Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arlington Wreath-Laying Ceremony Honors Fallen Servicewomen

By Marine Corps Cpl. Christofer P. Baines
Defense Media Activity – Marine Corps

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 24, 2013 – The Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues and senior women enlisted military members gathered at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial here May 22 for the 16th annual recognition ceremony.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught speaks to the honorees and members of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues during the Women in the Military Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on May 22, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christofer P. Baines

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
An acknowledgement and wreath laying ceremony is held every year near Memorial Day to honor fallen servicewomen.

The wreath, provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, was placed in front of the pool at the memorial. After the wreath was placed, members of the caucus and the honorees placed a long-stemmed rose in honor of the fallen around the memorial’s pool.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, the first Air Force female service member to attain the rank of brigadier general in the comptroller career field, spoke to all in attendance, highlighting the changes that have occurred throughout the years, such as Veterans Affairs benefits and having access to a broader array of career fields.

“Just recently we’ve had that major change that women are no longer prevented from serving in combat by virtue of being women,” Vaught said.

Among the servicewomen honored during the ceremony was Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Angela M. Maness, who is slated to be the first female sergeant major of Marine Barracks Washington.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected … to take a post, any post, but to be identified as a sergeant major to go to our oldest post, it is a privilege,” Maness said.

To Maness, it’s not about being a female Marine, she said, but being a Marine through and through, no matter the gender.

“Words of wisdom, not just for female Marines, for every Marine; do your job, stay in the fight and do the best job you can do for your boss, for the Corps, for America,” Maness said.

Reserve team wins JBER F-22 Load Crew of the Year

by Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Three reservists from the 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were awarded the 2012 Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson F-22 Load Crew of the Year during a ceremony here May 17.

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Tuttle, the team's lead weapons loader along with Staff Sgt. Brandon Vice and Senior Airman Joshua Baker were selected as the top F-22 load crew out of the 28 certified load crews assigned here.

This is the first time that a crew comprised of three Air Force Reserve members has won the award. Tuttle, and Vice are both full time Air Reserve
Technicians working each day alongside the 3rd Wing load crews. Baker is a traditional reservist who fulfills his reserve commitment one weekend a month and two weeks a year. When not performing military duties Baker works as an office manager at Full Spectrum Pediatrics in Anchorage.

While weapons loaders perform numerous aircraft loads throughout the year on several different types of aircraft munitions to stay proficient the quarterly and annual load competitions provide an opportunity to show off their loading skills.

"Each crew is evaluated on an open ranks Air Force Instruction 36-2903 inspection," said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Dorsey, 477th AMXS weapons standardization superintendent. "A consolidated tool kit inspection, a written test covering maintenance and explosive safety as well as the evaluated munitions load which is selected by the wing weapons manager."

The overall score is based on the crews efficiency, safety and reliability of the load as well as the other evaluated components.

"I am proud to be the team lead of this three man crew," said Tuttle. "We have been able to work together and build a strong team I am very happy with what we have accomplished."

Rescue Group Airmen pull hiker from Southern Arizona mountain range

by Master Sgt. Luke Johnson
943rd Rescue Group public affairs

5/23/2013 - DAVIS MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- Late Wednesday night Airmen from the 943rd Rescue Group set out in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter for a training mission when they were notified that a hiker was unconscious from a fall, and needed help.

The Aircrew flew back to Davis-Monthan AFB download their weapons, fueled up and picked up a Guardian Angel team--special operators trained in trauma medicine and high-angle rescue, then went to the hiker's aid.

With their night vision goggles, the 943rd Airmen hoisted 17-year-old out around 11 p.m. Wednesday.

"We do so much training together as a rescue team that even with some of the limited communications we were experiencing with the PJ's on the ground; we knew exactly what their objectives were and what they were doing; it made this rescue mission seamless," said Capt. Brough McDonald, HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot with the 305th Rescue Squadron.

Earlier in the evening, the Arizona Department of Safety attempted to do a long-line rescue with their helicopter, however they could not make it up the canyon due to darkness setting in.

