Friday, September 13, 2013

Charleston reservists share long history with C-17

by Michael Dukes
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

9/13/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C.  -- Whenever the U.S. military on the news operating across the globe, either in times of war humanitarian need, chances are, there's a Charleston based C-17 involved in making it possible. For many it has been a long journey and today the Air Force's final C-17 Globemaster III is being delivered to Joint Base Charleston.

This behemoth has a combined four-engine thrust power of more than 163,000 pounds. It has nearly a 170-foot wingspan and its tail stands at about five stories high. It has a maximum peacetime takeoff weight of 580,000 pounds and can travel 500 mph at 28,000 feet, but it is also comfortable cruising at 45,000 feet. But there is much more to the story of the C-17 than these basic facts. A handful of active and reserve aircrews can take credit for working out the early "kinks" of what has become the world's premiere military airlifter.

According to Senior Master Sgt. Bryan DuBois, top loadmaster for the 317th Airlift Squadron here, the newly reactivated 317th AS was tasked "to provide an initial cadre of Reserve personnel and expertise to Team Charleston in support of the reliability, maintainability, and availability evaluation of the new McDonnell Douglas C-17 Advance Transport Aircraft at Charleston Air Force Base."

The Air Force's first C-17 squadrons - the 17th AS and 317th AS (AF Reserve) partnered in initial squadron operations, including developmental and implementation of operational, training and support policies and procedures. The 317th AS was also charged with creating the Air Force Reserve's first operational C-17 squadron. This paved the way for conversion of other Reserve flying squadrons to the C-17 Globemaster III.

Before the aircraft was handed over to the Air Force however, the aircrew had to be trained on the new airframe. The 317th's first pilots to begin C-17 training August 1992 were Maj. Paul Sykes and Capt. David Wallis. Later that year, Master Sgt. Kenneth Nicholson, 317th AS, was the first to begin C-17 loadmaster training. A small number of maintenance crews started maintainer training in 1991 at the McDonnell Douglas C-17 factory in Long Beach, Calif.

Sykes and Nicholson were part of the crew to deliver the Air Force's first operational C-17, designated "The Spirit of Charleston," to its new home at Charleston June 14, 1993.

The initial C-17 maintenance cadre was established at Charleston AFB. They began their first maintenance and avionics training at the factory in Long Beach. Among the initial maintenance cadre was 31-year-old Staff Sgt. James Macko, who is now a chief master sergeant in charge of 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Gold Flight.

"It was an honor to be selected to be one of the first C-17 maintainers. We knew we were taking part in something much bigger than ourselves," Macko said. "There was a great partnership with Reservists and active duty working hand in hand."

On the operations side, Sykes and his crew trained on the first C-17 flight simulator in Oklahoma.

Sykes who had been a C-141 pilot for most of his career knew his career was at a crossroads as he transitioned to the new C-17.

"The C-141 had been the Air Force's workhorse since the early 1960s. It was a fabulous aircraft but it was time to move on. The C-141 and the C-17, while both being airlift aircraft, truly were two very different airplanes."

"I knew the C-141 like the back of my hand," Sykes said of his transition to the C-17. "But with having to learn all the technical orders and avionics, it was like starting the learning process all over again."

First delivery

While reflecting back on the delivery day, Sykes said, "as we landed at Charleston and taxied down the flight line, we were in a sea of C-141s. We were the only ones in the Air Force with the C-17. It's hard to imagine that today because the C-17 is such a common aircraft in military operations today."

As the shiny new cargo jet rolled into position in front of a crowd of anxious VIPs and other Air Force personnel, Gen. Merrill McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, and Gen. James Peay, Army vice chief of staff of the stepped down from the jet and walked down the red carpet as applause erupted from the crowd. Then, to the surprise of the crowd, came two M-270 multiple launch rocket systems, two HUMVEEs, a dozen airborne Soldiers, and about 120 pounds of cargo.

"This aircraft shows America's commitment to Global Reach. The bottom line is the C-17 enhances a wonderful American characteristic, our flexibility. The new cornerstone of this nation's mobility fleet is the Globemaster III," said McPeak.

Now that the Air Force had its first C-17, and another soon on its way to Charleston, the initial cadre members worked hard to bring their new C-17 squadrons up to speed on the aircraft and to work out some of the final kinks. "There were only six initial pilots and many more needed to help the aircraft reach its initial operational capability," Sykes said.

The initial plan was for the 317th AS to provide 12 crews (20 percent) of the 60 crews to be trained for the reliability, maintainability, and availability evaluation of the C-17 at Charleston.

"At first we were very restricted with what they would let us do with the aircraft," Sykes said. "We could only do 'around the flagpole' local flights - no more than a 25-mile radius of the base. I guess you could say that they wanted us to walk before we ran."

"We worked and collaborated with the 17th AS in initial squadron operations," said DuBois.

One of the pilots in the next group of cadre selected to help get the C-17 and the aircrews mission "off the ground" here was then Capt. Deborah Rieflin.

"Being one of the initial cadre was the highlight of my career. It was a collective of unprecedented expertise ... there was a free exchange of information and dedication to figure out the best solutions for the aircraft and the Air Force," said Rieflin, now a lieutenant colonel and 315th AW aircrew training chief.

In action

"I remember the first time we took the C-17 to an air show and how amazed everybody was that were able to back up the aircraft on its own power. At the time, most people had never seen such a thing in such a large aircraft. It definitely drew a crowd," DuBois said.

On July 11, 1994, the 317th AS airlifted troops and equipment to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as part of a response to Iraqi forces moving to the border of Kuwait. The aircrew from the 317th AS was part of a two-ship C-17 mission that also marked the first deployment of the C-17 to the Middle East.

In 1995, with the world's only fleet of C-17s (12 delivered to the Air Force at Charleston), the Globemaster III was given the initial operation capability green light.

Every metric mandated by the contract was exceeded, including a 99 percent launch reliability rate during the 30-day test simulating peacetime and wartime operations.

"There was a lot we had to focus on. A year later there were almost 500 interim safety and operational supplements to the dash-1 aircraft systems manual," said DuBois.

In January 1996, as part of operation Joint Endeavor, aircrews from the 315th AW helped transport cargo and troops in a pair of C-17's and a C-141B to Taszar, Hungary, for the buildup of military forces in Tuzla, Bosnia. In the first three months of operations, Air Force mobility forces flew 3,000 missions, carried more than 15,600 troops and delivered more than 30,100 short tons of cargo. These numbers also reflect the importance of the C-17, which was employed in a major contingency for the first time.
During the first month of operations, the Air Force's newest airlifter flew slightly more than 20 percent of the missions into Tuzla but delivered more than 50 percent of the cargo.

"Flying the C-17 in the Bosnia operations was very rewarding to me," said Sykes. "With the C-17 we were able to accomplish everything much more efficiently than with other aircraft in the past, and the aircraft's ability to operate in such austere environments was truly beneficial."

Since then, the C-17 has participated in nearly every U.S. military operation and humanitarian relief effort.

