Military News

Monday, July 22, 2013

WWII vet visits AAFB, recounts events that led to island liberation on anniversary

by Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White
36th Wing Public Affairs


7/18/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- A World War II veteran visited the base July 17 as part of a trip to the island for a celebration of the historic event he was part of 69 years ago.

Former Marine Pfc. William Mays, an amphibious tractor crewman during the war, helped storm the beaches of Guam July 21, 1944, to liberate the island from Japanese control, and now he's back to honor the day during the island-wide Liberation Day events.

Japanese forces invaded the lightly defended island shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941 and occupied Guam until 36,000 U.S. service members officially took back the U.S. territory Aug. 10, 1944, after a 21-day battle.

Mays took some time out of his busy schedule of attending village memorial events to come by Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and visit with some Airmen and Marines during his weeklong visit to the island.

"I learned a lot about what they did to take back the island during the war," said Capt. Mike Sydney, 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-52 Stratofortress copilot. "It's a humbling experience to bring him out here and show him what he has fought for, what we do and how we continue to defend this land he fought for during the liberation of the island."

Mays visited the 36th Operations Support Squadron, the three Marine units temporarily assigned here from Japan and South Carolina with their F/A-18 Hornets, and a B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 23rd EBS, which is a unit deployed here from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

"It's overwhelming to look at all of this," Mays said of current military operations on Guam. "These are the people out here protecting our country right now and it's just amazing."

While visiting with the Airmen and Marines, Mays also recounted some of his memories from the fateful day on the shores of Guam and the battle it ensued.

"They were intense things in my life," Mays recalled. "About the fourth day during the shelling, I was about the most scared in my life. We stood up and there was a big hole and the dirt and sand was still raining down on us afterward. So you can see, we thought we were going to die."

This is his second visit to the island since WWII for the anniversary of Liberation Day, and he also said it will probably be his last due to his physical limitations. His first return for the events was in 1994, an experience he said was much different compared to his visit this year where he is the only liberation veteran visiting this year as the guest of honor for Guam's memorials and celebrations.

" ... (My previous visit was) nothing compared to the attention they give me now," Mays said. "It feels good to be a part of that and these people are so appreciative that I just wanted to come down here and see it."

Mays said he feels honored to play an important role in this year's events, but he maintains he was just an average man doing his job who was put in an extraordinary situation. He also said he feels humbled by the experiences and appreciation.

Liberation Day events will conclude with an island-wide parade downtown July 21, the official 69th anniversary of the start of the battle to reclaim Guam as American land.

From Staff Sgt. to Stormtrooper: A sergeant's creative way to volunteer

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf
JBER Public Affairs


7/17/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In a galaxy not so far away, there is a special room in a children's hospital filled with children of all ages. Today, they have looks of excitement on their faces. Today, they get to meet Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers. The children's faces light up as more costumed volunteers walk in dressed like Imperial Officers, Biker Scouts, and even bounty hunters like Boba Fett.

The joy and excitement in the room are very real, and it's that reaction that inspires a Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Airman to suit up and head out to volunteer in the community.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrick Walsh, a Fitzgerald, Ga. native, works at the 673d Communications Squadron as a cyber transport supervisor. The 11-year veteran joined a local chapter of the 501st Legion, "Vader's Fist" initially due to his interest in the Star Wars movie franchise, but it morphed into something more.

"Back in 2002, I was stationed at Ramstein (Air Base, Germany) and got word of a gaming conference down at Leipzig, so I went down there and right outside, I ran into a group of Stormtroopers, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader," Walsh said.

Walsh asked where they got their costumes and learned they had made them themselves.

"After I left, I searched online for a costume and over the years, it never materialized," Walsh said. "It's always been 'One day I will be a Stormtrooper.'"

Two years ago, Walsh bought a Stormtrooper kit on impulse and decided to look up the 501st Legion to get help setting it up.

Walsh introduced himself to the local 501st Alaskan Outpost, Aurora Borealis, to get some local help. While he was getting advice, he also got to know the people in the group.

During his first two years at JBER, Walsh started attending events as a handler, where he would make sure the people in costumes had what they needed, like water, and help them put on their costumes and walk around as some of the costumes have limited visibility.

"In these two years, I learned what the 501st actually does, which made me want to be an official member even more," Walsh said.