The hiker that needed help was in the Dragon Mountains, part of the Chiricahua National Monument, about 50 miles east of Tucson, Ariz.

"The initial report on the patient was a very severe head injury," said Senior Master Sgt. Maurice Bedard, pararescueman with the 306th Rescue Squadron. "When we got on scene, he was already on a back board so we hoisted him up to the helicopter. He was not as bad as the initial report had indicated."

Once the patient was hoisted out of the mountain, he was transported to a life flight helicopter in a landing zone about two miles away from where he had initially fallen. The 943rd Airmen also hoisted up the civilian search and rescue personnel, and returned to base.

"Because of the location of where the hiker fell, it was a difficult hoist and the aircrew from the 305th Rescue Squadron did an excellent job with the hoist operations," said Bedard.

According to the rescue summary report, Airmen from the 943rd Maintenance Squadron got the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter prepared in record time, and the report also lauded everyone involved in the rescue for their excellent  team work.

"We train as we fight, and the great part about rescue is that does not have always have to be combat rescue as Citizen Airmen we are always ready to help out our local community," said Col. Harold Maxwell, 943rd RQG commander. "The rescue mission is one of the noblest missions in the Air Force, and I'm extremely proud of the team work and effort by all involved with this mission."

943rd RQG Crew involved with rescue

305th Rescue Squadron
Maj. Nathan Horner, HH-60G pilot
Capt. Brough McDonald, HH-60G pilot
Master Sgt. Daniel Juen, HH-60G flight engineer
Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Homan, HH-60G flight engineer

306th Rescue Squadron
Capt. Koaalii Bailey, combat recue officer
Senior Master Sgt. Maurice Bedard, pararescueman
Tech. Sgt. Ryan Gilbert, pararescueman

818th CRW, 143rd AW exercise together at Quonset Point, RI

by Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

5/21/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Members of the 621st Contingency Response Wing exercised with new faces for upgrade training.

The 818th Contingency Response Group combined with the 143rd Airlift Wing for the 818th CRG-143rd AW exercise at Quonset Point Air National Guard Station, R.I., May 9-17.

"We were looking to complete Contingency Response Element and Contingency Response Team leadership upgrade training in addition to career-specific CR training," said Maj. David Gaulin.

The training included C-130 operations, static loading/unloading, day and night ERO, NVG ERO, combat offloads, airdrop rigging, maintenance familiarization, DZ recovery training, NVG marshalling training, full spectrum communications, and integrated command and control with the 143rd Operations.

According to Gaulin, the 818th CRG was able to receive the training at a discounted price of a normal exercise.

"It's huge cost savings," Gaulin said. "We did not need to pay for rental cars, airport parking, airline tickets or line haul for our equipment. Any equipment we needed to bring, the 143rd AW provided airlift for. A major cost savings for us, and it's a great way for their loadmasters to get some training. Compared to traditional CR exercises that take place elsewhere in the United States, the per person cost was a fraction, 1/4 to 1/5th the cost."

According to Master Sgt. Christopher Ninteau, 143rd Airlift Wing airfield manager, the exercise was a great experience for the 143rd AW.

"This is the first time that we've trained with the CRW," said Ninteau. "These guys are seeing things from a different perspective. Typically most of the people on this base have been here for years. Although we deploy, we usually deploy together so we really don't get to see what it would be like to set up a base that has nothing. It's good opportunity to see that aspect and that perspective."

"The 143rd AW members were fantastic," Gaulin said. "From the time we started talking with them about this training back in September they were more than willing to help us out. From the wing commander on down they were great hosts!"

According to Gaulin, working with the 143rd AW was particularly gratifying to him as a born-and-raised R.I. native.

"I grew up watching the 143rd's C-130s fly around the state," Gaulin said. "I attended their airshow every year and read about their deployments during Gulf War I, Bosnia, etc. I'm very glad that we were finally able to integrate our CR personnel into their mission set. They have a valid reputation as an outstanding unit and a fantastic team. I'm thankful we were able to integrate the 818th into their operations for a mutually-beneficial experience."

