Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Veteran receives Bronze Star with Valor for declassified mission

by Senior Airman Daniel Hughes
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

9/4/2013 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Not many people can say they served in three different branches of the military. Not many people can say they were involved in one war and two conflicts. Not many people can say they went into a foreign country, took care of a U.S. hostage for nine months and gave vital information that led to a U.S. Army "Delta Force" extraction. One man can say all those things and can say he has a Bronze Star with Valor for his efforts.

U.S. Air Force retired Col. (Dr.) James A. Ruffer was getting ready to attend medical school when the Vietnam War began and knew right away he would have to put aside his medical school dreams and join the cause. He went to a Marine recruiter with the intent of becoming an officer and shortly after commissioning he attended flight school.

His leadership came into the classroom one day and told the Marines attending flight training there was only one fighter pilot position open, and all the rest of the students would be trained to become helicopter pilots. To be chosen for that one position, Ruffer would have to be the "student of the week" out of 388 Navy and Marine pilots. Ruffer always wanted to fly a jet and knew, in order to achieve his goal, he would have to give his all. When the day came and student of the week was announced, he found out that he was selected for the lone fighter pilot position.

"I wasn't shocked; I knew I was doing the best I could at my studies and during my training flights," Ruffer said. "I learned at a young age to give everything I had in everything I wanted, and I would find a way to [earn] what I wanted."

After graduating fighter pilot school he was thrown into the "fire" in Vietnam, providing close air support for his fellow Marines on the ground.

"We flew so low; we used our own eyes to target where we wanted to drop the bombs," Ruffer said. "I knew while flying over those Marines that if I could pave a clearer path for them, they would be safer. That was always my goal."

Ruffer served five years as an active-duty Marine then six years in the individual ready reserve. While on IRR, he attended medical school. He wanted to stay close to the Marine Corps after he earned his medical degree, but the Marine Corps didn't offer him a position and ended up joining the Navy as a flight surgeon.

Ruffers claimed his greatest accomplishment in the Navy was a day in the emergency room where he delivered eight babies in 24 hours.

"That day was a handful," he said. "I was running around taking care of patients and pregnant women kept coming in. In those days, if you were due, you went into the base emergency room. It truly was a blessing to be a part of bringing those children into the world."

Ruffer served with the Navy for six years before he left the military to become a civilian doctor. That lasted for only a few months before he missed the military life, so he called an Air Force recruiter and asked if the Air Force had any need for a doctor. He joined the Air Force shortly after that call and was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. He was the flight doctor for the civilian flight crew, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who flew the Rutan Model 76 Voyager aircraft around the world without stopping or refueling.

"Working with those two was a pleasure. I take pride in knowing I got to meet and work with them," Ruffer said.

Shortly after finishing his work with the Voyager crew, he was looking for a new challenge. Ruffer knew American forces were being sent to the Republic of Panama, and he wanted to be where the action was. He applied for the assignment, and a couple months later, his family moved to Panama City, Panama, where he would be the deputy command surgeon for the United States Southern Command in the Republic of Panama.

During that time, U.S. civilian Kurt Muse was arrested and held in the Carcel Modelo Prison, Panama, for transmitting a radio station critical of the country's dictator, Manuel Noriega. The American was beaten and interrogated, so Ruffer was sent in to the prison by the Department of Defense to ensure he was still alive and to try and stabilize him.

"I have never seen a man be made into nothing," Ruffer said. "When I started treating, him I couldn't stop praying for him."

He was debriefed by Delta Force members and commanders on the captive's condition each day. He made the commanders aware he needed to see Muse as much as possible. Ruffer went back to the prison the next day and talked to the captors and negotiated treatment sessions for Muse. "Every other day for as long as you have him," Ruffer demanded of the captors.

The prison guards granted him access to Muse for the next nine months. Ruffer worked with Delta Force intelligence officers discussing the prison's floor plans to include where the guard shacks were, how thick the cells were, if the prisoner would be strong enough to get out, and if he would be willing to risk escaping.

Operation Acid Gambit took place Dec. 20, 1989, to rescue Muse. The operation was a success.

"Being able to say I helped in the plans to extract an American held hostage is something that brings me a great sense of honor," Ruffer said.

Ruffer and his family moved out of Panama a couple months after the extraction, and he was slated to deploy in support of the Persian Gulf War, but his orders were cancelled.
"I knew we needed to have someone over there to assess the casualties for chemical traces," he said. "I went to the commander and told him I need to get over there to make sure we know how to treat and protect against chemical warfare."
After the discussion, Ruffer was sent to an Air Force forward operating location as a consultant for "Chemical Casualty Medical Management" to the Tactical Air Command and served as an air transportable clinic commander.

