected as a Tops in Blue cast member.

Similar to the realty television show, American Idol, Tops in Blue's sets out to find the most talented vocalists, musicians and dancers in the U.S. Air Force whose primary purpose is to entertain military personnel and their families throughout the world, even those deployed to combat. The group has appeared on national television with such legends as Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, Alabama, Barbara Mandrell, BOYZ II MEN, Lee Greenwood, and many others.

Myers is one of a few reservists who have ever made the team, which is composed of 35 to 40 active duty men and women who have been selected from a worldwide talent search pool of the most talented Airmen vocalists, musicians, dancers and technicians in the Air Force.

Myers will now travel to San Antonio where she will train with other cast members on all aspects of the show. Members are not only performers but also stage hands, they must set up and breakdown the stages for each show, pack and load the equipment.

Myers will join world-class entertainers and distinguished Air Force Ambassadors during the 2013, 10-month worldwide tour.

Myers audition journey can be read here.

Fort Gordon to Host Former Commander

General McKnight to address Non-Coms

The general officer who once commanded Fort Gordon , an important Signal Corps center, and who went on to command the entire U.S. Army Signal Corps, retired Lt. General Clarence McKnight will return  to Fort Gordon, the week of March 4, to address the non-commissioned officers at the Sergeant Major Academy.

McKnight has an appreciation for non-commissioned officers. He demonstrated that in his recently published book From Pigeons to Tweets with a dedication “to the sergeants and warrant officers of the Signal Corps who always find a way to get it done.”

And getting it done was also the hallmark of the career that took McKnight from a typical average American home in Memphis to the U.S. Military Academy on the banks of the Hudson to the Pentagon near the banks of the Potomac. Along the way, he picked up  numerous awards from West Point for his work in the military taking the Army Signal Corps from a situation in the Korean War where pigeons were the back-up to radio communications to “Operation Desert Strom” where he led the  implementation of the first-ever computer directed warfare.

U.S. Army recognition did not stop with retirement. He recently received recognition as an Army War College Distinguished Alumnus for his work in education following his retirement from the military. He is presently chairman of the Board of Directors at Community Learning and Information Network

His address to the non-commissioned officers of Fort Gordon who always found a way to get things done, will be the continuity of dedication in and after the military.

Contact: Don Bracken,, 845-398-8161

Face of Defense: Marine Biologist Oversees Civil Works Projects

By Isodro Reyna
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District

GALVESTON, Texas, March 1, 2013 – Managing federally funded civil works projects through feasibility studies and construction requires leadership -- a skill U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District project manager Sharon Tirpak hones while guiding multidisciplinary teams through complex projects that energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.

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Army Corps of Engineers project manager Sharon Tirpak manages federally-funded civil works projects for the Galveston District in Texas through feasibility studies and construction. Tirpak employs her leadership skills as she guides multidisciplinary teams through complex projects that energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo

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A marine biologist by trade, Tirpak left the world of research to put her people and leaderships skills to use directing Corps projects such as the Freeport Harbor and Texas City Channel deep-draft navigation projects, Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay Storm Damage Reduction Study, and Clear Creek Flood Risk Management Project.
“I lead teams of engineers, biologists, economists and project sponsors through civil works projects that contribute to the economic well-being of the nation,” Tirpak said. “It is a leadership role with many responsibilities and challenges and requires knowledge of Corps processes, with the biggest challenge keeping the projects on schedule and within budget.”

A 19-year veteran of the Corps, Tirpak has served in a variety of roles within the district including lead planner and regulatory project manager.

“I actually chose marine biology as my field of study while in college and worked as a fishery biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service for 14 years,” she said. “However, arriving at the Corps, I realized this was one of the best professional moves I could have made. I am much better at working and interacting with people than I was doing research, and I’m thankful to my fellow co-workers who taught me all about dredging and engineering.”

According to Tirpak, being a project manager is never dull because there is always something that has to be taken care of.

