Saturday, June 08, 2013

Charleston pilot competes in 2013 Armed Forces Triathlon Championships

by Tech. Sgt. Shane Ellis
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/7/2013 - POINT MUGU, Calif.  -- Capt. Jamie Turner, a pilot with the 317th Airlift Squadron, competed in the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship June 1 at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.

Thanks to Turner's vast experience and numerous accomplishments as a triathlete, she was selected as one of six Airmen to complete at the championship race as a member of the U.S. Air Force women's triathlon team.

During the race, teams from the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine Corps competed for points. The Navy finished out the day with the most points and took home the gold. The Air Force was a close second with only two points separating the two teams.

"Getting ready for this race was just like any other," said Turner. "My daily lifestyle of fitness allows me to be ready to compete at any time. I'm constantly in training and looking forward to the next race, wherever it may be. My job is to simply stay as fit and injury free as possible. As long as I can do that, the racing part is easy. It's also a lot of fun, too."

The Armed Forces Triathlon Championship is an Olympic distance race, where competitors compete in a 1500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, and 10-kilometer run.

A team from Canada's armed forces participated in the event but did not compete for points with the U.S. teams.

Turner represented the Air Force in high fashion and ended the day eighth overall in the women's division. Not bad for an Airmen who just returned from deployment one week prior to the race.

Kirksey discusses philosophies, time at Homestead ARB

by Ross Tweten
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/7/2013 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. -- As the previous command chief master sergeant of the 482nd Fighter Wing here, Cameron Kirksey is preparing to assume his new role as the command chief of Air Force Reserve Command.

Kirksey said he's very humbled, honored and excited to be selected by Lt. Gen. James Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve and AFRC commander.

"Homestead has a bright future and I hope to bring that excitement to AFRC to help the entire command grow and improve," said Kirksey.

Kirksey said one of the first items at the top of his list to improve quality of life is sexual assault.

"Sexual assault is a high priority for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force," said Kirksey. "As such, it's a high priority General Jackson and myself.

"Zero tolerance; there are no exceptions," he added. "We will prosecute to the full extent of the law. Hopefully, victims will feel vindicated and rest assured their Air Force is behind them and they can come forward and defend their rights without hesitation."

Kirksey also noted the encouraging markers of force development.

"I've noticed a renewed 'blue-ing' throughout the command," he said. "I know within 10th Air Force, Homestead ARB is definitely leading the charge with Total Force Integration. Great teamwork models and esprit-de-corps are immediate products of TFI. Homestead is definitely setting the standard for future TFI implementations."

As Kirksey settles into his new role, he said communicating well and continuing to reach out to Airmen are vital to his leadership style.

"You can't do this job sitting behind a desk," he said. "You have to be out front. You have to listen and have an attentive ear.

"They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," he added. "You have to make sure that when you look your Airmen in the eye, they can see that you're a genuine leader. I'm all about being a servant leader."

Kirksey is saying goodbye to Homestead ARB after two years as its command chief. He emphasized the fond memories he's taking away with him.

"The best part about my time at Homestead was unequivocally the people," he said. "In terms of its people, Homestead has great stock. I'm leaving behind a fantastic team, and I know the folks of Homestead will continue to help the base grow and succeed in its mission."

Along with praising members of Homestead ARB, the chief also praised the city of Homestead and local community for the exceptional relationship they have helped develop with the base.

"Homestead's Military Affairs Committee and Chamber of Commerce have done a simply amazing job," he said. "They opened up the doors and really developed ways we can best support each other. Every military installation or unit is a subset of the community. It's vital for bases and units to partner up with their community. We're here to support each other."

According to Col. Donald Lindberg, 482nd Fighter Wing commander, Chief Kirksey leaves Homestead with a legacy of superlative enlisted development; a legacy that continues to benefit Airmen aspiring to demonstrate the very best the Air Force has to offer in the enlisted ranks.

