Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Phase crew performs aircraft surgery

by Senior Airman Zachary Perras
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/9/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As Airmen work tirelessly around the F-16 Fighting Falcon to remove panels, bolts and screws, it appears as if they are decommissioning the aircraft into an airplane graveyard.

What these Icemen are doing is the exact opposite, though: They're inspecting the plane inch by inch, finding any and all discrepancies that would keep the aircraft permanently grounded.

The 354th Maintenance Squadron phase shop is tasked with this arduous process - and they're not examining just any F-16 this go-around; they're looking at the 354th Fighter Wing's flagship aircraft.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Parsons, 354th MXS phase shop inspections section dock chief, said what phase essentially does is break down a jet, tear it apart, then put it back together, all in an effort to keep the plane flying in top condition.

"We try to catch all of the issues that could become bigger problems later on," he said. "That's the biggest part about phase - nipping these discrepancies in the bud so it doesn't make the jet inoperable."

For the 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16s, phase occurs after every 300 flight hours, giving the jet a complete overhaul. The entire aircraft is probed for corrosion, defective pieces and chafing. The phase crew performs a deeper inspection than crew chiefs on the flight line, taking up to two weeks to finish working on an aircraft.

Any problems found are logged on a gig sheet, and by the end of the assessment the phase crew can expect anywhere from 350 to 450 discrepancies on their plate, Parsons said. Each discrepancy, however, begins and ends at the phase shop.

"Our main focus is the keep the jets in the air and to minimize the downtime by doing every task at once here at phase," Parsons said. "Crew chiefs do all the day-to-day upkeep, but because you can't de-panel a jet every day, phase finds the things that there isn't necessarily time to fix on the flight line and we eliminate those problems."

Regardless of the broad spectrum of tasks the phase crew faces, each member performs with pride knowing they are directly contributing to the mission of the 354th FW, Parsons said. At the end of the day, planes need to fly - and phase makes it happen.

"What these Airmen do here is extremely vital to how we operate as the Iceman Team," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, 354th FW commander. "It is by far the most extensive maintenance performed on Eielson, and because of the expertise of our phase crew, our pilots can fly with the assurance that they're safe up in the air."

Operation BOXTOP: Thule continues vital 60 year Arctic mission

by Master Sgt. Michael Stevans and Capt. Matt Francom
821st Support Squadron

10/8/2013 - THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Among the frigid arctic temperatures, there is a small contingent of Canadian military personnel who provide signals intelligence intercept capability at the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world.

Originally established in 1950 as a weather station, Canadian Forces Station Alert is located 1,140 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 508 miles from the North Pole. Despite its austere location, CFS Alert maintains a constant presence of approximately 28 military, six environmental and 35 contractor personnel and requires semi-annual resupply missions to sustain the inhabitants.

This isolated, remote outpost can only be sustained through an air resupply mission, known as Operation BOXTOP, during the relatively short "warm" season. BOXTOP occurs twice a year, in April and September, and delivers dry goods and fuel critical to the continued mission of Canadian allies at these austere locations.

From Sept. 7-21, 105 Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, aircraft and equipment descended on Thule AB, the Air Force's northernmost airfield, and 40 RCAF personnel to CFS Alert to execute Operation BOXTOP II 2013. Thule is an ideal location for staging such a critical mission because it has the only 10,000-foot runway north of the Arctic Circle and is only 950 miles south of the North Pole. Additionally, Thule AB has a team of highly qualified Air Force air traffic controllers and contract airfield management and transient alert personnel who run 24-hour airfield operations during Operation BOXTOP.

Among the most inhospitable places on earth, Thule AB and CFS Alert personnel brave freezing temperatures, arctic winds and blinding storms to ensure the vital lifeblood of supplies and fuel reach their final destination. Operation BOXTOP II 2013 was no different. During the two short weeks of BOXTOP operations, three RCAF C-130J Hercules aircraft made consecutive flights, 24 hours per day, five days per week to deliver 305,500 pounds of dry goods and 191,000 gallons of fuel to CFS Alert and Eureka Research Station in northern Canada; supplies that will sustain the outposts through the spring. The supplies and fuel carried by airlift were delivered to Thule AB by cargo ship, earlier in the summer months, to the DoD's northernmost deep water port.

However, this September's BOXTOP operation was not all smooth sailing. CFS Alert was covered in fog and severe storm conditions during the first four days of the operation, putting the successful completion of the minimum requirements for sustainment through the winter months at risk.

"We were facing a tough situation with the weather," said George Stewart, director of Logistics and Airlift Coordination for the Department of National Defense Alert Management Office (Ottawa). "Our aircraft couldn't get into Alert and were turned back due to the poor visibility. We lost almost the entire first week of flights because of bad weather."