"My tour in the desert was great," Ruffer said. "Being able to help implement protective steps during a chemical attack was something that needed to happen. That's why I pushed to go on the deployment, so I could help potentially save the brave men and women of our country."

After completing his six month deployment, Ruffer was soon transferred to serve as an emergency room physician at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, where he retired in 1995, but his time in the military still didn't feel complete.

"I never sought medals in my career; it was always about the mission and country before self- glorification but something was missing," Ruffer said. "I always felt I should have received a medal for my efforts in Panama."

Twenty-three years after his part in the operation was declassified, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren, United States Air Force Warfare Center commander, presented him with a Bronze Star with Valor for heroism.

"What a great opportunity for our Air Force to recognize this true hero; for me, I was humbled and excited to officiate over such a significant event," Lofgren said, "Being able to recognize a true American hero was a thrill. What an amazing story."

After the ceremony, Ruffer recognized his wife and family for supporting him through the thick and thin.

"I couldn't have asked for a better support team than them," he said.

Growing up wanting to be a doctor, then joining the Marine Corps becoming a pilot, joining the Navy as a doctor, leaving the military for a civilian practice, and then coming back to the military to join the Air Force as a doctor is a rare military career path.

"When my Bronze Star with Valor ceremony was complete, my wife and I walked to the car," Ruffer said. "But I didn't want to go home; I knew when I took that uniform off my military career was over, and the decoration I thought I deserved for so long was finally on my chest. I hadn't prepared myself for the emotions that took place during that walk to the car."

Investigation report details February fatal accident at Joint Base Andrews

from Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

9/4/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Air Mobility Command officials released the Ground Accident Investigation Board report details, following the Feb. 17 Airman death stemming from a warehouse accident at Joint Base Andrews, Md.

Senior Airman John E. King II, 21, of Sarasota, Fla., was fatally injured as he was struck by a vehicle inside the base aircraft services warehouse. He was assigned to the 89th Aerial Port Squadron at JB Andrews.

Following the accident, Brig. Gen. Mike Minihan, 89th Airlift Wing commander, said, "The 89th, and all of Team Andrews are hurting after this tragic loss of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Airman King's family, friends and coworkers; our Air Force is a family, and they will not go through this alone."

King was standing at the rear of the vehicle and guiding an air transportation specialist driver as he was parking to create more room to move equipment in the warehouse.

The report indicated that the Airman driving the vehicle did not follow standard Air Force vehicle operating procedures and did not perform the proper corrective actions. Other factors include lack of communication between King and the driver when he went behind the vehicle.

The report is available on the Air Force Freedom of Information Act Reading Room web site,

Sole searching: Army Spouse uses boots to remember fallen servicemembers

by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs

Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen all have one thing in common: we all wear boots to work. Most lace them up in the mornings, while some cheat and purchase the ones with zippers on the sides. Regardless of how they are put on or what material they are comprised of, our clunky, often uncomfortable boots play a large role in our lives.
While boots are one of the first things servicemembers put on every day, it is one of the last things those killed-in-action ever wore.
This realization gave Theresa Johnson, Tripler Fisher House Manager and Army spouse, the idea to create the Fisher House Hero & Remembrance Run. While there are many events that commemorate the armed forces, this run comes with a unique take: attendees can both run and see more than 6,700 boots--one for each casualty in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
Although this year's run is only the second iteration, Johnson said she expects more than 5,000 attendees.
However, this year's event is of particular significance to Johnson, who said her son, who is about to deploy, inspired her to create the event.
"At any time, I could be laying down a boot for my son," she said.
For this and last year's event, the boots, badges and labor is based on donations from the local community. According to Johnson, the event is not used to raise funds for the Triple Fisher House, but is an event held only to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
"You see some really crusty old boots, but I honestly like it that way," she said. "We even have boots donated by families with stories attached to them, sharing the experiences of those who have worn them and the loved ones they left behind. We wanted to bring back names and faces, not just a number. You hear about casualty numbers all of the time on the news. We wanted to share their story, instead of 'there's another one, there's another one.' That number has a family, that number represents a person who sacrificed everything."
One of the stories on the boots was provided by former soldier Mark Eric, a six-year Army veteran who served from 2002-2008. While most families attending write stories for one boot, Mark is doing the same for 19.
"This event is a great way to honor and show respect to my friends," he said. "I donated a pair of boots I wore during both of my deployments. This is my first time volunteering for this event and it is an honor and privilege to remember the people I served with, the people who I considered part of my family."
Mark is not only a volunteer for this event, but also lives at the Fisher House as he recovers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The boots he donated are covered with photos and stories of his fallen friends in remembrance of better days and time he cherishes when they were more than a just picture and a memory.
"This is a good way to cope," he said.
Although the front lawn of the Fisher House resembles more of a boot factory and less of a grassy knoll, Johnson says she still needs more donations to ensure every sacrifice is represented.
When asked by a volunteer for an exact number of boots currently on the Fisher House property, she replied: "too many."
The Fisher House Hero and Remembrance Run is slated for Saturday, Sept. 7 on Ford Island. For more information about Fisher House or the run, contact Theresa Johnson at (808) 433-1291 or visit
The Tripler Fisher House is a "home away from home" for families and patients receiving medical care at Tripler Army Medical Center, located in Honolulu.  Families served are from the Pacific area, including Korea, Japan, Okinawa, and Guam. Active duty and retired persons from all services are helped in their time of need. The Tripler Fisher House is run with donations and non-appropriated Funds.