DuBoise, who has racked up more than 5,200 hours as a loadmaster in the C-17, said possibly the most significant memory he has over the past 20 years on the C-17 is bringing home America's first fallen warriors from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Another time that holds a special place in DuBois' collection of C-17 experiences was the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom. "Realizing how much of an impact and how well suited this aircraft was to get the job done. Even though we had done this in Bosnia, it was very humbling to know we were doing this mission and how well suited the C-17 was to successfully performing it."

"Realizing I helped the Air Force get something that is so well utilized and is being used at its maximum potential is very gratifying," DuBois added.

Almost 200 Years Later, National Anthem Continues to Inspire

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2013 – As Congress gathered on the east steps of the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11 for its annual National Day of Service and Remembrance ceremony, Army Master Sgt. Antonio Giuliano took his place beside lawmakers and sang a powerful a capella rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Master Sgt. Antonio Giuliano, first tenor section leader for the U.S. Army Band’s Army Chorus, sings the Star Spangled Banner as members of Congress gather on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the 12th annual September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, Sept. 11, 2013. House of Representatives photo by Heather Reed

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
No matter how many times he sings the national anthem as first tenor section leader for the U.S. Army Band’s Army Chorus, Giuliano said, he experiences the same flurry of emotions.

“My heart is pounding before, during and after,” said Giuliano, who sang the national anthem 52 times in 2012 alone, including his first performance at the congressional 9/11 remembrance ceremony.

“There is nothing more exhilarating for me as a soldier-musician in ‘Pershing’s Own’ to sing the Star Spangled Banner,” Giuliano said. “I feel the nervousness and exhilaration of it, recognizing the importance of what I’m singing and wanting to get it right.”
Attend nearly any major public or sporting event -- the Super Bowl, World Series or a White House honors ceremony -- and chances are you will hear a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. For members of the elite military bands, who perform it more than just about anyone, it is the ultimate command performance.

Air Force Master Sgt. Bradley Bennett, a tenor vocalist with the U.S. Air Force Band’s 20-member “Singing Sergeants” chorus, remembers feeling the eyes of the world on him as he sang the national anthem on the U.S. Capitol steps for President George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

“It is the one song you absolutely can’t mess up,” said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Sara Dell’Omo, a mezzo-soprano with the U.S. Marine Band. “That makes it the most nerve-wracking piece of music I sing,” despite hundreds of performances since joining the band in 2005, she said.

“You’d think it would get easier, but for me, it doesn’t,” she said with a laugh.

Despite the pressures of delivering perfect performances every time, Dell’Omo calls the Star Spangled Banner the most meaningful piece she sings.

“The anthem is not about me, and it is not about my voice and singing it. It is about what it represents, and trying to create the excitement and solemnity of that and translating that through music. I get a little excited about the anthem,” Dell’Omo said -- an excitement she enjoys sharing with the high school choirs she coaches.

“After awhile, the kids get it,” she said. “They realize that this is not about making a Whitney Houston impression. This is about something bigger than me, and harnessing that.”

Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Bayes, a saxophonist with the U.S. Navy Band for almost 17 years, said he feels that power with every single performance.

“Someone once asked if I ever got sick of playing the same piece of music over and over and over again,” said Bayes, who can’t count how many times he has performed the national anthem, numbering it in the hundreds.

“But to this day, every time I play it, it gives me chills,” Bayes said. “It is a different experience every time. But the second you hit the first note, you see a group of people stand up, take off their hats, put their hands over their hearts and take pride for those few minutes that the anthem goes by.”

Francis Scott Key captured that sense of wonder when he penned the words to the Star Spangled Banner 199 years ago this weekend, on Sept. 14, 1814.

A civilian lawyer during the War of 1812, he was negotiating with the British to secure the release of an American prisoner. The British, concerned that Key had heard too much about their plans to attack Fort McHenry, decided to detain him aboard a British ship in Baltimore Harbor until it was over.

The Americans were outnumbered and outgunned throughout the ferocious 25-hour bombardment. But “by the dawn’s early light,” Key was astounded to see the 15 stars and 15 stripes of the American flag still flying over the beleaguered fort. He pulled an envelope from his pocket and wrote the poem that later was put to a popular tune of the day.

Bayes, who also serves as archivist for the Navy Band, said a British colleague once asked him why the United States would celebrate an event that was more of a draw than a gallant victory.

“The flag that Francis Scott Key saw that day should not have been flying,” Bayes said. “The fact that the British had over 1,000 ships and several thousand guns, and that we had maybe 17 ships and about 400-some guns, it was a true David-and-Goliath story. So that flag, for all intents and purposes, should not have been there. It was a miracle that the flag was still standing at the end of the day.”

“It speaks to the tenacity and courage of the democratic republic, and for fighting for its survival and fighting for democracy and freedom,” Bennett added. “It encapsulates that spirit of pride that we all carry with us as citizens of the United States.”

Today, the national anthem continues to inspire and bring Americans together, the musicians agreed.
Giuliano said he felt that power this week as the United States observed the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. The magnitude of Key’s lyrics struck him with a particular intensity, he said, as Americans paused to remember and reflect.

“No matter where you come from, what gender, what color, all the differences are put aside. It symbolizes that sense of unity,” said Dell’Omo. “You hear the national anthem and we can all come together. It is the one flag, it’s the one nation. It is the anthem for all of us.”

Yet many people don’t realize how closely the Star Spangled Banner came to not being adopted as the national anthem – and the key role the military played in making it so.

It wasn’t until 1889 – 75 years after Key witnessed the Battle of Fort McHenry – that Navy Secretary Benjamin F. Tracy issued a general order requiring Navy and Marine Corps bands to play it during their morning flag-raising ceremonies, Bayes said. The following year, the Department of Navy ordered the traveling U.S. Marine Band to start performing the Star Spangled Banner at the end of its concerts.

Later, as the Spanish-American War was brewing, Navy Commodore George Dewey and the American Asiatic Squadron he commanded set sail for the Philippines the tune of the Star Spangled Banner, Bayes reported. Ironically, it was the British ships that were with them in Hong Kong who played it to cheer them on to battle.

When the fleet declared victory in the Battle of Manila Bay in May 1898, U.S. forces raised Old Glory to the accompaniment of the Star Spangled Banner.

“It is the first representation I have seen where the anthem symbolized our country in that sort of way,” Bayes said. “We weren’t just paying our respects during morning colors. We were signifying that the United States had declared victory. This was the musical representation of that.”

The U.S. government and military services recognized that significance.

The Navy issued a regulation in 1903 that required all of its members to stand at attention when the Star Spangled Banner was played. Fourteen years later, in 1917, an Army regulation designated the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem – although in reality, it still wasn’t.

The problem, Bayes explained, is that many people thought the Star Spangled Banner – with a range of one and a half octaves and extremely high notes -- too difficult to sing. Other popular songs, including “Hail Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle,” were considered catchier and more “singable.”

