Military News

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Continuous bomber presence exemplifies Global Vigilance, Global Reach, Global Power



 By Staff Sgt. Katherine Holt, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Published August 28, 2013

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- Barksdale aviators, maintainers and B-52H Stratofortress aircraft deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the last week of August to demonstrate the United States' continued commitment to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Air Force Global Strike Command's deployment of bombers to Andersen AFB not only showcases the command's ability to conduct its mission, but also exemplifies commitment to providing global vigilance, reach and power.

"Our main mission is to deter and assure," said Capt. Michael Lopez, 20th Bomb Squadron pilot. "We are there to provide support to our allies in the region and to provide combat capability, if needed, for the Pacific Air Forces and Pacific Command."

Movement of U.S. Air Force bombers into the Western Pacific has been ongoing since March 2004, as the U.S. Pacific Command regularly adjusts its force posture to maintain a prudent deterrent capability within the region.

"As we know, the United States has done a strategic pivot toward the Pacific," said Lt. Col. Scott Maytan, 20th BS commander. "Strategic continuous bomber presence is part of that. It is a way for B-52s to augment military forces that we have in the theater."

The continuous bomber presence showcases the 2nd Bomb Wing's ability to operate aircraft within the Pacific and support exercises, operations, and contingencies as required.

"We own 50 percent of the responsibility for this, it is shared across the B-52 community, so that's a big piece for the 2nd BW to support," Maytan said. "It's a full spectrum effort--we've got aircrew, airplanes, maintenance support and other operations support personnel that go out to make sure we are able to do the mission just like we would do it with the resources we have here at home."

The Air Force's nuclear and conventional precision strike forces can credibly threaten and effectively conduct global strike by holding any target at risk and if necessary, disabling or destroying it promptly--the key to Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power.

"What we do day to day with this presence mission is show our ability to fly our airplanes around the Pacific theater and support whatever contingencies we might be asked to do," Maytan said. "The continuous bomber presence maintains long-range strike capability in theater, so our national decision makers have assets that they can use should they ever need to."

CBP also allows bombers the opportunity to integrate into joint and coalition training exercises in the Pacific.

"We are going to go out there and continuously sharpen our skills," Lopez said. "We will have local training missions to continue training on all of our different combat capabilities. In addition, we will also be out there working with our partners training with them in different exercises throughout the region."

Aircrews also plan to take advantage of being in close proximity to other U.S. services, along with the opportunity to work on aviation and combat concepts.

"It is a great opportunity for us when we go out there and work with all different players in the region," Lopez said. "Going out there we get to integrate with them to assure the Pacific."

Though they have been to Guam numerous times, Lopez says every time is a little different than the last, and they never lose the enthusiasm.

"We are excited to go out there to provide this force capability from here...to the Pacific," he said. "We are there to provide the security that is needed; and if called upon, use the firepower we provide to the nation."

Defense Ministers End Brunei Meeting with Joint Declaration

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Aug. 29, 2013 – Eighteen defense ministers from nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region sat together after their meeting here today, each in turn signing a joint declaration that reaffirms their commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and to working together peacefully and cooperatively for a better future.


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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Jenudong, Brunei, Aug. 29, 2013. DOD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was among them, having traveled here as part of an Asian trip -- his second in three months -- that also includes stops in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
 
Yesterday, Hagel attended a meeting here of defense ministers from the 10 ASEAN member states of Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. He also held bilateral meetings with counterparts from several other nations.

This morning, he attended the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus, made up of the 10 ASEAN defense ministers and eight dialogue partners: defense ministers from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.

This year, Russia’s deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, participated in the ADMM-Plus meeting.

“I see this second ministerial of the ADMM-Plus as a landmark event,” Hagel said in remarks prepared for delivery during the meeting.

“In 2010, when then-Secretary [Robert M.] Gates joined you, our countries committed to making the ADMM-Plus action-oriented,” Hagel said. “Under ASEAN leadership, we are well on our way, with three multinational field exercises this year -– a major accomplishment. I am proud that the United States has been a partner and participant all along the way.”

After the signing of the Bandar Seri Begawan Joint Declaration, Mohammad Yasmin Bin Umar, chairman of this second meeting of the ADMM-Plus, discussed key outcomes. He said the group was pleased with its substantial achievement this year, especially the five ADMM-Plus expert working groups that have forged political cooperation among defense forces.

