Military News

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Pilot For a Day: Damon Hall-Kaneakua

by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis E. Keith
PACAF HQ Public Affairs

5/9/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- A 16-year-old boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy "deployed" across the island of Oahu last Friday to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as part of the Air Force "Pilot for a Day" program.

Damon Hall-Kaneakua, his mother, grandparents, three sisters and brother, were guests of the 15th Wing, who devoted the morning to them and their interest in aviation.

The tour started with Damon and his family boarding a KC-135 Stratotanker where a boom operator with the 96th Air Refueling Squadron explained how the jet engines are started with bleed air from the auxiliary power unit.

"We get air from the APU; then we'll open the starter valves on the engine and it will start turning the turbines. We'll add fuel to it and it lights off and starts up," said Airman 1st Class Kenneth D. Stricker.

"Can I listen to the jet engine?" asked Damon. Stricker said that unfortunately they weren't able to do that, but if Damon listened to any jet aircraft taking off from the airport, it would sound the same.

The next stop was the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. A loadmaster with 535th AS, Senior Airman Alek Joga, flipped the rollers on the cargo floor to show Damon how they make it a flat floor for vehicles and other rolling stock to be loaded.

Damon said his favorite thing about the aircraft was that it could carry trucks.

Even though Damon was not able to board the C-17 and sit in the cockpit, there were no worries because the next stop was the C-17 simulator where the training system project officer, Ronald H. Cressman, helped Damon take off and fly the simulated plane over his house in Kaneohe.

This was a wish come true, said Damon's grandmother. She said she was in awe of the different squadrons and activities that were planned for the family.

In addition to the aircraft and simulator tours, a survival evasion resistance escape specialist from the 15th Operations Support Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Sergio Avalos, Jr., demonstrated survival gear and gave Damon a small survival kit.

Tech. Sgt. Daniel R. Hinojosa, non-commissioned officer in charge of aircrew flight equipment with the 15th OSS, fitted Damon with night vision goggles and turned out the lights so Damon could experience how aircrew see at night.

"He's into things mechanical. I think if he could, he'd fly," said Damon's mother.

Last but not least, was a visit to the explosive ordnance disposal truck. Tech. Sgt. Sean H. Rabourn, an EOD technician with the 647th Civil Engineer Squadron, showed Damon how to drive the robot.

After crushing soda cans with the robot, Damon asked if he could maneuver the robot into the building. Rabourn helped him with the controls while Damon's younger sister worked the intercom commanding those inside to open the door for the robot.

Rabourn said it was a "blast" to be able to help Damon have the same fun the EOD techs get to have every day.

Damon's mother, whose three brothers had multiple sclerosis, said she hadn't seen Damon light up like that in a long time.

The coordinator of the 15th Wing's Pilot for a Day program, Capt. Rush H. Taylor, said he was honored to help coordinate the family's visit to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Taylor, who is the chief of wing training and a C-17 instructor pilot for the 15th Operations Squadron, said "You realize how much it means to the family--to Damon, to his mom, to his grandparents, to his brothers and sisters--to get to come out here and see what we do every day."

U.S., Canadian Officials Celebrate NORAD’s 55th Anniversary

By Special to American Forces Press Service
North American Aerospace Defense Command

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., May 9, 2013 – North American Aerospace Defense Command celebrated its 55th anniversary in its headquarters here today. NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that provides maritime warning, aerospace warning and aerospace control for Canada and the United States.

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North American Aerospace Defense Command leadership and members of the Canadian government cut the NORAD 55th anniversary cake during a ceremony at the command's headquarters here May 9, 2013, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher

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The celebration featured brief remarks by Army Gen. Chuck Jacoby, commander of both NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, and James Bezan, chairman of Canada’s Standing Committee on National Defence. “What a testament to two great nations deciding together to go after common security issues in a unified manner as an example to our people and really an example to the world,” Jacoby said to the gathering of NORAD personnel. “It’s quite remarkable, quite a special relationship. And at the heart and soul of it are all of you who work so hard together, shoulder to shoulder, and the complete trust and confidence in each other and how we do business.”
Bezan said NORAD’s successes over the last 55 years can be attributed to the servicemembers and civilians who work in the commands.

“This anniversary is an occasion to reflect on the history of the command and to recognize its evolution in response to new and changing threats and emerging technologies,” said Bezan. “The success of NORAD is directly attributable to the thousands of American and Canadian men and women who have dedicated themselves to the defense of North America over the last 55 years. On this day, we celebrate not only the anniversary of this historic agreement, but the work that you all do each and every day.”

