Monday, May 06, 2013

Going for the Gold

by Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
175th Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2013 - BALTIMORE -- On July 5, 2011 Senior Airman Gideon L. Connelly, repair and reclamation crew chief, 175th Maintenance Squadron, was involved in a motorcycle accident in Baltimore County with serious damage to his left leg. The doctors told the Maryland Air National Guardsman if he kept his leg, it would leave him with limitations to what he could do. However, if the leg was replaced with prosthesis, his abilities would significantly increase.

On Sept. 16, 2011 Connelly chose to have the leg removed below the knee.

"(When the accident happened) I was upset. I didn't think I would be able to return to work. I didn't understand how it would affect my life. I was scared," said Connelly. His friends were scared but supportive. "They didn't know how to help. My family stuck by my side and is very supportive."

Connelly started a rehabilitation process to walk, and then run with the goal of staying in the military.

Around Thanksgiving 2011 he started walking and progressed to running October 2012.

Running means a lot to him. "I want to inspire people. It is a great opportunity. I am blessed to come back and do what I can do now after a horrific accident," said Connelly.

Before the accident he lifted a lot of weights and did some distance running for physical training, now he runs sprint races.

Connelly competed in the Texas Regional Games (Paralympic games that are used for qualifying for the national events) April 13-14, 2013. He competed in the men's t44 (below the knee amputation) 100m and 200m races, receiving two gold medals. His 100m time qualified him for the Paralympic Nationals in San Antonio, Texas June 14-16. He will however, compete in the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma June 6-9 to make a second attempt at qualifying in the 200m for the Paralympic Nationals.

"My goal for now is to make the nationals. In the time frame I have I will probably not win nationals. I am a beginner at running and at this point I do what I can do," said Connelly. His goal is to win nationals in a future year with ultimate goal of the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"I would like to stay in the military and compete for the Air Force team. I would like to work down at Walter Reed as a physical therapist," he said. Most wounded military members with amputations go to Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md. to receive and learn how to use their prosthesis.

To stay in the military "I had to do a PT test and prove to medical that I can do my job without assistance. The worst part was the paperwork. I had to prove myself to the base medical review board," said Connelly. He next step is to be medically worldwide deployable.

Lt. Col. Tom Donnellan, deputy commander, 175th Maintenance Group, talked about Connelly's progress to stay in the military. "He has to do what all Airmen would do to stay in the military."

"I couldn't imagine waking up one morning missing a limb. He has been able to overcome it. The military has seen a lot of this," said Donnellan. "Losing your limb affects your whole life. He was in good physical shape to begin with. He had the mental capability to deal with the accident. He trained to do his job with his limitations."

"He is a young troop and no one wants this to happen. He is squared away and knows what he needs to do to stay in the game," he said.

He is also participating in a study by the University of Florida on prosthesis. The study helps develop the devices not only for him but also for others who need the devices.

He is testing three mechanical feet. They put him on an obstacle course that the Tampa police SWAT uses which includes walking/running on treadmills. The performance of the foot is then evaluated under these conditions. During these tests, his vital signs are monitored to see how his body works with the devices. "The study is to see how the different feet perform in stress related conditions," said Connelly.

Donnellan likes that Connelly working to improve prosthesis that both civilians and military members may use in the future. "I hope by working the kinks out of the new prosthesis, it will benefit him and others."

Although Connelly has received support from a lot of people, one person stands out -Tech. Sgt. Kandyce O'Meally.

"I saw him walking around with a prosthetic leg and I didn't know who he was. I approached him and asked him if I could ask him a few questions. We started talking and I discovered he was into track. I learned he wanted to go to Rio in 2016 - the Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil," said O'Meally. She is a maintenance management data analyst in the 135th Maintenance Operation Flight.

"I asked how he was going to do it and what his plans were. In the conversation, I let him know I had some contacts in the track world from when I trained during college," she said. She got him in contact with someone on the Paralympic committee.

"She helps me out at times when I need it. I have a lot of paperwork to fill out and she helps me out with that. She is a great person. She helps me out when I am down. She gives me motivation. She is a great hearted person," said Connelly.

"I see a hard working kid. I see a kid with a lot of motivation and drive. He is never down. Life dealt him a hand, not a bad hand, not a good hand. Just a hand and he plays it well," said O'Meally.