“This is evident with the first-of-its-kind ADMM-Plus humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and military medicine exercise held in Brunei Darussalam last June,” he said. An upcoming exercise will be held on maritime security, counterterrorism and peacekeeping operations, he added, and the group decided last year that ADMM-Plus would begin meeting every two years rather than every three years.

Yasmin said the group reaffirmed the principle of ASEAN centrality, where ASEAN is the primary driving force in the ADMM-Plus processes.

“We also reaffirmed our relation to be guided by the fundamental principle enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation,” he said, “especially reunification of the threat of the use of force and exercise of self-restraint.”

The group recommitted to strengthen defense cooperation in promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, he added, based on the enduring principle of equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit, and respect for international law.

“In doing so,” Yasmin said, “we agreed to promote capacity building through greater engagement and interaction, enhance interoperability through training and joint exercises, and establish mechanisms for effective response.”

 He said the defense ministers also agreed to establish practical measures for reducing vulnerability to miscalculation and avoid misunderstanding and undesirable incidents at sea.
“We also agreed on the establishment of the ADMM-Plus Expert Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Action and on the transition process of the ADMM-Plus Expert Working Group on Co-chairmanship,” Yasmin said. “Our senior official will develop a work plan and key milestones for the next cycle that begins in April 2014.”

A new ADMM-Plus initiative will promote capacity building through a humanitarian aid/disaster relief tabletop exercise and mine action workshop, he said. And the group will reaffirm the direction of the ASEAN leader during the association’s summit in May to promote synergy among regional mechanisms, including those of ADMM-Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

The group also extensively discussed international and regional security and defense issues, and plans to meet again in Malaysia in 2015, he said.

In his remarks, Hagel said the ADMM-Plus is setting the right example with coordinated approaches to transnational and nontraditional threats.

“Pirates and terrorists, proliferators, diseases, natural disasters, and cyber criminals are not contained by national borders, and they will jeopardize all of our futures if we fail to act together,” the secretary said.

“Working together develops regional capacity and the habits of cooperation we need to solve today’s complex problems,” he said. “Exercising together builds trust and understanding, and reduces the risk of conflict when disputes arise.”

Maintainers' training and instinct saves B-52 aircrew

by Staff Sgt. Amber Corcoran
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


8/29/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Two Airmen from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron put out a fire on the B-52H Stratofortress, and with the assistance of three more Airmen, saved all seven aircrew members Aug. 27 on the flightline here.

At 3 p.m., a B-52 was taxiing to its parking spot after landing. As maintenance crews were working in the area and the crew chief was preparing to receive the aircraft, they noticed a puff of smoke. As the aircraft was finally parking and setting the brakes, the #3 brake caught on fire.

Airman 1st Class Elias Delarosa was the crew chief marshaling the aircraft and along with Staff Sgt. Mark Corral, grabbed the fire bottle and rushed to the aircraft.

"When I saw the fire, my mind immediately raced to the refresher training I had just received earlier that morning," said Delarosa, from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "I was thinking about the acronym that goes along with using the fire bottle and instinct kicked in."

The acronym from the fire portion of the annual maintenance refresher training is P.A.S.S. - Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep - and that is exactly what Delarosa did.

"We've all gone through the training, so we know the video well," said Corral, 2nd AMXS. "He did exactly what the video example shows and got down on one knee to control the hose, going through all the motions to sweep the fire."

During this quick transition of tasks, another 2nd AMXS crew chief, Staff Sgt. Billy Cambell, gave the aircrew the emergency signals to shut down the engines and exit the aircraft. The 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production super, Master Sgt. Kevin Rowe and the 2nd AMXS crew chief expediter, Staff Sgt. Brad Davis, assisted the aircrew from evacuating the flight deck.

"When the ground emergency first started happening, the first thing I thought was to get the area safe and set up a cordon before the fire department arrived," said Master Sgt. Kevin Rowe, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent. "As Delrosa was situating the fire bottle, we were getting everyone out of the area, getting the crew off the jet and to a safe location and everything else just kind of flowed."

While the first bottle was getting close to empty, both Rowe and Davis rushed to a nearby aircraft to shut down the refuel and evacuate the personnel. They brought an extra fire bottle back to Delarosa and Corral. As they were getting it into position, the fire department arrived and took over the scene.

When the emergency was contained and all personnel were safe, the aircrew and maintenance personnel involved were taken to Flight Medicine, evaluated and released back to duty.