But the defining moment that cemented his desire came on Halloween 2011.

"It was Anchorage Trick-or-Treat about two and a half years ago and I was doing handler duties," Walsh said. "It was this little girl, maybe 2 or 3 years old, who walked up to Lisa, an outpost member at the time, who was wearing Boushh-which is the bounty hunter outfit Princess Leia wore when she went to go save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. This little girl walked up and just stood there for a second. I was like 'What's going on?' Lisa got down to one knee and the little girl gave her a huge hug."

"Just seeing some of the reactions when you are at an event, you've got some kids where you can just see the wheels turning-- their imaginations are just going wild. You have some who are scared and run off and some that just stare at you. It's not just kids. You have adults, too, that say 'Ooh a Stormtrooper! Let me get a picture with him.'"

So Walsh officially became one of the 6,400 active members worldwide. In the Legion, he is known as TK 56537.

There are three basic goals for the Legion. The first is to promote interest in Star Wars. The creativity of the members building replica costumes encourages fans to get together and share their love of Star Wars with the public and other fans.

The second goal is to use the costumes they create. They encourage wearing the costumes rather than just having them sit on a shelf somewhere. Some people collect things and want them to stay in "mint condition," for value, but for the 501st, the value is in wearing the costume and sharing that joy with others.

The third goal is to contribute to the local community. Members do this through fundraising, charity work and volunteering. The most recognized work the members of the 501st do is with the Make-A-Wish foundation, bringing a light of happiness to the lives of children who are ill.

It's the volunteerism that draws a lot of people to be a part of "Vader's Fist."

"The 501st is 100 percent volunteers," Walsh said. "No one gets paid anything."

According to 501st officials, in 2011 they raised more than $270,000 in direct charitable donations and participated in events that helped raise $11.6 million worldwide.

"The volunteer portion appeals to me more than actually creating the costumes, going to the conventions and all that," Walsh said. "It is that aspect that really made me want to get into the 501st."

Walsh has participated in different local events around the Anchorage area as part of the Aurora Borealis Outpost. He volunteered for multiple Anchorage Trick-or-Treat celebrations, the Military Appreciation Day Picnic, Star Wars Read Day, and even a fundraiser for an animal shelter.

"It's a hobby, it's fun, and it's just one of those things where I found a way to volunteer in a way I actually enjoy," Walsh said.

This sentiment was echoed by Master Sgt. Paul Thomas, 673d Communications Squadron cyber transport section chief. Thomas said that he was not initially aware of how much of a role Star Wars played in Walsh's life, but after talking with him about it, it became very apparent.

"I became aware that he would volunteer his off duty time wearing his costume to support fundraisers and provide entertainment," Thomas said. "If you talk to Sergeant Walsh about the events he supports, your initial thought is 'Wow, you are engaged in an event almost every month; this is like a year-round gig.'"

Volunteering looks great on an Enlisted Performance Report in the Air Force, but that's not why Walsh volunteers these days.

"I was one of those guys that just did whatever volunteer events I needed to do just to fill the spot on the EPR, but since I started working with the outpost members, the 501st, I found myself doing a lot more volunteer stuff and actually enjoying it," Walsh said.
"One of the things I admire about Sergeant Walsh is that he volunteers because he enjoys it, and because of this, he inspires others," Thomas said.

Not only do his actions inspire others, but Walsh encourages the Airmen he supervises to take a page out of his book.

"There are a lot of volunteer opportunities out there and I have always told the Airmen that I supervise that I am not going to push you to go volunteer just because I want something for your EPR," Walsh said. "I want you to find something that you actually enjoy and volunteer because if you enjoy it, it's actually meaningful to you."

Hagel Calls on Vets to Partner in Reshaping Military


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2013 – Opening his address today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention with a tribute to Korean War veterans, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called on the nation’s 22 million veterans to become partners in helping the Defense Department work through “historic transition and change.”


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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivers remarks to attendees of the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2013. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
  

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Every major conflict in U.S. history has been followed by a period of “realignment and redefinition,” with “enormous ramifications and consequences for our entire defense enterprise,” the secretary noted at the convention, being held in Louisville, Ky.
 
As the Defense Department undergoes the latest realignments and reshapes the military for the future, Hagel called on veterans “who helped build our military into the strongest, most capable and most respected on Earth” to help ensure it remains that way.