“I like ‘putting out the fires,’ as it makes each day go by fast,” Tirpak said. “I also like the interaction with the project delivery teams and sponsors and the learning aspect.

“Working on my projects always affords me the opportunity to learn something new,” she added.
One of Tirpak’s most fascinating projects to date was the deepening of the Texas City Channel, which included the removal of Civil War-era artifacts from the busy waterway.

“Working with the archeologists that helped bring up the remains of the USS Westfield from the Texas City Ship Channel is probably the most interesting assignment I’ve worked on,” she said. “The Galveston District orchestrated an archaeological recovery of artifacts from the Civil War era shipwreck, which included the removal of 10,000-pound Dahlgren cannon in 2009.”

The recovery was part of a larger $71 million project completed in 2011 to deepen the Texas City Ship Channel from 40 feet to 45 feet to allow larger vessels to navigate the channel to transport commodities to various industries.

“By completing some of the long-term studies and positioning those projects for potential authorization and funding, or by completing a construction project such as the Texas City Channel Project, I believe my work with the Galveston District is leaving a lasting impact on the nation,” Tirpak said. “I’m proud to say I helped make that happen.”

Tirpak received numerous awards, including the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service, the USACE Galveston Regulatory Customer Service Award, Regulator of the Year, several Department of the Army Achievement Medals and Commander’s Awards for Civilian Service for her work on various projects.

A 1980 graduate of the University of New England and a 2005 graduate of the Army Management Staff College, Tirpak also is a certified scuba diver who enjoys seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers win. She also helps with her son’s scouting and band activities and is involved in her local community.

Pentagon Lifts F-35 Grounding Following Inspections

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2013 – The Defense Department lifted its grounding of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jet after analysis concluded that a cracked turbine blade in an engine on a single plane resulted from overuse in test operations, according to an official with the F-35 Joint Program Office.
In an email statement, the official, Kyra Hawn, said engineers have so far discovered no other cracks in inspections of the other engines, and no engine redesign was needed.

“This decision concludes a cautionary flight suspension that began on Feb. 21 after a 0.6-inch crack was found on a third stage turbine blade of a test aircraft at the Edwards Air Force Base, [Calif.,] F-35 Integrated Test Facility during a routine inspection,” Hawn said.

The blade also underwent comprehensive tests at the Pratt and Whitney facility in Middletown, Conn., she added.

The engine in question, she explained, is part of the F-35 test aircraft fleet and had been operated for extended time in the high-temperature environment in its mission to expand the F-35 flight envelope.
“Prolonged exposure to high levels of heat and other operational stressors on this specific engine were determined to be the cause of the crack,” Hawn said.

Within the current DOD inventory, 17 F-35s are employed in test and development at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., and Edwards Air Force Base. The remaining aircraft are assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., and comprise the initial F-35 training fleet.

8th SFS named PACAF Outstanding Security Forces Unit

by Staff Sgt. Tong Duong
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/1/2013 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- -- The 8th Security Forces Squadron was selected as Pacific Air Force's 2012 Outstanding Large Security Forces Unit award winner Feb. 21, 2013.

Each year, security forces squadrons around PACAF vie for the distinguished position by submitting awards packages highlighting all the events taking place in their units for the year prior.

"A lot of the achievements I think led to the award were our coordination with the Republic of Korea army and air force, and their Korean Military Police," said Lt. Col. Nathan Schalles, 8th SFS commander. "Also the efforts our Airmen took in securing aircraft crash sites and maintaining law and order here on base directly reflected that."

According to Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Vallery, 8th Security Forces Squadron manager, although this functional award has been around for more than 20 years, the large-unit award was claimed by the 8th SFS for the first time in recent years and is something they are all excited about.

"We are a large security forces squadron, but on the lower end of being qualified as large," Vallery said. "We have less than 300 personnel, as compared to one of our competitors, Osan AB, Republic of Korea, which has more than 400 members in their squadron. It is a heck of a competition when compared to many of our larger competitors, it's outstanding."