"In events like this, you don't know what's going to happen, you just react," said Rowe. "These guys did exactly what they were supposed to do and I'm very proud of them. Tomorrow, we go on with normal business and a reminder that refresher training is just as important as our daily tasks to accomplish the mission."

Currently, the damages are to the #3 brake and wheel and tire assembly which will need to be replaced. The cost estimate is more than $20,000.

"We as Airmen are faced with a choice- we all think, hope, pray that when it comes to our turn... that we're going to do these heroic things," said Col. Andrew Gebara, 2nd Bomb Wing commander. "We never know though, until we're finally tested and we have to rely on our training and courage just as these Airmen did when they made the choice. These things can get out of control very quickly and this emergency could have easily caused more extensive damage and possibly funerals. On behalf of the aircrew and the men and women of the bomb wing, we thank you for making the choice."

AF Reservist named top-shot in Schriever archery

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel


8/29/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tim Paget put an arrow through a 10-square-inch target from more than 50 yards away Aug. 23 at the Schriever Archery Range here.

The shot earned applause from his fellow competitors even though it succeeded in eliminating all of them from the base's inaugural Schriever Archery Competition.

"That was a heck of a shot," said Seth Cannello, Schriever sports and fitness director and competition organizer. "We didn't really want the competition to be finished so quickly, but in this knock-out style format, everybody got their chance. Tim was the fifth archer to attempt the shot and the only one who made it."

Though Paget dashed everyone's hopes in the first knock-out round, all six archers who made the final round relished the opportunity to compete in the first competition held at the Schriever Archery Range, which opened in April.

Paget is an Air Force Reserve major assigned to the 14th Test Squadron, a subordinate organization to Schriever's 310th Space Wing.

"Bow hunting season starts next weekend," said fourth-place archer Andy Rowland. "The timing of this competition couldn't have been better. I've been shooting every day, but shooting alone is different. When you get a bunch of people around, it changes things. I don't know about everybody else, but I had butterflies, and that's what you get when you're hunting. This was a good simulation for the hunting experience."

In all, 12 archers took part in the event, which started with a preliminary round.

Each participant shot three arrows at targets measuring 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards from the shooting line. Competitors earned points for every arrow that hit inside intended target, the closer to the bulls eye their arrows hit, the more points they earned.

In the format devised by Cannello, archers added their points up and the top six advanced to the knock-out round.

In the knock-out round, the top preliminary performer was allowed to choose his shot. Everyone then had to attempt that shot and those who missed were knocked out, but only if one person made it.

Rowland, in first place following the preliminary round, went with an aggressive shot choice. He stepped back 10 yards from the shooting line and chose to shoot at a mock-bear target 40 yards out.

"You've got to hit the vitals [area]," he said prior to shooting.

At first, it seemed as though he had hit inside the target area. Robert Dover then followed with a nearly identical hit, but upon further inspection, it was determined that both had barely missed. Tony Calloura and Adriaan Kendall then took their turns and missed as well.

Then it was Paget's turn. But just as he stepped up to take his shot, a slight breeze turned into a strong wind. He adjusted his feet, took a deep breath and released. It didn't take long for his arrow to hit dead center.

As the number six archer, Cannello followed. But his arrow punched in slightly low.

"That was it," Cannello said. "We had been shooting for more than an hour and suddenly it was over. I wasn't happy with the way it ended, but it played out exactly as we had planned before we started. That's how knock-out target shooting works."

The remaining archers battled for second place, but even that took less than 10 minutes. Following successive shots, Cannello earned runner up honors and Dover claimed third.

"Next time, we'll try to figure out a format that works better, or at least allows us to have a longer competition," Cannello said. "It seemed like people enjoyed competing and this was the type of event I had envisioned hosting when we first started planning the range last year."

Rowland said that perhaps the best thing about the range was that it has helped foster a community among archers on base, and that hopefully, the inaugural archery competition can help build awareness about the sport and bring more users out to the range on the base's south side.

Cannello agreed.

"We constructed the archery range as part of Schriever's Single Airman Initiative," he said. "We would like to see more single Airmen using it."

The Schriever Fitness Center has bows and arrows available for use at the archery range. For more information about the range, its availability and rules for use, call 567-6628 or visit the Schriever Fitness Center.

NORAD, Russia Hope to Build on Vigilant Eagle 13 Successes

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2013 – Just concluding the most ambitious Vigilant Eagle exercise yet, senior military officials from the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Russian Federation told reporters today they’re ready to take the lessons learned to make next year’s exercise even more challenging.