Innovation integral part of 3rd Wing mission

by Air Force 1st Lt. Matthew Chism
JBER Public Affairs

8/30/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In the 3rd Wing, innovation is the mission.

Airmen expect to encounter and overcome challenges. In the arctic environment, Airmen commonly compete with sub-zero temperatures, near 24-hour darkness, remote training areas, and rapid weather changes.

In addition to these challenges, Airmen continue to achieve mission requirements while working through the difficulty of sequestration, which reduced budgets and services while workloads increased due to cutbacks on our civilian teammates.

Regardless of unusual or extreme hardships, Air Force success has historically been a direct result of Airmen who possess the vision to develop new and improved solutions to the most challenging of scenarios. Two pertinent solutions implemented by 3rd Wing Airmen include the F-22 Raptor 3.1 upgrade implementation and the 3rd Wing Turkey Shoot competition.

Increment 3.1 upgrade
The Raptor 3.1 upgrade provides the 3rd Wing with the most advanced and, by extension, the most combat-capable F-22s in the entire Raptor fleet.

"The 3.1 upgrade gives pilots the ability to employ a more precise battlefield solution utilizing the ability to map an area, real-time ability to retarget weapons, among other capabilities," said Troy McCanless, 3rd Wing F-22 field services.

This upgrade directly spurred two 3rd Wing innovations. First, 3rd Wing Airmen developed a plan which kept the aircraft where they were needed most, in the 3rd Wing.

"Traditionally, depot bases like Hill Air Force Base, Utah would take on an installation like this," McCanless said. "You're talking about a large amount of money that was saved on costs like support tankers associated with performing this at another location. The wing also would not have had those aircraft available during the time of the install."

The 3rd Maintenance Group considered numerous planning variables for the F-22's capability expansion, identified scheduling deficiencies, and developed an organic upgrade plan to keep the F-22s at JBER.

The 3rd Operations Group have ownership of the second 3.1 upgrade innovation as, 3rd Wing F-22 pilots create the newest tactics to best optimize these new capabilities literally on the fly. Pilots from the 90th and 525th fighter squadrons, along with their 302nd Fighter Squadron Total Force Integration partners, are using each flying hour on the Alaska practice ranges to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for this newest upgrade, which will eventually become doctrine for the rest of the Raptor fleet when they become 3.1 capable.

"This upgrade gives combatant commanders a tremendous advantage. It provides a self-contained, precision strike capability combined with a low-observable fighter platform," said Air Force Maj. Nick "Conan" Sigler, 525th FS.

Turkey Shoot
During the 3rd Wing-wide Turkey Shoot competition, Airmen worked in teams to prosecute an attack on hostile air units to control the battle space.

"Teams rarely have an opportunity to integrate and compete with other squadrons across both groups in a complex training scenarios such as this, except for the two Turkey Shoots each year", said Air Force Capt. Herman "TC" Norwood Jr., 3rd Operations Squadron chief of E-3 Sentry tactics.

Innovative Airmen sought to take advantage of the 3rd Wing's unique integration opportunity. Previously, F-22s were the only airframe to compete in the Turkey Shoot Competition. Today, the 3rd Wing planners built a competition to incorporate nearly every maintenance and operations squadron within the Wing and across three airframes: F-22, C-17 Globemaster III, and E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.

"This combined event maximizes efficiency by aligning training over four days that would normally take weeks," Norwood said. "This training is exceptionally different because this is one of a very few wings where there are three different mission-designation series (aircraft type) to do this kind of integrated training."

The Turkey Shoot Competition was also an opportunity to incorporate 3rd Wing maintainers into the scenarios.