"I think she has been very beneficial to him. She has given him the backup, support and guidance to get where he is today," said Donnellan.

Donnellan summed up Connelly's potential, "It's whatever he wants to make of it. He is on the right track. He can go as far as he wants to."

Connelly has good advice for anyone who has lost a limb. "Keep your head up. Don't let anything discourage you. It is a mind over body experience. If you keep your head in the right place you can do anything you want."

2013 Warrior Games: the power of ability over disability

by Capt Tamara Fischer Carter
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

5/6/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- The 2013 Warrior Games start May 11 in Colorado Springs, Colo., and run through May 16. The games showcase the resilient spirit of today's wounded, ill, or injured service members from all branches of the military. After overcoming significant injuries, these men and women demonstrate the power of ability over disability and the spirit of competition.

"The Warrior Games help get competitors back into the public's eye with a positive spin -- it highlights a Warrior's selflessness," said Major Scott Bullis, a Warrior Games coach and competitor.

Bullis is currently the Chief of Officer Development assigned to Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colo. He has been with the Warrior Games since it began in 2010. This will be his fourth year as the recumbent cycling coach and his second year competing in rifle shooting.

"Physical versus invisible wounds -- the disability is irrelevant. It's the service to our country that matters," said Bullis.

Warrior Games allows warriors to see past their circumstances, get involved and become active with likeminded competitors. It also allows them to draw on their similarities and establish support networks, not just for the games, but for life.

Since 2010, 260 wounded, ill, or injured service members and Veterans have competed annually at the Warrior Games, a unique partnership between the Department of Defense and U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympics Military Program. Athletes compete in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, track & field, archery & competitive shooting. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the athletes or team members who place 1st, 2nd and 3rd in their events.

As a coach, Bullis emphasizes making social and physical improvements over bringing home a medal. "I don't care about the medals," he said. "If you're here to participate just to win, that's the wrong focus. It doesn't matter if you bring something back around your neck -- it's going out and training that counts." He continued, "It's all about getting out and [Warriors] proving to themselves they can do it."

Lightheartedly though, he talked about the friendly competition that builds healthy, healing relationships. About his fellow competitor, Chief (retired) Damian Orslene, he said, "I can beat him, and he can beat me....but no one else can beat us." This respected friendly rivalry is a part of the experience of building lifelong friendships and teammates, he said.

"By nature, just like the name, Warriors are extremely competitive. They get up, work their butt off and that gets them out doing things," Bullis said. "We've seen dramatic improvements in our Warriors." He stresses that communication and support are key.

"You never know what people can do until they get out of the chair and do it," said Bullis.

The focus of Warrior Games is different for everyone. Bullis says, "just getting out; changing that focus of what a Warrior perceives as problems" is the key. This year, Bullis's goals are "seeing all cyclists finish...that is what I want. Seeing everyone come together, new competitors and old, and no one getting hurt."

Bullis stays motivated and keeps others motivated through a deep passion just to ride. "It's painful to see my bike sitting in the garage," he says, remembering Colorado's cold weather.

He also recalls that "in past years, Warriors struggled with limited support. It shows in their performance. The support that we're building with each other, the local community and AFSPC is amazing. It helps with healing."

He says that seeing supporters in the stands makes a huge difference in performance; "It's nice to see a friendly face cheering you on."

It's not about self-glory. "The Warrior Games is about putting yourself aside and cheering each other on. That's exactly how we do it in the military," said Bullis.

He says since his Traumatic Brain Injury as the result of a rocket propelled grenade impact on a vehicle he was driving in Kabul, Afghanistan, 13 Sep 2011, his perspective has changed on a lot of things, "It's made me a better coach because now I understand that sometimes I need to explain things differently for others to understand."

"Not all Warriors are combat wounded; some are ill and injured," said Bullis. "We're just real people...with real injuries."

The 2013 Warrior Games is presented by Deloitte and is free and open to the public. The opening and closing ceremonies are by invitation only.

Team McChord responds to Antarctica medevac

by Airman 1st Class Jacob Jimenez
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/6/2013 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings completed a winter emergency medical evacuation mission in Antarctica April 22.

In a matter of 60 hours after leaving McChord Field, the team successfully transported a patient requiring urgent medical attention from the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Lt. Col. Brent Keenan, 62nd Operations Group deputy commander and 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander, received a request from NSF April 16 and immediately assembled a team to take on the mission.