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A Russian air force Su-27 Sukhois intercepts a simulated hijacked aircraft entering Russian airspace Aug. 27, 2013, at Exercise Vigilant Eagle 13. This exercise is the fifth in a series of cooperative exercises that provide an opportunity for Russia, Canada, and United States military personnel to enhance their international partnership and to cooperatively detect, track, identify, and follow a hijacked aircraft as it proceeds across international boundaries. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Canadian Maj. Gen. Andre Viens, NORAD’s operations director, and Russian Gen. Maj. Dmitry Gomenkov, commander of the Eastern Military District of Russia’s Air and Space Defense Brigade, declared the Vigilant Eagle 13 exercise a major success.

The exercise kicked off Aug. 26, with scenarios that required the United States, Canada and Russia to respond to simulated terrorist hijackings of commercial aircraft. Both NORAD, a binational command that includes the United States and Canada, and Russia had to scramble fighter jets and track and intercept the “hijacked aircraft.”

Throughout the exercise series, the participants have developed tactics, techniques and procedures to effectively notify, coordinate, and conduct positive handoff of a hijacked aircraft flying through Russian, Canadian and American airspace, Viens told reporters during a teleconference today.

Vigilant Eagle 13 offered the opportunity to take principles proven in a simulated environment during last year’s command post exercise, and to validate them during the third “live-fly” exercise since the exercise series began in 2008, Viens and Gomenkov reported.

This year’s Vigilant Eagle was the first time Canadian fighter jets participated, with Canadian CF-18 Hornets and Russian Federation Su-27 Sukhois aircraft following and intercepting the “hijacked” aircraft, Gomenkov noted.

But the exercise delivered another first, with a visual fighter-to-fighter handoff of escort responsibilities in a live-fly situation as the “track of interest” moved from one country’s airspace to another’s.

“During previous Vigilant Eagle events, Russian or NORAD fighters would escort the simulated aircraft to a point in the sky where airborne or ground sensors would take over the monitoring of the hijacked aircraft,” Viens explained. “Later on the route, the fighters of the other nation would intercept the hijacked aircraft and assume escort responsibilities for that track of interest.

“So at no time in the past did we exercise having the Russian, Canadian or American fighters all joining up together to have a positive handoff of escort responsibility on a track of interest,” he said. “This is what we did for the first time this year.”

That crucial step forward in the Vigilant Eagle series required extensive planning and coordination to ensure a safe, successful transfer, he said.

“We have never done this together in the past, and it went off without a hitch,” Viens said. “What this has enabled us to do is have 100 percent control over an aircraft in trouble that is flying between Russian, American and Canadian airspace. Working together as partners in the air and on the ground, we were able to ensure the safety of the civilians in the aircraft, our collective citizens and the safe landing of the aircraft at its destination.”

Gomenkov praised the professionalism of all three countries’ militaries throughout the exercise planning and said he looks forward to seeing the Vigilant Eagle series continue to build in complexity.
Viens said he, too, sees opportunities to refine the tactics, techniques and procedures being advanced through the exercise, hinting that some new “curve balls” could be introduced in the future.

Planning for Vigilant Eagle 14 is scheduled to begin in November, Gomenkov said, noting that both Russia and NORAD will offer suggestions on how to build on this year’s exercise.

Exercising together builds confidence and understanding that enables the United States, Canada and Russia to operate together more effectively, Viens said. “So clearly from a NORAD perspective, there is a great deal of interest to continue this tradition of Vigilant Eagle exercises to further promote cooperation – especially when it comes to air-space activities that require the attention of both Russia and NORAD,” he said.

WWII Veteran turns 100

by Airman 1st Class Breonna Veal
17th Training Wing Public Affairs


8/29/2013 - BIG SPRING, Texas  -- Big Spring Veteran Affairs Hospital witnessed a historic event this past weekend. World War II veteran Army Cpl. Otho Henry celebrated his 100th birthday Aug. 23.

Members of the surrounding area celebrated this momentous occasion with Henry. Randy Neugebauer, U.S. Representative, Texas 19th Congressional District, and Col. Kimberlee Joos, 17th Training Wing Commander, presented him with signed letters.

Other presentations included a folded flag from Goodfellow members, a card and coin from the Senior Enlisted Council, Top 3, and a coin of excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Coppi, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion command sergeant major.