JBSA-Randolph building renamed to honor former instructor pilot

by Alex Salinas
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Members of the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph community gathered to honor the memory of the late Maj. Peter "Oly" Jahns during a building dedication ceremony May 17, when building 39 - home of the 39th Flying Training Squadron - was renamed "Jahns Hall."

Jahns, a reserve instructor pilot for the 100th Flying Training Squadron, which preceded the 39th FTS, died March 19, 2003, in a T-38 crash during a routine training flight.

Regina Nicks opened the ceremony by singing the national anthem, followed by an invocation from Pastor Ray Still of New Braunfels and opening remarks by Col. Steven Parker, 340th Flying Training Group commander.

"Oly excelled in everything he did," Parker said. "He was one of the guys who accomplished the mission day in and day out."

According to retired Air Force Lt. Col. JK Switzer, who was stationed with Jahns at then-Langley Air Force Base, Jahns developed an appreciation for the outdoors at a young age; he and his four siblings frequently backpacked, climbed mountains, canoed and skied during family vacations. He also discovered an early aptitude for flying.

He participated in a soaring course at a flight school in Germany during a trip to visit relatives, where at age 15, he became the school's youngest student to graduate after two weeks of instruction.

"When it came to flying, Pete was the best of the best," Switzer said. "His name was always at the top of a very short list of those who were the best."

Jahns was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy in 1985, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. He also completed two master's degrees, one in aeronautical engineering and the other in international relations, with a 4.0 grade-point average.

But Jahns' hidden talent was in music, excelling as a pianist and competing at the state level in high school.

Jahns' wife, Rhonda, spoke about his vibrant personality, sharing what he would announce daily before work, "I'm on my way to keep the country free."

He also loved being a father to his daughter, Allison, and son, Alex, who are now teenagers, and would write down many of the "cute and silly things" they said, Rhonda said.

Ten years after the crash, Lt. Col. Todd Ernst, a current 39th FTS instructor pilot, said he still reflects on time spent with Jahns.

"Oly was my assigned instructor pilot when I first went through pilot instructor training," he said. "I had the honor to instruct with him later when I was assigned to the 560th Flying Training Squadron and then to fly ... with his flag onboard during his missing-man formation.

"Jahns Hall allows the example of one our finest to live on for the many people who never knew Oly," Ernst said.

182nd Command Chief retires after 41 years

by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer
182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - May 20, 2013 -- On August 17, 2013, Chief Master Sgt. Stephen James Eakle will retire after 41 years of service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Chief Eakle enlisted in the Illinois Air National Guard in June of 1972. He has served in multiple career fields that include security, training, medical, and logistics.

Four decades of involvement in the military have brought a wide range of experiences for Chief Eakle.

When asked about his best memories in the service, Chief Eakle replied with a description of deployment during the Global War on Terrorism. He deployed as the Command Chief for the 486th Air Expeditionary Wing in 2003 to Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. It was a bare base and civil engineers had not yet arrived to start construction.

The maintenance team that Chief Eakle was living with were working unusually long hours and living out of tents that were not fortified against sandstorms yet. When a sandstorm hit, living in the tent was not much different than living in the sand itself.

One day the maintenance team was out working after a sandstorm when the wing's aircrew, on their rest cycle, gave a special gift to their comrades.

"...These aircrew guys went into people's tents, took everything out, cleaned them all out, and then put everything back in," Eakle said. "So, you walk in and, like, 'The cleaning fairies were here!'...My best days are all related to the accomplishments of our people doing stuff that's not unexpected from us, but it's certainly unexpected from a lot of other people out there," said Eakle.

In those 40 years there were painful times as well.

"Well, importantly, there are two (bad memories)," Eakle said. "There was the day that Maj. Brown and Doc Allen were killed in an A-37 crash. And then there was the day we were notified over in Minhad of the loss of Jake Frazier in Afghanistan. Those two days are that worst memory...and for fairly obvious reasons."