"A C-17 team composed of active duty and Reserve members from multiple units and locations, dropped everything they were doing, integrated a solid team, and rapidly deployed to the most isolated and remote location on the planet in the world's most extreme operating conditions," said Keenan.

The 62nd and 446th AWs are the only U.S. Air Force C-17 wings uniquely equipped to conduct missions to Antarctica. Annually, they support Operation Deep Freeze, which provides logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program. It is one of the most difficult U.S. military peacetime missions due to the rapid weather changes, relentless wind speeds and inhospitable conditions. ODF is usually only conducted each year from August to March.

Since the ODF season is over, the runways at McMurdo had been closed, therefore the team had to wait until one was re-opened.

The ground staff employed by Lockheed-Martin/ASC, NSF Colorado-based support contractor, rapidly prepared to receive the aircraft.

"What we thought was going to take them nine days, they got done in two and a half," said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, 97th Airlift Squadron resource manager. "The people down at McMurdo Station were able to get the runway fixed far beyond what we needed, which was good in the end. As soon as we found out that things were getting better, we put a sense of urgency in it."

McChord Airmen flew from JBLM to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where they picked up aeromedical evacuation members and critical care air transport teams. After refueling, they immediately left for Christchurch.

"We landed at Christchurch and everything there was ready to go," said Masura. "That gave us enough time to get everybody trained, get a plan together and get ready to fly the following day."

The rescue team landed in McMurdo the morning of April 22. It only took 35 minutes after the C-17 landed to pick up the patient and takeoff.

"This team did an outstanding job overcoming the obstacles of distance, extreme weather and operational limitations," said Keenan. "This mission was the perfect example of air mobility and global reach at its finest. I am very proud to be part of the Operation Deep Freeze program. Being able to rapidly respond to NSF's urgent call is a great feeling."

NSF has a presidential mandate to manage the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), through which it coordinates all U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent and aboard vessels in the Southern Ocean and provides the logistical support to make possible the research.

ODF includes the coordination of strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical intra-theater airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements supporting the NSF.

(Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle, 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)

FOD, the elusive enemy of aircraft

by Airman 1st Class Kaleb Snay
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/6/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Airmen from the 35th Fighter Wing worked together to search maintenance areas, runways and taxiways to locate and remove debris that could potentially cause damage to aircraft here May 6.

The main purpose of conducting a Foreign Object Damage walk is to help prevent damage to aircraft, increase awareness and education of how critical the FOD program is and maintain combat capability and stray from expensive repair bills.

"FOD can cost the Air Force millions of dollars," said Master Sgt. Nathan Welchert, 35th Fighter Wing FOD Monitor. "To help avoid damage to aircraft, all Airmen who work on or around aircraft are taught from the very beginning of their career to be on the lookout for FOD."

FOD is classified as any object ranging from bolts and screws to rocks, paper, plastic and plants, Welchert added.

FOD is a hazard for any aircraft and other precision equipment. Suction caused by the air intake of jet engines can pull objects into the aircraft intake, damaging the engine.

"Education is the number one effort in reducing FOD," said Welchert. "The more people that don't allow anything that has a potential to cause damage to our weapons systems, the better. It truly is every Airman's responsibility to prevent FOD, even those that don't directly work on or around the airfield."

Other defenses against FOD are metal detectors, vacuum machines and a sweeper machine constructed from multiple rows of brushes and scoops, known as the FOD Boss. Even with these defenses standing guard, Airmen are the first line of defense against all FOD.

Members mourn after fatal MC-12 crash

by Darren D. Heusel
Tinker Public Affairs

5/6/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Members at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., went about their business with a heavy heart this week, following the news that one of their own died Saturday in a plane crash in southern Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, 30, a sensor operator assigned to the 552nd Operations Support Squadron, died along with three other Airmen when the MC-12 aircraft they were flying in went down near Kandahar Airfield. The cause of the crash is under investigation, but officials say there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.

"Staff Sergeant Fannin was a truly outstanding Airman who made a significant impact in both the 552nd OSS and the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron," Col. Greg Guillot, 552nd Air Control Wing commander, wrote in an email to members of the wing following the accident. "From his time in both (the E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft) and the MC-12, we knew Dan as a dedicated professional who always had a smile on his face and never missed an opportunity to step up to get the job done."