Leading the operation for the Canadian Forces were Maj. Andy Bowser, Boxtop Detachment commander, and Capt. Tyler Simor, deputy Detachment commander. Together with their team of highly skilled operations staff, load masters, aircrew, ground personnel and mission planners, they were able to make up the lost time and deliver the supplies without extending the operation, saving critical funds for the Canadian Forces.

"Operation BOXTOP is just one of the vital missions that Thule AB provides to the Arctic region. As the largest airfield this far north, many different organizations depend on Thule, including the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Danish government," said Roosevelt Mitchell, Thule AB airfield manager.

Operation BOXTOP will kick off again in April 2014 and continue the excellent service of providing joint Canadian partners with a lifeline to survive the harsh arctic winter.

"Thule Air Base's support for BOXTOP and our weekly supply flights is outstanding," Stewart said. "If it wasn't for Thule, there probably wouldn't be Alert."

35 SFS trains for success on deployments

by Airman 1st Class Kaleb Snay
35th Fighter Wing public affairs

10/9/2013 - MISAWA Air Base, Japan  -- Raindrops bombard the helmets of Security Forces personnel as they low-crawl, perform patrol movements and make their way across the muddy terrain of Misawa's Camp Defender, a training area for security forces and other field exercises.

As part of an Operational Readiness Exercise from Oct. 7-11, 35th Security Forces Squadron Airmen battled through the training that would prepare them for a tour downrange.

"We test them on their ability to survive and operate in a deployed environment while on patrol," said Master Sgt. William Newcomb, 35 SFS NCO in-charge of training and a member of the Wing Inspection Team. "Knowing the proper procedures to take while on patrol is critical when defending a base. We set up improvised explosive device training lanes where they learn to identify some common tricks an enemy may use."

Some of the training Airmen received included patrol movements, receiving indirect fire from enemy contacts, self-aid and buddy care, IED awareness and recognition, and calling in 9-line med-evac.

"This training is vital for us, everything we do downrange is directly impacted by how we train," Masters said. "If we aren't trained properly, then we aren't going to be able to handle those situations to the best of our ability."

Although SFS's main goal is to ensure all personnel are properly trained, they also shift the focus of the training toward preparing new Airmen for real world contingencies.

"The training we covered gives Airmen the basic knowledge of what we do downrange," said Staff Sgt. Michael Masters, 35 SFS senior force protector. "It helps prepare new Airmen what they may come across if they deploy."

As defenders continued their training, uniforms got messy and mud piled up, but their motivation stayed strong as the day went on.

"We're out here rain or shine, and we're pressing on," said Senior Airman Jeremy Johnson, 35 SFS patrolman. "It brings us out of our 'comfort zone' and we have to adapt properly or it could be miserable."

As SFS defenders press on with day three of their ORE training, Newcomb wrapped up his thoughts about the enthusiastic Airmen.

"These Airmen were very excited to be out here," Newcomb said. "Even though the weather was nasty, they continued to push and never lost motivation. Getting a little messy while staying motivated -- that's always a good morale booster."

Fisher House Foundation has stepped in to aid the Defense Department so families of fallen service members

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2013 – The Fisher House Foundation has stepped in to aid the Defense Department so families of fallen service members can receive the full set of benefits they have been promised, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here today.

The Fisher House Foundation and DOD entered an agreement that includes the $100,000 death gratuity payment.

“I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” Hagel said in a written statement.

In the weeks before the shutdown, defense officials had warned Congress that the ability to pay death benefits to grieving families would run out when the appropriations lapsed.

“The Department of Defense informed Congress that the department would be legally unable to pay death benefits were there to be a lapse in DOD appropriations,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his daily briefing today.

The issue was not explicitly addressed as part of the Pay Our Military Act. “The president was very disturbed to learn of this problem, and he directed the Department of Defense to work with the Office of Management and Budget and his lawyers to develop a possible solution and he expects this … to be fixed today,” Carney said.

Since the shutdown began Oct. 1, DOD budget officials looked at options to continue these benefits, Hagel said. “Even under the Pay Our Military Act, we found that we lacked the necessary authority to make payments to the families directly,” the secretary said.

The Fisher House Foundation offered to make payments to these families from its own funds, and OMB officials determined DOD can enter into a contract with the Fisher House Foundation to provide these benefits.

“The Fisher House Foundation will provide the families of the fallen with the benefits they so richly deserve,” Hagel said. “After the shutdown ends, DOD will reimburse the Fisher House for the costs it has incurred.”

The Fisher House Foundation is best known for the houses built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers nationwide and in Europe. Families of wounded or hospitalized service members stay at the houses as their loved ones undergo hospitalization for a combat injury, illness or disease.

A total of 26 service members have died since Oct. 1, including five killed in combat in Afghanistan. The $100,000 death gratuity comes from appropriated funds, and DOD could not obligate funds once the fiscal year 2013 appropriation ran out. The department also cannot pay the benefit that provides 12 months of basic allowance for housing, as that money also comes via appropriated funds.