Henry was born on Aug. 24, 1913, to John Henry, a grocery store owner and Vinnie Henry, stay at home mother, in Waelder, Texas. As a 28 year old, Henry enlisted in the Army during World War II. He became a corporal in the Quartermaster Unit, where he drove supply trucks providing fellow soldiers with food and ammunition while stationed in Wyoming.

After Wyoming, Henry deployed to England and France where he slept in a separate camp for African American soldiers and fought in desegregated companies. Henry took part in the D-Day landing in France and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany.
Henry found himself stationed in Germany when the war concluded and returned home in 1947.

The nation proudly welcomed home 16 million veterans at the end of World War II and according to statistics released by the Veteran's Administration, there are approximately 1.2 million living World War II veterans today. As one of those veterans, Henry and his family live on to share his story of World War II.

"Today my uncle is honored to see his 100th birthday as well as for his time in service," said Teresa Gandy, Henry's niece.

Gandy said she intended to have a private gathering in celebration of Henry's birthday and was surprised when the Community Living Center wanted to hold a party for this important day.

"I am so appreciative of all the people who came out to attend and celebrate his birthday," said Gandy. "It is still simply unimaginable to be here celebrating his 100th birthday."

Command Sgt. Maj. Coppi felt humbled to be in the presence of a World War II veteran.

"The importance of coming out here was to honor Cpl. Henry," said Coppi. "When we look at all the Army core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage, he clearing exemplifies all of them."

Although Henry has lived at the CLC for the last two years, he spent the last 70 in his home in Louisa, Texas. Gandy said it took Henry a while to adapt but nothing's too hard for him.

"It's his personality to adapt," said Gandy. "Nothing is too difficult for him to adapt to, especially when it comes to his surroundings. He went from being here, feeling lonely and not having friends to having many and enjoying his stay here."

Henry is considered a distinguished gentleman at the CLC, and in the surrounding area as well.

"He is a legend," said Coppi. "It really doesn't matter what branch of service you're in because at the end of the day it is one team, one fight. We stand as children of those who fought in front of us and ahead of us and before us. In an essence of state they passed the baton to us, our generation and we'll pass it on to the next generation after us."

With a life spanning eight generations, Henry has paved the way for the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen of today to serve, protect and defend the United States of America.

Army Soldier Pleads Guilty in Kentucky to Bribery Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Sergeant Kevin Bilal Abdullah pleaded guilty today to bribery charges for his role in the theft of fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty, near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky David J. Hale.
 Abdullah, 30, of Fort Campbell, Ky., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in the Western District of Kentucky to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one substantive count of bribery.

According to court documents, in approximately May and June 2010, Abdullah was involved in overseeing the delivery of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases.  As part of this process, documents generally described as “transportation movement requests” (TMRs or mission sheets) were created to authorize the movement of fuel.

According to court documents, Abdullah created fraudulent TMRs that purported to authorize the transport of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases, even though no legitimate fuel transportation was required.  After the trucks were filled with fuel, the fraudulent TMRs were used by the drivers of the fuel trucks at FOB Fenty’s departure checkpoint in order to justify the trucks’ departures from FOB Fenty.  In truth, the fuel was simply stolen.

Abdullah pleaded guilty to receiving payments from a representative of the trucking company in exchange for facilitating the theft of approximately 25 truckloads of fuel.  According to court documents, the loss to the United States as a result of the theft was in excess of $400,000.

Abdullah’s plea is the third guilty plea arising from this investigation of fuel thefts at FOB Fenty.  On Aug. 3, 2012, Jonathan Hightower, a civilian employee of a military contractor who had conspired with Abdullah, pleaded guilty to similar charges.  On Oct. 10, 2012, Christopher Weaver also pleaded guilty to fuel theft charges.  A fourth individual, Stephanie Charboneau, was indicted April 9, 2013, and is pending trial on fuel theft-related charges.   

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett of the Western District of Kentucky.  This case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; Department of the Army, Criminal Investigations Division; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and FBI.    

Airman Portraits: Resilient family deals with multiple disasters

by Staff Sgt. Greg Biondo
81st Training Wnig Public Affairs


8/29/2013 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Eight years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Disheveled and abandoned buildings, like skeletons from a time some would rather forget, line the coast. For others such as Julianne Bocek, they are a testament to her family's drive and resiliency when things appear to be at their worst.

"Being an Air Force family, I think, prepares you for a certain amount of resiliency," said Bocek, a program manager with 2nd Air Force. "When you have things in your life that happen like Hurricane Katrina, you draw on those strengths from being uprooted, experiencing change, and you use those. So I think that's what our family did -- we pulled together. We had to."