The ceremony included a traditional cake cutting ceremony carried out by Jacoby, Bezan, Canadian Lt. Gen. Alain Parent, NORAD Deputy Commander, Jack Harris, vice chair of the Canadian committee and Marcy Grossman, Consul General of Canada, in Denver.  NORAD personnel and members of the Canadian Parliament Standing Committee on National Defence were also on hand for the event.

Although not at the ceremony, Peter MacKay, Canadian Minister of National Defence released a statement congratulating NORAD on its anniversary and highlighting the important role it plays in the defense of both nations.

“In the future, NORAD will continue to play an important role in the defense of North America, adapting to new challenges and acting as a clear deterrent to any aggressor,” MacKay said. “Despite 55 years of successful operation, NORAD continuously seeks innovative ways to better protect Canadians and Americans.”

The United States and Canada signed the agreement creating NORAD on May 12, 1958.  That agreement was last updated in 2006 when the maritime warning mission was added to the command’s responsibilities. The command has three subordinate regional headquarters: the Alaskan NORAD Region at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; the Canadian NORAD Region at Canadian Armed Forces Base Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Continental NORAD Region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

NATO Delegation Visits New Mexico Facilities

By Sheryl Hingorani
Sandia National Laboratories

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., May 9, 2013 – A group of NATO officials are learning about  work being done to support the extended nuclear deterrence mission and broader national security programs, ranging from homeland security to global nonproliferation efforts, during a three-day visit to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

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Members of a NATO delegation pose for a photo during a visit tp Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Sandia National Laboratories photo by Randy Montoya

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The group is touring Sandia National Laboratories and other facilities on the base in a visit that began May 8 and ends tomorrow. It includes more than 50 representatives from 23 European countries, along with officials from the Departments of Defense and State, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and other U.S. government agencies.  The visitors are accompanied by Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, and by Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy.
The visit allows the delegation to see  the research and technology required to implement U.S. policies that support the NATO alliance.  The agenda for the visit includes an overview of national security and nuclear weapons programs at Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons enterprise, as well as mission briefings by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

Sandia President and Laboratories Director Paul Hommert presented an overview of the laboratories’ history from their beginnings in the Manhattan Project, which built the first atomic bombs during World War II, to the nuclear weapons manufacturing focus of the Z Division that gave birth to Sandia as a separate laboratory in 1949. Hommert outlined Sandia’s sole focus on nuclear weapons through the 1950s and its subsequent evolution into broader national security research, including energy and Department of Defense work outside the sphere of weapons.   He emphasized, however, that Sandia is focused on its core responsibility—nuclear weapons life extension programs.

“We are in full gear to execute this mission” with the NATO alliance in mind, Hommert said.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry welcomed the group May 8 at a working lunch at Sandia National Laboratories' International Programs Building. Berry told the delegates he considers the city “the cradle of defense” and cited Sandia’s “profound importance for our world and security for our all citizens.”

Sandia officials, supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Air Force, also demonstrated various capabilities associated with the labs' pivotal role in supporting the nation's nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation efforts. The delegates took a windshield tour of Sandia's large-scale experimental test areas, saw demonstrations of nuclear accident response equipment, and viewed exhibits related to both homeland and global security programs.  The Defense Threat Reduction Agency provided briefings on how they support nuclear surety and inspections, as well as the on-site inspection program activities which support treaty verification activities.

Five members of the delegation will participate in a national security speakers series panel tomorrow, which will be moderated by Bunn and will address U.S. allies' views of extended deterrence, the role of NATO member states in the nuclear deterrent, and arms control negotiations.

Race tests stamina, teamwork

by Cindy Dewey
Air Reserve Personnel Center Public Affairs

5/8/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Ten military, civilian and contractors from the Air Reserve Personnel Center here gave up one day of their relaxing weekend to participate in the Spartan Race at Fort Carson, May 4. A Spartan Race is a 5K obstacle course race designed to test resilience, stamina, quick decision making skills, and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity.

"It was the most fun and challenging time I had in a long time; definitely worth it," said Louis Deanda. "As team captain, the most rewarding part was seeing everyone work together as a team helping each other get through some really tough obstacles and seeing everyone on the team finish. I'm excited about next year's race and hope we get more participants to join the fun."

"The only thing I got to say is that it was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have done in my life!," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Carpenter. "I can honestly say there were times I wanted to quit but I just kept going!"

It seems the consensus of the team is that they can't wait until next year. The next competition is May 3, 2014

Ruck march tests endurance

by Airman Megan Friedl
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

5/8/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Walking 13 miles carrying 45 pounds or more for most people may not be a very enjoyable time, but to some it can be a fun time to spend with friends or co-workers.

Saturday morning at the base parade field began the second annual Scott Bataan Death March Memorial Ruck Challenge.