"The competition was the idea of innovative young captains who ran with it," said Air Force Col. David Nahom, 3rd Wing commander. "They turned their vision into an incredible opportunity for our Airmen to take advantage of unique training to showcase their talents. Perhaps most importantly, the competition also built camaraderie and teamwork between ops and maintenance."

During the past eight months, Air Force personnel have seen an increased emphasis on innovative ideas. The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, initiated the drive outlining his vision for the Air Force, "Powered by Airmen, Fueled by Innovation."

"It highlights Airmen as the source of our strength as a service, and it outlines the five enduring contributions that will continue to guide us as we move forward, no matter what happens in - with the fiscal realities of the future," Welsh said.

Nahom said encouragement for innovation should come from every level, adding "Our fiscal challenges will drive opportunity for our great Airmen to innovate and find solutions. which will ultimately better posture forces for the Pacific Air Forces commander. The Turkey Shoot was an incredible event to watch as it showcased the ability of 3rd Wing Airmen to succeed in the most challenging scenario."

Creech RPA Airmen earn Meritorious Unit Award

by Staff Sgt. N.B.
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

9/4/2013 - LAS VEGAS, Nev.  -- The 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing has been awarded the Air Combat Command Meritorious Unit Award for outstanding achievement in direct support of combat operations from June 1, 2012, to May 31, 2013.

The combat-ready Airmen of the 432nd employ the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, providing warfighters with long-endurance, real time intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, and precision attack capability against fixed, mobile and time-critical targets.

"I'm continuously impressed and humbled by the amazing work you do every day to support joint warfighters around the globe," said Col. Jim Cluff, 432nd Wing/432nd AEW commander. "This award is not just for one individual squadron, it is a culmination of the entire wing's contributions to 24/7, 365 world-wide combat operations. Congratulations on a job extremely well done."

Squadrons that fall under the wing flew more than 100,000 combat hours in support of U.S. and coalition forces overseas during this time.

Other milestones include the creation of the first ISR video editing training program, creating the first Airmen Ministry Center for increased Airman resiliency, and secured the AF ISR squadron of the year for 2012.

The wing was also credited with five major command best safety practices and stood up the first combined multi-national training cell for ISR missions.

In March 2004, the Secretary of the Air Force approved the Meritorious Unit Award to recognize organizations for outstanding achievement or service in direct support of combat operations.

To be selected, a unit must display outstanding devotion and superior performance of exceptionally difficult tasks, setting it apart and above other units with similar missions. The degree of achievement required is the same as that which would warrant award of the Legion of Merit.

Columbian Air Force Jet Emergency Lands at JBER

by Air Force 2nd Lt. Michael Trent Harrington
JBER Public Affairs

8/30/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Crack!

A deep, white spider web leapt across the windshield. The low rumble of engines on a Colombian Air Force aircraft was interrupted by the splintering sound of fractured glass. The pilots exchanged glances, checked safety lights, monitored their position and barked commands. Cabin pressure read normal, but the entire glass pane was split from end to end. It would be difficult to see, let alone safely fly. The aircraft had to descend. The plane radioed the control tower.

Onboard the twin-engine Boeing 767 aircraft that Saturday morning were 72 cadets from the Colombian Naval Academy, along with several supporting officers and 12 flight crew members. The cadets and staff were en route from Anchorage to Hong Kong, flying across the northern Pacific to embark on a three-month cruise aboard the Colombian Navy's flagship Gloria. The aircraft was expected to retrieve another group of cadets who had just concluded their sea tour at the Hong Kong port.

The plane had just taken off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport early Saturday morning when the situation developed. The aircraft commander requested permission to emergency land at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

As a safety precaution, the pilots circled for several hours to burn fuel before landing safely and taxiing to the Joint Mobility Complex on the JBER flight line.

The Colombians immediately ordered replacement parts, which arrived early Monday morning from Miami, Fla. JBER personnel facilitated the transportation and escort of civilian repair technicians to the flight line, where they installed the new glass with oversight from the Colombian air crew and members of the 732nd Air Mobility Squadron.

The mishap became an opportunity for the next generation of joint-force partners in South America. The majority of the cadets and officers had never seen an American military installation, especially one with the capabilities, mission variety and sheer size of JBER. The officers and cadets received a tour of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, during which they peered into stripped-down engine blocks, sat in the cockpit and listened to explanations from crew chiefs at the Alaska Air National Guard hangars. Many remarked they had never seen helicopters as formidable as the 20,000-plus pound UH-60.

The 517th Airlift Squadron hosted a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft parked on the tarmac.

