Military News

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Night Train Swimmers Announces World-Record Relay Attempt

Six swimmers will complete 228-mile relay from Point Conception to San Diego to benefit the Navy SEAL Foundation

SAN FRANCISCO, California – August 7, 2013 - Night Train Swimmers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises funds through open-water swimming events, announced today its team of six swimmers that will attempt to break the world record by swimming from Point Conception to San Diego. The 228-mile distance swim is anticipated to begin on August 23, 2013, and aims to eclipse the existing world record by more than 20 miles.

Keeping with its tradition of partnering with other non-profit organizations for its marquee swims, Night Train has partnered this time with the Navy SEAL Foundation, which provides comprehensive, ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.

“Night Train has a long history of raising money for deserving organizations. We are proud to partner with the Navy SEAL Foundation for this swim and to finish at the San Diego Yacht Club, near their headquarters at Coronado Island,” said Vito Bialla, captain of the swim and a decorated Vietnam veteran. “Supporting our Navy SEALs and their families is a great honor.”

The co-ed relay team consists of six world-class swimmers, all of whom hail from California: Phil Cutti, David Holscher, Zach Jirkovsky, Luane Rowe, Blair Cannon, and Grace van der Byl. Members of the group have completed hundreds of open water swims, most notably the English Channel and Farallon Islands relay. Two Medal of Honor recipients will accompany the swimmers in the water to the finish line at Coronado Island: Mike Thornton, the most decorated Navy SEAL ever; and Bob Kerrey, former Governor of Nebraska and United States Senator.

Van der Byl, whose father was also a Vietnam veteran, said, “To be a part of this relay, for this cause, is the greatest honor I could have as a swimmer and a daughter.” Van der Byl recently broke the world record for the 21-mile Catalina Channel swim in seven hours 27 minutes.

Also, world-class runner Mike Trevino will complete a solo run of more than 300 miles from Point Conception to San Diego to greet the swimmers when they land on shore. Trevino has won the prestigious 135-mile Badwater Race through Death Valley.

Additional information and donation opportunities can be found at Night Train’s website at

About Navy SEAL Foundation
The Navy SEAL Foundation serves one noble purpose; to provide immediate, ongoing and unwavering support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families. The Foundation coordinates closely with NSW commands to support the critical needs of active-duty operators while also providing resources for NSW veterans. The Foundation’s work is focused on five key areas: warrior support and family services; educational opportunities; legacy preservation programs; tragedy assistance and survivor support. To learn more, visit or

About Night Train Swimmers
Night Train Swimmers is a non-profit organization that raises money for charitable causes through open water swimming events. Since 2008, Night Train has raised over $1.3 million dollars for its non-profit partners and at-risk youth swim program by completing events such as: the English Channel, world-record Lake Powell relay, and swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands. For more information, please visit

Member of 305th AMW legacy passes away

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

8/8/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- David A. Nagel's long and storied relationship with the 305th started in June 1944 during World War II when he was assigned to the 305th Bomb Group stationed at Chelveston, England. He was the only surviving link to a time when the 305th's main cargo was bombs and the souls brave enough to drop them.

Nagel, a piece of 305th Air Mobility wing heritage, died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 91 July 30, 2013.

Nagel was a B-17 Flying Fortress top turret gunner flying a total of 35 bombing missions with the 422nd Squadron over Nazi-occupied territory. His exploits from each mission were recorded in a diary. The following is an excerpt from his 35th and final mission:

"January 7, 1945 -- My last one! We took a lot of flak; had to feather No. 2 engine ... oil tank hit on No.3 engine. We came home alone ... my roughest mission. Finished six months to the day. Leaving the 422nd January 11, 1945."

Nagel, with his active duty days long behind him, became an honorary commander to the 305th AMW. He made it a point of pride to introduce himself to every 305th AMW commander he could meet.

"As the living link from World War II to today's 'CAN DO,' he made sure the combat legacy heritage was preserved by engaging continuously with today's Airmen," said Col. Paul Murphy, former 305th AMW commander. "In fact, it was an honored rite of passage. Up to CAN DO's current commander, Col. Rick Williamson, every new 305th Wing commander in succession, was met by Mr. Nagel with a warm greeting, a long discussion on heritage of the unit, signed history book on the original 305th CAN DO Bomb Group, wartime artifacts from B-17s and the wartime base at Chelveston, and other threads from the unit that tie our long blue line of Airman together through the last 70 years. He shall be missed but never forgotten by us."

