Monday, May 13, 2013

Honored in stone

by Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

5/13/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- Carved into stone are the names of 22 individuals. Each was a pilot who served their country in the skies over Southeast Asia, and each paid the ultimate price, but another fact unites them: they were all instructor pilots here at Laughlin.

The Laughlin Heritage Foundation in Del Rio, Texas, and Laughlin have spent almost two years crafting a memorial honoring fallen instructor pilots from Laughlin with a dedication scheduled for May 31.

"The purpose of our foundation is to honor and remember servicemen like these," said Jim Long, Laughlin Heritage Foundation chairman of the board. "We need to honor these men and their commitment to duty and honor."

One of the initial sparks behind the idea of creating a memorial was a former instructor pilot here with the 3645th Pilot Training Squadron, who revealed in a discussion with Long, that of the 15 instructor pilots in his flight, a third had lost their lives in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. As the discussion went on, additional names from fellow flights he worked alongside were mentioned, painting a startling picture of sacrifice.

"We had always assumed we lost airmen in the fighting," said Long. "But when we were told that 22 instructor pilots from Laughlin were killed in Southeast Asia, it hit us hard. Instructor pilots are some of our best and they touch a lot of lives."

Long took the names of the deceased and began pouring over old class books to put a face to each name and to add more weight to the list of the fallen, he explained. Once done, he began researching each individual to learn more about their lives and deaths.

The task became a personal quest for Long as he learned of the pilots' sacrifices and recounted his own memories of watching in awe as A-1E Skyraiders, an aircraft that some of the fallen pilots flew, took off in support of ground operations in Vietnam.

"I don't remember a single A-1E pilot ever having to buy a drink thanks to their support of ground troops," said Long.

With support from Laughlin and retired Maj. Gen. Gerald Prather, a Laughlin pilot training graduate and president of the board for the Laughlin Heritage Foundation, the mission of crafting a memorial went forward.

Memorial makers were contacted, designs chosen, and cost agreed upon. In the end, a large black granite plaque with the pilots' names inlaid in a granite rock was picked, and the hard work of making the memorial a reality began, explained Long.

Money was easy, former friends, colleagues and interested parties donated in large sums to see the memorial made. Contacting the families of the deceased proved challenging at first, but those same donators helped in the leg work of tracking down children and widows to tell them the news. However, the largest hurdle was getting the paperwork completed approving the memorial for placement on Laughlin.

Capt. Derek Marchlewicz, 434th Flying Training Squadron assistant operations officer and project officer for the memorial, was tasked with completing the paperwork required by Air Force Instructions governing memorials and their authentication.

"It was interesting getting out of the flying world, reading the AFI and seeing the complex process in getting this done," said Marchlewicz. "Working with everyone on base and the Laughlin Heritage Foundation to do this was eye opening."

Eventually his hard work paid off and the memorial was approved. A place was made in Laughlin's Ribas-Dominicci Circle for the more than 4,000 pound stone memorial.

"The ease in which we collected money, the support we received from Laughlin and the help from those that knew the fallen told me this project meant something," said Long.

With the dedication scheduled for May 31 at 2 p.m. at Ribas-Dominicci Circle, the years of planning and development have at last, come together.

"The names listed on this memorial mean something special and it has been an honor to have played a part in remembering those who flew in the same sky as me," said Prather. "Instructor pilots keep America's air power strong, and this memorial is a 'thank you' from the community to our instructor pilots who gave all."

Learning from the past

by Airman 1st Class Stephanie Englar
14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

5/13/2013 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- It was early, just before dawn. There was no light over the horizon when a Union patrol group encountered 45,000 Confederate soldiers. The soldiers belonged to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, who ordered them to attack the Union forces. The Union soldiers were taken by surprise, and their forces were driven back to a small church called "Shiloh". The date was April 6, 1862.

For six months leading up to the attack, the Union soldiers had been working their way up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. They had many victories including Fort Henry in February. These victories forced Johnston to gather up remaining troops from various disbanded groups along Northern Mississippi.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant led 42,000 Union soldiers and had intentions of joining forces with Gen. Don Carlos Buell and his 20,000 soldiers and taking over Corinth, a major rail line. Johnston never gave them that opportunity. When the Union forces were pushed back toward Shiloh, it began one of the bloodiest engagements the Civil War had seen.