During his broad career, Chief Eakle got to witness the evolution of the Air National Guard.

When he enlisted in the early 1970's, recruits were joining the National Guard in order to avoid deployment to Vietnam. That attitude brought a culture of minimal effort. Once that era of military history ended and draft dodgers left the Guard, what remained was a generation of enlisted personnel who embodied the three Air Force core values before they existed on paper.

He also witnessed the growth of the Air National Guard from the status quo mentality of the Cold War to becoming an intricate part of the national defense posture.

His career culminated in him becoming the highest ranking senior non-commissioned officer at the 182nd Airlift Wing when he accepted a position as the Command Chief Master Sgt. He first took his place as the enlisted advisor to the installation commander from 2000 to 2005 and again from 2009 to 2013 - a position he remained in until his retirement.

When asked what he will do when he is fully retired in August, he responded with humor and a chuckle.
"Anything I want to do, that my wife will allow, and you can put that part. Uh, actually, more motorcycling, more sailing. I'm going to do some concealed carry classroom work and tactical firearms instructor work, possibly some motorcycle safety instructor work, but that kind of thing. We have a house in Kentucky...which we live at now, so my weather is much better, my winters are much milder," said Eakle.

He also plans to spend overdue time with his family.

"I owe my family a whole lot more time than I'll ever be able to repay them," Eakle said, "and hopefully, I'll be able to do some concentration on that. Which is why you hear me talk often about while the mission is important, your family is vital. And that's not a lesson I always subscribe to, and so I've got some red ink in my ledger that I need to turn black, and hopefully I'll be able to accomplish that."

Chief Eakle is a highly decorated member of the U.S. Air Force. He was known for his brawny voice and formidable presence. He was never shy about promoting pride in his unit with his saying, "Doing it the Peoria way."

Doing it the Peoria way, with dedication to his service, began early in his career. After his draft number was not selected, Chief Eakle volunteered to join the Illinois Air National Guard and enlisted as law enforcement specialist. In 1977, he also began a career with a civilian police force as a patrolman. He retired as a captain with the Peoria Police Department in 2004.

His next career move in the military was a transfer to the Small Arms Training Unit to teach weapons techniques and tactics, where he eventually became the non-commissioned officer in charge.

In the mid-1980's, Chief Eakle was selected to become a first sergeant for the installation's Combat Support Squadron, and then became an non-commissioned officer administrator in the Tactical Clinic in order to bring field skills to the medical environment.

In 1991, he was asked to return to the Air Police, now Security Forces, to serve as the superintendent of the squadron, was then asked to return back to the medical unit in 1997. In 2000 was appointed the Command Chief Master Sgt. for the wing.

As the wing's Command Chief, he made it his personal mission to represent the wing command to our enlisted corps, and vice-versa, through effective communication. He also spent time evaluating the impact of Air Force and Air National Guard programs on the enlisted corps.

In the course of his career, Chief Eakle gained insight of both good and bad leadership. Of what it takes to be a good leader, he described in one word.

"Number one, over-arching, absolutely, if you had to do one word: integrity...You also have to have passion, and it's important to have those feelings - and, you know, control them - and then do it with integrity...You also have to be humble, and you have to realize there's other ways to do things," said Eakle.

Chief Eakle plans to remain active in the military community in retirement through organizations and events such as the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the association for retired command chiefs, the 182nd retirement dinners, and the annual TACP Association 24 Hour Run.

"I owe the 182nd Airlift Wing in all of its forms for 40 years - Tactical Air Support Group, etc. - far more than I ever did for this wing," he said. "And I don't know how I could ever repay what this place has done for me over the course of my both civilian and military career, but I'll try."

Dyess mobility Airmen gain valuable experience during JRTC exercise

by Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group participated in a Joint Readiness Training Center Green Flag exercise May 13-22, at Little Rock AFB, Ark., in order to prepare for future deployments.

Dyess aircrews flew approximately 36 sorties across nine days, providing ample training on the ground and in the air.