Congress debated the issue, ultimately summoning the Navy Band to its chambers to settle the argument once and for all. Its members -- joined by two professional vocalists, because the Navy Band had none at the time -- performed the Star Spangled Banner “to prove its singability and playability,” Bayes said.
Congress was convinced, and President Herbert Hoover officially designated the Star Spangled Banner the as the national anthem in March 1931.

But the Navy Band’s work was not yet over.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who followed Hoover to the White House, was frustrated that the national anthem sounded different every time he heard it. Rejecting an arrangement by famous American composer Henry Filmore, he turned to the Navy to develop an official version of the Star Spangled Banner.

That version, arranged at the Navy School of Music, which operated at the time in Washington, was adopted in 1945. And although one still hears countless renditions of the national anthem, the Navy’s arrangement remains the official version played by all military bands. “It is the arrangement we use to this day [during] White House and Pentagon arrival [ceremonies] and the standard anthem played throughout any military honor ceremony,” Bayes said.

Almost two centuries since Key captured the spirit of the Star Spangled Banner and almost seven decades after FDR approved the official arrangement, military band members say it continues to inspire them as well as their audiences.

“It’s wonderful thing to see the pride in people’s eyes as they celebrate America and listen to the anthem,” Bennett said. “I love singing the anthem. … It is just a great tradition for America and the military.”

As she sings, Dell’Omo said, she sometimes tries to imagine Baltimore Harbor as Key witnessed it almost two centuries ago. “We can all imagine how it would be to visualize this flag being seen through the night sky,” she said. “Francis Scott Key captured that one moment in time, but somehow it has transcended almost 200 years.”

Giuliano said he tries to concentrate on Key’s words rather than his audiences as he sings the Star Spangled Banner, but admits to feeling a ripple of excitement up his spine when he catches a glimpse of how the anthem affects them.

And no audience is more appreciative, he said, than those who serve or have served in uniform.
“It thrills my heart when I sing for the military. It is always awesome, because they get it,” he said. “They are standing tall, erect and at attention. They understand the enormity of it, and the commitment they have made.

“Just like Francis Scott Key, they understand that freedom isn’t free,” Giuliano said. “It never has been and never will be.”

Marines give Airmen martial arts training

by SrA. Kelly Galloway
439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

9/13/2013 - WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. -- The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is a combination of different martial arts brought together to create one fighting style. MCMAP combines the basics of boxing, Judo and Ju Jitsu. In August, 33 of Westover's Security Forces Airmen participated and received certificates for completion of 27.30 hours of rigorous training, taught by Marine MCMAP instructors attached to the Marine Air Support Squadron-6 on base.

"MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence. In concert with Marine Corps leadership principles I train in these three disciplines to enhance Marines both on and off the battlefield," said Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, Staff Sergeant Lucio Bernabe, MASS-6.

Similar to civilian martial arts courses, MCMAP awards students colored belts which indicate skill level.

"The best part of the training for me was having the opportunity to employee the techniques through the ground fighting, boxing, and pugil stick events," Capt. Trovarello, 439th Security Forces, said. "Regardless of rank or stature each event brought out the strengths and weakness each person brought to the table... The Airmen and I look forward to continuing on with the program as time permits and continuing to build a solid report with our Marine brothers and sisters," Trovarello said.

Luke warriors compete in memory of 'Hot Shots'

by Staff Sgt. Timothy Boyer
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/13/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- While this was its fourth consecutive year, the competition took on additional meaning this time around. The final stage of the contest was filled with challenges dedicated to the memory of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives battling the Yarnell wildfire July 1 in Central Arizona.

Twenty-six teams of four athletes gathered Sept. 6 at the 56th Force Support Squadron Bryant Fitness Center to compete in this year's Warrior Fitness Challenge. The teams were made up of service members, competitors from fitness groups off base, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and members of the Phoenix Fire Department.

"This event started four years ago as a 9/11 memorial, but has added meaning this year with the recent tragedy of the Granite Mountain Hotshots of the Prescott Fire Department," said Sherri Biringer, 56th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist supervisor and organizer of the Warrior Fitness Challenge. "This is an event of mental ability, strength and agility. It's meant to help people in ways that are useful to their daily lives. Everything we do is functional fitness."

About eight months ago, Senior Airman Eric Vail, 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician, couldn't see himself in a fitness competition like this.

"I didn't like warrior fitness, I thought it was stupid," he said. "My superintendent recommended I try it, so I did, and it kicked my butt. But I've been coming back ever since."

While pushing hard and doing his best is important, Vail said the meaning behind this year's competition will give him a little extra motivation.

"It gave us something to push for, it gave meaning to the workout," he said.

The event began with words of encouragement from Brig. Gen. Mike Rothstein, 56th Fighter Wing commander, followed by a safety brief before the workouts began. The sun began beating down on competitors as they walked from the fitness center to the track to begin the first round of the challenge.

As the weather creeped its way to triple digits, competitors prepared for the first event, which included running around the track with a medicine ball, pushups, squats and pull-ups. Event two was no easier, and included 15 repetitions of dead-lifting either 225 or 155 pounds, depending on your abilities. After the first two events, the final event was no joke either.

The third event was dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives in the recent tragedy, and it began with a 50-foot tire flip, a 500-meter row, burpees, a fire hose run and a victim carry.

By the end of the event, competitors said they were exhausted. For many, the pride in doing this event to honor the fallen heroes was the greatest part.

"Just being in public service, we are in the same vein as firefighters," said Brigette Ruiz, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy and participant in the Warrior Fitness Challenge. "It's really touching that the military community would do something to honor the public service community."

While some may feel warrior fitness is not for them, Biringer said she has seen tremendous results for those who decided to try it.

"I've seen people with fitness test fails go on to pass," she said. "I've seen people lose significant weight. It's nothing to be afraid of. We start you off with a fundamentals class, and, as you become more fit and familiar with the proper form, our coaches scale you up, adding the appropriate weight, time and so on to your routine."

For more information on how you get involved in Warrior Fitness go to and click on the Sports and Fitness link or call 623-856-6241. For more information on the Granite Mountain Hotshots, go to

(The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the 56th Fighter Wing, the United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense of the external Web site, or the information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Services/Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Air Force does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of the Web site.)

CSAF presents Airman's Medal to JBSA-Randolph SFS Airman

by Alex Salinas
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

9/13/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- During a three-day visit to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III honored the heroic actions of a 902nd Security Forces Squadron Airman by presenting him the Airman's Medal Sept. 12 at the Fleenor Auditorium.

The ceremony took place during an All Call with Airmen from Air Force Recruiting Service, the 502nd Air Base Wing and the 12th Flying Training Wing.

To an audience of more than 900 people, Welsh opened his speech with a question: "Have you saved a life lately?"

"This is about somebody choosing to put himself in danger to save a life," Welsh said. "This is a huge award."

According to the medal citation, on Nov. 21, 2012, Staff Sgt. Edward Grant "distinguished himself by heroism involving voluntary risk of life at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. While returning to work from the dining facility, Sergeant Grant heard an explosion and noticed smoke and fire at the entrance of a nearby compound.