Candidates who were interested in competing were eligible to compete in three categories. The categories were the different weights of 15, 25 or 40 pounds in their rucks. A few brave service members were even courageous enough to carry more than 100 pounds.

Senior Airman Rainel Manio, 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing, material management, the winner of the heavy weight category carrying 42 pounds won with a time of 2:42.

Manio, who weighs in only at 140 pounds, carried more than a fourth of his body weight on his back. He was very eager to finish strong.

"It was challenging, especially at the last two miles because I had a cramp then," said Manio. "However, I want to get into Special Operations, and I know they can't quit."

Master Sgt. Sloan Cox, 375th Security Forces Squadron, said, "This year it has greatly increased in participation and in contributions that were made. They started charging for registration and also encouraged competitors to carry non-perishable food items in their rucks and to donate them to the Fischer House after the competition."

Maj. Colin McClaskey, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and his team came out to finish the 13-mile course.

Scott team members and locals came to support the cause, but Whiteman Air Force Base team members also came to compete. "Three guys and a red head" from Whiteman ended up winning the gold for the medium size category.

Second place female finisher, Candi Miner, spouse of Lt. Col. Thomas Miner Jr., said she feels great to have finished as the second female.

She said she mainly came to support her husband, but also to challenge herself.

Tech. Sgt. Lee Phanda, 375th Security Forces Squadron, said, "It was a great way for Airmen to get involved and help out the Wounded Warrior Project, which benefits injured servicemembers."

Cadets give final presentation on aeromedical evacuation prototype

by Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

5/8/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Seven senior Air Force Academy cadets returned to Scott Air Force Base May 3 to meet with 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members to showcase their final patient loading prototype.

This presentation was a follow-up to the one they made January, where they showed seven potential prototypes that could improve how aeromedical evacuation teams transport patients into a high-deck aircraft.

"Based on the customer feedback from the January meeting, the team narrowed down their focus and worked on the evolution of the current Patient Loading System," said Daniel Jensen, the Academy's Department of Engineering Mechanics professor. "That involved analysis, prototyping and testing of the four enhanced features: castor system, cable and pulley system, the winch that pulls the cable and pulley, and gurney system."

Cadet 1st Class Jenna Whetsel said one key factor for the team was listening to the customer.

"The interaction was huge. Every time we talked, there was something new on the list of things they wanted," she said. "We had to be really flexible and continuously adapt and change our design to meet the customers' needs."

The idea of seeing their prototype coming to fruition was an exciting move from classroom theory to application.

"In the future, we have the potential to see our project out in the real Air Force--it's applicable to real life," said Whetsel. "That's really neat."

Maj. Samantha Treadwell, Air Mobility Command Medical Modernization officer in charge, said that when she was listening to the presentation, she looked for particular hazards.

"My main concerns when we put the patient on the PLS are is it going to be able to safely move the patient up and down the ramp without a lot of jarring, uncomfortable angles, or without the patient sliding off of it," she said. "My other concern is for the people who will be going up and down the ramp with the patient. There should be no tripping or falling hazards, and that the people are able to operate the brake system easily."

Treadwell said she likes the improvements.

"I think the prototype the cadets presented provides safer transport for the patients, as well as the people doing the lifting." Treadwell said. "It's simplistic in design so that someone can build it. It would be easy enough for us to take it with us and use it without having additional personnel who have to be specially trained to operate the system."

After the presentation, 375th AES members were encouraged to stay behind and provide feedback to the cadets.

"I'm hoping that from the feedback we receive today, AMC will have a definite way forward with the PLS and can actively pursue a final solution to this identified gap," Treadwell said.

Whetsel said the Academy team drew close while building the prototype.

"Our team got along really well and worked cohesively together," she said. "We had a good relationship outside of school, as well as inside the classroom, so that helped overall in our success."

Maj. Cody Rasmussen, the Academy's engineering mechanics department advisor said: "I thought the project was a fantastic experience for the cadets, especially since they got to work on a system that had the potential to go into the field. It is fairly uncommon for our Capstone teams to have such a connection to the users. That is great for their experience as engineers and future officers."

Memorial miles: Langley Airmen run for the fallen

by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/9/2013 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.  -- A group of service members and supporters stand quietly around a tiny American flag. A voice breaks the silence, speaking the name of the fallen troop they all came out to honor.

Afterward, the group members salute the flag, wipe sweat from their brows and continue running along the noisy highway.

Service members and civilians from the Hampton Roads community participated in the Virginia "Run for the Fallen," a 230-mile run from Fort Story, Va., to Arlington National Cemetery. At each mile marker, runners placed a flag, paying homage to fallen service members from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Those remembered during this run hailed from local communities around their respective "hero markers." To ensure every service member was honored between Hampton and Yorktown, Va., Langley Air Force Base Airmen split into groups, each running a three-mile leg of the 15-mile stretch.