The exercise assessed and certified the combat readiness of Air Force strategic airlift, contingency and support forces in a simulated expeditionary environment. Additionally, the exercise provided Airmen opportunities to refine processes and procedures that can potentially enhance real-world operations effectiveness.

"We have newer aircraft commanders, newer mission planners and maintenance guys who maybe haven't seen real-world operations," said Capt. Kevin Bailey, 39th Airlift Squadron. "Our goal was to ensure our newer guys gained valuable experience for our upcoming deployment later this year. The 24-hour ops we endured during the JRTC exercise is probably the closest thing we get to a deployed environment."

In conjunction with traditional mobility airdrop training, Dyess' C-130J aircrews also received vital inter-service integration experience, as their main objective was to support several ground units to include the 570th Contingency Response Group from Travis AFB, Calif., 621st CRG from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and the Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas.

"The Army was the main user in this whole thing; we were just a small piece of the pie for their exercise," Bailey said. "Our job was specifically direct support for the warfighter on the ground, so a lot of the stuff we were doing was personnel and heavy equipment airdrop and Container Delivery System airdrop, which are all designed to support the Army in one way or another."

Furthermore, Bailey mentioned that due to tightening fiscal constraints across the Air Force, taking advantage of joint training exercises such as the JRTC exercise was crucial to maintaining the "train-like-we-fight" standard.

"This exercise was very important for our younger guys who may not have seen as much integration with the Army as some of us have in the past," Bailey said. "Now that we are cutting back on a lot of our flying hours, we don't get the opportunity to participate in as many of these exercises as we would like, which is why it was crucial to take advantage of every sortie we flew. As far as the integration aspect goes, this was as big as it gets, short of an actual deployment."

In addition to training on different tactics, techniques and procedures, the 39th Airlift Squadron was also looking to further familiarize themselves with the C-130J aircraft, as their squadron continues to finalize their transition away from the C-130 H-model.

"It's important to get experience across the unit when it comes to employing the J-model in certain mission profiles," said Capt. Beau Tresemer, 39th AS. "Our aircrews needed to see what they were capable of when it comes to utilizing the J-model, whereas the H-model isn't exactly the same deployment wise."

Tresemer added that exercises such as these provide abundant opportunities for training, learning and enhancing joint force capabilities for the U.S. military.

"We wanted our mobility Airmen to walk away from this exercise with complete confidence for when they go downrange," he said. "By working together in this joint environment we can all feel confident that when ground forces make the call, air mobility will deliver."

McConnell reservists will be among first to operate KC-46A

5/22/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.  -- Air Force officials announced today McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., as the preferred alternative for the first active duty led KC-46A main operating base.

"We are proud that our Total Force McConnell Airmen have been entrusted with this new mission and are confident in their ability to bring the new aircraft on-line," said Col. Ricky Rupp, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander.

McConnell AFB was selected as the preferred alternative for the KC-46A, termed MOB 1, because it has the lowest military construction costs and is located in a region of high air refueling receiver demand. McConnell AFB will receive 36 KC-46A aircraft. This will require the lowest manpower adjustments of the candidate installations.

"This is an important step in recapitalizing our tanker fleet. The KC-46A is the first of a 3-phase effort to replace our aging tanker fleets," said Rupp. "The KC-46A is expected to produce better mission-capable rates and less maintenance downtime. This is another step in maintaining our global reach for years to come."

Since the KC-46A is a replacement for the KC-135, 36 KC-135s at McConnell will be retired.

"I am very pleased that the proposed location of the main operating base at McConnell means that our Citizen Airmen will be among the first to fly and maintain the KC-46A," said Col. Mark S. Larson, commander of the 931st Air Refueling Group. "We look forward to working together with our active duty partners in the 22nd Air Refueling Wing in successfully performing this new mission."

Altus Air Force Base, Okla., was selected as the preferred alternative for the KC-46A formal training unit, and Pease Air Guard Station, N.H. was selected as the preferred alternative for the first Air National Guard KC-46A main operating base. Forbes AGS, Kan. was selected as one of the reasonable alternatives for basing, MOB 2.