"Chief Kirksey leaves Homestead as a true partner and friend," said Lindberg. "His dedication and loyalty is uncommon. When Airmen were in need, he was there, ensuring the full force of Air Force support was energized. He will be sorely missed, but leaves us all better than when he arrived on station in the summer of 2011."

Kirksey said he's excited about the future of Homestead and has full confidence the wing will continue to develop its vital role in AFRC.

"Homestead is not your typical Air Force Reserve base," he said. "With the mixture of servicemembers we have, the multiple tenant units, the influx of active duty counterparts, the importance of our mission, Homestead finds itself in a unique situation that requires a lot from its Airmen. With all the new facilities and construction at Homestead, with its growing population of servicemembers, the future of Homestead is very bright."

A native of Silas, Ala., Kirksey enlisted in the Air Force Reserve in March 1988 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ga. He's spent the last four years as a command chief at Maxwell AFB and Homestead ARB.

According to Kirksey, camaraderie and unity are key aspects to mission success as well as his own success.

"Camaraderie is one of the best parts about being in the military and I dare say it's right up there with core value number one: integrity," he said. "If you don't have camaraderie, if your fellow Airmen feel you don't have their back, then you're part of the wrong organization.

"We're all a part of a unit," he added. "Individually, we know how good we are. But in order for the team to succeed, individuals must work together. The best leaders foster unity and, personally, I plan to do the same. Homestead is a place that continues to foster a great deal of unity and camaraderie and I cherish my time there."

Intelligence Airman wins volunteer award

by Capt. Neil Samson
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

6/7/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Contrary to her quiet and unassuming demeanor, an Air Mobility Command Intelligence Directorate's knowledge operator is defined more by her volunteerism than by her modest personality.

Senior Airman Natasha Thomas, Air Mobility Command Air Intelligence Squadron knowledge operator, spearheaded volunteer efforts and garnered the 2012 Air Intelligence Squadron Volunteer of the Year Award.

"Airman Thomas is a quiet professional, fantastic Airman and peer leader who really exemplifies the Air Force's whole person concept," said Maj. John Groth, AMC Air Intelligence Squadron director of operations. "Things run so smoothly when she is involved with the Booster Club, the front office and squadron physical training sessions -- we're so fortunate to have her on our team."

In her two years at Scott AFB, she has volunteered for numerous events sponsored by the Booster Club, Air Force Sergeants Association, Humane Society of Belleville, First United Methodist Church, Salvation Army of St. Louis, Missouri Veterans Home and Meals on Wheels. Thomas also coordinated her organization's fundraising event at the 2012 Scott AFB Airshow and organized many unit fundraising potlucks.

"Airman Thomas has been a tremendous asset to the Air Force Sergeants Association devoting freely of her time to Meals on Wheels to deliver meals to the elderly and those in need in the local community," said Senior Master Sgt. Rebeca Gabel, Air Force Sergeants Association president.

Master Sgt. Marty Pallone, the unit's Knowledge Operations superintendent, said Thomas is methodical, organized and thinks outside-the-box during the duty day and applies it to the advancement of her education and community involvement.

"Thomas is humble and downplays her work, but she is the 'brain' of the Intelligence directorate," said Pallone. "With Airman Thomas, I can effectively reach out to other members of the squadron in my superintendent role because I know our directorate is handled with Thomas."

While on the final path to finishing her Community College of the Air Force degree, Thomas plans to exercise her "brain" power by immediately pursuing her bachelor's degree afterward.

"I am three courses away from completing my CCAF degree and I plan to eventually earn my bachelor's degree in either graphic communications or psychology," said Thomas.

Thomas attributes her motivation on and off the job to her fellow Airmen and to the mentorship and understanding of her leadership.

"The people I work with motivate me and if I am having a bad day, they offer encouragement and take off the workload when I'm having a bad day," said Thomas. "Sergeant Pallone monitors the workload and she knows what I can and cannot handle so it is her guidance that keeps me motivated."

"They say not to judge your career by your first base, but I already enjoy the people I work with and my leadership," said Thomas.