Flash forward to today, and you can step foot on the Earth where many soldiers saw battle for the first time in their lives. You can see the place where fear, anguish, bravery, and even courage were felt by tens of thousands of troops.

On April 20, Airmen from the T-6 squadrons on Columbus Air Force Base visited Shiloh Battlefield to see the history of the region first hand.

"It was interesting to see the area, to see the thick brush that the soldiers fought in," said 1st Lt. Brooklynn Mauss, 14th Flying Training Wing Executive Officer, who attended the trip.

The group of over 20 Airmen were able to travel the different locations where battles were fought and experience places such as Fraley Field and the Hornet's Nest firsthand.

Fraley Field was the site where the battle began. It is the place where the Union soldiers realized that the Confederate soldiers were nearby and ready to act.

"It was interesting to see how close the Confederate Army was to the outlying camps of the Union Army the night before the two armies stumbled upon each other," said 1st Lt. Tyler Olmstead, 41st Flying Training Squadron. "Actually seeing the proximity where the two armies were encamped was very shocking. The steep ravines and thick, wooded areas where the fighting took place were also remarkable."

During the trip, the group was also able to go to the Hornet's Nest, and see first-hand how it got its name. The Hornet's Nest is the location that lies in the center of the battlefield. It was the area that saw the heaviest amount of combat. Soldiers named the location The Hornet's Nest, saying that the enemy's bullets sounded like many angry hornets.

Shiloh Battlefield is not the only Civil War location visited by Columbus AFB Airmen. Last year, the 41st Flying Training Squadron travelled to Gettysburg to learn more about the history there.

"I think it's important to study history because it's our history, American history," said Mauss. "We need to learn from it."

The squadrons sent out read-ahead material for the Airmen to look over before going.

"The interesting thing about Shiloh Battlefield is that all locations and events are verified by people who were there," said Mauss. "Our tour guide was very knowledgeable too, he did a great job."

The squadrons go on trips to nearby locations every spring to learn about different battles from our history. They find it important to learn about the historical events, and the leaders that made history.

"As volunteers in the profession of arms, it is imperative that we recognize the sacrifices of others that have gone before us," said Olmstead.

D.C. Guard wife named Military Spouse of the Year

by Courtesy story

5/10/2013 - WASHINGTON -- Alicia Hinds Ward, wife of Tech. Sgt. Edwinston Ward, 113th Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, Md., is the winner of the 2013 Military Spouse of the Year.

Representing the National Guard, Hinds Ward was chosen among six finalists, each one representing a branch of the U.S. armed forces. She was chosen as MSOY for her outstanding support helping military families with relocation and employment services, as well as her support of special needs resources and helping to build camaraderie among deployed members and their families.

"This ceremony does a great deal to see the significance of the role our spouses play in our military and now important that is to our national defense," said Lt. Gen. Stanley Clark, director of the Air National Guard, "It's an honor to be here and congratulate Alicia on her win."

The MSOY award has been in existence for six years and Hines Ward is the first National Guard representative to win.

According to Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Anderson, 113th Wing command chief, her win was no surprise.

"It is no surprise to those that know Alicia that she was selected as the 2013 Military Spouse of the Year. She works tirelessly not only for our Capital Guardian family, but our extended military family across Joint Base Andrews," said Chief Anderson. "I am incredibly proud of what Alicia has accomplished for the families of our National Guard and can't wait to watch her elevate the entire military spouse community. I know she will serve as a phenomenal advocate for all of our military families!"

Hines Ward was filled with emotions after accepting her award as the magnitude of her win started to set in.

"I'm breathing now, not well, but I'm breathing," Hines Ward said laughingly. "I'm so proud to be here and I love the fact that I'm able to work with all of you (fellow spouses), and I hope to bring attention to our National Guard families, our unique circumstances, and the plight of our families."

Face of Defense: Weather Airman Overcomes Lightning Strike

By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 13, 2013 – A weather airman who issues warnings when lightning strikes take place within five miles of an air base here knows the danger. He’s a lightning-strike survivor.

