Saturday, June 15, 2013

Aboard the AC-130 Spectre Gunship

The June 20, 2013, episode of American Heroes Radio features a conversation with Master Sergeant David M. Burns, USAF (ret.), the author of Spectre Gunner: The AC-130 Gunship.

Program Date: June 20, 2013
Program Time: 1500 hours, PACIFIC
Topic: Aboard the AC-130 Spectre Gunship

About the Guest
Master Sergeant David M. Burns, USAF (ret.), “joined the US Navy at the age of 15 in 1951 during the Korean War. He retired in 1978 as a master sergeant after a distinguished career in both the Navy and Air Force. He flew 287 combat missions in Vietnam during his four tours in the 16th Special Operations Squadron (Spectre) as an aerial gunner. Burns is a highly decorated veteran who was wounded in action twice and awarded several military distinctions, including three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 27 Air Medals, a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Air Force Combat Action Medal and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. He now lives in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, with his wife and three children.”  Master Sergeant David M. Burns is the author of Spectre Gunner: The AC-130 Gunship.

According to the book description of Spectre Gunner: The AC-130 Gunship, “This is the true story of Master Sergeant David M. Burns, an aerial gunner assigned to the deadliest squadron in air force history. Aboard the AC-130 Spectre gunship, he flew a total of 287 combat missions over Laos, South Vietnam, and Cambodia, in pursuit of the truck traffic coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. His squadron destroyed more than fifteen thousand trucks loaded with war munitions destined for South Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite heavy and constant anti-aircraft and missile fire, the loss of six aircraft and the lives of fifty-two men, the crew never wavered in its dedication to the mission.
Master Sergeant Burns has a distinguished military career that began in 1951 at the age of fifteen. He served one tour of duty in Phan Rang, South Vietnam, in 1967, and four tours of duty in the 16th Special Operations Squadron in Southeast Asia as an aerial gunner, lead gunner, and instructor gunner. He served in both the United States Navy and Air Force, earning three Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism, twenty-seven Air Medals, as well as a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam Service Medal with nine battle stars, and other decorations from the Korean War. He was wounded twice and is credited with saving the lives of fourteen crewmembers.”

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life.  Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years.  He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant.  He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University.  He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, law enforcement technology and leadership.  Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One.  He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.

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Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Socom Strives to Boost Operators’ Resilience, Readiness

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., June 14, 2013 – Maintainers across the military take pride in keeping aircraft, vehicles and weapons systems well-oiled and ready to go whenever the mission calls. A major initiative is underway at U.S. Special Operations Command here to better maintain what Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, the Socom commander, calls the most important system of all: the operator.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
An Air Force special operations pararescueman gets hoisted off a ship by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kurt Leisenring during the Emerald Warrior 2013 exercise off Florida’s Gulf Coast, April 24, 2013. U.S. Special Operations Command’s Preservation of the Force and Family Task Force is implementing a holistic program to promote operators’ physical, psychological, spiritual and social performance to support mission readiness. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton Russ

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Humans are more important than hardware” is the first of the “truths” McRaven espouses for the nation’s special operations forces. This fundamental recognizes that what makes the “tip of the spear” so sharp is the education, rigorous training and experience of the operators themselves.

But shortly after arriving at his headquarters in 2011, McRaven received sobering confirmation that the special operations community was in trouble. An extensive study directed by the previous commander, Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, found “the SOF force as a whole was frayed,” McRaven told a forum of defense industry representatives and special operators who gathered here last month.

The study revealed that the current operational environment has been more difficult than operators and their families expected, leaving little time for them to adjust to the daily strains of perpetual absences. The study noted troubling consequences, with increases in domestic and family problems, substance abuse and self-medication, risk-taking behaviors, post-traumatic stress, and even suicides.

With continued high operational demands, the fraying continues, McRaven lamented. “I would say, in the last 20 months, the force is fraying at a rate I am not comfortable with at all,” he said at the SOF Industry Conference.

So as McRaven implements his Special Operations Forces 2020 vision to posture Socom for the future, he has made “preservation of the force and family” one of the key pillars.

“That is my No. 1 mission,” he told the forum. “It is a moral imperative that we do all that we can to preserve the force and care for their families.”