Thunderbolt named 2012 AETC Honor Guard Member

by Staff Sgt. Nestor Cruz
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/31/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Honor guard members are seen at various events on and off base. Their work may seem commonplace but one particular Thunderbolt has set himself above the rest as the Air Education and Training Command's 2012 Honor Guard Member of the Year.

Senior Airman Kyle Wisecarver, 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, recently earned AETC's award for his work during his year-long tenure with the base honor guard.

Luke's honor guard is comprised of 42 Airmen from every squadron across the wing. Members serve on the honor guard one month on and one month off through the course of a year.

During his time as an honor guard member, Wisecarver performed in more than 170 ceremonies and led a six-member team during 23 events including retirement ceremonies, flag ceremonies and change-of-command ceremonies.

"I had a great supervisor, Staff Sgt. Eddie Isom from the 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, who pushed me to excel in all I do including honor guard," Wisecarver said.

Mentoring was also an important aspect in Wisecarver's daily routine. He trained 28 junior members, helping to sharpen their honor guard skills and appearance, and briefed honor guard customs and courtesies to First Term Airman Center students and Civil Air Patrol members on separate occasions. Wisecarver also trained 16 local firefighters and police members on flag folding, helping to foster military precision in the local community's civil servants. Eight chief master sergeants also benefitted from Wisecarver's expertise when they learned how to perform a sword cordon to honor other chiefs.

Although Wisecarver volunteered to join Luke's honor guard, he continued to find other volunteer opportunities. He organized a Habitat for Humanity project and led a 17-member team in providing homes to those in need. Wisecarver rallied 10 of his fellow honor guard members in preparing food pallets for St. Mary's Food Bank, contributing to local Thanksgiving meals.

Wisecarver said he's honored to be selected as AETC's top honor guard member but will continue to strive for excellence.

"I really enjoyed my time with the base honor guard but I'm not resting on my laurels," he said. "I'm still learning."

Wisecarver advises other Airmen to consider joining Luke's honor guard.

"I really encourage all Airmen to join and be part of something that stretches across the entire wing," Wisecarver said.

Recently discovered MIA Airmen honored by USAF Weapons School

by Staff Sgt. Michael Charles
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/4/2013 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- Two Airmen missing in action for more than 40 years were honored by the U.S. Air Force Weapons School May 23, 2013 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Airmen from the 433rd Weapons Squadron held a heritage hallway dedication in honor of Col. Wendell R. Keller and Capt. Virgil K. Meroney, who were shot down March 1 1969, and not recovered until 2012.

"It is important to take time to reflect and honor our fallen comrades that have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country," said Lt. Col. John Kent, 433rd WPS commander.

Keller, the F-4D Phantom pilot and Meroney, his weapons systems officer, assigned to 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, were tasked with a night interdiction mission against a heavily defended supply route and storage area complex near the Ban Karai Pass, Thailand, March 1, 1969.

During this mission Keller, Meroney and their wingman from the 433rd TFS came under fire. Keller and Meroney attacked and destroyed the threatening enemy gun positions. Their aircraft was hit by hostile fire and crashed during the attack. There were no parachutes seen or emergency beacons sent. Keller and Meroney were declared missing in action.

"It [March 1, 1969] was not a good day," said retired Air Force Col. Gail Peck, former Tonopah commander and 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron member. "These weren't just my wingmen, they were my brothers."

The Department of Defense announced that it had found the remains of Keller and Meroney Oct. 16, 2012 and would be returning them home. However due to the time and the effects of the elements, their remains had fused to each other requiring the remains to be transferred to Dover Air Force Base, Del., in one coffin and covered by a single American flag. Once the remains were separated, a flag was presented to each family to honor their loss.

The single flag that covered the coffin of Keller and Meroney during transfer was donated to the 433rd WPS for its newly dedicated heritage hall and a shadow box was constructed by the 99th Force Support Squadron Arts and Craft Center filled with pictures and personal items from the men.

"When asked by Dover Mortuary Affairs if our squadron would like to display the flag that covered our two comrades on their trip home, I responded with four words, 'We would be honored,'" Kent said. "With their help, and that of the arts and craft center, we were able to create a memorial which depicts the importance of honoring those who have lost their lives in the line of duty."