Guillot went on to say in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the MC-12 program in 2011, Fannin was nominated for the Collier Trophy, which is an annual aviation award administered by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association and presented to those who have made "the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America."

"As a friend and longtime member of the 552nd ACW, Dan's death hits home for many of us," Guillot added. "As we grieve his loss, please remember we have a comprehensive support network available to assist any co-workers, families or friends, who may need assistance during this difficult time.

"On behalf of the entire 552nd Air Control Wing family, I want to express our condolences and deepest sympathy to the Fannin family and the families of the other three Airmen who were lost in this tragic accident."

Fannin, originally from Morehead, Ky., joined the Air Force on Aug. 28, 2001 after graduating high school there.

During Fannin's 11 years of service, he has served as an E-3 air surveillance technician as well as a MC-12 sensor operator. While in Afghanistan, Fannin was assigned to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as a member of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Air Base.

"We never like to lose a brother or sister, and that's what Sergeant Fannin was to the men and women of the 552nd Operations Group," said Lt. Col. Joshua Conine, 552nd OSS commander. "However, we have faith knowing he was the best at what he did. He will be sorely missed as a friend and squadron mate."

Fannin was qualified as an instructor air surveillance technician and was an experienced instructor in the E-3. Prior to his most recent operations assignment, Fannin served with distinction in the 960th AACS at Tinker.

Fannin completed three deployed tours as an E-3 AWACS air surveillance technician and MC-12 sensor operator. He was well known and respected throughout the 552nd Air Control Wing.

Among his many awards were the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster.

He is survived by his wife, Sonya, of Oklahoma City. The couple has no children.

"From my personal interactions with Sergeant Fannin over the past 11 years, he was extremely proud to serve his country and went about his tasks each day with the utmost regard for excellence," Conine said.

Guillot urged anyone needing assistance, or who knows someone who may need assistance, to contact their immediate supervisor or a Tinker chaplain.

Others killed in the crash were: Capt. Brandon L. Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Va.; Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii; and Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif.

The MC-12 is a medium- to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Its primary mission is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to support ground forces.

The mission of the 552nd OSS is to prepare and provide training, resources and support functions to the 552nd Operations Group through integrated combat focus to execute 24/7 airborne battle management/command and control when called upon by combatant commanders.

Funeral services are pending.

DOD Report on China Details Military Modernization

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2013 – A Defense Department report released today describes China’s military modernization and the Chinese army’s interaction with other forces, including those of the United States, a senior Pentagon official said today.

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David F. Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, briefs reporters about the military and security developments involving China during a news conference at the Pentagon, May 6, 2013. DOD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The annual report -- titled “2013 Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” -- went to Congress today and covers China’s security and military strategies; developments in China’s military doctrine, force structure and advanced technologies; the security situation in the Taiwan strait; U.S.–China military-to-military contacts and the U.S. strategy for such engagement; and the nature of China’s cyber activities directed against the Defense Department.
David F. Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, briefed Pentagon reporters on the report. He noted that the report, which DOD coordinates with other agencies, “reflects broadly the views held across the United States government.” The report is factual and not speculative, he noted.

Helvey said the trends in this year’s report show the rising power increasing its rapid military modernization program. “We see a good deal of continuity in terms of the modernization priorities,” Helvey noted, despite the 2012 and 2013 turnover to new leadership, which happens roughly every decade in China.

The report notes China launched its first aircraft carrier in 2012 and is sustaining investments in advanced short- and medium-range conventional ballistic missiles, land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, counter-space weapons and military cyberspace systems.

Helvey noted these technologies all bolster China’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
“The issue here is not one particular weapons system,” he said. “It's the integration and overlapping nature of these weapons systems into a regime that can potentially impede or restrict free military operations in the Western Pacific. So that's something that we monitor and are concerned about.”

Helvey said the report provides a lot of information, but also raises some questions. “What concerns me is the extent to which China’s military modernization occurs in the absence of the kind of openness and transparency that others are certainly asking of China,” he added.

That lack of transparency, he noted, has effects on the security calculations of others in the region. “And so it's that uncertainty, I think, that's of greater concern,” he said.

Helvey added the report noted China has “increased assertiveness with respect to its maritime territorial claims” over the past year. China disputes sovereignty with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, and has other territorial disputes with regional neighbors in the South China Sea.