Many past 305th commanders from the past 10 years sent their condolences when they heard of Nagel's passing, which illustrates the impact he had on 'Can Do' leadership throughout the years.

"What a long, wonderful life he had," said Brig. Gen. Scott Smith, former 305th AMW commander. "I feel privileged to have known him."

The former commanders looked to Nagel as a window to the past, and in his passing will remember him as a true friend to the 305th AMW.

"We knew this day would come, but selfishly, I really wanted to see him in September upon our return to McGuire," said Maj. Gen. Rick Martin, former 305th AMW commander. "David Nagel and I enjoyed a very special relationship. He represented the wonderful history of the 305th AMW and was always proud to share its grand history with current generation of Airmen. I say this with much esteem and great sorrow on the loss of a "Great One" from the "Can Do" Wing!"

A memorial service was held July 31, 2013, in Clifton, N.J., to honor the storied member of the 'Can Do' wing.

27 SOW welcomes new commander

27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

7/25/2013 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- Col. Tony D. Bauernfeind, former 1st Special Operations Group commander at Hurlburt Field, Fla., took command of the 27th Special Operations Wing in a change of command ceremony here, July 23.

Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, presided over the ceremony, during which Brig. Gen. Buck Elton relinquished command of the 27 SOW to Bauernfeind.

"Command is perhaps the most significant achievement in an officer's career," said Fiel. "Just as command is integral to our military organization, so is change; whether it is a change in mission, a change within the ranks, or a change of command."

"I have enormous confidence in your abilities," said Fiel while addressing Bauernfeind. "You're a leader who produces results and you have my trust and support. It is an honor to welcome the 27 SOW."

As the guidon of leadership passed hands, Bauernfeind accepted the responsibility of preparing more than 4,500 Air Commandos with a variety of eight specialized aircraft on their charge to execute specialized air mobility, agile combat support, precision strike, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions in support of special operations forces.

"I am humbled to be standing before you today," said Bauernfeind. "Your accomplishments under General Elton's command, both in garrison and on the battlefield, are well known and something you should be proud of."

"You are the professionals that shoulder the burden of making our mission happen," he continued. "You are the Airmen that support our elite joint partners and you are the commandos that deliver incredible combat results across multiple battlefields as you take the fight to the enemy each and every night."

During his 22-year Air Force career, Bauernfeind has logged more than 3,400 hours as a command pilot on three different aircraft. He has earned awards and decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters. Bauernfeind has previously commanded special operations forces at the squadron, group and wing level.

"I am honored to be on your team as we execute our two-fold mission," said Bauernfeind. "First, we will continue to deliver precise, reliable, flexible and responsive specialized-airpower to our joint partners. Next, we will sustain and continue growing this premier Air Force installation."

As Elton relinquished command, he addressed the many Air Commandos who under his leadership had successfully completed their mission and expanded the capabilities of Cannon and the U.S. Air Force in support of the nation.

"I am deeply humbled and honored by the opportunity to have served with you during these past two years," said Elton. "Cannon is a special place. Unique in its location, mission, culture and community support. We will truly miss it."

Elton has been re-assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla., where he will become the new director of plans, programs, requirements, and assessments at headquarters, Air Force Special Operations Command.

818th MSAS, Burundi Air Force continue partnership engagements

by Tech. Sgt. William Davis
818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron

8/7/2013 - BUJUMBURA, Burundi  -- The 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron accomplished the second of at least four building partnership and partner capacity engagements in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 15 to July 26, 2013.

Four MSAS Airmen assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., were deployed as part of an African deployment assistance partnership team, requested by the Burundi Air Force and Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Burundi.

The ADAPT program is broken into four phases. Phase one is an assessment of the partner nation's current capabilities, facilities and equipment to support a cargo preparation and load planning course. Air advisors accomplished this objective in Dec. 2012.

During phase two, MSAS Advisors engage the partner nation on cargo preparation and load planning operations while advising how to tailor air mobility operations to best suit their needs.

"The Burundi Air Force did a great job during the ADAPT phase two course," said Staff Sgt. Arthur Wilborn, MSAS air advisor. "They showed great enthusiasm learning the information presented to them, and I had the privilege of watching them successfully apply that knowledge to their country's peacekeeping operations."