“All of us at the Pentagon, and across this administration, value your perspective and devotion to our military men and women,” he told the group. “We will need your help and partnership as we manage through a period of historic transition and change.

“As I look out across this audience, I see thousands of veterans whose lives have been committed to helping our service members, their families and our veterans succeed, and to ensuring this country honors their legacy with policies that are worthy of their sacrifices,” Hagel continued. “All of you, and the roughly 22 million veterans across this nation, have an important role to play in the debate over our country’s future national security priorities.”
Hagel pointed out that veterans of past wars depended on their elected representatives to ask the right questions and establish the proper policies before sending them into conflict. “You all have fought and put your lives on the line for this country,” he said. “You did so with the expectation that you would be given the equipment, training and support you needed to succeed.”

The secretary noted that many of the veterans, particularly those of the Korean War, have seen firsthand the human toll of sending a hollow force to war.

“Not one American should ever be ordered into battle without our leaders being as sure as they can be that their decision is worthy of the sacrifices that will be made by our sons and our daughters,” he said.

The secretary began his address leading a thunderous applause for veterans of the Korean War whose service led to the armistice agreement signed 60 years ago this week. Hagel noted that he will join President Barack Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki for a July 27 ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial here to commemorate the formal signing of the armistice on July 27, 1953.

The armistice agreement ended the fighting in a three-year conflict between North Korea and China and South Korea and United Nations forces led by the United States.

“The upcoming observance is a chance for the country to fully express its profound gratitude for your service and sacrifice,” Hagel told the veterans. “The Korean War veterans here today, and all across the country, should know that your fellow citizens are proud of what you accomplished, and what your generation has contributed to our security and prosperity.”

Extraordinary medical breakthroughs; Air Force makes them possible

by Alexis Culver
59th Medical Wing Public Affairs


7/19/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Imagine a world with no cellphones, computers or electricity; no television to watch your favorite sitcom, and no cars to meet up with your friends or medicine to cure you when you're sick.

Many aspects of our lives would cease to exist without science and technology; the lives of today's warfighters are no different. They rely on the 59th Medical Wing's Chief Scientist's Office, more commonly referred to as the Science and Technology Division (ST), to sustain their health and performance.

Located at the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, ST employs innovative technologies to sustain service members' health and performance. These warriors devote their lives to fighting for our country while 59th MDW Chief Scientist Dr. Debra Niemeyer and members of the Science and Technology Division devote their lives to improving care for them.

"We help support and drive research that changes how we conduct medicine and transform health care," Niemeyer said. "We support our clinicians, staff, and many investigators in performing research that will actually change how we care for our patient population."

The office supports research in several areas such as statistics, program management, scientific reviews, and budget analysis. Additionally, it ensures both major commands and principle investigators are up to date on the latest Air Force and wing research policies, submission processes, and opportunities for funding.

A recent breakthrough involves saving the critically ill who are being flown half-way around the world to more definitive care here in San Antonio.

ST helped Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeremy Cannon, the chief of trauma and acute care surgery at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, located at nearby Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, to obtain funding for the Defense Medical Research and Development Program. The program supports adult extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation. Commonly known as adult ECMO, it's a heart-lung bypass system that keeps patients who are severely wounded or extremely ill alive during global transport.

The ECMO mission here is the only one in the Department of Defense. A joint military medical team recently completed the longest ECMO patient transfer ever recorded - a 5,000-mile mission and the first transatlantic flight of an adult patient hooked to an external lung.

"The Science and Technology Division was able to identify the capability gap and then the source of funding; then match my proposal together with the capability gap and use this funding to establish the initial capability to support our Air Force and Joint Medical Combat Causality Care needs," Cannon said. "We would not have been able to do any of this, meaning proof of concept - setting up an adult ECMO team for the Department of Defense and saving the lives of now five patients."

Niemeyer said the adult ECMO program allows our medics to transport severely injured or ill patients from overseas battle zones to medical facilities here, and then from these facilities to others within the United States or around the world.

"We've been able to transport both wounded warriors and beneficiaries because they receive in-transit medical care that ordinarily would not be available if the technology did not exist," she said.

It is also through education, training and research that ST improves patient care, and the division continues to make progress.