“With respect to these claims, we encourage all parties to the different disputes or interactions to address their issues peacefully, through diplomatic channels in a manner consistent with international law,” he said.

Helvey noted China’s relations with Taiwan have been consistent. “Over the past year, cross-strait relations have improved,” he said. “However, China's military buildup shows no signs of slowing.”

China also is building its space and cyberspace capabilities, Helvey said. He noted that in 2012, China conducted 18 space launches and expanded its space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, meteorological and communication satellite constellations.

“At the same time, China continues to invest in a multidimensional program to deny others access to and use of space,” Helvey said.

Addressing China’s cyber capabilities, Helvey said the Chinese army continues to develop doctrine, training and exercises that emphasize information technology and operations.

“In addition, in 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the United States government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to [Chinese] government and military organizations,” he added.

Helvey noted a positive trend in U.S.-China engagements over the year, including several senior-leader visits culminating in then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s visit to Beijing in September.

The two sides also explored practical areas of cooperation, he said, including the first counterpiracy exercise conducted in September by Chinese and U.S. forces, followed by the U.S. invitation to China to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2014.

“We'll continue to use military engagement with China as one of several means to expand areas where we can cooperate, discuss, frankly, our differences, and demonstrate the United States' commitment to the security of the Asia-Pacific region,” Helvey said.

California Air National Guard Battles Raging Wildfires

From a National Guard Bureau News Release

PORT HUENEME, Calif., May 6, 2013 – The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing is providing two specialized firefighting C-130J aircraft and crews to assist with wildfires raging across the state.

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A C-130J from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing is prepared for possible use against wildfires. The aircraft from the California Air National Guard is equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, or MAFFS, and can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Acting on a request for support from state emergency agencies, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. directed Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California’s adjutant general, to provide the support.

Baldwin also authorized air tanker base operations to be staged out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Station here, where the C-130Js are stationed, allowing shorter response times for all civilian and military aircraft working the fires in Ventura County. The air tankers will land and reload with fire retardant at the Guard station, which is within five miles of the fires.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection members are working with Air National Guard airmen to get the tanker operations up and running.

"Wildfire season is upon us, and our Guardsmen are in the fight," Baldwin said. "When the lives and property of our fellow Californians hang in the balance, our tireless training and coordination with [the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection] pay great dividends."

The 146th Airlift Wing has responded to numerous state and federal firefighting missions in the past, but this is the first time the wing's flightline will be used as a tanker base.

"California is no stranger to wildfires," said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "Our well-exercised and long-standing relationship with the California National Guard allows for rapid, effective deployment of these additional resources during times of elevated fire activity."

The California Air National Guard's C-130J aircraft are equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System II, which is capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant. The system slides into the back of an aircraft, and water or retardant is released through a nozzle on the rear left side of the plane.
MAFFS equipment and aircraft are activated to supplement U.S. Forest Service and civilian air tankers during periods of high wildfire activity throughout the nation.

"The activation of California Air National Guard aircraft equipped with MAFFS strengthens our firefighting arsenal as needed and is a timely addition to current resources considering the extended heat and wind conditions we anticipate through the weekend," said Mark Ghilarducci, secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for overall coordination of the state's response to major emergencies.

Kerry, Hagel Discuss National Security in Pentagon Meeting

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosted Secretary of State John F. Kerry at the Pentagon today for a working lunch to discuss a range of national security issues, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

This was the first meeting of the two secretaries at the Pentagon since they both took their respective offices earlier this year, Little said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Hagel presented Kerry with a print of a painting from the Navy's art collection titled "Showing the Flag in Ca Mau (PT-71)" by Gerland Merfeld, Little said. “Mr. Merfeld made this painting in 1969 while an embedded illustrator with the U.S. Navy,” he added. “It depicts two Navy patrol craft boats on the Mekong River delta in the far south of Vietnam.”

Hagel presented the painting to remember and honor Kerry's service to the Defense Department of Defense and the nation, Little said, noting that this is the first time that both the sitting secretary of state and secretary of defense are Vietnam War combat veterans.

The original painting is part of the Navy’s permanent collection. It is on exhibition at the Navy Museum here and will be transferred to the State Department for viewing throughout Kerry's tenure, Little said.

Hagel was grateful to receive a signed photograph from Kerry taken during their February 2008 congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan along with Vice President Joe Biden, who then was a U.S. senator, he added.