Master Sgt. Ed Dierkens, Air Combat Command logistics programs and integration superintendent, explained the impact the run had on him.

"I have 25 marathon medals, but this run means so much more than any accolade I'll ever receive." said Dierkens.

Dierkens jogged on the highway beyond his three-mile promise. Many service members followed suit, hoping to interact with family members stationed at the markers.

"Seeing the families and showing appreciation for their sacrifices makes the run meaningful," Dierkens said. "Being able to see them and honor their fallen service member... it is pretty amazing."

For Emily Prasnicki, the widow of Army 1st Lt. Chase Prasnicki, having other military members take time to pay respect to her husband meant more than she could put into words.

"Thank you all so much for coming out here today," said Prasnicki, blinking back tears. "I truly understand the sacrifice you are willing to make, and I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate and respect that promise."

Without the dedicated efforts of Master Sgt. Adam Gray, 27th Aircraft Maintenance Unit first sergeant, Prasnicki would have never been able to thank Langley's Airmen. Gray learned about the run a mere two weeks before the event, and organized Langley's support.

To Gray, his run signified more than just an opportunity to interact with other families. It meant honoring an old friend who had suffered her own loss - so Gray had a promise to keep.

"A friend of mine lost her husband a few years ago," he said. "She asked me 'Adam, will you run his mile?' Of course, I jumped on it."

Gray immediately began looking for a starting point, and soon discovered an event was already in the works.

"A Sailor down in Norfolk actually set up the event, and I caught wind of it," said Gray. "I thought it would be great to add our Airmen into the equation, so I hit the ground running."

Gray spoke to the Sailor, reserved a spot in the run near the Hampton area and gathered 20 Airmen to run the route.

Like Dierkens, Gray ran more than his three-mile stretch, continuing to represent Langley.

"I like to see the Air Force represented," he said. "With such a large military community around us, it's important the public knows we are here, and what better way to show them than by honoring our fellow service members?"

Next year, Gray hopes he can recruit more Airmen.

"I know a lot of people would have wanted to participate had we known about the event sooner, so I hope we can cover as much road as possible next year," Gray said. "After all, I know everyone will see these are the most rewarding miles anyone will ever run."

As cars moved past the procession of RVs, trucks and runners, the drivers seemed to separate from their own worries and slow down, sobered by the sight of families, service members and supporters standing quietly around those tiny American flags.

Officials Call for Continued Ballistic Missile Defense Modernization

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2013 – Senior defense officials underscored the importance of ballistic missile defense modernization efforts requested in the fiscal 2014 budget proposal during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

The budget requests $9.2 billion in fiscal 2014 and $45.7 billion over future years to develop and deploy missile defense capabilities.

Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told the panel these capabilities will both protect the U.S. homeland and strengthen regional missile defenses.
Navy Vice Adm. J.D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, joined Creedon during the afternoon hearing in citing disturbing trends in Iran, North Korea, Syria and elsewhere around the globe.

“The threat continues to grow as our potential adversaries are acquiring a greater number of ballistic missiles, increasing their range and making them more complex, survivable, reliable and accurate,” he reported. “The missile defense mission is becoming more challenging as potential adversaries incorporate [ballistic missile defense] countermeasures.”

The administration remains committed to developing proven and cost-effective missile defense capabilities through the phased advance approach to regional missile defense, Creedon noted in her written statement.

“This approach puts emphasis on a flexible military toolkit with forces that are mobile and scalable,” she said. As a result, “they underwrite deterrence in peacetime, but can be surged in crisis to meet defense requirements,” she said.

Creeden reported on progress on three policy priorities: sustaining a strong homeland defense, strengthening regional missile defense and fostering increased international cooperation and participation.

She emphasized the importance of continually improving the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system in place to protect the U.S. homeland against potential limited intercontinental ballistic missile attacks.

The budget request, she said, supports this effort as well as enhancement of ground-based interceptors and deployment improved sensors, she said. The proposal also includes funding to implement regional missile defense approaches that Creedon said will be tailored to the unique deterrence and defense requirements of Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions.
Missile defense, she noted, is an integral part of a comprehensive U.S. effort to strengthen regional deterrence, and plays a central role in DOD’s strategic guidance released in January 2012.

While promoting these efforts, the United States is striving to build stronger relationships with allies and partners to cooperatively address the ballistic missile threat, and to help build partner capacity to do so, she said.

Syring reported, for example, that the Missile Defense Agency “is engaged either bilaterally or multilaterally with nearly two dozen countries and international organizations,” including NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council. “We have made good progress in our work with our international partners, and I want to continue those important efforts,” he said.