Bocek and her husband Tom, a retired senior master sergeant, didn't start their preparation for Katrina like most people. They were training in Alaska the Friday before the storm hit when they first saw the massive hurricane on the news. Knowing they had to get back immediately, they caught the only available flight back home -- the last flight into Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

"We went home, and our son, who was 16 at the time, had been staying with friends," Bocek recalled. "We had called him ahead of time; he was getting the boards out to board up the windows. Every time I passed a TV set, it (Katrina) kept getting bigger, so I would put more stuff in the car and everybody says, 'Ah, Mom, you're overreacting,' and I said, 'Well I'm in charge of the department of worry, so I'm going to make sure we have everything.'"

The family packed up what they could, a few irreplaceable antiques, shadow boxes and important papers and continued to prepare their house for the storm.

"We had been through a few hurricanes before, and Ivan hit the year before, and when it spun up we were actually more prepared. We had packed up a lot more mementos and things in the van and taken them to high ground," Bocek said. "Then we had a couple other ones after Ivan, different ones that would spin up and then they'd spin down. And so on the Gulf Coast, we became complacent."

By the time the Boceks decided to evacuate, it was almost too late. Traffic was at a standstill and because they had gotten back late from Alaska, there was no gas to be found in the area. The closest available hotel was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the chance of making it there before the storm hit was slim. They decided the best course of action would be to consolidate everything in one vehicle and park the others at their church.

When they got to the church, their pastor asked how their situation was, as they just got back in town. Tom explained the situation and then asked the pastor if the family could ride the storm out there, said Bocek.

The pastor said, "Well, you can't really stay in the sanctuary, however, if I happen to leave the fellowship hall unlocked and you became caretakers of the church, I don't think God would have a problem with that."

"So we rode out the storm in the church and the church basically took care of us, and we took care of the church," Bocek said.

With its 125 mph winds, massive storm surge and heavy rains, Katrina pummeled the coast. The Boceks watched as the building next to the church came apart, but miraculously, their place of refuge held together.

"The windows were bowing so much from the wind that water was pouring down into the entry foyer," she said. "The whole thing was very surreal -- you just feel like you're in a dream."

Bocek said once the winds were below 75 mph, the family decided to venture out and see what was going on. So, on the evening of Aug. 29, they set off to find out what was left of their home.

"We made it halfway through D'Iberville; water was lapping up and down the street, and in the distance all you could see was water," Bocek said. "About that time, a volunteer fire department guy said there's a curfew in place and once it's dark you need to be back -- it's a thousand dollar fine.'"

Not being able to make it to their house that night, the Boceks decided they would try again in the morning.

"We try one way and can't get in the neighborhood because it's just houses and debris all across the road," she said. "We go another direction and park our truck because there's no farther going with a four-wheel-drive truck."

A house blocked their path, sitting in the middle of the road as if someone had picked it up and cast it aside. They decided to hike in. What should have been a 20-minute walk turned into an almost two hour trek through debris and remnants of homes. The sight sparked memories in Bocek's mind of the time they lost their home in Texas to flooding and had to shovel mud out of the first floor.

"So as we're hiking in, I'm complaining that I hate shoveling mud -- I shoveled mud for three weeks," she said. "We start coming across some people who are coming off the side streets and they're saying, 'Have you seen my grandmother?' And they have pictures. 'Have you seen my brother?' And all of a sudden, shoveling mud wasn't really that important -- it wasn't really that big of a deal anymore. You put what's important into perspective."

As the Boceks make their way through the shells of what used to be people's lives and homes, they tried to stay positive.

"We hike through the old family cemetery that's right beside our neighborhood, and we come around the corner. We see our slab and my husband looks at me and he says, 'Hey baby, you don't have to shovel any mud,' and we all start laughing," she said. "Our 16-year-old son was pretty traumatized by the whole thing and said, 'This is not funny guys -- the house is gone.'"

The Langley Point neighborhood had 67 homes before Katrina hit; afterwards, it had 67 concrete slabs.

"I didn't cry -- we actually were in a little bit of shock probably, but we decided that we'd kind of start picking up what we could find," Bocek said.

Being an Air Force retiree, her husband was no stranger to crisis response. His instinct to take care of his family and to survive kicked in. He went out to find shelter, but the storm had blown out all of the windows on any motor homes that would have been available. He set up a command post of sorts with a board that listed emergency contact numbers.