"After attempting to call for first responders, he entered the compound, where a storage fuel tank had exploded dispersing fuel under a parked water truck, and began to evacuate personnel."

During the evacuation, Grant discovered a group of foreign nationals who were stranded along an internal fence line because fire was blocking their exit point.

Grant, worked with four other members to pry open the fence in an attempt to create an opening for the personnel to escape. After several attempts in cutting the wire mesh to ensure the civilians escaped safely, Grant entered the fenced area, where smoke, fire and other explosions permeated. He located more trapped civilians, including the compound manager, and led them to safety. Altogether, Grant and his team liberated 35 people.

"I don't feel like I did anything extraordinary," Grant said. "I was just being human. I saw people who needed help."

Grant said it was a "huge honor" to meet and be presented the Airman's Medal by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Established in 1960, the Airman's Medal is given to service members or those of a friendly nation while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Air Force distinguishing themselves with heroic actions, usually at the voluntary risk of their lives, but without involving combat.

After Grant received his medal, Welsh then pinned on his technical sergeant stripes.

"I had no surprise at all," Maj. Gregory Bodenstein, 902nd SFS commander, said. "Sergeant Grant is an amazing defender who approaches work daily with tenacity. It's a true honor to serve beside someone as Sergeant Grant."

Col. Christine Erlewine, 902nd Mission Support Group commander, explained why Grant's rescue was successful.

"He reacted the way his training taught him to ... and was able to save lives," she said. "The Airman's Medal is something not given out very frequently. (Grant) leads the way among security forces members."

Grant has received other Air Force medals, to include the Air Force Achievement Medal for crowd-control duties and quickly responding to a medical emergency during the 2011 JBSA-Randolph Airshow.

In 2012, he was awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service in various assignments including swift response to major vehicular accidents, orchestrating the capture of an armed suspect and garnering a confession in a marijuana case.

Welsh concluded the commander's call by answering questions from the audience on Air Force issues.

He encouraged audience members to offer ideas to supervisors and commanders on improving Air Force processes, and to connect with other Airmen by getting to know them on a personal level.

A goal of the Air Force, Welsh said, is to "look at itself in the mirror" and become more efficient with limited resources.

Welsh, along with his wife, Betty, met with leaders and family members from the Air Force Personnel Center, Air Education and Training Command, 502nd Air Base Wing and 12th Flying Training Wing during their trip to San Antonio.

Sheppard's 82nd TRW changes command

by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

9/12/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Air Force's largest technical training base welcomed a new commander for the 82nd Training Wing Sept 12.

Brig. Gen. Scott Kindsvater took command of the 82nd TRW from outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini.

Maj. Gen. Leonard Patrick, 2nd Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony, commenting on the unique role Sheppard plays within the Air Education and Training Command.

"It's about the people," Patrick said. "You get to mold Airmen each and every day."

Fantini described Sheppard's mission as an exponential one that has influence across the entire operational Air Force.

"We create a fantastic synergy that nobody can ever stop," he said. "Every sortie on every base is affected by what we do here."

Kindsvater will also be working closely in conjunction with the 80th Flying Training Wing on base, home to the Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training program; the world's only multi-nationally manned and managed flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for NATO.

As Kindsvater addressed the hundreds of Airmen on the parade field, he commented on how he felt about taking command of Sheppard.

"Men and women of the 82nd, it is my humble privilege to be your commander," he said. "You are a remarkable organization chock-full of the best our nation has to offer."

Fantini will move on to command Kandahar Airfield (NATO) and the 451st Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Wild Weasels battle through Iron Spear

by Senior Airman Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/12/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons used an array of offensive firepower during a two-week exercise with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force that wrapped up Sept. 6

The exercise -- Iron Spear 13-2 - was the second go of a biannual engagement that allowed the host nation to test their surface-to-air missile capabilities against the aerial prowess of Misawa's F-16s in dozens of simulated combat scenarios.

The JGSDF stepped in to provide the most real-life warfare training available to Wild Weasels. The mission of the 35th Fighter Wing is the suppression of enemy air defenses, namely the destruction of enemy SAM sites, which is precisely what Iron Spear allowed. Misawa pilots executed more than 300 flying hours over 14 days while locating and chasing down enemy targets.

Capt. Bryan Zumbro, 14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, said Iron Spear was crucial for more than just being able to train against actual SAM sites, but also because of the ground self-defense force running them.

"The most profound significance is fighting against an actual SAM operator," Zumbro said. "The JGSDF operators are professional, active duty soldiers operating in a real environment. We very rarely get to dodge simulated missiles fired by operators as we work our way into the target area while finding operational SAM sites in our targeting pods."

Zumbro said the view from the jet's pod - albeit at 30 thousand feet -- is as authentic as a battlefield can be. It's replete with rotating early warning and missile guidance radars, command and control vehicles, missile transporters and launchers, and ground personnel simultaneously in action.

Capt. Ryan Worrell, 35th Operations Support Squadron weapons and tactics flight commander, said pilots mainly drop joint direct attack munitions - GPS guided bombs known as JDAMS - during SAM training, but that this time around both parties raised the bar with closer battle exchange.

"After dropping JDAMS, we transitioned to high-angle strafes using our 20mm guns," Worrell said. "We roll in to attack our target from six to eight thousand feet. A lot of times the enemy is able to visually acquire us as we attack each other."

All of this takes place on what Zumbro called the most intense roller-coaster imaginable at supersonic speeds while employing maneuvers resulting in G-forces more than five times that of gravity.

Zumbro said they'll open fire at slightly less than a mile, employing more than 100 high-explosive rounds per second on each SAM site. All the while, operators on the ground do everything in their power to train surviving air defense equipment in the direction of the incoming threat in defense of their lives.

"It's intense," he said. "It affords the enemy the opportunity to rethink whatever reason they've given us to be there."

The replicated enemy - in this case, JGSDF operators huddled within missile sites scattered across Okushiri Island - fired back at the jets using an advanced, layered enemy integrated air defense system with more than one SAM site engaged at a time, including the use of a highly advanced version called the Chu-SAM which has only been around for about 10 years.

Capt. Dennis Muller, 13th Fighter Squadron pilot, said they faced some of the most highly competent, well-trained operators in the world.

"This exercise tested the reliability and viability of the F-16s and the systems on them, as well as it tested the pilots and tactic against that type of threat," Muller said. "Through this exercise, the pilots and maintainers become better at their jobs and are much more capable of achieving the objective of destroying and killing their enemy."

An important piece implemented during the exercise was the use of Sabre - the ground control intercept agency that relayed real time kill outcomes for the more than 200 sorties flown during Iron Spear.

"The agency is on the radio observing radar that's shows everything," Worrell said. "That was a very strong point of this exercise. If we strafed something or dropped a bomb, we would call 'kill', pass it through Sabre and the JGSDF would turn it off. This worked vice versa as well; if they shot us, Sabre would radio through and tell us to head south out of the fight."