“We have had some very significant successes over the last several years, … but we cannot afford to stand still,” echoed Creedon. “To the contrary, we need to reevaluate the threat continually and adapt as necessary.”

The fiscal 2014 budget request reflects DOD’s goals of retaining the flexibility to adjust and to enhance its defenses as the threat and technologies evolve, she said.

“Our most vital security commitments – the defense of the United States and the protection of our allies and partners and our forces around the world – demand nothing less,” she said.

Reservist leads combined ARM shop

by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group

5/8/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In an effort to become more efficient,  three F-22 squadrons here have morphed into a super squadron with a Air Force Reservist at the helm of the Aviation Resource Management shop.

Master Sgt. Kristel Strunk, 302nd Fighter Squadron, has the task of combining the 525th, 90th and 302nd FS ARM shops.

This will ensure policies and procedures are standardized to maintain combat mission ready status of the 73 active duty and reserve pilots assigned.

"The only time in the past that we have combined squadron ARM shops is during an exercise," said Strunk. "It's busy, but combining squadrons will allow the pilots to fly more successful training sorties together than they would if they were in separate squadrons."

As the ARM senior NCO, Strunk and the five Airmen are responsible for ensuring that the F-22 pilots are combat mission ready.

"We track training, flying hours and flying currencies among other things" said Senior Airmen Tyler Walter, 302nd FS apprentice. "We also show up about an hour before the pilots do to ensure that weather and NOTAMs are pulled up and coordinate with wing scheduling to get the airspace."

While the super squadron construct will realize efficiencies under the direction of one manager, a side benefit is the efficiency of one operations desk.

"One ops desk improves the relationship with other F-22 squadrons so that we can execute the mission more effectively," said Col. David Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group deputy group commander. "It will also allow the Airmen more time to focus on other tasks and additional training."

Fire Hits Home for California Air Guard Wing

146th Airlift Wing
PORT HUENEME, Calif., May 9, 2013 – When hot, dry, gusty winds from the east, known as Santa Ana winds, carried the sparks and embers of the Camarillo Springs wildfire dangerously close to homes and neighborhoods late last week, the California National Guard members who responded alongside fire personnel had a unique opportunity: to protect their own homes and communities.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Amy Zuniga of the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officer Dan Sendek coordinate movement and reloading of aircraft staging out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, Calif. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Carzis

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The 146th Airlift Wing, which is based here and flies C-130J aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems II, is called upon each year to fight fires across the United States. Last year the 146th and the Air Force’s three other MAFFS units dropped more than 2 million gallons of fire retardant on wildfires in eight states.
This year, the fire season kicked off early, and right in the 146th’s backyard, as the unit’s airmen were called upon May 3 to fight the flames in Ventura County.

In addition to requesting that two C-130J aircraft take to the skies, Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California’s adjutant general, authorized air tanker base operations to be staged out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Station here. This enabled shorter response times for the civilian and military aircraft working the fires, which were less than five miles from the base.

“Operationally, it’s the same,” 146th pilot Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan Allen said shortly after dropping retardant on Newbury Park, near the home where he grew up.

“We took an oath to serve because we want to help save Californians’ lives and property, and everyone deserves a quick reaction time,” he continued. “But it just hits home flying over your neighborhood that this is your house, or your friend’s house, or your family’s house. When it comes home, well, the anxiety level raises a little bit.”

The 146th Airlift Wing has responded to numerous state and federal firefighting missions in the past, but this is the first time the 146th’s flightline has been used as a tanker base. Staging operations at Channel Islands provided a huge advantage for the firefighters, said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Kelly, the wing’s vice commander.

“Aircraft were able to have a 12- to 17-minute turnaround time on fires that were within just a couple miles,” he said. “Previously, the nearest reload base would have been about a 30-minute flight away.”

Kelly is a Camarillo native and C-130J pilot whose home was within a few miles of the Camarillo Springs fire.

“This was definitely a different kind of fire for me,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Amy Zuniga of the 146th. While Zuniga was working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to set up tanker base operations at Channel Islands, her 23-month-old son and his baby sitter were fleeing Naval Air Station Point Mugu, which is next door to the 146th’s base.

“The focus was not only on preparing our tanker base; we were all worried about protecting our families and our own homes,” Zuniga said. “It was a little unnerving, but the baby sitter called and let me know that they were safe in Oxnard, far away from the fire.”

The MAFFS II is capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant at a time. The system slides into the back of an aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle located 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.

“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.”

Crew Chief's First Launch: 'Nervous and Excited, All At the Same Time'

by TSgt. Dan Heaton
127th Wing Public Affairs

5/8/2013 - SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- It was early evening on May 7, 2013. Just about 8:15 p.m. - that's 2015 for you military types. That's what time Airman 1st Class Jhontez Peoples had his name written in indelible ink in the ledger of freedom.