The FTU and MOB 1 will begin receiving aircraft in fiscal year 2016. MOB 2 will receive aircraft in fiscal year 2018.

Air Liaison Controls Skies, Saves Lives

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Lotz
31st Fighter Wing

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy, May 22, 2013 – The lieutenant lowered a tactical vest over his head with practiced confidence. His face displayed the cool composure born of constant training. As he strapped on his helmet, an aircraft circled overhead, preparing for the first strike of the day.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force 1st Lt. Patrick Bonner radios a Slovenian pilot April 19, 2013, at a training range in Pocek, Slovenia. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Lotz

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Minutes later, ordnance rained down at the officer's command.

Air Force 1st 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 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 commissioned 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 Air Force Airman 1st Class Phonchai Hansen, an 8th ASOS TACP member. "I can relate to what [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 Air Force 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 continued. "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, including deployments.

Bonner's role in a deployment is quite different from 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, it's a blast," Bonner said.

Texas-based Airman’s Family Takes Steps to Help Tornado Victims

By Air Force Airman 1st Class John D. Partlow
47th Flying Training Wing

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, May 22, 2013 – Efforts to help people who were injured or lost their homes began almost immediately after a deadly tornado struck Moore, Okla., May 20.

One of those willing to help was Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shane Buss, the 47th Flying Training Wing’s equal opportunity noncommissioned officer in charge, along with his wife and four children.

"I was stationed in Oklahoma when an EF4 tornado hit in 1999, so I've seen the kind of destruction these things can have," Buss said. "We consider some old friends up there to be like family, and that region feels like home to us."

The Buss family plans to drop off much-needed supplies such as snacks, water, towels and soap.

"Apart from food and water, the supplies needed most are construction equipment like wheelbarrows and gloves for clean-up efforts," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Robertson, a 72nd Security Forces Squadron patrolman assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The tornado destroyed his home and crushed his family’s two vehicles.

"It's wonderful to see people helping who are so far away," he said.

Drop-off points have been established here for items anyone in the Laughlin community wants to donate to the tornado victims.

Honoring Whiteman's namesake

by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

5/21/2013 - SEDALIA, Mo. -- It was a life that began simply on a farm in Missouri and ended tragically on a Sunday morning in Hawaii.

On Dec. 7, 1941, 2nd Lt. George Whiteman had just lifted off in his P-40B Warhawk to fight back against the Japanese invasion of Oahu when enemy gunfire hit his cockpit, wounding him and throwing the plane out of control.

The plane crashed and Whiteman, just 22 years old, died from his injuries. Fourteen years later, the Air Force base just 20 miles from his hometown of Sedalia was renamed Whiteman Air Force Base in his honor.

Each year, members from Whiteman and the surrounding community hold a wreath-laying ceremony to remember the sacrifice this young lieutenant made. This year marked the 25th such year.

"It's about remembering those who gave their lives so we can experience the freedoms we have today," said John Rucker, a community member who was at the original wreath-laying ceremony in May 1988.

"When we started, it was just four of us who laid a box of flowers on Whiteman's gravesite," Rucker said. "We never realized where we'd be today with this tradition and it's wonderful to see how it has continually grown."

One way Whiteman contributes to this annual tradition is by sending a flight of Airmen from the 509th Security Forces Squadron, Sedalia's "sister city," to stand as a formation throughout the ceremony.

"This is the least we could do to support Sedalia and the sacrifice Whiteman made," said Lt. Col. Christopher Neiman, 509th SFS commander. "We really appreciate being able to honor the flag and the lieutenant with our presence."

When the wreath-laying ceremonies started a quarter of a century ago, there were only a handful of attendees. At the ceremony this year, more than 150 people attended, including 25 of Whiteman's nephews, nieces, great-nephews, great-nieces, great-great-nephews and great-great-nieces.

Royal Air Force members participate in upgrade training

by Ryan Hansen
55th Wing Public Affairs

5/22/2013 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Over the past two years, 103 Airmen from the U.K. Royal Air Force have graduated from the RC-135 Rivet Joint initial qualification training course at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Recently, 60 of them were back in the states and on the installation for some RJ upgrade training.