Another caveat that made the exercise nearly identical to a real-world operation was the decision to conduct sorties through the day and night, challenging pilots not only with adjusted light settings but also requiring the use of night vision goggles. It was the first time night flying was executed during an Iron Spear exercise.

Zumbro compared the view within the NVGs as holding two tubes in front of each eyeball in the black of night and driving at express speeds in the heart of rush hour traffic in Los Angeles, keeping in mind you are only able to see directly where you turn your entire head while being fully responsible for the vehicle's settings.

"Now take that same traffic and make it hostile," Zumbro said. "That's what it's like fighting SAMs at night."

"The big difference at night time is obviously visibility," Worrell said. "It's more complicated for us to maintain awareness within our flights while fighting against ground forces, but it's a fundamental aspect of the USAF that we're absolutely capable at night."

Some may be under the impression these exercises are thoroughly scripted, but many of the tactics employed are purely improvised as pilots react accordingly to - for all intents and purposes - a real life enemy threat.

"Split-second decisions are made on which part of the SAM system to attack based on what is required to render the sites useless," said Zumbro.

"We make a tactical decision to either defeat the missile or if we know how far it is, maybe we don't have to because we know its limitations. This is as real as it gets without someone actually blowing up, which is why it's been awesome training," Worrell added.

Muller said each sortie lasts between one and two hours in length, and before each sortie, there is a mass pre-brief that goes over the rules both sides will be fighting by that day. Following every sortie is a debrief, which Worrell called the most important part of the process.

A well known stumbling block with bilateral interaction is bringing into play the use of two languages. This barrier has sometimes left questions unanswered in regards to the "why" and "how" some actions were taken during fast-paced combat action. Pilots overcame this dilemma with the implementation of online web camera de-briefs with JGSDF members.

Worrell said they were able to do full playbacks of sorties thanks to tracking pods on the jets, where they discussed every missile and SAM shot and summarized what was learned on each end. This asset took away the lingering questions and reasoning that were left ambiguous in previous exercises.

Worrell said members of the JGSDF expressed their thanks for being a part of Iron Spear, emphasizing the benefits of low altitude and diverse training.

"The country of Japan is our host and we have a tremendous amount that we can learn from each other both culturally and professionally," Zumbro said. "The result of these opportunities is a realistic environment for us to practice, evaluate and adapt our tactics while simultaneously exposing a close friend and great ally to the world's foremost professionals at disassembling surface to air defenses, the 35th Fighter Wing's Wild Weasels."

Operation Pacific Angel 13-5 kicks into high gear as U.S., RCAF join forces

by Senior Master Sgt. Allison Day
Pacific Angel 13-5 Public Affairs

9/13/2013 - TAKEO PROVINCE, Cambodia -- Nhaeng Nhang, Rominh and Tram Kok Health Centers are the sites for extensive renovation during Pacific Angel 13-5 Cambodia, a joint and combined humanitarian mission that began Sept. 9.

Twenty engineers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces have spent the last four days working alongside 16 engineers from U.S. forces to provide engineering assistance to the citizens of Takeo.

The health centers offer the closest available health care for many.
"At Nhaeng Nhang more than two babies are delivered daily, but there was no commercial power source available," said Master Sgt. John Barboni, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, NCOIC exterior electric and deputy lead engineer. "Doctors used a drop light attached to a car battery for lighting the delivery room."

At this site, the contractor installed a solar power source with generator backup. This was necessary because electricity could not be run due to the remoteness of the health center.

"U.S. and RCAF electricians have completely wired the six-room facility to add lighting," said Barboni. "They also added wall receptacles and fans to each room and now there is a light source added to the birthing room."

The health center chief, Pho Phwon, said that he is very happy about all the updates being made. Although the health center is five years old, the upgrades are important for the care of the patients.

"Our previous solar system was broken," he explained "I believe this new system is better because it comes with a transformer. It will help with the electricity during operations and deliveries."

In addition, the engineers also installed a freshwater collection system, a concrete sidewalk, a concrete ramp, a covered porch and awnings over three windows. Staff Sgt. Willis is enjoying his time with his RCAF counterparts.

Willis, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, Okinawa Air Base, Japan structural craftsman worked at Nhaeng Nhang before moving to Rominh to take care of structural work there.
"This has been an awesome experience," he said. The RCAF guys that I work with are extremely talented and passionate about what they do. I really enjoyed being here and working with them. I taught them some things and they taught me some things."

In addition to structural work at Rominh, there is a lot of electrical.
"The electrical distribution was haphazardly run from building to building with bamboo poles for support," said Barboni. "The electrical wires were broken and improperly repaired. RCAF and U.S. forces are repairing all electrical faults, replacing every light fixture and fan in the four worst facilities."

Electrical work also started at Tram Kok Health Center yesterday. The operation is scheduled to be completed Sept. 14.

In its sixth year, Operation Pacific Angel usually includes medical, dental and optometry programs, but at the request of the Cambodian government this mission only included engineering civil action programs and a subject-matter expert exchange. PACANGEL is hosted by U.S. Pacific Command and implemented jointly with other governments, non-governmental agencies, and multilateral militaries in the Asia-Pacific region. Four other operations were conducted this year in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. This is the fifth and final operation this year.

Some 'Greatest Generation' fighter pilots visit modern counterparts in Idaho National Guard

By Col. Tim Marsano
Idaho National Guard
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BOISE, Idaho (9/12/13) - The Idaho National Guard hosted two Retiree Appreciation Days at Gowen Field this summer.
The Idaho Air National Guard's took place Sunday; the Army National Guard held theirs on July 17.

Each event provided an opportunity for former Idaho National Guard retirees to tour Guard facilities, re-connect with former colleagues and learn more about the benefits they've earned from their service.
It was also a great opportunity for current Guard members to meet their predecessors, since time was built into each agenda for retirees to get out into the work areas and check into how things are done these days.

The retired members had an opportunity to share their experiences from years ago while observing operators, maintainers and support personnel carrying out their critical missions.

Several of the retired Air Guard members were part of what's been called "The Greatest Generation," and it's clear these men earned such an honor.

Retired Col. Bill Coburn flew B-17s over Germany during World War II, dropping some 240,000 pounds of bombs and completing his assigned 30 missions a week before D-Day.

"We thought we would complete 25 missions before rotating out, but General Doolittle changed it to 30 missions," Coburn said.

During the last week of his missions in May 1944, he said he flew 67 hours of combat over the course of 6 days, often with temperatures of nearly -60 degrees Fahrenheit inside his Flying Fortress.

Coburn saw the D-Day invasion force ships massing in the English Channel as he returned to England from his final mission.

Once he mustered out of the U.S. Army Air Corps, he joined the Idaho National Guard in 1946. He was assigned to the P/F-51 Mustang fighter plane then went on to fly both F-94s and F-86s before becoming the 190th Fighter Squadron commander.

"During gunnery practice, we always outshot our active-duty counterparts because of the experience," he recalled. Guard members gained and were able to maintain their skills because they stayed in the same unit with the same plane for a long time, just as they do to this day.