While seeking ways to increase predictability in special operations forces’ schedules, McRaven has charged what he renamed the “Preservation of the Force and Family Task Force” to come up with innovative, holistic approaches to deal with the pressure on the special operations community.

The task force is working to build performance across four interconnecting domains: human, psychological, spiritual and social, explained Navy Capt. Thomas Chaby, the task force chief.

The idea is not to duplicate programs already being provided through Defense Department and military services, he emphasized. Rather, it builds on them, filling in gaps and increasing accessibility for operators and their families.

“If there was one word you would say the [task force] is all about, it is readiness,” Chaby said. “It is all about being ready for our battlefield requirements, and taking care of our people helps them be as ready as possible.”

Building resilience in the force helps to set operators up for success, Chaby said, adding, “It’s all about building their capacity. It is readiness, readiness, readiness.”

Yet the special operations community didn’t always recognize that. Chaby remembered his first visit to SEAL Team 3’s fitness center in 1990 after graduating from basic underwater demolition/SEAL training. Despite requirements to work in challenging and often unforgiving environments, the SEALs had limited fitness equipment and were basically on their own to figure out the best way to physically train for it.

As a result, many SEALs were injured during missions or while training for them. Chaby has had eight operations since becoming a SEAL, and considers himself fairly representative of his contemporaries.
“Is that the best way to prepare the primary weapon system? Probably not,” he said. “There was no thought, science or planning put into [physical training]. The [Preservation of the Force and Family Task Force] is changing that.”

Today, Socom has a human performance program designed to meet special operations forces’ unique physical needs. It includes training that aims to prevent physical injuries through strength and conditioning, nutrition and physical therapy.

The program also looks at other ways to maintain the body: teaching operators how to mitigate the effects of operational demands through everything from hydration to psychological and social support.

“Putting some thought into it, applying some science, and backing it up with resources is just common sense,” Chaby said. “This is a small investment that I believe will reap itself two-, three-, four-, who-knows-how-many-fold benefits.”

While paying more attention to operators’ bodies, the task force is committed to boosting their psychological strength and resilience, too.

Chaby noted the mental and emotional strain of more than a decade of continuous operations, and the need to do everything possible to mitigate the stressors. So in addition to helping operators develop positive ways to cope, Socom has joined the rest of the military in working to take the stigma out of seeking help.

Gone are the days when operators had to fear getting flagged or having their security clearance revoked if they sought out psychological help.

“It is not like that any more. Now, it’s not help against you if you go seek help, and leadership is setting the example,” Chaby said. “It’s not a negative any more, like it used to be.”

Ready access to mental health experts is particularly important in light of Socom’s consistently high operating tempos, he noted. “We are so dynamic in our deployment cycles and our work-up cycles that by the time [a scheduled] appointment comes up, you could well find yourself back on the battlefield or training somewhere else and have to cancel it,” he said.

So to make services more available and to encourage operators to take advantage of them, the command has started embedding mental health professionals attuned to the needs of the special operations community directly into its units. “The idea is, ‘Let’s give [the operator] somebody he trusts and feels he can talk to, and let’s give him for better accessibility,’” Chaby said.

And to ease operator’s transition from the battlefield to their homes and families, Socom now typically sends them to alternate sites so they can talk to a chaplain or psychologist and “decompress” before returning home.

Meanwhile, the Preservation of the Force and Family Task Force is helping operators get in touch with their spiritual sides as well.

Chaby emphasized that what Socom calls “spiritual performance” isn’t necessarily about religion. “It could be for some, but that’s not what it is about,” he said. “It is about spirituality,” which he defined as core spiritual beliefs, values, awareness, relationships and experiences.

These elements affect how operators live, the choices and decisions they make, the quality of their relationships and their overall ability to find meaning in life, Chaby said. All ultimately affect their mission performance and their ability to deal with the challenges of serving in special operations.

So the task force has turned to chaplains and the wealth of programs they lead or support to help special operations forces members address their spiritual needs. This, Chaby said, helps to round out a holistic program while directly supporting initiatives to build physical and psychological resilience.

Meanwhile, the task force is exploring ways to boost operators’ “social performance” -- the ability to establish and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships, particularly within their families.

The typical special operator is 29 years old for enlisted members and 34 for officers, and is married with two children. Chaby remembered the days not so long ago when Socom gave little thought to family needs. “The mentality was obvious: ‘If it’s not in your sea bag, it’s not our responsibility,’” he said.