"The Colombians were most impressed with the size, capability and technology in the cockpit," said Air Force Maj. Darwyn Klatt, C-17 pilot, 517th Airlift Squadron. "Their pilots asked the most questions. The massiveness of the airplane, its capacity -- many of our foreign partners don't really have anything like this. Their largest craft is probably half this size."

Senior Airman Raul Gutierrez, crew chief, 517th Airlift Squadron, offered his bilingual capabilities while hosting the Colombians.

Besides refreshing his Spanish, "It was a privilege to show foreign military visitors what an Air Force unit is capable of," Gutierrez said.

Third-year Colombian cadet Felipe Cruz said while the group definitely wasn't expecting to see Alaska, the chance to meet U.S. Air Force and Army pilots was eye-opening.

"The difference in the scale of operations, the ability to see what's possible with the technology and the training, for us is great stuff," Cruz said.

Both sides of JBER pitched in to coordinate the 90 unexpected foreign military visitors. The group was billeted in the Army National Guard barracks on Camp Carroll. Army and Air Force officers, non-commissioned officers, and junior enlisted members from force support units, dining facilities, transportation, security forces and public affairs worked late into the evening escorting the group and easing the increased flow of personnel and questions their arrival brought.

The incident has attracted attention from throughout Pacific Air Forces, showcasing an unplanned opportunity for international cooperation immediately following other, highly-coordinated exercises like Red Flag-Alaska, which concluded last week.

The Colombian jet departed early Tuesday morning.

"The aircraft commander contacted us after take-off to thank the base for being gracious hosts," said Air Force Col. Frank Battistelli, 673rd Mission Support Group commander. "They appreciated all the support we were able to give them. Our allies would do the same thing for us if we were ever in need."

Partners in sky, on land, at sea

by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/4/2013 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- American and Korean F-16 Fighting Falcons took off from Kunsan Air Base on a friendship flight mission in the skies over Gunsan, Republic of Korea, Aug. 14, 2013.

Colonel S. Clinton Hinote, 8th Fighter Wing commander, led the U.S. Air Force aircraft while Col. Min-Oh Seo, 38th Fighter Group commander, led the ROK air force jets. The flight showcased the partnership and communication shared between the two air forces at Kunsan.

"It is an honor to fly with our ROKAF partners," said Hinote. "This friendship flight is a meaningful symbol of the deep, ongoing relationships we have with Colonel Seo and the 38th Fighter Group."

Embodying the partnership, the F-16s flew around several landmarks in the Gunsan area in different formations with both Hinote and Seo leading the way.

Seo agreed that the flight was a meaningful representation of the commanders' attitudes towards combined operation capabilities.

"The flight was not merely a ROK-US combined flight, but was more of a representation of the will of commanders of the 8th FW and 38th FG to enhance realistic combined operation capabilities, and we firmly believe it could serve as a role model for ROK-US combined fighting power," said Seo.

Seo believes the combined flight was meaningful training since both the 8th FW and 38th FG witnessed the possession of excellent combined air operation capabilities.

"We could successfully complete the mission if we needed to fight tonight," said Seo. "This flight also reaffirmed a solid alliance between the 8th FW and the 38th FG, both of which play a pivotal role in protecting the sovereign skies of the Republic of Korea."

Just as they fly in tandem in the sky, both commanders also agree when it comes to their combined mission capabilities.

"We will continue flying and training together," Hinote said. "If we have to, we will be able to fight and win together."

Airmen to be nominated for special duties

by Staff Sgt. Candice C. Page
Headquarters Air Combat Command Public Affairs

9/4/2013 - LANGLEY AFB, Va. -- Approved changes to the Air Force special duty program will require Airmen to be nominated and vetted through an approval process beginning Oct. 1.

Changes to the special duty program allow leadership and commanders to nominate their top performing Airmen for positions such as military training instructors, airman and family readiness noncommissioned officers, enlisted accessions recruiter, professional military instructors and honor guard noncommissioned officer positions, which were filled previously on a volunteer basis.

The10 special duties and T-prefix duties selected for the program have been identified as enlisted developmental positions due to leadership responsibilities and the ability to mentor young Airmen.

Airmen who have demonstrated a record of exceptional performance in their primary duties are being sought to fill the developmental special duty positions. Airmen selected for the positions may also have the opportunity to enrich their careers, gaining leadership skills and broadening their experiences.

"I think if we encourage Airmen through a nominative process and allow leadership to encourage them by saying you're ready and we believe that you are the quality person to go do this job then we will have a highly motivated and diverse group of developmental special duty personnel affecting our Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Rick Parsons, command chief, Air Combat Command.