The families also took an opportunity to meet squadron members and share a few words.

"For years I wished my father would come home; now he has," said Michael Keller, son of Col. Keller. "Now he will never be forgotten."

"My brother was proud to serve in the military," said Doug Meroney, who was noticeably fighting back tears. "A veteran is somebody who writes a check to the nation for the amount of up to that individual's life. Both Col. Keller and my brother are heroes, and I couldn't be more proud of both of them."

The two were interned into Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., October 2012, in a group burial. According to Doug Meroney, the families came to the conclusion that it was only fitting that the two enter Arlington the same way they have spent the last 50 plus years; together.

As of May 29, 2013, following the repatriation of Keller and Meroney, there are still five 433rd TFS listed under the Department of Defense classification of missing in action from the Vietnam War.

Eglin maintenance super receives Bronze Star

by Chrissy Cuttita
96th Test Wing Public Affairs

6/5/2013 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A day in the life of an Air Force jet maintainer reached Mach speed while deployed overseas, earning him the Bronze Star Medal.

Senior Master Sgt. Jamie Jordan, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent, was awarded the honor during an official ceremony at his unit June 4, 2013.

"A lot of people sacrificed more than I did," said Jordan who was a part of a team of military members from a variety of backgrounds that became "family" during the deployment.

From March 2012 to February 2013, Jordan generated more than 8,000 combat missions and the collection of 250,000 intelligence images supporting U.S. Central Command combat operations in the Horn of Africa. Missions he played a major supporting role in varied; offload 344 million pounds of fuel to 30,000 coalition aircraft, support 2,100 troops in contact events, execute 500 strike missions against Al Qaeda insurgents and beddown of 1 million net explosive weight pounds of combat-ready munitions.

"This is not something that is awarded to everyone," said Lt. Col. Maurice Lee, 33 AMXS commander, who explained how medal packages from deployed theatre operations are scrutinized highly. "Jamie's recognition transcends time. Not every commander gets the privilege to award the Bronze Star."

According to the history of the military tradition, the decoration was designed as an equivalent to an Air Medal for ground units that are the backbone of the flying operations, he said.

Jordan was also recognized by his unit for being there to set up its shop at the 33rd Fighter Wing.

"He was one of the very first in the squadron, hand-picked to stand up F-35 maintenance," said Lee.

This included preparing hangar space, scheduling tasks and training Airmen which he will continue to do a few more years.

"We learned as we went and now we are helping other bases learn so they can be ready for this jet as well," said Jordan who has an extensive background in F-16 avionics, something that makes one "seasoned" in a platform.

The newness of the F-35 means there are no "seasoned" maintainers for the fifth generation aircraft, so his crew is it for the Air Force.

Similarly, while deployed, Jordan watched his overseas unit grow to 1,400 personnel from more than eight platforms. It supported a "composite wing" of approximately 100 aircraft charged with a variety of missions like refueling, reconnaissance, fighter plus supporting command and control.

"As with other weapons' platforms, we have setbacks but we stay with it and learn every day," said Jordan.

Managing the second largest munitions storage capability in the area of responsibility overseas added to his deployed responsibilities of supporting a variety of daily air tasking.

"Our biggest challenge was resource management," said Jordan. "The wing grew nearly 250 percent in the first three months of my deployment. The growth of resources lagged compared to personnel and aircraft growth. To meet mission requirements, units had to think outside standard ops -- we shared everything from personnel, to support equipment, to aircraft parking spaces."

Throughout his career he credits his parents for the foundation of strength and perseverance. While deployed, he leaned on encouraging leadership for support.

Jordan's parents were present for the ceremony along with his brother and other guests. In honor of their support, the squadron gave them appreciation gifts as well.

"For him to serve as a group superintendent there was at a level higher than he was here," said Lee. "It is an awesome accomplishment for him to be chosen -- a tremendous opportunity for someone like Jamie."