That’s changed 180 degrees, he reported. Socom now understands that family members have a big say in whether a highly trained, experienced operator will remain in the military. But even more importantly, command leaders recognize that problems at home can distract operators, potentially putting them and their buddies at increased risk and directly affecting the mission.

As a result, the Preservation of the Force and Family Task Force has made a concerted effort to help build “social performance” within special operations forces families. The goal, Chaby said, is to strengthen communication skills and overall resiliency to better deal with the challenges of multiple, extended separations, many that involve sensitive, high-risk and secretive missions.

“We are looking for opportunities to bring families into the equation, because we have found that the more you do that, the stronger they become,” Chaby said. “This is empowering them to be part of the team, which in turn increases and improves the readiness of that soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.”

Adding up these elements -- improving operators’ physical, psychological, spiritual and social performance -- can only result in a better force, Chaby said.

“If each element gives a 1 percent advantage, you end up with a 4 or 5 or 10 percent better operator, capacity-wise, resiliency-wise, readiness-wise” he said. “You start adding these things together, and it makes such a difference.”

It all comes back, he said, to the special operations forces truism that people -- operators who are ready to be effective and respond to the demands of the job -- are more important than hardware.

“If you take care of your people, that is the foundation of everything we do. Without them, the hardware doesn’t matter and we are going to have mission failure,” he said. “You have to have your people ready to go, for whatever the battlefield calls for.”

Commando Hall of Honor welcomes loadmaster

by Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

6/10/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla.  -- A former Air Force Special Operations Command loadmaster was recently recognized for more than 25 years of service with the special operations community by induction into the Commando Hall of Honor.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Scott was inducted into the United States Special Operations Command Hall of Honor during the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference gala dinner in Tampa, Fla.

The Commando Hall of Honor recognizes the accomplishments of those who have made unique and prestigious contributions to the special operations community.

"This is one of the greatest honors I've received," Scott said. "I'm very humbled by the fact that my name is on a wall with so many warriors who have given so much to make special operations and AFSOC what it is today."

Scott was inducted to the Commando Hall of Honor for having a heavy hand in developing the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by special operations aviators today, according to Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Jones, 1st Expeditionary Special Operations Wing command chief, who nominated him for this honor.

As an NCO, Scott was involved in combat operations in Grenada, Bolivia, Honduras, Kuwait and Iraq.

During Desert Storm, he flew more than 40 combat sorties, including the airdrop of three BLU-82s (15,000-pound bombs) and more than 10 million leaflets leading to the mass defection of enemy troops and an unprecedented quick coalition victory, Jones said.

As a senior NCO, Scott flew combat missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo, Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

"During Enduring Freedom, he flew eight pivotal missions, delivering time-critical resources to Operation Detachment Alpha Teams, which were operating deep inside Afghanistan," Jones said.

What's more, Scott and the crew of "Whisk 05" were awarded the 1997 MacKay Trophy for a mission into the Republic of Congo. This trophy, which is kept on display in the Smithsonian, is awarded for the most meritorious U.S. Air Force flight of the year.

Although Scott retired from active duty in 2005, he has continued to work in support of special operations.

"I've been hooked since 1987, and I still believe in the special operations mission," Scott said. "After 18 years with AFSOC, it was a logical transition to continue my involvement."

Following his retirement from active duty, Scott spent more than five years as the course director for the Special Operations Combating Terrorism Course at the Joint Special Operations University, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. In this capacity, he was responsible for educating more than 400 international officers from 80 different countries.

Now, he is working as a curriculum developer for NATO Special Operation Forces, and he said he plans to stay as long as possible.

"I've been so fortunate to have worked with the best aircrews, maintainers, operators, loggies, and all of the other agencies that were critical to successful mission execution," he said. "Every day I think about all the great commanders, chiefs, supervisors, Airmen, warriors in harm's way, and warriors we've lost. This honor is theirs and I'm grateful to have been a part of

Grand Forks AFB Fire and Emergency Services Airmen burning up the awards

by Airman 1st Class Ashley Taylor
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/13/2013 - GRAND FORKS AFB, N.D. -- Two Warriors of the North were recently recognized for being outstanding firefighters.