During routine night flying operations that evening, Peoples, a crew chief with the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, launched his first A-10 Thunderbolt II.

"I was nervous and excited, all at the same time," Peoples said, moments after the A-10 rolled out of the parking space and headed for the runway to take off.

A-10 operations at Selfridge have continued without interruption over the past year, despite some challenging times due to budget concerns which had Air Force leaders considering eliminating the A-10 squadron at Selfridge. That plan was later rejected, but it briefly impacted recruiting for the A-10 squadron and maintainers at Selfridge. Since that time, recruiting and retention levels have been returning to normal, with the arrival of Peoples and other new recruits across the 127th Operations Group, which flies the A-10s, and the 127th Maintenance Group, which keeps the Warthog - as the aircraft is also known - in flying condition.

Peoples said it took him a while to join the military, but now, about a year in, he's glad he did.

"Sept. 11 (2001), really made me want to join up," he said, standing on the flight line, the sound of jet noise in the background. "But, I was still 17 and to be honest, I didn't even really know how you went about joining the military.

"But now, I have a daughter, I have a son. I wanted a better life. So far, the Air Guard has been giving me that," Peoples said.

Peoples only returned home to southeast Michigan on May 1, after attending Basic Military Training and technical school to become a flight chief at bases in Texas and Arizona. After 30 days of "seasoning" training at Selfridge, he'll return to his status as a traditional member of the Air National Guard, serving one weekend per month and two weeks per year on active duty, though Peoples said he plans to volunteer for additional duty.

A full-time musician in his civilian life - he composes rock, rap and rhythm & blues music - Peoples said there's a lot to keep in mind while launching an A-10.

"It's easy to become overwhelmed, there's so much to know," he said. "The best advice I was given is to calm down, do the best you can and rely on your training."

And how did Peoples do on his first launch?

"He did great," said Master Sgt. Doug Cox, a crew chief with the 127 AMXS, who was supervising Peoples during the launch.

Cox estimated that he's trained about one new crew chief a year for each of the past 20 years.

"Before that, I was the new guy just starting out," Cox said.

To be a good crew chief, according to the master sergeant, an Airman needs to have good situational awareness or, as Cox puts it, "the ability to detect a problem as its happening or even before it happens."

"Airman Peoples has the right attitude and he's eager to learn. Those are the kind of people we want out here," Cox said.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is also home to units of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.

Ardent Sentry Preps Northcom, First Responders for Disasters

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2013 – A perfect storm of simulated disasters is slowly unfolding across the United States, as thousands of military and Defense Department members join their interagency partners in fine-tuning their disaster-response processes just ahead of the upcoming hurricane and wildfire seasons.
U.S. Northern Command has kicked off its annual Ardent Sentry exercise, with plans to introduce increasingly complex scenarios in the coming weeks, Joe Bonnet, the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northcom training and exercises director, told American Forces Press Service.

Ardent Sentry is one of the dual commands’ three “Tier 1” exercises, designed to train the command headquarters and its components for their mission of providing defense support of civil authorities, on request, Bonnet explained.

The scenarios challenge Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., the NORAD and Northcom commander, and his staffs to monitor disasters or potential disasters, anticipate requests for defense support that could augment civilian first responders and posture the military to move quickly when the taskings come down, he said.
“This is a really big exercise,” Bonnet said. “The NORAD and Northcom headquarters and components play, the National Guard plays, [U.S.] Strategic Command plays, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency plays.”

In addition, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate will lead FEMA’s response, which will include participants from the FBI, Coast Guard, Energy Department and other interagency partners, he said.

The exercise incorporates a command post exercise at the NORAD and Northcom headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and at its service component headquarters: U.S. Air Forces Northern at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; U.S. Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; U.S. Marine Forces Northern Command in New Orleans; and the newly established Navy North, part of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
Ardent Sentry 2013 also includes field training exercises that extend from the waters south of Alaska to the southern tip of Florida.

It kicked off May 6 with one of those first scenarios: a notional break-in at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., which compromised its nuclear weapons arsenal. The 341st Missile Wing, part of 20th Air Force, which serves as U.S. Strategic Command’s response task force, responded along with about 200 FBI agents to practice their procedures to recover and secure the stolen weapons, Bonnet said.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard was busy working with its Canadian counterparts, conducting a search-and-rescue exercise in the waters north of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The action will pick up next week, when the Northcom staff starts monitoring a notional tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea that continues to gain strength. Florida’s governor will ask the Defense Department to deploy a dual-status commander able to command both “Title 32” National Guard troops and “Title 10” active and reserve forces and a joint supporting element in the event they are needed. South Carolina’s civilian authorities soon will do the same as they begin their own internal hurricane preparedness procedures.
As FEMA readies to lead the responses and state governors mobilize their National Guards, Northcom will work with its interagency partners to prepare for a federal military response, if called to provide it, Bonnet said.