Coburn retired from the Idaho Air Guard in 1967. "I had a good career in the Guard, and it's good to be back at Gowen Field. It brings back some old memories."

Another retired Air Guard member who returned to Gowen Field for the day was Harold "Waxy" Wheeler, who also joined the Idaho Air Guard in 1946. He actually joined the Idaho Army Guard in 1936 and rode horses in the 116th Cavalry Brigade when the old armory was essentially a horse barn.
But Wheeler became a pilot after World War II broke out. He flew P-38s with the Army Air Corps during the war and claims nine enemy kills. Late in the war, he was shot down over Austria and was able to safely bail out. "With the help of friendly forces in the underground, we walked three days" until they reached friendly lines.

As part of the Idaho Air Guard, he also served in Korea, where he flew the F-51 and claimed 32 kills. "The 51 could shoot down MiGs easily because [those Russian-built planes] only flew straight and level," he said. "I served my time, and some of most enjoyable times I've had were in the Guard," he added.

While serving with the Idaho Air Guard, these men and others who served with them were classic examples of the 'traditional' Guard member. Wheeler became chief pilot with the Boise Cascade Corp. and flew many different aircraft with that company before his retirement in 1970, while "Waxy"
Wheeler was a sales representative for the Johnson Wax Corp.

Knowing this, it's not difficult to discern the origins of his call sign.

Colo. National Guard assisting local authorities in response to massive flooding

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. (9/13/13) - About 200 Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, along with high-mobility vehicles and helicopters, have been mobilized to assist local authorities in search-and-rescue operations in the midst of historic flooding in the state.
At least three people have lost their lives in the flooding, according to news reports.

Guard members and equipment were assigned to assist in search-and-rescue missions and delivering supplies, among other missions.
Additionally, the Colorado National Guard has been requested to provide traffic control points in and around the affected area starting Sept. 13.

Soldiers and Airmen are assigned to the Windsor Readiness Center, and the Boulder, Fort Collins, and Denver Armories, and Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo.

"Supporting our neighbors in their time of need is one of the most rewarding missions the military has to offer, said Air National Guard Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, commander of the Colorado National Guard. "Having readiness centers in communities such as these ensures we provide rapid for our communities.

Military service is all in the family - 161 years combined

By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
127th Wing Public Affairs
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SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. (9/13/13) - Despite the 161 combined years of military service accumulated by her immediate family, Senior Master Sgt. Christine Koch's most meaningful days of service actually came after she retired - the first time.

Days after she retired from the Michigan Air National Guard, terrorists struck at America on Sept. 11, 2001. The then-newly retired Koch was called in to serve as a command post operator at Selfridge Air National Guard that day as the military quickly took complete control of the skies above the nation.

Koch is the oldest of five siblings who either are or have served in uniform, following a legacy begun by their father, retired Lt. Col. Robert A. Heyart.

Heyart began his career as an enlisted member of the Michigan Air National Guard, initially serving in a unit that was assigned at the time to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He served at Selfridge for many years after and ended his career as a member of the Air Force Reserve's 927th Wing, as the deputy commander for logistics. As the senior Heyart served, his children watched and five of the six kids also enlisted. They are:
  • Koch, the first to enlist, in 1980.
  • Maj. Robert E. Heyart, who now serves with the Michigan Air National Guard in Battle Creek. The major recently administered the oath of office to his older sister for her next three-year enlistment. Her dad first swore her in.
  • Maj. Ronald Heyart, who serves with the Illinois Air National Guard. Robert and Ronald are twins. Their father is also a twin, and his brother also served in the Air Force.
  • Master Sgt. Anthony Heyart, who serves in the supply section, also with the Michigan ANG at Battle Creek.
  • Thomas Heyart, who served on active duty in the U.S. Navy.
Counting their father's time, the Heyart family has combined for more than 161 years of military service. All of the members of the family began as enlisted members of the military.
Koch's situation was unusual to say the least.

She retired in August 2001, with about 21 years of service. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, she was contacted by the senior leaders at Selfridge and asked to return to duty. She was one of the few command post controllers around who had experience operating an alert mission with F-16 Fighting Falcons actively responding to numerous alerts. She ended up working a 12-hour day on Sept. 11 - unpaid - and returned to Selfridge as a civilian employee. Eventually, she decided to un-retire and return to uniformed service.

I knew that day that I could bring my 21 years of training into practice, Koch recalls now, 12 years after that fateful day.

Being so intimately involved in the defense of the United States, sending our pilots off to who only knows what. That stays with you, Koch said. I always felt patriotic, but it was really awakened on 9/11. And it has never really gone away.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marked its 95th year of continuous military air operations in 2012.

Alaska Army National Guard promotes first woman to rank of general

By Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Alaska National Guard
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CAMP DENALI, Alaska (9/13/13) - The Alaska Army National Guard is promoting Col. Catherine F. Jorgensen to the rank of Brigadier General at a ceremony today.

She becomes the first woman to be promoted to the rank of general within the history of Alaska Army National Guard.

This indicates and validates that any member of the Alaska Army National Guard can achieve anything that they set out to do if the organization and they do it as a team," said Brig. Gen. Leon M. Bridges, the assistant adjutant general of the Alaska Army National Guard.

Achieving the rank of brigadier general is no small feat, said Bridges.

"It is a huge accomplishment," Bridges said. "If you take a corps of officers who commission in any given year, if you take 100 of them, by the time you add all the filters and funnels in an Army career, typically only one or two will ever pin on a star."

Jorgensen received her commission in 1985, after graduating as a Distinguished Military Graduate from the Reserve Officer Training Program at the University of Alabama, where she earned a Bachelors of Science degree.

Her active-duty career spanned assignments at duty stations including Nellingen, Germany; Fort Bragg, N.C., and Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. Jorgensen's final active-duty assignment was at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1993.

In 1996, Jorgensen left the active-duty Army, and served in the Army Reserves in Maryland. Before switching to the Army National Guard, she also served with an engineer brigade out of Mississippi, with a duty assignment in Hedelberg, Germany.

In September of 2000, Jorgensen joined the Alaska Army National Guard. Her assignments with the Alaska National Guard include Military Personnel Officer, Assistant Chief of Staff, Deputy Human Resource Officer, and Brigade Commander.

Through the course of her career, Jorgensen has been recognized for her service with many awards and decorations including multiple Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, multiple Army Commendation Medals, the Army Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Overseas Service Ribbon.

"All the tasks and roles and missions and levels of achievement along the way have to be consistent and of the highest quality in order to be eligible," said Bridges. "Let alone, they have to make it through all the gates of the small number of slots that there are available for a general officer in the Guard. If you put it down into the state level where you only have a couple of slots, it makes it that much tougher to get there. So she's been fully successful in all of those categories and getting through all of those gates."

Alaska Guard members re-enlist aboard Navy ship in Persian Gulf on Sept. 11

By Maj. Randall Stillinger
36th Combat Aviation Brigade
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USS MONTEREY, PERSIAN GULF (9/13/13) - Four Guard members from Wasilla, Alaska, re-enlisted in the Alaska Army National Guard on Wednesday while aboard the USS Monterey (CG-61) in the Persian Gulf.