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Air Force Senior Airman Erik White poses next to a newly installed portable Doppler radar at an air base in Southwest Asia, May 4, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Austin Knox

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Senior Airman Erik White, a 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather journeyman, was taking pictures when he was struck by lightning as a thunderstorm rolled in while he was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

He suffered second- and third-degree burns from his knee to his foot, but he was lucky. According to the National Weather Service, lightning has killed 9,235 people in the United States since the agency started tracking fatalities in 1940.

"It gave me a strong understanding of how powerful and how dangerous weather can be," White said. "I always tell people, of all of our 'big boy warnings' like tornadoes, damaging winds and hail, I think 'Lightning within five [miles]' is the most important, because lightening kills more people every year."

White's recovery included more than two months of convalescent leave and an early end to his amateur weather photography career. He still feels the effects of that electrifying day, he said.

"I have some nerve damage in my leg, and it feels like that tingling feeling when your foot falls asleep," he explained. "It was about a year and a half before I fully got back to normal, but I can tell you, it was a shocking experience."

Understandably, thunderstorms trigger stress for the Bloomfield, Ky., native. "When the thunder roars, I go indoors," he said.

"As a weather guy, you're not 100 percent and the guys that say they are, are wrong," White said.

White joined the Air Force fresh out of high school looking for a better life and to make something of himself.
"I had gotten to the point where nothing was working out," he said. "I had done the whole construction bit and odds-and-ends jobs, and realized the Air Force was a good option."

After graduating from basic training, White spent the next eight months at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., learning about weather.

"Weather is interesting -- it's 90 percent boring and 10 percent all craziness," he said. "There are two aspects of our job: the flying world and the personnel and resource protection aspect."

The flying aspect of White's job provides pilots and crews the information necessary to complete their mission. "We provide flight weather briefs and tell them about any hazards they may encounter en route," he explained.

The other aspect of White's job aims to protect personnel and the resources on the base.

"We provide the 'Lightning within five' warnings that you hear across the loudspeaker to keep people safe," he said. "We also issue certain warnings to help the base commanders make preventive actions like tying down aircraft or to move aircraft."

White is deployed here from Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Wounded Warrior proud to represent

by Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

5/13/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It has been a long journey from the swimming pool at Colorado's Greeley Central High School to proudly representing the Air Force in the lanes at this year's Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy. But for Senior Master Sgt. Martin Smith, operations superintendent for the 380th Space Control Squadron, it is nothing less than an honor.

With the accident still fresh in his memory, Smith recalls the events that led to the amputation of his right leg just below the knee. It happened in August of 2012 while commuting from Peterson to his home in Parker, when he was involved in a motorcycle accident on Highway 83.

After the injury and a lot of soul-searching, Smith elected to have the lower portion of his leg removed. Otherwise the severely muscle-damage leg may have led to a more serious amputation.

"We are fighters," Smith's wife Susan said to him as he laid in recovery at the hospital.

After the surgery in September 2012, Smith was finally able to get back into the pool in December to begin the long road of physical recovery. It was Jack Ladley, Air Force Recovery Care coordinator in Colorado Springs, that suggested that Smith tryout for the team. After the tryout camp in January of 2013 at the Academy, Smith was selected to represent the Air Force in the pool for this year's Warrior Games.

This is the first time the Air Force will be represented at the games with a complete 50 member team participating in all events.

"I never really intended to get back into swimming," Smith said. "Working out in the pool was the only real option for me to stay in physical shape and remain on active duty."

"I am proud to represent the Air Force and also proud of my brothers-in-arms who have been injured in combat," he said with pride in his voice.

"This is the Warrior Games and I do not want my injury to downplay the sacrifice of the fellow service members who have been injured in combat," Smith said during an interview at the Peterson aquatics center.

This humbling statement demonstrates his steadfast honor and compassion. Although Smith's leg amputation was non-combat related, the Warrior Games are universal in celebrating the "Warrior Spirit" that exists within us all.

"It is just an honor to be around these guys, knowing what they struggle with and go through on a daily basis just to do the small things that we take for granted. That motivates me and makes me proud to be a part of this," Smith said.