When the MSAS team returns for phase three, they conduct a 'train the trainer' program where top performers from the phase two return and are taught lesson planning, interpersonal skills, and advanced proficiency in the cargo preparation and load planning course material. Finally, in phase four, the partner nation teaches side-by-side with MSAS air advisors, culminating in their certification as instructors.

"It is an honor to be requested by a partner nation and to provide a successful engagement," said Capt. Louis Crooms, 818th MSAS air advisor and team leader. "It was great working alongside the Burundi Air Force through the ADAPT program and we look forward to building our close partnership to help the Burundians help themselves."

The MSAS is a tailorable, expeditionary organization established to conduct building partnerships and building partner capacity engagements at partner nation locations where air mobility operational support is non-existent or insufficient. The core capabilities that define the MSAS is command and control, air operations, aerial port and aircraft maintenance.

Alaskan Command to change commanders Friday

8/7/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Lt. Gen. Russell J. Handy becomes commander of Alaskan Command, Eleventh Air Force, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and Joint Task Force-Alaska during a 9 a.m. change of command ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Friday.

The ceremony will be officiated by General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

General Handy's previous assignment was as Director of Operations, Plans, Requirements and Programs, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. He replaces Lt. Gen. Stephen L. Hoog, who departs to become Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director, Air Staff, United States Air Force, Pentagon, Washington D.C.

Alaskan Command integrates activities of more than 22,000 active duty, Guard and Reserve members from all military services in Alaska as a sub-unified command of U.S. Pacific Command. Eleventh Air Force oversees the training and readiness of five Air Force wings and Air Force installations located in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
The Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region directs bilateral air operations with Canada within Alaska to ensure defense against all hostile airborne threats. Joint Task Force Alaska is a joint command under U.S. Northern Command responsible for the planning and execution of all homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities operations within the state.

5 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo receive award for heroism

by Staff Sgt. Jarrod Chavana
Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Office

8/7/2013 - SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras  -- Five U.S. military personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo were honored at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa July 30 for the heroism they displayed in saving the lives of nine civilians on July 2.

On July 2, a U.S. Army Utility Helicopter-60 from the 1-228 Aviation Battalion, at Soto Cano Air Base, was dispatched to the Caribbean Sea to help locate two Americans, one Canadian and six Hondurans, which had last been seen June 30.

Chief Warrant Officer-3 Jay Hanshaw, pilot; Warrant Officer Zachary Lungu, pilot, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Logan Davis, JTF-Bravo Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist; Army Sgt. Travis Mayo, flight medic; and Army Spc. Robert Clement, crew chief, received the award from the Honorable Lisa Kubiske, U.S. ambassador to Honduras.

"We don't have these ceremonies very often and there is a reason," said Kubiske. "They are for very special occasions and the one today is for that category. You saved nine lives and you can't do anything that is more important or more rewarding."

"What makes this even more extraordinary is the way in which you did the work, the amount of care and commitment you put into it without giving up," she added. "This is what we always hope for, but it's above and beyond what any one agency does or above and beyond what we do as a government."

In order to locate the missing civilians, JTF-Bravo coordinated with Southern Command's Personnel Recovery Branch, the U.S. Department of State, Military Group, the regional security officer and the American citizen services chief located at the U.S. Embassy, which synchronized the aerial search efforts between the 7th District's Coast Guard and JTF-Bravo's aircraft.

"It was motivational in the sense that the ambassador did not have to recognize the efforts of the Department of Defense, but she took the time to extend her appreciation of all who worked together to save the stranded boaters," said Davis.

During the search and rescue Davis acted as the SERE and joint personnel recovery subject matter expert by analyzing and validating the intelligence information and providing critical input to tactical level personnel rescue mission planning, which aided in the rescue.

"You are noble service members performing noble deeds," said JTF-Bravo Commander Col. Thomas D. Boccardi. "The tasks you performed in order to save those people were extraordinary and we are all very proud of you."

Dyess SNCO named Outstanding Airman of the Year

by Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

8/7/2013 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Master Sgt. Celeste Okokon, 7th Aerospace Medicine Squadron flight chief, was selected as Outstanding Airman of the Year. She was cited for performance, leadership, self-improvement and community involvement, demonstrating epitomize the Air Force's core values; integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

"Master Sgt. Okokon is a huge asset to our team," said Senior Master Sgt. Lee Lannen. "Her drive and ambition is an example for future leaders in our Air Force; she is someone we all can follow."