Master Sgt. Jason Barnard, deputy fire chief, and Tech. Sgt. Byron Ball, assistant fire chief, earned the honors.

John Hamilton, Veterans of Foreign Wars National commander, presented Barnard with the VFW's National Firefighter of the Year Award during a June 1 ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn in the city of Grand Forks.

"I was extremely surprised upon winning this award," Barnard said. "There are so many firefighters across the country doing so many great things every day. I didn't think I even had a shot at being selected."

He has proven to be more than qualified for winning this award, shining overseas as well as at home station.

While deployed, Barnard led Air Forces Central Command's busiest fire department, managing three stations and 55 personnel from 12 different bases.

He actively volunteered with the Wounded Warrior Project and coordinated the help of 17 other firefighters, giving a total of 87 hours.

Barnard also completed his Senior Noncommissioned Officer Professional Military Education, along with the Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Emergency Management/Anti-Terrorism Program.

"It's a very humbling experience to receive this award, and I'm proud to accept it on behalf of all the firefighters that I have worked with," said Barnard. "Without the entire fire department working together this would not be possible."

Fellow firefighter Tech. Sgt. Ball was nominated for his award by the Grand Forks American Legion Post 6. It was during the Winter Conference in Minot earlier this year that the department executive committee selected Ball as the award winner.

"We recognized Ball's service to our nation and community," said Robert Greene, post commander. "This is what made him stand out the most."

Department commander David Rice will present the North Dakota American Legion Fire Fighter of the Year Award to Ball on June 7 at a convention in West Fargo.

During the past year, Ball has been very active at the command level, in the community and in his personal development.

He served as the assistant fire chief, managing 16 personnel, responded to multiple medical emergency calls, and established a triage site treating 10 Airmen for heat exhaustion.

He was named the flight non-commissioned officer of the quarter for the first quarter of 2012, and top NCO for the 319th Air Base Wing. But that doesn't mean he wasn't surprised to have received this award.

"There are so many firefighters in this state that do outstanding work," said Ball. "So for me to be recognized by the American Legion and represent our brotherhood is a true honor."

Ball has also completed 24 credit hours toward his bachelor's degree, finished courses offered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and attended a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad training on hazardous materials spills.

Ball said he is most proud of helping the United Way with the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

"Knowing that we helped gather 2,300 toys for 647 children to enjoy Christmas last year is priceless," Ball said.

As former president of Grand Forks AFB Network 5/6, Ball coordinated 70 events, providing 1,086 hours of community service, and earning them the prestigious Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Ball will now compete at the American Legion's national level.

PACANGEL 13-3 renovates community, enriches lives in Vietnam

by Staff Sgt. Sara Csurilla
PACANGEL 13-3 Public Affairs

6/14/2013 - DONG HOI, Vietnam  -- Eighteen U.S. military members partnered with ten military members from the Vietnam People's Army to help repair buildings in Dong Hoi, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam, from June 10 through 15.

The renovation projects were part of the Engineering Civil Action Program with Operation Pacific Angel 13-3.

PACANGEL 13-3 is a joint and combined operation held in various countries several times a year and includes medical, dental, optometry, engineering programs, along with SMEEs. More than 50 U.S. military members deployed to Vietnam for PACANGEL 13-3 to partner with local non-governmental organizations and host-nation military forces.

The 28-man team worked unwaveringly throughout the operation to renovate two schools and rebuild one medical facility.

First Lt. Jose Vallejo, PACANGEL 13-3 lead engineer planner from the 673rd Civil Engineer Group out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, said they were nearly finished with the medical facility by completing projects that will not only improve the overall sanitation, but elevate their quality of life.

"Our team revamped the entire building both inside and out, from installing a new roof, drop ceiling and windows," said Vallejo. "With our combined efforts we were able to build a medical waste incinerator from scratch to eliminate the spread of pathogens, build two new bathrooms that never existed before, install a whole new septic system, set up a new sink with running water in the delivery room and even Install two air conditioning units."

With one team made of two completely different cultures, it was obvious from the start that not only did they speak different languages, they even had a different way of doing their jobs.

"The language difference definitely made some of the communication difficult at times, but we were able to come up with a system where we could understand each other," Vallejo said. "Even with the language barrier their knowledge was priceless and there's no way we would have been able to complete these projects without them."