The Bocek family's slab became the hub for recovery operations at Langley Point.

"Tom contacted a few of the folks he knew, and Keesler sent out about 160 people," she said. "Students, military training leaders and folks from the base came out and helped clean up Langley Point, and helped people find things. They were fantastic."

It wasn't only the help in the form of manual labor that aided the Boceks and the community.

"Sometimes it's not even just helping clean up or helping find things -- it's that hug when you need it," Bocek said in a soft tone. "The words of encouragement like, 'Hey, everything's going to be OK,' especially when you don't think it's going to be. So that's how the military helped us."

In Katrina's aftermath, while families tried to get their lives back together and regain a sense of direction in an upside-down world, other problems arose. Looting became a real issue and a sense of lawlessness spread through the area.

"Tom told one looter to stop and leave the neighborhood," Bocek said. "The looter later returned and when he was told to leave again he opened fire and shot at Tom."

As the infrastructure struggled to get back on its feet in the months following the storm, the Boceks needed to figure out what their next step would be.

"Langley Point was basically forgotten, and they didn't come by to pick up trash or debris or anything. We started having problems with rats, and it was really getting bad out there," she said. "We decided since Keesler was going to stay open, I still had a job and we would make a go of it. We would stay in Mississippi."

The family moved just north of Biloxi to the Woolmarket community, but as fate would have it, tragedy followed them there as well.

Doctors detected a mass on her liver and had to run tests to see if it was cancerous. Around the same time, an electrical fire in the wall caused them to lose 70 percent of their new home only seven months after Katrina.

"That was March 2006 -- had just moved into the new house, just gotten our new furniture and thought we had closure," she said. "We all sat on the back porch together, and we prayed and said, 'God, if you just let the PET scan come back negative for cancer, we'll take care of the rest -- that's all that matters.'"

Bocek's scan came back negative for cancer, so the family could focus on once again rebuilding their life. Finding a contractor was a difficult task in n the months that followed Katrina. The one they did find kept demanding more money, even though his work kept failing all housing inspections. After refusing to pay, the contractor left town, leaving his workers without pay as well, Bocek said.

They decided to rebuild their house on their own. With help from their church, local and military community, the Boceks were able to bounce back from yet another seemingly hopeless situation.

"We have rebuilt the house, both our kids have graduated from college, they're doing well and my husband and I are giving back to the community again, and volunteering," she said. "It's come full circle."

"It's an interesting experience to go through. I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy, but I think we're stronger for it. And I do think resiliency is something we need to stress with our military families," Bocek said. "You can bounce back from bad things. When things happen in your life that take you by surprise and you just think there is no way to make it through this, that resiliency kicks in -- there's something deep within."

300 attend deployment training near D.C.

by Tech Sgt. Peter R. Miller
440th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


8/29/2013 - ARLINGTON, Va. -- Set against Washington's historic backdrop, the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program hosted training Aug. 23-25 for 95 Airmen and their guests, families and children.

The location did not go unnoticed by pre- and post-deployment Airmen of all ranks who attended the event.

"Our (training) location overlooks the Washington Monument, the Air Force Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery," said Chaplain (Maj.) David Dersch, a Yellow Ribbon Program representative with the 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell AFB, Ala. "It makes me thankful and grateful for those who paid the ultimate price and made the ultimate sacrifice for us."

Participants completed 1 ½ days of pre- and post-deployment information sessions. The 55 community partners present provided support and advice on topics including education, health care, retirement benefits, disability and fitness. The event was rounded out with a procession of Patriot Guard motorcyclists, a presentation on "Putting it in Perspective" by Julian Nierva and the constant enthusiasm of Oki, Reno, Skylee and Gus, four therapy dogs visiting from the Butler-Mercer County Chapter of the American Red Cross in Western Pennsylvania.

"A lot of people should be here who aren't," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Doherty, a 33-year Navy and Air Force Reserve veteran. "There's a lot of good information here."

"It's all beneficial in some way," said Travis Newton, husband of Tech. Sgt. Lindsay Newton, an administrative technician with the 507th Maintenance Squadron at Tinker AFB, Okla., who recently returned from deployment. "What I like about this event is that they make the information available to you instead of having to go out and find it."

Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Cunningham, a Yellow Ribbon representative from Pittsburgh, first participated in the program as a first sergeant when he saw it simply as "another way to help Airmen."

"Many just don't know about the benefits they have earned and what is available to them," he said.