Okokon was born into a military family in Colorado Springs, Colo. At a young age she says she decided to dedicate herself to a career in the military.

"I always wanted to join the family business and that is the military," Okokon said. "I wanted to serve my country, while getting a good education and seeing the world."

Okokon's belief is to always make herself available to other people no matter who they are and to treat everyone with the utmost respect regardless of their rank or position.

"I love to help people and be that go to person," she said. "I have to be a part of everything, so I'm constantly running around the medical building checking up on projects and asking where I can help out."

As a flight chief, Okokon supervises more than 34 enlisted and civilian personnel during daily operations in Dyess' dental clinic. She is also responsible for support and clinical functions, which provide care for nearly 5,000 patients at Dyess.

Okokon is one of only 46 certified national dental hygienists in the Air Force. As Dyess' single-certified hygienist, she served as a key leader in achieving the base's 97 percent dental readiness, the highest in Air Combat Command. Her attention to detail aided in improving her units production by 30 percent and reducing the base population's dental disease by 50 percent, according to her citation.

Aside from her duties in the dental clinic, Okokon plays a critical role in several organizations across Dyess. She is the vice-president of the medical group's Top-4, treasurer for the base's Top-3, member of the Air Force Sergeant's Association and the American Dental Education Association.

"Never say no to an opportunity, no matter how hard it may seem," Okokon said. "You want people to know who you are and go to you for your help."

This outstanding Airman looks forward to the opportunities and challenges that await her after being distinguished for her devotion to the mission and her Airmen.

"This motivates me to do more, I'm really excited to progress from where I am now," she exclaimed. "I want to keep climbing the ladder and see how far I can go."

Okokon says she will continue to aim high by setting her sights on a position that is considered by many to be the pinnacle of enlisted Air Force careers.

"My ultimate goal is to be the chief master sergeant of the Air Force," Okokon said with a smile running from ear to ear. "I want to be the first woman to do it, and I won't stop working until I make it."

For missileers, perfection is the standard

by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

8/8/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- One of the three core values in the Air Force is "excellence in all we do." Missileers take this core value to heart, and for good reason.

"When perfection is the standard, we find excellence along the way," said Capt. Mary Yelnicker, an instructor at the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Since the 1960s, a small career field of missileers has been out of public sight, working deep underground, manning the nation's nuclear launch control centers. These missileers, responsible for 450 nuclear missiles, are ready to carry out the orders of the president of the United States, 24 hours a day, seven days week.

In journalism, a misplaced comma may be considered to be a minor mistake with little to no consequences. For an Air Force missileer however, a small mistake can have the potential for major consequences. Missileers must be proficient, focused and on high readiness alert at all times while on operational alert.

The mental and physical demands of alert duty are achieved by missileers through rigorous initial and recurring training.

All missileers attend six months of intense initial qualification training before proceeding to an operational unit. Once missileers arrive at their unit, they will attend mission qualification training and certify on their readiness before unit leaders. This will be just the beginning of operational training, as continuous monthly training is required for missileers to maintain proficiency and readiness.

Monthly training consists of approximately two days of classroom training on emergency war orders, weapons systems operations and codes control. Classroom training concludes with three 30-question tests. The minimum passing score is 90 percent, but 100 percent is the expectation. A third day of training includes a four-hour simulator ride in the missile procedures trainer. Any test score lower than a 90 percent or a substandard performance score in the missile procedures trainer will automatically restrict the missileer from performing missile alert duties and cause him or her to be enrolled in re-certification training.

"This recurring training is critical to our continued proficiency," Yelnicker said. "The span of responsibility is so huge, I needed the recurring training to maintain proficiency."

The demanding education and evaluation process requirement adds up during a traditional four-year assignment to a missile crew.

"By the time you finish your crew time, you'll be exposed to at least 5,000 questions in these four years," said Col. Zannis Pappas, the Nuclear and Missile Operations career field manager.

In addition to the required monthly recurring certification tests, missileers receive numerous tests and evaluations during Numbered Air Force, major command and local inspections as well as nuclear surety inspections. Units are subjected to two major inspections per year on average.

Pappas stressed the importance of evaluations and inspections, as tools to help commanders evaluate mission effectiveness.