Although the assignment selection process will change to a nominative process, Airmen motivated to volunteer for a developmental special duty may still have the opportunity to do so.

"Airmen need to make contact with their leadership, voice their desire to be nominated on one of the lists and if their leadership agrees that they are the right person or right caliber to go and do the job they will be nominated," Parsons said. "When we need to fill vacancies we will certainly go to the list and pick volunteers first."

Air Staff will provide major commands nomination quotas twice a year, in March and September, based on their enlisted population of staff sergeants, technical sergeants and master sergeants. ACC has received their quotas, which requests nominations for 98 staff sergeants, 106 technical sergeants and 115 master sergeants.

"Not everyone will be nominated for these positions. The Air Force is looking for the best qualified Airmen that have qualities of a leader and will be able to prosper in these positions," said Chief Michael J. Helfer, chief enlisted manager manpower, mersonnel and services directorate.

Commanders will be allotted 30 days to nominate individuals based on rank and developmental special duty quotas.

"Quotas have been set to establish a minimum of nominations for MAJCOMs so Air Staff can have a pull that will fit their needs, said Helfer. "The quotas received will be distributed equally amongst ACC wings, but if a wing does not receive a levied quota they should still be nominating the best of the best to serve these duties."

ACC has a deadline of Sept. 30 to have nominations submitted to the Air Force Personnel Center.

Although, Airmen will be nominated for developmental special duty positions by their leadership, they still have to meet basic eligibility requirements listed in Personnel Services Delivery Memorandum 13-62, as well as specific criteria for the special duty listed in the Special Duty Catalog, which is currently under revision.

"Once an Airman has been nominated and selected for an assignment they will need to meet the eligibility requirements, detailed in the assignment selection instructions, within 45 days of notification," said Helfer.

He said, no indication of a timeline has been set on when Airmen will receive assignment notification, but April 2014 is the month when most Airmen can expect to report to their new special duty assignments.

For more information about developmental special duties refer to PSDM 13-62 and the SPECAT.

Kerry, Hagel Urge House Panel to Support Syria Strikes

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2013 – Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today urged the House Foreign Affairs Committee to support President Barack Obama’s plan to respond to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies to support U.S. military intervention in Syria during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., Sept. 4, 2013. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, right, and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, not pictured, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also testified. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Joined by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the two Cabinet officials explained the president’s position, as they did yesterday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hagel acknowledged the gravity of the issue, describing the U.S. commitment to the use of force as “the most difficult and important decision America’s leaders can make.”

“The Department of Defense – our leaders -- have spent days and days going over every option, every contingency,” he said.

The primary responsibility, he emphasized, is to ask the “tough questions” before making any military commitment. “The American people must be assured that their leaders are acting according to U.S. national interests with well-defined military objectives and with an understanding of the risks and consequences involved.”

To better make an informed decision, Kerry said, the president and his national security team gathered facts following the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack by President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Our evidence proves that they used sarin gas, and it proves that they used some of the world’s most heinous weapons to kill more than 1,400 innocent people, including at least 426 children,” he said. “The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.”

Hagel said he shares Obama’s sentiment that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is not only “an assault on humanity” but a serious threat to America’s national security interests and allies.

The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons poses grave risks to U.S. friends and partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, the defense secretary said.
“If Assad is prepared to use chemical weapons against his own people, we have to be concerned that terrorists groups like Hezbollah, which has forces fighting in Syria supporting the Assad regime, could acquire them and use them,” he said, adding that the risk of chemical proliferation also creates a direct threat to U.S. personnel in the region.

“We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist group determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use these chemical weapons,” Hagel said.

An emboldened Syrian regime, Hagel explained, portends possible erosion of the nearly century-old international norm against the use of chemical weapons, which has helped to protect U.S. forces and the homeland.

Weakening that norm could hearten other regimes to obtain or use chemical weapons, he said, citing North Korea’s massive stockpile that threatens the South Korea, a treaty ally, and the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed there.

“Our allies throughout the world must be assured that the United States will fulfill its security commitments,” Hagel said. “Given these threats to our national security, the United States must demonstrate through our actions that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”

Key partners and allies such as France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledge support for U.S. action in the region, he said.

Military objectives are not to put U.S. military “boots on the ground,” Hagel said, but involve actions tailored to respond to the use of chemical weapons.

“We have made clear that we are not seeking to resolve the underlying conflict in Syria through direct military force,” Hagel said. “A political solution created by the Syrian people is the only way to ultimately end the violence in Syria.”

Chemical weapons, Hagel warned, “make no distinction between combatants and innocent civilians and inflict the worst kind of indiscriminate suffering.”