“The department has no higher priority than taking care of our service members and their families,” Hagel said. “Congress has responsibilities as well, and it has abdicated them.

“Along with the rest of the department's leaders,” he continued, ”I will continue to work every day to address the very real impact that the government shutdown is having on our people, and I once again call on Congress to fulfill its basic responsibilities and restore funding for the federal government.”

Snow barn team keeps flightline safe, saves money

by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

10/8/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash.  -- The 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron snow barn team gathered with the 92nd CES fire department, Oct. 4, to conduct rubber removal on more than 4,000 feet of Fairchild's flightline.

Fairchild AFB is one of two Air Force bases that conduct the removal in-house annually, and by doing so, Fairchild saves approximately $100,000.

"This process increases safety on the flightline," said Master Sgt. John Massad, 92nd CES pavements and equipment operator. "Eliminating rubber on the runway makes it much easier for aircraft to come to a complete stop."

The day-long process begins with laying the chemical down on the flightline that begins to break up the rubber. For the next three to four hours after, the de-icing trucks and snow brooms continuously ride up and down the runway, spraying water and scrubbing the chemical.

"We have to keep watering the flightline so the chemical doesn't dry up," Massad said. "The chemical itself is all biodegradable and environmentally safe. Once it starts to get a slush-like look, it means that the chemical is reacting with the water and the rubber on the airfield."

After the reaction is complete, the fire department sprays the chemical to the side. According to Massad, this year it took more than 50,000 gallons of water to flush it off.
Staff Sgt. Adam Haines, 92nd CES pavements and equipment operator, has been working with the removal process for four years, and said every October they do this before snow season. For the augmentees, this is a perfect time to conduct on-the-job training.

"It not only saves money, but its snow training for the augmentees as well," Haines said. "There is almost 20 people involved, including augmentees. Coming together to do this in house is much cheaper than getting an outside agency."

After the process is complete, both Haines and Massad agreed there is a huge difference after their work is done, and the flightline is both cleaner and safer.

Command messages delivered from above

by Staff Sgt. Tong Duong
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/9/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan  -- As everyone drops to the floor to don their mission oriented protective posture gear, a voice resonates across the base, infiltrating work centers and rattling ears.

Controlled from a central location at the 35th Fighter Wing Command Post, members here have the important task of informing the base of the most current exercise alarm conditions and real-world weather warnings.

"Our number one priority is the people out there, so we want to refrain from passing along incorrect information," said Staff Sgt. Maida StarEagle, 35 FW Command Post senior controller. "Our objective is to make the right notification the first time, every time.
 There is a lot of pressure involved in the job. We must enunciate our words loud, proud and clear, or lives could be lost because they received the incorrect posture level."

The giant voice is a standalone system which is manned around the clock. It can be activated by the wing commander whenever he deems a message is worthy of mass notification, like during wet bulb globe heat stress conditions. The command post is staffed with three members during an exercise, and two during normal operations. A senior controller is at the helm of the giant voice, and junior controllers also help to run other command post duties, StarEagle noted.

In the event of a threat or worldwide situation that changes Misawa's defense, alert or force protection, the command post will first receive the notification. After the message has been authenticated, Col. Stephen Williams, 35 FW Commander, will be alerted and he will direct the command post on how and what to disseminate to the masses.

"We are the eyes and ears of the base," StarEagle said. "We are the first to know and to alert and direct the base on what to do. Afterward we report to higher headquarters on what actions were taken, so they are aware we are in the correct posture to carry out our wartime mission"

When a tsunami hit in 2011 after a 9.0 magnitude undersea mega thrust earthquake, command post personnel were able to notify military and base members on current conditions.

"We got many calls because there was a lot of confusion and people were in a panic," said StarEagle. "We were using the giant voice frequently to transmit updated messages from the commander, because the land and cell phone lines were down. The only source of information was by government phone lines and us. People living off base could hear the Japanese messages but cannot understand what was being said.

The command post sets a high bar for getting the word out, aiming to have a message out to the base within a minute of being notified.

"At Misawa, we have to make sure we get the notification out before putting on our own MOPP, because the base populace comes first," StarEagle said. "We must also act professional when relaying the commander's message," she said. We have to stay calm cool and collected during an exercise or real world incident. If we sound panicky, then people will panic as well."

There are 50 giant voice poles strategically placed around the base, and they can be activated in sections. There are also backup systems and alternate locations to operate the giant voice from, ensuring the commanders message is delivered.

"During a wartime situation it is critical because, for the Air Force our mission is to get the jets up in the air and fight, and we keep the people on the flight line in the correct posture in terms of MOPP gear and mission readiness," said Airman 1st Class Preston Mikesell, 35 FW emergency action controller. "We want the base populace to be in the know of what's going on, especially the dependents because since they are not in the military and do not get the same notice the military members do."