"If commanders see a lack of proficiency, they need to take action, which is what you saw in Minot (AFB)," he said, referring to a recent decertification of 17 missileers from the 91st Operations Group at Minot AFB, N.D.

A key component to the Air Force's mission is rapid response. Pappas pointed out that this is no different in the nuclear enterprise.

When it comes down to making the decision of restricting a missileer for potentially subpar performance, Pappas said one question is important: "Do I trust this guy to be in charge of 10 nuclear warheads?"

"If a missileer does not perform according to established standards, it's the responsibility of the commander to take action until the missileer demonstrates that he can perform as expected" said Pappas, who's been around the nuclear missile mission for most of his 28 years in the Air Force.

"Our mission is nuclear deterrence and the nation depends on us to maintain safe, secure and effective nuclear weapons," he said. "In this mission, there is no room for incomplete knowledge or substandard performance. Period. That's part of the missileers' creed," Pappas said, grabbing a framed copy of the creed from the wall in his office.

"This business is based on readiness and high standards of performance," he said. "Thank God all these years we did not have to execute our warfighting mission, because nuclear deterrence works. But if deterrence fails, we're ready to carry out the orders of the president of the United States. That's why inspections and evaluations are very critical in our business."

Colorado team bikes across Iowa

by Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

8/7/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A group of nine Schriever and Buckley Air Force Base Airmen traversed more than 400 miles July 21-27 as part of Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

The seven-day bicycle ride across the state began in Council Bluffs and concluded in Fort Madison. The Airmen represented the Air Force Cycling Team-Colorado, which was also part of the 92-member Air Force team.

"The main reason we participated was to support the Air Force recruiting program," said Master Sgt. Patrick Hampton, 11th Space Warning Squadron Detachment 1 additional duty first sergeant and flight chief of standardization and evaluation.

During the weeklong event, the Airmen were on a temporary duty status representing the Air Force.

"You get to talk about the Air Force, promote the service," said Hampton, the Colorado team captain. "It's a big recruitment event."

Capt. Michael Hall, 11th Space Warning Squadron, said it is a great chance to represent the Air Force.

"I met some amazing people," Hall said. "I saw some beautiful country and changed a lot of flat tires for my fellow bikers. I have never been thanked so much for my military service than during the ride. It was very humbling."

Lee Anne Backes, 50th Space Wing Program Management Directorate acquisition project manager, participated in the event because she was interested in joining the Air Force cycling team.

"It sounded a like lot of fun and it was a great opportunity to meet other people on the Air Force team," Backes said.

Throughout the week, cyclists passed through 30-40 towns, country sides and cities as well as some historic places every day. At the end of the day, designated Iowa communities served as hosts for overnight stays.

"Teamwork was very important during this ride because one of the things the cycling team does is help other riders with flat tires and more," Hampton said. "One of the requirements for us is if we see anybody broke down on the side of the road, we stop, assist them and help them get back on the road. This included changing tires, fixing gears and any other issues."

Hampton said there have been times when people crash and the Air Force members would provide self aid buddy care, help them out, direct traffic around them and make sure they were safe.

To prepare for the ride, the team members rode more than a thousand miles locally on weekends and before work.

"The group would meet in the mornings and the weekends and ride the back road, about a 20-mile loop," Hampton said.

Backes had already been preparing for a triathlon event since January so she didn't have a specific training.

"My training already benefitted me for the ride across Iowa," she said. "I also did a lot of biking before the event."

Though the ride wasn't a race, it still had some difficulties.

"The hard part of the ride was just toward the middle of the weekend when you're a little sore because you're putting in so many miles," Hampton said.

For Hall, the difficult part was the change in the environment.

"It was the 94-degree heat with humidity," he said. "All our training rides were in the cool Colorado mornings, and sleeping in tents at night with no air conditioning after a long day of riding."

However, the participants still enjoyed their time.

"It was amazing," Backes said. "The riding was fantastic."

Hampton echoed the same sentiment and appreciated the Iowans for their hospitality.

"The people would give us help, fix our bikes and more," he said. "That's what made the ride special to represent and talk about the Air Force, ride across Iowa, and know and enjoy the people along the way."

The Colorado team is scheduled to participate in Tour de Cure Aug. 17 in Boulder, Colo., as well as in other future local charity events. For more information or to join the team, call Hampton at 567-4038.