"We have numerous protocols funded with two-year research dollars that have resulted in improvements to patient care. For example, working with Lt. Col. (Dr.) Chad Hivnor, 59th Medical Wing dermatology residency program director, in supporting fractionated laser technology to help improve movement for wounded warriors who have experienced burn injuries," Niemeyer said. "He's been able to use a laser approach to help improve mobility and reduce scarring so that individuals can have prosthetic devices that are fitted more appropriately."

The most rewarding aspect of being able to use laser technology to treat wounded warriors scars is building relationships with them, Hivnor said.

"Our inclusive care of amputations with laser hair removal and Botox as well as our lasers afford full encompassing care to our warriors," he said. "The relationships formed with these individuals allow me to help them recover by the subtle things I can do, but more importantly to care about them as an individual and an American."

Niemeyer said teamwork was critical in achieving any of breakthroughs.

"I have a very talented team of individuals with a tremendous amount of expertise who are here to assist our investigators in ensuring that their ideas get the paper. We are here to help them find the dollars to get their research funded," she said.

"We've had tremendous support from our senior-most leadership, from General Travis (U.S. Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis) and General Hepburn (Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, commander of the 59th MDW and director of the San Antonio Military Health System)," said Niemeyer. "They are strong advocates for ensuring that people understand research is a very important part of our medical mission."

"Furthermore," she said, "without strong coordination across the wing from resource management, logistics and contracts support to the staff at the 59th Clinical Research Division, and collaboration with our SAMMC partners, particularly the Department of Clinical Investigations, these breakthroughs in patient care would not be possible."

Deployed Marine Aspires to Be Drill Instructor


By Marine Corps Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

ABOARD USS KEARSARGE AT SEA, July 22, 2013 – A 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit noncommissioned officer hopes to gain experience in his deployment aboard USS Kearsarge that will benefit future Marines.


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Marine Corps Sgt. William Repass joins a working party securing lines between the USS Kearsarge and the USNS Patuxent in preparation for a replenishment at sea, July 20, 2013. Repass aspires to be a Marine Corps drill instructor. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels
  

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Sgt. William Repass, 26th MEU assistant headquarters commandant said he plans to become a drill instructor to infuse the military mindset of leadership, initiative and discipline into the hearts of Marine Corps recruits.

“I wanted to be a drill instructor ever since I set foot on Parris Island,” Repass said. “Ever since I saw them, I knew I would spend time in my Marine Corps career as a drill instructor.
“I love everything about them,” he continued. “I love how it is the first thing you see when you first get off the bus and you think to yourself, ‘That is what a Marine is.’ I want to train recruits to be Marines -- to take an ordinary civilian and mold them into what the Marine Corps’ expectations are. I think there is no greater thing you could do for the Marine Corps than to actually make people into Marines.”

Repass said one of the biggest things he hopes to impart is the importance of integrity.

Passing up traditional re-enlistment incentives, such as money or the option to choose one’s duty station, Repass chose to deploy with the 26th MEU in order to gain the skills he needed to be better able to teach Marines in the future.

“In my eyes, in order to teach people how to be a Marine, you have to have certain things accomplished in your career, and deploying for me was one of those things,” he said. “Now, when I become a drill instructor, I’ll have a deployment under my belt, and when the recruits ask me questions about deployments I will be able to answer it from firsthand experience.”

During his deployment, Repass is coordinating and controlling groups of Marines, something he said is crucial for a drill instructor to be able to accomplish.

“As police sergeant, he is responsible for all life support activities for the MEU,” said Marine Corps Master Sgt. John Collins, 26th MEU headquarters commandant. “He coordinates trash removal, maintenance requests, cleanliness, ships taxes and any other tasks that affect cleanliness by reporting of maintenance issues. ... [Repass] has become my right hand man and can assist me with many of my tasks.”

Since joining the 26th MEU shortly before their deployment, Repass has made his presence known. His preferred leadership style is leading from the front. If he is not giving instruction or passing information, it is not unusual to see him working side by side with everyone else.

“When you are trying to get a group of people to do the exact same thing, it is kind of hard, because not everybody understands what needs to happen,” Repass said. “If I show them firsthand what exactly needs to be done by actually doing it, there is far less room for error. I find it is also encouraging to show the Marines the job needs to get done, regardless of who is doing it. If I can do it, they can, too.”