"The Air Force through this whole process has been focused on getting the inured Airmen back in the game, back to living life," he said. "We don't care if you win; just getting you out there is a win. Placing in an event is just an added bonus but not the purpose," he said while reflecting on his experience.

Smith will swim in four events during the Warrior Games, including the Men's 50-meter Freestyle (single leg amputee), Men's 100-meter Freestyle (SLA), Men's 50-meter Backstroke (SLA) and Mixed 200-meter Freestyle Relay team.

As the Warrior Games come to a close, it is not about the medals, scores or times, but an opportunity to show respect to all injured service members. Not only during the Games but long after the stage lights and podiums are packed away.

NATO Stresses Continuity as Breedlove Succeeds Stavridis

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MONS, Belgium, May 13, 2013 – NATO’s focus will remain squarely on Afghanistan as Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove succeeds Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis as the alliance’s supreme allied commander, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said here today.

On a cool, windy day, Rasmussen passed the colors of Supreme Allied Command Operations from Stavridis to Breedlove. Rain threatened, but never materialized.

NATO is the heart and soul of the 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan, the secretary general said, and the alliance has been involved since the formation of the International Security Assistance Force.

“On your watch,” he said to Breedlove, “Afghan forces will be taking full responsibility for the security of their own country, and ISAF will complete its combat mission -- as planned -- at the end of 2014. You will help shape a new and NATO-led mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces after 2014.”

But the alliance is more than the war in Afghanistan, Rasmussen noted. NATO forces also serve off the Horn of Africa to deter piracy, patrol the Mediterranean Sea, serve in Kosovo and patrol over the Baltic Sea. NATO forces deployed to Turkey are protecting that ally from Syrian missiles, he said.

These are demanding operational tasks, the secretary general said, but Breedlove also must complete the reform of NATO’s command structure to make it “leaner, more effective and more affordable.” Rasmussen expresseded his confidence in Breedlove’s ability to meet the challenge.

The secretary general then turned to Stavridis, the first Navy admiral to hold the position. Rasmussen said the admiral “has navigated these uncharted waters with great skill.”

Rasmussen said the secret of the admiral’s success lies with his philosophy that the security of the future should be built by bridges, rather than walls. In Afghanistan, Stavridis built bridges among NATO allies, coalition partners and the Afghan government, he said.

“Your bridge-building skills were also evident in 2011 when NATO responded to a United Nations call and deployed a force in record time to protect the people of Libya,” Rasmussen said. “You have also stayed focused on the strategic horizon and NATO and [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe] have benefited from your innovation.”

During his time at the headquarters, Stavridis established a comprehensive crisis management center and an alliance special operations headquarters. And he has reached out, Rasmussen said.

“You have blogged and you have tweeted to help explain the value of our alliance and to sustain political and public support for what we do,” the secretary general said to the admiral.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Rasmussen presented Stavridis with the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. The admiral will retire from the Navy and become the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

Air liaison controls sky, saves lives

by Airman 1st Class Matthew Lotz
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/13/2013 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) -- The lieutenant lowered a tactical vest over his head with practiced confidence; his face displayed the cool composure born of constant training. As he straps on his helmet, an aircraft circles overhead, preparing for the first strike of the day.

Minutes later, ordnance begins raining down at the officer's command.

First Lt. Patrick Bonner and his team of tactical air control party members act as mobile air controllers, coordinating with pilots and ground commanders to deliver airpower, maintaining communications and providing precision close-air support, using aircraft and artillery. On this particular mission, 8th Air Support Operations Squadron TACPs worked with Slovenian military counterparts to direct Slovenian aircraft on specified training targets.

"We train with the Slovenian TACPs once every couple of months," said Bonner, an air liaison officer who is part of a select group of commissioned Airmen overseeing TACP units. "On this mission, we conducted 12 airstrikes as a unit to help keep us proficient in our duties."

The air liaison career field was created in 2010 and Bonner was one of the first graduates to go through the nine-month training course.