"In the two-and-a-half years since the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force began this partnership, 51 Squadron has enjoyed the amazing hospitality of the 55th Wing, both in training and when flying together on operations," said RAF Wing Commander Garry Crosby, 51 Squadron commander.

In 2010, the Department of Defense and the U.K. Ministry of Defense came up with an agreement for the RAF to purchase three RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.

The RAF is set to receive their first RJ later this year and this visit provided those aircrew members with the opportunity to participate in upgrade training.

"This training brings them up to latest upgrades ... equivalent to the capability being delivered to the U.K.," Crosby said.

The class took a little more than two weeks to complete and took RAF Airmen through classroom training, the simulator as well as flying the latest version of the RJ.

"Due to the extraordinary effort and efficiency of the 338th Combat Training Squadron, 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron and the 97th Intelligence Squadron, U.K. flyers achieved a 100 percent success rate in their conversion to the new standard," Crosby said.

While this latest upgrade training ensures the RAF aircrew are ready for the delivery of their first jet, they have already established themselves as great partners of the 55th Wing through what is known as co-manning.

Co-manning allows RAF aircrew to fly on U.S. Rivet Joints until the U.K.'s fleet reaches full operational capability. The first operational mission flown by 51 Squadron personnel was on June 21, 2011. Since then, they have flown more than 1,100 missions and accrued more than 20,000 man hours in the air on RJ operational missions. In addition, more than 10,000 hours have been flown on training sorties from Offutt.

"The U.S. and the U.K. have a special relationship and we're certainly proud that we have the honor of working so closely with them through this unique agreement," said Col. John Rauch, 55th Wing commander. "We have quickly proven the ability for our teams to work together and we couldn't be more pleased with their contributions to the fight."

Seven Summits team reaches peak of Mount Everest

by Heather Uberuaga, courtesy of Seven Summits Team
Air Force Safety Center Public Affairs

5/22/2013 - KIRTLAND AFB, N.M. -- On May 19, the U. S. Air Force Seven Summits team reached Mount Everest, the highest point of the world, 29,035 feet. This success marks the first time a team of military members from any nation has reached all seven summits: Mount Elbrus in Russia, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount McKinley in Alaska, Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, and Mount Everest in Nepal.

The team included:

Maj. Rob Marshall, 34, a CV-22 acceptance pilot from Mercer Island, Wash., currently stationed at Bell Helicopter in Amarillo, Texas.

Capt. Andrew Ackles, 29, a TH-1N instructor pilot from Ashland, Ore., and stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala.

Capt. Marshall Klitzke, 30, a KC-135R pilot from Lemmon, S.D., currently an instructor pilot at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Capt. Colin Merrin, 28, a GPS satellite operations mission commander from Santee,
Calif., stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Capt. Kyle Martin, 29, a T-38/F-16 pilot from Manhattan, Kan., currently stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Staff Sgt. Nick Gibson, 36, a Reserve pararescueman and physician-assistant student from Gulf Breeze, Fla., stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

"Fifty years after the first American boots stood on top of the world, the first American military team has followed in those footsteps," said retired Col. Rob Suminsby, USAF Seven Summits team support. "The team unfurled the Stars and Stripes and the U.S. Air Force flag on the summit right after 5 a.m. in Nepal."

Though unable to make the journey themselves, Suminsby and Maj. Mark Uberuaga, co-founder of the USAF Seven Summits project, supported the team at home by keeping the blog updated and relaying key messages to friends and family members of the team.

"We were all on this journey with them. The day they took off for the summit we received 12,000 hits to the website," said Uberuaga. "The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, commented on one of the blogs a couple days prior to the summit attempt. The team knew the entire Air Force was rooting for them. I know they carried that with them to the top."