Bolstering Spirits in the Year of the B-2

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


7/22/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The Air Force's fleet of B-2 Spirit multi-role bombers will receive defensive system upgrades that will further increase the survivability and effectiveness of the aircraft.

The Defensive Management System Modernization program, or DMS-M, will upgrade or replace the Electronic Support Measure suite, passive antennas and display processors, as well as address sustainability concerns.

"The new antennas are going to increase the frequency coverage," said William Keen, B-2 deputy program element monitor and program analyst.

This increased coverage will provide the B-2 with greater threat detection and identification capabilities, Keen said.

Greater ability to detect and identify potential threats will aid in keeping the aircrew and aircraft safe.

The antenna arrays included in the DMS-M will be coupled with new avionics graphics processors, give the pilots a visual display of the information provided by the antennas.

According to Keen, the current processors will not be able to meet the performance needs of the new antenna system, so they must be replaced.

"The graphics processors allow the visual display to cue the pilots to react to threats," said Master Sgt. Domnick Janitell, B-2 command avionics manager. "The new threats we face today are more complex and the new receiver processors will be able to analyze those more complex signals."

The DMS-M will also remedy the sustainability concerns of the B-2.

"The currently fielded system has a lot of sustainment issues," Keen said. "We need more spare parts and we need better repair capabilities."

The B-2 uses line replaceable units, or LRUs, which are modular components that are designed to be quickly repaired or replaced at an operating location. However, many of these LRUs have been consumed over the life of the aircraft.

Janitell added that there are 20 year-old components used in the platform that are no longer able to be repaired.

"We just don't have the parts we need," Keen said.

The upgrades covered by DMS-M aim to address these sustainability issues in part by streamlining the LRUs from a current total of 23 to 15 new, more capable versions. This reorganization may make repairs easier and less time consuming for maintenance crews.

Once completed, the DMS-M program will provide the Joint Force Commander and the B-2 fleet with advanced situational awareness, improved supportability, enhanced lethality, increased platform survivability and networked battlespace awareness.

Under the project's current timeline, a contract is projected to be awarded in mid-2014, Keen said. The DMS-M program will then enter a phase known as Engineering and Manufacturing Development wherein the components will be required to meet certain standards before going into full production.

The B-2 Spirit is considered one of the world's most advanced and formidable aircraft. Projects such as DMS-M keep the B-2 viable as THE platform that ensures no adversary can find safe haven anywhere, Keen said.

Beale removes fuel storage tanks that kept Blackbird soaring

by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs


7/22/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Beale is conducting a four-month deconstruction project to remove Cold War-era fuel storage tanks that once fueled the SR-71 Blackbird.

The project is a part of the Air Force's "20/20 by 2020" initiative, which aims to reduce excess capacity by reducing a base's footprint, as well as reducing operating costs by 20 percent by the year 2020.

Three of the storage tanks have already been removed, and the remaining two are scheduled to be demolished in the upcoming months.

During the mid-1960s, Beale was home to jets that required massive amounts of fuel including the Blackbird.

Five tanks at Beale's fuel terminal held between 400,000 and 657,000 gallons each of specially designed JP-7 jet fuel. This fuel was developed by the U.S. Air Force to power the SR-71 and was brought to the fuel terminal via a locomotive system.

The fuel was then pumped through a 4.5 mile-long pipeline to the flight line where the Blackbird consumed approximately 36,000 to 44,000 pounds of fuel per hour of flight.

The tanks became cold war relics with the retirement of the SR-71 in 1998 and coupled with the transfer of the B-52 Stratofortress bomber and KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling missions to other bases.

"They're kind of historic structures," said Robert Nordhal, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron flight chief of programs. "We just don't have the need for high capacity fuel storage anymore."

Nordhal said that unused structures cost the Air Force in maintenance and repairs as well as pose safety concerns.

"These tanks were not fitted with modern safety features," said Mark Hoover, fuels terminal superintendent with AKIMA Technical Solutions. "It would cost more for us to upgrade those tanks then to build new ones."

In addition to maintenance and repair costs, Beale will also save in the demolition of the tanks themselves.

"The scrap metal from the tanks is being recycled and is being used to fund the demolition," Hoover said. "It's essentially saving the Air Force tens of thousands of dollars.