In addition to immediate availability to many resources, the training featured experienced deployers sharing advice with those soon embarking on such missions for the first time.

Master Sgt. Jerome Holloway II, a vehicle operator with the 94th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Dobbins ARB, Ga., said his favorite aspect of his recent deployment to Afghanistan was giving rides to others around base.

"I would say, 'Get in, I'm not going to bite you' and that would make a lot of (them) laugh," said Holloway. "The way I look at it is we're all on the same team if we're on this base. Army, Navy, Marines, and civilian contractors, no matter what your pay grade is, we are all here to work."

Doherty, a member of the 42nd Aerial Port Squadron at Westover ARB, Mass., said the most memorable event from his recent deployment was witnessing an MD-11 commercial aircraft tipped on its tail due to a loading oversight. While it was a potentially life-threatening incident, nobody was hurt, he said.

Capt. Lee Taylor, a flight nurse with the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C., said he has mixed feelings about an upcoming deployment, his first, because of the time it takes him away from his family.

"I'm looking forward to serving my country and serving the medical needs of the guys who need help," said Taylor, an East Carolina University graduate. But his young son, Peyton, remains at the forefront of his mind.

"There will be a lot of changes (in him) while I'm gone," he said.

Taylor's wife, Kelley, said she is anxious about her husband's "safety, and his raising our son over a video screen" and anticipates the trials that come with "juggling [a] profession, raising a son, and being a strong wife and mother."

Staff Sgt. Quirsy Saladin experienced these fears firsthand when she was in the Army.

"After my first deployment, my youngest daughter didn't recognize me," said Saladin, now a radio frequency transmission system technician with the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at MacDill AFB, Fla.

During the sergeant's upcoming deployment, her mother will look after her three children, who are now "grown and able to take care of themselves," Saladin said.

"Everyone's deployment experience is unique in its own way," said Senior Airman Eugene Chuang, a Dover AFB, Del., air transportation technician. He predicts that the most memorable aspect of his upcoming deployment to Kyrgyzstan will be the friends he makes.

Senior Airman Michael Sharrow, an aircraft mechanic with the 315th Maintenance Squadron at Charleston AFB, S.C., recently returned from a deployment to Ramstein AB, Germany, and said the most notable point was visiting Berlin on New Year's Eve.

"I was seeing the world for the first time," said Sharrow. "It is something I will never forget."

VA Announces Big Expansion of ‘VetSuccess on Campus’

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2013 – As a new school year begins, a Department of Veterans Affairs official announced today that VA will nearly triple the number of colleges and universities it partners with to offer on-campus vocational and rehabilitative VA counseling through its “VetSuccess on Campus” program.

Curt Coy, VA’s deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity, told reporters during a conference call that the program, which began in 2009, will expand from its existing 32 campuses to 94. Its primary goal is to provide on-campus counseling and referral services to student veterans as they transition to civilian life, Coy said.

“We put an experienced vocational rehabilitation counselor, full-time, on a college campus to help not just wounded warriors or disabled veterans, bur for all veterans on the campus,” he explained.

Coy said the department looks for schools with veteran and beneficiary enrollment of at least 800 to 1,200 and strives to partner bigger colleges or universities with “feeder schools” such as community colleges, so they can share counseling resources. Officials also seek to ensure the campus is close to a VA regional center or medical facility.

Those regional VA facilities are where on-campus counselors come from, Coy noted, because the department assigns its most experienced people for on-campus work and then backfills their previous positions.

“The school has to ask or volunteer to host a … counselor,” he said. “They provide office space, access to their computers and a telephone.” The VA pays the counselor’s salary, he added.

Some 90 percent of a counselor’s workload may involve answering questions about educational benefits, Coy said, but he noted the program, which offers students veterans the chance for face-to-face conversation with a VA expert, can help to smooth life for former service members in other ways as well.

Every veteran is different in some small way, he said, but VA counselors “can, in many cases, break through any concerns or questions they may have, and help them connect with their benefits.”

He offered as example a student veteran using the Post-9/11 GI Bill who has not yet begun receiving a housing allowance or other benefits.

“[The counselor] can intercede directly on behalf of that veteran, and it works out very, very well,” Coy said. He added that the chance to consult an experienced VA vocational and rehabilitation counselor also offers student veterans a chance to learn about overall benefits they may be entitled to.
“The most important thing is to provide those student veterans with the tools they need to be successful in their academic environment … [and] meaningful employment as they move on,” Coy said.