The 7 Summits Challenge began eight years ago when Wrath 11, an Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130H 'Talon II' crashed in Albania in March 2005.
"Rob and I had been planning a climb of Mount Elbrus in Russia, which is the highest point in Europe, before the crash," said Uberuaga. "We decided to dedicate the climb to our fallen friends. It was something we could do to honor them and it helped us deal with the loss."

As the planning continued, Marshall and Uberuaga decided to launch an effort to climb all of the seven summits to raise funds and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that provides full scholarship grants, as well as educational and family counseling, to the surviving children of special operations personnel who lose their lives in operational or training missions.

Two of the climbers, Capt. Colin Merrin and Staff Sgt. Nick Gibson, turned back before the summit due to illness and concerns over frostbite.

"These guys deserve a huge amount of credit, as they made one of the toughest decisions a climber can make, turning around short of the summit," said Col. Suminsby. "Both made a good decision to turn back. The team was committed to safety throughout the process, and their actions are shining examples of how to do the right thing even when it's disappointing and not easy. A lot of people have been willing to sacrifice fingers or toes to reach the summit, but this team defined success from the outset as bringing everyone back in one piece."

Key to the team's success was including risk management in the planning and execution process. All members of the team are trained in risk management and use the principles in their day jobs and while mountaineering.

"The Air Force Safety Center has been a strong supporter of this effort," said Suminsby. "They recognized early on that this is an opportunity to promote a risk management mindset in all Airmen."

Rededication ceremony honors historic aircraft

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Joint base leaders and community members gathered to rededicate the C-118 Liftmaster static display May 14, 2013, at the circle in front of the McGuire Passenger Terminal here.

The ceremony was the culmination of a more than three-year restoration project taken on by 305th and 514th Air Mobility wings and 87th Air Base Wing volunteers.

A group led by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Hofrichter, 514th Maintenance Operations Flight superintendent, and retired Master Sgt. Corinne Alvord, former 305th AMW historical property custodian, was assembled in October 2009 to take on the daunting aircraft restoration project.

"The reason we are out here today is to recognize to the total-force effort that went into getting this aircraft back into pristine condition," said Col. Rick Williamson, 305th Air Mobility Wing commander. "This labor of love has a lot of sweat equity."

Alic Nelson, 305th AMW historian, took the audience back through time starting when this particular C-118 first arrived March 25, 1955, at then McGuire Air Force Base. The C-118 saw service all over the world to countries like Nigeria, Greenland, Brazil, Guam, Turkey, Libya and New Zealand to name a few, during its years at McGuire. Most missions involved troop transport, but some also held cargo configurations. One of the C-118's most notable legacies is that Sgt. Elvis Presley returned to the U.S. from Germany for discharge on this very aircraft.

"I think to really do a project like this right, you have to delve into the history aircraft," said Hofrichter. "Miss Nelson definitely helped us with that."

Williamson went into detail of what kind of work had to be done to restore the aircraft to 'like-new' condition. Repairs included replacing the tires, removing and cleaning the windows, repairing the sheet metal, applying a fresh coat of paint and much more.

Maintainers from the 305th and 514th Maintenance groups worked in their spare time to restore both the interior and exterior of the aircraft. Boy Scouts from Winslow High School, Troop 251, focused their efforts on rewiring to restore lighting in the aircraft. Members of the AMC Test and Evaluations Squadron, and even retirees who had previously flown on the airplane, assisted in various ways, including scraping paint from the historic aircraft.

Williamson awarded Hofrichter with an Air Force Commendation Medal for his hard work and dedication through the entire refurbishing process. The senior master sergeant then closed out the ceremony with a heartfelt speech to all in attendance.

"I will always look upon this aircraft as a reminder that even before I was born there were men and women who made the decision to slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of god, no matter the cost, and who lived with integrity, service and excellence long before it was a catch phrase," he said. "They, who in the worst of times, gave themselves to bring freedom to the oppressed, and in the best of times lived to fly another day. They are our past, our present and our future all rolled into one and I am eternally grateful. It is to them that I say this project was carried out with the utmost respect for your service and your sacrifice. You have given far more than can be repaid, but I hope in a small way that we've served you well here today."