U.S. forces will be ready to act when the president gives the orders, Hagel told the House panel.
“The word of the United States must mean something,” Hagel said. “It is vital currency in foreign relations and international and allied commitments.”

Kerry urged the representative to support the president’s plan.

“This is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter. This is not the time to give permission to a dictator who has already used these weapons the unfettered ability to continue to use them because we stepped back,” he said.

Storytellers at Peterson

by Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

9/4/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Every Airman has a story, but in the shuffle and stresses of everyday life, many are simply lost or forgotten, which is why the Storytellers project was started.

Storytellers began in July 2012 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, by Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, Incirlik American Forces Network station manager, and Tech. Sgt. Kitsana Dounglomchan, 39th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor.

So how did Storytellers make it from Turkey to Peterson?

"It really struck a chord with me ... I thought it would be very unique and something that we had never seen before at Peterson ... I really wanted to try it out," said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly McDougle, 561st Network Operations Squadron unit training manager and Storytellers event coordinator here.

Storytellers is designed to be a live event where fellow Airmen can share their amazing stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn.

"I watched Gen. Welsh speak to the cadets on YouTube -- every Airman has a story -- and to be a good leader, to truly care about your people, you have to know their stories," said McDougle. "There are so many amazing stories that have gone untold; this is a great opportunity to hear some of those stories from our fellow Airmen."

Storytellers is a learning experience for service members of all ranks with a emphasis on educating and mentoring younger Airmen.

"Especially for younger Airmen, it's not death by PowerPoint. It is gripping, you are there in person and they are going to tug at your heartstrings," said McDougle.

Peterson AFB is hosting its own Storytellers event from 8-10 a.m. Sept. 12 at The Club ballroom, building 1013, and will offer all attendees a complimentary breakfast and Starbucks coffee.

Senior Master Sgt. Alvey Brandon, 561st Network Operations Squadron, will narrate the event where those in attendances will hear uplifting and inspiring stories from the following Airmen:
· Capt. Mark Muller, 561st Network Operations Squadron
· Master Sgt. Benjamin Horton, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron
· Master Sgt. Walt McClung, 21st Force Support Squadron
· Master Sgt. Stephen Schexnayder, 561st Network Operations Squadron
· Staff Sgt. Cerrissa Witte, 21st Medical Operations Squadron
· Staff Sgt. Kyaw Min, 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron
· Airman 1st Class Janee Tamayo, 21st Dental Squadron

Go to to reserve a seat for this event. For information about Storytellers, contact McDougle at 556-6769.

Face of Defense: Transit Center Airman Strengthens Russian Ties

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
376th Air Expeditionary Wing

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan, Sept. 4, 2013 – Not many American airmen can say they are originally from Russia. Even fewer can say their military deployment has strengthened their family.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force 2nd Lt. Liya Smolina translates an explanation for the role of the aircraft on the flightline to visiting Kyrgyz students at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Aug. 22, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For Air Force 2nd Lt. Liya Smolina, chief host nation liaison for 376th Air Expeditionary Wing theater security cooperation, that's exactly the case.

"My entire family is Russian; that's where I was born," said Smolina, who is deployed from Tyndall, Air Force Base, Fla. "My grandparents on my mother's side came to America first, then I moved with my mom when I was 8, and I haven't lived in Russia since."

After living in North Carolina for another eight years, Smolina said, her family moved to Honolulu. Although Russian was her first language, she said, she mainly has spoken English.

"I think I'm more fluent in English than Russian right now," she said. "I think when you spend 17 years speaking another language, it becomes a little more difficult to recall certain words in your first language that you've only spoken for eight years. It's a little more difficult for me than English, but I still remember most of it."

When her mother became an American citizen, Smolina automatically became a naturalized citizen when she was 16. She became involved in programs such as ROTC in school, and learned about the military from friends who were serving, she said.

Her family supported her decision to join, she added, and she picked a career in force support, responsible for functions such as lodging, fitness, dining, honor guard, mortuary affairs, protocol and more.

"I'm not an interpreter back at my home station. I'm a personnelist," she said. "That was actually my first choice."

At her home station, Smolina served in readiness and plans before being assigned to the community services flight, where she was in charge of 10 on-base services, including the bowling center.

She also took the Defense Language Proficiency Test and was certified as being fluent in Russian, and now she serves here as an interpreter.

"The Air Force Personnel Center found me by my scores, contacted my commander and asked me if I wanted to deploy to Kyrgyzstan," she said. "I said, ‘Definitely.’ I spoke with the interpreter that I replaced, and she gave me an overview of what she did daily. I kind of learned what I would be doing as I went along."