The giant voice can even work during a power outage as the base has solar panel banks to recharge the batteries.

There are only seven certified controllers in the entire command post who are certified to broadcast messages through the giant voice. The unique thing about the position is each controller must be certified by the wing commander or vice wing commander.

"It's a great feeling knowing the wing commander has entrusted you to do this job, especially being so young," Mikesell said. "I like knowing that if there were some kind of war-time situation, I'll be the one telling everyone what is going to happen and which actions to take."

Whether it's a real world incident or an exercise scenario, controllers at the command post's giant voice system will deliver updates, so the next time there is an announcement from above ... listen.

Airmanship demonstrated by act of courage

by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

10/8/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash.  -- A Fairchild Airman performed an act of heroism May 11, 2013, by rescuing a man and his son from possibly drowning at Clear Lake Recreation Area, Cheney, Wash.

Senior Airman Richard Narvaez, 92nd Comptroller Squadron financial analysis, was presented an accommodation medal by Maj. Kevin Watts, 92nd CPTS commander, Sept. 27, for his off-duty actions and act of courage.

"I was walking along the pier with my wife when a man who was swimming with his young son started calling for help," Narvaez recalled. "His son was on his shoulders and the man was struggling to stay above water."

Narvaez said without thinking, he dove in the lake, swimming about 25 feet toward the man and his child. He then quickly secured the child, who could not swim, and brought him safely to shore. When he returned to the father, the man had regained his strength and was able to swim to shore.

Narvaez's wife, Laura, witnessed the event from the pier.

"The way he reacted was really brave," she said. "He jumped in the water only thinking about saving the man and his son. Any chance he gets to help people, he does. When this happened, it highlighted that part of him."

According to his decoration, Narvaez's singular act of courage prevented two possible drownings and epitomized the Air Force Core Values of service before self and excellence in all we do.

Narvaez said he swam back to the pier to get his wife, then went to check on the man and his son who were very grateful for his help. At first Narvaez was modest about his actions, yet when his supervision found out, they were in agreement that he should be recognized for his act of courage.

"To recognize somebody for their job is one thing, but to recognize someone for what they do outside of work is very special in my opinion," said Staff Sgt. Larson Beidler, 92nd CPTS financial analysis supervisor and Narvaez's supervisor. "He tries to do everything he can on-and-off duty, and this kind of action exemplifies that. Airmanship is a whole-person concept. Being able to recognize people for their actions outside of work is very important; it separates an average Airman from an outstanding Airman."

Communication key in protecting security clearance during financial hardships

by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location - Pentagon

10/9/2013 - WASHINGTON -- As the government shutdown continues, Air Force leadership wants their civilian workforce to communicate well and as often as possible if financial challenges arise -- something that could impact one's security clearance.

With such a large number of civilians possessing security clearances, including many workers in the space and cyber theaters, leaders want the civilian force to know the steps to take if financial hardships are incurred during the current furloughs.

"If you find yourself in a situation where financial problems or significant debt are a concern to you, it is best to let the chain of command know early and enable them to help you work through the problem," said Maj. Neil Whelden, Security and Special Programs oversight officer.

If a financial issue is caught early, Air Force teammates are in place to help, Whelden said.

According to The White House's Information Security Oversight Office, there are conditions that could mitigate security concerns.

Those include "...conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the person's control (e.g. loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency, or a death, divorce or separation), and the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances," according to the memorandum titled Adjudicative Guidelines. "The individual has a reasonable basis to dispute the legitimacy of the past-due debt which is the cause of the problem and provides documented proof to substantiate the basis of the dispute or provides evidence of actions to resolve the issue."

Air Force officials offer the following tips to mitigate short and long-term strain. Their recommendations are:

- Work with creditors to maintain debt in a responsible manner

- Keep documentation of financial situations and communications with creditors

- Keep the local security office informed of any emerging financial problems

Proactive communication between members and financial institutions is key to ensuring significant debt does not pile up, which could hurt a security clearance, according to Whelden.

"Personnel should reach out to banks and creditors to renegotiate debt terms or mitigate debt impact," he said. "Many banks are willing to change terms and defer payments for furloughed employees."

In addition to the suggestions above, there are several issues that should be reported to the unit's security officer. They include:

- Bankruptcy or required credit counseling

- Inability to pay federal, state or other taxes

- Delinquency on alimony or child support

- Judgment for failure to meet financial obligations

- Liens placed against the holder

- Delinquency on a federal debt

- Repossessions of property

- Suspension of accounts, charge offs or cancellation for failure to pay

- Evictions

- Garnished wages

- More than 120 days delinquent on any debt