For Schalles, the constant change in manpower where members are assigned here for only a year, makes qualifying for the award challenging.

"I was extremely excited for the unit, they've worked hard and done excellent jobs with a unit that has such a high turnover, it's easy to miss a lot of the information and not capture some of it," he said. "With a lot of the great stuff they have done, it is great to recognize their hard work and it hasn't gone unnoticed."

With several units within PACAF much larger than Kunsan's SFS, to win at that level is very rewarding, the commander noted.

"It's the direct reflection of our Airmen, NCOs and officers we have here and the achievements they've accomplished," Schalles said. "We have some outstanding Airmen who have won numerous awards that individually stand out which (in turn) reflects the level of Airmen we have."

Arlington Museum Showcases Military Women’s Contributions

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., March 1, 2013 – A living legacy to women who served in all branches of the U.S. military honors their service and sacrifice inside the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Donated World War II mementoes, uniforms and recruitment posters on display at the Women's Memorial museum at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., March 1, 2013. DOD photo by Terri Moon Cronk

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The museum in the memorial depicts the “duty, honor and pride” of the 2 million women who served to defend the United States, from the beginning of the Revolutionary War through today’s war in Afghanistan.
Situated at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery here, the $22 million memorial offers a grand welcome to the sacred military burial grounds with its neoclassical architecture.

Following 11 years of construction, the museum was dedicated on Oct, 18, 1997, after the Women's Memorial Foundation spearheaded the effort to educate the public and honor women who defended the nation during all eras and in all services.

The museum’s “living” exhibits depict the past, present and future of military women on active duty, in the reserves, the National Guard and U.S. Public Health Service, in addition to the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Civil Air Patrol.

Additionally, the women who served in support of U.S. armed forces during wartime overseas in such organizations as the Red Cross, United Service Organizations, Special Services and the PHS Cadet Nurse Corps have a place of honor in the museum.

The Women’s Memorial is the only national museum of its kind, according to The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation Inc. website. Its staff collects, preserves, documents and analyzes the history of women’s military service by gathering official and personal records, oral histories, photographs and memorabilia for its exhibits.

“Although women have always volunteered in defense of our nation, many of their contributions have been forgotten and are not recorded in today’s history books,” the website notes.

A signature feature of the museum is the Register, a computerized database of information on about 3,500 former military and current active-duty women who voluntarily registered. Each entry shows the service woman’s picture, dates of service, awards received, key memories of her service and other statistics.

The foundation registry invites veterans, active-duty, National Guard and Reserve servicewomen to register. Cadet nurses and service organization employees who served overseas during a war also are eligible to register.

The museum’s Hall of Honor pays tribute to fallen servicewomen in a somber room amid flags of U.S. states, territories and the military services. A small exhibit displays two books of female casualties while serving in the line of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The hall also honors women who served with “ … particular sacrifice and achievement. Honored are those who were killed in action, died in the line of duty, were prisoners of war or were recipients of the nation’s highest awards for service and bravery,” a description reads. A marble “Sister Block,” taken from the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, stands formidably tall and wide, nearly ceiling-high in the room.

The glass-enclosed exhibits in the museum’s main section vary by era, and among them are reminders of today’s wars; one depicting “The War on Terror,” and another displaying service uniforms worn in Iraq and Afghanistan with the backdrop of a flag that reads, “We Remember 9/11.”

Exhibits titled, “Serving in the Military, from 1901 to 1945” and another “Since 1946,” comprise the work of early servicewomen. The exhibits include World War II dog tags, identification cards, worn photos and service manuals titled, “If You Should be Captured, These are Your Rights,” and “Survival on Land and Sea.”

A citation for a Bronze Star medal, awarded to Della Polacek, reads, “In support of combat operations against the enemy in Manila, the Philippines,” for her service from April to July 1945.
Today, “The Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans are in their 80s and 90s, and the museum offers a multitude of World War II-era artifacts from 1941 to 1945 in exhibits titled, “Overseas in the Military,” “POWs Under Fire,” and “The War Ends.”