She quickly discovered the importance of her mission.

"Interpreters break the communication barrier that exists between the Kyrgyz and the Americans," she said. "We're in a foreign country where most of people speak Russian, and we need to communicate with them somehow. I think we're key to the mission, especially since we have so many people from the Kyrgyz Republic working here on base. Whenever we go out to the city and we need to communicate with schools, hospitals, clinics or anywhere, that's what the interpreters are used for."

Smolina acknowledged her Russian was a little rusty at first, as she hadn’t used it regularly since she was 8 years old. Her deployment has helped her refresh her language skills, she said.

"Coming out here and using the Russian language every day has definitely improved my proficiency," she said. "Back home, I don't speak Russian every day. I had to brush up on my Russian a little bit before I came -- reading books, newspapers and watching Russian shows kind of helps recall some words."

Smolina said this deployment has enabled her to reunite with her Russian heritage.

"Whenever I speak with my mom, I'm speaking Russian now," she said. "Before this, we mostly communicated in English. Now, every time we talk, I try to use only Russian, and she says I've improved. Having this job has improved my family ties."

Smolina said this deployment has added to how she sees the future of her career.

"I'm very lucky to have gotten this deployment very early in my career," she said. "It's going to be interesting to go back to my regular job. I love it, but it's going to be different. I think I'm going to seek out other opportunities in the Air Force for foreign language speakers and see if there are other interpreter opportunities out there for me.

"It's been great working here,” she continued. “Our mission definitely makes the job a lot better. When you're doing great things and helping out people, what's better than that?"

3 SOPS celebrates DSCS B6's 10th Anniversary

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel

8/29/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As the Air Force continues to introduce follow-on satellites to its space constellations, older legacy vehicles tend to lose a bit of their prestige. In many instances, the newer vehicles are light years ahead in technology. They hold more capability, are more robust and easier to operate. However, legacy versions continue to provide mission capability.

The Defense Satellite Communications System B6 satellite will reach its 10-year anniversary Aug. 29. As the men and women of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron celebrate that milestone they also recognize the spacecraft's outstanding service and continued effectiveness.

"DSCS B6's 10 year anniversary represents an important milestone for current and former members of 3 SOPS," said Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3 SOPS commander. "I am very proud of the initiative and dedication of the entire DSCS team. Our mission partners from Lockheed Martin, Aerospace, US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, the 53rd Signal Battalion, Defense Information Systems Agency, and the Regional SATCOM Support Center have enabled B6 to continually provide the warfighter with critical communication capability. This anniversary serves as a worthy tribute to the entire DSCS constellation's contribution to our great nation."

Launched in 2003, B6 is the newest DSCS III vehicle on orbit. Stationed in geosynchronus orbit above the East Coast, it provides U.S. military users worldwide with nuclear-hardened, anti-jam, high-data rate, long-haul communications.

Users include the defense communications system, the Army's ground mobile forces, the Air Force's airborne terminals, Navy ships at sea, the White House Communications Agency, the State Department and other users. U.S. Strategic Command has overall responsibility for the DSCS constellation.

Though B6 can be a considered an engineering marvel, it's older than many of its operators. Originally, it was slated to be launched along with its sister, A3, aboard one of the space shuttles during the late 1980s, but plans for its launch were derailed by the Challenger disaster of 1986. Ultimately, it launched on Aug. 29, 2003, five months after A3.

It was the gold standard of wideband communication satellites until a follow-on vehicle known as Wideband Global SATCOM-1 launched in October 2007, but even as the Air Force transitions to the next generation WGS vehicles, DSCS satellites, including B6, continue to provide critical space effects to the warfighter. That fact is not lost on 3 SOPS operators and engineers, who have continued to innovate and enhance B6's life and capability.

"We've done a lot to make the vehicle better in the past few years," said Capt. Ashley Maher, 3 SOPS operations flight commander. "Our 3 SOPS engineering shop has made a huge effort to automate and improve command and control functions. We've also introduced updates to the vehicle's software, which helps it operate more efficiently. It may be considered old, but it's more capable than it's ever been and it operates more efficiently as well."

Since it's the newest of the DSCS satellites, Air Force leaders plan to make good use of the vehicle for many more years to come. It is slated to be replaced on orbit by one of the Air Force's newest WGS vehicles, which is currently in a testing phase, but B6 will continue to serve in a residual capacity.

"B6 will continue to stay online and provide effects depending on constellation optimization and USSTRACOM needs," Maher said. "After 10 years on orbit, B6 is still extremely relevant and providing important and critical effects to the warfighter."