Sgt. 1st Class George Koval, Sgt. 1st Class Julie Small, Sgt. Kurt Miller and Sgt. Amber Hillman, all members of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, are deployed to the Middle East with the 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The Guardsmen are deployed to Camp Buehring in Kuwait for nine months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They were aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser to conduct Deck Landing Qualifications with the company's UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

The training is part of ongoing, joint Army-Navy operations which provides security in the region and the free flow of maritime traffic in the gulf. Of particular importance is the Strait of Hormuz between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, which is crucial to the export of oil to the world market.
Sgt. 1st Class Koval serves as a Platoon Sergeant in the company, which has been in Kuwait since April.

"I re-enlisted because this country needs people who still believe in her and are willing to sacrifice everything for everyone," Koval said. "I am extremely proud to do what I do and at a time in history when it really means a lot."

Soldiers often request a special location or a certain way to conduct the re-enlistment ceremony in order to make it unique and memorable. It's also a reward for excellent work and service to country, Koval stated.

Sgt. Hillman, a UH-60 crew chief, said that being on the Navy ship was awesome as it made the re-enlistment so much more special, out in the middle of the gulf with her extended family.

The significance of being deployed to the Middle East on the anniversary of the worst terrorist act on American soil was on these Soldiers' minds.

Sgt. Miller, who also serves as a crew chief, said, "I was glad to re-enlist on the anniversary because it is not only a commitment to the military, but also a commitment to service to our nation."

Getting the chance to work on board Navy ships is a new experience for these Army Soldiers.
"It was great to be on the Monterey and see so many crewmembers working to make the ship run well," Miller said.

Capt. Nathan Cornilles, of Eagle River, serves as the Alpha Company Commander. He said that he's proud of the commitment they have made to serve our country, and draws strength from them for choosing to make 9/11 a day that they reaffirm that dedication.

While the mission is first and foremost, life at home thousands of miles away in Wasilla remains on their minds.

Sgt. 1st Class Small, who is married with three children, said "Thank you to all of my family and friends who have shown their support and love throughout this entire deployment." Small's husband and one of her daughters also serve in the U.S. military.

The company will return to their home base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage this winter.

18th CES EOD flight responds during LORE

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Davis
18th Wing Public Affairs

9/11/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight responded to a suspicious bag scenario during a local operational readiness exercise here.

Local operational readiness exercises test Airmen and their capability to deploy at a moment's notice in support of contingency operations.

In this scenario, Air Force Office of Special Investigations officials received a bomb threat from a disgruntled person which drove them to evacuate the building and discover a suspicious bag, followed by calling EOD.

"One of our missions is force protection on base here, and this is a counter-Improvised Explosive Device mission," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Weimer, EOD flight NCO in charge of EOD training. "(The technicians) use robots, x-ray equipment, bomb suits and specialized EOD tools to disable the IED during these missions and to protect personnel and property from these explosive hazards."

Training, such as responding to suspicious bags and packages, not only helps EOD protect the base populous but it also aids EOD technicians in remaining proficient on core tasks and reinforces the team concept.

"It's important because it allows us to work together as a team and remain efficient at our skills," Weimer said. "Each member of the team has a unique skill set and unique responsibilities that they contribute to the overall goal."

Senior Airman Erica Demattei Hopper, 18th CES EOD technician, added that exercises aid EOD technicians in many ways such as teaching them how IEDs are built and enforcing teamwork and safety.

"Knowing the basic components of an IED, how circuits work and how they are built is important," Demattei Hopper said. "It's also good to keep practicing because this is something that could happen (at any time), so every exercise we can do to get more experience is better and keeps us prepared."

"The team dynamic (when we're deployed) is the same," Weimer added. "We have Airmen who are tasked with running a robot, and in Afghanistan or any deployed environment, you always want to use a robot or some means to stay remote and keep your team chief away from the hazard so those directly correlate to a war-time mission."

Whether exercise or real-world, LOREs create a safe environment to test and teach Airmen the proper procedures to defend against potential real-world scenarios.

Army Youth Wins First Boys and Girls Clubs Youth of Year Honors

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2013 – The Boys and Girls Clubs of America named the son of a Fort Knox, Ky., soldier as the organization’s first Military Youth of the Year during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery today.

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Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark joins finalists in the Boys and Girls Club Military Youth of the Year ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 13, 2013. With him, from left, are Daj’zhane Radford Walton from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; Brianna Sheperd from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; Xavier R. Thompson from Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath, England; Brandon Shields from Joint Base Andrews, Md.; RaShaan Allen from Fort Knox, Ky., who was named Military Youth of the Year; and Stephanie Nicole Ramer from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. DOD photo by Donna Miles

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
RaShaan Allen, son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Singer and Midwest Military Youth of the Year, was selected from six finalists for the top honor.

Next week, he will represent all 1.9 million military children when he meets with President Barack Obama and attends a congressional breakfast, during which the National Boys and Girls Club of America Youth of the Year will be announced.
“I’m lost for words,” Allen said after Charles E. Milam, the Defense Department’s principal director for military community and family policy, announced his selection by a panel of industry leaders. “This is just amazing.”

Allen was selected from an impressive field of regional finalists. The others were:

-- Northeast Military Youth of the Year: Brandon Shields from the Joint Base Andrews, Md., youth programs;

-- Southeast Military Youth of the Year: Stephanie Nicole Ramer from the Moody Air Force Base, Ga., youth center;

-- Southwest Military Youth of the Year: Brianna Sheperd, from the Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., youth and teen center;

-- Pacific Military Youth of the Year: Daj’zhane Radford-Walton from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., youth programs; and

-- Overseas Military Youth of the Year: Xavier R. Thompson from Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath, England.

Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, acknowledged that the judges had a tough decision on their hands. All six finalists, children of service members, demonstrate “extraordinary character, leadership and achievements” in service to their communities, academic performance and contributions to their families, he said.

And all, Clark said, have made big sacrifices, along with their families, to keep the United States secure.

A new military category for the national Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year award recognizes the unique challenges and obstacles military youth overcome every day, thanks in part to their Boys and Girls Club programs, Clark said.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America serves more than 468,000 youth on military installations, but hopes to expand that to 600,000, Clark said. “Military kids today need our support more than ever,” he added, saying the program seeks to help more military youth “realize their full potential” and develop plans to reach them.

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, former supreme allied commander for NATO and commander of U.S. European Command, said the Boys and Girls Club made a huge difference in his life, teaching him about courage, leadership and commitment. Those qualities earned Clark his club’s highest honor, when he was chosen from among 5,400 members as the 1962 Boy of the Year.

“I have always gone back to the lessons learned at the club. We discovered there was something higher than ourselves, and that giving back to others was what really mattered,” he said. “I owe a big debt to the Boys and Girls Clubs,” Clark said.