"I joined the Air Force to originally pay back my student loans, but I also wanted something challenging," Bonner said. "At the time, '13L' (the Air Force specialty code for ALOs) was brand new and exactly the perfect fit for me. There have been some ups and downs but I enjoy it and have not regretted my choice."

Both enlisted members and officers go through the same Tactical Air Command and Control Apprentice Course at the TACP schoolhouse at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

"We both have the same training, from the same schoolhouse, which in turn allows us to trust each other to get the mission done," said Airman 1st Class Phonchai Hansen, an 8th ASOS TACP member. "I can relate to what he (Bonner) went through and vice versa."

ALOs are required to complete six training courses before graduation. They must learn how to navigate through harsh terrain during all weather conditions, operate tactical vehicles and communication equipment, provide tactical advice and coordinate close-air support.

"The fail rate for our career field is very high," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Cullins, an 8th ASOS TACP member. "It's hard enough to become a TACP, but to then become an ALO is even more difficult."

Even after graduating, ALOs must continue their training to ensure they are prepared for the varied situations that can present themselves during a deployed mission, to include joint terminal attack controller certifications and survival, evasion, resistance and escape training.

"The most difficult part of the training is the mindset of it all," Bonner said. "It's very difficult to learn because there are so many moving pieces; you have to be able to think and act, all within seconds.

"You have to continue pushing yourself," he said. "Depending on how great of a TACP you want to be is how hard one challenges himself."

TACP members constantly try to improve their skills, which helps them be prepared for any situation, to include deployments.

Bonner's role in a deployment is quite different than what his enlisted troops find themselves doing on a day-to-day basis.

"My focus during a deployment is liaising with the Army and giving them a grasp on how to best use aircraft in terms of the air-to-ground fight," he said. "Occasionally, I get to go out with my unit and implement airstrikes."

While deployments can be rough at times, most TACP members agree the best part about the job is calling in airstrikes and watching ordnance drop a few hundred yards away.

"When everything clicks, (getting on the radio, talking to the pilot and coordinating an airstrike) it's a blast," Bonner said.

Marine Makes Mom, Wife Proud on Mother’s Day

By David Vergun
Army News Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 13, 2013 – “I don’t know what I’d do without my family. They’ve really been supportive of everything I do,” the 10-K hand-cycling racer said shortly after winning yesterday.

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Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jimenez celebrates his 10K handcycling win at the 2013 Warrior Games with his wife, Patrice, shortly after crossing the finish line. U.S. Army photo by David Vergun

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
And in turn, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jimenez, a wounded warrior and athlete at the 2013 Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy here, made his wife and mother proud and happy with his win. They said as much, cheering him on from the sidelines. His time was 21:53, earning him the gold medal and motivating his Marine team.

Taking the silver was Anthony Robinson from the Army team at 22.16, and the bronze went to Justin Gaertner, a Marine from the Special Operations team.

“This is the best Mother’s Day gift ever,” said his wife, Patrice, shortly after he crossed the finish line to the cheers of supporters. She added that their three children are equally excited with his win.

Jimenez suffered a spinal cord injury from a training accident and has post-traumatic stress disorder following multiple deployments to Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. The 14-year Marine veteran is currently in a Wounded Warrior Regiment at Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., and is in the process of transitioning out of the Corps.

Jimenez said he has always loved sports and used to run ultra-distance events. Following his spinal cord injury, he added, doctors told him he’d never run again.

But he said a buddy, a Paralympian, encouraged him, with these words that inspired him to take on a new challenge: “You can do the same distance with your arms that you once did with your legs.”

“And so I’m here,” he said, adding that the Marine Corps has been very supportive of his recovery efforts.
His command lets him train in the hills of nearby Joshua Tree National Park. He also receives professional coaching help throughout the year. When he retires from the Corps, Jimenez said, he wants to cycle professionally and perhaps make the Paralympic team.

He said he will maintain contact with his fellow athletes, who are just like family, and that he will always remember the men and women he served with in the Corps.

Mary Ann, his mother, came to see him from Arizona and said her son makes her proud not only on Mother’s Day, but every day.

As she wiped away tears of joy, she added: “He’s just an awesome person. He’ll give the shirt off his back to you if you need something. I’m also proud of all the Marines. They’re all great.”