A huge wall visual tribute, “The Greatest Generation” displays life-like, hand-painted portraits, taken from old black-and-white photographs. Men also are depicted in this display -- the only mention of male service members in the museum.

“The Forgotten War,” exhibit covers women who served during the 1950-53 Korean War. “The Era of Conflict -- the Vietnam War,” tells the story of Army, Navy and Air Force nurses who comprised 80 to 90 percent of U.S. military women in Vietnam working on the ground, at sea and on evacuation flights, from 1964 to 1973.

March 4 will mark the opening of "Celebrating 40 Years of Women Chaplains: A Courageous Journey of Faith and Service." The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation Inc. website says the exhibit “tells the story of the scores of women, beginning in 1973, who answered God’s call to minister to the nation’s military members and their families in times of war and peace.”

Of all the meticulously planned exhibits and tributes, however, one extemporaneous display features a painting on an easel of Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Clements, who left the military on a medical retirement following a roadside-bomb explosion in Iraq that left her with such severe traumatic brain injury that she had to learn to walk and talk again. Behind her painting is a large wall, filled with hundreds of notes to her, written by visitors.

Resident artist Chris Demarest said it started with a single drawing by a 6-year-old child. One week later, he said, the wall was filled with notes left by visitors, thanking Clements for her service. He calls it “The Wall of Thanks.”

Bronze Star recipient: No matter the job, it is important

by Staff Sgt. Clinton Atkins
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

3/1/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Bronze Star, Army Combat Action Badge, contracting officer; three things the average service member probably hasn't seen in the same sentence, but those three things are true about a particular member of Air Education and Training Command.

A conference room filled with family, friends and co-workers honored the achievements of Capt. Collin Christopherson, who humbly accepted the awards presented by AETC Commander Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., Feb. 27.

"I've had the honor of officiating a number of ceremonies in this room and I don't think we've ever had a larger crowd so I think it's really indicative of the work he's done and what he's meant to all of us here," said Rice, during the ceremony.

After the Bronze Star and Army Combat Action Badge were presented the crowd erupted with applause, which was followed by an emotional acceptance speech.

"Each one of you played an important part in my preparation," said Christopherson, to the crowd. "If it was warrior ethos, if it was how to effectively negotiate with a contractor, if it was me being able to call you, Colonel Bailey, at 1 a.m. Afghan time ... a lot of people in this room had a lot to do with everything I was able to do."

For six months, Christopherson managed $133 million dollars and 11 contracting professionals who provided construction and services support for the 173D Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Forward Operating Base Shank in a mountainous region of Southeast Afghanistan. Christopherson was deputy chief for Regional Contracting Center Shank, Central Command Joint Theater Support Contracting Command.

During his stay, the base was attacked many times by indirect mortar fire, and rocket fire and even a vehicle-borne IED that breached the FOB perimeter.

"In fighting season, there were days when we wore our gear all day long and couldn't get off the ground or out of the ditch or out of the bunker back to the office to even start working before the sky would start falling in on us again and we'd just catch rockets," he said.

Christopherson experienced many harrowing moments during his deployment, but rather than coming back defeated he came back reinvigorated. He was on the frontlines on the combat operations in Afghanistan and saw firsthand the immediate impact his team's contracting support had on the war-fighting efforts.

Oftentimes, contracting appears to be further back on the chain, but that's just not true, he said.

"I left more charged up about the Air Force and about Air Force Contracting after living in tents and using (portable toilets) with the Army for six months and allowing them to take the fight to the bad guys," said Christopherson.

Also during the deployment, he witnessed how the Air Force delivers Airpower and came away with a better understanding Air Force support functions play a vital role in carrying operational missions.

"The Air Force has a place in the fight and each one of you has a place in putting that Air Force there," said Christopherson. "Don't underestimate what you do.

"Understand that you are in a direct line that can be followed to that E-4 that's taking the fight to them, because that is really happening and you are involved in that," he said.