Northcom will coordinate with FEMA to pre-position equipment and resources where they are likely to be needed, and, if requested, to help to evacuate people from hospitals or nursing homes in low-lying areas or others who need help escaping the hurricane’s path. It also will line up dual-status commanders and their associated joint support elements so they are ready to move out on a moment’s notice.

Then, a succession of three notional hurricanes will strike. The first will remain offshore as it screams up the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The next, a Category 4 hurricane, will make landfall in Melbourne, Fla., cutting across the state toward the Gulf of Mexico before pummeling the Florida Panhandle. Just days later, a third hurricane will approach Melbourne, but will veer out to sea.

In addition to the anticipated flooding, power loss and related effects, the string of hurricanes will set off a chain reaction of other calamities, Bonnet said. A high-rise building will collapse and a train will derail in Jacksonville, Fla. A tornado in Gainesville, Fla., will disperse radiological elements. And in Tampa, a plane will hit a chemical factory.

In addition to an estimated 1,000 Florida and Georgia National Guardsmen and first responders from 53 Florida counties and their federal counterparts, Northcom will respond to requests for DOD support. A medical company deployed from Fort Bragg, N.C., and a reserve engineer company from Tennessee will work alongside their National Guard counterparts at the direction of the designated dual-status commander.
As if this won’t be enough to stress the staffs, a train will derail in the Rio Grande Valley. Army North will collaborate with Mexican authorities, with U.S. and Mexican responders providing support on their respective sides of the border.

Although Ardent Sentry is one of Northcom’s longest-running exercises, the scenarios become increasingly complex each year, Bonnet said.

Next year’s exercise, already in the planning stages, is expected to be the biggest ever. Bonnet envisions a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that strike without notice, initially in Anchorage, Alaska, then southerly along the Ring of Fire.

“This is going to be a West Coast, no-notice, major, complex catastrophe,” he said, accompanied by other fictional natural and manmade disasters that require military support.

Exercises such as Ardent Sentry are the key to ensuring the military has the procedures and decision-making processes in place to support civil authorities as needed, Bonnet said. He noted, for example, the vast difference in the military’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Hurricane Sandy last year.

“If you compare them, the difference is the exercise and training program,” he said. “It is really through exercising and training that you have built and nurtured those trusted partnerships that are vital to working effectively together in a crisis.”

And, “unless you work together before the crisis,” Bonnet added, “you don’t have an opportunity to build the relationships that allow you to do that.”

With hurricane season to kick off June 1 and wildfires expected to increase during the summer, Bonnet said, late spring is a perfect time to fine-tune these procedures.

“This is our mission rehearsal for the hurricane season,” he said, one that prepares DOD and its local, state and federal partners to respond together.

“These are really our trusted partners,” Bonnet said. “Exercising together ensures we have all dusted off our manuals and our playbooks and refined our procedures to make sure everybody is on the same wavelength and ready to work together as required as we go into the hurricane and wildfire seasons.”

Stratcom Chief: Minot AFB case shows integrity of nuclear enterprise

by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

5/9/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force's aggressive response when missile-launch crews at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., fell short of established standards during an inspection in March underscores the integrity of the nuclear weapons program, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command told Congress May 9.

"I do think they reacted very aggressively to the mistakes they saw," Gen. C. Robert Kehler told the House Armed Services Committee, adding that Air Force officials are working to deal not only with mistakes revealed during the inspection, but also the root causes.

"They don't accept those mistakes," Kehler said. "At some level, I think we what we are seeing here is a product of the increased scrutiny and the increased diligence that is going into these inspections, and the responses to them."

Kehler said he is delving into problems revealed at Minot AFB, but assured the panel that he remains confident in the nuclear weapons enterprise and the ability of the unit to conduct its mission.

The inspection involved crew members who man the underground launch control centers, typically junior officers, he reported. Based on the results, Air Force officials removed 17 officers from their duties associated with Minuteman missile operations.

As the overseer of the Defense Department's entire nuclear enterprise, Kehler told Congress he personally reviews all inspection results and has tasked his inspector general to look into the March inspection report and responses to it in collaboration with the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

"I will continue to watch this very carefully," he said. "I know the Air Force is digging into this very deliberately. But at this point, I remain confident in that unit's ability to perform its mission."

The general emphasized the stringent standards for these inspections.

"The nuclear-capable units have the highest standards," Kehler said, noting that he personally has undergone the demanding inspection procedures that generally consist of written tests and operations within simulators.