The general lauded the finalists. “You are all winners, and you are going to stay winners in life,” he said.

Army Col. Gregory D. Gadson, garrison commander at Fort Belvoir, Va., and keynote speaker for the event, said the finalists represent the best of military youth and the best of Boys and Girls Clubs.
Gadson cited his own children’s resilience when a roadside bomb claimed both of his legs and severely injured his arm in Iraq in 2007. “They held my family together,” he said.

He praised the finalists who he said share that can-do spirit as they take on new challenges with determination and courage.

Allen credited the Devers Youth Center at Fort Knox, Ky., with helping him discover that winning path as he slowly healed from the loss of his home, neighborhood, school and best friend during Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

He served as co-president of the Youth Council and led the group to a national Boys and Girls Clubs of America award. He was an Army Family Action Plan delegate, sharing with Fort Knox leaders his insights about issues that affect teens. Meanwhile, he played eight varsity sports, captained six of those teams, and competed on the math and history bowl teams.

But Allen said he has found his calling in politics, and served as president of his high school freshman and senior classes. He’s now at Western Kennedy University, with plans to major in political science and eventually seek political office.

Seventh-generation Soldier Reflects on Heritage

By Army Sgt. Christopher Calvert
1st Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division

FORT HOOD, Texas, Sept. 13, 2013 – For many service members, joining the military is a choice to serve their country and better their own lives. For one 1st Air Cavalry Brigade soldier, it’s a choice that runs deep in his bloodline for more than 200 years.

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Army Sgt. Robert George III, a signal support systems specialist with 1st Cavalry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade performs signal support operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Sept. 6, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Calvert

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Sgt. Robert George III, a signal support systems specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, is no stranger to the military. It’s been a part of his family’s heritage since his fifth great-grandfather fought in the Continental Army.

In fact, the Tucson, Ariz., native has had members of his family fight in most major armed conflicts since the 18th century, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Word War I and Operation Desert Storm.

Cpl. John Albright, George’s fifth great-grandfather, fought during the Revolutionary War in Valley Forge and the Siege of Yorktown. Albright was taken prisoner twice, once by the British for 11 months after the fall of Fort Montgomery, and once by Native Americans during the fall of Fort Stanwix, where he was forced to carry heavy loads to Canada before receiving his freedom in a trade.

After Albright received his liberty, he immediately returned to service to continue fighting for the Continental Army, George said.

“There’s no way for me to feel more proud,” George said. “The sense of pride I have in knowing the patriotism I developed is not just based on a single act of terrorism, but it’s ingrained in the fabric of my family history.”

Despite growing up with military roots, George originally was unable to enlist in the armed forces due to a medical disqualification; however, at 16, he felt a calling from a higher power, which would lead him down a different path after high school.

“When I was 16, I became very religious and felt a desire to go into ministry,” George said. “I did a year of junior college and then a year of seminary. Afterward, I became an interim youth pastor in Tucson, which was very enjoyable, as it gave me the opportunity to help people.”

George would reach a turning point in his life shortly after becoming an interim youth pastor when he traveled with his ministry team to ground zero after 9/11 to provide emotional support to victims and family members affected by the tragic attacks on that fateful day.

It was then that George’s sense of patriotism took over, and after conflicts in multiple countries began, he decided to try his luck again at entering the military.

“My former roommate from seminary contacted me after getting discharged from the military, and I ended up moving in with him in California,” George said. “I began thinking it was maybe possible for me to join due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I gave it another shot.”

George visited his recruiter in 2004 in hopes of fulfilling his desire to serve. His mother’s 20-year career in the Air Force and participation in Operation Desert Storm influenced him to attempt to enlist as an airman, he said.

He qualified to join, but after all the paperwork was complete, he was informed he would not be shipping out to initial training for 12 months. It was this delay, coupled with a lack of funds, that made him decide to pursue another branch of service, he said.

“When I was told it would be a 12-month wait, I immediately grabbed my paperwork and went straight to the Army recruiter next door,” George said. “The Army was able to offer me not only a job that I could utilize skills in after exiting the military, but also a duty station of choice while shipping out within six weeks. With all of that being said, my mom still pokes fun at me for not joining the Air Force.”

After graduating from advanced individual training, George went on to be stationed in California, South Korea and Washington before ending up here in January 2011 with the Air Cav.

He deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for a year with the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st ACB, in June 2011. This deployment would make him a seventh-generation warfighter in his family, a feat George said makes him proud.

“I’m extremely proud of the nine years of service I’ve had so far, and especially of my time in Afghanistan,” he said. “It feels great to build upon my family’s lineage of serving this great nation.”
Marie George, George’s wife and a Salisbury, Mo., native, echoed her husband’s patriotism.

“I’m very proud of his service,” Marie said. “He chose to serve his country during a time of war. That alone takes a lot of physical and emotional strength, and it also shows a lot of character. To build upon that, he’s using his educational benefits and balancing being a new father to our 6-month-old. He isn’t just serving to honor his family’s history. He’s doing it for himself, too.”

Army 1st Sgt. Fernanda Redwine, HHC first sergeant and Henderson, Texas, native, said George has helped the company excel since becoming a member of the “Warlords” in January.

“Although he has only been with us nine months, his contributions to the [signal and communication capabilities] and the brigade have been nothing short of excellent,” Redwine said. “He plays a key role, … being only one of two communication security custodians for the entire brigade. “This NCO is always motivated when I see him, never late for duty, very enthusiastic, and most importantly, he is family-oriented first,” he added.

Airmen build swing set for deployed Wingman's daughter

by Senior Airman Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Dog handlers from the 628th Security Forces Squadron volunteered their time Sept. 6, 2013, to lend a helping hand to the family of one of their own.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Shaughnessy, 628th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, bought his 2-year old daughter Isabella, a swing-set "fit for a princess."

However, there was only one problem; Shaughnessy deployed to Southwest Asia with his four-legged Wingman, Jaga before he could assemble it.

When Staff Sgt. Jonathan Calo, 628th SFS military working dog handler, heard the Shaughnessy family had a swing-set but no one to put it together, he decided something needed to be done.

"We're a very close-knit squadron," said Calo. "When one of us deploys, we take care of each other's family like they're our own."

So, in accordance with the Trident United Way's Day of Caring events occurring throughout Joint Base Charleston, where approximately 2,500 service members from the base volunteered their skills to assist with more than 50 projects in the local community, the dog handlers decided to help one of their own.

"Even though it was a designated day for caring and volunteering, that's not why we are helping our Wingman and his family," said Tech. Sgt. Heath Hinton, 628th SFS military working dog kennel master. "Military families already take on many challenges that accompany deployments, so it means a lot to us to help take some of that stress away, especially for Isabella."

The dog handlers spent the entire day reading directions, working together and building the swing set for Isabella, and even though the weather did not cooperate, they managed to finish the job.

"Sgt. Shaughnessy would've done the same thing for any of our families," said Calo. "So hopefully while he is overseas, and he's thinking about his family back home, he can rest assured in knowing they'll be taken care of until he returns."