"They are extremely difficult (inspection procedures) and filled with scenarios that you typically would not see in the real world," he told the House panel.

Kehler said he actually would be concerned if every unit received a 100-percent passing grade during the inspections.

"It would suggest to me that they weren't being tough enough in inspections," he said.

As the review continues, Kehler told the panel, he remains confident in Minot AFB's nuclear operations.

"To date, I don't see any reason to have less than full confidence in this unit," he said. "I don't see anything that would cause me to lose confidence in the ability (of the) unit to perform the missions safely and effectively."

Nellis unit earns Grover Loening Trophy

by Maj. Jessica Martin
926th Group public affairs

5/9/2013 - LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The 78th Attack Squadron won the Air Force Reserve Command 2012 Grover Loening Trophy for outstanding flying operations.

The award is presented to the command's best flying unit, exclusive of combat rescue and special operations. The 78th ATKS was recognized for its support of the 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

"Our success was a direct result of the dedication and sacrifice of the warriors assigned to the 78th Attack Squadron and their families," said Lt. Col. Brent, 78th ATKS commander.

"Our Total Force Integration partnership with the 432nd Wing is a model for the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. Our success is a subset of the great work that is done by the combined Air Force team supporting the 432nd AEW," he said.

The 78th ATKS maintains highly experienced and skilled, combat-ready citizen Airmen conducting integrated and expeditionary combat operations in the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

During 2012, the 78th ATKS conducted crucial kinetic and intelligence gathering missions in multiple theaters of operation. Aircrews flew more than 9,900 combat support missions totaling 25,048 flying hours, while accounting for 10 percent of the regular Air Force flying of their Reserve Associate squadrons.

The unit distinguished itself by providing near real-time, full-motion video for accurate battle damage assessments which were vital in allowing rapid re-attacks to achieve decisive counterterrorism objectives.

Additionally, 78th ATKS personnel supported more than 800 major operations to eradicate insurgent forces in multiple theaters, and provided armed over-watch with persistent intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance for more than 70 coalition air strikes.

In October 2012, the 78th ATKS split to create the 91st Attack Squadron, a second AFRC remotely-piloted aircraft squadron here.

"I'm extremely proud of both units for all of their efforts," said. Col. John Breeden, 926th Group commander. "These warriors are truly deserving of this award."

The Grover Loening Trophy was first given in 1964 and is named after the noted aviation pioneer and first civilian member of the National Air and Space Museum's Advisory Board.

The 78th ATKS has a long history. It was first activated in 1918 as the 78th Aero Squadron at Waco Field, Texas, and stood up here under AFRC in 2006. The squadron has participated in all major combat operations from World War I to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Wife of Air Guardsman Selected as Military Spouse of 2013

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2013 – The wife of an Air National Guardsman who created support groups for military families and businesses has been selected as the 2013 Military Spouse of the Year.

Alicia Hinds-Ward, the spouse of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edwinston J. Ward of the 113th fighter wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., was chosen among more than 2,000 nominees and presented with the award today during a ceremony held at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va.

Hinds-Ward co-founded the Joint Base Andrews Business and Community Support Group that reaches out to military business owners, and she also started a spouse forum at the base to educate military families about benefits. She also has presented National Guard issues before Congress.

“What I hope to do within the next year is bring more attention to our National Guard families, our unique circumstances, our unique situations and actually have more attention paid to the plight of our families,” Hinds-Ward said in accepting her award.

She said the unusually heavy reliance on National Guard members during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took a toll on reserve component forces, noting she expects to use her new role to highlight how repeated deployments have placed stress on National Guard members and their families.

“The conflicts of the last 12 years have placed us in a position we have never been before,” Hinds-Ward said. “We were created to take care of the homefront; we take care of the world. However, our resources have not kept up with the demands placed on us.”

Hines-Ward also is the 2013 District of Columbia Spouse of the Year, and she has worked with the Wounded Warrior Program, and supports service members and family members in obtaining Social Security disability benefits.

The Military Spouse of the Year Award is presented by Military Spouse Magazine to honor the contributions of military spouses of all ranks and services. Candidates were selected through a combination of online voting and a panel of judges.

The service-level finalists for this year include:
-- Tara Crooks, spouse of Army Maj. Kevin Crooks, Fort Sill, Okla.;
-- Alisha Youch, spouse of Navy Cmdr. Daniel Youch, NSB Kings Bay, Ga.;
-- Karen Guenther, spouse of Marine Corps Col. Glen Guenther, MCB Quantico, Va.;
-- Verenice Castillo, spouse of Air Force Maj. Tony Castillo, Maxwell, AFB, Ala.; and
-- Shelley Kimball, spouse of Coast Guard Capt. Joe Kimball, 7th Coast Guard District, Miami.